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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Will Berry's Bond Plan Get Bombed In Campaign? Plus: "C" Word Surfaces In Santa Fe, And: US Senate Chatter, Big Bill's Cuba Play & Some Bottom Lines 

Mayor Berry
Will Mayor Berry's ABQ the Plan be panned in the final weeks of City Election '11? Could be. There are rumblings of forming a finance committee to fight Berry's proposal to have voters approve $25 million in bonds to build a regional sports complex and set aside another $25 million for eventually upgrading the overwhelmed Paseo del Norte freeway intersection on Interstate 25. Berry wants the city to take $3 million a year from its general fund budget to support paying off the bond debt. Who would finance an ad campaign against the projects? Perhaps the public safety unions who haven't seen a pay raise in a while and maybe some West Side advocates who say they still don't have adequate fire protection in their neighborhoods. One of them put it this way:

Tying up $3 million out of the general fund for 18 years for projects that have not been firmly defined is pie in the sky. The public should have had a better opportunity to vet these plans...Is $25 million really enough to get Paseo started? It will cost a total of $350 million. The money is just going to sit there. And what is the fiscal impact of a sports complex? Who is going to guarantee any funding shortfalls? This type of project is best pursued by the private sector instead of putting taxpayers at risk.

Another sore point with detractors of ABQ the Plan: A voter can't vote separately on the two projects. They are packaged together. So if you support Paseo but don't like the sports complex, you are out of luck. That's another reason foes say voters should scuttle ABQ the Plan.

The mayor argues there were plenty of public hearings and that the sports complex will increase economic activity. He says putting side $25 million for Paseo will get the ball rolling on the badly needed reconstruction. If paid opposition surfaces, he will have to make those arguments more forcefully. Voter rejection of his his pet bond proposals would be a major setback for Berry and further soften him up for his 2013 re-elect.

Even without paid ads against the plan, city fathers are going to want to campaign hard. Financially pressed voters around the state have been turning down bond issues, including one recently in next door Rio Rancho.

THE LOST DECADE


Look at these 2010 money stats compared to 2000. Talk about a lost decade:

New Mexico’s poverty rate was 18.6 percent in 2010, down from 19.3 percent in 2009 but up significantly from pre-recession levels of 14.0 percent in 2007. New Mexico’s poverty rate was 17.5 percent in 2000, the year of the last national census. New Mexico’s median income of $45,098 in 2010 ranked the state 38th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In constant, 2010 dollars, median income in New Mexico was $44,261 in 2009, $46,643 in 2007 and $44,432 in 2000.

Hopefully, you did better.

RED LIGHT CAMERAS

Back to city election action. Here's the mailer sent out by the company that runs the controversial red light camera program. They're trying to convince voters to keep the cameras clicking away at red light runners. Redflex has put up $45,000 to produce and distribute the flyers door-to-door. The company is obviously protecting its profits, but the campaign could make a difference. Past polling has shown the public is divided over the cameras. In a low turnout election, a more conservative electorate is expected--one that could tilt against the program. The paid advertising could disrupt that trend.

Whatever happens Oct. 4 will be "advisory." Even if the voters favor shutting down the program, the City Council could still decide to keep the eyes on you. Or not.

SENATE ACTION

There's little doubt that Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich is going to out raise rival Hector Balderas in their contest for the 2012 US Senate nomination. But Balderas insiders say they don't need to match Martin dollar for dollar to take the prize. They say if they can raise at least 60 percent of what Heinrich rakes in they can be competitive. One reason is because of Hector's ethnic advantage. It's also true that turnout and grassroots organizing can have a larger impact in a lower turnout primary than a general election....

This item bears repeating because even a Senior Alligator was confused over it--A federal candidate like Balderas can use leftover federal campaign money to seek a state office like attorney general or governor. Balderas is still fighting a perception in the early going that he is positioning himself for state office in case the Senate bid doesn't work out. By the way, a candidate for state office can't use leftover money to finance a bid for federal elective office.

There is discomfort over the Senate race among many Dems. One of them told us: "I just gave Hector a donation and now I have to give Martin one."

INTUITIVE FEEL

We blogged this week that we had a feeling that the Guv's jawboning over the driver's licenses for illegal immigrants is going to give the bad guys pause about abusing the system. Well, it might have inhibited folks in general from applying for a license. The AP comes with this:

State records show the flow of driver’s licenses to immigrants has slowed since New Mexico tightened its application system last year, and the drop-off steepened after Republican Gov. Susana Martinez took office in January promising to end the licensing policy. A review of records found that immigrant licenses--those issued for the first time to people without a Social Security number--dropped 57 percent during the first seven months of the Martinez administration compared to the same period a year ago.

THE "C" WORD

That Santa Fe unmentionable--"compromise"--actually raises its head:

Senator John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, introduced SB-29 designed to reach a compromise with the governor on shoring up the state's Unemployment Compensation Fund.

"This proposal would lower the unemployment insurance rates that New Mexico businesses pay from the rate the legislature believed was necessary earlier this year while raising it from what the governor indicated she would accept," Smith said. "We're splitting the difference evenly."

Susana has proposed raiding the general fund reserves to the tune of $130 million to avoid any higher business rates. That's a no-no for Dr. No of Deming and is DOA.

This is a nice way out for Susana and would put some bipartisan points on her scoreboard. Why not put the ball in the basket, Guv?

STILL PLAYING

Big Bill is still playing the game at the highest levels, and not always winning. Dateline Havana:

The Cuban Foreign Ministry fired back at former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, accusing him of lying to the press and of being disrespectful to the Cuban authorities. Officials further denied that there is anything out of the ordinary with the health of a jailed U.S. aid worker. An official statement says Richardson's visit to Cuba came "at his initiative and we received his request, on a private visit, as on other occasions in the past." Richardson left Havana in a huff this morning, "disappointed and perplexed..."

The White House spoke favorably of Richardson's efforts. That relationship has sometimes run lukewarm, but in 2012 Obama is seeking re-election and Hispanics are key. Richardson is back in their good graces.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In the Wednesday blog, we mentioned Vernon's Steakhouse as being in ABQ and where GOP US Senate candidate Heather Wilson had an anniversary dinner with her husband. That drew this email from Los Ranchos Mayor Larry Abraham, mayor of the Village of Los Ranchos :

We are proud that Vernon's is in Los Ranchos not Albuquerque. I enjoy reading your column.

You're right, Mayor, and we're sure you welcome that tax revenue Vernon's generates for the village each month....

Reader Kay in ABQ writes:

Joe, your reference to the Spaceport reminded me that I saw Richard Branson of Virgin Galatic on the Jimmy Fallon show this week. He mentioned the "Spaceport in New Mexico." It's still a little thrill to hear us (New Mexico) mentioned on a national network broadcast--and not of news of DWI stats or police shootings...Boy, Joe, I really appreciate your daily intellectual energy vitamin. I'm thankful you keep pumping it out....

Thanks for that, Kay. We mark our eighth year of daily blogging of New Mexico politics this month. As the kids say--Congrats...or something.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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