Monday, June 01, 2009
Heather's Nat'l TV Shot: No Real News on "Real Time," Plus: More Fallout On Union Backing Of Mayor Marty, And: Readers Like Debating A Dental School
Wilson on "Real Time"
Heather Wilson's national TV appearance on the popular HBO comedy and commentary program, "Real Time with Bill Maher," may not have been real boring, but neither did it reveal much about the political plans, if any, the former ABQ GOP Congresswoman will pursue. Heather ably and affably fielded questions ranging from North Korea to gay marriage Friday evening, but when given a chance by Maher to come down on the side of moderate Republican Colin Powell in his verbal fisticuffs with hard-right wing Republican Rush Limbaugh, Wilson largely demurred, saying the party is "big enough for a lot of different views." It was a safe answer but not a very daring one, and daring may be the necessary gamble in the wake of the near-extinction event suffered by the NM GOP on Election Night 2008. (Real Time Video here.)
And that was really the "real time" news. Because it is going to be a move to the middle by prominent Republicans like Powell that will rebuild the GOP in moderate states like New Mexico. But Heather was not ready to join that fracas, perhaps content to build her national security credentials on the broadcast as she embarks on a career in consulting. (Also, Maher had former GOP UN Ambassador John Bolton paired with Heather and he gobbled up most of the airtime.)
Wilson, who served 10 years in Congress, still has plenty of name ID and a good shot at the 2010 GOP Guv nod by sporting the "moderate" mantle among a group of conservative competitors like Greg Zanetti and Allen Weh. But Wilson and the NM GOP are on hold. The internal dialogue over moving the party to the middle has barely begun. Wilson seemed to signal that she is in no "Rush" to see that discussion or her own potential candidacy accelerated.
HISTORY NEEDS REPEATING?
In 1972, it was Republican Pete Domenici who embraced the middle and gave the GOP its first elected US Senate seat in NM in over 35 years. In 1966, moderate Dave Cargo restored the R's to the Governor's Mansion. The GOP faces a similar situation today--completely shut out of the action and in need of leadership that can craft a new, middle way and not just sit and hope for the Dems to self-destruct. Who will step forward to build that big tent in our time? Who is brave enough to risk failure? Anyone?
TV host Maher gave Heather a wicked smile and a sharp retort when she sounded most like a politician and downright schmaltzy. When she said she believed marriage is between "a man and a woman and witnessed by God," Maher cracked that it sounded like Heather was a candidate. "No," she replied. "I just have a wonderful husband..."
Okay, we'll give you time to wipe that tear from your eye..and then it's back to the action...
We all know there's no love affair between ABQ Mayor Chavez and local labor unions, but the first-ever endorsement of Chavez for mayor by AFSCME, the union that represents 3,500 city workers, was a pragmatic decision (See Friday blog). Chavez is likely to win and--so far--has spared the union job and pay cuts. Still, we were reminded by one union local president that the decision to back Marty was not unanimous. From the e-mail:
Just so you know, the decision by AFSCME to endorse Marty was NOT a unanimous decision and a number of Officers are very disappointed. As a local President I feel the endorsement was very premature, especially since Marty is still not an official candidate.
And Chavez rival Richard Romero and even Republican RJ Berry will work to pick off those AFSCME members still disgruntled with Chavez. As for Chavez's candidacy not being official, the point is taken, but if you believe Chavez isn't running, we have some stock in General Motors we'd like to sell you.
There was deep disappointment among Romero's supporters that the candidate carrying the liberal Dem banner did not get the union's backing. But they shook off speculation that the race is over before it has begun, arguing that holding Chavez below 40 per cent and forcing a run-off following the October 6 election is still viable.
Richard's news conference earlier Thursday on the city's financial condition was swept away by the AFSCME endorsement news, but the former state Senator did take a better shot at Chavez than his previous one in which he complained, along with Republican Berry, about Marty using city money for TV public service announcements. This time Romero raised concerns about how we may be robbing our bond funds--used for road repairs and such--to shore up the deficit in the general operating budget.
We probably can safely shrink the bonds we float (from $160 million to $120 million) for an election cycle and use the leftover money to balance the operating budget. Some of the bonds are for political goodies, not real needs. But if Chavez is caught flat-footed by an economy that stays down longer than expected, he and the city council--which is going along with the mayor--could have trouble continuing to rob Peter to pay Paul. It could also hamper fulfilling any promises Marty made to AFSCME for that unexpected endorsement.
Republican RJ Berry may want to argue he is the one to be at the helm during tough economic times because he's not beholden to the union. If layoffs or furloughs are what's needed, he can say he will do what has to be done. Meanwhile, whether it is prudent to shift money away from bonds into the general operating fund to keep the paychecks coming--some of them for political appointees--is an argument worth having.
MORE DRILLING ON DENTAL SCHOOL
Our sound off on the latest push from Big Bill and Senator Bingaman to use $95,000 in federal money to study opening a NM dental school--we backed them---drew quite a number of reactions. We weren't surprised that one came from ABQ GOP State Senator Kent Cravens, former executive director of the NM Dental Association, who we reported was rather down on the dental school deal. Kent took time to reply:
If we are to build a Dental School it should be the best.. I would...like to know why the $200,000 that was spent on a similar study a few years ago was not sufficient? My guess is that it did not produce the desired result...We need to be intellectually honest when we evaluate cost vs. benefit. Do you know how much a dentist should cost to produce? Should taxpayers be asked to spend 4-5 times more putting a dentist to work than might be necessary? Should the public be allowed to ask “How much will it cost”? Is it wrong for a legislator to ask how it will be funded? Or should we just accept another $75 million dollar obligation, plus operational deficits, just because Richardson says he wants it?
That study Cravens cited was done three years ago and put the cost of a dental school at $46 million and annual operating costs at $11 million, not the $75 million Senator Cravens is using. But like him, we also wonder why that study wasn't good enough to get this thing going. The Senator's other questions obviously deserve serious answers, but we continue to argue that a dental school is a solid way to expand the professional class in this state as major parts of our economy crater. Frankly, we haven't heard many other ideas lately. And, of course, it is appropriate for fiscal conservatives like Cravens to question the cost, but as we argued last week, we think we should hold those opposed to the idea accountable by asking them what are their proposals to provide good jobs here---besides the exhausted mantra of tax cuts.
We also worry that some in the dental community may be fretting that the addition of more dentists will drive down the salaries of those currently practicing. That's a fear, but not an argument for being against the school. Those jobs are still going to be plums, even if the average pay slides.
WHERE DO WE PUT IT?
Reader Joe Barela of Rio Rancho says the time for a dental school has come, and guess where he wants the campus?
This is actually a pretty easy one. Go for it, and put it on the new UNM Rio Rancho Campus. Rio Rancho is the ideal location for the school. It’s proximity to Albuquerque (the economic center of the state) makes it a draw for the real talent you need to build a high caliber faculty...Add to that, UNM already has a “health care “ infrastructure in place with the medical school, so they know how to do these things.
While we understand reader Barela's "hometowning" for Rio Rancho, the natural location for a dental school is on the main ABQ UNM campus near the medical and law schools. Other readers noted we haven't seen much enthusiasm for the dental proposal from the current leadership of UNM. Maybe because it doesn't put fans in the stands? As for the money, we could find $11 million in fat in the UNM budget (a lot of it in athletics) before the noon lunch break. Come on Doc Schmidly, so far your legacy here is...well...what is that legacy?
We're for studying the idea again because we see a future where this state's economy stagnates (after getting bumped up with billions in stimulus money) and have been perplexed about how professional, well-paying jobs that are gradually being lost at Sandia and Los Alamos Labs, Intel and others are going to be replaced. Wouldn't turning out New Mexico educated dentists help us fill what is a developing economic cavity?
News, comments and criticisms are all welcome. E-mail them in.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author