Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Selling New Mexico: What's it Going To Take? Plus: More Redistricting; Outlook for Leaders Lujan And Sanchez Appraised, And: Karen Montoya--A Hero? 

The state Tourism department continues to tilt at windmills. They release a study that says more than a few potential travelers have a sour outlook on New Mexico--that it is arid, boring and one big desert. On the other hand, Secretary Monica Jacobson insists we don't need to spend more money to let people know of the many attractions here. Is that how PepsiCo--where Jacobson earned her marketing stripes--would respond to such a dour study?

The amount spent on promoting the state has a direct bearing on who comes here and spends money. It's as simple as that. But the Secretary expresses exasperation that our smallish state will never have the same sized ad budgets as our larger neighbors and concludes--illogically--that we should therefore not increase our advertising and promotional budget. She says:

It will take money, but that is not the key. The key is to have a smart strategic plan in place and what we're looking at this year is building that plan, understanding how we talk to people. What do we tell them that is going to make them want to come here?

But Sharon Schultz of the Tourism Association responds simply but powerfully:

If you don't make people aware of your product, they're not going to know you exist, to come and visit you.

A poverty mentality is not going to improve our standing from 38th in the nation for attracting visitors. Just ask Pepsi.


More today on what our analysts are saying about the redistricting of the state legislative seats...

ABQ Dem State Rep. Bill O'Neill, who has been hammered by the Governor and her political team for refusing to support their position in support of repealing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, appears to have improved his chances for re-election under the redistricting plan passed by the Legislature but vetoed by the Guv. Our analysts say the eastern precincts in O'Neill's Northeast Heights district have been dropped, giving it a more Democratic flavor.

"For a hard campaigner like O'Neill this change could make a big difference," says one of our Alligators poring over the data.

The redistricting is not set in stone. But the court that will decide the boundaries will take into account the plan approved by the elected legislature.

For O'Neill, the break he got in the redistricting bill is seen as well-deserved. When other Dems faded from the heat of the attacks on the driver's licenses, O'Neill stood firm as he was blasted with robo calls and other hits.

The R's are sure to try to wrest the district from O'Neill. He won his first re-election in 2010 with only 51% of the vote, but if the "Fighting Irishman" takes his case door-to-door as he has in his past two runs, he is going to be tough to crack.


And what about NM House Speaker Ben Lujan? The powerful lawmaker had the scare of a lifetime when Carl Trujillo nearly ousted him in the 2010 Dem primary. Lujan won by a mere 80 votes. Well, our analysts say the redistricting gives Ben, 75, a bit more of the city of Santa Fe and a bit less of the rural precincts in his Santa Fe County district that he has represented since 1975. One Alligator reports:

Trujillo is still a threat, but if the Speaker works it, he should win. He can now argue to fellow Dems that he has stood firm against Republican Governor Martinez. Also, Lujan's tight relationship with Governor Richardson worked against him last time, but now Bill is gone. That helps. And his son, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, is more established in his own right so the speaker is not dealing with as much resentment there...

Trujillo has not yet made a public statement on whether he will mount a primary challenge against Lujan.


And what about that other powerful Santa Fe lawmaker, State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez? There's been talk that he could be a prime GOP target in 2012 because of the way Valencia County has been voting more Republican. Our redistricting gurus say Sanchez is prepped to come out of redistricting with a safer seat. He loses some precincts in Los Lunas which lean R and he picks up Isleta Pueblo which gives him more Dems. They say the seat will now have a performance rating of 53 percent Dem, up from 49 percent. The R's can still try to take out the veteran, but they are going to have a steeper hill to climb, assuming as we are that the courts go with something similar to the above scenario.

Reader Rosalie Montano comes with a full-throated defense of Democratic Bernalillo County Assessor Karen Montoya amid a controversy over layoffs at the office.

Mr. Monahan, Karen Montoya finally made the move that all taxpayers praise--lay off employees due to lack of work. Then we have the County Commissioners playing politics and not supporting her. Why is Commissioner Wiener asking for an investigation? An investigation was already asked for by the Commissioners. And the Human Resources know that there is just not enough work in that office at this time.

She submitted a plan to lay off positions that are no longer needed and changed four office positions which these laid off employees can apply for. It is simple--move these employees over to departments that have been asking for positions for over 10 years. There has not been any growth in many departments and they are struggling.

Karen Montoya to me is a hero, finally an elected official taking the risk for doing something right. Time for the media to back off and give the correct story to the public, us taxpayers want our money to be used correctly and efficiently!

We're sure Karen appreciates the vigorous defense, Rosalie. There is more on all of this here. And another report on whether the layoffs targeted employees who did not support Montoya politically.

Another note: Montoya has long been accused of being in the hip pocket of Dem State Sen. Tim Eichenberg, a property tax consultant, who works closely with the Assessor's office. She says he has no undue influence, but he was important in getting her elected.

Also, Montoya is now considering a run for the ABQ Public Regulation Commission seat being vacated next year by Dem Jason Marks. Montoya is in her second four year term as Assessor.

By the way, a couple of months ago we had a note up on the blog that Eichenberg might leave the Senate and go for the ABQ PRC seat. Word is he is now seeking re-election to a second four year term. Our insiders report he is being much more friendly with liberal Dems. Redistricting is going to add Dems to his NE Heights Senate seat. That means a primary challenge is more viable, even as the seat becomes much more safer from the Republicans in the general election.


Oldtimers will recall that a very young Tim Eichenberg was elected Bernalillo County Treasurer back in the mid 70's. We remember attending a couple of his news conferences. That was a case of the cub reporter covering the political cub.


If you have been following the back and forth volleys here on what exactly constitutes ABQ's South Valley, this note from reader Phil Leckman will be of interest:

Not to disagree with the Senior Alligator, but the statement "Nobody except the uninformed from out of state include any part of Albuquerque in the South Valley" is, in fact, uniformed. The city annexed much of the Atrisco neighborhood, so the east side of Atrisco from Central down to at least Hooper falls within the city limits. There are additional pocket annexations all the way down to Coors and Gun Club…

That didn't take long. We broke the news to the state via Twitter last night that Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima had been re-elected to a second four year term,. The first seven precincts reporting gave the Democratic incumbent a more than 20 point lead and he was off to the races. Insider campaign polling had shown the mayor with a comfortable lead.

GOP City Councilor Dolores Conner earned second and Dem political operative Michael Huerta trailed in third. Near final results showed the popular Miyagishima blowing the doors off with 62% of the vote. There was no anti-incumbent mood in the City of Crosses Tuesday night. Well done, Mayor.

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