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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cruces To Share Susana's Inaugural Spotlight, Plus: Jeff's Challenge, Raton's Gamble Continues & Susana's Hispanic Deficit? 

The south continues to rise in Santa Fe.

Insiders say that Governor-elect Martinez will put a new wrinkle on the traditional New Year's Day inauguration events. Not only will there be an inaugural ball in Santa Fe as there is every four years, but they say that a similar event is on tap for Susana's hometown of Las Cruces.

We're told the Santa Fe inaugural ball will be for about 1,000 party goers. That's a departure from Big Bill's two inaugural celebrations. He had multiple balls. So did GOP Governor Johnson when he was elected and re-elected in '94 and '98. They were parties that attracted thousands. But those were the days when Paseo de Peralta was paved with milk and honey. Now we're all busy filling potholes.

The Guv-to-be also shined a spotlight on Las Cruces on Election Night when for the first time in memory a Guv winner's speech was delivered and broadcast not from ABQ, but from Cruces.

We haven't heard about the logistics of getting Susana to inaugural day and evening events in both Santa Fe and Cruces. Maybe she can take that state jet out for a final joy ride before she puts it in mothballs?

THE CHIEF

One of the most critical positions in the new administration will be chief of staff. That person has a lot to say about the day-to-day running of state government. No announcement yet on who Susana will select, but our tapped in insiders report someone has already shied away from the job. They say a high-profile ABQ businesswoman was approached about the position, but did not want to leave her business for a shot at being Susana's right-hand woman.

That tells us a couple of things. That Martinez might prefer a woman as staff chief as well as one with experience outside of government.

Martinez has formed a transition committee to collect names for the position. Those on it include two former chiefs of staff to former GOP Senator Pete Domenici--Steve Bell and Lou Gallegos. Insiders confirm that Transition Chair Heather Wilson remains a key player in selecting the new cabinet secretaries and top players.

MAY'S DAYS
Richard May
The administration's first major pick--Richard May as Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration--is drawing little criticism. His experience as chief of staff for the House Budget Committee and his years as a lobbyist are seen as attributes for the hard-to-handle position.

May, 56, may be destined to be a whipping boy for whatever happens. The state budget shortfall--anywhere from $300 to $500 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1--will mean painful decisions.

May has spent most of his career in the luxurious confines of Gucci Gulch in DC. Alligator advice to him is to use this transition period to visit the people, schools and medical facilities of New Mexico so he is aware of the human condition in this state as compared to the well-off world from which he hails. He still has to balance the budget, but the wisdom of first-hand knowledge could make for better and more humane decisions. Our bean counters need to know there are real faces behind the numbers.

By the way, we are not saying that the latest administration budget shortfall estimate of $450 million is written in stone. It could be less. The Legislative Finance Committee comes with its forecast next month.

JEFF'S CHALLENGE

The last time NM US Senator Jeff Bingaman faced a competitive election was in 1994. 2012 looks like that one. And the longtime Dem lawmaker seems to know it. From a recent news release:

Senator Bingaman today said 159,000 private sector jobs were created in October, which gives the country 10 consecutive months of private sector job creation. More than 1 million jobs were created in the private sector this year.

“Americans are right to be concerned about our economy. But it’s important to note that businesses have created more than 1 million jobs this year....


The Senator is going to be scouring the headlines for good economic news like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter.

Names being kicked around in Republican circles for a possible run against Jeff include former ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson and ABQ area funeral director Kevin Daniels. Recent GOP northern congressional candidate Tom Mullins could take a look at the race as could Allen McCulloch, the Farmington doctor who was landslided by Bingaman in 2006.

RED ALERT


The state racing commission is again dealing over the proposed Raton racino that bit the dust because the main investor could not come up with the cash.

The commission ought to take a close look at the bank books of the Canadian investor who has been unable to back up his promises to get the racing and gambling facility opened. If there is anything we have learned in thus epic Bear Market it is that cash is king, If the investor doesn't have the green stuff, it could end up being a cruel hoax to Raton to go forward with a racino that could go belly up because of financing problems.

Racing commissioners need to play "show us the money" or let this deal die.

Meanwhile, the city of Raton near the Colorado border continues to struggle:

The City of Raton’s annual audits from recent years include findings “that exhibit poor fiscal management, poor business practices, and a failure or lack of internal controls within the City,” according to New Mexico State Auditor Hector Balderas.

This recession and the subsequent uncovering of the weak fiscal structures in hard-hit rural areas will be talked about by future generations like our grandparents spoke of the Great Depression.

And if you wonder how a racino--what some say is a license to print money--can go broke. Look no further than Buffalo Thunder resort in Pojoaque north of Santa Fe. In an unprecedented development for an Indian casino, holders of $245 million in bond debt are going to have to eat much of it. A deal has been cut to "restructure" the debt. That basically means those who bought the initial bonds are unlikely to ever recover their full investment.

Heavy gambling is one of the first leisure activities to collapse in a bear market. This one has been no different. Until the unemployment rate improves and those folks who are working feel more secure, New Mexico gambling will remain under pressure. So much for another industry long touted as "recession proof."

Which is another reason why federal stimulus money--like this from USDA--that continues to trickle into Raton and other rural locales is more than welcome.

HISPANIC DEFICIT?

Where are the Hispanics? That's the question popping up in our email over the various transition committees named by Governor-elect Susana Martinez. Longtime Dem activist Theresa Trujeque put it this way:

Joe, Have you noticed that Governor Elect Martinez has appointed very few Hispanics to her transition/selection teams? Where are the Hispanics that helped her get elected and who are very qualified to serve? She openly courted the Hispanic north but are they in her transition teams? I don't think so unless I have misread the names that have been released...The Governor-elect should learn that four years is a very short time and people have long memories.

The transition committees do seem titled toward the state GOP establishment which is mostly Anglo and male. However, these are only committees, charged with recommending cabinet secretaries. It remains to be seen how many Hispanics, Native Americans and Democrats--all groups Martinez courted with some success in her campaign--will show up in her government.

FREEWAY ANARCHY


If you drive through the anarchy known as the ABQ interstates, you'll welcome this:

Mayor Berry and Police Chief Schultz unveiled three new, state-of the art traffic enforcement police cars that will help officers catch speeders on the interstates. The cars are white unmarked Dodge Chargers that feature a Hemi V8 engine that is capable of reaching speeds of 60mph in six second..The Dodges will feature radar in the front and the back that can be used while the squad car is in motion and sub-sonic sirens that are easier to hear for motorists...

Judging by area freeway behavior the three squad cars could pay for themselves in traffic tickets in a matter of months. Just don't shoot anyone, fellas...

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