Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Special Mess: Breakdown In Consensus On Guv's Crime Bills Could Lead To A Vietnam Strategy; Declare Victory And Get Out In A Day  

The special legislative session is still a bust and the Governor continues to insist on having one starting July 18. One may be the key number. 

Our veteran sources report that in the wake of the crumbling of a consensus over MLG's crime bills, legislative leadership is of a mind to have a simple one day session next Thursday, declare victory and get out of town. Said one: 

Joe, it's the Vietnam strategy. The war is lost but declare it won and leave as smoothly as you can.  

Of course the withdrawal from Vietnam (as well as Afghanistan) was anything but pretty. But these are not enemy forces MLG faces, they are fellow Democrats who are trying now to arrange an exit that saves face for everyone and embarrassment for the Governor. 

But another senior source, commenting on the state House Democratic caucus meeting that took place late Wednesday, warned:

If the Governor doesn’t send legislators a package they can all agree on Speaker Martinez promised to gavel the session to order than abruptly adjourn it--sine die. He doesn’t want the Republicans to out message the Democrats on the House floor and make a spectacle.

Maybe the best they can do at this point is the aforementioned--pass a variety of milquetoast bills next Thursday and tell the innkeepers and restaurant owners counting on extra business:

"Sorry. We'll see you next time."


Why MLG insisted on a special session on crime without a prearranged deal--a very rare occurrence--is the subject of speculation throughout the legislative ranks. Some of it:

--She called the special because it's MLG being MLG--shoot from the hip and look for the target later.

--She wanted to make a splash before the Democratic National Convention and speak there as as a freshly credentialed crime-fighting Governor because her hope for a DC gig have not evaporated.

--She is thinking of her post-gubernatorial years and is proposing behavioral health bills to address crime so she can emerge as a leader in the field when she leaves office. 

--She thinks a special session will be helpful to Dem prospects in the November election. 

--She would not have called the special if former Governor Richardson were still alive and who often acted as a Governor on the Governor.

Whatever the reasoning Santa Fe needs to come together and try to act like a serious government because right now they look weak, in disarray and of no comfort to a citizenry wondering when the crime-fighting starts.


Word arrives of the death of longtime conservative radio talk show host Pat Frisch. He held forth on ABQ's KKOB radio for 20 years as both a talk host and program director. He moved to Montana in 2019 and continued his radio career there. Frisch died of colon cancer last month. He was 63. . .

Paul Douglas Ware, another veteran radio personality known on air as Paul Douglas, has also died of cancer. Douglas was another KKOB alumni and more recently was broadcasting in Las Vegas, NM. Douglas died July 2. He was 73.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

A Commentary: Ridin' With Biden In New Mexico: A Partnership Of Progress; President's Policies Have Showered Attention And Funding On State; As DC Silly Season Subsides It's Time For All Of State's Delegation To Get On Board 

As the DC summer silly season subsides and the realization sets in that Joe Biden will indeed be the Democratic party's presidential nominee, there's no cause for mourning. Biden has been more than good for New Mexico. Extending his policies as they apply here for another four years would be welcome. Let's take a look:

--Biden adopted moderate energy polices that address environmental concerns without disrupting the most enormous economic boom in state history--the oil drilling in in SE New Mexico. The historic gusher--expected to continue at least through the end of the decade--is providing the state with billions upon billions in surplus--in a state with only 2 million people. It is a boom that will echo down through the generations and defies Biden's Republican critics who accused him of harboring radical views that would lead to reduced oil production. Instead he is the godfather of the boom that hands the state the potential to rise from the bottom of so many lists. 

--Funding for the national labs is always a source of controversy among Democrats who are uneasy with nuclear armaments policy. That's understandable. But there's no ignoring that modern New Mexico's economy was founded on national security, spearheaded by Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories and Kirtland AFB as well as other bases. All of these installations are today operating at record funding levels thanks to Biden's budgets. The explosion in funding at Los Alamos is especially historic, with so many new employees that they are being placed in nearby Santa Fe. The labs and military bases account for tens of billions in annual federal funding and remain the cornerstone of the economy. Under Biden rumors of closure and cutbacks have ended and funding has soared.

--The 2022 Hermits Peak-Canyon Calf Fire was the largest in state history and the result of bungling by the US Forest Service. In the aftermath Biden and the congressional delegation pushed through a $4 billion appropriation to compensate victims of the blaze. Biden personally visited the state, collaborated with the Governor and did not hesitate in responding.The very generous bill has already meant $850 million being distributed to those impacted, despite a slow start-up. In the next four years climate change promises more disasters that will impact the wilds of New Mexico. Biden has proven that he will have the state's back when the need arises.

---The Inflation Reduction ACT pumped billions into New Mexico for health, environment and other concerns in the wake of the Covid crisis. This has provided even more stimulus for our economically challenged state. The immense amount--which merits overuse of the word "historic"--is also rebuilding infrastructure for the 21st century. It is not an overstatement to say that the measure will extend the life of some rural communities in addition to lowering prescription drug costs

 --Biden appointed New Mexico's Deb Haaland as the first Native American Secretary of the Interior, a post critical to the interests of western states. This was another historic leap for a state where over 10 percent of the population identifies as Native American, giving voice to indigenous citizens. Her attention to past and current wrongs including abusive boarding schools and missing Native women while pursuing a balanced energy policy has vindicated Biden's decision to name her to his cabinet which gives the state a powerful voice at the policy table. 

 --Over his decades of public service Biden has been able to move in a more progressive direction on social issues that Americans have demanded. His firm support of the LGBTQ+ community and his embrace of Hispanics, Native Americans and African-Americans has led to an administration with unprecedented diversity. Add on his staunch support of women's rights (including their right to choose) and you have one of the more progressive leaders in national history. 

Of course, there have been failures but the successes are ubiquitous and meaningful for a state often treated as a "flyover" since losing its swing state status in the Electoral College. That has not been the case with Biden and bodes well if he stays on another four years. 

Representative Stansbury and Senator Lujan have not flinched in their support of the president during the DC feeding frenzy over his ability to perform. It's now past time for Senator Heinrich and Representatives Vasquez and Leger Fernandez to get off the ledge and join them in pushing forward the best interests of New Mexico at our national capital.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2024

State’s DC Reps Speak Out On Biden Future; Two Forcefully And One Indecisively; Rep. Vasquez Declines Comment For Second Time; Leger Also Stays Dark On President 

Heinrich, MLG and Biden
Three members of the state's congressional delegation are speaking out on the uproar over President Biden's debate performance and the future of his candidacy. 

Two do so forcefully and one indecisively.

On the indecisive side is Sen. Martin Heinrich, seeking a third term in November and facing a challenge from Republican Nella Domenici. 

Sounding more like a back-bencher than the state's senior senator, Heinrich backed away from either giving Biden a clear vote of confidence or rebuking his candidacy:

I love Joe Biden. He’s the most accomplished President of my lifetime and he’s a genuinely wonderful human being. However, what I care most about is the preservation of our democracy. President Biden needs to continue to demonstrate that his debate performance was just a bad night, and that he has a clear path to defeating Donald Trump. Our democracy hangs in the balance.

The statement staked out both sides of the issue in preparation to go whichever way the wind blows. One Dem operative said:  

Heinrich makes it sounds like he has a tough re-election race.  

The ambiguity of Heinrich's statement was an easy lay up for the NMGOP. They hit hard Monday night:

Senator Heinrich's vague statement reveals the havoc that has descended upon the Democratic Party. Heinrich's previous blind loyalty to Biden and his special interest groups now makes it difficult for him to answer honestly about the President's mental and physical ability to lead the country, New Mexicans deserve leadership with the courage to say it like it is and put the best interests of our state and nation first.

Heinrich's race with Domenici is ranked "solid" or "likely" Democrat but his party is now divided over Biden's fate and it appears he fears alienating either side. 

That's not exactly a profile in courage but to the senator and his consultants, it's the safe if not the brave road to travel.

Domenici can't do much about Heinrich's vacillation as she is a closet anti-Trumper who won't say whether she will vote for Trump, but seeing Heinrich and the Dems twist in the wind as the situation remains unresolved so close to the election has to bring her joy. 


Rep. Stansbury
Meanwhile, progressive Dem US Rep. Melanie Stansbury is on firm re-election ground with only token GOP opposition in her ABQ-centered district. She came with unapologetic support for the incumbent:

I stand with our President and the Biden-Harris Campaign. Donald Trump is the greatest threat to our democracy and must be defeated in November. He is a liar, felon, and con man. He lies about the pandemic which led to millions of deaths. He lies about his treatment of veterans, who he called ‘suckers’ and ‘losers’. He lies about the economy and his jobs record. He lies about project 2025 which will gut Social Security and Medicare and ban abortions nationwide. This November I’m committed to doing everything in my power to reelect Joe Biden and defend our democracy at the ballot box.” 

It is notable that Stansbury mentions "Biden-Harris." VP Harris' progressive credentials top those of Scranton Joe's and her fans anticipate her someday succeeding her boss. 

Stansbury is well on her way to becoming the most dynamic member of the five member DC delegation, repeatedly pitching the progressive line and with credibility earned through knowledge.

Her friendly district makes that easier but there are signs of leadership there that were not expected when  the then mostly unknown state legislator unexpectedly took the ABQ seat after a vacancy occurred in 2021.  


Rep. Vasquez
Republicans continue to hammer away at southern NM US Rep. Gabe Vasquez for refusing for a second time to address the Dem party division. Politico reported:  

A spokesperson for battleground House Democrat Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) said ‘no comment’ when asked if Biden should stay in the race and what Vasquez is hearing from his constituents about the matter.” National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) spokeswoman, Delanie Bomar, wrote following the Democrat’s uncertainty on his support for Biden, “It is unacceptable that Vasquez is trying to run a basement campaign. He must make his position clear, and he must do it today.” 

Vasquez is the weak link in the delegation having been elevated to a position he was not ready for and not doing his best to fill. But he has fallen into the trap of trying to please everyone all the time.

Rather than seeming hapless and helpless, Vasquez might be better off going all-in for the president and working to get re-elected by winning larger margins in Las Cruces and ABQ's South Valley. (Biden carried the district in 2020 that Vasquez is now running in). Otherwise, he appears headed down the path of former Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small who held the seat for one term and was defeated by Yvette Herrell who in turn was defeated by Vasquez in '22 but is back again as the GOP nominee in '24.  


Freshman US Senator Ben Ray Lujan came on strong for Biden. He said he would be doing "everything possible" to help Biden's re-election and that: 

Donald Trump is a failed former president and a threat to our democracy.


Like Vasquez, northern US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez is declining media comment on Biden. That's strange since her re-election bid is on easy street with a weak GOP foe. 

But then TLF is known to panic on political questions, like when she freaked out over the new boundaries for her district which were more than generous for her re-election. She couldn't see it that way. 

This time fear of the southern Republicans in her district as well as the radical left in Santa Fe--both who want Biden out--may have taken hold of the congresswoman.

Biden easily carried Leger's Dem-heavy northern congressional district in 2020. 

He has repeatedly stated he will not end his candidacy.  

All five members of the NM DC delegation are Democrats. 


That White House meeting with Governors and President Biden that MLG attended and that we mentioned on Monday's blog was held in-person and virtually. MLG took part virtually. 

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Monday, July 08, 2024

Sticking With Joe: State's Dem Establishment Still Supportive In Wake Of Debate Debacle; Senate President And House Speaker Offer Encouragement; MLG Reportedly Wavers But No Public Comment  

Talk about fireworks. The political variety gave stiff competition to the real deal this Fourth of July as the fate of President Biden fueled a frenzy of speculation that spread from DC to the hinterlands like one of those giant summer heat waves. 

For all the intensity of the debate in the aftermath of Biden's woeful June 27 performance, as the smoke clears things look similar to what they were before his doomed date with Trump.

To wit, Biden remains on track to become the Democratic nominee for the 2024 presidential election and he is still positioned to carry New Mexico in November. 

The collapse in political and popular support that would be necessary to convince Biden to give up his grip on the nomination--earned as it was with the votes of millions of primary voters--has not occurred, apart perhaps from the DC media where the usual sense of proportionality was hastily abandoned in the wake of the shock waves reverberating from that debate stage.

Even MLG was momentarily caught up in the panic while attending a White House meeting via Zoom with other Dem Governors and Biden:

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico jumped in and said Mr. Biden was at risk of losing her state, according to another person briefed on what had taken place.

Her fear was apparently sparked by a progressive group's poll taken in the immediate aftermath of the debate that showed Biden tied with Trump in New Mexico or maybe it was a hat tip to her good friend and Vice-President Kamala Harris who as President might be more prone than Biden has to giving MLG a juicy appointment. Or maybe the Guv's jumping of the shark was simply the result of her love affair with caffeine. She has not offered any public comment on the debate.

Whatever the case, MLG's fear was not shared--at least not publicly--by the state Democratic party establishment. In fact, while MLG went to radio silence after her White House declaration, her compadres had Scranton Joe's back on social media, signaling that a retreat by Biden is as improbable as it is impractical. 


Sen. Stewart
One of the more relevant tweeters was state Senate President Mimi Stewart, a leader in the national and local progressive movement, a wing of the party sometimes at odds with centrist Biden. 

But there was no hint of any degree of separation as the ABQ lawmaker unleashed a tweet storm in support of Biden, reposting dozens of tweets including this from the President's own account:

I beat Trump in 2020. I’m going to beat him again in 2024. 

The ABQ lawmaker also reposted this missive in praise of Biden from African-American US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee:

The party has spoken! Millions of Democrats voted for Pres. Biden to be our nominee. Further, new polls how the vast majority of Democrats still support him as our nominee. The conversation is over — the focus is beating Trump and delivering for America! Enough is enough! 

Stewart had plenty of company from the Dem political class with House Speaker Javier Martinez also sticking by the President in his hour of need, saying:

Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know. But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself. Between someone who tells the truth; who knows right from wrong and will give it to the American people straight — and someone who lies through his teeth for his own benefit. Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November.

For good measure, Martinez's predecessor, Speaker Brian Egolf, another progressive Dem, reposted this supportive Biden tweet:

1. I can’t tell you how much of a disconnect it is on the outside world. Literally zero people have told me Biden should drop out. The opposite. People keep telling me he needs to stay. Even if they think he’s old.


The state's congressional delegation has been silent when it comes to direct comment on the debate.

US Sen. Martin Heinrich, facing a re-election challenge from Republican Nella Domenici had no statement but there were no signs that he was about to turn against the White House. 

As for Domenici, she was boxed in and unable to take advantage of the Biden mishap. She has publicly stated she is not pursuing an endorsement from Trump and has not said whether she will vote for him. 

Progressive US Rep. Melanie Stansbury, facing only token GOP opposition this cycle, did not issue any statement but did put up a tweet praising Biden's energy policies:

@POTUS clean energy plan, companies have announced more than 300,000 NEW clean energy jobs, including 16,625 new jobs right here in NM! The future is here, and it's electric! 

All of this is not to say that those who support Biden today could not turn against him in the wake of more unanticipated events surrounding his mental acuity but it does say for now his political base here remains solid.

Biden beat Trump in NM by 100,000 votes and over 10 percent of the total vote in 2020. Hillary Clinton's margin of victory here over Trump was 8.2 percent in 2016. 
Cut those margins by more than half and Biden still wins the state. 
When Biden's electoral track record is put up against a single "bad night" it's easy to see why the Democratic powers here are sticking with the guy who brought them to the dance.
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Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Another Branch Of The APD DWI Scandal Emerges; Cops Across State Fail To Show For MVD License Revocations; DWI Drivers Escaping Tough Penalty, Plus: Happy Fourth, New Mexico  

Happy Fourth!
Those extra DWI checkpoints for the long holiday weekend may look inhibiting to drivers but their effect is not as profound as intended. 

The APD DWI scandal, wherein cops allegedly took a walk on court hearings for drivers charged with drunk driving, also brings to the fore another major lapse in DWI enforcement in ABQ and the state. 

A report reveals that more than 2,200 suspected drunk drivers in the past two years have kept their driving privileges because police have been no shows at state Motor Vehicle Department hearings where licenses are revoked for six months for driving under the influence.

That leads to this take from a law enforcement professional:

Governor Lujan Grisham needs to add a rewrite to the state's DWI laws in the upcoming special session because the APD DWI scandal and now the MVD scandal show DWI enforcement is failing in New Mexico.

As citizens we can only wonder what the FBI investigation into the APD-DWI scandal will expose. Are ABQ Metro Court employees involved? Are MVD employees involved? How deep does this DWI scandal go and how far back? 

Did MVD hearing officers report to MVD Director Mark Williams the huge number of officers failing to appear at their hearings? If they did report to him, what did Williams do or not do? If they failed to report to Williams, why? Why hasn’t MVD been auditing these hearings to determine what was happening? 

You would think the people in charge at MVD, the legislature and Governor would require them to provide a yearly report on the number of DWI hearings, their outcomes and officers failing to appear.

Records show that APD officers failed to show up 50 percent of the time for the MD license revocation  hearings. Tucumcari was best with a no-show rate of zero percent but a number of jurisdictions had no-show rates of 100 percent including the Clayton and Cuba police departments. 

Happy Fourth, New Mexico! 

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Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Court Battle Continues Over 180 Day School Year As State Plunges Deeper Into Under Performance; Why PED Has It Right And Status Quo Educators And Helicopter Parents Have It Wrong  

Going from worst in the nation in public education to anywhere above it is not going to get done without  some pain and shaking up of the failed status quo. But the state doesn't appear anywhere near ready to take on the challenge.

We know that because another court hearing is scheduled today over a lawsuit filed by 63 public school districts and charter schools to stop the Public Education Department from mandating a 180 day school year.

That's a standard many districts already adhere to, but is still meeting with vociferous opposition including from parents unqualified to make such decisions as their children drop-out, slip into crime and drugs or lousy paying, dead-end jobs that further the state's downward spiral

This relatively minor change from the MLG administration, led by PED Secretary Arsenio Romero, is backed by grim facts:

New Mexico’s fourth-grade students’ reading proficiency rate of 21% in 2022, when it was named 50th in the nation, mirrored its rate more than 20 years earlier, despite small fluctuations over the decades. Additionally, the pandemic significantly affected chronic absenteeism rates in New Mexico. The percentage of students who miss more than 10% of the school year rose from 16% in the 2019-2020 school year to 40% in the 2021-2022 school year, and only decreased by 1% in the following school year.

In other words we are off the charts in under performance that is impacting the state's ability to attract business and jobs and keep younger people who are diligent students from seeking greener pastures, leading to an aging and stagnant population.

Let's go to the expert as the court is again gaveled into session today to hear the helicopter moms and intolerant educators make their case, showing why they and a majority of the state are dead wrong and on the wrong side of history. Here's PED Secretary Arsenio Romero trying his best to persuade the school districts:  

Sec. Romero
Dear District Leaders, I am deeply alarmed by the high number of low-performing schools and what that means for the state, the children who are being educated here, and our future. Far too many of our schools are under performing. 

Students statewide have low reading and math proficiencies. This is unacceptable. It is time for accountability: for the Public Education Department, for the school districts (including their boards and schools), charter schools, teachers' unions and families. We owe this accountability to our state’s most precious resource: children. 

While some progress has been made, we cannot ignore the persistent low student achievement results and achievement gaps that continue to plague New Mexico’s public schools decade after decade. It is time to break free from the status quo and demand excellence from everyone who works within the state’s education system. 

In the highlights of the most recent data, we see that every student has the capacity for success, if given the right tools and under strong school leadership. The reading gains in Pojoaque of over 26 percent demonstrate unequivocally how quickly student success can be achieved with the right focus. Leadership in the Pojoaque School District invested time and energy into bringing Structured Literacy to their students and in doing that, showed all of us what is possible. 

Schools have the tools: they need only be put to use. 

The NMPED remains committed to working with school districts and school leaders to make sure these goals are accomplished. This will require the development and implementation of effective, evidence-based policies and programs, as well as leadership, innovation, and change. 

Gov. Lujan Grisham and legislators have invested billions of dollars in the state’s education system since 2019 – levels never before seen in history – but historic academic gains have not followed. 

Statewide, barely a third of students are proficient in reading and less than a quarter are proficient in math, and these results are worse for students from low-income families and with disabilities, English learners, and Native American students. That must change. 

NMPED’s proposed budget this year will be focused on accountability. It will require that all districts, schools, and classrooms in New Mexico be held responsible for the academic achievement and growth of their students. We can no longer afford to overlook under performing schools or allow subpar educational experiences to persist. 

In this model, we will enforce accountability at the district level to ensure that those that do not provide their students with an effective education implement programs and policies that are proven to produce positive results. That shift will allow the state to create a renewed culture of high expectations, collaboration, and innovation that will propel our students toward success.  

Let us come together as stakeholders in education—parents, teachers, administrators, policymakers—and embrace this bold vision for accountability. . . 

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Monday, July 01, 2024

Debate Debacle Lands Quietly Here; No Top Dems Calling For Biden To Back Off But Rep. Vasquez Goes Mum Over Performance As Herrell Turns Up Heat  

While a national media frenzy rages over President Biden's stumbling performance in last week's debate with Donald Trump the political waters here over Biden's disappointing night seem quiescent. 

None of the five member all-Democratic congressional delegation have called on Biden to step down or seem stricken with panic over the bad night delivered by Scranton Joe. 

All but one offered solid support in the aftermath of the debacle.

The lone exception would be southern Dem US Rep. Gabe Vasquez who has often shied away from Biden since going to the House two years ago and who is the only delegation member in danger of losing his job in November.

He faces a rematch with Republican Yvette Herrell whom he ousted in '22 in a one percentage point race and who is now calling Vasquez out for refusing to answer when asked after the debate about Biden's competence:

@Gabe_NM refuses to say if Joe Biden is fit to be president. Biden clearly doesn’t have the mental acuity to serve, and Gabe is putting political allegiances over the good of #NM02

Vasquez faces a litany of woes far more dire than any association with Biden. 

He was poorly vetted for the position when recruited by Sen. Martin Heinrich who he once worked for and now that carelessness is taking a bite out of the freshman lawmaker. The latest:

. . .An arrest warrant was executed against Vasquez over outstanding traffic tickets from more than two decades ago and allegations that he tried to flush marijuana down a toilet after police were dispatched to his apartment to investigate a noise complaint in 2005 and also that he uttered a racial slur against a former colleague the year before. "I have not and would never use language like this," Vasquez said, referring to a report unearthed by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, alleging he called a Black co-worker a derogatory term.

The southern district remains swing territory. Under the new lines it is more Democratic but still conservative. Using the current boundaries in 2020 Biden won the 2nd CD 51.9 percent to Trump's 46.1.

While Vasquez was unprepared for the job and his warts are becoming more prominent, Herrell's abortion stance and her vote to overturn the 2020 presidential results make her an unacceptable choice for many of the few undecided voters still out there. 

Like the presidential race the Vasquez-Herrell campaign will be a long negative slog financed by tens of millions from the national parties and that will have voters praying for the end. 


Sick leave payments to top officials departing the Mayor Keller administration and called into question by the city's Inspector General brings this from a former department director under the previous mayor:

Joe, I was a director under the Mayor Berry administration and when I was not reappointed, I specifically asked about sick leave. I was told in very clear terms by then Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair that I would have to forfeit my time because it was under the threshold. 

Now to learn it was grifted to others, including her, is a clear slap in the face. Sick leave now seems negotiable to those who need it the least and have access to the decision makers. The best insight is to show how many employees have had to forfeit their sick leave because this option was not available to them. 

The city says it "can create exceptions for leave policies, and it is not unusual to do so for senior employees." 

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Thursday, June 27, 2024

Other Voices: ABQ Parks Ready For Summer '24; Study Says We Rank 15th Best In Nation 

ABQ's Roosevelt Park

The summer of '24 is here and ABQ's parks are ready for some days of relaxation--or sports for those so inclined. 

While there's no denying some city parks have been surrendered to the addicted and unhoused, overall the park system here remains one of the most robust in the nation, thanks to several generations of leadership dating back to the Great Depression years.

Today our Other Voices features some news from the city's Parks and Recreation Department

The City’s park system now ranks 15th in the nation according to the 2024 ParkScore Index. Albuquerque jumped eight spots from 2023 to 2024, and over the last four years, the City has climbed 22 positions in a national ranking of parks in America’s 100 largest cities. 

The ParkScore Index is issued annually by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), evaluating 14 measures across five different categories: Acreage, Access, Investment, Amenities, and Equity. 

Here’s how Albuquerque’s ranking has changed over the past few years: 23rd in 2023 34th in 2022 37th in 2021.

“Like most local families, spending quality time in any of Albuquerque’s great parks is one of my own family’s favorite pastimes,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “No matter which part of town you live in, these bright spots in our community provide safe, green spaces to enjoy sports, exercise for your pets, and healthy activities.” 

The remarkable ascent of Albuquerque's park system, now ranking 15th nationally according to the 2024 ParkScore Index, reflects our city's steadfast commitment to enhancing green spaces for all residents. 

Jumping eight spots in just a year and climbing 22 positions over four years underscores our dedication to providing accessible, equitable, and enriching outdoor experiences for our community, as recognized by the Trust for Public Land's rigorous evaluation. 

Albuquerque scored 65.8 out of 100 possible total points on the ParkScore Index (up from 61.1 points in 2023) to crack the top 20 for the first time. The City scored highest in the Access, Equity, and Acreage categories. With 90% of the City’s population living with a walkable half-mile of a park (the national average is 56%), Albuquerque continues to score among the highest in nation in the Access category (87 out of 100 points). 

Albuquerque also received strong marks for Equity and showed improvement in this category over 2023 (improving from 61 to 64 points out of 100). The equity score indicates the fairness in the distribution of parks and park space among neighborhoods by race and income. 

The City saw the most improvement in the Investments category, jumping up 18 points from 41 points out of 100 in 2023 to 59 points in 2024. 

PRD has completed and continues to work on dozens of park projects, including several major projects in underserved neighborhoods, such as the complete renovation at Phil Chacon Park. 

 “It’s nice to get our highest ranking ever, but we still have more work to do,” said Parks & Recreation Department Director Dave Simon. “Our goal is continuous improvement and with continued investment, the future is bright for parks in the Duke City.” 

To access the complete ParkScore Index report, click here. To access the Albuquerque ParkScore data, click here.

Happy Summer, New Mexico.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2024

SOS Makes Rare Intervention Into Muni Politics; Turns Thumbs Down On Reducing Votes Needed To Become ABQ Mayor And Councilor; Proposal Set To Go To Voters In November, Plus: BernCo Manager Named 

SOS Toulouse Oliver
It's rare for a Secretary of State to chime in on local election rules unless there is some egregious violation but the proposal to dramatically alter ABQ's election system has drawn the attention of SOS Maggie Toulouse Oliver and her intervention. 

She joins a chorus of critics who denounce a proposed City Charter Amendment passed by the City Council and now awaiting a mayoral veto, as further balkanizing city politics. 

In a letter to the Mayor and Council  she says:

I would not normally reach out to city leadership, but because of my deep concern about this proposal's impact, I must urge each of you to reconsider these proposed changes to Albuquerque’s municipal elections. Unlike state and federal elections in which there is a Primary Election that whittles down the pool of candidates, municipal runoff elections with winning majority thresholds help create important mandates for local officials in New Mexico. . .Albuquerque voters already approved the current 50% threshold for winning candidates in 2013, and having candidates receive at least 50% of the total votes provides the public with a clear winner who then has a mandate to lead. Changing the city’s election system to one where a candidate can be elected with a minority of votes is a big step in the wrong direction. . .The perceived legitimacy of our elections has been under significant strain in recent years. The public needs confidence that their municipal leaders have been legitimately elected, and the best way to do that is with a secure, accessible electoral system that demands the winner receives the majority of votes

The SOS puts forth Ranked Choice Voting as a possible compromise but ranked choice leans toward electing moderate candidates and neither progressives or conservatives seem anxious to go that route. 

The Charter Amendment was approved on a 6 to 3 vote so Mayor Keller's expected veto appears set to be overridden.

Dem Councilor Klarissa Peña, the key swing vote, said primary runoff elections are used in only a few states and were rooted in racist policies intended to keep white politicians in power. "This is history, folks," she said.

But does Pena's argument hold up in ABQ? 

In 1989 two Hispanics squared off in a run-off when Louis Saavedra was elected mayor. 

Marty Chavez beat Republican Dave Cargo in a tight run-off election in 1993. 

In 2005 Chavez was elected in a three way race with no runoff that featured two Hispanic candidates. 

The problem isn't racism, it's recruitment. Qualified Hispanics have been in short supply lately with ethics- tarnished Manny Gonzales getting crushed by Tim Keller in 2021. 

In 2017 Keller qualified for a runoff by finishing atop an eight candidate field that featured three Hispanics hopefuls but two were unknowns. He won the run-off by beating Councilor Dan Lewis.

ABQ's Hispanic population is now 50 percent, according to the US Census and the streak of Anglo Mayors since 2009 does not reflect that.

Pena and company might ponder forming a group similar to the Democratic women's group Emerge but with a dual gender Hispanic emphasis for city elections. It's not racism holding back Hispanics from the mayor's office, it's benign neglect.

Meanwhile if Keller's veto is overridden and the proposal goes to the voters, perhaps the SOS can be called on to join the campaign fray against it. That would be somewhat unprecedented but she's already gone there with her first volley against the amendment. 


Cindy Chavez
The Bernalillo County Commission Tuesday night tentatively picked a new county manager. From Downtown ABQ:

Cindy Chavez was selected by commissioners for the role, contingent on negotiation of an employment contract and successful completion of a background investigation. Chavez comes from San Jose, California where she currently serves on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Her full resume can be found here

Commissioners also approved the appointment of Deputy County Manager for Finance Shirley Ragin as an interim Bernalillo County manager until contractual negotiations have been completed. 

A total of 10 applicants were considered for the county manager job. They are posted on the county’s website. Current County Manager Julie Morgas Baca will retire June 30. Morgas Baca dedicated 16 and half years to Bernalillo County. . .before being appointed county manager in 2015. 

The selection of the new county manager was passed in a 3 to 2 vote. 

The progressive commission majority chose Chavez who is a native of Alamogordo. Commissioners Michael Quezada and Republican Walt Benson were opposed. They voted for County Economic Development Director Marco Gonzales.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Inside The Dysfunction And Division At Bernalillo County Government; Veteran Employee Makes A Case Against Commission Majority, Plus Top Richardson Aide Authors Book On Ex-Guv's High-Stakes Hostage Deals 

BernCo Commission
The five member Bernalillo County Commission is engulfed in dysfunction and division as the progressive majority battles with two conservative-minded commissioners. 

While the infighting has gained particular attention for its impact on the selection of a new County Manager, it is also impacting the overall county government, contends a longtime BernCo employee who requested anonymity to bring us their insider perspective.

Joe, 2,500 Bernalillo County employees are watching with dismay as county leadership goes down in flames and fear of retaliation rules the day. And if the chaos continues it could impact the many projects and people who depend on sound management of the county’s $1 billion budget. Some highlights: 

Most of the county’s employees are embarrassed and furious at the three progressive county commissioners, Eric Olivas, Adriann Barboa and Barbara Baca, who hid their extensive secret communications regarding the county manager search and are continuing to mislead about whether they are breaking the county’s Code of Conduct by dictating day to day management of the county. 

Blog Note: The Attorney General ordered the commission to redo the meeting where they approved the process for picking a new manager, saying the majority progressive commissioners pre-planned the agreement before the official meeting. 

Our anger has nothing to do with whether we are fans of Commissioner Michael Quezada or Republican Commissioner Walt Benson who have opposed the progressive majority. Most of us are not political. We are here because we are qualified and we simply want to do our jobs and be respected. Nor does it have to do with the fact that the three commissioners needlessly pushed out a popular county manager before her contract was up. (But that didn’t help.) 

It has to do with the fact that they broke the law and they don’t seem to care. All because they couldn’t wait to get rid of County Manager Julie Morgas Baca and get their hands on county employees and county money and change policy and procedures. Virtually every employee has a story about how the three commissioners have inserted themselves in matters they have no knowledge of. Most are too afraid to put our names on a formal complaint. 

It’s currently happening with the proposed new Behavioral Health Ordinance which Commissioners Barboa and Olivas are trying to ram through against staff recommendations. In that case, experienced employees are terrified for their safety because of the dangerous “No Wrong Door” and other proposed policies. Those who have spoken against it have said in commission meetings that they fear being retaliated against. If pushed through, there could be an exodus of employees and finding folks who want to do that work is not easy. So there could be fewer behavioral health workers and people in the community will suffer.

Blog Note: The ordinance says "the overarching mission shall be to institute a no-wrong-door approach where those seeking behavioral health care or related support services of any kind in our region may enter the system at any point and receive access to the high-quality care they need."


Chairwoman Baca
There are many other examples of projects that the three have tried to alter or delay for their own political reasons. At least Chairwoman and Commissioner Baca apologized for violating the trust of the employees and the public by breaking the law on the manager search. But we all see the dismissive way she treats her fellow commissioners (Quezada and Benson).

She and the other two act with the smugness of knowing they have three votes no matter what policies they propose. Employees suspect that they will eagerly hire a county manager who, unlike Julie Baca, does not care about retaining senior staff and will not listen to facts and informed opinions, and who will let the commissioners dictate policy and make personnel decisions (all against the Code of Conduct, which explicitly prohibits this). 

If that is the case, you will see many employees leave or retire early. I’m talking about senior “protected” staff with years of experience that the county will not be able to easily replace. Nor quickly replace, since an internal audit of our Human Resources department shows the county currently has a shocking 30 percent vacancy rate and takes up to 182 days to bring on a new employee.

None of this is how Bernalillo County has operated in the years I have been here, or in anyone else’s institutional memory. I have never known anyone to be afraid of retaliation for doing their job. The county has always been a great place to work. I'm worried about the long term impact on the county and its ability to carry out crucial tasks and meet legal requirements. For other opinions, here is a link to employee responses to a survey about the county manager search.

The preceding was from a veteran Bernalillo County employee. We welcome differing points of view on the controversies at the BernCo Commission.  


Bergman and Richardson

Former Gov. Bill Richardson's high-stakes negotiations to free political prisoners around the globe is brought to life in a new book authored by the man who was at this side during those drama filled years. We get this on a public event for the new book set for today:

Author event with Mickey Bergman "In the Shadows: True Stories of High-Stakes Negotiations to Free Americans Captured Abroad.”  

Books on the Bosque 6261 Riverside Plaza Lane, Ste. A-2 Albuquerque
will host author Mickey Bergman on Tuesday, June 25, 2024 at 5:30 pm.

Mickey Bergman directs Global Reach and the Richardson Center for Global Engagement nongovernmental, nonprofit organizations that negotiate the release of political prisoners and hostages around the world. A special-operations veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, he has spent the past decade freeing Americans from some of the most complex and insulated countries on earth, including Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Syria, Gambia and Sudan. He is an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Walsh school of Foreign Service, where his graduate courses focus on the art of emotional intelligence in international relations. He was nominated for the 2019 and 2023 Nobel Peace Prize alongside former Governor Bill Richardson.

Quote from Brittney Griner (WNBA and Olympic star; freed from wrongful detainment in Russia.

“Mickey and Governor Richardson are a big part of why I’m home. They traveled to Russia, put their own lives at risk, called on their deep relationships, and educated and communicated compassionately with my family and my team – whatever it took to bring me home. I am still astounded by their passion, experience and deep commitment to the cause of reuniting families.” 

Richardson died last September at the age of 75.

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Monday, June 24, 2024

Domenici Gets Little Traction In Early Public Polling; Memories Of Her Senator Father Yet To Resonate; Heinrich Leads First Survey By 7; Same As Biden Over Trump As Blue Wall Appears To Hold 

Nella Domenici has yet to put a crack in the armor of Senator Martin Heinrich with the first public polling showing the two term incumbent with a solid if not overwhelming seven point lead over his GOP rival. 

The PPP survey has it 47 percent for Heinrich, 40 for Domenici and 13 percent undecided. 

Domenici, 63, who made millions as a New York hedge fund manager and is the daughter of the late US Senator Pete Domenici, pumped $500,000 into TV ads beginning in late May that were being aired as the survey was conducted among 555 registered voters from June 13-14. 

She came up empty, polling one point below the 41 percent former President Trump garnered against Biden in the same PPP survey. (The margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 4 percent).

The mild surprise is that Domenici's family heritage appears to have done little to improve her standing despite TV ad stressing that heritage. She bet the ranch that they would give her an early pop and put Heinrich on the defensive. Now she will have to go to Plan B. 

Domenici has poked at Heinrich, 52, over his interest in running for Governor in 2026 which would mean he would leave the Senate seat if elected. How much legs that attack has remains to be seen.

Senator Domenici was the longest serving US senator in state history but he left in 2009. His popularity was legendary but took a hit in his retirement years in 2013 when it was disclosed that during his first term in the 1970's he fathered a child out of wedlock with a DC lobbyist who was also the daughter of GOP Senator Paul Laxalt. 

Heinrich's 48 to 37 percent lead among women is the most crucial poll demo.

The blue wall appears to be holding in the ABQ metro, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. Heinrich's anchor for that support of late is reproductive rights which Domenici has struggled with while Heinrich is comfortably pro-choice. 

As with the PPP polling of the NM presidential race, there is no Hispanic problem for Heinrich. He polls 59 percent with the group while Domenici is far back at 24 percent.

That the two term Senator is below the key 50 percent level gives Domenici and the GOP some hope that the race can still be ignited. 


No sitting US senator has been defeated in the state since 1982 when Republican Harrison Schmitt was ousted by Democrat Jeff Bingaman.

Heinrich's cool, Germanic personality has not personally endeared him to New Mexicans but a plodding competence and persistence and a penchant to not offend has kept him in generally good graces. 

While his legislative record is thin, he has focused much of his time on the environment and has scored notable wins, including the $10 billion SunZiaSunZia solar project. 

He is now the state's senior senator, a member of the Appropriations Committee and his relationship with Senate Dem Leader Schumer appears strong, all factors in protecting and advancing the myriad of federal interests that dominate the state economy.

He was first elected to the ABQ city council in 2003. In 2008 he claimed the ABQ congressional seat. In 2012 he ascended to the Senate when Democrat Jeff Bingaman retired. He was re-elected with ease in 2018.

Domenici's candidacy still breathes because of her thick personal bankroll--upwards of over $90 million, according to Senate disclosure forms. She seeded her campaign with $500,000. 

The moment of truth on how much more of her fortune she decides to spend on the race is fast approaching. The disappointing PPP poll, which is a Democratic-affiliated firm, if not quickly contradicted could inhibit campaign contributions.

Her early TV has not struck a nerve but her personality has yet to be fully revealed, nurturing the possibility of an upset among her supporters. The national environment is also a major factor that could enhance her chances if Biden should fade here.

Meanwhile the structural factors that have made this a reliably Blue state on the national level weigh heavily on Domenici.

The NM Senate race is ranked "Safe Democrat" by US News. Inside Elections in DC rates the contest "Solid Democratic." Other DC pundits have similar rankings.


Domenici 1970 (Bralley)
Heinrich has aired his first TV ad and it answers Domenici's bragging about her father and his accomplishments with some bragging about his own dad. The script:

No one outworked my dad. As a lineman, he’d go out and battle the wind and the rain to restore the power. I see that same work ethic all across New Mexico. If you’re putting in the work, you deserve to have something to show for it. To be able to provide, to save, to get ahead. That’s why I’m fighting to raise wages and to lower costs for energy, groceries and prescription drugs. And to create good-paying manufacturing jobs. I’ll never forget who I’m fighting for. 

Heinrich's emphasis on his working class background is in contrast to Domenici's upbringing with her political superstar father, although her ads strive to demonstrate that she too grew up in an ordinary family.

Fortunately neither candidate has yet shouted out: "Yy dad is better than yours!" But then the campaign is still young.

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