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Friday, January 28, 2011

Daughter Joins NM Mom In La Politica, Plus: Heather & Higher Ed, Showing The Money Or Not & The Santa Fe Comfort Level 

Monique & Sally
There's a mother-daughter team on the state political scene. The new director of tourism doesn't have much work experience tied to New Mexico, but she does have a political connection. The mother of Monique Mayer Jacobson is former GOP ABQ City Councilor Sally Mayer, who now works as a constituent services aide to ABQ GOP Mayor Richard Berry. Governor Martinez named Jacobson tourism secretary-designate.

She has worked in marketing for PepsiCo in Chicago, serving as director of brand identity for the Quaker division of Pepsi and senior marketing manager for Quaker Oatmeal. She grew up in Taos and is a graduate of Sandia Prep with an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

An old acquaintance of Jacobson writes to us:

Monique "Monica" Jacobson's mother is Sally Mayer who not long ago moved to Chicago to live near and help her daughter “Monique Mayer Jacobson” with her kids. Monica/Monique’s father is a French speaker, so we called her by either name when she was in high school here.


Sally Mayer moved briefly to Chicago after leaving the city council in 2009. She returned and was hired by Mayor Berry shortly after he took office late that year.

The New Mexican reported:

Mayer is the ex-wife of Jean Mayer, owner of the Hotel St. Bernard in the Taos Ski Valley and technical director of the Ernie Blake Ski School. The family is credited with helping to make the ski resort a well-known destination.

The Guv is weighing whether to merge the department with cultural affairs.

Besides this GOP mother-daughter team, another Martinez appointment resulted in a husband-wife political duo. Veronica Gonzales, the wife of ABQ GOP Senator John Ryan, was named by the Guv as secretary for the cultural affairs department. Mayer could end up working for her if the merger idea goes forward.

HEATHER & HIGH ED

The speculation about former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson becoming the next president of the University of New Mexico may or not have legs, but her weekend opinion piece in the Washington Post in which she discussed the state of the nation's universities isn't going to do anything to quell the water cooler talk.

SHOW US THE MONEY


Hey, Chief Investment Officer Steve Moise. You want to keep secret some agreements involving our state's nearly $16 billion in Permanent Funds, even after the scandals that rocked those very funds under Big Bill?

The investment council is also involved in an effort to recover some of the money lost in the investment deals featuring placement agent fees. Chief Investment Officer Steven Moise said Tuesday that the agency recently recouped a "significant" amount of money, but said the arrangement included a "nondisclosure" agreement as to the specific amount and details of the restitution.

Is there a good reason why we are playing by the old rules of the bubble economy? Or should Mr. Moise show us the money?

FROM QUIET TO BUSTLING

The Roundhouse has been a quiet house for the most part, but Thursday afternoon it came to life as friends and foes of the tax rebate for the film industry jammed into a hearing. Say what you will of the rebate, but Hollywood still knows how to pack 'em in.

As for the bill that got them out, it was Rep. Kintigh's measure to entirely axe the 25% rebate. It was effectively killed. Now it is on to the main event which is the Guv's proposal to take the rebate from 25% to 15%.

THE COMFORT LEVEL

From one of the Roundhouse Alligators comes this missive about the "comfort level" of Governor Martinez's two top aides:

There is dissatisfaction from Northern New Mexico and Albuquerque politicos that supported Governor Martinez. Most can't get an appointment to meet with the Governor. Instead they meet young staffers. You always here the same closing "will give you a call soon. " They sit patiently in the Governor's waiting room but cannot see or meet with Governor Martinez. Most want jobs not appointments.

(Chief of Staff) Keith Gardner and (Deputy Chief of Staff) Brian Moore seem uncomfortable talking to these people. There is no "comfort level" here. (Former state House members) Gardner and Moore were Southern "no's" in the legislature against Albuquerque and Northern controlled Legislators. They now dread discussing job opportunities in the administration with Nortenos.

Jobs for Nortenos? In a Republican administration? Remember, in New Mexico it's the Democrats who hand out jobs; Republicans hand out contracts.

Thanks for joining us this week and for making us New Mexico's #1 political web site.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sleepy Santa Fe: No Plenty Means No Party, Plus: Susana Learning Limits; Supremes Rebuke New Guv, And: More On Mayor & The Movies & Schmitt Defended 

Carol Heitz
It was over before it started. That's been a common refrain about Legislative Session 2011 among the chattering classes and after more than a week of the sixty day gathering they seem to have it right. Not much has happened and not a whole lot is going to happen because you need money to throw a good party. They haven't turned the lights out at the Roundhouse, but the neon is looking dim.

Veteran observers capture the new mood. ABQ Journal newsman John Robertson, in the game since the 70's, says the Roundhouse is "cheerless" and describes "almost eerily quiet hallways."

Months ago syndicated columnist Jay Miller predicted a minimalist session. He hasn't changed his view. Former ABQ GOP State Rep. Rory Ogle gets even more grim. He says not only are we in for a mostly do-nothing session this year, but next year as well.

But former Dem ABQ Mayor Jim Baca says the Santa Fe boredom is mainly of interest to the chattering classes. The public, he opines, is not watching:

...The lobbyists, the regulated, the contractors, the unions and other special interest groups will be entrenched up there, but by and large the average citizens will not follow this process at all. It is just not all that intriguing to them. They could care less who the next Speaker of the House will be.

Intriguing or not, on goes the session with a GOP Governor and Democratic Legislature in broad agreement on the state budget, no money to launch new initiatives and the joyless task of downsizing state government topping the agenda.

For example, Susana came with this Wednesday:

I have signed a one year moratorium on new car purchases for non-law enforcement purposes. This will save taxpayer money...while also allowing my administration to determine how many additional cars we can eliminate..Along these same lines, we will also examine...cutting cell phones for state workers who don’t need them...

Yikes! Someone spike the punch bowl. This party is dying fast.

IT'S THE COURTS
Justice Daniels
We've said all along that much of the action in this new administration is going to be in the courts, not the Legislature, as the administration seeks to rid the law books of regulations they see as impeding business. But Martinez and company are going to have their hands full and they have a steep learning curve. Their first foray into this territory was met with tough opposition from the environmental community and a serious setback from the State Supreme Court after which the enviros hit the news circuit:

The Supreme Court sided with environmental groups today when it granted a writ of mandamus to the New Mexico State Records Administrator, compelling her to print the adopted and final greenhouse gas cap and dairy discharge rules. The printing of the rules was halted earlier in the month by Governor Martinez’ Executive Order which suggested the rules were “pending” and therefore subject to a ninety day hold for review.

“This is a tremendous and deserved victory for the administration of justice in New Mexico,” stated Bruce Frederick, staff attorney of the
New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), the nonprofit law firm that brought two suits against the Governor...

We've also noted how Martinez's enviro actions are going to draw national attention. The New York Times dubbed the Supremes 5-0 ruling against Susana a "blunt rebuke."

(Video of Susana reacting to the court ruling, saying she was not trying to do a favor for the oil and gas industry here. Radio news reported that court docs indicate dairy industry lawyers helped write the order delaying the new regulations. Martinez's campaign received $50,000 from the industry.)

Her political advisers may comfort the Governor by telling her that even a loss helps push her into the limelight, but this is a clear and unadorned defeat in that limelight. Not good. It's about policy down here on the ground and this court victory is an early message to Martinez on the limits of her executive power. It's also the first time her public has seen her weakened and it will embolden her foes on the policy as well as the political front. Maybe the lesson for the new administration is to pick your fights more carefully. It's hard to hit the target when you shoot from the hip.

FILM FOLLOW UP
Berry
Follow-up now on the Wednesday blog wondering whether ABQ Mayor Berry, a supporter of the film industry, would wade into the battle over reducing the state film tax rebate from 25% to 15%. Is he at odds with fellow Republican and Governor Martinez? Will he get off the bench or stay on the sidelines as he frets over the economic impact of film productions possibly fleeing the city? His answer is a nonanswer as seen in this reply Berry's office is sending to those inquiring about his position:

Mayor Berry understands that the film industry has been great for Albuquerque. It has had a positive impact on our economy and has created numerous jobs from carpenters to assistance for local vendors. There will be many proposals before the legislature between now and the end of the session. The Mayor is confident that the legislature, the administration and the industry will get together and reach a solution that will continue to attract the film industry to New Mexico.

The Mayor says he is confident other parties will reach a solution, but why isn't he one of those parties? Does he not think the mayor of New Mexico's largest city and the state's economic engine should have influence in the matter? And what is city lobbyist and former Republican legislator Joe Thompson doing for us in Santa Fe? What are his instructions, if any, regarding the rebates?

This fight has fast become an urban vs. rural battle in Santa Fe. We could use some big city leadership. Berry served in the state House prior to becoming Mayor. He has a skill set that could be valuable.

With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, you do not work for the Governor or her political advisers. You are the independent voice of the city of Albuquerque. Your city will back you if you choose to lead.

Unlike Berry, ABQ Dem city councilor and potential mayoral candidate Ken Sanchez came with a firm position on the film rebates--hold off on any action until an authoritative study can be done. He told TV news:

I think we need to look at the financial picture, what it’s costing New Mexico and yet at the same time what it’s bringing in revenues before any reduction is actually made. I think those numbers are huge.

The film fight resumes in Santa Fe today with more hearings scheduled. Meanwhile, film rebate supporters have some more ammo with the news that three films shot in the state have garnered a total of 15 Oscar nominations this year, including 10 for the remake of the classic, "True Grit."

MEDIA MUSICAL CHAIRS

A media Alligator writes:

KOB-TV executive producer Kenny Vigil will become the new public information officer for the NM Corrections Department.

We blogged recently the new executive producer for KOAT-TV news is Pahl Shipley, who was a PIO for Big Bill and later the state film office. It's time for media musical chairs.

IN DEFENSE OF JACK
Jack Schmitt
You know the debate in the state senate over former senator and astronaut Jack Schmitt's nomination as Gov. Martinez's secretary of energy, minerals and natural resources promises to be hot and heavy. Well, it's already heating up around here. Here's self-described aerospace author and historian William Melberg with a retort to blog comments he took offense with:

You state the following on your blog:

“(Schmitt) is an avowed global warming denier and has written a variety of missives on public policy that would have Timothy Leary tripping.”

Dr. Schmitt is not a “global warming” denier. As a scientist and geologist, he knows Earth’s climate is always changing. What Schmitt questions is the role of human activity vs. natural factors in climate change. Contrary to the consensus of the mainstream media...there is no scientific “consensus” that human activity is the primary cause of climate change. After all, while humans were around at the time of the last Ice Age, there were no SUVs. So what caused the glaciers to retreat?

As for Dr. Schmitt’s “missives on public policy” ...

They might have had Timothy Leary tripping. But they are not out of line with the majority of voters in last November’s elections. Dr. Schmitt is totally in step with a growing majority of Americans who are rediscovering the wisdom of The Founders and calling for our political leaders to abide by the Constitution.

Finally, you posted a comment from a reader describing Admiral James Stockdale as “kooky and out of touch.” Admiral Stockdale was one of the most highly-decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy. He earned a Master’s in Marxist Theory from Stanford. But he learned about Marxism first-hand as a “guest” in the “Hanoi Hilton” where he was routinely beaten and tortured for seven years–earning him the Medal of Honor, and leaving him physically handicapped. Those who mocked him during the 1992 presidential campaign should have been ashamed of themselves. As should those who are now smearing another American Hero...Dr. Harrison Schmitt.

Thanks, William. Good point on the use of the phrase "global warmer denier" when it comes to describing Jack's viewpoint. And your comments on Admiral Stockdale also resonate. He had some funny political moments, but they were only dots in a long and distinguished American life.

FAST FRIENDS?

Meantime, was that David Harris, University of New Mexico VP, longtime politico and major friend of Big Bill seen hanging out with Republican Jack at the Roundhouse recently? Harris, who has been spotlighted for his $428,000 salary (plus $50,000 in deferred comp) has long played both sides of the political fence, formerly toiling for Republican Guv Johnson before getting the big embrace from Dem Big Bill. UNM is a troubled ship. Is Harris trying to hold on to a rail as new Skipper Susana appraises the situation? Stay tuned.

QUOTABLE QUOTE

From State Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle:

"When everybody's making money, nobody's asking questions. That's the time you still have to look."

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Berry And Film Incentives: What's The Plot? Mayor In Back Of Theatre, Plus: Schmitt As Dem Wedge Issue, And: Stay Of Execution For Thaddeus 

When it comes to the bombastic debate over the state's movie incentives, the 11th floor of ABQ City Hall is like a silent film--the bodies are moving around, but there's no sound.

That's because GOP Mayor RJ Berry has the bright stage lights of La Politica pointed in his eyes as new GOP Governor Susana Martinez fights to reduce by 40% the amount of tax rebate money going to Hollywood to entice film and TV productions here.

Film production has been one of the few bright spots for the city's economy, with Berry an enthusiastic supporter. Shortly after winning election in October 2009, he exclaimed:

Let's get those incentives going and show them that Albuquerque is open for the film business.

And in announcing an economic plan in March of 2010, the mayor's web site said:

The mayor has instructed his economic team to continue targeting businesses that are a good fit for Albuquerque such as clean and renewable energy, manufacturing, tourism and film.

So does Berry retain his enthusiasm for the current incentive--a tax rebate of 25% that Martinez is trying to reduce to 15%?

We don't know because he has apparently not been asked. The city film office headed up by Ann Lerner is also giving the controversial issue the silent treatment, although she was effusive in her praise of the current incentive program when she gave this interview a year ago.

We can't find any similar statements of support from Lerner since Martinez announced her proposal to cut back on the incentives.

And then there was the blockbuster December announcement that the high-budget and probable smash hit "The Avengers" would film in Albuquerque, bringing millions in economic activity. Berry was all smiles for that:

We welcome The Avengers to Albuquerque and look forward to hosting Marvel Studios over the coming year, Clearly, Albuquerque remains a premiere city in the U.S. for production...

ABQ Studios, despite past financial issues, is now a significant player in attracting productions. If "The Avengers" producers stay with ABQ, the studios will be entirely booked for most of the year. That's a lot of cash coming into the city.

FIGHT OR FADE?

So is Berry going to join the film incentive fight or sit it out and watch it from the theatre seats?

If he does nothing and the film industry takes a hit from reduced incentives, it could be a major economic blow to the city and to Berry's political future. If he opposes the reduction, he could inflame Martinez and the conservative wing of his party gunning for the program. Of course, if nothing happens and the program remains the same there would be little fallout for Berry.

But hope is not a leadership plan. What he could do is try to foster a compromise by trying to get Martinez to bump up the 15% incentive to 20% or so.

The question before Berry is whether he is going to let Santa Fe alone set the economic agenda for this city, or whether he demands a seat at the table in determining how important the film production business should be here.

NEVER TOO EARLY

The next mayoral election is way out there--not until October 2013. But that hasn't stopped an early list of possible contenders from circulating. It includes Berry, Dem ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez, Dem ABQ State Senator Tim Keller and Dem Pete Dinelli, an attorney who was head of public safety under former Mayor Chavez. We have not heard of any possible Republican mayoral candidates other than Berry. In October of this year four city council seats are up for election.

STAY OF EXECUTION

Machinations continue over the fate of Bernalillo County Manager Thaddeus Lucero. The five member county commission met Tuesday, but postponed a decision on removing Lucero. They will meet again Friday. There is talk that Lucero will resign rather than face a vote that the Alligators said is poised to go 3 to 2 against him. A resignation would spare Lucero a black mark. His supporters turned out in force at the meeting yesterday.

THE SCHMITT WEDGE

Can Jack Schmitt be the Dems answer to the many "wedge" issues the R's are throwing at them this legislative session?

The former moonwalker and GOP US Senator and now Gov. Martinez's nominee to head the state energy and minerals department, is an avowed global warming denier and has written a variety of missives on public policy that would have Timothy Leary tripping.

Schmitt's confirmation hearing could be a sold out event as Dems highlight his fringe views. The Journal's Thom Cole laid them out recently in a column that the Dems will use as a crib sheet when the time comes. (Nothing is scheduled yet.)

But expect Schmitt to make it through a Senate Rules Committee confirmation hearing and then the full Senate. His presence in the post will be a boon to Dems here and nationally as they point to him as a reason why they need campaign money. You could also see the ex-astronaut pop up in TV and radio spots. Before his time is up, Jack might feel like he is running for the Senate again.

And another political gadfly--Dona Ana Dem Rep. Andy Nunez, who helped spearhead a botched coup against House Speaker Ben Lujan--now says he is going to change his party registration to decline-to-state, better known as "independent." We've already pointed out there is a "functional coalition" in the House in which only a handful of Dems have to join with the R's to pass bills. The Nunez switch doesn't alter the balance of power as his vote is one of those considered to be part of the conservative functional coalition.

If Nunez decides to run again in 2012, will he run as an independent or will he switch back to one of the major parties? Who knows? Andy is about as predictable as the Groundhog coming your way Feb 2.

UDALL'S OFFICE

A reader writes from Carlsbad:

Senator Tom Udall opened an office here in Carlsbad. If my memory is correct, it is the first of its kind in Carlsbad. What struck me as funny was the people who were there to greet him. Most of them won't vote for Tom but we here are used to the Hipocresia Politica. Little Texas is alive and well...

HOW CLOSE?

Talk about close. No one in this generation of politicos has ever dealt with state House committees that are equally divided between Dem's and R's. But some are as a result of the House now having 37 Dems and 33 R's. Here's the breakdown from the Roundhouse:

Agricultural and Water: 5Ds 5Rs; Appropriations: 10Ds 8Rs; Business and Industry: 6Ds 6Rs; Consumer and Public Affairs: 3Ds 2Rs; Education: 6Ds 5Rs; Energy and Natural Resources: 6Ds 6Rs; Health and Government Affairs: 4Ds 4Rs; Judiciary: 8Ds 7Rs; Labor and Human Resources: 5Ds 4Rs; Taxation and Revenue: 8Ds 7Rs; Transportation and Public Works: 6Ds 6Rs;Voters and Elections: 7Ds 6Rs

Speaker Lujan made sure the really important committees like appropriations retained their Dem edge. For committees with equal numbers of Dems and R's, you are going to need some compromise to approve a bill because bills die on a tie vote.


BETTER MOTHERS?

New Mexico mothers are being told they must be more involved in the education of their children, if the state is to pull itself out of the performance pits. Can they get some tips from Chinese mothers? What do they do that has their children outperforming with the school books? Well, a lot.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Bear Strikes Again; Hundreds Out At Rio Rancho In J.C. Penney Pinch, Plus: Bernco Manager Lucero To Get Boot, And: Susana's Texas: Nothing To Copy 

New Mexico's lower and middle classes continue to take body blows from the Bear Market. The latest hit comes in Rio Rancho where the J.C. Penney catalog call center announces it is shutting its doors in June. That will cost nearly 400 workers their jobs. It's due to a national restructuring by the retail company.

Many of these jobs were part-time and paid nine or ten bucks an hour. You don't plan a life around them, but you do plan survival. Their loss again tells the tale of this ravaging recession--nonprofessionals and those with only high school educations are bearing the brunt of the employment crisis.

The closing is yet another setback for once booming Rio Rancho, the satellite city of ABQ which has seen its housing bubble burst, Intel Corp. shrink its workforce by nearly 2,000 and an embarrassing solar energy venture blow up in its face.

For ABQ Mayor Berry and Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack it is a sullen reminder that the metro economy remains dormant and that tax collections around here don't seem likely to take off. What's next for these city leaders?

The layoffs come in the middle of an ABQ School Board election which also includes a $70 million bond issue for CNM, the community college that offers technical training for vocational jobs for 28,000 mostly working class students. The timing seems right for approval and we're going to vote for it. (The bond will not raise property taxes.)

The Penney's layoffs also send a message to the Martinez administration that its proposed 18 percent cut to CNM is going to be put under a powerful microscope as this state seeks to get people off the unemployment lines.

IN RELATED NEWS...


While we've noted how the professional classes are faring better during the downturn, they are not rolling in the dough. And that means some of the tony shops on ABQ's Nob Hill are feeling the pinch. One of them--Old World Imports--just closed after ten years in business as this tough retail environment drags on.

GOODBYE THADDEUS

Lujan Grisham
A seven year run is coming to an end for Bernalillo County Manager Thaddeus Lucero. Insiders tell us his fate was sealed at a closed door Bernalillo County Commission meeting Friday. They say the five member panel will vote to fire him at tonight's public meeting. Also expected to get the axe is the county attorney and county fire chief.

The upheaval comes after a year of controversy at the county over Lucero and the election of two new commissioners--Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Wayne Johnson. The commission has three Dems and two R's.

Lujan Grisham and Johnson are expected to be joined by new Commission Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins to dump Lucero. Republican Michael Wiener is expected to stay with Thaddeus as is Dem Commissioner Art De La Cruz. Our Alligators report Lujan Grisham pushed especially hard for Lucero's ouster during that private meeting.

One immediate concern is the hundreds of thousands of dollars it will cost the county to dump the trio and buy out their contracts. Lucero was making about $157,000 a year. Another concern is who replaces Thaddeus? How about a complete outsider with no ties to the county government culture? But with many executives losing their jobs when Big Bill left office, we wouldn't be surprised to see some of them popping up with applications for this well-paying gig.

Republican Wiener is sticking with Lucero despite rumblings by some Republicans that he should join in the dumping, especially since he is interested in having Gov. Martinez making him the new head of the state motor vehicle division. But the Dems are going to end up doing the dirty work on this one and Wiener's vote won't be critical to the outcome.

UPDATE--The commission Tuesday delayed until Friday the vote on Lucero.

MORE FROM TEXAS

Let's move it back to the economy now...

We blogged about the humongous budget deficit that threatens Texas--upwards of $27 billion. We did so after our new Governor asked us to emulate the Lone Star State in building our economy. Now here's part of the solution the Texas Legislature has come with:

The spending plan calls for a 13% hit to public education and a 7.6% drop in higher education support. Among the cuts, funding for pre-K Early Start programs would be slashed, and four community colleges would be closed. Such a drastic decline in public education support could be problematic because it would drop the education budget below a level mandated by the state, and force the legislature to change the law.

Also, the 8.3 percent November unemployment rate in Texas was actually higher than of New Mexico's---8.2%.

In light of these facts one wonders how much longer our own Governor will continue to hold up Texas as a good example of how a state should be run.

LUJAN SCENARIO

State House GOP Leader Tom Taylor gave a blatantly political explanation as one reason GOP lawmakers did not agree to make Dem Rep. Joe Cervantes a coalition speaker and oust Speaker Ben Lujan in the process . He is taking hits for it, especially from Democrats who decried its cynicism. First the Taylor statement:

" (Lujan) is the status quo," Taylor said of Lujan. "In the next election, there's more negative if you're just the status quo. There was a risk with Cervantes that maybe we'd have a big lovefest and pass a lot of great legislation. ... It lessens your chances for a negative campaign in the next election."

Taylor can think that but it was not his role to say it out loud. He's not a political consultant. He's supposed to be talking about bipartisanship and passing "great" legislation to move the state forward, not blocking bills purely for political advantage.

Taylor leaned heavily in recent legislative sessions on Keith Gardner, the former House Minority Whip, who left the House to become Gov. Martinez's chief of staff. Now that Taylor is on his own, it doesn't appear it is time to take the training wheels off.

But Taylor's political analysis, besides being too public, may also be faulty. What if Speaker Lujan decides not to run in 2012? That's a distinct possibility after he came within 80 votes of losing his 2010 Dem House primary and after it took the Tea Party imploring conservative House members not to vote for Cervantes to save his speakership.

These could very well be Lujan's final two years. If they are, the R's will need a new villain for 2012. If Lujan does not see the 2012 writing on the wall, he is gong to feel the heat, not only from his fellow Dems who will fear his continued presence will cost them their narrow House majority (37 to 33) in the House, but could also cast a pall over the political fortunes of his son, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan.

The smart money says in a year or two Lujan hangs up his bolo tie and smooths the path for a Kenny Martinez speakership who in turn makes happy with Joe Cervantes by putting him back as chairman of House Judiciary.

Now it's your move, Leader Taylor.

CLOSE THE COURSE?

The Great Recession in New Mexico has so many far-reaching impacts. For example, did you know the University of New Mexico is proposing that its Championship Golf Course be shuttered? Long known as "University South" and touted as one of the best layouts in the nation, closing it would save $600,000 a year and help address an anticipated $28 million UNM shortfall due to state budget cuts.

The two UNM golf courses lost nearly $800,000 last year and have over $4 million in debt. Then there is all that land that would be on the market if the south course were sold.

Here is
a complete list of cost-savings proposals at UNM compiled at the request of the president's office.

THE BOTTOM LINES

A reader writes of the controversial nomiantion of former GOP US Senator Jack Schmitt as Governor Martinez's secretary of energy and minerals:

I get the feeling Harrison Schmitt will be Martinez's Admiral Stockdale-- kooky and out of touch. Unlike Stockdale, he can be dangerous.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Bingaman Bringing Home The Bacon; Will It Scare Off The R's? Plus: More Noise From Nunez, The Fall Of Cisco And Susana Speech Appraisals (Cont.) 

Bringing home the bacon. That will be the major theme of Dem Senator Jeff Bingaman's campaign for a sixth US Senate term. And bringing it home he is. Juiced up federal funding levels are starting to stream into the state and that's going to make it twice as hard for the R's to toss him out in 2012. From Bingaman's speech before the NM Legislature:

In 2009, President Obama and Congress committed to an increase of $14 billion over the next 10 years for (nuclear) modernization efforts...It is fair to say that...a sizable portion of the $14 billion...will go to these (national) laboratories in our state.
All told, the Department of Energy’s expenditures in New Mexico increased this year from $4.0 billion to $4.6 billion, an increase of 15 percent. In the coming years, our labs will receive additional billions of dollars in new federal funding related to modernization effort.

You mean the federal energy department spending here nearly equals the entire state budget of $5.4 billion? And we haven't even tallied up defense spending.

Bingaman, chairman of the Senate energy committee, is now bringing in here the kind of substantial cash former GOP Senator Pete Domenici was famous for, even if it is not drawing the kind of attention Pete got.

Even a potentially strong GOP opponent like former ABQ GOP congresswoman Heather Wilson could have second thoughts about running against Jeff in light of his success in fulfilling his primary role--securing full funding and then some for the federal labs and military bases which form the backbone of the state economy.

Bingaman's troops say a run against Wilson could cost upwards of $8 million. If he draws a weak foe, the price for the re-elect plummets to around $3 million. They also indicate his polling numbers have improved since he bottomed out at 50% approval last year during the peak of the GOP onslaught. Jeff is expected to make his re-elect announcement in March.

The senator, 67, looked older (don't we all) and had a slight stoop when seen in Santa Fe, but his health is apparently robust. His political health certainly is, as he fully embraces the role of New Mexico's "senior senator" and follows the footpath trod by the likes of Dennis Chavez, Clinton Anderson and Pete Domenici.

NUNEZ NOISE
Rep. Nunez
He won't go Republican, but neither will he meet with the House Democrats anymore. Dona Ana State Rep. Dem Andy Nunez may go independent. This, after he took part in a botched coup attempt of Speaker Lujan and was stripped of his committee chairmanship by the speaker. Nunez is spinning that the Speaker was killing his bills anyway and therefore the loss of his chairmanship is not a big deal for his home area. Like we said, he is spinning.

So what about 2012? Will Nunez run as a Democrat, an R, an Indy? Or is this fit of pique his political swan song? He has a swing district, but the way he has been all over the map he would seem ripe for a strong Dem primary challenge. Nunez will be pushing 80 in '12 (he's now 75). That also could have voters looking for a younger face and one with less political baggage.

DEFENDING ANDY

Some readers thought we were too tough on Nunez in our recent analysis of what we deemed political clumsiness of the first order. Dr. Chris Erickson of NMSU came with this:

Your comments about Rep. Nunez concerning the failed attempt to ouster Ben Lujan as speaker are a bit harsh. Nunez has been a lifelong public servant, having spent his working career at NMSU and then his retirement as an unpaid legislator. Nunez was frank and honest in his expression of support for (fellow Dona Ana Dem) Joe Cervantes to become speaker. It is precisely his candor that endears Andy to his constituency (of him I count myself). You imply in your comments that Rep. Nunez is at the end of his career as a legislator. I hope not. I personally hope to have the opportunity to vote for him for a long time to come.

Thanks, Chris. Andy's a nice guy, he just needs some help from the NMSU math department on how to count votes.

CISCO'S FALL

That was something last week when ABQ Dem State Sen. Cisco McSorley was stripped of his chairmanship of the judiciary committee and replaced by Sen. Richard Martinez. How often does that happen? Not very. And it could have further political implications. Will Cisco, 60, decided enough is enough and decide not to seek re-election in 2012? Or could a younger liberal emerge to challenge Cisco in his liberal UNM area district in a Dem primary?

EGOLF REACTION

There's positive reaction to the naming of Santa Fe Dem State Rep. Brian Egolf as the new chairman of the state House energy committee from enviros and those concerned that oil and gas has too much power with the new Governor. But the other side of the coin comes in this reader missive:

(Egolf's appointment) is bad news for the entire state. As important as it is in the long run to diversify our economy, the oil and gas industry is still the largest contributor to the state treasury. Right now, there are only three ways that we can bridge our deficit for the foreseeable future: raise taxes (which won't happen under the new governor), increase oil and gas production, or further dramatic cuts in spending (which Egolf and the speaker oppose). There was a real opportunity here, given our economy, for the Speaker to demonstrate statesmanship and put someone in that position that would work with the governor, the industry, and environmentalists to find middle ground. With Egolf, it's highly unlikely that significant cooperation or compromise will take place.

We'll see. Egolf says he will strive to be fair in his new power position.

AROUND LA POLITICA

Let's return to some reviews of Governor Martinez's first major speech--her State of the State before the Legislature last Tuesday. GOP activist Sylvia Bokor writes in her newsletter:

I report...a single sentence I overheard as I was walking toward my vehicle after Susana's speech. A man walking some distance from me was on his cell phone. As I passed him, he declared in a somewhat loud voice, "It was the scariest speech I have ever heard in my entire life." Initially, I could not believe my ears. It shows an aspect of corruption I had not considered before. The man's hand was evidently in the cookie jar and he is going to be caught, and he knows it. Go get 'em, Susana!

More analysis. This from Stephanie DuBois, an Alamogordo area Dem, who recently ran against Republican Pat Lyons for the Public Regulation Commission:

I do think she was trying to show the Legislature her tough, prosecutor style, because she is our a female leader and the first for New Mexico as well as the first Hispanic female.

I take exception to her analogy of showing a picture ID to rent a video at Blockbuster with having to show a picture ID in order to vote. Renting a video isn't a right but voting is. If this passes I fear law suits will ensue.

She spoke of politicians who step over the ethical line, dying they should be removed from office and have their pensions taken away if found guilty. I wonder if her administration will investigate the amount of almost $25,000 that former Land Commissioner Pat Lyons and now Chairman of the PRC supposedly spent on an airplane owned by his high school buddy at almost twice the going rate...

The newspapers weighed in on the speech, with a New Mexican editorial raising a question about the size of the state budget shortfall that you have often seen referenced here:

The budget deficit — which, she insists, doubled diabolically from $200 million in the course of a couple of days. Does that extra $200 million represent cuts the last Legislature already made, and for which she hopes to get some of the credit, or have the Democrats masked the real shortfall? If they have, the spending cuts she's proposed so far are only half enough. So where else to apply the knife?

THE LOBBYISTS

A reader writes:

Referencing last Thursday's reader comments about UNM lobbyists. In fact all the universities contract some form of lobbyist. Some are on staff full time and others are employed through the council of university presidents association. They should all be registered with the state so go fishing if interested.

TORRACO OUT

Eyebrows were raised when new GOP Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston hired attorney Lisa Torraco as his spokesperson at a whopping salary of $90,000 a year. But it didn't last. Torraco has left the post because she says she could not shut down her private law practice within the 30 days required by her contract.

Torraco was the 2008 GOP Bernalillo County district attorney candidate, losing to Dem Kari Brandenburg. Insiders saw here appointment by Houston an an opportunity for her to increase her profile in advance of perhaps making another run against Kari in 2012.

Sheriff Houston is looking for a new PIO--but at $75,000 a year, not $90,000.


NOT ALONE

Susana is not alone among new Republican Governors looking to trim tax breaks for the movie industry. It's happening around the nation.

HABLA ESPANOL?

Some cool stuff here as Guv Susana gives a post State of the State interview in Spanish for KLUZ-TV. You won't see that in Nebraska.

THE BOTTOM LINES

For quick access to the NM Legislature's web site and that of the Governor's, just click on the links posted on the right hand side of the page....

And from the category, "Adult Truths:"

I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you. die.

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