Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Speculation Swirls On Big Bill Probe; Explosive Charges? Plea Deals? State Awaits Grand Jury, Plus: Kick Starting Our Economy, And: The Food Corner
The ABQ Federal grand jury investigating Bill Richardson for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a state worker and then paying hush money to keep it quiet is leaking like a sieve. Numerous news stories reveal confidential information about the probe. (Can't Dem US Attorney Ken Gonzales keep a lid on things over there?). None of it is confirmed but it seems more potent than the other investigations of Bill that have come and gone. One of our reliable Alligators checking in wonders if we are on the cusp of something politically explosive:
Did anyone get immunity or take a plea deal? If there were indeed plea bargains on the part of aides associated with Bill, it will send strong shock waves through the state Democratic Party.
Richardson aides copping pleas? If true, the R's will act like they're on Ecstasy and the case will shadow the 2012 election here.
News reports have said the woman in question was paid $250,000 to keep quiet and that the money was wired to her lawyers from a bank in Mexico.
The I-Phones and Blackberries are working overtime as the guessing game intensifies over who the woman is at the center of the potential scandal. She has been identified as a state employee. Was she a member of Richardson's staff. An advisor? Hmm....
Speculation is rampant that if there are to be any indictments in the case, they will come by the end of the year.
And then there are the guffaws. Was Big Bill really so careless as to have an affair with a staffer and then agree to sign off on a huge hush money payment? If so, it would be a mistake of epic proportions in a lengthy political career marked by careful planning and with "cover your ass" as his working slogan for day-to day-governing,
If all of this results in an indictment it will roil the waters for the 2012 election. But if this is another case of the Feds teasing and coming up empty-handed, there will be some serious questions to ask about their modus operandi. Stay tuned.
A reader says we need to put aside for a moment that proposal to increase the draw down from the state's $12 billion permanent fund to fund early childhood education programs aimed at breaking the generational cycle of dysfunction in New Mexico. Eduardo Holguin of the National Education Association writes that keeping what is currently coming out of that fund and into the general budget each year is at risk:
That 5.8% distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund currently going to schools will soon be a fleeting memory if the Legislature does not act to put a Constitutional Amendment before the voters in 2012 to keep the distribution at 5.8%. If the Legislature does not act or if the voters do not vote to keep it at 5.8%, it will drop to 5.5% in 2013 and to 5% in 2017. This means a $30 Million hole in public schools funding in 2013 and another $50 Million on top of that in 2017 for legislators to fill. This also affects the other recipients such as the state universities, NMMI, School for the Deaf and the School for the Visually Impaired among others.
Thanks, Eduardo, We well remember the 2003 special election that increased the draw down of the permanent funds to pay for higher teacher pay and other educational needs. We were supposed to be able to do without the increased amount begging around now, but then along came the worst recession in modern state history.
We haven't heard if the legislative leadership plans on putting this before the voters in November of 2012. If they don't, they will be betting on a stronger economic recovery than the one we are getting.
Former Dem State Senator Roman Maes, now a lobbyist, said here recently New Mexico need to challenge itself to come up with ideas that will lead to a better economy. Jon Hendry, president of the State Federation of Labor, says he welcomes the challenge:
--Level the playing field with combined reporting. It shouldn't just be NM based companies that pay corporate tax.
--Issue bonds while rates are at historic lows to allow cops, firefighter, teachers and state employees to refinance there residences. And while we're in bonds why don't we offer say $200m to contractors to buy foreclosed properties and remodel them for sale?
--Let's get some of these half finished projects ( for example the Anasazi building on 5th and Central in ABQ) moving. We're well under our capacity at the various state bonding agencies.
--Move all state funds from National to State Banks. Better yet set up a State Bank like North Dakota. We have an average of $3 billion in B of A, the official state bank. Imagine what that would do for NM Banks.
--Let the Tourism dept place there own ads and the ads for other departments That could double the ad buy because of the savings in commissions.
--Tell the State Investment Council that they need to hire someone to act like a shareholder and and encourage the companies that we invest in to hold a minimum hold meetings here (good for tourism) open branch offices or buy NM goods. At the very least we can exact some jobs from the companies we invest in.
--Fill state jobs already budgeted. This isn't the time to be running up surpluses based on employee savings.
--Remember ABQ Mayor Berry's sportsplex? Put it at the State Fair.
Thanks for the food for thought, Jon.
More ideas? Email 'em in. And speaking of food....
It started when we complimented the Hotel Andaluz in downtown ABQ on their Sunday brunch service. That led to ABQ attorney Jeff Baker wondering why restaurant service in ABQ is so generally off the mark. And that brings us to today and a response from talk radio pioneer and longtime New Mexico foodie Mike Santullo:
As far as service, Albuquerque is one of the worst dining locales in the United States. One of the chief reasons is that many of the local restaurants have “absentee owners" and the staffs don't get the proper training or direction necessary to ensure good service.
Additionally, many of these locales lack an adult at the helm. Entire restaurants are left to “kids” to manage. So you have kids managing kids. Many of these young people do not know what it is to sit down and enjoy a genuine dining experience which includes attentiveness to the customer.
There is also a lack of “quality control” by management and a lack of “re-training” which is frequently necessary at many restaurants. Also, many of the menu items are priced too high for this market thus forcing diners to leave a smaller tip.
There are also good reasons why Santa Fe’s restaurants rank higher in customer service. The capital city is a well-known “international” dining and tourist destination. It attracts a more skilled crop of food specialists, including expertly trained chefs that take the dining experience more seriously.
If the dining public is willing to accept mediocre service and not demand better, that is exactly what they deserve. Service in this city will never improve until we as consumers start insisting that it be the rule rather than the exception.
Well said, Mike. It reminds us of the old laugh line about service in certain restaurants around here: "Order everything all at once because you're only going to see them once."
THE BOTTOM LINES
"I have not failed, I've just found ten thousand ways that won't work." – Thomas Edison
This is the home of New Mexico politics.
E-mail your news and comments.
Interested in advertising here? Drop us a line.