Friday, May 29, 2015

Remembering The Black Rose, Getting Mad At Gary King And Not Even A Call; Dr. No's Romance With GOP Ends Via News Release 

A black rose
Several readers this week said we overreached in analyzing the violent crime trend in the ABQ metro but then this came out:

Violent crime shot up 14 percent in Albuquerque in 2014 – the second consecutive year the Duke City has had an increase – and reached its highest mark since 2007, according to the Albuquerque Police Department’s annual report.

Okay, we're not Baltimore, but were not Mayberry RFD either.

A troubled police department is not only of our times. Remember the "Black Rose" incident from the 80's? A Senior Alligator recounts the interesting history:

There was a huge story in the late 1980's. APD union lobbyists left on the desk of then-State Rep. Cisco McSorley a black rose and a cartoon with a figure of a person with a knife in the back and the notation "thank you for all your support." The cops were being paid by the city for doing union business while lobbying in Santa Fe and were mad at Cisco for voting against legislation they wanted passed. The union claimed it was a joke. 

The ABQ Journal and ABQ Tribune went ballistic. After an investigation the cops were suspended without pay and the City Council enacted ordinances prohibiting union lobbying on city time and also enacted the Independent Council ordinance establishing civilian police oversight of APD for the first time in Albuquerque's history.

The difference between then and now is how swiftly the problem was dealt with. McSorley is now an ABQ state senator.


Reader Michael Baca is upset with former NM attorney general and '14 Dem Guv nominee Gary King:

Are you aware that Gary King) has taken a job on the board of directors of one of the payday lenders? He has. Think Finance, Rise Credit, Money Mutual--they are all one company that Gary King joined a short time ago. Think Finance is the back office servicer for every other payday lender's 600% loans. What a great champion for the poor he is. All that talk about the struggling working families during his campaign. Now I understand why he never laid a glove on the payday lenders when he was the attorney general. Cha-ching!

King said in a company news release:

During my time as Attorney General, I worked in several areas related to consumer issues and I have always had a keen interest in financial services," King said. "As such, I am pleased to be serving on the Board of Directors so that I can lend my knowledge and experience to Think Finance.

A move to cap the interest rates charged by payday loan stores failed at the last session of the Legislature.


Sen. Smith
It was--to borrow the movie title-- "An Affair To Remember." But it's all over now between Dem State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith and the NM GOP.  For five years he waltzed away the nights with Susana and Company but now he's been dumped. Not even a phone call. It was done via news release:

Former fiscally conservative State Senator John Arthur Smith showed how over two decades in Santa Fe can make someone out of touch with their constituents. In the middle of this past legislative session, Senator Smith advocated for higher gas taxes as a gimmick to pay for infrastructure projects. Higher gas taxes only mean one thing: higher prices at the pump.

Smith's fall from GOP grace comes as the R's prep for the '16 election and an attempt to turn the Senate majority Republican. Condolences, John, but you'll always have Mary Kay.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gaming Some Guv Angles, A Memorable TV Ad, Over Analyzing Rio Rancho And Our Bottom Lines 

If you're running a political machine and looking to keep the governorship under your wing far into the future perhaps about now you start peeling away from embattled ABQ GOP Mayor Richard Berry? You can't really go all in for likely candidate Lt. Gov. John Sanchez as he is from the anti-Susana wing of the GOP.  Maybe you look for a new face like Monique Jacobson, the cabinet secretary for Children Youth and Families? Or another little known personality who isn't riddled with bullet wounds like the mayor?. . .

And if you are ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham angling for that far away '18 race for governor, aren't you thinking about that ethics hit you took and how it plays into further ambitions? Not reporting gifts of expensive carpets because you did not think they were particularly valuable, were "unattractive" and "not a carpet I would have purchased" is the kind of catnip producers of those prime time political ads dine on.

Speaking of ads:

The never-ending political cycle is already producing memorable TV ads. At least that's the view of the WaPo's Chris Cilizza who ranks one from Republican Senator Mark Kirk as among the best:

Want to see a terrific political ad? Spend 60 seconds watching this commercial--the first of Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk's (R) 2016 reelection bid. The ad tells the story of a stroke Kirk suffered in early 2012, barely two years after he was first elected to the Senate.


The floor is no open for nominations for the "Worst Ideas So Far Of 2015." Our runaway favorite nominee is the idea of electing the ABQ police chief. Yours?


What do you think? Is a constitutional amendment that would let us take $100 million a year for 10 years from the state's $17 billion Permanent Fund for very early childhood (ages zero to five) worth a shot to address this problem and many more?

. . . University of New Mexico researchers. . . presented a survey administered to more than 1,300 Native Americans from seven New Mexico communities. The survey asked people about their exposure to adverse childhood experiences like problems with alcohol and physical violence at home, separated or divorced parents, a close family member serving time in jail, physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse. The numbers were off the scale. Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed had been exposed to four or more of those experiences as children. But even that number might be low. Since the surveys were conducted face-to-face, researchers say they assumed that some were reluctant or embarrassed to keep answering “yes” to the questions.


A number of readers said we overreached in analyzing the fatal shooting of a Rio Rancho police officer:

Comparing Albuquerque with Baltimore and Chicago is outrageous. It's ridiculous given the 29 shootings there--9 of them fatal--over the Memorial Day weekend. It's one thing to point out facts--it's another to make totally false comparisons.

We didn't intend such a comparison, only that "shocking" crimes like the fatal officer shooting in Rio Rancho and teenage boys being gunned down in multiple numbers in the streets of Baltimore and Chicago seem to be escalating.

Reader Alan Wagman came with this:

Joe, Your blog refers to an escalation of shocking crimes, apparently based upon events of one weekend. While any murder is a murder too many, one should not draw conclusions from one weekend. Murder rates in the U.S. are down to historically low levels. Firearms-related deaths of law enforcement officers from January 1, 2015 through May 26, 2015 are down 11% from the same period last year.  For long-term trends on firearms-related deaths of law enforcement officers, see this.

On another topic reader John Ingram writes:

After more than a decade of corporate income tax cuts, corporate tax credits, various tax giveaways (TIDDS), ABQ is still going nowhere. Claw-back the aforementioned tax revenues and invest the millions of public taxpayer dollars in new infrastructure. This will create jobs, stimulate demand, and increase consumer spending on a scale which will eventually make ABQ "attractive" to commerce. All else has proven fruitless.


Reader, attorney and armchair historian Foster Hannett writes:

Senator Clinton P. Anderson's sole surviving child, Nancy Anderson Roberts, has passed away at her home in Albuquerque. Also, a former administrative assistant to Senator Anderson, Richard "Dick" Heim,  passed away in Albuquerque recently.  He headed up the NM Department of Health or Human Services in the administrations of Governors Bruce King and Jerry Apodoca. They both lived interesting lives and were well-known in political circles across the state. . . .

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tragedy In Rio Rancho, Plus: Housing Booms Across State Line And Early Candidate Announcements Start Rolling In  

The metro can't seem to catch a break when it comes to law enforcement. Moments after we wrapped up our blog on the nightmarish woes of APD, a Rio Rancho police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty Monday night. Coming amid the polarized environment over APD the fear is that the fatal shooting could exacerbate an "us vs. them" mentality between law enforcement and the civilians it is charged with protecting. For Rio Rancho, the first fatal police shooting in the city's history is a tragic wake-up call that crime there is no longer simply about catching speeders.

The ABQ area is far from alone in seeing shocking crimes escalate. Witness the outbreak of murders in Chicago and Baltimore over the holiday weekend. Compared to other democratic societies ours has a much greater tolerance for violence. That's no secret and it again prompts what seems like an ancient series of questions as to why.

A blog reader opined here Tuesday that "community" has always been difficult to achieve in these unnatural political conglomerates that have been labeled "New Mexico" and "Albuquerque." But a strong sense of community--not isolation from or denial of our woes--is what we need across the metro as we face these more turbulent and violent times.


New Mexico has seen its share of housing booms but it will be a long, long time before we see another. The latest Federal index underscores that reality. Excluding both the highest priced and lowest priced deals, the stats show housing prices booming in our neighboring states but lagging badly here.

Between the first quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 the study says Colorado led the nation in gains in housing prices, with a 11.2% increase as that state's economy continued to ramp up. In contrast, job short NM languished near the bottom in price gains, picking up a mere 1.5 percent for a ranking of 46th in the USA. Nevada prices leaped 10.1%, Texas jumped 6.5% and Arizona home prices saw a 6% rise during the period.

The worry now for state policy makers is the next national recession. That's right. the national economy has been in recovery mode from the 2008 panic and crash but New Mexico never participated. At best we stopped going down and are now flat-lined, but what happens when the next national downturn occurs--as it always does? The state used to be cushioned by federal dollars, but no so much anymore.

For Las Cruces the next downturn is here. NMSU economist Chris Erickson reports the state's second largest city is officially in recession. And while the latest census stats show Rio Rancho--the state's third largest city--growing at a 2.4% rate, that is a steep decline from the boom days. For ABQ the latest census numbers show the city continues in the no-growth zone, with a 0.1% increase in population for the year ended July 2014.


Sen. Padilla
ABQ Dem State Senator Michael Padilla is getting out of the gate early in his quest for a second four year term next year. He writes to supporters:

I am kicking off my re-election campaign fundraising on Wednesday, May 27, at 5:30 PM, at a fundraiser at Richard Romero and Margie Lockwood's Home (907 Silver SW in Albuquerque). They have graciously offered to host this fundraiser.

Romero is himself a former Dem state senator who rose to the rank of Senate President Pro Tem. Padilla has been a fast-starter, winning the title of majority whip from his Dem colleagues in his first term. So far he has no announced Dem rivals. His district is primarily in the heavy Dem ABQ South Valley area so no R's need apply.

All 42 state senate seats are on the ballot next year as well as all 70 state House seats.

Dem Israel Chavez says he is running for the ABQ NE Heights City Council seat held by Republican Brad Winter. Chavez, a young twenty something, has worked in various political campaigns and says he currently works for Equality New Mexico, a local civil rights non-profit. This is an uphill battle for UNM grad Chavez in the GOP leaning district. Winter is the longest-serving city councilor, having been first elected in 1999. There were indications that he would not seek another term as he is retiring from a long career with APS, but both he and fellow R Councilor Trudy Jones announced recently they are a go for re-election.

Also seeing re-election in the October city election is incumbent Dem Councilor Isaac Benton. SE Dem councilor Rey Garduno will not seek re-election. Democrat Pat Davis has announced a bid for that heavy Dem district seat. The council is currently divided between 5 Dems and 4 R's.

And one more on this Wednesday. From a news release:

Adrián Pedroza is proud to announce his candidacy for Bernalillo County Commission, District 2. The seat is up for election in 2016 as incumbent County Commissioner Art De La Cruz is term limited. Pedroza serves as Executive Director for the Partnership for Community Action, a community-based, non-profit organization that works to build economic sustainability and improve educational opportunities for families throughout Bernalillo County. Pedroza has been actively involved in measures to bring permanent and substantial investments to early childhood education...

Pedroza, 37, has picked up a number of early endorsements including that of Dem BernCo Commissioner Debbie O'Malley.

This is the South Valley commission seat. We expect more candidates to join the fray for the coveted spot on the five member commission. However, no R's need apply. This one is as Dem as it gets.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

All APD All The Time: Ongoing Crisis Generates Unprecedented News Flow; Mayor Says Don't Listen To "Naysayers" But Frustration Grows  

Berry and APD Chief Eden
When Dave Letterman ended his multi-decade run as a talk show host last week he had several former US Presidents joke that "our long national nightmare is over."  That was first said in 1974 by Gerald Ford after Nixon's resignation over Watergate. Everyone laughed with Dave, but here in ABQ many may have also pined for those words to be uttered over the long nightmare featuring the ABQ police department and the Berry administration.

The ceaseless, demoralizing and often maddening news flow--now several years old--is unprecedented. At this point we are in wheel of fortune territory--where it stops nobody knows. Just look at the most recent cascade of nightmarish offerings:

---Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg--in a sometimes surreal hour long news conference--announces she is asking federal authorities to investigate APD's investigation of her on bribery charges. Attorney General Balderas says those charges appear politically motivated and in retaliation for her decision to charge two APD officers with murder in connection with the fatal shooting of homeless camper James Boyd. (Full news conference video here.)

---A settlement of yet another lawsuit against APD and the city for a fatal police shooting ends with a mammoth $6 million judgment. That's money out the door that is sorely needed for improvement to the city's social services as well as maintenance and repair of an aging infrastructure. Strange that we hear nothing from fiscal conservatives over the tens of millions being lost.

---In a bizarre development, an APD cop critically wounded by his own boss as he sat in a car with two suspected drug dealers threatens to sue the city unless a settlement can be reached.

---APD, under the legal gun, finally releases a video of possible APD and State Police abuse (welcome to the party Chief Pete Kassetas) of an already dead suspect after denying it existed:

Albuquerque Police body camera video shows an APD SWAT officer firing three beanbag rounds at an unresponsive suspect’s face, followed by a State Police sergeant flicking the suspect’s eyeball before stomping on his groin. Lusian was dead. The lapel video, which APD denied existed after KRQE News 13 first requested it, shows the end of a March 2014 SWAT call out at a tow yard in the Heights. Police said 56-year-old Dale Lusian had been seen rummaging through cars in the fenced-in lot before hiding in a metal container. When a police service dog went in, Lusian shot the dog three times. Medical investigators ruled Lusian’s death a suicide from a gunshot wound to the chest.

That APD in 2015 was sitting on 2014 lapel video shows the cover-up culture at APD remains as virulent as the AIDS virus at its peak.

The establishment press and most players in the business community--for whatever reason--continue to run interference for Mayor Berry who is now rebutting his critics not by not addressing their charges but trying to marginalize them. Says he:

One thing that makes me mad as mayor is when people in our community would like us to be seen in less than a positive light. . . we should stop listening to naysayers. 

Well, Mayor, maybe if we all put cotton balls in our ears and blinders over our eyes all those morbid news stories we just cited will go away--or at least not seem to place the city government in the middle of an unending crisis--which is what it faces but refuses to acknowledge.


The apathy, defensiveness, resistance to change and downright parochialism that have been hallmarks of much of the community's reaction to the APD drama and attendant events does not speak well of the body politic.

Only recently has there been some meaningful movement--DA Brandenburg's conversion via intimidation, AG Balderas' hardball report on APD's probe of her, Auditor Keller's hit on the suspect APD Taser deal and the City Council's questioning of the Department of Justice Federal Monitor for APD. But with the mayor and APD continuing to resist transparency and change (as seen in that very recent KRQE incident and Berry's quote above) it will take much more from the aforementioned politicians as well as any new voices that choose to join the fray. An editorial in the ABQ Free Press sums it up this way:

There seem to be no consequences for failure or malfeasance in this administration. One debacle follows another and nothing changes. Could it be that the cancer Downtown has so metastasized that if any one person were scapegoated, everyone goes down? We have a crisis at City Hall and no one in charge seems to care. We have a police department that is rapidly becoming the pariah of the Southwest. Beat cops struggle to maintain public trust while the people at the top cover their asses. So what’s the answer? Fire everyone at APD at the rank of lieutenant and above? That’s a lot of people to replace. Bring in a new chief who methodically cleans house among APD’s top commanders with a “My way or the highway” approach? Or do we fire someone over at City Hall calling the shots from an “us vs. them” proposition. Oh, wait, it’s not “we,” Mr. Mayor, it’s you. Do us a favor and clean up the steaming, stinking pile of problems that have accumulated on your watch. Show us there are consequences for screwing up. Otherwise, we can only conclude you don’t care or you’re not really the one in charge.

And from our reader email we get this incisive lament:

Joe, I guess we have finally reached the point where consumerism trumps democracy, narrow self-interest wins over any commonweal and frustration and/or cynicism about politics and government renders the people impotent. Without a doubt "community" has always been difficult to achieve in these unnatural political conglomerates that have been labeled "New Mexico" and "Albuquerque." As a thirteenth generation New Mexican and a fourth generation Albuquerquean, I am disappointed and saddened with the current state of affairs. At least some people are taking some action; some are communicating about our dire situation; and others are contributing in whatever manner they are able. Thank you for the great public service you are contributing with your blog. This is an example that there is still hope.


One could see Pete Dinelli, the losing candidate to ABQ Mayor Berry in the 2013 election, picketing City Hall with a sign that says, "I told you so." He isn't going that far but the onetime city councilor and former chief deputy DA, is having a say and it doesn't sound like sour grapes:

DA Brandenburg and I have had our differences over the years. However, what APD has done to her is an affront to out criminal justice system. People should be appalled by the findings of the Attorney General that APD accused her of felony crimes for political gain. The Albuquerque public and voters have a right to demand that APD’s investigations not be politically motivated. What happened in this case is a throwback to the 1980’s when APD used to keep and maintain investigation and intelligence reports on elected officials.

The AG investigation of the DA reflects the kind damage that can occur to people’s lives and reputations when initial police reports are released to the media to promote a political agenda. APD was attempting to tarnish and destroy the DA’s reputation and destroy her career because of her prosecution of the two cops in the Boyd murder case. How many other elected officials or private citizens has APD targeted because of being outspoken critics of APD? 

As Dinelli mentions it's not as if the police have not gone off the reservation before when it comes to civil liberties and intimidating public officials. We've been around long enough to remember the 1980's when the department publicly announced the destruction of files that should have never been kept or opened. That is a flagrant and intolerable abuse of power. The fear of it now may be responsible in part for the public quietude over this latest police crisis. It's why federal authorities need to take seriously the DA's request for an investigation and peel the onion even further.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Flashback: Clyde Tingley And Dennis Chavez 

Here’s a historic political cartoon that we presume was drawn in 1935 when NM Governor Clyde Tingley appointed Dennis Chavez to the US Senate seat held by Republican Senator Bronson Cutting who died in a plane crash while traveling to Washington. It’s interesting to note that the artist shows Chavez embarking for the nation’s capital by train instead of by plane. (Chavez was elected to the U.S. House in 1930).

The cartoonist gently pokes fun at Chavez’s chances at competing with the success Tingley had in bringing federal projects to New Mexico during the Depression years of the 30’s. Tingley’s close relationship with President Roosevelt was key to his success as both Governor and during his time as ABQ’s de facto Mayor.

If the assumption was indeed that Chavez could not compete with Tingley’s success, Dennis Chavez proved the cartoonist wrong. He went on to a US Senate career that brought massive amounts of federal largess to the state, including the construction of the two national laboratories and the expansion of the state’s military presence. As chairman of the Senate Public Works Committee he flexed his muscles for New Mexico.

Chavez’s career was bookended by senatorial appointments. As we mentioned, he was appointed to fill the Cutting vacancy. When he died in office in 1962 GOP Gov. Mechem had his lieutenant governor—Tom Bolack—appoint him to fill the Chavez vacancy. When Mechem sought a full term in 1964 he was defeated by Democrat Joseph Montoya.

The Tingley accomplishments listed in the cartoon still stand—the Zoo, Tingley Beach etc. They have been updated and modernized but remain a constant reminder of the generation who built Albuquerque from a rural farming community into a major city.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Education Leaders Face New Population Reality And Colorado Governor Offers NM An Example For Attracting Biz 

Kathy Winograd, Garrey Carruthers and Bob Frank are among the first to face down the new New Mexico--the one that for the first time in its modern history experienced a year-over-year drop in its population growth. All of them are leaders of higher education institutions in the state and all are seeing precipitous drops in student enrollment due to the population drop--especially as younger people flee to greener pastures where jobs are more plentiful and pay better than those here. The education leaders are scrambling as they confront shrinking budgets based on student enrollment. What to do?. . .

There does not appear to be any short-term solution to the malaise. States like Colorado, Texas and Arizona that are generating the jobs are less than a day's drive away. That easy exit is also hurting our ability to keep professionals who can easily cross the state line to set up shop and improve their status.

A reader points out that we have some great schools here--among them NM Tech, the ABQ Academy and a number of charter schools, to mention some, but it's hard for them to compete with what he calls a "statewide economic disaster."

Maybe that's overstating the case but for Winograd, Carruthers and Frank it probably rings  more true than they'd like.


It's been somewhat surprising that after five years our Republican governor and ABQ mayor have yet to land one big business fish, the kind that all at once would add a couple thousand jobs. Meanwhile, up in Denver the Colorado governor is literally having business executives over to the house for home cooked steaks to sell them on his state. It is working. A lesson for our leaders who have lagged in attracting business opportunities.

Carly Fiorina will speak at a NM GOP fundraiser May 30. In a first draft we blogged another date.

Enjoy the holiday weekend. We've got a fun history blog for you tomorrow. Otherwise. we'll see you back in this space Tuesday.

Reporting this week from Lake Como and Florence, Italy, I'm Joe Monahan.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Change Noted In Tone Of Senate Powerhouses Smith And Papen and Memories Of Seven Foot Pickett 

Papen & Smith
There's been a marked change in tone in recent weeks from Democratic State Senate powerhouses John Arthur Smith and Mary Kay Papen when it comes to the Martinez administration. One of the Alligators puts it this way:

I wonder if John Arthur and Mary Kay are rethinking their strategy of playing kissy-face with Governor Martinez over these last 5 years. Seems like it's really paying off for them. Not.

What Senate Finance Committee Chair Smith and Senate President Pro Tem Papen are hearing are the footsteps of the Governor's political machine. After five years of playing--as our Gator puts it--"kissy face" the pair seems to be absorbing the lesson House Democrats learned the hard way--no matter how they try to compromise or placate the machine, it will not take the target off their backs.

Smith and Papen are not in any apparent danger of losing their seats in the '16 election when all 42 Senators are up for election, but if the Senate were taken over by the R's--as the House was in '14--Smith and Papen would be relegated to the sidelines. There's nothing like the threat of losing their relevancy to galvanize a politician.

Why it took so long for Smith and Papen to realize what's going on is another story. But Smith's stubbornness with Martinez over a possible special legislative session and Papen's aggressive critique of the administration's behavioral health polices signal that kissy face politics has seen its peak.


We've noted that NM is being counted as safely in the Dem column for the '16 presidential race but we will see contenders come here looking for cash, if not votes. On June 3 Hillary Clinton will be in ABQ for a $2,700 a head fund-raiser at the home of Ed Romero, who served as ambassador to Spain under Bill Clinton. If you raise $27,000 for Hillary you get to go to a separate event and become part of the "Hillstarters." How's that for a thrill? On the GOP side,  Republican Carly Fiorina, a  '16 GOP hopeful and former CEO for Hewlett-Packard, will headline a NM GOP dinner  May 30.


We were surprised that a number of readers remember "Seven Foot Pickett," the NM politico active in the 50's and who we recalled on last Friday's blog. Dan Lewis of Cerrillos sent us this photo he snapped of the big fella back in the day:

Joe, this is from 1956 NM Boys Nation at NM Military Institute in Roswell. It's Seven Foot Pickett with a shorter Boys Nation staffer who is standing on a cone. Sorry the bottom third of photo was double exposed-- old 35mm Kodak with manual advance.

Vetearn NM political observer Carroll Caggle offers this story:

Joe, Maurice Trimmer, who served as press secretary to Governor Jack Campbell, told of a time when Seven-foot Pickett was running for re-election but could not make it to a parade in Tucumcari, so he asked Trimmer if he might drive his (Pickett’s) car in the parade – all adorned with banners and “Seven-foot” regalia and posters.

Trimmer agreed --- but found when he got into the car that the seat had been permanently readjusted and bolted down far, far away from the steering wheel, and lowered, to accommodate the candidate’s tall frame. Trimmer was forced to sit far back, and down, to the point where he could barely reach the steering wheel with his fingertips, and his head was just barely visible above the door frame. As he drove through Tucumcari, he would reach his hand up and wave at the crowds on the sidewalk, who could see only a hand and a tiny part of the top of Trimmer’s head.

The folks on the sidewalks gamely, but wanly, waved back, doubtless wondering what had happened to the towering, gangling frame of Seven-foot Pickett.

That's a great yarn Carroll. Thanks for sharing.

Jerome Block in Santa Fe writes:

Hey, Joe: My dad, Johnny Block, served with Ingram Pickett in the 1950's. I remember visiting with him many times when I was a kid. In case you didn't know, he was a member of the famous "Keystone Cops" back in the early days of movie making.

And one more Seven Foot Picket memory from reader John Ingram:

Joe, As a grade-schooler growing up in Portales, I well remember this popular politician not because of his height, but because of his name. At one time, I even had one of his campaign "rulers" as portrayed in the photo on your blog. Thanks for the memories!


Wall Gordon, who we quoted on the blog this week, works for the Edgwood Independent newspaper, not the East Mountain Telegraph. That paper no longer exists. . . . Reader Ellen Wedum writes; "Joe, Jeffery Baker spoke on the blog  of "several hundred" prisoners at Guantanamo. As of 1-15-2015, there were only 122, and 56 of those have been cleared for release.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sandia Skiing: A Climate Change Casualty? Plus: Siting Santolina, Nuke Waste In NM, Garduno Goes And Readers Opine On Best Of NM 

Don't think climate change is here and now? Well, in ABQ look no further than to the East and the imposing Sandia Mountains. That's the focus of this eyebrow raising news from Wally Gordon of the East Mountain Telegraph:

Because our warmer, drier climate is producing less snow, the Sandia Ski Area is in serious trouble. Most years it loses money, and it usually opens late, closes early, or both. Now, I have been told it is seriously considering closing down. If this next ski season is again a bust, it may be the ski area’s last. The only factor that has thus far prolonged the ski area’s life may be the high cost, perhaps a million dollars, of moving all its equipment and facilities out of the national forest, as required by its contract. But one more winter disaster, I have heard, would tip the scales in favor of swallowing the loss and closing down.

The Sandia's without skiing would be like the Pit without basketball. Pretty much unimaginable, but such is our world today.

Now let's swing all the way over to the far West of ABQ where Reader Kevin Wenderoth writes of the proposed massive development project known as Santolina:

The Bernalillo County Commissioners postponed a vote on whether to approve the Santolina housing development on the west side. Why isn't ABQ Mayor Berry and the City Council doing more to stop this suburban sprawl madness? Considering his decent record on public transportation, why isn't the Mayor and his administration trying to coax these developers into investing this money into urban Albuquerque? Into communities that already exist! There are so many parking lots in downtown Albuquerque just begging to be taken for infill development. Hopefully the Bernalillo County Commissioners do not approve this albatross of a project that makes ABQ even more of a sprawling mess than it already is. Mayor Berry has done a decent job investing in the center city; it's time to send that agenda into over-drive.

And more on the environment from reader and ABQ attorney Jeffrey Baker who writes:

If Susana Martinez is willing to endorse an “interim” nuclear waste storage facility in Lea and Eddy Counties, perhaps she is willing to endorse moving the prison at Guantanamo Bay to Lea and Eddy Counties. Both involve housing toxic material – spent nuclear rods and jihadists. If the Governor thinks shipping nuclear waste along New Mexico’s roadways is safe, is it any less safe to warehouse several hundred “high value” foreign detainees inside a federal lockup in the middle of the desert? With this country’s ongoing war against terror, we will capture more terrorists. Just as we need a place to store dangerous waste, we need a place to store dangerous people. C’mon Governor – this is an opportunity to bring jobs to New Mexico.


ABQ SE Heights City Councilor Rey Garduno has changed his mind. He won't seek another four year term in this October's city election and wants progressive activist Pat Davis to fill his shoes. Garduno worked hard but his effort to rewrite history as he headed for the exits fell flat:

In my years on the council we’ve helped Albuquerque weather the storm of the recession without losing the character of unique neighborhoods like Nob Hill and the International District that thrive on small business growth. We have brought more transparency to city government and challenged the administration and the police to remain accountable to the people we all serve.

But ABQ has not "weathered" the recession and that's especially so on Nob Hill, the once trendy shopping district that has been disemboweled by the economic implosion. And the Berry administration "challenged?" When and by whom on this city council--besides a few letters of protests? APD remains in crisis and the listless council that Garduno presided over as president shares the blame with Mayor Berry. Transparency is elusive as ever.

BEST OF. . . 

Our Best of NM and ABQ blog that ran last week drew responses. Cindy Tyson of the NM Historical Review writes:

I am the Administrator of the New Mexico Historical Review. Thank you for mentioning our beloved journal in your blog. This is our 90th year in publication. I wish I could say that your phrase "little known" before the mention of NMHR was not true but I cannot. We have readers from the Sorbonne in France, Grand Central Station in NYC, Korea, China, Germany, and Britain, who find us. We are always happy when new readers and lovers of New Mexico find us. In 2014 we went online with our journal so more people could access all 89+ years of our articles on New Mexico. I hope that it helps us to become better known.

We picked as the best indoor theater venue the theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Reader Laura Stokes writes:

You forgot the many classical music fans who gather every Sunday morning at the funky, intimate Kosmos space on 5th St. to hear Chatter, the hottest place in town for gorgeous chamber music and new stuff that no one outside a couple of huge metropolises ever gets to hear. We are sold out every Sunday. Coffee, cookies, massage and a friendly community. You should check it out but you have to get your tickets online several days before the show. 

Violet Cauthon of Las Cruces says we need to think south when we think of burgers:

Once more, with lots of feeling, I ask: have you ever been south of Albuquerque? I agree with some of your "best" because I, too, love the Circle Drive but, really, Owl Bar for "best green chile hamburger"? So lame. Come to Las Cruces, find the Burger Nook on Madrid off Solano (it's not easy to find) and find the best crispy-grilled, greasy bun, green chile burger ever! Take your newspaper or a book because these two sisters do not believe in steam tables. Your burger is cooked when you order as are your fries. The Best in New Mexico for sure.

We're hitting the road, Violet.


Maybe up and coming NM Dem political constant Israel Chavez can form a house band for the party. In a video he cut for his Facebook followers Chavez pulls out his guitar and honors the late B.B. King. If he consults as well as he plays, look out R's.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Just Call It Santa Fe, DC, Optics Problems For PNM And Grisham, Balderas Pulls No Punches On APD Kari Caper 

Just call it Santa Fe, DC. Washington style gridlock strikes again as the Republican Governor and Senate Democrats clash.

That's really in the "what else is new?" category. We've been walking this walk for nearly five years with Susana and sometimes before her with Dem Bill Richardson and Republican Gary Johnson. But stuff did get done under those two governors. We are at a standstill today with a Governor really not interested in putting legislative points on the board as long as she can demonize her opposition for the next round of voting and Democrats who loathe the punitive approach of her political machine and have decided to wait her out--even if that means a long three and half years of watching their toenails grow. . .

The death of the possible special legislation session to revive a $264 million public works bill that would have stimulated the state economy ended in the same crash and burn style as most everything else does in Santa Fe. Both sides pointed fingers at each other, with the Governor--as usual--taking the nastiest approach in the blame game.

No wonder so many legislators have retired in recent years. Even avuncular GOP House Speaker Don Tripp isn't going unscathed. He emerged in the special session negotiations looking like a rider in the Governor's sidecar. The Guv's political team called all the shots from the word go.  In fact, Tripp has been busted by the Las Cruces Sun-News for acting as if he had no idea what the Senate Dems were up to when, in fact, there had been considerable negotiations between both sides. The newspaper walked back an editorial critical of the Senate Dems when it was revealed that Tripp was up to his neck in the talks.

Hey, Don, if you want to be a figurehead, that's fine. Just don't pretend you are playing the power game of La Politica when you aren't. . . .

There's not many left around like former Dem State Sen. Joe Fidel of Grants. When he passed away recently at 91 his praises were sung by both Dems and R's. He left the Senate in 2006 after over 30 years there. His son Mark said he left because politics had become "mean-spirited" and serving was no longer "fun." He nailed that. Being mean-spirited seems to be what passes for fun among the new breed. A rosary and funeral Mass for Fidel will be held at 2 p.m. May 30 at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Grants.


Talk about an optics problem. PNM asked for a rate increase of upwards of 16% percent while giving its CEO a 16% increase in pay. The state Public Regulation Commission rejected the rate hike--for now. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales summed it up this way:

PNM's plan would have moved us in the wrong direction, hitting small businesses and families harder than anyone else and committing New Mexicans to a lifetime of coal-burning power. We have to start facing the realities of climate change. . . I applaud the decision and the unified voice of our Commissioners.

We don't know how much legs the climate change argument has, but a double-digit rate increase in this flat economic environment is a nonstarter,

And more optics problems for our congressional delegation. First, Sen. Martin Heinrich is busted for using government funds to finance commutes to the office. Now ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is busted for taking a trip to Azerbaijan that was funded by the state-owned oil company and for accepting gifts there that were more expensive than allowed. Never mind that most New Mexicans think Azerbaijan is located somewhere near Pojoaque. Our reps don't need to be losing their way when it comes to following the well-known rules.

One of our readers points out that Michelle's exotic travel wasn't actually a "junket" as the newspaper headlines screamed. That would be a trip financed by the taxpayers. Whatever the semantics, voters get the idea. .  .


Balderas and Brandenburg
Attorney General Hector Balderas pulled no punches as he called out APD for playing politics in its bribery investigation of Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg and scoring Brandenburg for “an appearance of impropriety” when she got in touch with victims of property crime cases in which her drug addicted son was a suspect. So what are we to take away from this? . . .

Well, certainly Brandeburg's maternal instinct went astray and as a result she exposed herself to an investigation. Her reputation has been hurt. But Balderas indicates APD leaked that bribery probe when Brandenburg let it be known she would be prosecuting two APD officers on murder charges. Also, media scrutiny of the bribery charges did not stand up, reinforcing the belief that rogue elements at APD were running the show. Which leads to the questions. . .

Is APD conducing "investigations" of their other perceived foes and isn't it time for the Justice Department or AG Balderas to go there? And just who in APD leaked the Brandenburg probe to the media? Does anyone care to take a look at that one? And, once again, what does Mayor Berry have to say about the attorney general's finding of politics at play in a criminal investigation at his police department? Oh, well, maybe John Sanchez can ask him. . .

Reader Alan Wagman adds to the discussion of the APD crisis:

In the context of reported APD intimidation of critics, you expressed the hope that the judiciary will resolve APD's problems. That, unfortunately, is a false hope. For one thing, neither the Justice Department nor the federal court will address issues not raised in the complaint DOJ filed in federal court. Intimidation is not raised. For a second thing, research has shown -- and DOJ has admitted in private meetings -- that the success of police reform depends not upon lawsuits but upon the will of a city's and a department's leadership to actually reform. Bottom line, the solution is political, not judicial.


Reader Martha Burk writes:

I am surprised that you posted an anonymous slam against me and the Albuquerque pay equity initiative without learning the facts. Those who know me, as Chair of the task force that crafted the initiative, and Clara Apodaca, who was a key member of the task force, know that neither of us would ever lend our names to anything that was not advancing the cause of equality for women. The folks that started the untrue rumors and posted a petition against the initiative have now apologized to me and to Councilor Gibson. If you plan future coverage, please call or email me so that I can fill you in on what the initiative is about.


Former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez writes of the passing this month of longtime Dem political consultant Harry Pavlides:

In a room full of people, he was always one I sought out both from a combination of an extraordinarily long history together, shared passions and his at times remarkable insights. As opinionated as he was, Harry didn't have a mean bone in his body. He wasn't always right (who is?) but was always informed. He was indefatigable, proud of his upbringing and heritage and we are diminished by his passing.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Photo Flashback: Ingram B. "Seven Foot" Pickett 

The history of New Mexico politics is populated with colorful characters who left indelible images. Surely, one of them was Ingram B. "Seven Foot" Pickett.

Here he is pictured in a campaign brochure as he successfully sought his second, six year term on the old State Corporation Commission (SCC) whose modern successor is the Public Regulation Commission (PRC).

Pickett served in the 1950's and proved to be one of the state's most popular politicos of the decade. It didn't hurt that upon taking office he removed the hinges to his office door as a symbol of transparency.

In 1956 Pickett challenged Gov. John Simms for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He narrowly lost but the challenge may have played a role in Simms' defeat to Republican Ed Mechem.

The late author and newspaperman Tony Hillerman wrote that Pickett was a driver for NM Governor Thomas Mabry when in 1950 he was put in the corporation commission race as a means to draw votes away from a challenger who was a threat to the governor's favored candidate, but Pickett proved so popular he beat them both.

His height was such a political plus that Pickett went to court to have his name legally changed to Ingram B. "Seven Foot" Pickett. Like a true politician, Pickett didn't let it bother him that he actually was one inch short of the seven foot mark.

Pickett's campaign slogan was "Big enough to serve you, Small enough to need you." That summed up his towering presence and populist appeal that earned him a chapter in the never ending book of La Politica.

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