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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A City's Soul Dies Along With The Murdered Homeless; Acceptance By Some; Demand For Solutions By Others 

ABQ Journal
Two ABQ homeless men have their faces smashed in with cinder blocks wielded by three sociopathic teenagers. They die horrible deaths and with them dies another part of the city's soul. What's left of it.

This new strain of mindless violence that has emerged--epitomized by the epidemic of child abuse and the parental murder of 9 year old Omaree Varela, these diabolical slayings of the homeless and the out of control police shootings--are the direct result of ABQ and New Mexico's unofficial slogan:

"Look The Other Way."

MORE TO COME

We'd like to predict this latest abomination which has the city unwillingly vaulted into the worldwide headlines will be the turning point, but it won't. We have family dysfunction so widespread here and so ignored by policy makers that it is likely to get worse--much worse--before it gets better. . .

Affluent ABQ has put a moat around itself. The BMW's can be safely parked behind the gates of Tanoan or in the driveways of High Desert.

The social conditions crisis so in evidence in so much of the city--the SE Heights war zone, miles of Central Avenue, the decaying Downtown and most of all in the beastly crimes that sear the conscience---can be kept at bay only when you reside in a dense cocoon of denial.

But it's getting harder to hide.

A friend tells of being panhandled at the Starbucks in wealthy Corrales. We see the homeless now in middle class neighborhoods like Juan Tabo and Comanche, too, not just the back alleys of downtown. And we see them brutally murdered or run over by drunken drivers as public life here becomes even more drenched in rage and hostility.

EVIL IN OUR MIDST

It has always been a shoot-em-up town, but not an evil one. A fella would get drunk on Saturday night and shoot someone at the bar. Happened all the time. Then came the shocking 1996 Hollywood Video murders. They were the first wake-up call that the strain of crime here was becoming more virulent. Flash forward 20 years and mix in a Great Recession with a willful neglect by what passes for leadership around here and here you are. . .

The economic and quality of life solution for many has been to vote with their feet. The migration out of the state is witness to that. The small, mainly upper income voting class that cast ballots in the 2013 ABQ mayoral election simply wants "to keep a lid on things." That means keep the crime out of their area and if need be unquestioningly pay off millions in APD shooting lawsuits. As for the underlying causes for what we have become or any serious effort at a remedy, ABQ has two middle names: "apathy" and "denial."

POUNDING THE TABLE

It's going to take more table pounding to force collective action to address what is shaping up to be a dreadful NM future. Reader Stephen Spitz comes with the latest on using a portion of the state's immense Land Grant Permanent Fund to get at the innards of the dysfunction afflicting children here--before they are beaten up by relatives or use cinder blocks as murder weapons:

According to an editorial in the ABQ Journal, Minnesota found that by “putting money into early childhood programs like pre-K, nurse visits and prenatal care, we can produce a return of between 10 percent and 18 percent.”  How? Educational and health outcomes were improved and poverty was reduced. The “problem (according to the editorial) is that New Mexico, unlike Minnesota, isn’t rich in big local companies with the resources needed to duplicate the program.”

That’s true, but New Mexico does have a mammoth funding source that is the envy of the nation: namely the 3rd largest Permanent Fund in the US, worth $13.98 billion as of April 30. In June, $71 million flowed into the Fund from oil and gas fees for an annual contribution rate in excess of $800 million--which  now exceeds all annual distributions. This net-positive contribution rate is expected to continue well into the future. Last year none of the fund was spent on the early childhood programs that the editorial indicates produces returns of 10 to 18%. But surely, as the editorial concludes, it should be: “If the money could be found, [the early childhood programs] certainly would be worth trying here, even on a small scale.” The solution is staring us in the face. 

New Mexico is a poor state. But one of the reasons it remains poor is that we have been unwilling to spend the money we do have to generate substantial societal and economic benefits now and for the future. By investing in early childhood programs, New Mexico stands only to gain. The risk lies not in early childhood programs which all agree are “worth trying here” but in the failure to act.

Unfortunately, the consequence of that "failure to act" were on full display at Central Avenue and 60th street.  That's where three maniacal teenagers left two men to die on bloodied mattresses with chips of cinder block embedded in their faces. And as this city and state again looked the other way. . . 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, July 21, 2014

What If It's A Tie? Battle For State House Control Raises The Question, And: Healing The APD Wounds 

Now that it's clear that the battle for control of the NM House will be nationalized--labor unions in one corner and GOP groups in another--an intriguing question arises. What if the House currently divided 37 to 33 in favor of the Dems ends in a 35 to 35 tie on Election Night? What then?

You would have a coalition speaker, Roundhouse observers opine.  One outcome would have a handful of conservative Democrats--or even just one--bolting to the Republicans and backing the GOP choice for speaker. But another scenario would have the Dems offering up their own speaker, luring the R's into supporting that pick and being rewarded for doing so with committee chairmanships.

A conservative coalition now governs the state Senate and in the early 80's there was the "Cowboy Coalition" in the House when conservative Dems shared power with the R's. Back then a conservative Dem speaker was selected. . .

But it's a long way from a tie ball game. Dems appear better positioned than earlier this year. That's because of the national labor money coming in. Dems had feared a "nobody cares" attitude would take hold and the House would be allowed to fall easily into R hands for the first time in over 60 years.

With Democrats pledging a major fight, they improve their odds of keeping control. However, as one Alligator put it: "That the Dems have to fight to keep control of the House in a state where they are the  majority party speaks volumes about the condition of the party...."

And look at the money being spent on the key House races that will determine control of the 70 member chamber. From Cruces:

Joanne Ferrary, Democratic candidate for House District 37, announced raising over $70,000 for her second run against the incumbent Terry McMillian. After narrowly losing to McMillian by just 8 votes two years ago, Ferrary is back on the campaign trail. . .

That race will easily top six figures for each of the candidates--and that's for an unpaid job.

HEALING THE WOUNDS

Anguished parents who have had children slain by APD since 2010 have been in the forefront of the movement to change the culture of the department. Mayor Berry, who has been criticized for being aloof to the pain and suffering of the police shooting victims, recently met with ABQ Forward--a coalition of community groups seeking reform. The group reports:

The mayor invited APD Forward to take part in his community collaborative process to reform APD. The first meeting for this series of community discussions will take place in August. All in all, it was a cordial and productive meeting. It ended with the mayor offering an apology to Steve Torres, Ken Ellis and Mike Gomez, who have all lost sons to officer-involved shootings.

The apology is obviously in order as the millions of dollars in lawsuit judgments against the city continue to mount. The US Department of Justice is negotiating a consent decree with ABQ that will call for specific reforms at APD.

WHAT IF?

Our reminisce about former NM Gov. Toney Anaya on the Thursday blog drew this from reader Hal Hensley in San Antonio, TX:

Joe, Another interesting “what-if” is whether or not the use of  “The Chinese Ship Jumping Scandal” in the 1974 attorney general campaign might have ended Toney’s career in elected office before it started. As a part of Frederick B. “Ted” Howden’s campaign during the Democratic primary, there was strong support by many to use this against Toney. Given his small margin of victory, despite support from most of the powers that were, it could very well have made a difference. In Ted’s usual understated style, however, he simply said we were not going to use it and we weren’t going to talk about it any more; end of story. I was sad to see New Mexico lost Ted earlier this month. He was one of the most decent individuals and candidates for whom I have ever worked.

Anaya beat Howden by only about 2,500 votes in that '74 primary duel.

WIPP LASH

The NM congressional delegation wants to protect funding for the troubled WIPP site, but if they are not vigorous in pursuing accountability, their Capitol Hill colleagues could balk. The news:

Just five days after an underground truck fire closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the Energy Department awarded the contractor that operates the nuclear repository $1.9 million for “excellent” performance during the past year. One radiation leak and two sharply worded accident investigation reports later slamming the same contractor for long-running safety and maintenance problems, that award now looks to some like insult atop injury. How could there have been such a disconnect between the Department of Energy’s own assessment of its contractor’s performance and what independent investigators would find soon after? 

Much like APD, DOE and WIPP need a major cultural change and it will take leadership to get it.

THE BOTTOM LINES

This is always a quaint part of La Politica:

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — A county magistrate race that ended in a tie has finally come to a head, or rather, heads. Kenneth Howard Jr. made the lucky call in a coin toss in a Gallup courtroom, winning a four-year term as McKinley County magistrate judge. . .A recount of the June 3 Democratic primary found Howard and Robert Baca each received exactly 2,879 votes. State law mandates a tie must be decided by lot. A Democratic Party official tossed a 50-cent piece, and Howard got to make the call as the candidate who was lower on the ballot. Since there's no opponent on the general election ballot, Howard gets the job. . . 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

"The clouds swallowed the sunset." That's how one news report described this week's epic thunderstorm in the ABQ metro. It delivered the most one day rainfall since 1933. That torrential downpour was one of many storms that have been welcomed in our water parched neighborhoods.

Through it all flooding has been kept to a minimum, and unlike past years we rarely see dramatic TV footage of people who have fallen into arroyos. City voters have time and again approved flood control bonds by landslide margins and supported flood safety measures. As we saw this week, it pays off. What would similar investments do that were aimed at reversing the state's abysmal rankings in a myriad of social conditions?. . .

BIG BILL MUSINGS

Former Guv Bill Richardson's rocky relationship with the Clintons is well-known. Here he is talking with talk host Larry King about the Dem chase for the '16 prez nomination:

I wanna see who the candidates are, I think there should be open competition, I know Hillary Clinton is a formidable candidate. It’s not that I won’t ever be there but right now, I’m not one of those hundred of democrats flocking and saying the race is over.

And about his breach with Bill Clinton when he endorsed Obama over Hillary in 2008:

He’s still mad at me. . . so far he hasn’t forgiven me, I’ll be honest. I still have a lot of affection for him. I served under him, he was good to me. I was good to him You know, sometimes you have these breaches and sometimes it takes time to heal. This one has been unusually long but if he wishes to keep it separate and a breach then so be it. I’m not uncomfortable. I’m not begging. I’m fine. I’m happy.

Meanwhile, Richardson's sucessor is on the summer campaign trail. Maybe the heat got to her because she seems a bit annoyed in this interview with the Taos News:

While Martinez visited Northern New Mexico, Democratic Party nominee for governor Gary King attended a conference in Albuquerque on child welfare and well-being — both areas in which the state has ranked poorly in recent years. “I don’t need to go and pretend I care about kids,” Martinez replied when asked by a reporter why she did not attend the 2014 Kids Count Conference, which a spokesperson for the governor described as being aligned with a "far-left" group. “I don’t wait for a campaign to worry about kids. I’ve been doing that for 25 years,” referring to her work as a prosecutor. “That’s nothing but a little show.”

New national child well-being rankings are expected to be released soon. Word has it that NM has improved a notch from its most recent ranking of 50th in the USA.

For Gary King the summer is all about turning around the perceptions that he has little hope of victory.  Martinez insiders are rejoicing over the news that top political odds maker Nate Silver at  FiveThirtyEight pegs King's chances of taking her out at a mere 12.5 percent. But King begs to differ. He said in a campaign email this week:

Despite having over a million dollars of negative ads spent against me - our latest poll shows this is still a statistical dead heat - and only a 6% difference between Martinez and me.

King's Poll was conducted July 7-10 by Lake Research and showed Martinez at 45%, King at 39% and 15% undecided. Is Martinez really under the all-important 50% mark? If King could get that confirmed by an independent poll he could be off to the races but there are no such polls. A survey conducted for the Martinez campaign shows her at 54% and one conducted for the state GOP had her at 53%. Here is the King polling memo. The margin of error is pegged at + or - 4 percent.

THE BOTTOM CLIPPING

Allen Weh is digging deep into his own pockets to try to keep pace with the fundraising totals of Dem US Senator Tom Udall but Udall's cash on hand total beats Weh's five to one:

Udall has stockpiled more than $3 million for his re-election bid. . . Weh is dipping into personal money to jump start his campaign for the general election. Weh, a former state GOP chairman, has lent his campaign more than a half million dollars in the past three months, allowing him to raise more money than Udall during that time, according to a Federal Election Commission finance report. . . Udall reported $3.4 million in his campaign account at the end of last month. Weh had a balance of $627,806.

The only federal race that has even an inkling of drama is that featuring southern congressional district Rep. Pearce and Dem Rocky Lara. Reps Lujan and Lujan Grisham are safe. The money totals for those campaigns are found at the above link.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Former Gov. Toney Anaya Splashes Into The Headlines; We Remember Him And The Pivotal Years Of '74, '82 And '86 

Toney Anaya (Bralley)
We note with irony the news that former NM Democratic Governor Toney Anaya has settled fraud charges brought against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Back in the mid-70's when Anaya was attorney general it was he who brought a multitude of charges against various politicos dealing with corruption and other wrongdoing. He parlayed that performance into the Governor's chair in 1982. Now it is Toney who is a prize on the wall of federal investigators.

Anaya first waded into ethical controversy long before he had transformed himself into the crusading post-Watergate attorney general. It was in the 60'swhen he was on the DC staff of Dem US Senator Joe Montoya. The late political columnist Fred McCaffrey recalled the episode:

At the time time Chinese seamen were jumping ship in U.S. ports, after their homeland was taken over by the Communists. Senator Montoya was among the handful of members in the upper chamber who introduced private bills to speed the sailors' acquisition of U.S. citizenship. 

Anaya, then a Montoya aide, told a reporter that it was actually he who put he bills for that purpose into the Senatorial hopper. There was nothing wrong with that at the time--except for the persistent rumors, which went unproved, that money was being paid for the introduction of the bills.

The night he was elected attorney general in 1974 Anaya appeared at the victory party with Jerry Apodaca who led the ticket and was elected Governor. In our report for the UNM Daily Lobo we quoted Anaya--who was strenuously opposed by the ABQ Journal--as telling the crowd: "There are a few choice words that I think we would reserve for other times Jerry, that we may want to share with the news media but I think I'll hold those off to later."

In yet another great irony, it would be the Journal who lionized Anaya for battling political corruption and helped make possible his ensuing governorship.

Anaya left the Governor's office at the end of 1986 as probably the most unpopular governor in state history. The intervening years have done little to polish his image. But he did get a boost when Gov. Richardson put him in charge of the federal stimulus monies for the state following the Great Recession. It was hundreds of millions of dollars and Anaya by all accounts ably administered the funds. It might have been a career capper, if not for the SEC fraud charges.

THE GREATEST TWIST

Joe Monahan
The greatest plot twist in Anaya's career in La Politica came only last year when it was disclosed that former Republican US Senator Pete Domenici had fathered an illegitimate child in the mid-70's and kept it secret for decades.

In 1978, Anaya was the Democratic US Senate nominee and a real threat to Domenici who was seeking a second term and had not yet acquired his legendary status. The story is one of the great "what ifs" in state political history.

What if it had been disclosed during the campaign that Domenici had fathered an out of wedlock child with a twentysomething lobbyist who also happened to have been the daughter of fellow Republican US Senator Paul Laxalt? Given the tenor of those times there is little doubt that Domenici would have been forced to resign or suffer defeat at the polls. For all we know Toney Anaya would be holding that Senate seat to this day.

The law in 1986 limited Anaya to one term, but he went out with a bang that would forever define him as one of our most controversial governors. He decided at Thanksgiving time of that year to commute the sentences of all the prisoners on death row. I was at that news conference at the Guv's office when the announcement came. National media flew in for the occasion. I can still remember my lead for CBS Radio News: "Governor Toney Anaya today set off a political firestorm. . . " It was one for the books.

And in still another note of historical irony, decades later New Mexico's legislature would repeal the death penalty, proving Anaya to be ahead of his time.

Toney Anaya grew up dirt poor in Moriarty, NM planting in him a burning ambition. He streaked across La Politica like a comet that burned only briefly but oh so memorably.

The years were '74, '82 and '86. I was there. . . And that's how I remember it.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Biz Community Split Over Susana; ACI Challenges State Spending On Out-Of-State Contracts; We Have The Inside Scoop, Plus: APD And the AR-15 

McClure
As the soft economy continues with no end in sight, we are seeing the first public cracks in the biz community's support of GOP Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI) is calling out the Guv by asking the state to tell it just how much several departments are spending with out-of-state contractors.

And in news you will only get here, we learn that this needle in the side of the Martinez administration is prompted not only by the hits business is taking in the lousy economy but by frustration within the ACI board over the Guv's refusal to meet with ACI president Beverlee McClure. She served as Secretary of Higher Education under Dem Governor Bill Richardson who the Martinez campaign frequently targets in its re-election missives.

Usually Martinez and company immediately pull out the long knives whenever they are challenged, but they are holding back on this one, knowing that a battle with ACI and its hundreds of business members who are GOP friendly would do them no good and could provide an opening for Dem Guv nominee Gary King. Take a look at the administration's unheated response:

The state Department of Transportation has told ACI that it can’t comply with the group’s request to see how much it has spent on out-of-state contractors. . . The department said the request is, “broad and/or burdensome. . . "The association also filed a request for similar records from the state Tourism Department, which said it will respond to the request. . . The requests were made as part of the association’s efforts to drive more state business to New Mexican companies. 

“When state government spends money in New Mexico, that money stays here, creating jobs and opportunities for New Mexicans and ultimately generating even more revenue for the state. . . But when we spend it outside the state, it’s gone—no more opportunities for New Mexicans, no return on our investment, no hope of creating more jobs or revenue,” said McClure.

The grumbling in the usually Martinez friendly business community is that more needs to be done to stimulate the economy here. You won't hear that grumbling from the ABQ Chamber of Commerce which has nothing but praise for the political status quo, but as the ACI breach demonstrates that stance does not reflect reality. 

As more businesses struggle to keep their bottom lines in the black in ABQ's double dip recession the grumbling will only get louder and insert itself further into the political debate.

P.S. We're told ACI will soon undergo a name change and "rebranding."

ROCKY MUSCLE

Southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce will outspend her but his Dem challenger Rocky Lara is not going away. She is very close to raising a total of $1 million:

Lara reports her strongest fundraising quarter to date, raising more than $375,000 in the second quarter of 2014 (and) having more than $710,000 cash on hand. Since entering the race in September, Rocky has raised more than $945,000.

In this latest quarter ending June 30 Pearce had $1.467 million in cash on hand.  Now Lara, a Carlsbad attorney, is going to make him spend some of it.

GOBSMACKED

First this news:

The Albuquerque Police Department, which has drawn criticism for its use of excessive force, plans to supply officers with hundreds of military-style weapons. The department awarded a bid to a local vendor to purchase 350 AR-15 rifles over two years, with the option of buying quantities of 50 thereafter, as needed. The rifles cost about $1,000 each and will be purchased with taxpayer funds. 

Reader David Nava says:

I am gobsmacked. What in the hell are these people thinking? This town is on a permanent spiral to hell and we have no leadership and no vision. Funny thing--the dope slingers have free rein and the homeless live in fear. You tell me.

But another reader says the AR-15 purchase is no big deal:

Go back to Christopher Chase in October of 2013. Four police officers shot by a guy who has this type of weapon. We must not be scared to equip officers with the equipment they need. In today’s world most police departments have gotten rid of the shotguns and have moved to the AR 15. This is because of the world we live in. It also makes sense because, like it or not, police have to shoot people (sometimes). The pistol (as Christoper Chase showed) doesn’t match up to bad guys with assault rifles. Therefore the AR 15 is the best choice. It allows the officer to hit only what he is shooting at, thereby being safer for the public. It also allows the officer to match up with what the crooks are carrying.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.      

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Can ABQ "Reinvent" Its Economy Or Is What You See What You Get; Biz Leaders Awaken To Debate, Plus: NM Dem Party Getting New Faces As Udall Gets Serious, And: Santa Rosa And The Roast Beef Burrito 

Can ABQ's economy be "reinvented" or is what you see pretty much what you get for the foreseeable future? Business groups--reeling from federal cutbacks in the metro as well as an inability to attract new jobs--will put their heads together in a two hour panel discussion Thursday as they finally acknowledge the epic downturn here that has led to stagnant population growth, sluggish economic activity and a growing social conditions crisis.

They may not say this at their meeting, but business leaders here confront a city with growing swaths that resemble wastelands and a city more divided than every between the haves and have nots.

More observers are concluding that replacing the high-paying Federal jobs and contracts that have been the backbone of the ABQ economy for nearly 75 years may be a pipe dream. Allen Parkman, professor emeritus from the UNM Anderson School of Management, sums up this line of thinking:

. . .Unless a Microsoft or an Apple pops up out of the blue, this is not the place for economic activity. You produce goods either where the consumers are or where the workers are, and we aren’t any of those. If you are Tesla and you are thinking of coming here and you want 2,000 moderately well-qualified workers, are they here? I don’t think so. The problem for New Mexico, Parkman said, is its remoteness and small population. Parkman isn’t so high on tech transfer from New Mexico’s national laboratories either. “It’s interesting how little spin-off we have ever received. We are not Silicon Valley. . . “In terms of a [decision] to [relocate or expand a company], if you have a blank slate this ain’t the place where it is going to go.”

As the Federal cash is cut the new jobs coming on line are primarily those in the low-paying service sector.

It doesn't seem accidental that since the onset of the Great Recession (we are about the only place still in it) we have seen the ABQ police department spiral out of control as it confronts a tougher criminal element spawned by the economic retrenchment. Add to that the outbreak of extreme child abuse cases and  the depopulation of the metro by many of its best and brightest and you have enough to fill 200 hours of brainstorming--never mind two.

DEMS GEARING UP?

The state Democratic Party and its chairman Sam Bregman have been taking hits ever since he took over for failing to live up to expectations that "a storm is coming" for Governor Martinez. But now with only months before the election and everything on the line--the governorship and the state House--it appears Dem US Senator Udall has stepped in to step things up at the moribund party. A new executive director has just been hired and two data experts will soon be on board. Udall leads the ticket this year as he seeks a second term and if he wasn't going to do something, who would?

The new ED is Jon Lipshutz who most recently handled the Dem Guv campaign of Howie Morales. In 2012, Lipshutz, 35, was a key player for the Dems in the state House battle. The party picked up two seats in that presidential year. This year the Dems face a battle for outright control of the House.

 "These changes that are taking place in the party show that we are gearing up and ready to fight. There are stark contrasts between our candidates and those of the Republicans. We'll be showing them," declared Lipshutz.

He replaces Lissa Knudsen in the post who is admired by party stalwarts, but one consultant said she is not a "wartime consigliere" and clearly this is war.

In the background for Udall and the Dems are some of the usual suspects who have had their share of political success---Dan Sena, Amanda Cooper and Dave Contarino. Republicans are counting on Martinez political adviser and veteran GOP campaign consultant Jay McCleskey to lead them to the victory circle. He has assumed control of not only the Martinez re-election campaign but also the GOP strategy to win control of the House.

LABOR PAINS

A number of consultants say national labor unions are going to play might hard in NM to prevent a GOP state House takeover. The fear for the Dems was that no one really cared. One Dem consultant says the national unions came with $180,000 to seed a political action committee for the House races "because they don't want this to become another Wisconsin" where a Republican governor has run roughshod over the unions in a Democratic state.

The R's could spend upwards of $2 million to win the House, but with the union backed Partiot Majority Fund and Speaker Ken Martinez's political action committee, it appears the Dems will be outspent but not outgunned. . .

The campaign of Dem Guv candidate Gary King is telling the unions that they need to play in the governor's race. It warns that if Martinez is allowed to tote up a big victory it could have a coattail effect in key House races. King only had $116,000 in cash recently, compared to $4.3 million for Martinez.

A SANTA ROSA OKAY

And now the important stuff. Our quest for an ABQ roast beef burrito--not a Santa Fe one--led readers to suggest the Copper Lounge and the Burrito Lady in the NE Heights who says her New Mexican dishes are "Santa Rosa style." We wanted verification. From Santa Rosa comes the official word from Christiana Campos at Joseph's Bar and Grill on historic 66:

I just read your story on the Burrito Lady--Consuelo Flores from Santa Rosa. She is a dear friend of the family and actually grew up right across the street from Joe and the Campos family. Joe and I eat there every chance we get, and are never disappointed. I can certainly attest to the deliciousness of her burritos, especially my favorite the chicken and calabacita burrito. Joe prefers the carne adovada burrito.

 She also serves some sinfully rich homemade brownies, but get them before they're gone! I wanted you to know that as Santa Rosans, and as restaurateurs, we wholeheartedly enjoy and recommend the Burrito Lady's Santa Rosa home style and delicious food!

Thanks, Christina, The Burrito Lady it is, but only Tuesday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. And no credit cards--cash only. Who said getting an ABQ roast beef burrito would be easy?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.      

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Heinrich-Hillary Early Honeymoon; What's That All About? Plus: Weh's Woes: Big Government Is His Big Friend 

Why is the new guy on the block so eager to go with the old guard? That's the question in the wake of Dem US Sen. Martin Heinrich's very early endorsement of Hillary Clinton--if she decides to seek the '16 presidential nomination.

Heinrich is going all in for Clinton, attending a weekend ABQ North Valley "Ready for Hillary" event and issuing this statement of tribute:

. . .  I am joining millions of Americans in pledging my support to former first lady, senator and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, should she choose to run for president in 2016. The next presidential election may seem far off, and it is. But this will be a tough campaign with a lot at stake. As she makes her decision, I want Secretary Clinton to know that people across the country share her values and believe that she will be the best person to lead us at this critical time.

Maybe. Maybe not. There is plenty of Clinton fatigue going around, and look what happened in '08. Obama knocked the front runner tag off her lapel in no time at all. And here we are again with Hillary being presented as the default candidate but with that reminder of her glass jaw far from erased.

Heinrich pulled out a close and important 2010 re-election bid for the ABQ US House seat by veering to the left and planting his flag in the liberal SE NM Heights. It set him up for his 2012 US Senate win. In that context the endorsement of centrist Clinton seems out of sync.

That former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez--who fought Heinrich's election to the ABQ city council in 2003--is the chief NM cheerleader for Hillary--shows how Heinrich has joined the establishment Dem camp with this endorsement, rather than remaining outside the circle and taking a wait and see attitude.

Chavez is barely concealing his hope that Hillary will give him a top administration job if she's elected. Maybe something similar is motivating Heinrich this early--like Secretary of Interior?

ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has also come out early for Hillary, but notably Dem US Sen. Tom Udall--facing re-election this year--has not. And speaking of the senate campaign. .

WEH'S WOES

Did Republican US Senate candidate Allen Weh just have the stool pulled out from under him? He constantly attacks gridlock in Washington and Udall for bering a "big government politician" but it turns out that it is Weh who is directly benefiting from big government and in a big way. From the Los Angeles Times:

As a Republican candidate for Senate retired Marine Col. Allen Weh says it's time for tougher border security. As a businessman, Weh stands to benefit from the border crisis. His air charter company, CSI Aviation Inc., is the largest private contractor for ICE Air, the aviation wing of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, winning more than $560 million in ICE contracts since 2010. President Obama is seeking $3.7 billion from Congress to help stem the surge of young immigrants from Central America crossing the Southwest border. The proposal includes $116 million for transportation, and a good portion of that is likely to go to CSI.

And Weh's response

Our country is knee-deep in a humanitarian, emergency response situation that appears will only get worse before it gets better. As the CEO of CSI Aviation, I have only one concern and that’s to make sure that every detainee, every woman and child who is in our care while being transported, whether they are here legally or illegally, and our crews and support staff, all arrive safely.

Political insiders have long known of Weh's lucrative government contracts, but the public at large has not. It complicates his uphill battle to take Udall out as he argues against the very government that is making him a wealthy man.

Weh is not alone in the Republican camp in singing the praises of the "free market" but actually making a living from the Feds. ABQ GOP Mayor Berry's construction company was deemed a minority business because it is owned by his wife of Hispanic heritage. Federal contracts were a chief reason for its success--not the "free market." And Republican Governor Martinez--who also preaches the evil of big government and the wonders of the private sector--has been a government employee just about all of her  adult life, serving as an assistant district attorney, district attorney and another four as governor.

It is this brush with hypocrisy that Weh must now overcome.

WORK FOR WHITE

Former Bernalillo County sheriff, former ABQ public safety director and Martinez political insider Darren White has left a management position at the ABQ Downs Racetrack and Casino and announces he is becoming a private investigator. One of the Alligators already has some assignments for him:

Maybe someone will hire Darren to investigate the allegations of bid-rigging in the awarding of a racino lease for the Downs, first gentleman Chuck Franco's hunt for alligators in Louisiana where the Downs' owners are based, and former ABQ police chief Ray Schultz's issues with Taser International and the contract he "greased" for them with the city. White could also help track down all those city-issued cell phones that disappeared (including White's) after a district court judge ordered them turned over because they'd been used to photograph attorney Mary Han after she'd been found dead under suspicious circumstances.

The FBI has investigated the racino lease, but no charges have been brought. Schultz's controversial relationship with Taser remains unexplored and the death of Han--suicide or murder?--continues to create legal fallout. It was also the subject of a recent KNME-TV roundtable discussion.

BEEF OVER ROAST BEEF

If you can't blog about roast beef burritos during the dog days of summer, when can you? Our plea for New Mexican restaurants in ABQ--not just  Santa Fe--to include them on their menus brings out the foodies. One reader pointed out that the Copper Lounge near UNM serves the tasty entree, and veteran politico and ABQ radio talk show pioneer Mike Santullo comes with yet another:

Another delicious roast beef burrito in ABQ is at "The Burrito Lady" located on Eubank near Lomas. She's been there for almost 10 years and makes the most delicious roast beef burrito I have ever had. It's a very small hole in the wall, but she has lines out the door at 6:30 in the morning and for lunch. Best kept secret in ABQ. She specializes in what she calls "Santa Rosa NM" style cooking. Very home style and delicious.

Santa Rosa style cooking? Nice, But we'll have to clear that with the Campos family in Santa Rosa as they hold forth at Joseph's Bar and Grill on historic Route 66.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

It's not high on the insiders list as one of the state House seats in play, but the campaign of Dem Catherine Begaye says so far it has raised over $50,000 while freshman GOP State Rep. Paul Pacheco--who she hopes to upset in November--has pulled in around $48.000.

If the going gets rough for Pacheco in the Bernalillo and Sandoval county district, he will be able to call on the Guv's PAC and others for help. House District 23 is 42 percent Dem and 36 percent R. In the presidential year of 2012, Dem Marci Blaze lost a squeaker to Pacheco.

Insiders say lower turnout for an off-year election has kept the district off the "in play" list. But Begaye's fund-raising will keep Pacheco burning the shoe leather. He is a retired APD officer and union leader. Begaye, a Navajo born in Gallup, earned her law degree at UNM and is in private practice. . .

Also on the campaign money beat. Senator Udall's office says:

Udall welcomed the Senate Judiciary Committee's approval of his proposed constitutional amendment to restore power to regulate campaign finance to the people. Udall’s amendment would clarify in the Constitution that money does not equal speech, effectively reversing U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which have unraveled campaign finance regulations and handed undue influence over elections to corporations and wealthy donors. . Udall's amendment is expected to be considered by the full Senate later this year.

Talk about a Sisyphean task. Reining in the runaway money machine is like trying to throw a lasso around a barn.

VOLATILE SUSANA

Here's well-known national political pundit Larry Sabato writing of Susana in Politico:

Both Govs. Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico are heavy favorites for reelection. Both are Hispanics in Western states where the GOP once won with some frequency; Martinez is also the first Latina governor in U.S. history. It’s no wonder some party activists are already eyeing them as possible, partial antidotes to the Republicans’ recent disastrous showings with Hispanics. Of course, they have their downsides, too. Sandoval would have trouble with socially conservative Republicans because he’s pro-choice, and Martinez has received mixed reviews because of what some in the GOP leadership regard as her volatile personality.

ROAST BEEF

Thanks to the many readers who emailed us about our Thursday blog "King for a Day." In it we listed the decrees we would issue if given the throne for 24 hours. There is a real aching for change out there--at least among those who read us. But we get the vibe that it's spreading. . . .

On the fun side, one of our decrees was a requirement that New Mexican restaurants in ABQ carry roast beef burritos. We only seem to see them in Santa Fe. Reader Bryan Biedscheid responded:

You should drop by ABQ's Copper Lounge near UNM and get their roast beef burrito. I live in Santa Fe but they don’t come any better than that up here (and we certainly do not have the cheap beer specials they have there). Now, for political insight, go talk to a real alligator.

You mean there's a roast beef burrito at the Copper Lounge and it is better than the one at Tomasita's in Santa Fe? We're all in, Bryan, and you get honorary Alligator credentials. See ya' there. . .

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

A New Mexico Daydream: King For A Day; The Decrees That Would Come 

You mean we get to be King for a day? (No, not Gary King!) Who decreed that? Never mind. We humbly accept the honor---but just for a day. We have a blog to do you know. So now that we have been handed the sceptre what should we decree?

--We'll start by "raiding" the state's immense Land Grant Permanent Fund (over $14 billion) for $100 million a year for at least ten years for very early childhood education and finally begin reversing the generational quagmire that has kept the state at rock bottom. No more stalling. We so decree.

--Gradually cut the state's gross receipts tax to 4 percent and replace it by restoring a higher personal income tax rate for those in the top brackets. That's economic stimulation with high impact.

--Float government bonds at these historically low interest rates and build a world class, 21st century performance center to replace the dilapidated Tingly Coliseum at the state fairgrounds. Make it a facility that would attract events like the Final Four and the great world concert tours as well as support local arts and culture.

--It is ordered that Bernalillo County government sell off land and buildings it owns and use the proceeds to build a new county government building, instead of devastating downtown ABQ by pulling out 700 employees.

--It is immediately ordered that ABQ bring in a world class police chief to lead our police department out of the ignominy that has damaged it, the citizens and ABQ's reputation. Immediately. We so decree.

--We hereby direct that Kathy Korte be made president of the ABQ School board--because it would be fun.

--We decree that ground be broken for a new hospital for the homeless who are mentally ill and also that ABQ triple the number of beds available for drug and alcohol rehab. No more half-measures. Spend the money. Now. It is so decreed!

--Reopen the ABQ Tribune and restore media competition and balance in the coverage of the deep social and economic problems our state faces. Start the presses! The King has spoken!

--Henceforth, no New Mexico Governor shall be permitted to travel outside the state to campaign for  the presidency or vice presidency. They must stay here and stew in the anti-glamour with the rest of us. Effective immediately.

--A potpourri of rulings from the Crown: Build a dental school at UNM, build a veterinary school somewhere around here and raise the statewide minimum wage to $9 an hour.

--We decree that a second language be taught to all New Mexico students beginning in the first grade.

--Replace the heads of the ABQ Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and NAIOP. We order the positions go to out-of-towners who will bring new thinking to ABQ's economic dilemma. Obey your King!

--All public employees who are paid more than $250,000 a year (you know who you are) shall have those positions no longer than 8 years. Stop the calcification at the top and let others climb the ladder.

--The New Mexico Legislature will henceforth conduct its legislative sessions in April--not January. It's just too damn cold in January.

--The following positions will from this day forward be appointed--not elected--positions. State Treasurer, State Auditor, Bernalillo County treasurer and Bernalillo County sheriff.

--It is ordered that ABQ restaurants serving New Mexican food must place on their menus roast beef burritos. Why are they only in Santa Fe? (Hey, the King is entitled!)

Okay. That's enough. This King thing wears you out quick. Back into our blogging pajamas. . . .

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Bg Labor To the Rescue: It Comes With Big Money To Save State House For The Dems, Plus: Lawsuit To Allow Indys To Vote In Party Primaries Draws Critique 

Democratic Party interest groups may be taking a pass on the '14 NM Guv race, but they're starting to get as serious as a heart attack when it comes to keeping the state House from falling under the control of the Republicans for the first time in 60 years:

Labor unions have contributed $180,000 to a political committee that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence legislative and other state races in New Mexico. The political action committee Patriot Majority New Mexico received $100,000 from an American Federation of Teachers' political committee last month and $80,000 from a committee of AFSCME  in late May, according to campaign reports. The PAC was a top spender in NM's legislative races two years ago when Democrats retained majorities in the House and Senate. Patriot Majority is a "super PAC" that's free from campaign contribution limits because it independently advocates the election or defeat of candidates. Its campaign work cannot be coordinated with candidates. 

And former Big Bill Richardson Chief of Staff Dave Conatrino is reprising his role from 2012. Campaign reports say he's been paid $19,000 for strategic services by Patriot Majority. Contarino, along with consultant Amanda Cooper--daughter of US Sen. Tom Udall--headed up Patriot Majority when it was successful in assisting such state senators as Majority Leader Michael Sanchez who Governor Martinez had targeted for defeat.

The resurrection of Patriot Majority is sure to calm some Dem fears that  Gov. Martinez and company would overwhelm them financially this fall. House Speaker Ken Martinez is raising additional hundreds of thousands to protect his majority. About 10 of the 70 state House seats will see the bulk of the cash raised by both sides. The R's need to pick up four seats to take control.

NO INDYS ALLOWED

That lawsuit drawing attention this summer  that aims to allow New Mexico's independent voters to vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries draws this comment from Santa Fe Dem Party Chair Richard Ellenberg:

The US Supreme Court case in Tashjian vs. Republican Party of Connecticut (1986) holds that it is up to the party, and not the state, to decide who participates in its primary based upon the right of association in the First Amendment. In Tashjian the State of Connecticut attempted to change who participated in the Republican Primary, and the Republican Party objected. The Supreme Court held the State could not tell the party who was eligible to vote in its primary. It is hard to see how this suit about State law will be able to go anywhere in light of this Tashjian and the Supremacy clause. Given how more people are filling as decline to state, discussion inside the parties of this issue is worth having. Including independents in the primary might assist in prevailing in November. But some feel very strongly that if one is not even willing to register under the party name, then why should they help determine that parties nominees?

METRO REVOLUTION

Since ABQ is languishing at or near the bottom of every national economic indicator, reader Rick Allan in Anthony, NM says it's time to look more outward:

One of your readers thought that it was strange that the UNM President should be devoting resources to economic development . I would recommend to the reader a book by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley of The Brookings Institution called The Metropolitan Revolution (How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy). In it are  examples from throughout the country of collaborations and innovation “clusters” and networks among universities and public and private entities generating economic movement and growth. The overarching thesis is that  it is metro regions where transformative governance will and must take place --where “stuff” will get done. So I think UNM President Bob Frank is right on and he has a lot of company. I would add that the City of Albuquerque should be in the forefront of the “Metropolitan Revolution” as anyone who reads this book would conclude. That it isn’t speaks volumes. All responsible elected officials and others who want New Mexico to advance should spend some time learning about all the other metro areas around the country that are smartly moving forward--way ahead of Albuquerque.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

On The Econ Beat: The Degradation Of Downtown ABQ, Plus: How To Get Out From Under A One Horse Economy, Also: State Tourism And The Austerity Hawks 

Come on Mayor Berry, city councilors and ABQ business leaders. Hasn't the disastrous decline of downtown ABQ gone far enough? Look at the pic of this sign we snapped during a recent walk through the city's central core. It's not a joke.

Sure, the homeless problem is a tough nut to crack, but giving up is not a strategy. This is the state's largest city and while downtown has struggled for decades, we've now been overtaken by docility and confusion. . .

The degradation of downtown is in part a symptom of the city and state's larger problem--the loss of billions of dollars in federal spending and nothing much to replace it. . .

Like ABQ, Reno, NV has been a one horse town when it comes the economy, For us it's that federal spending. For Reno it's gambling. ABQ is still searching for how to diversify the economy--or even if we really can. Reno has rolled the dice as the gambling decline forces its hand:

. . . Reno stirs images of worn-out casinos, strip clubs and quick divorces. But it is trying to change that reputation and reduce its reliance on gambling by taking advantage of its location and low taxes. . . Instead of poker payouts, Reno now boasts of e-commerce ventures, an Apple data center and a testing ground for drones. It also hopes to attract a large factory to build batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles. “People believe in this town, and they’re tired of being presented as this joke,” said Abbi Whitaker, a local business owner who helped create a marketing campaign to reshape Reno’s image. “When you’re at rock bottom there’s a good chance to reinvent how you go up.”

On, forget it. Let's all just move down to Hobbs and party like it's 1999:

Although the Albuquerque metro jobs picture remains bleak, the oil patch in southeast New Mexico and in Hobbs is booming. Now economic development officials in the area are hoping to lure Albuquerque workers. The Hobbs Chamber of Commerce placed an ad in the Sunday Albuquerque Journal for its Hobbs Jobs website in the hope of luring Albuquerqueans and other New Mexicans to move to the oil patch.

All ready for your Hobbs advenutre? Here's the jobs site.

A SLOW LEAK 

Like a very slow leaking tire, the generations old housing bubble in Santa Fe has been gradually deflating. And that's actually good news for most City Different residents. A real estate agent says:

. . ."People were waiting for the market to get better and that it would magically spring back to 2007 levels. They have seen the writing on the wall — it’s not going to be overnight. It’s going to be years, perhaps a decade, before we see those levels, so they need to get motivated.”

More realistic pricing seems to be driving the volume, according to agents. And more low-cost homes under construction are bringing prices down, while higher inventory and a poor economy are keeping the lid on price appreciation. The median sales price in the second quarter of 2014 fell 10 percent in the city, to $270,000, and 8 percent in the county, to $409,500, according to the Association of Realtors.

Santa Fe will always be a manget for celebrity types, but the go-go days are gone and never to return. The capital city of the future will be more like the 70's with working classes srill coexisting with the big money and celebrity crowd, but not as dominated by it. . .

STIMULATION, PLEASE

For Santa Fe and so many small New Mexico towns and villages, tourism is vital. The fiscal austerity of the Martinez administration--embraced by the Martinez Democrats in the Legislature--has held the state back, but the two branches of government have loosened the reins somewhat on spending to attract tourists. The results--while not stellar--are heartening: 

New Mexico didn’t attract many more tourists in 2013 than it did in 2012, but it did attract bigger spenders. State visitation inched up just 0.63 percent last year, according to new tourism numbers. Data show that 32.2 million people visited the Land of Enchantment in 2013, up from 32 million in 2012. Though the bump was modest, Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson said 32.2 million still represents a state record for visitation. But she suggests the better news is that travelers are opening their wallets wider. State- commissioned research from Longwoods International indicates overall spending by visitors grew 7 percent in 2013. That represents a gain of about $300 million.

Secretary Jacobson has a point about attracting tourists who spend more, but we still have much room for improvement in attracting raw numbers of visitors. Our northern neighbor of Colorado is getitng nearly double our number

Colorado hosted a record 60 million visitors who left almost $17 billion in the state in 2012. . . Last year, visitor research showed 57.9 million visitors spent $10.76 billion in 2011. This year's studies show the number of marketable vacationers — travelers who chose Colorado over other destinations — increased 2 percent in 2012, and spending climbed nearly 6 percent over 2011, which had ranked as the best year for the state's tourism efforts. 

SANTA FE THINK

The tourism news highlights the contradiction in Santa Fe's economic thinking. By increasing the budget for tourism and advertising, we attract more visitors and stimulate business. Similar investment in infrastructure etc. will have similar results.  Such a suggestion is greeted as apostasy by the ringleaders of austerity politics--Dr. Clifford at the Department of Finance and Senator John Arthur Smith at the Legislative Finance Committee.

Still, the state's current ranking as last or nearly last in the nation in job creation, the migration out of the state and ABQ's freshly announced double-dip recession would seem to vindicate our position. It's  really just a restatement of that old bromide: "You have to spend money to make money." 

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