Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Big Disconnect: Hiring Freeze, But Just For Some, Plus: Senator Cisco Socked, And: The End For Eclipse 

What's with the disconnect? Governor Big Bill and Mayor Marty witness thousands of New Mexicans being thrown out of work and warn of millions in budget shortages, claim there are hiring freezes in effect and yet their hiring sprees of highly paid employees seems to continue unabated. The latest example is the mayor's decision to fill the vacant position of "Transportation Czar" at City Hall at a salary of $102,000. The mayor argues that heavy traffic on the interstates and keeping traffic flow moving justifies the position, but others argue that most of the problem on the interstates is caused by state construction projects, not regular traffic flow which is normal for a mid-sized American city. Traffic is nearly quaint compared to big cities.

So far, Chavez, who says the budget shortfall for this fiscal year is in the vicinity of $20 million, has shied away from any populist measures aimed at reducing the bloat in the city administration. Perhaps some of those seeking to replace him in this election year will give it a try,

One of those wannabe mayors City Councilor Michael Cadigan, appears to be adopting his campaign to the new political mood. He is the first contender to call for an outright end to the controversial red light camera program. Cadigan's announcement came one day after GOP State Rep. Richard Berry entered the mayoral derby. Berry said he is not pleased with the red light program, but did not call for its end. Cadigan and Berry are competing for conservative voters.


On the state scene, Big Bill did succumb to political pressure and ordered a two percent cut in the salaries of all state exempt employees, but he had a tin ear with the hiring of his old friend. Attorney Geno Zamora was hired at Economic Development for a salary of $87,000. How cold does it have to get in New Mexico for a hiring freeze to actually mean what it says?

Light Guv Denish entered the populist arena in December when she thought she was about to become governor. She asked over 400 "exempt" employees who serve at the pleasure of the Guv to justify their jobs. A good idea perhaps, but when Bill did not go to Washington and Di remained Light Guv, those exempt employees became a citadel of opposition to her candidacy.

Salary bloat during the good times was not confined to government, but the private sector has no choice but to cut back as profits shrink.


It is the end for the economic experiment gone wrong known as Eclipse Aviation. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing is in the works which means the 800 workers recently laid off will never come back and the state's and city's investment of millions in cash and tax incentives will go into the history books as a well-intentioned but misguided adventure. Wouldn't it be something if local economic and political leaders convened one of those task forces to review what went wrong so taxpayers aren't hustled again? Don't hold your breath.

Political impact of Eclipse's demise? Mayor Chavez was its chief booster. On the other hand, the rest of the mayor candidates were also at the water cooler sipping the same Kool-Aid. Let's see if someone makes a play.

Sen. McSorley
You might call it the year from Hell for New Mexico progressives, following their year from Heaven in 2008. In '08 they scored major electoral success with the election of Senators like Keller, Fischmann and Griego, but it's been all downhill since. First, the liberals couldn't get Senator Cisneros elected Senate President Pro Tem, then ethics legislation--their raison d'etre--began getting quickly buried in Santa Fe. Even fate conspired with them, increasing their legislative numbers just as the economy crashed, depriving them of needed funds to expand their pet social programs. But it can always get worse, and it just did.

The ABQ Journal's intrepid Thom Cole hit with a weekend piece that scored the informal leader of the Legislature's progressive wing--ABQ Dem State Senator Cisco McSorley for what appeared to be abuses in his campaign spending account. You can read all about it here, but suffice it to say Cisco has taken a major hit as one of the leading advocates for ethics reform.

Will this hurt the chances of ethics legislation? Well, one supposes you can shoot bullets into a dead body, but that doesn't make it any more dead. Still, hope lingers for one major ethics bill--contribution limits.

Ben Lujan
More on the Santa Fe scene today from one of our Capitol wall-leaners who Tuesday did a pretty cool blog for us on this year's mood at the Roundhouse. Today they tackle the question of how NM House Speaker Ben Lujan is faring and activity of Big Bill's staff.

Has the Speaker lost power? Maybe not, but I think his power has peaked and will shortly begin to wane. These days the only people he turns the gavel over to are Rep. Miera and Kenny Martinez, and only when he goes back to the floor to present (or get ready to present) a bill. But no real business is conducted unless Speaker Lujan is there and in charge.

Richardson’s people are not as obvious as they have been in past sessions. I see a lot of (Big Bill lobbyist) Eric Witt on the third floor, around the committee rooms. (Chief of Staff) Brian Condit, less often. But most of the Gov’s people are as scarce as I can remember…

There are lots of rumors on Capital Outlay. The Governor has made promises--to Rio Rancho for the Hewlett Packard facility, to Las Cruces for the veteran’s museum, to the State Fair for his equestrian center, etc., and the talk is that the only capital outlay will be “statewide” projects this year. Some say the legislators will get maybe $100k - $200k each, others say $800k, which may be a pipe dream.....


There will be plenty of venting on the campus of the University of New Mexico today and perhaps a faculty vote of no confidence as well in UNM President David Schmidly. The 3 p.m. session at Popejoy Hall is one of those moments that may spur even further action over the course of UNM, or represent the high water mark of dissent. UNM Regent's chair Jamie Koch, the focus of much of the faculty's discontent, plans on attending the session. He will be wearing a bullet proof vest designed by Christian Dior.

VAL 2090

An innocent Tuesday typo gave us some insight into the political standing of actor Val Kilmer who is considering a 2010 Dem Guv run. Our typo had him doing it in 2090. That's a stretch, even for Batman. But our e-mail revealed there is some healthly opposition awaiting Val if he chooses to wade into the waters of La Politica. Here's a sample.

Ernesto Baca
--Congratulations! I think you have the date right. Val should be ready to run for Guv of NM by 2090, seeing he's politicking in the Big Easy.

Beth Miles---I wish Kilmer would wait to 2090!

Ellen Wedum-
-I HOPE it is a 2090 run, by then he may have acquired enough experience to do a good job as governor! Or maybe this is a Freudian slip on your part...

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