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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sleepy Santa Fe: No Plenty Means No Party, Plus: Susana Learning Limits; Supremes Rebuke New Guv, And: More On Mayor & The Movies & Schmitt Defended 

Carol Heitz
It was over before it started. That's been a common refrain about Legislative Session 2011 among the chattering classes and after more than a week of the sixty day gathering they seem to have it right. Not much has happened and not a whole lot is going to happen because you need money to throw a good party. They haven't turned the lights out at the Roundhouse, but the neon is looking dim.

Veteran observers capture the new mood. ABQ Journal newsman John Robertson, in the game since the 70's, says the Roundhouse is "cheerless" and describes "almost eerily quiet hallways."

Months ago syndicated columnist Jay Miller predicted a minimalist session. He hasn't changed his view. Former ABQ GOP State Rep. Rory Ogle gets even more grim. He says not only are we in for a mostly do-nothing session this year, but next year as well.

But former Dem ABQ Mayor Jim Baca says the Santa Fe boredom is mainly of interest to the chattering classes. The public, he opines, is not watching:

...The lobbyists, the regulated, the contractors, the unions and other special interest groups will be entrenched up there, but by and large the average citizens will not follow this process at all. It is just not all that intriguing to them. They could care less who the next Speaker of the House will be.

Intriguing or not, on goes the session with a GOP Governor and Democratic Legislature in broad agreement on the state budget, no money to launch new initiatives and the joyless task of downsizing state government topping the agenda.

For example, Susana came with this Wednesday:

I have signed a one year moratorium on new car purchases for non-law enforcement purposes. This will save taxpayer money...while also allowing my administration to determine how many additional cars we can eliminate..Along these same lines, we will also examine...cutting cell phones for state workers who don’t need them...

Yikes! Someone spike the punch bowl. This party is dying fast.

IT'S THE COURTS
Justice Daniels
We've said all along that much of the action in this new administration is going to be in the courts, not the Legislature, as the administration seeks to rid the law books of regulations they see as impeding business. But Martinez and company are going to have their hands full and they have a steep learning curve. Their first foray into this territory was met with tough opposition from the environmental community and a serious setback from the State Supreme Court after which the enviros hit the news circuit:

The Supreme Court sided with environmental groups today when it granted a writ of mandamus to the New Mexico State Records Administrator, compelling her to print the adopted and final greenhouse gas cap and dairy discharge rules. The printing of the rules was halted earlier in the month by Governor Martinez’ Executive Order which suggested the rules were “pending” and therefore subject to a ninety day hold for review.

“This is a tremendous and deserved victory for the administration of justice in New Mexico,” stated Bruce Frederick, staff attorney of the
New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), the nonprofit law firm that brought two suits against the Governor...

We've also noted how Martinez's enviro actions are going to draw national attention. The New York Times dubbed the Supremes 5-0 ruling against Susana a "blunt rebuke."

(Video of Susana reacting to the court ruling, saying she was not trying to do a favor for the oil and gas industry here. Radio news reported that court docs indicate dairy industry lawyers helped write the order delaying the new regulations. Martinez's campaign received $50,000 from the industry.)

Her political advisers may comfort the Governor by telling her that even a loss helps push her into the limelight, but this is a clear and unadorned defeat in that limelight. Not good. It's about policy down here on the ground and this court victory is an early message to Martinez on the limits of her executive power. It's also the first time her public has seen her weakened and it will embolden her foes on the policy as well as the political front. Maybe the lesson for the new administration is to pick your fights more carefully. It's hard to hit the target when you shoot from the hip.

FILM FOLLOW UP
Berry
Follow-up now on the Wednesday blog wondering whether ABQ Mayor Berry, a supporter of the film industry, would wade into the battle over reducing the state film tax rebate from 25% to 15%. Is he at odds with fellow Republican and Governor Martinez? Will he get off the bench or stay on the sidelines as he frets over the economic impact of film productions possibly fleeing the city? His answer is a nonanswer as seen in this reply Berry's office is sending to those inquiring about his position:

Mayor Berry understands that the film industry has been great for Albuquerque. It has had a positive impact on our economy and has created numerous jobs from carpenters to assistance for local vendors. There will be many proposals before the legislature between now and the end of the session. The Mayor is confident that the legislature, the administration and the industry will get together and reach a solution that will continue to attract the film industry to New Mexico.

The Mayor says he is confident other parties will reach a solution, but why isn't he one of those parties? Does he not think the mayor of New Mexico's largest city and the state's economic engine should have influence in the matter? And what is city lobbyist and former Republican legislator Joe Thompson doing for us in Santa Fe? What are his instructions, if any, regarding the rebates?

This fight has fast become an urban vs. rural battle in Santa Fe. We could use some big city leadership. Berry served in the state House prior to becoming Mayor. He has a skill set that could be valuable.

With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, you do not work for the Governor or her political advisers. You are the independent voice of the city of Albuquerque. Your city will back you if you choose to lead.

Unlike Berry, ABQ Dem city councilor and potential mayoral candidate Ken Sanchez came with a firm position on the film rebates--hold off on any action until an authoritative study can be done. He told TV news:

I think we need to look at the financial picture, what it’s costing New Mexico and yet at the same time what it’s bringing in revenues before any reduction is actually made. I think those numbers are huge.

The film fight resumes in Santa Fe today with more hearings scheduled. Meanwhile, film rebate supporters have some more ammo with the news that three films shot in the state have garnered a total of 15 Oscar nominations this year, including 10 for the remake of the classic, "True Grit."

MEDIA MUSICAL CHAIRS

A media Alligator writes:

KOB-TV executive producer Kenny Vigil will become the new public information officer for the NM Corrections Department.

We blogged recently the new executive producer for KOAT-TV news is Pahl Shipley, who was a PIO for Big Bill and later the state film office. It's time for media musical chairs.

IN DEFENSE OF JACK
Jack Schmitt
You know the debate in the state senate over former senator and astronaut Jack Schmitt's nomination as Gov. Martinez's secretary of energy, minerals and natural resources promises to be hot and heavy. Well, it's already heating up around here. Here's self-described aerospace author and historian William Melberg with a retort to blog comments he took offense with:

You state the following on your blog:

“(Schmitt) is an avowed global warming denier and has written a variety of missives on public policy that would have Timothy Leary tripping.”

Dr. Schmitt is not a “global warming” denier. As a scientist and geologist, he knows Earth’s climate is always changing. What Schmitt questions is the role of human activity vs. natural factors in climate change. Contrary to the consensus of the mainstream media...there is no scientific “consensus” that human activity is the primary cause of climate change. After all, while humans were around at the time of the last Ice Age, there were no SUVs. So what caused the glaciers to retreat?

As for Dr. Schmitt’s “missives on public policy” ...

They might have had Timothy Leary tripping. But they are not out of line with the majority of voters in last November’s elections. Dr. Schmitt is totally in step with a growing majority of Americans who are rediscovering the wisdom of The Founders and calling for our political leaders to abide by the Constitution.

Finally, you posted a comment from a reader describing Admiral James Stockdale as “kooky and out of touch.” Admiral Stockdale was one of the most highly-decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy. He earned a Master’s in Marxist Theory from Stanford. But he learned about Marxism first-hand as a “guest” in the “Hanoi Hilton” where he was routinely beaten and tortured for seven years–earning him the Medal of Honor, and leaving him physically handicapped. Those who mocked him during the 1992 presidential campaign should have been ashamed of themselves. As should those who are now smearing another American Hero...Dr. Harrison Schmitt.

Thanks, William. Good point on the use of the phrase "global warmer denier" when it comes to describing Jack's viewpoint. And your comments on Admiral Stockdale also resonate. He had some funny political moments, but they were only dots in a long and distinguished American life.

FAST FRIENDS?

Meantime, was that David Harris, University of New Mexico VP, longtime politico and major friend of Big Bill seen hanging out with Republican Jack at the Roundhouse recently? Harris, who has been spotlighted for his $428,000 salary (plus $50,000 in deferred comp) has long played both sides of the political fence, formerly toiling for Republican Guv Johnson before getting the big embrace from Dem Big Bill. UNM is a troubled ship. Is Harris trying to hold on to a rail as new Skipper Susana appraises the situation? Stay tuned.

QUOTABLE QUOTE

From State Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle:

"When everybody's making money, nobody's asking questions. That's the time you still have to look."

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