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Friday, July 13, 2012

Guv Is Popular, But Emailgate is A Big Red Flag; Politicos Offer Their Advice, Plus: Part Two Of How And Why The Tea Party Took Over Rio Rancho 

We were curious if Governor Martinez had talked with Republican Senator-elect Pat Woods of Clovis after the down and dirty-take-no-prisoners campaign waged against him by the Guv's political operatives in the June primary. Woods handily beat Martinez supported candidate Angie Spears. A campaign aide for Woods tells us:

Pat did not get a call from the Guv, but her office did send out word that "we have no beef with Pat Woods."

Meanwhile, we hear from Republican David Williams, the Clovis businessman who served as Woods' campaign treasurer. He comes with these suggestions for the Governor:

I enjoyed keeping up with the Shadow Government and emailgate since the primary elections.  I like to think that the Woods Campaign had a part in shining some sunlight on that bunch up there in Santa Fe. 

I supported Susana Martinez  for governor because I thought she could straighten out a few things in Santa Fe...She needs to get rid of the entire circle of people she has around her and build a broader base of advisors. She needs to get rid of (political adviser) Jay McCleskey and all of his people in her administration. She also needs to send Chief of Staff Keith Gardner packing and get a straight shooter in the job. Former state representative and deputy chief of staff Brian Moore comes to mind. Let him build a new staff.

She needs to take a new approach toward the House and Senate. When you have a Senate made up of 42 Senators, 14 of whom are Republicans, you can’t draw a line in the sand and go to war with the Democrats. That results in no progress on her programs or plans for change.

Williams also said that people need to think twice before giving money to Susana's political action committees if she is going to continue to use the funds to oppose fellow Republicans.

Is Martinez likely to make a mid-course correction and bring in new faces? No. As long as her polling numbers hold up, we don't see her doing it. When and if the numbers go down, then she will consider it, but by then it could be too late...

Has emailgate hurt her polling numbers? We doubt it. The coverage and intensity have not been enough--yet. But if it continues with formal investigations and continued news coverage, then the numbers would be impacted.

Martinez won with about 54% of the vote in 2010. She is probably still around that level and with the past two governors winning re-election easily, it is difficult for this Governor to see why she should change anything, despite the red flags that have been thrown by emailgate....

MORE ADVICE FOR GUV

It probably grates on the Fourth Floor to hear the peanut gallery clacking about a change-up for this Governor. but that's not going to stop them. A Senior Alligator gives these reasons why he thinks Susana should consider bringing in new faces:

She is in over her head. The Governor is no match for (GOP national committeeman and attorney/lobbyist) Pat Rogers, (attorney/lobbyist and former GOP national Committeeman) Mickey Barnett and big money.  She has not connected the dots. She has allowed the national Republican Party to infiltrate New Mexico state government. The Governor does not seem to personally know her own staff or executive secretaries that run government. As a result, the Governor has isolated herself with people who have no wisdom, experience or interest in "moving New Mexico forward." 

She's only been there a year and a half and she still has a great opportunity to become a significant governor with a beefy legislative record. That means becoming more independent than Republican.

RIO RANCHO TEA

We broke open the Tea party takeover of the Rio Rancho city council via our Alligator correspondent Thursday didn't think it was too cool, but this Rio Rancho emailer--a Democrat--has a different take. He says the Dems brought it upon themselves:

Joe. I wanted to add my own thoughts as a Rio Rancho Democrat.

Yes, the Tea Party did a take over the city council, but we brought it on ourselves. Democrats had been unhappy with city leaders and stayed home on Election Day. Conservatives were more than unhappy and they came out strong. How we got here is simple. Mayor Tom Swisstack has not been the same focused leader he was when he was Mayor 10 years ago. His job (in corrections) at Bernalillo County is just too demanding. He hired James Jimenez to run the show for him so he could do his real job. Jimenez received the second highest pay for any city mananger in the state, (over $150,000 per year) and that did not sit well with voters. Jimenez then loaded up his office with expensive deputies. He did not do good at working with or inspiring the rank and file city employees and their unions, and in the end they turned against him.

The city of vision has been creamed tax wise. Our gross receipts tax is higher than Albuquerque's. Our property taxes have gone sky high too. The special hospital tax started in 2008, for hospitals that did not open until 2012. Then we got hit with a special tax for CNM and UNM, who both offer minimal classes here. The city passed a special tax to deal with flooding prevention, and that more than doubled the property tax in certain areas of the city. We have moved from having some of the cheapest property tax bills to some of the highest in the state.

The city adopted restrictive rules on signs for business that are really unfair. Swistack ran on getting rid of the old anti-business sign ordinance, but he didn't. Right before the recent election, Jimenez announced a plan to force citizens to be limited to 2 garage sales a year, and they would pay a permit fee to be allowed to have a sign. The plan included fines.

Swisstack and Jimenez pushed through a driving with a cell phone ordinance. Then they initiated red-light cameras and automated speed vans, just when Albuquerque got rid of theirs. Job wise,  we lost big on construction and realty jobs, and those were our biggest overall employers. We lost the JC Penny call center recently, and the National Amercian University campus. The promised jobs at Hewlett Packard mostly went to people the company relocated here, and now even they are being laid off.  The plans Swisstack hyped for a solar plant and a film studio fizzled out.

There has just been too much bad news and reckless decisions under Swisstack and Jimenez. The previous city council did nothing to stop them, so they paid the price since Swisstack was no up for re-election. Under the new Tea Party council, the pendulum will swing the other way for awhile, and I only hope it can come back to the sane center at some point down the road.


We thank our Rio Rancho reader, whos wishes to remain anonymous, for that most incisive report on why a Tea party take over has taken place. Manager Jimenez was officially let go by the City Council at a Wednesday meeting,.

LETS FRACK

Here's how.

A NEW LOOK

It's the new state Republican Party website.

FRANK IS IN CHARGE

Mary Clark the president of the University of New Mexico Staff Council, writes of recent blogging on the actions of new UNM President Robert Frank:

Bob Frank is running the  show at UNM and anyone who   doesn't have his energy, commitment, and  vision better get out of the   way. I'm sure there will be a few bumps  in the road, but I feel   strongly that the direction Frank is guiding  us can only mean good   things for UNM and our students.  I am not a  dewy-eyed optimist, but I   do see his determination to have all of us  moving in the same direction.

The UNM Staff Council advocates for non-faculty staff.

VALLEY ALLIGATORS
 (Journal photo)
For  all those who doubt us when we tell you the ABQ South Valley is infested with Alligators:

A two foot alligator was found roaming Albuquerque's south valley on Monday morning. A woman living on Nancy street spotted the reptile...and called the sheriff's department. Animal control officers believe the alligator was someone's pet and was set free recently. "Like  many exotic pets a little one becomes a big one and then it becomes a  problem." says Matthew Pepper, Director of Bernalillo County Animal  Control. The county isn't sure what the future holds for the  gator just yet, they may contact the zoo to see if they might be willing  to house it.

Well, that baby Gator is welcome to join our stable of sources around here. Some of our Senior Alligators are getting a bit long in the tooth...

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Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wilson Treads Water As Heinrich Maintains Lead In Two New Senate Polls, Plus: Tea Party In Rio Rancho Rocks City Hall, Plus: Past Economic Leaders Missed 

It's still early. At least that's what you keep telling yourself if you're Heather Wilson. At this stage she must be kept awake at night, worrying about how she is going to crack open the US Senate race. The first polling since the June 5 primary--which also reflects the first wave of negative TV ads--is bad news for Wilson, the GOP nominee. She trails Dem contender and ABQ Congressman Martin Heinrich 49% to 45% in one survey and loses to him 51% to 42% in another poll. This continues the trend since the polling featuring these two began last year--not one public or private survey since then has shown Wilson ahead.

This is a close US Senate race, but it is clearly trending Democratic. We continue to rank the contest to replace Sen Jeff Bingaman as "lean Democratic." Heinrich gained some prestige from his June 5 primary win over Hector Balderas, but Wilson--who is already widely known around the state having served 10 year sin the US House--did not. She is still bumping up against a polling ceiling at the 45% mark, while Heinrich for the first time breaches the magic 50% level. (The polling firm that got him there says its results are "weighted" to reflect what they think will be the eventual turnout).

What's to come? Well, expect the R's and Heather to get more personal with Heinrich. They will probably try to go after his character since the issues of the day seem to cut his way. He has not been tested in that regard in his short political career, but he has been vetted and nothing that would cause extreme damage has surfaced.

Wilson has had positive image ads up, financed by Karl Rove's Super PAC, but enviro groups have been hammering her on TV as a captive of big oil interests.  This has resulted in pretty much no change in the Heinrich-Wilson race.

The poll that showed Heather trailing by four points was paid for by  the League of Conservation Voters and other environmental groups friendly to the Dems, The Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates survey of 503 likely New Mexico general election voters was conducted from June 28-July 1 and carries a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.

The poll showing Heinrich leading Wilson by 9 points was done among 1,295 likely voters by the automated polling firm "We Ask America." It has a margin of error of 2.8%. It was conducted July 9 and 10. hey are a subsidiary of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association. They have a long history of polling. A liberal web site accuses the firm of being GOP leaning. That doesn't help Heather, as their poll shows her losing by nine,

That automated survey also showed Obama leading Romney in New Mexico 51% to 40%. But you already knew that...

RIO RANCHO TEA

Time to check in on the La Politica out in Rio Rancho. It looks like a Tea Party is going on in ABQ's next door neighbor and our Alligator is on the scene with the insight you won't get anywhere else. Here we go....

Joe,  I’ve been reading your reports for several years and I must say you are the only voice for complete, factual and unbiased political reporting in our fair state. There is one helluva story brewing in The City Of Vision. In less than three months, the four newly elected city councilors (each an avowed TEA party member) are setting out to dismantle City Hall. They have already successfully run off the City Clerk, and are certain to railroad the best City Manager we’ve ever had--James Jimenez. Their next target is Mayor Tom Swisstack, a capable,  and respected leader.

The TEA party four’s latest brainstorm is to reconvene a new City Charter Committee so they can engineer a scheme that will weaken the mayor, forcing him to leave. Never mind that the City Charter was just reviewed a few months ago, and voters approved modest changes the committee proposed.

In the past the charter committee has always met once every five years (as required by law) to review potential improvements before voters vote up or down on any changes. I was a member of the recent charter review committee...Believe me, this story isn’t over yet...it may have just begun to surface.

These wholesale changes by the new city council is a direct result of what happens when a motivated minority show up at the polls, and a huge majority of voters stay  home. These four right-wing political gadflies could cause damage to our city for decades.

Newspaper coverage about Jimenez's ouster as Rio Rancho manager is here. He is a well-known Dem administrator, having headed up the state Department of Finance and Administration and serving as Big Bill's chief of staff. (Jimenez was officially let go by the council Wednesday night. He received a departure package worth $144,000).

WHERE ARE THEY?

The Wednesday blog featuring a biting commentary on ABQ as a "ghost town" from an out of town financial analyst who visited here recently got them out of their seats. Mike Santullo, a New Mexico talk radio pioneer, and former communications director for Dem ABQ Mayor Ken Schultz, chimed in with this searing email:

Where are the Bob Hoffmans', the Rick Homans', the Ike Kalangis', the Jerry Geists' the Bill Richardsons', the Jack Kolberts', the Marion Cottrells' and even Marty Chavez. At least they made a noble effort to bring this city in the 21st century. Now we're left with Susana who talks to 3rd graders, a state economic development secretary who is a "chair warmer" who is happy to have a job and a salary and Richard J Berry, the mayor who thinks putting a new face on the Convention Center is going to being in the money. It's all splash and no cash. This town and state is in saaaad shape.

Santullo is not known for leaving any words on the table. He's been around a long time so some of his references to past city and state leaders may be obscure to some.

The late Bob Hoffman was a longtime economic development champion in the state and city. Rick Homans was economic development director under Governor Richardson and for a time headed Spaceport America. He also was a magazine publisher who now lives and works in Florida. Jerry Geist was the longtime and often controversial head of electric utility PNM during its heyday in the 80's and 90's. Jack Kolbert was a University of New Mexico professor who became the first president of the ABQ City Council when we adopted the modern form of government in 1974. Marion Cottrell is a retired UNM professor who served long stints on the ABQ City Council and Bernalillo County Commission. Ike Kalangis was a banker at Sunwest Bank (originally ABQ National Bank) who was active in ABQ economic development. He recently passed away.

Those were some heavy hitters, all gone now and not replaced. They put this town on the map. Without the likes of them, we languish and wait for a new crop of leaders to emerge. And wait...

AND THE GOOD...

Okay, it's not all bad news out there when it comes to the economy. The state says it will collect about $250 million in unexpected revenue because of energy royalties from the SE oil fields and Billy Sparks at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center comes with this:

The UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center held its grand opening ceremony this past weekend at city center in Rio Rancho. This $189 million, 72 bed hospital will not only bring greater access to health care to the people of Sandoval County, the SRMC is a also a major boost to the local and state economy. Within a month of opening the SRMC will employ 361 people at an average wage of over $75,000.00 per year.  That's a first year payroll of over forty million dollars. These are skilled, high wage jobs, which will last for generations. Let's celebrate this achievement and not overlook the importance of the health care industry to our economy and our health.

Thanks for that, Billy. Now about a dental school for UNM.....

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

King Gets Antsy And Gets Official; Declares for 2014 Dem Guv Nod, Plus: Our Exclusive Economy Coverage: ABQ As A "Ghost Town;" An Outsider's Appraisal Raises Questions 

Attorney General Gary King, 57, has made it official and become the first declared 2014 Democratic Governor candidate. That's no earth-shaker for our readers who were the first to know of King's Guv ambitions. For months he dropped loud hints, but by getting in now he puts pressure on other hopefuls to get in or get out--most notably State Auditor Hector Balderas.

We've been blogging this week (see below) how King's chances of following in the footsteps of his legendary Governor father, Bruce King, may be tethered to how aggressive and effective he is in going after emailgate--the first scandal to confront the administration of GOP Guv Susana Martinez. That's because King's record as AG has been roundly criticized as being lackluster.

In announcing his bid, King said:

I’m very dedicated to this...I think that my family history brings a lot of public service and service to the people of New Mexico to the table, and I’d like to continue the service I started.

King, a former state representative, was born and raised in Santa Fe County and was elected attorney general in 2006 and re-elected to a second four year term in 2010. In 2002, he sought the Dem Guv nomination but was bested by Bill Richardson. In 1998, he lost the Dem Guv nod to Marty Chavez and in '04 he was the Dem nominee for the southern congressional seat but lost to Steve Pearce. 2014 will be his last chance for the power and the glory.

A number of political pros questioned the way King made his announcement. He dribbled it out in an  appearance on ABQ public radio station KANW 89.1 FM. The announcement did not get the coverage it normally would and the middle of July is not a heavily watched news cycle.

But King can now position himself as the chief opposition voice to Martinez--a role state Democrats are badly in need of filling. If he rises to the occasion, maybe he convinces some of the skeptics that he has the right stuff to go to the Fourth Floor. If not, he fizzles and someone else takes the baton. For now, however, King, frowned at by his critics who view him as forlorn and foundering, is the only state Dem leader showing the least bit of intestinal fortitude in publicly taking on an ever more controversial GOP administration. That matters.

As we have blogged with emphasis, King has been severely damaged by his AG performance and left for political road kill by the chattering classes. It is essential that he show them that he has learned something and that there is more to him than a folksy personality.

Because of unfavorable AG job reviews, it is often overlooked that King carved out a reputation as one of the more effective state representatives of his generation. The view from this corner is that King is politically comatose, not dead. His daunting challenge is to redefine himself for a political era that is much more rough and tumble than the one he grew up in.

King can now go about the business of emailgate without having to answer questions about his political motivations. They are out in the open. Jay and the gang can beat the snot out of him with impunity, but King is now free to do all he can to take down Martinez legally. The public will decide if he crosses the line.

It's not shocking that King, who says he will open a campaign office in November, is declaring his candidacy well over two years from Election Day 2014. It takes millions to run these days and the early announcement means Gary can now get started. (Diane Denish announced her bid for the 2010 Dem nod in January of '07).  The early start also gives him the chance--if he wants to take it--of getting involved in the 2012 legislative races and facing off vicariously with Martinez and her chief political adviser Jay McCleskey.

Besides King and Balderas, ABQ trial attorney Sam Bregman is mentioned as a possible '14 Dem Guv contender. Balderas, coming off an unsuccessful US Senate campaign that won him statewide name ID without inflicting serious damage, is also thought to be weighing a run for attorney general.

AP coverage of the King entry is here. New Mexican coverage here.

THE BEAR WATCH

Albuquerque is never exactly a beehive of activity. Even when the Bull Market roars ABQ remains laid-back, never getting too excited about anything. But now, after three years of an unrelenting Bear Market, the very fabric of the city has changed, and it's not going unnoticed. Financial analyst Joe Duarte, writing on his Web site, poignantly describes a recent visit to New Mexico's largest city. It's not stuff you will read in the Chamber of Commerce newsletter or see in the daily press, but it is the new and often grim reality:

This weekend, we stayed at a DoubleTree in Albuquerque. The full service restaurant has been closed for lunch and open early or not at all for dinner...The employees tell us that hotel guests are too few on weekends to keep anything but room service and breakfast open. The rest of the city is quite patchy in its business activity...

...There are people who pass through the city and stay mostly at the lower end hotels. McDonald's is steady. Starbucks shops are nearly empty, at least the ones we saw. And the local newspaper doesn't even seem to cover the local economy.

We had not seen a city of this size and regional presence have this little activity ever. It's as though the town is on the way to being a ghost town. Indeed, the contrast from Rhode Island last week, where there were no apparent worries is quite large. In Albuquerque there is no activity.

We spoke to as many people as we could. Few would speak openly. But their eyes seemed fearful. It's subjective, we know. Yet one thing is certain. We haven't seen this weak an economic picture, first hand, anywhere in the last couple of years of travel.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to put things in perspective, but even for those of us who live here, the signs of stagnation or outright decline have been unmistakable.

Albuquerque has slowed dramatically from the business peak. It is leaking jobs and enduring a years-long commercial real estate depression that has left acres of buildings vacant; home prices are bottoming out but way off their peak; restaurants remain nearly empty on weeknights; unnerving layoffs continue, with nearly 500 lost jobs in the metro this month alone. And the list goes on. The latest news confirms the stagnation:

Average weekly wages in New Mexico fell by 2.2 percent between 2010 and 2011, and the state’s job growth rate was a negative 0.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. New Mexico’s average weekly wage as of December 2011 was $799, compared to the national average of $955. New Mexico ranked 39th among the states in terms of average weekly wages, the BLS said. In Bernalillo County, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the state’s jobs, the average weekly wage fell by $20, or 2.4 percent...The county’s average weekly wage at the end of 2011 was $829.

This town needs more jobs, more money circulating and more business created here and moving in here to get the jobs and money.

Mayor Berry spent his Tuesday touting the remodeling for the all but dead downtown ABQ Convention Center. The Mayor points out the $20 million remodel will provide hundreds of temporary construction jobs. That's good stuff, Mayor, and we encourage you to support a large state capital outlay measure at the next legislative session that would provide even more construction jobs (For now, we won't get into the critique of possible 2013 ABQ Mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli who says the city ought to consider getting out of the convention business).

Some might say this is the way it is going to be going forward, that the long downturn is the new permanent. Well, it surely will be if everyone accepts it as such.

REALLY HARD HIT

The professional classes--the doctors and accountants and such--are mostly spared the brunt of the lousy job market here, but Hispanic working class people are getting absolutely slammed. The latest:

The unemployment rate for Hispanics in Albuquerque is more than double the rate for Whites. That’s according to a report released  by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).. The unemployment rate for Hispanics in Albuquerque was 11.3 percent in 2011...up from 9.3 percent in 2010. Albuquerque had the highest ratio of Hispanic-to-White unemployment of all the metro areas. For every White worker who is unemployed, 2.5 Hispanic workers are out of jobs.

“...The construction sector lost the most jobs after the housing bubble burst, and there was a high concentration of Hispanics in that sector,” said Gerry Bradley, Research Director at New Mexico Voices for Children. “Also, the Hispanic population in New Mexico is younger than the White population, so they tend not to have as much seniority at their jobs and generally have lower levels of education than Whites,” he said.

OUR FUTURE

Heretofore it has been unthinkable that ABQ could go down the no growth path or actually start losing population--trends that have taken hold in America's Rust Belt. After all, we're the booming Sun Belt, aren't we? But it's clear the business building blocks we've put in place are squishy. While other states recover, we languish (At least outside of the oil counties). New Mexico union leader Jon Hendry tells us he has an idea to stop the bleeding in ABQ:

How about the Governor making an effort to fill some of the many state jobs that are funded but sitting empty, especially in ABQ where they could use them now? This vacancy rate of around 17% is unacceptable. All we’re doing is running up big surpluses so she can advocate for a tax cut before the election. Also, how about a little money to the film office to market that we’re still in the movie game? One big picture can make the ABQ economy look much better.

Thanks for that, Jon. Government jobs at all levels have been the backbone of the state economy. Their recent scarcity has contributed mightily to the "ghost town" atmosphere one often confronts in ABQ and Santa Fe and detailed at the start of today's blog.

If the Governor and ABQ Mayor believe these government jobs hamper free enterprise and drag an economy down, then they have a responsibility to try to replace them by growing the private sector. The state and the city continue to wait for more jobs to come in here than the number that are going out the door. While we wait, somebody put the Ghostbusters on standby. Albuquerque may need them.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Bear Is Back: More Layoffs Slam ABQ; Where's Our Leadership? Plus: Cops Gone Wild: Our APD Watcher Has The Latest; Where's Berry? And: Plenty Of Cash But Not Much Of A Senate Campaign Yet 

And you thought the Great Bear Market was history? Not around here. The ABQ economy continues to absorb body blows from the ravaging Bear, with news arriving that Hewlett-Packard in Rio Rancho will lay off 100 employees at its service center. HP Is another of those big corporations that was given millions in taxpayer cash and incentives to open up shop here. But unlike Schott Solar, which announced this month that it is bolting its doors and laying off 250 workers, HP may have to pay a penalty for shedding all those jobs. The company has an agreement with Rio Rancho to employ over 1,300 by the end of the year or pay a penalty. The HP layoffs here are part of national layoffs the company has announced. Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack has been saying the depressed Rio Rancho housing market has seen an uptick because of HP. Now what, Tom?

The lousy HP jobs news comes only days after the aformentioend large loss of jobs at Schott and the demise of 80 positions at health giant Lovelace Hospital.

We're not about to lay blame for the layoffs at the doorstep of Republican Governor Martinez. We just ask her (and ABQ GOP Mayor Berry) where are the jobs? What's the plan? We continue to lose jobs and suffer from anemic tax revenue, but Santa Fe (and the Dem controlled Legislature) seem helpless, if not hopeless. There is simply no "buzz" about the economy here. These private sector layoffs are combining with reduced government employment to flatten the New Mexican economy like a tortilla.

What's a Governor to do? Well, she could start by trying to jack up the large tourist economy with some big dollar promotions (and TV ads produced right here in good 'ol New Mexico.) And she could prepare a major capital outlay bill to pump some life into the moribund construction economy. And she could tell her GOP colleagues in Washington that she is no enemy of federal funds coming in to our enchanted land. There's been nothing but silence from the Fourth Floor on possible cuts to our national defense and energy establishment here. For God's sake, this is a defining moment in the modern economic history of this state. Is anyone out there?

How about fewer ribbon cuttings and and photo ops of our chief executive smiling with third graders. That's campaigning, not governing. Just a thought....

THE BERRY PATCH

PhotobucketAs for Mayor Berry, not only does he face a flat on its belly local economy, but it seems he needs a strong jolt of caffeine or something to break the spell he is under when it comes to the off-the leash-out-of control-answer-to-no one Albuquerque Police Department. Yes, it's that bad. Our corresponent in this matter--retired APD Seargent Dan Klein--comes with a wrap on the latest discouraging developments:

Joe, it's three strikes for APD.

1. A city audit reveals that the retention program, started in 2008, to pay to keep senior officers from retiring is not working. Fifty-eight of these officers did not qualify for the retention payments, but still received them. We are talking thousands of dollars for each officer that they did not qualify for. The program cost nearly $2.5 million over three and a half years.

2.  The city reaches a settlement agreement of $385,000 on the lawsuit alleging excessive force by APD.

3.  The city threatens to file a lien against the property owners of a house APD damaged if the property owners don't fix the damage.

Just how much longer can the keystone cop management at APD be allowed to continue?

Regarding the city audit, APD's response was that it is only a paperwork issue and that this all started under the Marty Chavez administration. Wow. Talk about not caring about being a good steward of the taxpayers money. This response basically shows that APD's administration does not care about our money. So what if 58 officers received thousands of taxpayers dollars they didn't qualify for? It was just a paperwork error and it was Marty Chavez's fault. Well, that just doesn't fly because the Chief back then is the same chief we have now, Ray Schultz.


I can't even begin to discuss another lawsuit, settled or lost, by APD costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Add it to all the others under this Chief's watch and we are well into tens of millions of dollars and counting. But hey, it isn't their money, so no one is held accountable.

Then to make this APD soap opera even more weird, no one in command at APD is held accountable for our money, but APD damages a home in a SWAT standoff and they waste no time in threatening the home owner to get it fixed.  Only in our current administration would this make any sense. Four years of wrongly paying 58 officers (and that only comes to light by a city audit), yet less than 30 days to threaten a home owner to fix damages by APD.

It's the same old story which Mayor Berry seems to enjoy ignoring--no accountability for the poor management at APD. The citizens continue to hemorrhage money in lawsuits and poor administrative policies, yet the Chief and his staff seem to have immunity. Accountability? There is none for the policy makers at APD.

Thanks, Dan. Mayor Berry's long nap over the APD management mess may not be disturbed until our city councilors finally decide they have had enough, or until Berry attracts a strong 2013 re-election opponent or until the US Department of Justice launches an investigation into the long string of fatal police department shootings. That is an investigation that now appears long overdue.

The Albuquerque Police Department appears completely off this Mayor's leash as well as that of Rob Perry, his Chief Administrative Officer. Why do they refuse to act? To lead? We're just asking...

CAMPAIGN CASH

You don't have to worry about the candidates for the open US Senate seat running out of money to bombard you with TV ads this fall. This word today from the camp of Dem Martin Heinrich:

(The campaign has) more than $1.76 million cash-on-hand and $1.41 million raised for the quarter (ending June 30). Heinrich has (brought) in nearly $1.1 million in the last six weeks... Since the beginning of his campaign, Heinrich has raised more than $3.89 million from 8,732 individuals....

As for Republican Heather Wilson she had a similar cash on hand total in mid-May and is not expected to lose ground to her Dem rival.

About the state of the race, it remains uninspired and borderline insipid, as the state is pelted with out-of-state interest group and PAC ads decrying the positions of both Heinrich and Wilson on a variety of national issues. So it goes these days in a campaign system besotted with cash but bereft of any authentic moments. We'll probably have to wait for the fall TV debates for any of those...

UNM WATCH

We have a Senior Alligator monitoring the change of regimes at the University of New Mexico. He writes:

Joe, Today the UNM Regents meet and it will be President Robert Frank's first encounter with them over issues where there may be a difference of opinion.  Regents Jamie Koch and Gene Gallegos drive the agenda of former UNM president Schmidly. We will be watching to see if Frank has coalesced a different majority among the Regents to wrest control from Jamie and Gene....

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Monday, July 09, 2012

The Big Monday Blog: Smoke Screens Go Up Around Emailgate, But We Defog The Real Story, Plus: The Gary King File; He's A Key Player Now, Also: New State Senate Candidate And Michelle Ready To Move Off Commission 

Welcome back to the home of New Mexico politics and the state's top political web site. We've got a logjam of news from the holiday week so let's get busy....

You've got to keep your eye on the ball when watching emailgate unfold. The political smoke machine is churning out a big cloud of stories about legislators using private email accounts, about how Big Bill's administration used them (or didn't) and even one that says the attorney general should give up any private emails he may have sent and received. These are interesting sidebars, but emailgate is not only about the propriety of the upper echelon of the Martinez administration using email to conduct state business in order to keep that business hidden from the public. It's really about whether the business they hid broke the law and if a shadow government was formed. We speak especially of the awarding of the controversial and valuable racino lease for the Downs at ABQ.

It appears emailgate will ultimately be about that racino deal. Our sources tell us exclusively that Attorney General Gary King will conduct an investigation of the awarding of the racino lease as will State Auditor Hector Balderas. (As part of emailgate, King is already investigating possible violations of the Governmental Conduct Act within the Public Education Department). The Feds are also in the loop on the Downs deal but no word on whether they will take a bite out of the apple.

King is a key player. He runs an independent branch of government with real power. And dangerously for this Governor, he may be finding some of the voice that has been missing from his tenure which began in 2007.

King went before the press late Friday to talk about the email probe involving PED. In the first verbal row between the two King accused Martinez and the state GOP of trying to intimidate the AG by filing a request for his personal email under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). Martinez's office calls that charge "ridiculous," saying she has received over 150 records request since taking office and that it is no big deal for King to get this one.

The state GOP and Martinez's political machine, run by chief advisor Jay McCleskey who stands at the center of emailgate as the accused "shadow Governor," are trying their best to turn this into a debate about the legitimacy of using private email to conduct business. Again, their defense is that everyone does it and there are no clear rules for public officials. But the public is not going to be in an uproar if private email was used to conduct innocuous state business. But if it was used to corrupt the process--for collusion and bid-rigging in the racino deal--it's a whole other matter.

The public is going to give King a lot of rope to run with (and Auditor Balderas as well). New Mexicans trust their politicians about as far as they can throw them, and the emails on the Downs deal reveal that, despite the Guv's pledges to the contrary, there is plenty of wheeling and dealing and conniving going on in her own backyard. Whether it rises to the level of indictments is what keen observers are wondering.

COVERING KING

King's Friday news conference was in stark contrast to a disastrous one he gave last June in which he defended himself against charges of being a "do nothing" attorney general. At that time he hemmed and hawed and generally appeared like a man out of touch with himself and his mission. Not this time. On Friday he gave a sober, subdued presentation in which he made clear that the famously laid back King had finally had enough of being the whipping boy of Susana and Jay (Video of King's news conference here).

And so it should be if King, son of the legendary late Governor Bruce King, is to have any realistic shot at following in his father's footsteps. He has all but announced his 2014 campaign for the Dem Guv nomination and it has been met with derision. King's performance as AG is scoffed at and his general demeanor described among the chattering classes as anything but gubernatorial. But there was a glimmer of a different King at the Friday news conference. There was no bombast, but a low-key persistence that is a trademark of rural New Mexico politicians. But even as he seems ready for what could be an epic battle ahead, his previous performance hangs over him. Does he have the fire in the belly? The competence?

So don't let the political smoke machine throw you. This isn't only about politicos and how they use their email. The question before us is whether two independent branches of government--controlled by opposite political parties--are about to clash over a scandal that could determine the future of the state's politics.

KING VS. MARTINEZ

We're not done yet with King and this big story. The AG was interviewed by Lorene Mills for Report from Santa Fe, an occasion during which he went into some detail on his thoughts on emailgate. First, on the emails sent to the PED from Martinez chief political advisor Jay McCleskey:

A couple of legislators...have asked us to look into...a potential misuse of government people and government equipment to support a political purpose in the Public Education Department. We certainly are pursuing that request and are investigating whether there was a violation of the Governmental Conduct Act. A lot of the rhetoric has been around the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) which is also something that we enforce and that’s important, but...we teach all of our government officials...the Governmental Conduct Act--that the people’s money is a public trust. And that you have to be careful and appropriate in what you use it for...The allegations in this case are that there were personnel that were used in the I.T. department that were encouraged to do something that might have been for a political purpose...

And on his political battle with the Guv, King said:

...The governor has been working hard to try and isolate...the attorney general’s office. This has been in the news where she's going to ask the State Investment Council to vote to not to have us working on some of the cases, but I think the people in New Mexico really deserve to have some independent oversight. And frankly...it doesn’t make any difference whether it is Democrat or Republican. I don’t think Bill Richardson liked me looking over his shoulder either, but I think the people in New Mexico elect the attorney general separately and they expect us to be an independent eye....And so we are going to continue to work to look into those things. 

With King seemingly ready to battle with Martinez, what does that mean for Auditor Hector Balderas? Well, King's entrance into emailgate is much easier, but the auditor can get in on the Downs deal by examining the contracts. In case you forgot, Hector is also a possible 2014 Dem Guv contender so he's going to keep Gary on his toes and vice-versa. Trouble could come if they start stepping on each other, but first let's see how aggressive each of these fellas is going to be. And don't forget trial attorney Sam Bregman. He's eyeing that '14 Dem Guv race and if Hector and Gary get meek, expect Sam to provide the check and balance. Yep, our system has a way of working this stuff out.

IVEY-SOTO VS. SNYDER

Daniel Ivey-Soto
ABQ attorney Daniel Ivey-Soto eked out a one vote victory Saturday to become a new Democratic state Senate candidate. Ivey-Soto, 45, was picked by Dem Party central committee members on a 14 to 13 vote to replace Senator Tim Eichenberg on the November ballot. He bested lobbyist Vanessa Alarid to take the prize and will face former Republican state Senator Diane Snyder to determine who will go to Santa Fe. Snyder was ousted by Eichenberg four years ago. A third candidate dropped out at the last minute and endorsed Alarid, but to no avail

The district has become a bit more Dem friendly under the recent redistricting. The performance is ranked 52% to 48% in favor of the Dems. Still, Snyder, a lobbyist, is a well-known name who will be able to raise some cash. She has a shot.

Ivey-Soto is the executive director for the state's county clerks association and is the former elections chief under former Secretary of State Mary Herrera. He is a graduate of the UNM School of Law and a longtime Dem activist. His candidacy will get help from labor and enviro groups. He starts his race with Snyder as the early favorite.

By the way, Alarid is engaged to marry ABQ Dem west side State Rep. Moe Maestas....

ALLIGATOR STRIKE

Did the Alligators get ABQ GOP State Rep. Nate Gentry to come with an early endorsement of ABQ GOP congressional candidate Janice Arnold-Jones? It sure looks that way. Our July 4th blog pointed out how former ABQ public safety officer and 2008 ABQ GOP US House candidate Darren White was chiding Janice on his Twitter account about not being able to raise enough money for her campaign. One theory passed along by the Gators was that top R's were being told to keep their powder dry and save their bucks for 2014 when Gentry could very well run for the ABQ seat. Only two days later Gentry came with this endorsement of Janice:

While in the State House, Janice Arnold-Jones was willing to stand up to the Democratic leadership. She fought to make state government more transparent and was known for her steadfast advocacy for New Mexico and its citizens. Her commitment to fiscal responsibility is a tradition I am certain she will continue as a member of Congress. Janice is the right choice this November to represent New Mexico’s First Congressional District.

None of this is going to throw the Gators off the scent. They expect Janice's campaign to be underfunded because of opposition from White, his good pal and Martinez chief political advisor Jay McCleksey and others in their wing of the party. As for Gentry, he may have calmed Janice's supporters by getting that endorsement out, but still keep your eye on him to make his own congressional run, if Janice loses to Dem nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham.

And will Nate back up his endorsement with fund-raising for Janice? How about Darren White? If he is so concerned about Janice not being able to raise money to compete, will he shake the money tree for her? Don't hold your breath...

MICHELLE'S MOVE

Lujan Grisham
Speaking of candidate Grisham, insiders now tell us that she will very likely give up her seat on the Bernalillo County Commission before the November election. She will do so to protect the Dem majority on the five member panel. The word that Michelle is going to get off has set off a frenzy to replace her. The Alligators say as many as a dozen names have surfaced, including that of ABQ Dem City councilor Debbie O'Malley.

If Michelle leaves the commission--say in early September--Governor Martinez will get to name a replacement but that replacement will only serve until the end of the year. There will be an election to fill out Michelle's term which expires in 2014. Dem central committee members from Michelle's county commission seat will be charged with naming someone to the ballot, as will the Republican central committee members. That's where the Dem frenzy comes in and those dozen or more candidates,

The commission currently has a 3 to 2 Dem majority. That will go to a 3 to 2 R majority when Michelle resigns and the Governor--if as expected--appoints a Republican to the seat. But in the November election the Dem candidate named by the central committee to replace Michelle is expected to have an easy time of it in the Dem leaning district. A November victory would bring back the Dem majority to the panel in January. Got all that?

GRIEGO GRAPES

We received a bunch of email from curious readers who spotted our Monday headline "Griego's Grapes" but pointed out there was no story in the blog to go with the headline. Well, we have that report for you today..

ABQ Dem congressional candidate Eric Griego is being accused of "sour grapes" for not endorsing Michelle Lujan Grisham since she defeated him and Marty Chavez for the ABQ Dem congressional nomination, In fact, Griego has infuriated some Dems for sending out emails endorsing other congressional candidates--progressives-and asking that folks give them money. Hey, what about Michelle? They ask. Is she chopped liver? Here's Mary Morrow who describes herself as an "embarrassed former supporter" of Griego unloading on him:

Eric, What the hell is wrong with you? It is now obvious that we are better off without you as our nominee. I regret supporting your candidacy. I thought the accusations made against you were nothing more than political BS designed to tarnish your years in the state Senate. I now can come to only one conclusion, your opponents' criticisms were and are correct. You are a vindictive self-absorbed person, and your character flaws were the reason you could not pass more than one piece of legislation. I never thought I would say that Marty Chavez is a better Democrat than Eric Griego, but if you continue to send out these types of emails and do not support our nominee, Marty Chavez is indeed a better Democrat. Get behind Michelle Lujan-Grisham, or crawl into a hole until the first Wednesday after the first Monday in the month of November. I will do what it takes to make sure she is elected, and I will never fight for anything you ask me to stand up and fight for again.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)
  
Interested in reaching New Mexico's political community? Advertise here. Email us for details.

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c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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