Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A "Placeholder" For Sheriff? Who Invented That And Why? Plus: More Backfire from Bill's "Gift" To Di, And: Raiding The Rainy Day Fund 

Judging by the behind-the-scenes action, you would think they are picking a pope. The Bernalillo County Commission now says it wants to have three candidates to consider for sheriff who would pledge not to seek election to the office and three who would run. You might ask when the commission received the power to dictate what a sheriff can or can't do when he takes office. The answer is they can't and the option of naming a "placeholder" to fill out the term of GOP Sheriff Darren White who will resign Nov. 30, is purely their own invention.

The sheriff is an elected office and if someone takes the job with the pledge not to seek a full year term in the 2010 election, but then changes his mind after taking office, there's nothing the commission can do about it. They have no power to set qualifications for office, yet that is what they appear to be doing.

The three Democratic commissioners on the five member commission--Art De La Cruz, Alan Armijo and Maggie Hart Stebbins--have the power to name a sheriff who would not be a placeholder--but who would serve the remainder of White's term and try to do a good job because they would soon be seeking approval from voters.

Insiders are saying De La Cruz and Armijo are starting to come across as terrified of making a choice by forming a committee to narrow the 20 candidates to six. They say so many prominent politicos from the Valley want to be Sheriff that the two commissioners fear making enemies unless they appoint a placeholder--something that has never been done---and something that legally can't be enforced. And why does the commission have to have a panel outside the commission narrow the field for them. Even more fear?

Pressure from Dem Party types will increase on the D commissioners in the weeks ahead. Their concern is not necessarily ours--that the commission is overstepping-- --but that a placeholder would increase the chances of the R's retaining the position.


The peace has been made. After some over-the-top accusations leveled against one another and publicized on our Tuesday blog, Republican Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White and Republican Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener say they are on the same page. White has agreed to resign at 5 pm November 30, rather than 2 pm, allowing Wiener, who will be traveling that day, to take part in the meeting via telephone. Wiener issued this apology:

I apologize for leaving a heated message on your voicemail and for sending a letter to a blogger before giving you the opportunity to address my concerns about the timing of your resignation...

White did not need the dispute to drag on and hit the papers and TV news, so this resolution has to have Mayor-elect Berry, who White will soon serve under, breathing the proverbial sigh of relief.

Diane Denish
If there's anymore surprises lurking on how she spent federal stimulus money from five years ago, Light Guv and likely 2010 Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish might want to get it all out. The first drip came last week when it was revealed that Di had used some of the $225,000 on PR, including work on a Christmas card. Now there's a second drip:

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish’s campaign fund will reimburse the state for money paid to a public relations officer who wrote press releases in 2004 related to election-year politics. The total amount of the reimbursement is less than $800 but a spokesman for Denish said Tuesday it’s important that there be no perception questionable political activities. The money spent was from federal funds allocated to the state as part of a 2003 economic stimulus package. Denish was state chairman of the John Kerry 2004 presidential campaign.

She received her share of the stimulus money from Big Bill, and it seems to be the gift that keeps on giving (Don't say he never gave you anything, Di). The amounts are small, but the news comes against a backdrop of numerous ethics scandals.


It appears Matt Rush, a fifth generation cattle rancher from Roosevelt County, has made official his run for the GOP nod for state Land Commissioner. We blogged last month that he was being introduced around the recent NM Oil and Gas Association conference in Santa Fe as a candidate. Now, the Bernalillo County Republican Party lists Rush as a candidate and says he will speak at the party's Friday morning breakfast.

Rush joins Lea County's Bob Cornelius and Dona Ana's Errol Chavez in the GOP race.


Speaking of the land office, that blog we came with Nov. 2 on a controversial proposal from State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez drew comments from several of the land commission candidates. Sanchez floated the idea of taking $2 billion out of the state's Land Grant Permanent Fund to get New Mexico over the budget hump for the next several years.

Republican Errol Chavez:

The intent may appear to be the solution to resolving New Mexico’s deficit, but taking this money is like taking a family’s savings intended for the children’s college education. The Congress of the United States created the Permanent Fund for the benefit of New Mexico’s Public schools. The interest that it realized from the investment of the Permanent Fund is mostly dedicated to the public schools and some public institutions. The duties of the Commissioner of Public Land are simply established to generate revenues that are invested by the State Investment Council. If we divert money from the Permanent Fund it can be devastating to the educational system that today needs all the help it can get.

Democratic land commission contender Ray Powell, Jr., who held the office previously, describes himself as "extremely cautious" when it comes to the withdrawal proposal:

I would be extremely cautious about using the permanent fund to pay for recurring government expenses. I strongly suggest that we first look at how we re-prioritize our spending, reduce high-salaried political jobs, rejuvenate our ailing employee merit system, institute strong ethics reform, and increase transparency and accountability of our state investment policy. If we don't look at a comprehensive reform of state government, we risk squandering our precious limited resources without creating real change.

Unlike the revenues generated from non-renewable resources on state trust lands, which go to the permanent fund, revenues generated from renewable sources go directly to the beneficiary institutions. Therefore, if we generate more money through a comprehensive commercial development and renewable energy program at the land office, we can aid the public schools and other beneficiaries directly.

Republican Bob Cornelius also chimed in:

Democrats would rather tax us more for food, than give state employees a pay cut. Instead of spending education dollars efficiently and effectively educating our children, New Mexico Democrats would rather rob $2 billion from our children’s Land Grant Permanent Fund to pay for planes, trains, and automobiles!

Unwise budgeting decisions and failure to adjust to projected revenues has put us in this situation. The last thing we need to do is
mortgage our children's future to pay off these debts. Let's see some commonsense measures implemented first. These hastily drawn up plans to raid the Permanent Fund "because the money is there" should be the last thing the Legislature considers, if it is to be considered at all.

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