Monday, January 03, 2011

Susana's Start: What Does A New Governor Pray For? Plus: The Budget, The Mansion, The Media And The Job Seekers; It's La Politicia--2011 Style 

We don't know if Governor Martinez had a private prayer with Archbishop Sheehan when the two met up at St. Francis Cathedral on the eve of her Saturday inauguration, but if she did we think we may know what she asked of the Almighty: higher natural gas prices--and quick.

New Mexico is broke. Never mind "bold change." We need spare change.

Martinez may be the first Governor who can't count on a rebound in energy prices to bail out the state and get the party going again. The world natural gas glut is killing us. The energy Alligators point out that a $1 move in the natural gas price means a plus or minus change of $120 million in annual state revenue. In other words, if gas prices started up again that estimated $250 to $400 million shortfall would start disappearing faster than Democrats fleeing Susana on the Santa Fe Plaza Saturday morning.

With no obvious source for hundreds of millions of new dollars, state government, no matter who leads it, was destined to be put on hold. It will be a slow death for an array of government programs in the Martinez years. If and when the pain gets too great, the fight will commence over using the state's bountiful permanent funds to keep things glued together. How's that for bold change?


Is about the time remaining until the 60 day legislative session begins. Old hands are already predicting an incremental session with few sweeping measures winning approval. As we have seen with past sessions that have dealt with the financial crisis, when handed the budget scalpel politicians make reluctant surgeons. But state government is getting smaller, even if it is at a snail-like pace.

We think ABQ Mayor Berry's example may be something the Martinez team has in mind. Rather than resort to chopping jobs, Berry opted to cut salaries. He ran into some union opposition, but he prevailed. That's permanent savings, not a one year deal, and that's what Martinez wants.

The Guv recently said her office will take a 10 percent budget cut, the amount the administration is looking to save across-the-board. Big Bill's chief of staff was making about $141,000 when he left. Martinez will be paid about $110,000 a year, but she gets a Mansion, too.

And what's the latest with that? Does she like the place? When is the move-in date? Do they have a big screen TV so she can watch Sarah Palin's new TV show? And what about Big Bill's two chefs? Do they stay? Reports say they are out. Is that because they don't know about southern chile as opposed to northern? And is Mansion maintenance going to put up some new hooks so Chuck Franco can hang his cool black hats with no trouble? We worry about these things.


Here's a trick question. What does Governor Martinez do after the boisterous 60 day legislative session? It's tricky because this administration has very little visibility beyond cutting the budget and trying to get something started with education.

The danger is that Martinez slips into a caretaker role as a testy and impatient public demands action. This honeymoon is going to be shorter than an Elizabeth Taylor marriage.


It's barebones for now, but the new Web site for the new Governor made it up on time. You can tell this was put together on the run. On the contact page the Roundhouse is referenced as the "Round House."

The public might think Mary Herrera is still secretary of state. Newly elected Republican SOS Dianna Duran needs to make the Web switch. (Shortly after we blogged this, the switch was made, but now we are getting the old site again.)


If it is to be a long slog out of the economic cellar for New Mexico and not the traditional upward jolt on the back of higher energy prices, improving public education will be even more important. Martinez is showing some passion for this one, knowing that a move up would cement her legacy--and her re-election.

Republicans say they abhor big government, but don't necessarily lump education spending into that category. Martinez has to figure out what kind of money she will need to get the anxiously awaited school house reforms. Can it be done on the cheap? New ideas are welcome as the new faces take charge.

The other E in our headline is ethics. The Guv issued an executive order immediately upon taking office that is meant to improve access to public records. Oh yeah, it's also meant to make life easier for federal investigators looking at possible wrongdoing involving state investments under former Governor Big Bill.

The transparency order will cause adrenaline rushes among the Fourth Estate. But if history holds it will be short-lived and the battle between the press and the administration over access and "transparency" will begin anew in a year or two.


The ink-stained scribes for the major papers (Journal, N. Mex. & Sun-News) and wires were caffeinated and combed and ready to cover Susana's new year's morning inauguration, but it seems the state's TV newsrooms were dealing with hangovers from the night before. They certainly weren't dealing much with the history that was taking place in front of them. Not one major ABQ station broadcast the brief inaugural ceremony live or even had it posted on their Web sites in the hours following the 10 a.m. event.

The one station that planned a live broadcast of the swearing in of the nation's first female Hispanic Governor encountered those familiar "technical difficulties." It was all downhill from there. It wasn't until the 5 and 5:30 p.m. news broadcasts that the state saw the oath-taking on their TV or computer screens. That's an eternity in today's Internet driven news cycle. And this was on a day when single digit temperatures had folks holed up in their homes scanning their TV's and computers for news. As for radio picking up the slack and broadcasting live, those days ended with Arthur Godfrey.

Maybe someone should have arranged for a bomb threat on the Plaza. That might have gotten the attention of the TV types. History certainly didn't seem to have any pull.

While writing the above, we learned of the death of Gary Diamond, 62, a longtime ABQ area broadcaster who started out in radio at the old KQEO-AM and went on to a long engineering career with KKOB-AM radio. Art Schreiber, former manager of KKOB, joked to us that old school Gary will now do his best from high above to get inauguration coverage up to par in 2014.

You need something to get your political juices running in this new year? Here's one--Sam Bregman running for state Democratic Party chairman. Friends of the flamboyant attorney and former ABQ city councilor say Sam, 47, has his toes in the water and is testing a possible run against incumbent chairman Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe. The chair is elected by the sate party central committee at its spring meeting.

A contest featuring Javier vs. Sam would surely get the Dems out of the bleacher seats. Talk about bumper cars colliding. The Dems might be able to charge admission to that one.


And in the spirit of the new Governor's executive order on transparency, a Senior Alligator would like to join the celebration. He does so by forwarding the confidential questionnaire" that candidates for major positions in the new administration are being asked to fill out. Among the 42 questions is this:

Have you ever been associated with any person, association, group, or business venture that could be used to impugn or attack your character or qualifications for public service?

No wonder they're having trouble filling these jobs. This is New Mexico politics. If you don't have your character impugned, you're not breathing.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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