Thursday, September 08, 2011

Why Mayor Berry Misses Darren White, Plus: Dateline Santa Fe: Susana Needs Education Cash, The Return of Dr. No And The Redistricting Blues 

Berry & Schultz
The emotion surrounding the red hot controversy over the ABQ police department is getting closer to the bone--the mayoral bone of Republican RJ Berry. Before he was bounced as Public Safety Director, Darren White was absorbing the lightning for Berry over the fatal police shootings and the numerous other difficulties that have beset the department. Last night the City Council fell one vote short of overriding Berry's veto of a measure calling for a federal Department of Justice investigation of APD. However, those at the meeting say negative public comment was directed more at Berry than it has been in the past. APD Chief Schultz is still taking hits, but with White out of the picture, he too is more vulnerable.

The newspaper came with a long editorial trying to justify Schultz's continued tenure, but the editorial may have done as much damage as good. It had to list the long litany of serious wrongdoing that has occurred under Schultz's watch.

A majority of the council--four Dems and one R--asked for the formal DOJ probe. That was one short of what was needed to override Berry's veto. It is somewhat academic. Observers say Justice is coming in here and doesn't need an invite. Meanwhile, councilors will send Berry yet another bill asking for the investigation.

The mayor is banking on the public's supportive stance toward law enforcement, but as the issue shifts more and more to his management ability (and that of Schultz's), he loses that armor.

Darren White, RJ misses you.


It's not easy being a Republican Governor who wants to improve education. You need to spend money to do it. For example, Roundhouse insiders are noting that the Guv's "social promotion" bill would require kids in Kindergarten through 8th grades who aren't proficient in reading to go to summer school. But the bill contains no funding. Where would the cash come from? Cutting athletics? Administration? Legislative insiders put the cost of the mandatory summer school at $30 million.

Segments of the Guv's education agenda are winning bipartisan support out here but to make it happen she's going to have to not only cut waste (hello, APS), but also get out the checkbook.

In Washington, the money squeeze continues and it's being felt here. At first, it appeared the budgets for Sandia and Los Alamos national labs would grow on the order of a whopping 10 percent. But now it looks more like a 4 percent increase. Not bad, but not great. Senator Bingaman comes with the spin:

The bill increases the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) stockpile budget to $7.19 billion--a 4 percent increase over this year’s budget...
“The federal budget is tightening, so it is significant that the labs’ budget is increased overall in the Senate bill,” Bingaman said.


Senator John Arthur Smith (Dr. No) isn't letting slip by what we did. We thought the fix to the state unemployment fund would be low-lying fruit for the Guv and that it would sail through the special session. But that was before Dr. No looked askance at the Guv's new proposal to transfer over $130 million from the state's cash reserves to shore up the fund. That money, he argued, will be needed to plug the state's Medicaid funding gap and possibly other shortfalls.

The Guv is doing all she can to spare businesses an increase in the unemployment tax. She vetoed a rate hike approved during the last session. But the business community--as represented by the ABQ Chamber of Commerce--has been open to a rate increase. They don't call it a tax increase like the Guv and they fear if a higher rate is not put into effect then even higher rates will be forced upon them by federal regulations. Also, the rate has been quite low for a long time.

If Dr. No hasn't made Susana's reserve raid DOA, it surely is in intensive care.


Twenty year State Senator Pete Campos draws a bead on redistricting:

...Redistricting necessarily means that some areas of the state--those where population growth has not kept pace with the state as a whole--will lose representation while other areas--those where the population has grown the fastest--will gain representation.

This year, that truism generally means that Rio Rancho and the west side of Albuquerque will gain political representation at the expense of downtown Albuquerque and eastern New Mexico. The redrawing of political districts to accommodate population shifts must also be done with an eye toward ensuring that the voting strength of ethnic and racial minorities is not diminished, that various communities of interest are preserved and that other technical requirements are met. Political gain is, or should be, well down on the list of redistricting criteria.

GOP State Rep. Don Tripp, representing the Socorro area, comes with these insider redistricting tips:

Tripp said both Democrats and Republicans will try to "pack" districts in such a way that their party will have the best chance of winning seats.

"Democrats control the Legislature so they'll come out with a plan that comes out of their caucus and the Republicans will have one that comes out of their caucus...The House and Senate will pick one plan to start with and go from there...I think (the Legislature) will pass a plan in two weeks. I think the odds are high that the governor will veto the plan and then it'll go to the courts. If it's done within the parameters, it'll be upheld."

And the AP comes with this early analysis of what's going to come down at the Special:

Rural New Mexico and part of the city of Albuquerque are on the political chopping block as lawmakers consider how to redraw boundaries of legislative districts to adjust for population changes during the past decade. Eastern and north-central portions of the state are at risk of losing representation in the Legislature because the region's growth since 2000 has lagged behind statewide population increases. The same is true for central sections of Albuquerque.


And here's how it came down:

Redistricting was the only issue in a special session 10 years ago. Legislators met for 17 days in that 2001 session, but finished with nothing to show for it. Then-governor Gary Johnson vetoed all five redistricting bills submitted to him. That meant judges then had to settle redistricting, and court costs to taxpayers exceeded $3.5 million.


The best kept secret in New Mexico this week is that the State Fair opens Friday. That's what happens when you chop away at ad budgets. They're going to try to pack the fairgrounds by slashing ticket prices:

The 2011 New Mexico State Fair will open with a bang this Friday, September 9, offering $2 admission all day to Fairgoers of all ages. It’s the first Opening Day admission discount promotion in more than a decade, ushering in the 73rd Annual New Mexico State Fair.

At best, the State Fair has atrophied and at worst it is dying. Major surgery is needed to rejuvenate the tradition or in the decade ahead it will continue to fade.


Thanks to the ABQ Lawyers Club and its president Tom Popejoy for having us over for their monthly lunch Wednesday and to chat about La Politica. We missed the lunch part because we were following some stuff at the Roundhouse (The sacrifices we make!). One of the lawyers asked us about the politics behind the 1960's closing of Roswell's Walker Air Force Base. We drew a blank, even though we've heard the story a number of times. We'll post an answer on the blog soon. It might earn us a free lunch.

From downtown ABQ:

Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins is in Malaysia for the 2011 Forbes Global CEO Conference. She is an invited guest and is traveling at at no cost to taxpayers. She will be interacting with 400 of the world's most powerful global CEOs, tycoons, entrepreneurs, up-and-comers, capitalists and thought leaders. Maggie will be tweeting from the Forbes conference so if you don't already follow her on Twitter her handle is @BernCoMaggie.

Maybe some of those capitalist tools can be persuaded to set up shop in New Mexico.

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