Friday, July 24, 2009
PRC Circus Continues: A Cheatin' Heart: PRC's Sloan Busted For Beating Up Romantic Rival, Plus: How Icy Is State Hiring Freeze?
You want value for your entertainment dollar during this recession? Forget the movies or that sale at Dillard's, just tune in to the NM Public Regulation Commission, the powerful panel that is charged with regulating the state's major utility companies. First we had a Santa Fe jury finding that Republican Commissioner David King sexually harassed his former assistant and having her awarded $840,000 in damages. Then we had the indictment on election-related charges of Democratic Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. as well as his father, former Commissioner Jerome Block, Sr. Now, we have Dem Commissioner Carol Sloan arrested for going after a Gallup woman she apparently believes has been "entertaining" her husband of over 30 years. And that doesn't mean they're watching Netflix together. To the police report and the Navajo Times:
Gallup police are investigating a report that Carol Sloan, a member of the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission and a former McKinley County clerk, committed aggravated assault on July 15. According to city police , Sloan attacked Brenda Yazzie at her apartment in Gallup between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., hitting her with a rock she had in her hand.
Yazzie said Sloan also kicked her during the attack and yelled at her, accusing her of having an affair with her husband of over 30 years. Yazzie told police that she and Sloan's husband, Jameson Sloan, had been exchanging phone calls in the past few weeks about a medical condition both of them had. Police officials said Tuesday that no arrest warrant has been issued as yet and the case is under investigation.
And here's the ABQ Journal's version.
Commissioner Sloan rock throwing and kicking? The western NM Dem, a former McKinley County Clerk, has been as quiet as a nun--until now. She was elected in 2006 and is eligible to run for re-election in 2010. She won in a landslide last time. And with her demonstrated familiarity with rocks, dare we say she may turn in another "landslide."
So now we have three of the five PRC commissioners making like a modern-day vaudeville act. All we need next is Commissioners Jason Marks and Sandy Jones to join the fun. Come on fellas, the taxpayers are already forking out good money for a three ring circus. Might as well make it a five ringer.
HOW COLD IS THAT FREEZE?
Itchy legislators wondering just what kind of hiring freeze the Governor has slapped on state government in the wake of the crash of state revenues are learning that 317 classified jobs have been filled during the so-called freeze as have 41 so called "exempt" positions. Those are the jobs where you can be fired at will and that you often get through political connections. Bill's office continues to explain that the freeze exceptions are approved by the Department of Finance and the state Personnel office. They add that so far the freeze is on track to save $9.6 million a year and that 1,200 positions have been held open since the freeze began last November.
The Guv's office says most of the classified jobs being filled relate to the public safety and health. But 317 of them? The Legislature may have a different opinion on which jobs are vital and which aren't. Will we hear that opinion during an anticipated special session of the Legislature in October?
We are also now hearing of the usual end-of-the-administration-ship jumping, That's when a person working at the pleasure of the Governor or a cabinet secretary hunts around for a state classified job--one from which the next Governor can't fire them. The trick is you must serve a year on "probation" in the classified post. During that time you are subjected to firing for just about any cause. The ship-jumpers are going to want to get classified jobs by December so they can do their year of probation and lock down before the new Governor takes office Jan. 1, 2011.
Ship-jumping has already made headlines with two "exempt" cultural affairs employees managing to get themselves into classified positions recently, a move that is not going unnoticed by lawmakers. It's hard to justify placing political appointees of cultural affairs into classified positions in that department. What do those posts have to do with public safety concerns?
The New Mexican economy is currently supporting about 25,000 full-time state employees as we enter a long-term era of slow or no economic growth. Either that number continues to come down, or something else is cut to keep the payroll party going. This comment from one of our readers seems to sum it up best.
During the special session the wolf will be at the door and will not leave without cheeks in his teeth! Enough cheeks to get through the winter.
MORE BLOG ECON BEAT
Meantime, on the jobless front, the state reports job growth in NM remains at a 55 year low. The official unemployment rate ticked up to 6.8 percent in June, from 6.5 percent in May. The experts agree that number underestimates the actual number of unemployed especially when you add in those who have given up, moved away or have taken part time work. The "official" jobless rate is now at a 12 year high. From June '08 to June '09 the state lost over 26,000 jobs. 13,000 of those were lost in the ABQ metro.
In the ABQ area, where a mayor's race is underway, the seasonally adjusted jobless number dipped slightly to 6.8 percent, down from that startling 7.0 percent number in May. The next mayor, like the next Governor, is going to be saddled with a reduced revenue stream forcing some tough decision prompting intense political fights over what programs and government jobs stay and which go. That's why a strong hiring freeze with very few exceptions is one of the more effective ways to cut costs The pain is spread across the board and the politics is minimized. It's the politicos making exceptions and hiring friends that is the fly in the proverbial ointment.
HE FOUND A JOB
Not everyone looking for work is coming up empty handed. ABQ GOP State Senator Kent Cravens has landed a new gig.He will be a business broker with Vaughn Co. doing evaluation, marketing and sales of Albuquerque area businesses. Cravens and his wife Melanie have owned and operated Alphagraphics in ABQ for a number of years. They will continue with that business.Given this economy, in his new job Cravens may find himself busy. The new retail era is going to mean less demand for all kinds of stores which could mean more of them closing or being sold to stronger ownership.
AND ANOTHER JOB FOUND
A name familiar to old times in the news game has also surfaced on the state job market. Mark Slimp, who in the 70's and 80's worked as the news director for KOB-TV and before that as a reporter for KOAT-TV has landed a gig as the spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. He replaces S.U. Mahesh who has moved over to the taxation and revenue department. Slimp, a University of New Mexico grad, also put in time at the network level, serving as a producer for ABC News. For the past decade, he was vice president for broadcast programing for AARP in D.C.
The department has been mired in a myriad of controversies in recent years. Sec, Rhonda Faught got out, but under a cloud. Big Bill has made national news over the years for hiring so many current and former journalists to fill PR slots. It seemed to help him some in his first term, not so much in his second. It could be argued that the hiring freeze could be extended to PR posts, but it can also be argued that the transportation department does indeed deal with public safety matters.
Slimp will have his hands full keeping a lid on things in the waning days of this administration. Whether he and others in the Santa Fe crowd make it into the next one is an open question. But welcome back, Mark. We'll have to get Dick Knipfing to buy you a lemonade.
Dem Robert Aragon, who recently endorsed Republican Jon Barela for the ABQ US House seat, was removed from his position as a ward chairman by a committee of the Bernalillo County Dem Party. More on that and the ABQ House race next week.
THE BOTTOM LINES
How about some good news from Governor Big Bill? You got it:
Governor Richardson congratulated the Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, New Mexico for its win this week on the Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” Buckhorn owner, Bobbie Olguin’s garnered national attention by defeating host Bobby Flay in the battle for the best green chile cheeseburger. In recognition of the victory, the Governor has declared Friday July 24th, 2009 “Buckhorn Tavern Day.”
We're with you, Guv. Let's throw the diets away and head down to the Buckhorn. Then we'll head over to the State Fair where Bill is now calling for a green chile cheeseburger cooking contest. Do you think we're going to let him get away with calling for a contest and not entering? He may be the New Mexico election champion, but they're going to be lined up to take him on for the burger title.
Bill, you better have Barbara get that cooking apron and chef's hat out, you're gonna need them...
E-mail all your news tips, comments and summer refreshment recipes.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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