Thursday, September 22, 2011

Berry Bonds To Be Battered; Opposition Group Forms, Plus: Didn't Susana Say No State Layoffs? Also: Senator Ryan Steps In It With Age Remarks 

The Berry Bonds are in for a battering.

Speculation heard here last Thursday that a committee would form to oppose $50 million in bonds ABQ Mayor Berry RJ Berry wants voters to approve at the Oct. 4 city election has become reality. A group calling itself "No Pet Projects, Vote No On Bond 12" is expected to secure enough funding from the city's public safety unions and AFSCME to make an impact on the outcome. Of course, that isn't much these days as voters are looking for a reason to vote against bond issues as they fret over property taxes and home values. In March, Rio Rancho voters turned thumbs down on a road bond and the University of New Mexico lost a big one in the 2010 general election. Now it's the Mayor's turn in the crosshairs.

The opposition committee, led by a retired city employee, came with this on what the Mayor calls "ABQ The Plan":

“We oppose Gross Receipts Tax Bond 12 because it wrongly ties the critical city need of rehabilitating the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange to a sportsplex, a pet project we cannot afford,” says No Pet Projects Chairman, Don Wencewicz, an Albuquerque resident who lives in the far Northeast Heights. “My concern is that $25 million dollars is not enough to jump start the Paseo interchange project and dedicating $25 million dollars to a sportsplex is wasteful spending, especially in our unstable economy.”

Berry calls the proposed 35 acre sportsplex a quality of life project that would stimulate the local economy. He says putting away $25 million for rebuilding Paseo Del Norte could attract funding from the Feds and state to get that project moving. His critics say he is engaging in frivolous "legacy building."

But Berry's plan has been under assault for being finacially shaky. He is asking voters to take $3 million out of the city's general fund this fiscal year to use for the bond issue, but our City Hall insiders say tax collections for the first two months of the budget year Berry is depending on have come in below expectations. If voters approved the bonds and the extra $3 million Berry is expecting fails to materialize other city programs would have to be cut. No wonder city unions are lined up against the plan.

Beyond than, the Tea Party, Republicans and an overall electorate that could tilt conservative in a low-turnout election spells danger for the Berry Bonds. Will the formation of this opposition committee prompt the mayor to form his own last minute committee to save the day?


One political consultant says he thinks as little as $10,000 in paid media and voter contact could doom the bonds. He says the anti-tax environment is that strong. Only about 35,000 or so of the city's 300,000 registered voters are expected to cast ballots in the election, so the consultants can easily target their likely voters.


Let's hit that hot city council race while we're on the election beat today....

Nerves are rattling in the heated battle for council between Republican incumbent Trudy Jones and challenger and former GOP Councilor Greg Payne. Jones' supporters point out she is way ahead in the money race--$60,000 to Payne's $10,000--and that signals the end is near. But Payne backers retort that he has signs up in the district (as does Trudy) and is burning up shoe leather going door-to-door.

Polling is sparse in what will be a low turnout contest for the far ABQ NE Heights seat, but one wind sniffing Alligator pointed out that the ABQ Journal--never a Payne fan--went pretty light on him during their council profiles. Also, Jones political consultant Jay McCleskey has hit Payne repeatedly in the mailboxes over a ten year old disorderly conduct bust, but hasn't come with anything new that might make voters more prone to throwing Payne to the wolves. Still, Jones has the GOP establishment and the party pooh bahs behind her. If they can turn out the vote, it could make up for her lack of door-to-door campaigning and the low-profile she has had during her four years on the council.


Is the Block starting to crack? It seems so. Legally troubled Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block,. Jr is now openly talking about resigning, rather than become the first official in state history to be impeached. The possible good news:

He said his two and a half years as commissioner have been tough on him and his family.

"I'm looking forward to being whole again and if it takes a resignation from me to get some piece of mind, then that might be something I need to look into the next few weeks."

Block denies the allegations and says the state House impeachment process, for which $1 million has been set aside for, is an unfair burden to state taxpayers. When asked how long he thinks the impeachment process will take, Block says he hopes not too long. "I do feel for the taxpayers who have to foot that bill," he says. "That will weigh in my decision whether I stay or not."

Alligator betting odds have long had Democrat Block bowing out rather than have the stain of impeachment on the family name. Why not just get on with it, Jerome?


It wasn't exactly a promise but when Governor Martinez presented her budget back in January she said it included no layoffs and no furloughs of state government workers. So what gives? We've been hit with layoffs in the Public Education Department and this week the hammer hit the State Fair where 16 classified employees were shown the exits. The Fair is losing money. The Tourism Secretary piled on by laying off 11 full-time employees, including seven at the iconic New Mexico Magazine which has also turned into a money loser. (Hmm. Why is the editor of the mag pulling down over $90,000 a year while the ink-stained wretches under him are kicked the curb?)

Some of these workers will be able to apply for other state jobs, but most are not going to get them.

Besides now losing money, the Fair has been notorious over the years for hiding political employees in its aged adobe walls. NM Magazine is a victim of the ongoing advertising depression. The work force there probably needed to be trimmed. But this is a big chink of payroll that is coming out of the local economy. Would not doing the trimming through attrition make more sense?

Whatever the case, the honeymoon is over for state employees. If they thought Martinez was pledging no layoffs in that budget statement, they've had a cold Margarita thrown in their face.

As for Tourism Secretary Jacobson, she says her goal is to improve New Mexico's ranking as a place to visit from #38 in the USA to something much higher. "We really need to turn that around," she declared.

Please, tell us how Madame Secretary when you are not fighting for more advertising dollars to showcase the beauty of this state at the same time you are shedding personnel?

You want tourists, you've got to tell them we're here. The Tourism Secretary needs to fight for her department and for the thousands of New Mexicans who depend on visitors for their livelihoods.

P.S. Our longtime broadcast colleague and one of the legislative good guys--ABQ GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga--doesn't get off the hook for his call that there would be no state employee layoffs or furloughs. He made that prediction on the blog in December 2010 and we highlighted it. You're busted, Larry, but you get a chance to defend yourself on our next Election Night radio broadcast.


The layoff of government workers is across the board. Down in Eddy County near Carlsbad a direct hit on the economy is the result:

The manager of the federal government's nuclear waste repository in southeastern New Mexico says it has to trim more jobs. Washington TRU Solutions announced the second phase of a workforce restructuring plan at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. Earlier this year, 51 of the company's workers volunteered to leave as part of the first phase. The company expects about 65 workers and contingent staffing employees to be involved in the second round of cuts. Subcontract personnel are also expected to be affected. The company says the restructuring is needed because federal stimulus funding ends Sept. 30 and WIPP's projected budget is expected to be the lowest in eight years.

Come on New Mexico congressional delegation, can't we do better than this? What are we going to do when they come for Los Alamos, Sandia and the military bases? And they will be coming....

Sens. Feldman & Ryan
Excuse the street vernacular, but ABQ GOP State Senator John Ryan is pissing off everyone in sight. Now he can add over 50 percent of the population to the list. When asked about the remote possibility that redistricting would throw him into the same district as Dem ABQ State Senator Dede Feldman, forcing the two to run against one another, Ryan applied the ultimate put down and said of Feldman, "She's old."

Say what, John? You obviously did not clear that statement with Veronica, your cabinet secretary wife, did you?

But what's really old to Ryan' s critics is his long list of antics. It begins with his burglary, extortion and conspiracy convictions stemming from a 1980 break in at a North Valley home. Governor Johnson later pardoned him for the crimes. Then in 2008 Ryan was accused of gay bashing when he outed his Democratic opponent with a nasty flyer. Flash forward to 2011 and there was Ryan flirting dangerously with the race card as he and Roswell GOP State Senator "Lighting Rod" Adair held the floor in a late night and contentious debate over the repeal of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

Ryan is entitled to his views, but his reference to Feldman, the gay bashing and his incendiary debating over illegal immigrants raise questions.

John, Dede may be old to you, but are you sure you're acting your age?

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