Monday, November 30, 2015

On The Econ Beat: KAFB Joins the Historic Shrinking ABQ Economy, Plus: Dem PRC Battle Shapes Up, Luminaria Tours Too Light? And Is The Convention Center A "Rat Hole?" 

New Mexicans joined the traditional post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy but our subdued economy probably had many of them doing more window shopping than actual buying. Here's part of the reason. . .

In its latest report Kirtland Air Force Base--which includes Sandia Labs--reports that in 2014 the base had a $7.6 billion economic impact on the state. But looking at its 2012 report KAFB said it then had an impact of $7.8 billion. That's a whopping $200 million decline (not accounting for inflation) and much more when you account for the repeat effect of those dollars not being spent. And KAFB says since its last report the impact of base spending on the ABQ metro is down a stunning $500 million.

KAFB asserts that its economic impact on the ABQ area is $3.8 billion. We say asserts because we're always suspicious of these economic impact numbers as they are based on suppositions. But there's no denying that the decline in the amount of federal dollars here continues its long, slow grind. It has contributed to the downsizing of the economy which is symbolized by the multitude of payday loan stores, dollar stores and the flat housing market. Some reasonably argue that the fewer dollars in circulation has also contributed to the higher crime rate.

KAFB and our congressional delegation are quick to point out that the employment numbers at Sandia are actually up the past few years, but that obviously doesn't account for the bleeding we have had with contracts and other funding.

We ran into local advertising whiz and possible 2017 ABQ mayoral candidate Steve McKee the other day and he opined--as he often does--that ABQ must build a robust private sector economy to replace the federal dependency.

No doubt the conservative Republican is correct but we offered the opinion that there is no way on God's green earth that you are going to create private sector activity anywhere near the equivalent of the mammoth federal presence here. Has the private sector even replaced the $200 million in economic impact that the KAFB numbers says was lost here in the past two years? Not even close. It will take generations.

The current political leadership have been bystanders to the federal dollar decline, claiming that we must fight for the federal dollars but not showing us any specific plans or actions. The congressional delegation is aware but so far unable to land new federal installations or monies to offset the decline.

KAFB and the rest of the federal presence remains the backbone of the ABQ (and NM) economy but after 75 years it has fractures. What we do about it in the years ahead will largely determine the fate of the New Mexican economy.


It looks as if we'll getting an interesting Dem primary in '16 for the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) seat that covers most of big Bernalillo County. Incumbent Democrat Karen Montoya, current chair of the commission which regulates utilities, among other businesses, will face off against attorney Cynthia Hall who is on staff at the PRC and who ran against Montoya in the primary of 2012.

Back then Hall came in second and Al Park ran third. Both Montoya and Hall say they will take public financing which will give each of them about $32,000 for the run. So far Montoya and Hall are the only two announced contenders. No R's have surfaced yet in this fairly solid Dem district.


City officials are gleeful over this news but we're wondering if we're not falling behind the curve in providing an even bigger and better Christmas Eve show for the many clamoring to participate:

Tickets for ABQ RIDE’s Annual Luminaria Tour on Christmas Eve have sold out.  All Tour tickets were sold by 12:30 p.m. November 27. That is the fastest-ever sellout of tickets. . . The tour. . . takes approximately 45 minutes and travels through Old Town and Country Club neighborhoods. . .Tour times are scheduled at 5:30 p.m.; 5:50 p.m.; 6:10 p.m.; 6:45 p.m.; 7:05 p.m. and 7:25 p.m.

How about adding a tour or two, going a little later and getting other neighborhoods to participate? This is a nice draw for ABQ now serving 3,600 participants, but if it's selling out in four hours the city could look at expanding and satisfying demand not just celebrating its current popularity.


That luminaria tour begins and ends at the downtown convention center which Mayor Berry is proposing to spend more money on in renovations. A reader disgruntled over that writes:

I can not figure out the fascination City Hall has with pouring money down a rat hole that is now some 40 years old and will never be able to compete on a national level. Why is it that this city always has to do things half assed and on the cheap? Mayor Berry just spent over $20 million to renovate the convention center and now wants to spend another $5 million to somehow convert it to an event center. A 10,000 seat arena he proposes is not what is needed, but rather a 16,000 to 20,000 multipurpose facility to attract national shows and events. It would have been far more practical just to level the damn building, start from scratch, and build a new facility for $45 or even $65 million that will be far more practical and will be used.

This corner has long advocated that Tingley Coliseum on the state fairgrounds be demolished and a 21st century events complex be built with a seating capacity north of 20,000 that would be a showcase for the entire state and also boost tourism. Unfortunately and with apologizes in advance to Vicki Harrison of Common Cause, our idea has about as much chance of winning legislative approval as an independent ethics commission.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Waiting For More Of the '16 Political Pieces To Fall Into Place, The Crash In The Number Of APD Cops And Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico! 

We head into Thanksgiving '15 waiting for the political pieces to fall into place for Election '16. For example, after our first draft of this blog appeared ABQ GOP State Rep. Conrad James announced Wednesday morning on Facebook that he would not seek re-election next year. He did not mention any future political plans.

Its been speculated that James could seek the state Senate seat of GOP Sen. Lisa Torraco but after the James news broke she said she will seek re-election. James made no mention of any future political plans in his announcement. He is the first Republican African-American to serve in the House from Bernalillo County.

James represents a swing district so his departure may be good news for the Dems as they try to retake the seat in their battle to retake control of the state House which the R's took over in 2014. . .

New Mexico lawmakers are not about to legalize marijuana in '16 or probably '17 for that matter, but the day could come as the state seeks new revenue sources and sees what is happening in our neighbor to the north. The latest:

Preliminary data. . . has confirmed what tax revenues have already shown: Coloradans love legal pot. All told, dispensary sales in the state were $290 million for the quarter, a 53 percent increase over last year's $190 million quarterly sales. Year to date, dispensary sales are about $740 million. "Marijuana is going to be a $1 billion business in Colorado this year, or very damn close," said Roy Bingham, founder and CEO of BDS. "It's the fastest growing industry in America, I would say."

Gov. Martinez has expressed opposition to legalized marijuana. Could she change her mind before her term ends in 2018?

Reader Larry writes of our blog Tuesday citing UNM studies documenting the halt in population growth here and the outflow of people:

Look at the positive side of our exodus. We will be in a more sustainable relationship with our water, food and clean air supply. For the economically minded this may make us more attractive in the future to something other than minimum wage employers. Sometimes you really do need to think long term.


Just how understaffed is APD? We're finally getting numbers that show the stark reality and likely one of the reasons the criminal element is spiking our crime rate:

So far this year, 90 Albuquerque police officers have left, and city councilors are worried. The city says as of Monday, there were 512 officers for patrol, including commanders and lieutenants. That means on an average night, if no one calls out sick or is on vacation, there are 90 cops for the entire city and its half a million residents. That's one officer for every 5,500 people. On Fridays, which are busy for APD, the number jumps to 144 officers.

When you see conservative Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones raising an eyebrow at this extreme understaffing, you know Mayor Berry's base voters are even starting to take notice.

Reader and film reviewer Eric Lucero checks in with some picks for the holiday weekend:

Creed (PG-13) 3 Stars out of 5. It’s not Rocky, 1976, but it is a worthy boxing sequel (the 7th) that years later allows actor Sylvester Stallone/Rocky Balboa to mold Adonis, (Michael B. Jordan, Fantastic Four) into a champion. He's the troubled son of the late Apollo Creed who began the film series as a foe of Rocky's but ended as a friend. Jordan has both the convincing boxing physique and acting temperament. The franchise stands revived!

Spectre (PG-13) 4 Stars. This latest (24th) Bond adventure is nostalgic, retro, and bristling with action. If this is Daniel Craig’s (James Bond) final outing as the enigmatic, post-modern and quintessential spy, it’s his best and rates atop the best of all Bond performances. This is director Sam Mendes’ (American Beauty, Sky Fall) second and final turn with the highly successful franchise. Spectre manages to demolish both Bond’s world view, and ours as well. It is thoroughly entertaining.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (PG-13) 3 1/2 Stars. This much hyped closing chapter of the Hunger Games saga should have been concluded in Part 1 as in the original novel. That aside, after much filler Part 2 finally gets around to the overthrow of the evil President Snow and his Nazi-like regime. The final frames are very dark but Katniss’s (Jennifer Lawrence) gives a defining performance as the “face of the rebellion." The finale is glorious and sublime as director Frances Lawrence deftly brings closure for loyal fans. The whole family will enjoy the Mockingjay.

Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico!

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Reality Catches Up With Experts As They Document State's Brain Drain And Population Dilemma, Plus: City Hall Fun; Alligator Vindicated 

It's the story of the decade and it could turn out to be the story of the century. The initial shock that New Mexico--a once bustling Sunbelt state--is now in a state of decline with its best and brightest fleeing amid a historic loss of jobs as well as population--has worn off.  Now the new reality that we've been reporting on is catching up to the experts. Let's take a look:

Robert Rhatigan, director of Geospatial and Population Studies at UNM (says): “People are moving out of here. The economy has rebounded faster elsewhere, and they’re leaving.” 

According to Rhatigan’s estimates, the state’s annual population growth rate so far this decade is 0.25 percent. That compares with a rate of 1.25 percent between 2000 and 2010. The new estimates, still preliminary, have the state growing 6.2 percent over the current decade, half the rate of the previous 10 years.

Of course, the scariest part for policymakers is who is leaving:

UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research said. . . the analysis shows that, of the 12,027 people who left the state in 2013, an estimated 5,145 had bachelor’s degrees. That segment of the population is more likely to be frozen out of New Mexico’s job market, which has seen growth in lower-paying hospitality and tourism jobs or more specialized health care careers. He added that is exactly the population New Mexico needs to retain as it looks to rebuild its workforce and increase demand — especially for housing.

And here's why the downsizing of New Mexico could be the story of the 21st century:

(Rhatigan) said the new growth projections are “radically different from three years ago” because it is more evident today that the post-recession trend of out-migration from New Mexico is not slowing. “Maybe this is our size for years to come,” he said.

That's important work from UNM that should serve as another wake-up call. The trouble is the state's leaders choose not to talk about these remarkable and disturbing macro trends that foretell a much rougher path ahead for New Mexico, especially our young.

The news is the worst in the rural areas where you can easily predict that in the decades ahead some counties already foundering will be merged with others. Maybe ABQ pops here and there but if you're a twenty or thirtysomething you're chief worry may be getting stuck here in a low-paying job that does not permit you to buy a house or start a family. 

These grim but essential studies are only going to aggravate those concerns and accelerate the exodus.

The UNM reports confirm what we've known--the state will be much grayer in the years ahead and government budgets will continue to stagnate as the Feds pump in less money here based on our snail-like population growth. A shrinking or stagnant economy with more low-paying jobs could also mean more crime and drug abuse, both of which are already headline makers.

For the politicians and many citizens it's all too overwhelming. Chasing the affluent status of the surrounding states is not on the table. Expectations among the business class have been recalibrated and they are acting accordingly. Tackling the financial and cultural obstacles that confront an ever growing percentage of our state's population is a generational challenge that our generation simply dies not seem to have the stomach for. Some fear we've already slipped or are slipping into an irreversible welfare state akin to West Virginia with vast swaths of our population already eligible for food stamps and/or Medicaid.

New Mexico will always be a marvelous wonder but the state slogan: "It grows as it goes" may have to be revised to: "It slows as it goes."


Just when we think the Alligators are going geezer on us, they prove yet again that they are the top political sources in our enchanted land.

First, we recently had to retract the punishment of ten lashes with a wet noodle to the Alligator who had predicted Idalia Lechuga-Tena was a possible to replace Mimi Stewart in the state House. It looked like he was wrong when it was discovered that Lechuga-Tena did not live in the ABQ SE Heights district. But she moved in so she could be considered for the seat and the BernCo Commission gave her the appointment. That Alligator was vindicated--albeit through the back door---and his ten lashes were recanted.

Rob Perry
Now comes news of the "retirement" of ABQ Cultural Services Director and GOP connected Betty Rivera. And that is cause for more Alligator vindication. Back in the summer a Senior Gator told us that ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry had dressed Rivera down at a staff meeting over an expensive junket she and some of her staffers had taken to New Orleans. The Gator informed that Perry  pronounced that she was being tossed. We waited and waited and nothing happened.

We had no choice but to take the unprecedented action of punishing a Senior Gator--and with more than ten lashes of the noodle. That punishment has now been retracted as Rivera was indeed shown the exits over that trip, after being given a bit of a reprieve by Mayor Berry. They just waited a while to give Betty the axe and throw everyone off the trail. For his troubles our Senior Gator is awarded an enchilada dinner at Garcia's.

Those turned out to be close calls and we're glad for it. What would we do with a non Alligator blog? What would La Politica do?!

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Consultant McCleskey Casts Wide Shadow Over City Hall As Well As Governor's Office, Plus: The Investigation: Dems Get Muscular And Martinez Fox Appearance Analyzed 

Berry & McCleskey
As the federal grand jury investigation into Gov. Martinez's top political adviser Jay McCleskey continues more attention is being paid to not only his over sized influence in state government but also in ABQ government.  One of our City Hall Alligators has an update:

We not only have a shadow governor but a shadow mayor. Look at the overlap in connections and personnel between Governor Martinez and Mayor Berry. 

 You have Jay McCleskey, the main political consultant for both; Public Opinion Strategies, the polling company used by both the Governor and Mayor with McCleskey's wife Nicole being a principal; Chris Sanchez, the same spokesman for both during their re-election campaigns who is now working for the Governor; Melissa Sousa, the campaign manager for both Berry and the Governor; Gordon Eden, the former Public Safety Officer for Martinez and now Berry's Chief of Police; Jessica Hernandez, the Governor's former General Counsel and now Albuquerque City Attorney; Darren White, Berry's former Chief Public Safety Officer who appeared in the Governor's TV ads 5 years ago and who was hired by the ABQ Downs; Amy Bailey, the leading candidate for the Secretary of State appointment who was Berry's City Clerk and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, a longtime associate of Darren White and Jay McCleskey.

Good job there connecting all the dots. Meanwhile, it appears White has joined fellow McCleskey operative Rod Adair in attacking the Santa Fe New Mexican for its aggressive coverage of the grand jury probe of McCleskey. He tweets:

The New Mexican continues to marginalize itself with nakedly biased & inaccurate reporting.

The strategy to attack the New Mexican may be a result in part of the skimpy media coverage of the potential scandal. The ABQ Journal has run only one article and the same for TV news. The Journal did mention Martinez's McCleskey problem in its wrap on her becoming chair of the Republican Governors Association and Fox News did an interview on the subject with Martinez which we will get to in a moment.

McCleskey may feel he can isolate the story to the "liberal" press thus the continued attack on the Santa Fe paper. If he escapes indictment that may work short term, but long term it rarely does, with the media being attacked doubling down on taking down the attacker. With Martinez unable to seek re-election and power seeping away from her as a result of McCleskey's troubles, her leverage in the guise of bullying individual reporters, threats to advertisers and castigating the media as liberal witch hunters, has waned.

The other problem is that the national media is watching the story unfold as well as the attacks on the media. That serves to make them suspicious, not sympathetic toward the attackers.


While Democrats have been meek in their opposition to Martinez since she came on the scene, they have been revived by the McCleskey story. They are now ripping the Governor and her top political consultant in a series of news releases from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and the NM Democratic Party. The McCleskey blow-up is the best early Christmas gift the D's could ask for.

NM Dem Chair Haaland authors this piece that asserts Martinez's "house of cards" is falling. A state Dem party release chronicles what it calls various Martinez scandals and state House Dems blast away with this. The DGA strikes on the story here.

The video of Martinez being interviewed about the McCleskey investigation by Fox News is getting wide attention in political circles. Here's the video and here's the transcript:

Bret Baier: "There is now an FBI investigation related to your administration, some of your top aides, at least one of them, that deals with emails—public and private. What about that as you take over the head of the RGA?"

Susana Martinez: "Oh no. The investigation referenced in the emails were actually by an individual that worked on my campaign and, um. actually served federal prison time."

Baier: "Yeah, but separately from that came an investigation into campaign fundraising."

Martinez: "Okay, so, fundraising versus emails. Well, the fundraising is absolutely proper. Um, we have done all of the state law, New Mexico state law, the attorney general. We’ve done everything right. I have all the confidence in the world that there is nothing that has gone wrong in my administration. I had just gotten elected, um, and then the laws changed right after I got elected and we did everything that is lawful. I’m an attorney. I understand how to read those statutes and so it’s certainly something that I have no concerns about."

Baier: "No concerns about those investigations?

Martinez: "No.”

The Governor's defense seems muddled and meandering. It is interesting that she is falling back on New Mexico "state law" when McCleskey faces a federal probe and possible indictment on federal offenses. Is she establishing some separation between herself and McCleskey? It is the question that hovers over all of this.

The DGA called the interview Martinez's "Fox News Disaster." It wasn't that but it was the skunk at the garden party. On the day before she was catapulted into the national spotlight by getting elected RGA chair she had to deal with the McCleskey mess. And she will continue to have to deal with it.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

ABQ Crime: What You See Is What You Get; Little Reason To Expect Change In Trend; Reasons Why 

This column also ran in the ABQ Free Press

It's sad but true. It will be years before there is any noticeable progress in the struggle against violent crime in ABQ as well as the effort to reform APD.

The Wall Street Journal, one of numerous national publications to take note of the city's severe crime plight, reports that violent crime in ABQ reached a five year high in 2014, rising 14% in 2014 alone.

No less an authority than Shaun Willoughby, the VP for the police union, said in a recent interview: "If you think the numbers are bad now, wait until you see the 2015 reports."

The murders of 4 year old Lilly Garcia and APD Officer Daniel Webster was more evidence that things here are getting worse.

But given this urgent backdrop, why is there no change? We put that question to our readers and law enforcement experts. We received answers that may surprise.

First and perhaps foremost, in all the coverage of the crime outbreak the city's lousy economy is rarely cited. But the escalation of violent crime has coincided with the city's descent to the bottom of the national barrel in employment and business growth. The two are intrinsically linked. Improve the economy and you improve the crime outlook. By every conceivable measurement this is the weakest city economy in modern history.

Coverage of the economy is cheerleader driven, highlighting any glimmer of good news and ignoring the deep changes the economy has wrought on the social structure of the state's largest city. Experts agree that long-term the city is going to have address its economic woes, if it is to reduce crime.

Then there is the understaffing of APD. That is pinpointed as the chief cause for the violent crime outbreak by the aforementioned Willoughby. He argues convincingly that the chronic shortage of police officers on the street and the historically slow response times to priority calls has not gone unnoticed by the bad guys. Sure, the police department has been understaffed before Mayor Berry took office in December 2009, but it has worsened under his watch. Crime soared and he lost command and control of APD, forcing the Justice Department to come to town. An understaffed APD in these times is much more nefarious than days of yore.

Those are the big two. The Mayor and City Council might not be able to do much about the economy in the short-term but if they treated the police understaffing as an emergency they could attract officers from around the nation and also fill APD cadet classes by providing aggressive financial incentives. They must spend the money, but they won't. APD Chief Gorden Eden actually says that APD understaffing will get worse before it gets better and that a solution is years away. Incredible,

With that attitude there is certainly no challenge predicting that the failed approaches to the violent crime fight will continue until Berry is out of office December 1, 2017. Then the city must hope it gets new leadership that is ready to saddle up and lead.

Apologists for Berry argue--and with the backing of the public--that it is the judges and prosecutors who are at fault. In fact, the Mayor has shifted the entire blame for the crime debacle to the state Legislature, recently calling for various state laws to solve his problems. But all the laws in the world are not going to save him from presiding over a city in a crime crisis unless he adequately staffs APD, reforms its flawed command structure and starts dealing with this tepid economy.

Even if Berry chose to act, which he won't, he could not do it alone. The silent City Council, the acquiescent business community and the Berry-boosting media continue to disappoint as they aid and abet the non action that has become the collective response to the city's crime bedeviled streets. Like we said, it will be years before it change

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Busting Berry: He Spins ABQ Crime Numbers But FBI Report Shows Crime Has Increased Each Year Under His Watch, Plus: McCleskey Story Goes National On Fox, And Some Thursday Bottom Lines 

Mayor Berry is playing the numbers game again--some might say shamelessly--by saying in his state of the city address that, "We just finished the five lowest crime rate years in modern city history...five years of the lowest crime rates in history."

Maybe Berry is so used to having anything he says go unchallenged by the media, the Democrats, the city council and his sycophants in the business community that he feels he can say anything. But the truth still matters. And in the chart posted here from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report it's clear to see that truth when it comes to the city's crime crisis. Total crime has escalated each year since Berry took office December 1, 2009.

Berry is a master at evading responsibility and his legally troubled political adviser Jay McCleskey is the acknowledged master of the half truth--keep saying it over and over again no matter the facts. It's only the perception that matters--not the truth.

So Mayor Berry, take a good, long look at this chart. As author Aldous Huxley said:
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."


Now more of the political coverage you will get only here but you're used to that .

The problems of Governor Martinez's top political adviser Jay McCleskey--the man known as the state's "Shadow Governor"--went national when Martinez was asked about his legal woes by Fox News' Bret Baier.

We did not see the interview and as of late Wednesday it was not yet posted on the Fox site. However, our Alligators who tuned in said Baier asked her about the federal grand jury criminal investigation of McCleskey that apparently involves campaign finance and other issues. She replied that she is a former prosecutor and was sure that McCleskey was not in trouble.

The hint of a possible scandal surrounding her was a blow to the two term governor's national image. She was also asked about speculation that she could win a place on the 2016 presidential ticket. She told the newsman: "I have not considered becoming vice-president."

We will work on getting a complete transcript as we continue to cover the big political story.

The McCleskey story has apparently not disrupted plans for Martinez to take over the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association today in Las Vegas. That's where Fox interviewed her. Our Alligators report McCleskey is at the RGA meeting as is Danny Diaz, the campaign manager for Jeb Bush and a former top campaign aide to Martinez.

We half-joked on twitter that the RGA picking Martinez for the chairmanship is like picking up a ticking time bomb. You don't know when it's going to go off or if it's a dud.


This seems like a pretty big story. Why isn't the Governor being asked about it directly?:

The state is proposing to pay as much as $10.3 million for a campus of aged office buildings in Albuquerque that – according to public documents on file with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission – sold seven months ago for $1.5 million. The administration of Gov. Martinez also has proposed spending another $18 million to $20 million to renovate the vacant buildings for the Children, Youth and Families Department and other state agencies that work with the same clientele.

Any political connections with this deal? Anyone asking?


Our colleagues at the ABQ Free Press have put out an exceptionally strong edition this week, as you can see by the cover. It's now available at newsstands around the ABQ metro.


Do three ABQ area state Senate Democrats--Ivey-Soto, Ortiz y Pino and Padilla--who at a recent news conference criticized Mayor Berry's performance in fighting crime--deserve some credit in getting him to move off the dime and craft a compromise over overdue police raises? Probably.

Isn't it ironic that KOB-TV is running a promotional campaign that asks viewers to "Stand Strong for NM" as the state explodes in criminality and one of its lead anchors--Nicole Brady--announces she is leaving the station and moving to Colorado, even though she has no job there? Well, as one of the Gators put it: "Nicole will be standing strong for New Mexico within the much safer, much friendlier, much more economically vibrant borders of Colorado." Hasta la vista, Nicole.

Is the green chile at Horseman's Haven on Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe the hottest in the state? After a recent visit we're voting "yes.". . . And how about a seafood restaurant that has only ho-hum seafood but steaks and prime rib that are first rate? That would be Pelicans on Montgomery in ABQ where they are serving up sumptuous USDA choice beef. . .

This is  it. . .

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

'16 Legislative Candidates Begin Positioning; Here's What We Are Hearing, Plus: More Ghost Stories And Ranking NM Integrity  

We're under the one year mark until Election '16 and the candidates are starting to position themselves. Here's what we hear. . .

ABQ GOP State Senator John Ryan appears doubtful for a re-election run. If he retires, the plan is to have ABQ GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood seek the seat. Dems say they are aware that Ryan may forego a campaign for the ABQ North Valley and Sandoval County seat and they are recruiting. The district leans R but was held by a Dem before Ryan took it in 2004. . .

ABQ Dem State Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto was expected to draw a heavyweight Republican foe as the Guv's machine put him in their sights. We're hearing Jose Orozco,  in his late 20's and who ran and lost an ABQ House race in 2012 on the heavy Dem SW mesa, is the GOP choice. Whether he's a heavyweight will be debated as Ivey-Soto's friends think the length of time one has lived in the district will be an issue. Orozco has worked with the Republican National Committee in Hispanic voter engagement. We were unable to contact him Tuesday . . .

Did Las Cruces Dem State Rep. Jeff Steinborn jump the gun when he announced he would leave the House and run for the state Senate seat held by Republican Sen. Lee Cotter? That's the question making the rounds in Dona Ana County with the news that former two term County Commissioner Oscar Vasquez Butler will also seek the Dem nod in next June's primary. Steinborn has good name ID and reputation but you can say the same about Vasquez Butler who also gets an edge with Hispanic voters who elected Mary Jane Garcia to the seat for many years before she was ejected by Cotter.

Either Steinborn or Vasquez Butler will be a big headache for Cotter as increased Dem turnout in the presidential election year could return the seat to the Dems which they lost when ethics problems surrounding Senator Garcia exploded. She held the seat for nearly 25 years. Steinborn vs. Vasquez Butler. Put it on your races to watch card.


More now on the ghost firms--or "front companies" set up by Governor Martinez's top political adviser Jay McCleskey to handle some candidates and campaigns. From the Senior Alligator pit:

The debate over the legality of McCleskey's fake businesses misses the point. The fact is he went to extreme lengths to hide the true identity of his fake businesses and the flow of money from special interests. In doing so, it begs the question as to why McCleskey and Gov. Martinez don't want public scrutiny of their money machine. Are they trying to cover up illegal activity? Did NM Court of Appeals Judge Miles Hanse hire McCleskey and turn a blind eye to his shenanigans as a quid pro quo in return for the Governor appointing him -- not once, but twice -- to serve on the Court of Appeals?

Hanisee said he allowed McCleskey to use a front company for his 2014 campaign as a strategy to confuse his opponent. McCleskey is the subject of a federal grand jury criminal investigation.


Reader Mike Lamb writes:

How does our state rank for integrity? New Mexico comes in at 34th place. However, the Center for Public Integrity notes:

“What really stands out is that of all 50 states, New Mexico has the widest gulf between the laws that are on the books and the vigor with which they’re implemented: the so-called “enforcement gap.” The striking enforcement gap in the Land of Enchantment punctuates a broader conclusion: when it comes to ethics and campaign finance, it can be pretty easy for bad actors to get away with breaking the rules in New Mexico.”


KOAT-TV picked up on our blog report about how much more expensive it is to get a U-Haul out of ABQ than to rent one to come in here. That's because of the good old law of supply and demand. And it will stay that way until NM becomes competitive with the healthier job markets in surrounding states.

Mayor Berry gave his annual State of the City address Tuesday and in it everything was coming up roses. He did not mention the cost of a U-Haul to get out of town. He did repeat that he would not seek a third term in 2017. (Thank God for little favors) But he said he didn't know yet if he would run for Governor in 2018. (God Help us).

Just kiddin', Mayor, you can still buy us lunch sometime.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Fave Emerges For SOS Post, McCleskey's Legal Woes Hit Campaign Trail And More Thoughts On The Paris Massacre  

Amy Bailey
Republican Alligators say a favorite is emerging to win appointment as Secretary of State by Gov. Martinez. They say Amy Bailey, former ABQ City Clerk under ABQ GOP Mayor Berry and now the general counsel for the Secretary of State's office, has been lobbying hard for the job and that the Governor seems to be leaning her way.

The office has been vacant since last month's resignation of GOP Secretary of State Dianna Duran who was charged with campaign finance irregularities. She has entered a plea bargain and awaits sentencing.

If Bailey does get the appointment in the days ahead she will immediately have to hit the campaign trail if she is going to keep it. The position will be on the ballot next November. The winner will fill the unexpired portion of Duran's term which runs through 2018.

Bailey, a UNM School of Law grad, would be unlikely to draw a GOP primary challenger but Dem Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who lost to Duran  in 2014, is again the probable Dem nominee and has been running hard for months.

Another name floating for the appointment is that of former ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones but insider R's are not seeing it, pointing out that Arnold-Jones has been a long-standing rival of the Guv's political machine and that is weighing against her.


The legal woes of Gov. Martinez top political adviser Jay McCleskey have hit the campaign trail. Liz Thomson, seeking the Dem nod for the ABQ NE Heights state House seat held by Republican Rep. Conrad James, fired off this campaign missive:

While my Republican opponent raises big out-of-state money to give to the likes of Jay McCleskey to run negative ads against me, (if you've seen the news lately, you know the problem with that) I am proud to have the support of everyday New Mexicans like you. With your continued support, I know we can take back this seat and, along with it, the House.

Rep. James has been a client of McCleskey's. Will he and other GOP politicos up for re-election next year back off from their association with McCleskey because of the federal criminal investigation of him?


Meanwhile, the McCleskey R's pushed back against state Dems, saying the "ghost firms" or fictitious business names set up by McCleskey and reported on by the Santa Fe New Mexican, are completely legal. The Dem Party issued a news release following the report calling them illegal.

Veteran journalist Peter St. Cyr, recognized for his work on open government issues, says the fictitious business names are not illegal but the activity of those used by McCleskey raises important questions, including how they may block the ability of journalists and the public to follow the trail of campaign money, whether there is illegal coordination between PACS and campaigns and whether publicly financed campaigns are exceeding their spending limits.  

McCleskey operatives--led by former GOP state Senator Rod Adair--are impugning the  integrity of two of the three New Mexican reporters who worked on the story--Justin Horwath and Milan Simonich--their usual tactic in trying to corral the media into their way of seeing things. They are not attacking the third reporter--Steve Terrell--nor are they attacking the FBI or US attorneys office as the state awaits word on whether McCleskey and others will be indicted as a result of the confirmed federal grand jury investigation.

There are also no attacks by the McCleskey operatives on the ABQ Journal which has run only one report on the McCleskey investigation since it became public knowledge well over a week ago.

This McCleskey story appears to have tentacles all over the place. We won't say it's akin to Watergate, but it is potentially big. Back in '73 the Washington Post made a couple of major mistakes in tracking that complicated story, but it did not shake its conviction to follow the money. The paper turned out to be very right.


And we get this next one from our Alligators. While McCleskey has been receiving little vocal support as news of the grand jury probe of his political activity spreads far and wide, there was one voice recently raised in his defense. Lawyer/lobbyist Mickey Barnett, who has served as a personal lawyer for McCleskey, told a gathering of the conservative Rio Grande Foundation that McCleskey's legal woes will blow over in a matter of months and there's nothing to worry about.

Well, not that the Rio Grande Foundation attendees are worrying about McCleskey.

Barnett has been tied to McCleskey's hip for years and is a beneficiary of that political connection. It's no surprise to see him try to damp down the speculation over McCleskey. Hey, we haven't heard anything from that other Martinez Machine lawyer, Pat Rogers. If we do, you know this party is really going to get crazy.


Reader Peter Katel writes of our Monday blog in which we asked Senators Udall and Heinrich to reconsider their opposition to placing 50 special forces troops into Syria:

An argument in favor of Obama’s Special Forces deployment doesn’t need the unsupported analytical leap into calling the Paris massacre an “existential threat.” The attacks are not an abstract matter for me. One cousin lives within easy rifle range of one of the massacre sites. Another would have been near the soccer stadium but for a change of plans.

But horrific as it was, this terrorist strike did not threaten the foundations of European or Western civilization - any more than the Madrid train bombings and London transport bombings of 2004 and 2005, which between them killed slightly more people than died in Paris.

The ISIS terrorists like to think of themselves in grandiose terms. But there is no reason to share their delusion. My father served in the French Army during the 1940 German invasion of France. Now that was an existential threat.

Meantime, Gov. Martinez has joined many other GOP governors by doing this:

Gov. Martinez says she’s opposed to the Obama administration’s plan to accept any more Syrian refugees until there’s a clear plan in place to properly vet and place them.

Did Martinez have any choice in light of the Paris attacks? Are the Dems falling behind the curve here?

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Monday, November 16, 2015

The Horror In Paris: Time For Senators Udall And Heinrich To Shift Course, Plus: A Ghost Story Starring Jay McCleskey, And: Martinez's National Nonsense 

The monstrous evil that came to Paris has even the most isolationist among us rethinking the American role in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS).

The diabolical and damnable attacks on innocent civilians have now reached a scale that they threaten the everyday functioning of democracy. The dove of peace lies bloodied and dead, slaughtered by savages intent on returning the world to some kind of Dark Age.

The Paris massacre and the existential threat it presents to all we value must be answered with the full force of the United States. To that end, New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich should drop their opposition to President Obama's decision to place a handful of special forces troops in Syria.

Their argument that the introduction of troops presents the risk of a quagmire--even if correct--is no longer relevant in a world that faces far more ghastly consequences if we pursue a risk-averse strategy that handcuffs us in ridding the world of this barbarous menace.

It doesn't matter anymore that President George W. Bush paved the path for this catastrophe by so mistakenly involving America in Iraq and that it should be a lesson for nonintervention. With casualties mounting worldwide, with a hideous slaughter in a citadel of Western civilization and another in the skies of the Sinai--an  attack on all humanity as President Obama called it---we have no choice.

Senators Udall and Heinrich need to give a green light to engaging in any way possible this vilest of enemies and to end this scourge before it turns up on the streets of America.


Yet another leg of the federal grand jury investigation of Gov. Martinez's top political adviser Jay McCleskey is revealed as the Santa Fe New Mexican continues to lead on the state's big political story:

The use of the front companies raises questions about the sizable influence McCleskey had over huge piles of money in various campaigns and political action committees for which he worked, all with little or no scrutiny. The FBI is now investigating different fundraising vehicles used by McCleskey and the Martinez political campaign, though it is unknown whether M3 and CD are subjects of the probe.

State Dems pounced on the report:

After learning that Governor Martinez's own PAC helped create illegal shell companies to hide political dollars, it is no wonder there is an FBI investigation. Purposefully laundering campaign funds through fake corporations to fool the public is clearly a breach of trust and a serious ethical violation. Instead of trying to sweep this under the rug, Governor Martinez needs to explain why she helped create this illegal scheme to mislead New Mexican voters about her political machine," said Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland.

As the story develops, it's becoming clear that the federal probe of McCleskey is (or was) multi-faceted. Previous news reports confirm the FBI has looked at expenditures for Martinez's 2010 inaugural and allegations that her political opponents had their tax returns audited.


The notion that Gov. Martinez could be on the 2016 presidential ticket always had an alien ring to it, given that she has exhibited little interest in national politics or policy and has not sat for any substantive national interviews on the issues of the day (not to mention the in-depth vetting she has avoided).

Now with a potential scandal involving her political adviser McCleskey threatening to put her administration under water, the notion of Martinez advancing to the highest reaches of American politics seems more remote than Uranus.

That brings us to Senator Marco Rubio. When he threw Martinez's name out as possible vice presidential timber last Thursday was he unaware that the Governor's administration had just encountered a long shadow cast by its "shadow governor?" It's hard to believe he had not. By then the news was five days old.

If you like conspiracy theories maybe Rubio's name drop can be seen as a passive aggressive move. Rubio mentions Martinez which immediately draws attention to the latest news about her--which is the FBI investigation of McCleskey and that instantly undermines her nationally as she prepares to take the helm of the Republican Governors Association later this week.

Play along with us. Maybe Rubio and his allies aren't keen on the idea of Martinez becoming the RGA head and prefer someone like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? Maybe the Rubio camp needs to keep its place in line as the leading Hispanic VP candidate in case of his bid for the top slot falls short? Seeing Martinez's bad news spread  doesn't hurt.

After Rubio's rumination the national Dems instantly moved to downgrade Martinez by issuing a release mocking the mention of her as a VP choice, pointing out the federal grand jury cloud hovering over McCleskey and her administration.

Conspiracies aside, it is fascinating watching the RGA taking on Martinez as chairman this week. They look like they are picking up a ticking time bomb.


Hot and heavy debate already over a proposed constitutional amendment that would reform the state's bail laws in reaction to the wave of violent crime. Reader Alan Wagman has rebuttal on another reader missive we carried Friday:

Joe, The reader comment in your Friday blog about the proposed bail amendment claims that the last sentence of the amendment states that "If [people accused but not convicted of crimes] are poor or indigent, turn them loose on their own recognizance." This is a demonstrable misstatement of the proposed amendment. The actual last sentence of the proposed amendment says, "No person eligible for pretrial release pursuant to this section shall be detained solely because of financial inability to post a property or money bond."

It does not say that people are to be turned loose because they are poor. It says that people are not to kept locked up solely because they are poor. Without this last sentence, a rich person charged with repeatedly and brutally torturing and beating a household member can be released upon posting a million dollar bond, while a poor person who gives a a single prescription painkiller to a friend with a toothache can be held in jail for inability to post even a minimal bond. That, in fact, is what happens now and is what the amendment is designed to address.

If the bail amendment is approved by the Legislature next year it would be sent to the voters for an up or down vote.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Week Ends in Frenzy Of Speculation Over McCleskey Charges, Plus: Guv Scores A Hit At The End Of Her Lousy Week, And: More Bail Talk 

McCleskey & Martinez
The political week ends the way it started--in a frenzy of speculation over whether Gov. Martinez's top political adviser Jay McCleskey will face indictment over campaign finance violations and/or other charges or whether the revelation that a Federal grand jury is looking into possible abuses will simply fade away.

When former Gov. Richardson was subjected to a federal probe on possible corruption charges, the story dragged on for months. Finally, the US attorney at the time issued an unusual and controversial statement that in essence said Richardson would not be indicted but he deserved to be.

The Feds are not obligated to issue such a statement if a person has been investigated but is not going to be indicted, but the R's could use the Richardson example in pushing for some kind of confirmation that McCleskey is in the clear--if indeed he is. Otherwise, the unanswered question could have a significant impact on GOP fund-raising efforts as well as the election in general.

As for the investigation's status today, a number of sources know at least a piece of this puzzle but the entire narrative remains a mystery. And that's a recipe for even more frenzied speculation in the days ahead.


 Nakamura (Bralley)
It was a lousy week for Gov. Martinez, but she scored a hit at the end of it with her appointment of ABQ District Court Judge Judy Nakumara to the NM Supreme Court. The 55 year old longtime area judge was pinpointed on the blog last month as the favorite to succeed retiring Judge Bosson.

Nakumara is a Republican but she has impressed both sides of the aisle with her service on both metro and district courts. Tough but fair is the moniker most applied to her. She comes out of the political school of former Senator Pete Domenici, a moderate R when there was such a species. It is hoped that Nakamuara will bring that sensibility to the high court.

None of this means she will have a safe seat on the five member court. She will have to seek election next year if she is to fill out the rest of Bosson's term which expires in 2020. It is a rare feat for an R to get elected as a Supreme. All five justices are currently Dems. But with her appeal in big Bernalillo County Nakumara is a strong candidate for the GOP, forcing the Dems to come up with a solid candidate of their own. This could be a race to watch next year.


It turns out that Dem Idalia Lechuga-Tena, appointed this week by the Bernalillo County Commission to the ABQ SE Heights state House seat vacated by Stephanie Maez, actually voted illegally in two elections, not one, and she did so not as a teenager--as we first blogged--but as a young adult. The news:

Lechuga-Tena. . . admits that she voted illegally in two elections before she became a U.S. citizen in 2007, something she called a mistake of youthful innocence.
State voter registration records show that Lechuga-Tena voted in the Albuquerque municipal election in 2003 at age 20 and in the state primary election in 2004.
“I take full responsibility for the mistake I made,” she said. “This is why I will be working on voter education as one of my priorities.”


Lots of debate over that proposed constitutional amendment that would allow state judges to deny bail to a defendant and that will be battled over in the '16 session of the Legislature. Here's another reader viewpoint:

There are two parts to the amendment. The first part is getting all the hype and press. It calls for keeping bad criminals in jail without bail. Most agree that this is a good idea. The second part of the amendment is getting no attention and it runs counter to the first part. The second part states that a person’s financial inability to make bail shouldn’t keep them in jail. It almost seems like log rolling--two different ideas in the same proposed constitutional amendment. The first part says “keep them locked up” and the second part says “if they are poor or indigent, turn them loose on their own recognizance.” Say what?

So a guy can be a violent offender with a long record but not so bad that he could be locked up without bail as delineated in the first part of the amendment. He can then claim to be indigent under the second part of the amendment and be released. It makes no sense. Plus, who is going to go round up these criminals who simply disappear after being released on their own recognizance? This will be a huge unfunded mandate to local governments and their police forces plus it will run counter to the first part of the amendment by allowing violent criminals to roam the streets.

The proposed bail amendment to keep violent criminals locked up is fine but the last sentence needs to go.

If the Legislature approves the amendment, it would go on the November 2016 ballot.

That's it for this week. Thanks for stopping by.

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