Friday, September 02, 2005

Shocking Images Of Death, Terror And Anarchy In Our Beloved America; Politicians Disgraced By New Orleans Disaster; Tragedy Shakes Faith; A Blog Extra 

Politics can be fun and entertaining. And it can also be deadly serious. The horrific images flashed across the world from New Orleans have politicians everywhere on the defensive. How could the emergency response system fail so miserably? How could officials be so disconnected with reality? Video showed scenes of human tragedy so revealing that one either turned their head away or burst into tears. Yet in Washington and elsewhere officials struggled to paint a different reality. Has "spin" become the end game, even trumping human life?

Impressions of a government gone haywire are indelibly etched in the collective consciousness: A befuddled and seemingly detached President, a Homeland Security Director reciting a litany of help "on its way" while TV scenes showed a city descending into hell; military leaders so wrapped up in bureaucracy they could not establish command and control. And the impotence of the world's greatest democracy succinctly captured on price boards showing gasoline rocketing past three dollars a gallon.

Yes, we have lived through times like this before. President Carter lost control of events in the late 70's. President Johnson was swallowed whole by the Vietnam War. Now, yet another president is mired in an impossible war, confronted with energy prices that threaten the stability of the economy and political system and a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions that demands a level of leadership that we have yet to see emerge from either Democrats or Republicans and that will make 9/11 look like child's play.


This wonderful, grand experiment known as America is bigger than any of its present day guardians. As long as people yearn for freedom it will be here in one form or another. But our political system is once again clogged, infected if you will, and in need of flushing. The symptoms, as listed above, are the no-way-out Iraq war, a new energy crisis and the mismanagement of the catastrophe in the Southland.

This is not a plea "to throw the bums out"--although that may be the reasonable response of the voters if present trends continue--it is a plea, a hope perhaps, that these challenges motivate a new generation of leadership to come forward. It is they who will need to flush out our stagnant and bloated political system so sadly on display in this somber summer of 2005.


Here is a link to the American Red Cross to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Give Me Land, Lots Of Land! Former Land Boss Eyes 06' Run; Is He A "Lyons Tamer?" Plus: More Great Wage Debate Ahead Of Labor Day 

Ray Powell
There's bad news looming for GOP State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons and possible Dem land commission hopeful and ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich. Friends of former Land Commissioner Ray Powell tell "NM Politics with Joe Monahan" that Powell is seriously eying another run for his old office and is a likely go.

"Ray recently resigned his position as executive director of the Valles Caldera Trust. It was a prelude to him launching his campaign," said one top level Dem in touch with the Powell camp.

Powell is no stranger to the campaign trail having won the office twice and serving ten years. He was appointed to the job when Jim Baca won an appointment to the Clinton administration. He then easily won the office on his own in 94' and 98'. The son of old time Democratic powerbroker and Dem party chair Ray Powell, Sr., the younger Powell earned generally high marks during his long tenure, keeping things a bit to the left of center, but not alienating (at least not constantly) ranchers and the energy industry who have key stakes in Land Commission operations.

But big oil is in bliss with Commissioner Lyons, who became only the second R to take the office in 20 years when in 02' he bested Dem Art Trujillo who was mired in controversy. Recent fundraisers featuring big oil have helped push Lyons' fundraising totals into the hundreds of thousands. It will be money he'll need if Powell gets in the race. Party registration makes the Dem candidate the odds-on favorite to take this down ballot race.

ABQ Dem SE Heights Councilor Heinrich, rich with liberal environmental credentials, has been planning a run, but a primary challenge with Powell would be formidable and observers say if Powell gets in Martin could quickly reassess.

Commissioner Lyons
Powell wasn't too happy in his latest job which he resigned this summer. He cited the ability of the Valles board to set policy. As executive director he missed having more to say about one of the world's most splendid pieces of land which Congress set aside for protection. (More on the management controversy here). The land commissioner administers over 13 million acres of public land and, as Powell well knows, gets a major hand in policy. His election would also be welcome by Big Bill, who has found former State Senator Lyons a tough foe who has battled the Guv over oil and gas drilling on southern NM's Otero Mesa and is credited by top R's with being one of the few state officials not intimidated by the Guv.

Like his father before him, Powell made an ill-fated run for governor. He withdrew in the face of Big Bill's overwhelming lead in 2002. Friends say the experience left him somewhat bitter, even though most politicos had given him little chance of success.

But that's not the case this time. The ABQ North Valley resident can readily argue that he has appeal to Dems across the state, just the ticket for the nomination and quite possibly, the ouster of the well-respected and hard charging Patrick Lyons.


Speaking of Martin Heinrich, he's back blogging in response to restaurant owner Jerry Wright's plea here yesterday for ABQ voters to reject an increase in the city's minimum wage to $7.50 an hour which they will decide October 4. Wright was especially bothered by a provision of the measure that would allow access to businesses to "educate" workers about the wage law. Henrich's retort:

"The education provision only applies to non-work areas where the public already has access; places like sidewalks and parking lots. The only employers who have anything to fear from this are the ones that will try to skirt the law. 99.9% of local employers are honest and ethical. Those businesses won't even know that provision is there. As for employers paying their servers $2.13 an hour, its simply long overdue that that was raised." Argues Heinrich.


We can look for a bunch of candidate announcements for 06' and a stepping up of the race for ABQ mayor when we return next week. Let's make it Tuesday so we can all have a nice holiday weekend. See you then!

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Winter Tries To Warm Up Mayoral Trail, Plus: The Great Wage Debate, And: Campaign 06': The Big Bore? Come Blog With Me! 

Brad Winter
The slaying of two ABQ police officers put campaign 05' on ice as the city mourned and the politicos went low-key. It reminded me of September 01' when 9/11 brought that mayoral campaign to a halt. But the action is resuming now and R city council prez Brad Winter is trying to gain some badly needed traction. Tuesday he attacked on an issue near to Dem Mayor Marty's heart--crime and cops. Winter didn't shy away from questioning Marty's assertion that there are now a thousand cops, and he took heat for it from police chief Schultz who said he was politicking too soon after the tragic deaths. A Winter supporter fired back. "The chief is living in another world if he thinks crime is not going to be a centerpiece issue. The shootings only add to the public interest, and they should." He asserted. Meantime, pollster Brian Sanderoff and I weighed in on Winter's tactics and strategy in a piece in the ABQ Tribune. We agreed Winter's move is timely if he's to consolidate conservative, tough on crime voters behind his candidacy.

It's probably the first of many attacks coming the way of Mayor Marty who, according to the first poll of the race, sits right on the bubble at 40%. One point down and we get a run-off between the top two vote getters. But Winter will need more than free media. Sources close to the campaign say he has now raised over $100,000, but that is just a fraction of the $1 million plus Marty is expected to bank. Maybe what's next is this: "Hello, Senator Pete? Brad Winter here and I need a little help...."


Raising the minimum wage in the Big Duke City to $7.50 an hour may be a hotter campaign than the one for mayor. Anti groups have raised close to a hundred grand and labor unions will kick in some serious dough on the pro side. Weighing in on the blog is Jerry Wright, co-owner of Great American Land & Cattle Co. in ABQ's NE Heights. Hey, did they make my list of great hangouts for politicos? Should have. They serve nothing but USDA Prime beef. Anyway, here's restaurant Jerry's take.

"Joe, every person in my establishment makes well above the minimum wage, and after a few months of training, every one is making over the proposed increase. But in addition to the unionizing in my front lobby, (which because of a poorly worded clause would allow ANY person to expound on ANY law), it specifically targets restaurants by requiring a 93% wage increase for our best paid employees--our servers. At my place on a slow night they make $20/hour plus, including tips. If I pay my servers so poorly, how come my applications are 10 to 1 for servers? Waiting tables is one of the best part-time jobs anywhere. It's how I got my NMSU journalism degree (which took me merely 8 years to get!)

Thanks Jerry. I will sic ABQ Councilor Martin Heinrich on you for a rebuttal so stay tuned.


The following from a well-known practiconer of the political arts in our Enchanted Land. Unfortunately, he will not let me use his name, but he echoes the thoughts of many of us tracking the upcoming 2006 campaign, or lack thereof.

"Damn, Joe what a boring election we're heading into. The Great One (Big Bill) is an obvious shoo-in. By November 06' all that will be left for us to do will be to haggle over whether his percentage is large enough to qualify for a "landslide." Same with Bingaman. Unless he announces his membership in NAMBLA, he's good for another 6 years.

Udall and Pearce are safer than safe, and now you're reporting that Patsy doesn’t want to be a patsy for Heather. I bet she doesn't run against Denish. I agree though, that WOULD be great fun for us.

I guess there's always the possibility the AG's race could heat up. And of course the (State Rep.) Debbie Rodella/Moises Morales match up north. I wish Kinky Friedman lived here. Oh well, carry on."


We will indeed carry on, but not without saying we apologize for the technical problems that some viewers of our little ol' Web site have been having, especially that weird blank space between the headlines and the main story. Our computer nerd force (ex-New Mexican Wayne Klick) is on it and we hope to have the works completely ungummed soon, or at least one of these days. Thanks for your patience. And, as always, thanks for your company.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Possible Foe For Heather As National D's Cry Over Her Free Ride, Plus: Ben Alexander Lives! And: My Bottom Lines For A Bloggin' Tuesday 

After last week's big news broke here that Dem AG Madrid was not a likely challenger to ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, we sat back and waited for someone, anyone, to emerge to take her on. Well, we have a possible taker in one Chris Berkheimer, Big Bill's former chief deputy of homeland security, an Iraq war veteran from the first Gulf War and unsuccessful challenger in 04' to ABQ R State Senator Diane Snyder. He has an eye on the race, say those who should know, and has put out feelers to national Dems who are in a pickle now that Patsy appears to be out. Berkheimer would face the usual money chase challenge in taking on an incumbent, but politics is timing and with the war out of control as well as gas prices, the race may be looking more attractive even to relative unknowns who may see an opportunity to tie Heather into the unpopular policies.

Meanwhile, our report that Heather could get the first free ride of her career got the juices flowing among Dems around the country who can't stand the thought. Some inisive commentary on the matter at the Talking Points Memo Cafe


We argued with our Alligator friend about it, but in the end accepted his verdict that former NM Dem party chair and notable Hobbs oilman Ben Alexander had passed away. We reported as much recently when writing about SE NM politics. That Gator is now on his way to the woodshed, or a dirty swamp because Ben, according to friends, is now 85 and very much alive and well and living in Lubbock, Texas. We are glad he is and we extend our apologies to him and his family. By the way, Ben was Dem chair back in the 70's.


Larry Morgan is another New Mexico political old timer who in alive and well and following the Cannon Air Force Base situation. As a former aide to the late Dem U.S. Congressman Harold Runnels (yes, he is really dead) Larry hs keen insights. Here's his reaction to our report Monday on tension between Big Bill and the state's congressional delegation over Cannon's fate: "When Governor Richardson served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 3rd District he frequently played lone wolf and his relationship with other members of the NM Delegation was distant. So tension between Richardson and the members is nothing new."

Finally, Tim McGivern, editor of ABQ's alternative newspaper, Weekly Alibi, weighs in with his thoughts on the October 4 mayoral election which we blogged heavily here last Monday: "(Councilor Brad) Winter and (CouncIlor Eric) Griego should both be hitting the West Side with their message. That's where the race will be won, I think. Brad and Eric need to cut into Marty's tenuous support out there. It should be easier for Brad to make a dent in the West Side because he is well-regarded as a conciliator and people are sick of the squabbles that haven't delivered the planning they want. But his campaign needs to pump some wind into its sails." Thanks Tim. Whether Marty's West Side support is "tenuous" is the question. He has long ties to the area having represented it as a state senator back in the 90's.

Your emails filled with comments, criticism, news, and eternal wisdom are welcomed. Back here on Wednesday when I hope to finally update the debate over the ABQ minimum wage.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

NM Delegation Scored For Being MIA As Cannon Is Crushed, Also: Tension Between Guv And D.C. Reps During Disaster; Our Exclusive Report Is Up Next 

Sens. Domenici & Bingaman
The glaring absence of the entire NM Congressional delegation, contrasted with the big presence of Big Bill at the D.C. area hearings over the fate of Cannon Air Force Base, has set off four alarm fire bells in La Politica. Alligators are pondering the implications and scraping for news on what exactly happened as disaster befell Cannon and the community of Clovis.

We now take you deep on the inside, to the rushing waters of the Potomac River where the long knives are never allowed to rust. "Joe, there was tension between the governor and the delegation. The governor was flying solo on this, expressing confidence that he could cut a deal and taking a high-profile. The congressional delegation worked it hard too but, for the most part, withdrew from the public spotlight. If nothing else, there was a clash in styles that caused grumbling," reported our Potomac watcher.

Also causing grumbling in political circles was the failure of even one member of the NM D.C. delegation to join Big Bill at the crucial hearings Thursday and Friday where Clovis and Cannon were sent on their long death march. Insiders say Big Bill sent not so subtle messages while back East that he expected some of the congressional reps there and was disappointed. On the other hand, the D.C. insiders faulted the Guv for making a publicity show out of his appearance.

"He thought he had it won and had scheduled a big party for Clovis. It never happened and the presence of the delegation at the hearing would not have made a bit of difference. The die was cast," argued a delegation sympathizer.


Rep. Udall
But other political observers disagreed, saying while the decision to gradually phase out Cannon may have been set prior to he hearing, (although surprise amendments did surface) there were thousands of New Mexican households glued to their TV's for the hearings who had no clue what was going to happen and were either bemused or disappointed that their Washington reps were nowhere in sight.

Dem U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, who represents Clovis, made the media rounds via phone after the decision, but did not attend the hearing. It was left to Big Bill for on-scene reaction which, as usual, he gladly supplied.

"Look at the delegation from South Dakota. They were all there when it was decided that Ellsworth air base would stay open. We should have had at least one of our senators there. It was one of the biggest profile news events we've had with the federal government in decades. From a New Mexican viewpoint the place looked naked, if not for the governor," blasted another back East politico used to the battles.

Still, despite the insider bickering, few expect the 2006 campaign to erupt into a "Who Lost Cannon" controversy, but there could be longer term implications. "I think this disaster is a wash for those currently in office. The senators (Domenici and Bingaman) have a shot to redefine the mission of the base and maybe save it. The heat is off of them for the immediate future. But I don't think the Republicans can count on the kind of support they are used to in Clovis when the national elections roll around in 2008," analyzed a campaign expert.


If nothing else, the high profile Cannon hearings again demonstrated that Big Bill is the public face of all things political in New Mexico. Whether he accomplished anything substantive at the hearing is open to debate, but his deft reading of the public had him where he needed to be. The delegation can justifably resent his style and showboating, but on this one their political antenna looked mighty rusty compared to those worn by Big Bill whose love of the game takes no August recess.

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