Friday, February 09, 2007

Ethics? Schmethics! Chances Of Reform Seen Fading, Plus: Race And Your Radio: Controversial Hosts Coming Back To ABQ 

Ethics schmethics! Chances of significant campaign and ethics reform are rapidly dwindling, with veteran Roundhouse observers saying they expect some showboating as the legislative session nears its climax, but do not see any of the major reform measures making it to the Governor's desk.

"The scandals involving the former Treasurers means these bills will get a higher profile--some may even pass both houses--but I don't see the will to pass them up to the Governor," informs one veteran wall-leaner.

The ABQ Journal hit with a foot-long hot dog of an editorial Thursday that neatly summed up the issue, but newspapers and Common Cause need more foot soldiers to put more heat on the lawmakers. It is not that New Mexicans don't care, (as ex-GOP Chair John Dendahl blasted as he prepared to move out of the state) it's that they are numbed by the scandals that have plagued politics and business at all levels.

Big money has subsumed our politics, now even drowning out the will of a majority of the people in the Legislature. That resembles plutocracy, not democracy. Maybe our Legislators can surprise us for a change. Or, maybe the Governor can have one lobbyist devoted solely to ethics reform and exercise some of his renowned negotiating skills through him. Now that would be a welcome surprise.


An FM radio station in ABQ has switched formats. Nothing unusual about that; happens all the time. But the announcement that "The Buzzard" 96.3 FM on the dial would switch to a talk format--"The Buzz"--featuring the Don and Mike radio show, had eyebrows raised. You see Don and Mike were kicked off of ABQ's Citadel owned KHTL 920 AM radio back in 1999 when they went off on a racist rant against Hispanics that drew fire from the public and then Federal Communications Commissioner Gloria Tristani.

Don and Mike were even the targets of street protests in ABQ when they mocked the town of El Cenizo, Texas for adopting Spanish as its official language. The hosts called City Hall in El Cenizo and told the woman who answered the phone that "people who won't or can't speak English should 'get on their burros and go back to Mexico.' They also made lewd comments to the woman in English and Spanish."

Citadel is now letting the controversial pair again grace the Duke City airwaves. Listeners can only hope it is a much-improved second act. New Mexico has its share of "hate" bloggers, surely she doesn't need hate radio added to the mix.


Hey fellas, how about this for a Valentine for your favorite political lady? The NM Commission on the Status of Women is now accepting nominations for the 22nd Annual Governor's Awards for Outstanding New Mexico Women. This is probably the perfect gift, as the recipient will be overjoyed and the guy doesn't have to spend anything, just time singing his lady's praises on some forms. Start clicking guys.

Send your news and comments via the email link at the top of the page, and thanks for dropping in today.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Imus & Big Bill Make The Peace, Plus: Justice Confirms Reason For Ouster Of U.S. Attorney Iglesias, And: Ex-Journal Reporter To Spin For NM GOP 

After a scorching diatribe faulting Governor Richardson for not doing enough to get a community center built near his Ribera, NM ranch, national radio and TV shock jock Don Imus is turning down the temperature. He indicated to his audience Wednesday that the Governor and his staff are moving the project along and that peace is at hand.

"The Governor has been closely involved in the issue and it is getting done," said one Alligator. Getting it done apparently means getting over $600,000 in state money to fix up the center in question.

Imus made a brief reference to his spat with Big Bill saying although it took them a while, the Guv and his staff are resolving the center matter. That's much better than his previous comments that the Guv was a "fat bastard" and his staff was a bunch of incompetents. That flame throwing came when Imus was asked for an apology by a Big Bill staffer who said his boss was upset with comments previously made on the broadcast. Should we look for a a Bill love-in on Imus soon? Probably.


A senior Justice Department official this week confirmed our December report that NM U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was given the axe over "performance related issues." The comment came during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The administration dismisses speculation that White house political honcho Karl Rove has been behind the firings of other U.S. attorneys.

Still hanging in the air is who will replace Iglesias and whether it will be an "interim" appointment which would avoid the Senate's role in confirming U.S. attorney appointments. Senior NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici will make the call on who fills Iglesias's seat. TheWashington Post covers it in-depth.


NM Republicans might expect more polish and less bluster in their official pronouncements now that former ABQ Journal reporter Charlotte Balcomb Lane has been named the new communications director. She describes herself as a "newbie" to the political game which means she has not been indoctrinated in the often brutal language that has infected the public dialogue.

That issue came up Tuesday in the letters to the editor section of the ABQ Journal just as Balcomb Lane was finding her way around GOP headquarters. Former PNM chief executive and longtime Republican Jerry Geist objected to party chair Allen Weh's description of Big Bill's Prez run as that of a carnival huckster. Geist termed that "character assassination and ridicule" and called on the the party to refrain from "personal attacks" and stick to the issues. Balcomb Lane, who covered the state's society and business scenes for the newspaper, has the opportunity to change the sometimes shrill tone that R's like Geist believe has hampered the credibility of the minority party.

One of those watching her progress will be her father, Ed Balcomb. He is a lifelong Republican who sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 1970, but was defeated by Pete Domenici who went on to lose to Democrat Bruce King. Balcomb also served on the Bernalillo county commission. "He's tickled," said Charlotte of her father's reaction to her new posting, but, she added: "I have a sister who is an Al Gore liberal...that should make Thanksgiving Dinner interesting."


As for who will fill the critical job of executive director of the state GOP, Chairman Allen Weh informs that the search is well underway, but will take more time because he is looking out of state. Weh may be taking to heart criticism that the party must move on and leave the factional infighting behind if it is to grow and attract fresh talent. That means new faces, including new consultants and strategists. An out of stater with no stake or history in the internecine warfare could start rebuilding the GOP. On the other hand, if the new ED has been tied up in the past infighting look for "mainstream" Republicans like Geist to push back.


You get all kinds of outlandish e-mail when you blog. Here's something from KRQE-TV executive producer Gerges Scott that will give you some laugh lines. Turn up the speakers and enjoy...

Send your news tips, news releases and comments via the email link at the top of the page, and come back tomorrow for our Friday blog featuring some media news and other fun stuff.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Los Alamos & Sandia Hit In Prez's Budget, But Do We Care As Much? Let's Take A Look, Plus: School Board Winners, And: My Bottom Lines 

"Save Los Alamos" just isn't the political rallying cry it used to be. Years of stories over security problems combined with an aloof culture that critics, including the current energy secretary, label "arrogant" has taken its toll on the storied nuclear weapons facility located "on the Hill." Sure, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) raised the flag when the President proposed a slight cut in the labs '08 budget, but with several congressmen actually calling for Los Alamos to be shut down, Energy Committee Chairman Jeff and the rest of our congressional delegation will likely be forced to swallow hard and accept at least some cuts.

The past savior of the labs, GOP Senator Pete Domenici, is now in the minority and under fire by colleagues for being too soft on Los Alamos and its sundry problems. The aforementioned culture of the labs is also not drumming up any sympathy. Public support for the facility could also be waning in light of the news that Los Alamos county has the highest concentration of millionaires in the nation. Folks have other things to worry about than a few scientists having to relocate to Harvard Yard.

Governor Richardson, a former Energy Secretary, didn't even bother to mention the proposed lab cuts in his initial analysis of the Bush budget, choosing to focus instead on a proposed four percent cut to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Granted, it's an issue that will play well for Bill on the Dem Prez trail, but it also, albeit unintentionally, seemed to capture a paradigm shift in which the axiom "what Los Alamos wants, Los Alamos gets" is being slowly but surely retired. Northern NM U.S. Rep Tom Udall dubbed the proposed cuts "unfortunate," signaling dismay, but short of the outrage that would be needed to fully reverse the cuts.


The other half of the New Mexico defense establishment, Sandia Labs in ABQ, would take a hit of $120 million to its $1.4 billion budget. Still, the energy department proposes to spend over $4 billion here in fiscal '08. That, along with other federal largesse, keeps us at the top of the list of states receiving the most federal funding per resident.

There's no denying that the feds are the key to the economy here, but the private economy has become much larger than 20 years ago, distancing a larger percentage of the population from the impact of the labs. (It was noticeable during the congressional campaign when Dem Patricia Madrid failed to work up a lather over Sandia and Kirtland Air Force Base in responding to a query by GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson and did not appear to pay any price for it.)

Sandia, with a long record of community involvement and no recent major scandals in its management, has a stronger standing with the public than Los Alamos, but it too can no longer expect to automatically escape the budget axe.

Our congressional delegation will still be expected to do heavy lifting for the labs, but the first signs of the post-Domenici, post-Bingaman era may be surfacing. New generations could start looking beyond the care taking of the feds to provide them with economic security, especially as the lab budgets come up against the strain of ever-increasing Social Security and Medicare spending. The labs won't be the only programs feeling the knife.

Ironically, right now it is war--the founding idea of the giant labs--that is hurting them. The uncertain future mission of the facilities in the new century and the immense expense of the Iraq folly is coming home to roost, not only in the immeasurable cost of human life, but in the very measurable bottom lines of Los Alamos and Sandia Labs.


The last time a major NM federal installation was seriously threatened was last year when Clovis's Cannon Air Force Base was proposed for closure. The Guv and the congressional delegation did a good job keeping Cannon alive, although with a different mission. Now comes word that the '08 federal budget is good for Cannon as it provides plenty of construction money to get the eastern NM base ready for its new mission.


In the sprawling ABQ school district Tuesday it was attorney Marty Esquivel taking an open seat on the board, securing the win with nearly 39% of the vote in a five way race. Incumbent Robert Lucero, often a lightning rod on the board, was re-elected. Dolores Griego prevailed over former State Rep. Richard Ray Sanchez to take an open seat. A proposed mill levy also passed, but fell short of 60% approval. Message to APS? Complete election results here.


From the ABQ Journal letters to the editor section comes this rib-tickler from ABQ's Jose Montoya. Commenting on John Dendahl's announcement that he would be leaving the state for Colorado, Montoya penned: "By chance does he have room for Coach Ritchie McKay in his moving fan?" And if you don't get that, read this...And it's $60,000 not $600,000 in the campaign kitty of ABQ GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson. We left out one of the zeroes when blogging about the campaign yesterday...

Also, ABQ Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino is no longer on the Senate Rules Committee as we blogged Tuesday. Committee assignments underwent changes when Senator Tsosie recently resigned. Meanwhile, the Alligators are saying Ortiz y Pino may have lost his nerve when it comes to introducing that redistricting bill that could make it harder for Heather to get re-elected. They say the lawmaker stood tall when he introduced a resolution asking that President Bush be impeached, but there was no local heat on that one. Hitting Heather, on the other hand, takes some moxy, especially since the redistricting bill has little chance of passing. We'll keep you posted. As for Wilson, she is doing what she needs to--softening up on Iraq and currying favor anew with West Side voters and Hispanics. We often ask: "Who wants it most?" When it comes to the ABQ congressional seat, it's Heather and the R's.

Your news, comments and corrections are always welcome. Send them via the email link at the top of the page and help us keep the politics coming. I'm Joe Monahan, reporting and blogging to you from Albuquerque. Stop by again soon.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bill Flatlines In Latest Prexy Poll; Plus: Seeking Candidates For Congress, And: My Bottom Lines For A New Mexico Tuesday 

Governor Richardson remains flatlined in the key Democratic Prez states of Iowa and New Hampshire, apparently getting no bounce from his January Prez announcement, according to the latest ARG survey. In Iowa he remains the favorite of just 1% of the prospective caucus goers and in New Hampshire he garners only 2% with likely primary voters.

Richardson has said Nevada, which holds a caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire next January, will be key for him. It will have to be if the other early critical states don't wake up to him. But there's plenty of time and plenty of mistakes to be made that could and likely will shake up the political landscape between now and next year.

The ARG poll has Hillary Clinton ahead in both Iowa and New Hampshire.


Voters across our state will trek to the polls in very small numbers today to elect school board members, but at least there seems to be plenty of candidates. How about some for the U.S. Congress? Is there a possibility that the ABQ school board candidates you see advertising on this blog for today's election--lawyer Marty Esquivel or 29 year old Vanessa Alarid, former executive director of the NM Dem party--could take the plunge? Both are fresh political faces who could hold their own on a stage with incumbent GOP ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who despite almost losing her seat last November, has yet to draw a challenger.

Esquivel told me he has been asked about a the possibility and found it intriguing. Alarid comes from a political family and has the type of profile that could also attract votes. The duo is running against each other today, along with two other candidates.

Whether Esquivel or Alarid decided to make a congressional run, they would face the always well-financed Heather who reports a cash balance of over $60,000 in her campaign account.

And what about Ray Powell, Jr. running for the ABQ seat? In one of our idle moments we floated the former Dem land commissioner's name and he recently responded: "I have a real appreciation for how many people read your column and then talk with each other. Your comments generated a lot of inquiries. You have me thinking about it now." emailed Powell.

Come on gang, everybody jump in and let's party!


Heather sure isn't running to the right after her narrow victory in the moderate ABQ district. On last week's big budget vote in the U.S. House she was on the side of Dem NM Rep. Tom Udall in approving a $463 billion 2007 budget measure. NM GOP Rep. Steve Pearce voted against the bill which passed on a 286-140 vote. Earlier, Wilson started moderating her hawkish position on the unpopular Iraq war, a move predicted here and we believe you will see more in the months ahead.


Meanwhile, up in the City Different, ABQ Dem State Senator Jerry Pino is still inclined to introduce a bill that would keep the heat on Heather by redistricting her seat now and not waiting for the scheduled redistricting in 2011. If they could field a strong candidate, Pino's tinkering could tilt the seat toward the D's. The bill is not expected to go very far, but insiders say it should be able to at least get one hearing. You can bet Heather will want a full report.


It was Big Bill who got a bunch of unwanted attention from shock radio talk jock Don Imus recently for refusing to appear on the national radio and TV program unless Imus apologized for earlier criticism of the Guv. However, NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici did appear on Imus in late January. A blog about the Imus program wasn't too kind to the senator, but we didn't hear anything very odd during the gab session. You can judge for yourself.


Let's take a trip up to Farmington where District Attorney Lyndy Bennett is getting hammered by the Farmington Daily Times over his handling of a big meth case. It caught our notice because we don't see much coverage anymore of what's happening in our district attorneys offices, especially here in big Bernalillo county. Why is that?


Governor Richardson turned the tables on the pundits who are insisting that he is really running for vice-president, not president. He did so at this weekend's winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee when he fired off this one liner to the party activists:"Anyone of these candidates would be good in the White House,” said Richardson. “As my vice president.”

You can see the Guv's entire speech. It is worth a look as it is one of his better efforts. He is animated and loose which is not always the case...In a Superbowl evening interview on KRQE-TV with New Mexico TV news dean Dick Knipfing, the anchorman asked the Governor what would be his first official act if he was indeed elected President. Not missing a beat, Big Bill wisecracked: "Give an exclusive interview to you!" Knipfing chuckled, but quickly retorted: "I will hold you to that." One suspects that could be one crowded "exclusive interview" before Bill finishes up on the campaign trail..

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Dateline Santa Fe: Lobbyists In The Spotlight, Plus: Senator Martinez's Movida, And: Bug The Roundhouse! 

What is a top gun from the giant electric company, PNM, doing lobbying for the Governor? Inquiring minds wanted to know since PNM has a stake in a few pieces of legislation pending at the capitol, not the least of which is the Renewable Energy Transmission Act. The PNM heavy doing the backslapping on behalf of Big Bill is Art Hull, but the Fourth Floor says this is not a case of conflict:

"Hull is participating in PNM’s Loaned Executive program by working as a senior staffer in the Governor’s Office, which enables him to gain direct experience in how state government works...Because of his relationships with many legislators, Art is a valuable resource who acts as a liaison for the Governor on a broad number of issues. With the exception of the Governor’s proposed Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, Art is not lobbying on behalf of any of the Governor’s energy package." Says Fourth Floor officialdom.

The renewable energy act passed both houses of the Legislature last year, but a final bill combining both versions got lost in the last minute crunch, thus the do-over. It would position the state as an exporter of renewable energy sources such as wind, but opponents say it would also promote nuclear and coal power.


Lobbyist Ed Mahr may be second in seniority in that category, just behind his former partner Bob McBride. Mahr is working (or enduring) his 28th legislative session. He burst into the headlines recently when it ws reported he was hired by the Lottery Authority to help with their legislative package which included opposition to forcing the authority to spend an increased amount on educational scholarships and less on administration. Big Bill pulled the plug on Mahr's deal, but there's no hard feelings says the longtime wall-leaner:

"The Governor realizes I was in the middle on this. He and I spoke recently. We get along just fine" reports Democrat Mahr.

Oldtimers will remember that Mahr was the managing editor of the states largest newspaper, the ABQ Journal, back in the 70's. The gray-hair set will also note that the lobbyist served a stint as Secretary of Corrections. (The Mahr photo is courtesy of Jim Baca's blog.)


What does Espanola Senator Richard Martinez want? He certainly has asking rights of Big Bill after taking a walk on the controversial cockfighting issue and allowing it to pass the Senate Conservation Committee. If he had hung around and voted, there would be no chance for the controversial activity to be banned, thus giving prez hopeful Bill a campaign migraine. (Maybe Senator Richard had a bad cold, a family emergency or forgot the hearing!)

We're probably late in asking what Martinez wants for his Northern NM district. This cockfighting deal looks neatly pre-planned by the Guv and his legislative allies. And you have to say they have played a smooth political hand. Even Conservation Committee chairman Phil Griego is off the hook, getting to vote against banning cockfighting which he says is popular in his district, while having his committee vote for the ban.

Senator Mary Jane Garcia (D-Dona Ana) is getting accolades for sponsoring the bill, as she should, but if a ban makes it through, as expected, history will likely record this one as "The Martinez Movida." Our bottom line? Senator Martinez has either already gotten what he wants, or it's on the way.


There was $75,000 put up last year so all of you Legislature addicts could see your lawmakers in action just by turning on your computer and tapping into a video stream of the floor sessions. That way you could sit in your pajamas eating a jelly doughnut and not have to put on a tie or a dress and step foot in the Roundhouse. (Not that we don't do that already) So how come it hasn't happened? I checked with ABQ GOP State Senator Mark Boitano who has been key in getting this one going.

"...The Legislative Council Service said it wasn't going to happen this year. They are still working on designs, getting bids, etc. and intend to make it happen for the '08 session. Government works slowly." Boitano blogged.

We do look forward to seeing Senator Pinto singing the "Potato Song" live on the World Wide Web and the visage of Senator Carraro showing up for "Italian Day" draped in an opera cape. With characters like that, high ratings are guaranteed.


In a similar vein, an emailer asks why doesn't some enterprising reporter, blogger or troublemaker find a way to secretly record one of those House-Senate conference committees that are closed to the public and press? Would it really be illegal to tape a bunch of public officials gathered in a public building discussing public business, even if you had to hide a recording device to do it? Just asking. Not that anyone around here is going to up up bail money for whoever does it.

Keep us posted. Send your news and comments, anonymous or otherwise, from the email link at the top of the page.

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