Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Roundhouse R's Bet On Courts For Congress Maps; Are They Betting Wrong? Plus: Guv's Agenda Still Sinking, And: Are Berry Bonds Too Risky? Tax Rev Down 

It appears inevitable that the courts are going to determine the shape of the state's three congressional districts for the coming decade, not the Legislature. But guess what? From this vantage point we would bet a cup of Starbucks Pike Place that the courts will end up approving a plan pretty much like the one the state Senate approved on a 27-14 party line vote.

We've seen some pretty crazy plans over the decades (remember the one that split ABQ in three parts?) so anytime we get a bill that even resembles sane thinking, we breathe a sigh of relief.
The one sent over to the House is described as "status quo" by pollster and demographer Brian Sanderoff, but the R's aren't biting. A Susana veto is looking as likely as a rib-eye on the menu at the Bullring.

The best thing about the Senate's congressional plan is how it puts rural Torrance County in the northern congressional district and pulls the bedroom communities of Corrales and Algodones into the ABQ district. That's what you call compatibility.

Only minor changes were mandated in the districts because of population shifts over the past ten years and that's what ABQ Dem Senator Linda Lopez and her colleagues basically gave us. The new ABQ district could still be taken by a Republican (the seat is currently held by Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich).

The R's are betting they can get a better deal in the courts. If you see GOP Senators Ryan or Ingle in the Roundhouse hallways, you'd be smart to take all the action they are willing to give you.


It's been conventional wisdom that the Guv's legislative package would probably sink during this special redistricting session, but she was hoping to at least get the Dem-controlled Legislature to vote on stuff like repealing the law that allows illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. As the session nears its close, it appears she may not even get that:

(State Senator John Arthur) Smith said he agrees with the Governor's crusade to get rid of the state law that allows illegal immigrants to get New Mexico drivers licenses, and he is a sponsor of her bill to stop the social promotion of 3rd graders who cannot read, but he said those bills and others may have to wait until the regular session starts in January.

"Our intended purpose for the special session is to do redistrict," said Sen. Carlos Cisneros, (D) Questa. "We're struggling enough as it is with that issue without adding additional other measures into the session."

Most of Susana's bills are not time critical and could easily wait until the regular January session, but she has staked a lot of political capital on getting them heard. Martinez's political advisers can tell her voters will remember any legislative slight to the fairly popular Governor (approval at 52%) but they will be wrong.

The fact is that most of the Governor's agenda is not resonating all that loudly with the public. They are not beating down the doors in Santa Fe calling for action. Jobs and the economy remain the premier issues and the Guv's special agenda barely touches them. Not to say that social promotion and driver's licenses don't deserve attention.


Down at ABQ City Hall last night the city council voted 9 to 0 for a "compromise" resolution that says if the Department of Justice comes into town to investigate possible civil rights violations by the ABQ police department, the city would "cooperate." That's watered down from the original measure the council approved. In that one they requested the DOJ come here and investigate. Mayor Berry vetoed that resolution.

Still, the original tougher resolution passed on a five to four vote that included Republican Dan Lewis voting with the four Dems. That signaled that Berry can no longer count on the R's always backing him. He is weakened.

As for the APD, DOJ is seen as very likely coming in. The numerous police shootings of the past two years mandate that. The questions are what will they find, will the city be completely open, will there be changes at the department as a result of any probe and how will any investigation impact Berry's political future?


City Hall Alligators are wondering when we are going to hear more about the disappointing tax collections for the current fiscal year and how they might impact the Oct. 4 city election. You see, Mayor Berry wants to take $3 million out of the general fund and leverage that into a $50 million bond issue to build a regional sports complex and also sock away $25 million for reconstructing the Paseo Del Norte freeway interchange. He calls it "ABQ: The Plan."

Trouble is tax collections for the first two months of the budget year are not tracking at the three percent growth rate Berry needs to get at that $3 million.
If the city doesn't have a surplus in its general fund, where would the money come from? Cuts to city departments? There are ten months to go in the budget year and things could pick up, but voting for the $50 million in bonds is now much more of a gamble. And we're sure you noticed voters aren't much in a gambling mood these days.

By the way, where are the fiscal conservatives of the Tea Party when it comes to "ABQ: The Plan"? Are they in favor of using taxpayer money to finance the regional sports complex? Thought they wanted the private sector to do this kind of thing? What about the Rio Grande Foundation?

Then there's the regular $164 million in bonds apart from Berry's special plans. Are those bonds going to get tarred if Berry's bonds start attracting more opposition It would be a blow to the local economy if all the bonds were voted down. Where is the committee in support of the $164 million? The Mayor? The City Council? The editorial pages of the ABQ Journal? The Economic Forum, the Chamber of Commerce?

History favors the bonds winning voter approval and it would be a nasty surprise if $164 million was pulled from the local construction economy because voters weren't told of their merit.

The election is two weeks away but with early voting so popular, the time to be talking up these bonds was yesterday.


Reader Joe Barela thought the Guv's promotion of the Hispanic Leadership Network's Rebuilding the American Dream Conference for Hispanics cloaks its true intent, but not this Senior Alligator:

Anyone claiming deception connected with promoting the Hispanic Leadership Conference headlining Susana and the Governor of Nevada is an extreme partisan reaching for a manufactured issue. There was no deception of anyone who can read English. Even those who received social promotions can conclude that an event headlined by two sitting Republican governors is going to have a certain flavor.

The two day conference kicks off Friday in downtown ABQ.


Here's an update on Sandoval County Commissioner Donnie Leonard and his dramatic health battle:

...After receiving a liver transplant in Arizona, Leonard is back home."I'm doing pretty good," he said. "It's good to be back home after two months."

Leonard was airlifted to Scottsdale's Mayo Clinic on July 24 from the University of New Mexico Hospital after several weeks of being ill. Doctors in Arizona determined he needed a liver transplant and, a week later, he underwent the seven-hour surgery. He returned to his Corrales home Sept. 10 and attended his first commission meeting in nearly three months Thursday evening.

Leonard owns several tire shops. He says "we all could do a better job of maintaining ourselves."

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