Tuesday, July 19, 2005

He's Back And Blogging: Jim Baca; New Mexico Politics Personified, Plus: ABQ Minimum Wage Appears Headed To Voters 

Jim Baca
As his 60th year rapidly nears the fire still burns for one of New Mexico's premier players of our beloved game of La Politica. And the personality that is conservatively described as prickly is still there too. The mere mention of his name still brings a torrent of opinion. No one is undecided on Jim Baca. And he wouldn't have it any other way. The former ABQ mayor, state land commissioner, state liquor director, mayoral and gubernatorial press secretary, TV news anchor, Clinton appointee and Big Bill appointee as natural resources trustee, has seen it all, done it all and he told me over tall, chilled glasses of ice tea in ABQ's North Valley recently, he may soon be ready to tell all.

Prepare yourself. Baca is blogging. And while it's pretty soft stuff now, the feisty ABQ native says he will start opining about the ABQ mayor's race and, if and when he retires he will delve deeper into the current and past scene. For now, he is content rejoining the world where it all started for him; the news game, albeit, in the nontraditional format of blogging.

Some quick takes over the tea: Mayor Marty and Brad Winter are likely headed to a run-off in the ABQ mayor's race, city leaders aren't thinking "big enough" and the biggest problem in ABQ is the failure to move toward metro government, or at least cooperation between Rio Rancho and ABQ.

Rio Rancho is on its way to building a complete downtown and business center, unlike the suburbs that surround Denver and other big cities, but Baca thinks ABQ will survive just fine as NM's economic and cultural center. Still, he hears the footsteps of the massive growth he has battled all these years. He senses that powerful forces that will transform this region when his children have children will probabaly not be held back.

Some of my bumpy history with Baca is on his blog, a history shared by many who have hired, fired and rehired him. That includes the citizens of New Mexico. Baca wracked up killer totals when he ran for land commissioner in 82', but when he sought re-election to the ABQ mayor's job in 2001 he could not even manage third. It's been that kind of life and career for the colorful Baca. No one will ever accuse him of refusing to lay it on the line, of being boring or of not caring.


If that measure proposing to hike the minimum wage in ABQ to $7.50 an hour makes it on the ballot it will resonate statewide. And it looks as though it is well on its way. On Friday, the day for gathering the over 13,000 valid signatures for the city clerk, we checked in with wage-backer and City Councilor Martin Heinrich.

"Joe, nearly 34,000 signatures were turned in. So far about 7,000 have been counted and they are still running just under 60% valid. With those kinds of numbers this should get on the ballot with plenty of room to spare. Even if the validity rate were to drop significantly, there would still be enough signatures," the ABQ SE Heights lawmaker wrote in a blog contribution.

The NM Restaurant Association is rallying the biz community to try to strike down the signatures and keep the measure off the ballot. But with numbers like these, they would be better advised to save their money for the campaign that appears to lie ahead.

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