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Monday, August 15, 2011

Go Ahead, Steal Our Money, But Don't Touch Our Chimichangas! Plus: City Election '11 Attracts Few Entrants, And: On The Econ Beat 

Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico will put up with a lot. You can rip the state off for $17 million in placement fees. You can wire contracts for your friends who have been kicked out of their jobs. You can even let your campaign guru run government. Heck, on a good day you can place your mistress on the state payroll. But stealing chimichangas? Why, a hundred years ago they hung people here for stuff like that. And so we can definitively say that disgraced Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. is finished. Gone. Through. Kaput. Nobody--and we mean nobody--is going to get away with a chimichanga caper around here:

Investigators found that after the state revoked Block’s gas card, he obtained social security numbers from at least one other PRC employee. Chimichangas are among the items investigators believe Block bought with another PRC employee's gas card. At least four times in July, investigators believe Block used that employee’s social security/gas pin number to buy gas and more than $52 in other items, including cigarettes and two chimichangas from an Allsups...

Well, Jerome will surely get his comeuppance for this and his many other sins and be forced off the commission. But if he says he needs therapy and should avoid doing time, he's got our vote. Any politician brazen enough to bill taxpayers for their chimichangas--or enchiladas for that matter--suffers from deep-seated anxiety. A New Mexico politician learns at his granddaddy's knee that they must stick to filling their bank accounts at taxpayers expense--New Mexicans are used to that. But once these fellas start filling their stomachs on our dime, it's over. I mean, What's next? Pilfering green chile with the state credit card? Why, it's sacrilegious,

Chief Justice Daniels, an investigation of the highest order is called for into the case of the missing Chimichangas. We demand action or the hanging party forms today!

CITY ELECTION '11

They're not exactly storming the gates to serve on the ABQ City Council. There are four seats up for election October 4 but only six candidates are vying for the slots. Incumbent Dem Councilors Rey Garduno and Debbie O'Malley are getting free re-election rides. The deadline has now passed for any challengers except for write-ins. It will be O'Malley's third four year term from the city's North Valley and term number two for Rey Garduno of the SE Heights.

Why didn't these two councilors in normally politically active districts draw any challengers? Is most everyone happy with them or there's no interest?

The other two districts on the ballot will have to provide the fireworks. For sure the skies over District 8 in the NE Heights will light up soon. Political fire brand and former councilor Greg Payne is trying to get his old seat back by challenging incumbent Republican Trudy Jones. In District four, GOP Councilor Brad Winter will face off with retired city administrator and Dem Bill Tallman.

Jones is going to outspend Payne big time. Payne has only $5,750 cash on hand as we head for the main event. Trudy reports a $5,000 from the Real Estate Measure Finance Committee. She has $42,000 cash available, according to an Alligator adding up report totals. The councilor is retired from the real estate biz. Payne is a former director of the city's transit system under Dem Mayor Marty Chavez.

The council has five R's and four Dems. That partisan line-up is unlikely to change unless Tallman can pull a big upset. But Payne's prospects continue to be closely watched. He has been critical of some policies of GOP Mayor Richard Berry. The mayor is endorsing Jones, but a recently weakened City Hall could help Payne make a race of it.

INSPECTING THE IG


Initial reports from ABQ City Hall on Neftali Carrasquillo, Jr., the new inspector general who is charged with conducting the independent investigation into the Darren White scandal, are favorable. One of the Alligators says:

I was very impressed with him and his ethics. I feel confident that he will do a real investigation. He is new to Albuquerque, a former police officer from New York City. He is totally independent from Mayor Berry and the City Council and was adamant that he is going to investigate everything and report what he finds no matter who it upsets. He was passionate about his goal of earning the IG's office the reputation of being fair and honest....

The first report on the auto accident involving the wife of former Public Safety Director Darren White was pooh-poohed for being too wishy-washy. It was conducted by the city's Independent Review Officer who works under the wing of Berry.

While the investigation goes on, White has picked up a security consulting contract with the Downs at ABQ which is co-owned by Paul Blanchard, a close friend and fund-raiser of former Gov. Bill Richardson. Blanchard is working on getting his lease renewed with NM Expo. The expo is managed by Dan Mourning, a former restaurateur who is a close friend of Darren White's.

PD PROBED

The troubled ABQ police department continues to draw scrutiny, even as Chief Ray Schultz and Mayor Berry try to play down the scope of the problems. New Mexico LULAC has called for Chief Schultz's resignation and former city Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli has called out Berry over the numerous fatal police shootings and other problems that he says have caused turmoil in APD and gone unattended.

The odds of a Department of Justice probe of APD seem pretty good after the city council approved inviting in DOJ on a 5 to 4 vote.

THE ECON BEAT

As it goes about the business of scouring the necessity of hundreds of tax incentives, the challenge for Santa Fe now is to not screen the tax breaks through an ideological filter: The Guv vetoed a bill that would have done something like this.

Gov. Martinez has issued an executive order that requires some state agencies to prepare an annual tax expenditure budget to determine any impacts on job creation and economic development..It says New Mexico currently does not have a standardized system of analyzing such expenditures and determining whether they are meeting their intended objectives.

Martinez hammered the incentives for the film industry and used it as a political issue to build support in her GOP base. The incentives were reduced. Going forward, can she, for example cast an objective eye on incentives that may be questionable for the energy industry, a major campaign contributor?

Looking at tax incentives that have out lived their usefulness and could generate badly needed revenue for the state is long overdue. We're giving out $1.3 billion annually in such breaks. but if it is done with an eye toward punishing political foes the administration is not going to get anywhere with the Legislature.

GLOBAL REACH

It is really quite cool--the global reach of the NM Spaceport:

Renata Chlumska, a well-known adventure athlete who was the first Swedish woman to reach the top of Mt. Everest, may be the first one to do it (travel into space) in Sweden. But Sweden's Spaceport is not yet ready for her, so instead she plans to be the first Swedish woman to go into outer space with Virgin Galactic at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

She says she was introduced to a travel agency that had connections to Virgin Galactic a few years ago. "Of course I was one of the first Swedes to sign on," she says. "I really believe in this. Fifty years back there were just a few people who were privileged enough to fly around the world, and now flying has become something general. So even if today space travel feels exclusive and very futuristic, it is within reach. It's happening now. The future is here and that's so fascinating to be able to be a part of that."


Indeed. But it gets you thinking about that PR proposal for Spaceport America that was recently circulating. Are we putting enough funding into marketing for this project? We're talking globally, not locally. Spaceport Executive director Anderson may want to take a second look and consider a more robust PR and marketing effort for a project that is garnering worldwide attention and excitement.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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