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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mayor Marty's Street Of Dreams Runs Into Reality; A Political Price? Plus: Patsy's Adieu, And: County Clerk Search Turns The Alligators Into Turkeys 

Mayor Chavez
It may appeal to a segment of Democratic voters in a far in the future primary for governor, but today ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez's big-spending streetcar plan is starting to inflict some political damage that his rivals are relishing.

Chavez, with a mostly compliant city council, resisted allowing a public vote on renewing a quarter center transportation tax that he plans on using to help finance the $270 million streetcar project. ($150 million from the city; the rest from the state.) Voters approved the tax with a sunset provision in 99'. Late Tuesday council streetcar supporters caved and agreed to a February 6 election on renewing the tax and devoting some of the funds generated to the streetcar.

It is the sheer size of the streetcar budget and its limited service area--from Washington and Central to across the Rio Grande to Atrisco Plaza with eventually a spur to the airport--that has roused the fiscal conservatives and has Chavez scampering and fighting charges that the streetcar is "legacy building" and will do little to improve transit.

Over the weekend, conservatives gathered to protest the plan. In an ironic twist, Greg Payne, current ABQ transit director, showed up to hear the crowd comments. It was Payne who fought the original transit tax and it was Payne, elected to the legislature as a conservative ABQ NE Heights Republican, who was one of handful of lawmakers who opposed Big Bill's big state budgets. But in politics it is never a good idea to bite the hand that feeds you, so Payne is first in line yelling "All Aboard" to his fellow R's.

Big Bill's Rail Runner drew similar protests from the conservative crowd, but he was able to overcome objections and ram it through the Legislature. Maybe the Mayor sees that as a template for streetcar success. He needed to get seven of the nine city councilors to approve of his revenue bond plan to finance the streetcars, but Councilor Don Harris, a self-described conservative and a Republican, joined with potential 09' mayor candidates Michael Cadigan and Brad Winter to oppose the plan and force the February election.

Will the mayor campaign vigorously for the streetcar tax, or back off if community opposition continues to build? Either way he is going to make some enemies as the choices are unpleasant when you overreach.

As weird as it sounds, all this is a prelude to the 2010 battle for the Dem nomination for governor in which Chavez will need the support--or at least not the intense opposition--of the liberal wing of his party which contains a number of public transportation advocates.

PATSY'S ADIEU
Madrid by Bralley
As we first reported, Patricia Madrid decided to go gently into the night rather than kicking and screaming over her narrow (under 900 votes) defeat for the ABQ Congressional seat held by the GOP's Heather Wilson. Here's a final photo of the exciting race snapped at Madrid's Tuesday news conference by our campaign photographer Mark Bralley and where Patsy conceded and nixed the idea of going for a recount. Attorney General Madrid will fade away, but not disappear. She also confirmed our speculation that a run for Guv or a senate seat, should one open up, would attract her attention.

THE CRAZY CLERK CHASE

We sent the readers and the Alligators this week on what turned out to be, appropriately enough for Thanksgiving, a wild goose chase. We write of who will replace outgoing Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera who will give up the job in January after being elected secretary of state. And just as counting the votes has been confusing in big Bernalillo for the last twenty years, so is the Herrera replacement game.

What I thought would be a simple task--eliciting readers' help to find out who will be the new clerk--turned in to a blogging fiasco with mistakes, wrong names and ultimately no clear read on who will get the job.

The names in play continued to grow with Deputy County Clerk Dianne Montoya-Brown and Mercedes Mieja, an administrator with the clerk, making the latest list. Earlier names included Agnes Maldonado, sister to ABQ Dem State Senator Bernadette Sanchez and Terri Holland, executive director of the Bernalillo County Democratic Party. Also, Maggie Toulouse of the Dems "progressive" wing is another possible. It will take three votes from the five member Democratic controlled county commission to earn the right to fill out the remaining two years of Herrera's term. Why there is no apparent frontrunner after all the months that we knew Mary was going north is a mystery, or a comment on the political disarray among local Democrats.

GATORS TURN TURKEY

The Gators, usually spot-on, are chasing their tails on this one, arguing about who the Governor supports, who Herrera supports and who commission chairman Alan Armijo supports. The whole thing is as crazy as the fouled up vote counting in Bernalillo county. If the politicos put as much energy into figuring out how to improve the election system, instead of endless "movidas" on who gets a job, we might someday get the votes counted in a timely fashion. This year wasn't too bad and the tight congressionakl race is really what slowed things down. But many observers think we are long past due for designating some type of professional elections administrator in the clerk's office, but to paraphrase former NM Governor Dave Cargo--don't count on it. New Mexico loves politics, but not governing.

And on that note, it is definitely time for a Thanksgiving break. Enjoy your holiday. Let's get together again next week.

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