Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Getting Ethics Right: A Milquetoast Commission Or One With Teeth?, Plus: 2009 Slowly Recedes, And: Our Bottom Lines
Critics have pounced on the Legislature's latest effort to police itself, calling an interim committee's proposed ethics commission an over engineered scheme resembling a Rube Goldberg contraption that will end up being a toothless sham. Their main complaint is the composition of the commission. Eight of the eleven members would be legislators. The Guv would appoint the remaining three members. What would it take to have a really independent ethics panel? A reader with a long background in ethics enforcement and elections comes with this:
Joe, I read the proposed bill and was struck by the same thing you mentioned-- the appointment process. All you have to do is see how the Federal Election Commission has turned into a partisan and toothless entity because of the so-called bipartisan appointment process. What happens is that each party protects their own from any penalties.
What New Mexico needs is along the lines of the Wisconsin Governmental Accountability Board. That state's Court of Appeals appoints retired judges to the board and these appointees are prohibited from engaging in any political activity. The Board has supervision of ethics and elections as well as some review over state contracts.
I think that those who have endorsed the proposed commission here don't believe they can get anything tough passed and signed by the Governor...The rationale is that something is better than nothing, but I don't really see the composition of this commission as serious...
So what will come out of the January legislative session? A milquetoast commission? A strong Wisconsin type panel? Or nothing? Don't bet a lot of money against the third option.
Now that it appears Congress is about to pass a health care reform bill, supportive lawmakers have started their spin patrol. ABQ Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich came with a twist in a recent newsletter to quiet concerns over the cost of the measure. He said the costs are fully covered:
Half through eliminating waste, fraud and abuse and half through a surcharge on the income of the top 0.3 percent of the wealthiest individuals...which includes 590 households in our district and excludes 99.81 percent of our residents...
You mean all those folks concerned that their Medicare is going to be slashed to pay for the reform have nothing to fear? Look to hear more about that in the 2010 campaign.
NEWS OF NOTE
Veteran NM political reporter John Robertson, now a longtime politics editor for the ABQ Journal, emerges at year's end to pen a remembrance of the big loss of 2009--the death of Bruce King.
And does ABQ Mayor RJ Berry really have any other choice but to sue to overturn a last minute deal that has former Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams eligible to stay with the city at his $147,000 yearly pay no matter what job he holds? It may take time, but we have plenty of city attorneys on the payroll to game this one out. Ed cut his sweetheart deal with his boss--Mayor Marty Chavez--but Berry seems hesitant to challenge the bizarre contract. He needn't be. An economically suffering public will be with him all the way.
IN MY TIME
New Mexico counts down the end of another year and decade this week, but it is done here with a spirit of nonchalance.
Whether you live in Albuquerque or Animas, your life here is much more in tune with nature's timing, rather than the man made calender--even if your hectic days anchor you closely to that clock on the wall. The spectacular mountains that accompany you everywhere and the early winter, orange-splattered sunsets spanning an endless horizon are constant reminders of eons past and eons to come. You belong, but only as a privileged visitor.
The natural magnificence that is New Mexico does not obviate life's hardships or the need for politics, but through the years it comforts and nourishes, as it will the stream of generations to follow.
THE BOTTOM LINES
We referenced a water dispute on the state's East side Tuesday as "obscure" but one reader took umbrage over that characterization and came with this:
In New Mexico there is nothing obscure about fights over water. The biggest and longest runnin' fights in New Mexico have all been over water. Remember "whiskey is for drinking and water is for fightin'!
Okay, but please refrain from doing so while driving.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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