Friday, October 02, 2015

Scandal Casualty List Compiled; Impact On Voting? Plus: New Insight On NM Spaceport Woes 

Let's add up the recent casualty list:

---The Republican Secretary of State stands charged with multiple felonies for allegedly raiding her campaign funds to go on a multi-year casino spree.

---The Republican  Secretary of Taxation and Revenue is accused of using improper influence to benefit a former client of her CPA business.

---The Democratic State Treasurer is accused by the State Personnel Department of making sexist and racist comments. (Treasuer Eichenberg's response here).

---Two Democratic State Representatives are busted for filing flawed campaign finance reports.

---The Superintendent of the ABQ Public schools is forced out amid scandal over the hiring of an alleged pedophile to a top administrative position.

Does this catalog of scandal inspire outrage that gets voters out of their recliners or disgust that turns to apathy? Unfortunately, it is probably be the latter.

When folks start thinking "all the politicians do it" they feel powerless. That, in turn, can lower voter turnout. That benefits the party with the most likely voters--the Republicans. The more the R's can portray government as a mud wrestling pit involving players of all political stripes, the more they can control the playing field. Cynical? Yes. True? Yes.


We finish the week with insightful analysis and comment on the NM Spaceport from Republican Brent Eastwood:

I just read this WSJ article on Virgin Galactic: "Virgin Galactic to Unveil Enhanced LauncherOne Rocket." It appears that Virgin Galactic is diversifying its business plan and pivoting to launching micro satellites into orbit--quite a departure from sending tourists into space. No mention of New Mexico and Virgin CEO George Whitesides could not be pinned down on when the new version of SpaceShip Two would begin powered testing again. Most experts, according to the article, say February, 2016, at the earliest.I checked the Spaceport website to see what was going on.

“We are the home to Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. We are also home to SpaceX’s Falcon 9R.”

Excuse me? Those Spacecraft are based at Mojave Air and Space Port and they are going to be in Mojave for a long, long time. That is Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s district and he has no intention of allowing those spacecraft to move to New Mexico.

Home to SpaceX’s Falcon 9R? Everybody knows that SpaceX uses two orbital launch sites at Cape Canaveral in Florida and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. SpaceX has their suborbital rocket development and test facility in Texas and they want to lease another orbital launch center in Florida.

The last I checked, SpaceX had a tiny office at Spaceport America and were paying some pittance of a lease. But home to Falcon 9R? I think what they are trying to say is that in the future New Mexico could be the testing location for recovered booster rockets from SpaceX in the future. (See this.) But it is not home to the program.

When do we start telling the truth? It is one ugly baby and I understand nobody wants to look at the ugly baby. But legislators need to start asking tougher questions before the next legislative session.

Good stuff you won't find anywhere else. That's why. . .

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Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Sanchez Vs. Berry; Very Early Action Developing Over Abortion in '18 GOP Guv Race, Plus: Two Mayors; Two Disconnects, And: 'Tis The Season; '16 Petitions Circulate Today 

Lt. Gov. Sanchez
Did ABQ Mayor Richard Berry upset his political apple cart when he decried the tactics of an anti-abortion group active in an ABQ City Council race? Lt. Governor John Sanchez, like Berry a probable contender for the '18 GOP Guv nomination, isn't saying that but he could be said to be acting like it.

Sanchez's office confirms that the Light Guv met with a small group of pro-life advocates Wednesday, only days after Berry put up a YouTube video asking Protest ABQ to cease showing graphic depictions of abortions in SE Heights District 6, saying they were frightening children.

Berry's video may have appealed to many Democrats and moderates, but they have nothing to say about the GOP nomination whereas the pro-life community does. A Senior Alligator comments:

Berry's video was unnecessary and a mistake from a statewide view. It was as if he was assuming the GOP nomination is his and is already trying to appeal to the state at large. That is a miscalculation. Lt. Gov. Sanchez is a major barrier for Berry to overcome and by alienating an important GOP constituency Berry has made his path to the nomination more difficult and perhaps easier for John. Remember conservative Steve Pearce versus moderate Heather Wilson for the 2008 US Senate nomination? We know how that one ended.

Tara Shaver, head of the Protest ABQ ministry, said Berry has "done nothing" to reduce abortions during his time as mayor. Sanchez's office says Shaver was not among those at Wednesday's meeting. They said Sanchez has had regular meetings with pro-life groups but until now no such meetings had the significant statewide political implications of this one.


On the very day we got the news of a big jump in the ABQ crime rate from 2010-2014, Mayor Berry comes with this:

Mayor Berry and APD have come up with a safer way for community members to exchange items purchased over internet on sites like Craigslist. The City of Albuquerque will begin providing monitored, secure locations, known as Exchange Zones. The zones will soon be established in each of the parking lots at APD’s six area command substations. Mayor Berry and APD believe these Exchange Zones, will help reduce potential dangers to both buyers and sellers.

Talk about a disconnect. Concern about Craigslist but no comment from the Mayor on the leap in crime far surpassing the growth in population and continuing the city's hurtful reputation as crime-ridden?

Berry took office in December of 2009. His major TV ad back then faulted Mayor Marty Chavez for presiding over a skyrocketing rate of property crime. So how is Berry doing? From 2010 through 2014, property crimes in the city are up 15 percent, according to the FBI uniform crime report. Ditto for violent crimes. Meanwhile, the population during that time grew by a mere 2.4 percent.


And former Mayor Marty Chavez also seems to be suffering from a great disconnect. With all the problems the city has had with crime, APD and its floundering economy, the former His Honor comes with this:

(Chavez) who started the 311 service is blasting the city for cutting the hours. But current city staff claim not having a live service overnight saves money. Marty Chavez was Albuquerque's mayor in 2005 when the city launched the 311 service. It’s supposed to be a number where residents can call and get help or answers from different city departments. “This is basic governmental service,” Chavez said. When it was launched, the line was live 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But now when you call after 9 p.m., you get automated message with the service's hours.

Yep, that's what's killing ABQ. You just gotta talk to someone about your garbage pick-up at 3 in the morning. Thanks, Marty.


We suppose you can call today the official start of the 2016 election season:

Secretary of State Duran announced that on October 1, 2015 her office will publish the documents and information necessary for potential 2016 Primary Election candidates to begin collecting the necessary petition signatures to qualify for the June 7, 2016 Primary Election ballot. . . Potential candidates can find the required nominating petition form, along with the 2016 Primary Election Candidate Guide on the SOS website.While not eligible for the June 2016 ballot, independent and minor party candidates will find information in the guide pertinent to their campaigns as well.


Arturo Uribe writes from Las Cruces:

I've been reading your blog since you began. Congratulations on 12 years of awesome work. Thank you. I was hoping if you would help us inform your readers especially those in Las Cruces about this candidate forum. Keep up the great work and Write On. . . 

SWOP Action Fund Dona Ana, Nopalito’s Galeria and PRC Productions will be hosting a Las Cruces Mayoral Candidate Forum.This is a non-partisan event and an opportunity for those who are registered to vote in the Las Cruces Municipal election to be educated, informed, and engaged, voters. Forum will begin at 6 p.m., Thursday October 8th 6-8pm at 326 S. Mesquite St.

Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagashima is seeking a third term in the Nov. 3 city election. He has two opponents.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Plea Deal For Dianna Not In The Cards, Plus: More On The Slow Motion Saga Of An Embattled Secretary Of State, And: ABQ Econ Boss Says Jobs Are Out There 

AG Balderas
Welcome back. Today marks the start of our 13th consecutive year of "New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan" so let's get to it.

Don't look for Attorney General Hector Balderas to cut a plea bargain deal with Secretary of State Dianna Duran in exchange for her to resign. That from a source in the know reacting to speculation here about the possibility of a plea deal.

For now, Duran continues to hang tough when it comes to resigning. The next act in the political melodrama, absent a resignation, will likely come when the state House signals its intention to impeach Duran. She would then be expected to blink and decide to resign rather than become the first official in state history to be disgraced by impeachment.

A senior lawmaker says the House will have plenty of time to ready the impeachment charges for the January legislative session and there should be no delay in taking them up. If for some reason there was a delay, the Governor could call the Legislature into special session to do the task. But that would cost more taxpayer money so the pressure is on to get the job done in the 30 day '16 session.

Having Duran, who is accused of violating the campaign laws she is charged with enforcing, preside over the SOS office in the upcoming election year is the sword hanging over the heads of the Republicans. Quickly dispatching Duran is imperative or the Dems will start banging the war drums in earnest. Right now they are warming up in the bullpen as evidenced by this statement Tuesday from party headquarters:

Enough is enough; Secretary of State Dianna Duran must resign immediately. Rather than performing the duties she was elected to do, Secretary of State Dianna Duran has become singularly focused on abusing the powers of her office to carry out a political vendetta. It is clear that Duran is attempting to distract from the fact that she has been charged with 64 counts of criminal violations that include embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, violations of the Campaign Practice Act, the Governmental Conduct Act, tampering with public records, and conspiracy.

That "vendetta" the party sites is Duran turning over to the AG a campaign finance complaint against ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas.

AG Balderas has told Duran that because of the charges he has brought against her he is discontinuing his office's legal representation of the SOS and asking that she send campaign ethics complaints to local district attorneys. Duran's office calls it a political move. Balderas says he will continue to handle the Maestas complaint because it was referred to him by the media and not the SOS.


Is impeachment a foregone conclusion?  Recent wondering aloud by ABQ GOP State Rep, Bill Rehm about whether the charges against Duran are possibly ethical but not criminal violations--raised eyebrows. Avoiding impeachment seems politically impossible for the House R's (and the Governor) but how about a motion to censure Duran and not impeach? Highly improbable but thrown on the the table by a Senior Alligator monitoring the situation. The House has hired heavy ABQ legal hitter Robert Gorence to handle the impeachment case.

Back on the plea angle, ABQ Legal Beagle Jeff Baker has some fun with it:

How about the following scenario: Dianna Duran enters a guilty plea to multiple misdemeanors. As part of the deal, she provides a detailed factual basis for each of her guilty pleas, plus she has to acknowledge she has a gambling problem for which she will seek help. She resigns her office, and gets to keep her state pension. The Legislature saves the cost and distraction of impeachment proceedings. Hector Balderas takes credit for (1) getting Dianna Duran out of office and (2)saving the taxpayers the expense of impeachment proceedings. Balderas then calls on the Legislature and Governor to create an independent ethics commission. Everybody wins, sort of.

Intriguing plot line, Jeff. We'll send it up to Hector's place but don't think it will find any takers.

By the way, if Duran is convicted in criminal court of any of the felonies the AG has charged her with, she would lose her state pension and upon conviction would no longer be able to serve as Secretary of State. And one more "by the way." If Duran is impeached by the House and convicted at a trial by the state Senate, she is removed from office but does not lose her state pension as a result.


We told you it wouldn't be so bad if you did this, Moe:

Since the (campaign report) discrepancies came to my attention, I have hired a reputable accounting firm to independently reconcile contributions with reports. Once completed, my reports will be amended accordingly and available online.

That would be ABQ Dem State Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas to those of you new to this thing of ours.


Here we go. . . yet again:

A new report by WalletHub ranks Albuquerque 404th out of 515 U.S. cities in the 2015 Cities with the Fastest Growing Economies study. . . The survey looked at 10 key metrics, from population growth to job growth, and studied data from 2008 to 2014. Albuquerque's unemployment rate increased by more than 5 percent during the period studied, a big factor in the city's low rating. Albuquerque also had negative growth in regional GDP per capita, number of businesses and median house prices. While the poverty rate decreased by nearly 4.5 percent, the total number of jobs declined.

You almost have to pity city Economic Development Director Gary Oppedahl. He really hasn't had a big jobs score on his watch, but says the bad news bears have been hogging the spotlight, arguing there are quite a few jobs available in the city:

Comcast: 300 positions available at the Customer Care Call Center, Xfinity Store, and in Comcast Field Operations. . . Fidelity Investments: 100 positions, including financial associates, customer service associates and others not requiring a financial services background. . . Flagship Food Group: About 50 positions open. . . 

Oppedahl posted his info on the "goodnewsnm" site. He probably has to go there three times a day to keep his morale up.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

SOS Impeachment: "Solemn" or Routine? Plus: Could Hector Possibly Plea Bargain With Dianna? And: New Mexico Is Going To Look A Lot Older 

GOP State Rep. Zach Cook, co-chair of the House committee that met Monday to start talking about impeaching Secretary of State Dianna Duran, called the proceedings "solemn." We would argue a better description would be "routine." After all, this is the third time in 10 years that the House has started impeachment proceedings against an elected official. In the previous two cases the officials resigned before they could be impeached. . .

Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico don't see anything Santa Fe does as "solemn." With the economy stagnating for six long years, they long ago tuned out the politicians and the process as witnessed by the crash in voter turnout, the apathetic response to Secretary Duran refusing to resign and the incredible net migration out of the state.

New Mexicans, never a hopeful bunch, have pretty much thrown in the towel on any significant ethics reform. What they hope and pray for are good jobs or a pay hike if they have a job.

The two previous impeachment moves--against Treasurer Michael Vigil and Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block--came amid wild bull markets, with high oil prices, growing employment and scads of federal dollars still rolling into the state.  When the good times are rolling, a few bad apples in the barrel are easier to accept.

The Duran scandal comes amid the Great Stagnation that has laid bare our fundamental weaknesses which Santa Fe has chosen to essentially ignore and thus has effectively declared insoluble. The kids catch the vibe and hightail it out of here to the Austin city limits.  When will we get "solemn" about that?


As for Duran, you wonder if the state House will get to impeachment during the upcoming 30 day session. The impeachment committee doesn't meet again for another month. . .

Also, can Attorney General Balderas, who brought corruption charges against Secretary Duran for allegedly raiding her campaign funds to gamble in casinos, actually entertain a plea bargain that would reduce the charges from felonies to misdemeanors? Duran would then be able to keep her pension but Balderas could be in for a whole lot of pain. He gets credit for bringing the charges but if he went squishy on Duran, the public might go squishy on him.


What surprised us about this news from the latest newsletter from the Legislative Council Service is that we are the only state in the nation experiencing this:

More people continue to move out of New Mexico than into New Mexico--the only state where this is true. New Mexico's out‐migration was more pronounced in 2014 than in 2013, with 25,000 more people leaving than moving into the state in 2014, up from 10,000 in 2013.

Is that trend continuing in 2015? Is there any reason to think it isn't? New Mexico is increasingly attractive to the older demographic, not the younger. A surprise in the future may be the median age of the state rising  further than today's experts anticipate. Well, maybe not all the experts. John Covert is regional director of the research and consulting firm Metrostudy:

Covert pointed to Albuquerque's impending "senior tsunami." He said Albuquerque's senior population is expected to grow 132 percent by 2030, which will have seniors encompassing one-third of the city's population.

Should we open a prune juice franchise here?

America at large remains an immigrant magnet but not without generating angst:

The Pew report casts light on the uneasiness some Americans have expressed about the shifts in society in the United States. In 1965, the researchers found, whites made up 84 percent of people in the country. By this year, their share had declined sharply, to 62 percent. “Historically this is perhaps the lowest we have seen the non-Hispanic white share in U.S. history,” Mr. Lopez said. According to Pew projections based on current trends, by 2055 whites will lose their majority status in the population, and their share will continue to decline. Pew projects that after 2055, no ethnic or racial group will be a majority of the population.

New Mexico reflects the wave of the future. We've been a majority-minority state for years. Currently only 39 percent of New Mexicans are White, compared to 62 percent of the USA.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Analysts, Alligators And Insiders Weigh City Election Outcome As Final Stretch Commences, Plus: BioPark Backlash? Not Yet, And: Days Of Duran (Cont.) 

Let's head out to the campaign trail for the final full week of City Election '15. . .

With the October 6 election in sight our analysts say the odds are high that the balance of power on the nine member city council will not shift as a result of the election. They are forecasting that Dem hopeful and Gov. Martinez arch-enemy Pat Davis will obtain 50 percent of the vote in SE Heights Council District 6--scene of the most intense battle this season. Davis has been stung by the Guv's machine but, the analysts say, the liberal bent of the district is emerging and that Davis is in line to score 50 percent in this three way race. That means he would avoid a run-off with Republican Hessito Yntema and keep the seat in the Dem column.

Up in GOP leaning Council District 4 in the NE Heights our insiders, analysts and Alligators are predicting longtime Republican Councilor Brad Winter will triumph over Dem challenger Israel Chavez. Winter has been hit but has sustained no serious damage and the insiders say a low, low turnout means GOP voters will tip the balance to Winter who first came to the council in 1999.

If those predictions are right the Council will stay 5 to 4 Democratic which means the Dems will not have the sixth vote needed to override vetoes from Republican Mayor Richard Berry.

Berry may be sensing the shifting tide in the Davis district. He released a video condemning the gruesome photos used by anti-abortionists against Davis. Is the Mayor looking to soften up Davis a little if he eventually comes on the council? Maybe.

No paid media campaign has emerged to attack the tax hike to finance improvements to the city BioPark and the analysts say that means the odds favor passage. The proposed one eighth of a cent increase in the city gross receipts tax would raise at least $250 million over its 15 year life. There is also a $3.9 million bond issue on the ballot this year that would go to the BioPark. Just how much does the BioPark need? It's not a question that has received much debate.

The gross receipts tax is now well over 7 percent in the city and tax foes see another increase as a detriment to business and further hurting low income individuals who pay a higher percentage of their income in the tax than the well off. But unless there is a last minute paid opposition campaign the images of grandchildren enjoying the zoo and aquarium with their grandparents is likely to prevail.

There is also the question of why we are not financing the BioPark improvements with bond issues backed by property taxes as traditionally has been done. It speaks to the city's fiscal condition under Mayor Berry (sorry, Mayor Marty has been gone for six years and Berry now owns it). But Berry won't even say if he will vote yes or no on the BioPark tax increase thus completely avoiding the bond issue argument. Not that anyone in the sleep-walking media is pressing him.

One other point: Berry and the Berry media keep saying that Mayor Marty funneled money used to back bond issues to the city's general fund to finance ongoing operations and that's the root of the bond capacity problem. But Berry took office in December 2009. He's had nearly six years to follow through on his promise to reverse that. We need bigger bond issues to shore up an aging ABQ. And after six years don't we need more than a blame game from City Hall and its media cohorts to explain why we continue to lag so badly?


Dianna Duran's decision--for now--to stay on as Secretary of State and fight calls for her resignation as she battles corruption charges--has heated up the email. Here's Dem Stephanie DuBois--who is running for Otero County Clerk--a job previously held by Duran--countering Dianna:

Joe, I am not afraid to challenge Dianna Duran because she needs to be challenged, We cannot allow her to continue to serve the public when she has obviously screwed the public trust.  I think the people (la gente) should picket her office and put a great deal of pressure on her to resign. We have sent a very bad message to the people of New Mexico and it will heighten the possibility that more elected officials will get better at being corrupt.  This must go to the people especially those who elected her and put their trust in her when she promised to clean up the past corruption in the Secretary of State's office. I believe now the Governor, a Republican, cannot really throw Duran under the bus and will find a way to keep Duran in office. We, the people cannot allow Duran to stay there without consequences. We just can't. 

We may be headed for a game of who blinks first. The state House--controlled by the Republicans--is looking at impeaching Duran in the January legislative session. Will Duran blink and resign if she is impeached? Will the House fail to impeach? Will Gov. Martinez find Dianna a private sector job and make it easier for her to step away? Will the charges against Duran be reduced to misdemeanors so prosecutors get a conviction but Dianna gets to keep her pension? Never a dull moment in La Politica. . .

P.S. Duran has complained that the media has been running photos of her that are unflattering, so today we posted her official photo. Hey, it's the least we can do for the blogging gift the SOS scandal has bestowed.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Dems Tripped Up Again; Their Leading Candidate To Replace SOS Duran Takes Ethics Hit As Duran Future Gets Hazier, Plus: Our Bottom Lines 

Oliver & Duran
New Mexico Democrats can't buy a break. With Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran on the ropes and the Dems all set to run Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver for the post if Duran is forced out, what happens? Oliver's campaign lays a big egg:

. . . After announcing a bipartisan effort to train 250 more voter registrars Tuesday, Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver sent out an email asking for contributions “to support the work we’re doing.” But the solicitation was from Toulouse Oliver’s political action committee, MaggiePac, and any funds sent in response to the email won’t go to the new county campaign to recruit third-party voter registration agents.
Instead, any money will flow to Toulouse Oliver’s PAC, which she launched this year to support women who run for higher office who are pro-abortion rights, support full equality and will advocate to protect and expand voting rights.

Sure, it's kind of esoteric but in the politically charged environment surrounding the SOS scandal, it is perfect fodder for the Guv's Machine when the time comes. Nothing like a big front-page story on ethics problems for one of those 30 second attack ads (and, of course, a pious editorial that will soon appear chastising her).

They are used to beating up on Maggie. She was pummeled by the Machine in TV attack ads that went unanswered when she ran and lost to Duran in 2014.

Oliver's supporters say the path is clear for her to run unopposed for the SOS nomination if SOS Duran should resign in the next year and there is a '16 election to fill out the final two years of her term, but this kind of rookie mistake begs for a Hispanic challenger to get into any contest. Absent a challenge, if Duran resigns and Gov. Martinez gets to appoint a new SOS, that incumbent will have ammo to portray Oliver as ethically challenged and lump her in with Duran. Not good.

The Alligators have been saying it for years--until the Dems bring into this state consultants and pros who can match up with those of the Guv's Machine and play error-free, aggressive offense, they are going to keep hurting. And hurting.


Meanwhile, embattled SOS Duran emerged this week on TV screens statewide to pronounce that she is back to work. That came after weeks of being MIA following the attorney general filing criminal charges against her over her handling of her campaign funds.

This bizarre episode in state politics is now fraught with uncertainty. Duran's lawyer is trying to buy time and drag the case out. Duran is not going to resign anytime soon and whether the House will impeach her during the January legislative session has become  murky. Even if she is impeached, Duran could play hardball and not resign as expected. The case would then go to the Senate for trial where getting an impeachment conviction for the first time in state history could be problematic.

If Duran can survive another year, there will be no '16 election to fill the rest of her term which expires at the end of '18. She could resign after the '16 election and the GOP Guv appoints a replacement who then runs in the lower voter turnout year of '18, instead of the presidential year of '16 when turnout is higher. We earlier labeled the Dems chances of taking back the SOS office a "no-brainer." Now it's looking more like brain surgery.


We remembered the life and times of former APD Chief Bob Stover on the blog this week (see Monday's blog). Stover, 79, died Thursday morning. "He was among the best chiefs the city has had," offered retired APD officer and former police union head Mark Bralley who took the photographs of Stover posted here and who has been in La Politica since the 60's. He added: "I don't doubt we would not be in the conundrum we are with APD today if Bob had been chief."

The viewing will take place Thursday, October 1 at the Daniels Family Funeral home on Wyoming. The funeral with full police honors will take place next Friday at Hoffmantown Church.


This week's papal visit was up front and personal for a number of New Mexicans, including Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, who was invited to four events featuring the Pope. . . Northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan took his mother Carmen to see the pontiff speak before a joint session of Congress. He was also a member of the escort committee that took Francis to the House chamber for the joint session. Senator Udall was accompanied by Archbishop John Wester.  Each member was allotted one ticket to take a guest inside the chamber.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

City Election '15: Davis Vs. The Machine In SE Heights As Hot Race Gets Hotter, Plus: Analysis Of Winter Vs. Chavez Council Contest, And: More BioPark Debate 

It's Pat Davis vs. The Machine in that three way battle for the SE ABQ City Council seat. At least that's how Davis, a progressive and longtime arch-foe of Gov. Martinez, would like the liberal district to view the contest.

We're posting a mail piece Davis has sent out featuring a rare attack on the Governor's political apparatus that has been dubbed the "Machine" because of its efficacy in polishing off Dem foes and often launching vicious attacks against anyone who dare challenges its hegemony.

Davis, head of the activist group ProgressNowNM, has been one of those who hasn't backed off. Not surprisingly he is being put through the Machine's wringer which is backing the candidacy of Republican Hessito Ynetma. Also in the race and giving Davis headaches is Democrat Samuel Kerwin, a 22 year old UNM student who could peel Dem votes away from Davis, keeping him below 50 percent and forcing a run-off election with Yntema.

More analysis on this contest from former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne, a onetime Republican turned Democrat and a veteran campaign consultant:

Davis clearly has the edge in this contest but it still bears watching. Even if the Machine loses, if it can hold him to 55 percent or below that will be a victory for them. If they can't beat him, they want to weaken him because they know he will use the council seat as a vehicle to attack both Martinez and Mayor Berry.

Davis was featured in a newspaper front-pager recently over his DWI arrest that worked hard to raise questions about his character. Now anti-abortion protestors have set up shop outside his house. With the final stretch to the October 6 election straight ahead, the hits are going to keep coming from both sides.


Did you know...As few as 3,000 voters in SE Heights District 6 could cast ballots. That's in a district with 37,000 voters. . . Hessito Yntema gets his Hispanic roots from his mom's side. His dad is attorney Hess Yntema, a Republican who once held the council seat his son now seeks. . . KOB-TV thought it was a big deal that candidate Samuel Kerwin was running for the city council at the young age 22. They invited him on to talk about it. But, oops. They forget to give equal time to Pat Davis and Hessito Yntema. The station has since corrected itself. . .

We asked analyst Payne for his thoughts on the District 4 NE Heights council race featuring GOP incumbent Brad Winter and Dem Israel Chavez:

This one is Winter's to lose. He has been on the council since 1999 and while that might be a disadvantage in some respects, his name ID and generally positive image make him tough to tackle. I think his opponent needed to soften him up much earlier and now has limited time to pull off the upset. 

Winter and his attorney wife Nann are building a home in Florida but Brad, an ABQ native, says if re-elected he is committed to serving a full four year term. If for some reason he left before his term expired, Mayor Berry would appoint a replacement.


On the subject of equal time, let's give some to a proponent of the proposal to raise the city's gross receipts tax by an eighth of a cent to raise money for the ABQ BioPark. The measure is on the Oct. 6 ballot and it's estimated it would raise at least $250 million over the 15 year life of the tax. We've argued against it. Paul Mondragon, a local banker who is a past president of the BioPark Society, argues for it:

Every reason given for being skeptical of this proposal are exactly the reasons that now is precisely the right time to support our BioPark, to stimulate job growth, business expansion, and airport traffic. There are very few things that we can brag about on an international level, and to believe that these amenities do not add up to make Albuquerque more attractive to those living outside our city and state is nearsighted.

If the BioPark isn’t fully funded, and the facilities begin to shrink and decay over the next few years, it probably won’t be the final straw that drives my family out of Albuquerque, but cumulatively, it may just be the last straw for a business looking to relocate here, or another business professional or business owner looking for a reason to stay. The proposed funding equates to 1 cent for every $8 spent, not including groceries or medicine. It’s worth it to maintain and enhance the BioPark.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Former Governor Goes On The Hunt For Answers For New Mexico, A Would-Be Governor Comes With A Capital Idea, And: Repeat Offenders And The Bail Amendment 

Gov. Hunt
How about if we get former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt to come to New Mexico and run for Governor? You might think it's a good idea after learning of his no holds barred assessment of our state's problems when he spoke at the recent Domenici Public Policy Conference sponsored by former Senator Pete Domenici:

In Hunt's closing, he quoted former Intel executive Craig Barrett. "Barrett said, 'You can't save your way out of a recession — you have to invest your way out.' I urge you to be bold," Hunt said.

Heck, sounds, like you've been reading the blog, Jim. We're now your choir so keep preaching:

--A stronger commitment to early childhood development and education.

--The creation of a New Mexico Board of Science, Technology and Innovation,

--A continued focus on strengthening the state's K-12 schools and community colleges.

Actual ideas to build a real future for New Mexico? Where did they find this fella? Some more:

However, Hunt said, progress won't come cheap. "This takes money, folks," he told the crowd. "It's not magic. There's no secret here. If you believe that New Mexico needs to break out, you're going to have to find new sources of revenue."

Gov. Hunt, could you email that to the Santa Fe austerity hawks? And finally, the topper:

Hunt said for 35 years his state suspended a food exemption of the three-cent sales tax. He admitted it wasn't popular, but it generated the revenue necessary to fund projects that were. He recommended New Mexico consider raising taxes or using the Land Grant Permanent Fund.

Use the $16 billion Permanent Fund (also known as the Permanent School Fund) to move the state out of its generational social conditions crisis? Ye Gads! Susana must be asking how Pete let that guy in the door.

Hunt, a Democrat, is the longest serving governor in North Carolina history. If he can't run for Governor here, could he please give that speech before a joint session of the state legislature, followed by a personal briefing for the Fourth Floor?


Speaking of good ideas, this one from reader Katarina Borodina almost got lost in the shuffle. It's about kick-starting the sluggish economy and is from our "Governor for a Day" contest held a number of months back:

Executive Order Number 1--Each agency within the state is required to present a 12-month spending plan for the spending of capital funds approved by the Legislature (severance tax bonds) as well as the voters (general obligation bonds). The State reported as of April 30, unspent bond proceeds representing approximately $1.2 billion. Under this Executive Order, all funds not spent in the next year on projects will be reverted to other approved capital projects within the state at the direction of the legislature (severance tax bonds) or used to redeem outstanding bonds (general obligation bonds). There is no need to raise funds and pay interest on those funds if the citizens of this state do not see the benefits of completed projects.

Jim Hunt for Governor. Katarina Borodina for Lt. Governor. How's that for a ticket?


And speaking of Guv for a day. . .

Does Lt. Governor John Sanchez have a good doctor? With Susana in DC today for the Pope's visit, Sanchez assumes the gubernatorial powers. If something happens to John, Secretary of State Dianna Duran becomes Governor. You better stay fit, John, and don't cross that state line or Dianna will issue herself a pardon faster than Chuck Franco can down a baloney sandwich.


ABQ attorney Steve Suttle expressed skepticism here recently over a proposed constitutional amendment that would toughen up the state's bail laws as a means of preventing repeat offenders. Art Pepin, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, comes with this response:

This is a proposal to accomplish two things: 1) Give judges the authority to keep truly dangerous defendants in jail before they go to trial and 2) make sure non-dangerous people do not languish in jail simply because they are too poor to afford a bail bond. No one argues the amendment is a panacea for all the real and perceived challenges facing the criminal justice system. However, Mr. Suttle's prediction that allowing judges to keep proven dangerous defendants in jail will lead to a significant increase in jail populations is not supported. Even if this happens, it would result from keeping very dangerous defendants in jail in order to protect the public. 

 There are many charged with an offense who now stay in jail because they can not afford a bail bond. The constitutional amendment will require the release of these people, who are presumed innocent under the New Mexico Constitution, if the only reason they are in jail is because they are unable to pay a bail bondsman. They can continue working, paying rent, and engaging with their families if the court finds there is a reasonable assurance they will appear at their next court date and they are not dangerous. 

The impact of the constitutional amendment will be to release those who are poor and not dangerous and keep in jail those who are too great a threat to public safety. The constitutional amendment provides for a high standard of proof to deny pretrial release and also for a priority appeal for those who believe the judge was mistaken to find them too great a threat to be released. 

The bail amendment is expected to be introduced at the next legislative session in January,

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Senate Watch Update, On The Econ Beat With Big Fed Dollars, Defending Deb Haaland And Berry's Guv Play Goes Rural 

Let's update the news from our Senate Watch. Former Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack will not challenge freshman GOP state Senator Craig Brandt, say top Dem insiders. Speculation was intense over the summer that the well-known Swisstack would get in but the top Dems say he is a no go. . .Back on the speculation, will ABQ GOP state Senator John Ryan seek re-election next year? It's a question mark. And if he doesn't will GOP state Rep. Monica Youngblood move out of her seat to try to replace Ryan in the upper chamber?. . .

On the statewide scene, the Dem insiders predict Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who was defeated when she challenged GOP Secretary of State Dianna Duran in 2014, will seek the seat in 2016 if Duran resigns over criminal charges brought against her and the position goes on the ballot. You can bet that Oliver will have company in seeking the Democratic nomination for the SOS post. Now to the econ beat. . .


For a minute we thought Sen. Domenici was back and bringing back the pork. Take a look at the Federal dollars about to hit home:

ATA Aerospace in Albuquerque won a five-year contract this month worth up to $505 million with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to provide payload integration services for satellites.“It’s by far our biggest contract to date,” said ATA Aerospace managing member Anthony Tenorio. “It’s a huge win for us and something we’ve been chasing for quite awhile.”

According to Gov. Susana and Mayor Berry, we're too dependent on Federal dollars. Okay, do they have some businesses they can get in here that generate $100 million in spending annually for five years? After many years in office neither have done so.

The Federal presence is what built today's New Mexico as billions were spun off into the economy. Why do policy makers spurn such prosperity while promoting a massive private sector economy that is simply not in the cards?

Meanwhile back at the private sector, guess what? More pain and instability:

New Mexico will feel at least some of the burn of ConocoPhillips' recent announcement that it will reduce 10 percent of its global workforcce. . . ConocoPhillips is the top gas producer in New Mexico and a top 10 oil producer in the state. . . ConocoPhillips has had operations in the San Juan Basin, located in northwest New Mexico for decades.

Those secure government jobs from Uncle Sam that New Mexicans have thrived on for decades are looking better than ever. Now if only the Republican Mayor and Governor would start twisting the arms of the GOP majority in the US Congress, we might get some real economic development going in the stagnant Duke City.


Dem Party activist Fred Moran, who sought the party chair slot earlier this year, writes:

 I saw Sybil Werthheim’s statement on Dem Party leadership on the blog, and although I share her frustration with the lack of a vigorous fight on the Secretary of State scandal and other issues, I wouldn’t place the burden on Chair Deb Haaland. Deb was elected by the majority of the state central committee and backed by some very affluent state Democrats. As always, the Party lacks the resources to be a strong voice. The shame is that the same affluent Dems who pushed her into the leadership have left her to spend most of her time drawing water from a dry well rather than working with her to effect a meaningful strategy to regain control of the state House and to protect the state Senate from a GOP takeover. Also, state and national elected officials need to work more closely with Deb to ensure her success as it it critical to overall well-being of the Party.


A Legal Beagle comes with this:

The NM Fraternal Order of Police is holding a fundraiser next month for the two APD officers who are charged with murder in the shooting of homeless camper James Boyd. That's fine but what about something for APD officer Jacob Grant who was shot nine times by his own lieutenant in what APD called a botched drug bust? Where's his fundraiser?

The fundraiser for officers Sandy and Perez will be held on Saturday, October 17 at noon the North Domingo Baca Park. Meanwhile, officer Grant has filed a lawsuit against his lieutenant, the city and APD. He was hospitalized for several months and continues to fight medical complications from the shooting.


ABQ Mayor Berry appears to be looking to strengthen his position outside of ABQ as he eyes the '18 GOP Guv nod:

Mayor Berry hosted the first New Mexico Mayor’s Summit. This summit convened the mayors of New Mexican cities, towns, and villages to provide an opportunity to discuss relevant statewide issues, learn and share best practices, and promote better collaboration between municipalities. 

Berry's police and jobs crisis are prime weaknesses for him outside the metro, not to mention the traditional antipathy towards the big city from around the state.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Guv Puts Her Head In The Clouds And Takes A Dive, Jobs Outlook Dives With Her, Plus: City Election Debate Here Continues, And: It's Time To Assess Iconic APD Chief Bob Stover 

One of the Alligators says Lt. Governor John Sanchez--first in the line of succession if something were to happen to Gov. Martinez--offered to pack the Guv's parachute this weekend when she went skydiving over Socorro with hubby Chuck Franco. The Guv and Chuck politely demurred. :)

Martinez and Chuck Franco ended their highly supervised airborne adventure safely but the stunt seemed an apt metaphor for the Martinez years--flying high above the state's deep-seated problems.

This governorship epitomizes the permanent campaign--constantly in attack mode, offering slogans rather that substance and always eyeing the next step up the political ladder.

Even the skydiving stunt near Socorro was more of the permanent campaign, paid for and performed for GOP fat cats who were attending a Socorro fundraiser put on by NM House Speaker Don Tripp.

One could argue that Big Bill was also in permanent campaign mode. But it was his good fortune to preside during a time when the state was on the move, not undergoing a transformational economic and social change that has plunged it even further down the worst lists and most significantly has resulted in a historic net migration out of a Sunbelt state.

Seeing the state's Governor with her head in the clouds and slowly drifting downward seemed to mimic the state's destiny during her years at its helm.


Reader Greg Lennes thought the Guv's sky dive was a loser in the optics department:

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the Rhode Island legislators sky dived for charities, but Governor Martinez is just doing it for the Republicans' campaign coffers. Maybe our high flying Governor is hoping to be noticed as a possible Vice President candidate. R.I. legislators did it for the community food bank. I guess Governor Martinez is just a copycat for the wrong reasons.

Gov. Martinez has had her trouble with the state's Catholic church but she really is blessed. The opposition party was again completely silent on the stunt, despite the obvious opportunity pointed out by Lennes. The political stage is hers alone.

But there are signs of opposition life, if only short breaths. Dem Party Executive Director Joe Kabourek pushes back in this op-ed against absurd allegations made against Attorney General Balderas by former GOP Chairman Harry Yates, Jr. He asserts that Balderas conducted a "fishing expedition" to ensnare Secretary of State Duran on criminal corruption allegations. Sorry, Harvey. That was no fishing expedition. Hector caught himself a whale.


Hey, Guv. Did you notice while you were 10,000 feet over Socorro that when it comes to job creation around here, the sky is falling:

Despite three years of job growth, New Mexico’s unemployment rate is among the five worst in the United States. Data released by the state indicate the state added 3,000 jobs during the 12-month period that ended in August. As layoffs in mining, construction, and the oil and gas industry continue to drag on the economy, the overall pace of job growth has slowed since the first part of 2015. The slower growth was enough to help push the state’s unemployment rate to 6.7 percent in August. 

No doubt the oil bear is hammering SE and absconding with hundreds of jobs. It is the health care sector--and especially the government Medicaid program that is creating jobs.

(Oops, we did it again--giving the government credit for creating jobs when Speaker Don, his assistant Nate and Dr. No keep telling us it can't be done.)

For the jobs junkies, here's the blow-by-blow state report.


Reader Alan Schwartz comments on our opposition to the proposed one eighth of a cent increase in the city's gross receipts tax that would raise at least $250 million over 15 years to finance improvements to the BioPark which include the zoo and aquarium:

Joe, I have voted against the zoo measure for the reasons you listed plus:

--No assurance the City will continue to support the BioPark in the budget or simply supplant the tax revenue.

--The past history of a special tax intended for capital items used to pay salaries. Other than the Otter exhibit there are few specifics on how the money will actually be spent. I noticed that on the diagram of future work a disclaimer said that items shown were for illustrative purposes only.

Reader Mick disagrees with our support of the Charter Amendment that would give the city council power to confirm or reject the mayor's choices for police and fire chief:

Joe, I'm against you on the election question about city council having veto power over additional mayoral appointees. That would be alright if we had a council/manager form of government. But it's the mayor's job to run the city and to implement the policies set by the council and outlined in the Charter. The last thing that I'd like to see in my city is some of our current councilors having the ability to hamstring the mayor on these critical appointments. They already have that power for a few appointments (city clerk and city attorney) and they can always control the budgetary process to express their displeasure with the 11th floor's actions. I urge your readers to vote no on that item.

Well stated, Mick. We see the police crisis as ample reason to give future mayors pause over the appointment of the APD chief. In the Federal system many presidential appointments require Senate confirmation. We don't see this as a threat to executive power but as enhancing the power of the legislative branch which in the modern era has been diminished compared to the city's mayor. (The fire chief confirmation is along for the ride on this one and is not as urgent).


Chief Stover (Bralley)
Time is running out for Bob Stover, the former ABQ police chief who is stricken with lung cancer. He is a giant of a public servant, even if back in the 70's we and other newbie journos pestered him to no end over the crime stats. He really did it all, serving not only many years as chief, but also county sheriff as well as ABQ's chief administrative officer. That's in addition to effectively mentoring hundreds of young police officers.

Bob had a passion for Albuquerque and a deep respect for its culture and diversity. No wonder former APD officer and now US Marshall Conrad Candelaria was among those first in line to honor him.

Why didn't today's APD consult with Chief Stover as it drifted into crisis? Probably because his style of pre 9/11 policing was seen as passe by the new generation. Too bad. He could have shown them a thing or two and maybe saved some lives and millions in lawsuit settlements. (He had his own crisis management when police went on strike).

Stover presided over a city (in the 70's and 80's) that was growing leaps and bounds and he grew with it. The pernicious gangs had yet to take hold and the drug epidemic was in its embryonic stage. Still, he kept a lid on things and managed the city's reputation more than ably. He will go down in history as one of the fathers of modern Albuquerque. The only regret he must have is to see our city regress from its peak years when the likes of himself, Harry Kinney, Pete Domenici and Pat Baca held sway.  They ought to name a couple of buildings and a city park after the guy to remind everyone of what was--and what still can be.

Thanks for the memories, Bob.

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