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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More Bites Out Of The Driver's License Apple, Papen Says She's No Susana Rubber Stamp, ABQ Mayor's Race Update, Las Cruces Mayor Eyes Higher Office, And: Readers Weigh In On All The Latest La Politica 

With any luck, this will the last legislative session we have to blog about driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. A compromise on the mother of all New Mexico wedge issues is brewing and the politics of how Governor Martinez is getting to that promised land provides plenty of fodder. For example...

Democrat Marci Blaze, who came within a whisker of defeating Republican Paul Pacheco for an ABQ west side state House seat, comments on Rep. Pacheco's sponsorship of the bill to repeal driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants even as Governor Martinez signals that she is ready for a compromise on the sticky issue. We blogged recently that maybe Paul hadn't "got the memo" on the Guv's change of heart, but says Marci:

I don't believe Mr. Pacheco neglected to read any memo on the immigration issue.  In fact, I believe he's being played artfully by Governor Martinez and (Guv political adviser Jay) McCleskey. There's no compromise if everyone is on the same page...so who better than Pacheco to throw under the bus on this one?  He's a freshman and a former "peace officer," who actually doesn't have any opinion other than the one scripted for him by the people who funded his entire campaign. 

I must say that the folks who didn't get the memo were the Op-Ed folks at the ABQ Journal. I firmly believe they were encouraged to run Pacheco's piece on the same day they ran an editorial endorsing compromise. That made sure constituents would know that the Governor was seeking a middle ground between both parties on this issue.

Sounds like Marci may be looking at a rematch in '14. As for Pacheco being "thrown under the bus," probably not. He will end up voting for whatever compromise plan the Guv eventually favors.

Pacheco's bill for an outright repeal was tabled by the House Labor Committee Tuesday. That paves the way for compromise legislation that Susana really has her sights aimed at.

NO RUBBER STAMP?

When Las Cruces State Senator Mary Kay Papen formed a coalition with Senate R's and conservative Dems to become Senate president pro tem, veteran politico Mike Santullo argued Papen would be a "rubber stamp" for Republican Governor Martinez. Papen responded to that charge in an interview with Santa Fe's Lorene Mills on "Report from Santa Fe:"

Somebody said I was going to be a rubber stamp for the governor, and nothing could be further from the truth...They don't know me very well. When the governor has things that she is presenting and
bringing forth that I can support, I'll be behind her a hundred percent. And if it's something that I can't support, then I'll try and reach a compromise with her.


Papen was promoted for pro tem by conservative Dem Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith.

THE MAYOR'S RACE

We might be getting an addition to the '13 race for Mayor. Mark Valenzuela, who served as ABQ'S chief financial officer under Mayor Chavez, is giving the race a serious look. A friend of his says the early discussion has centered on the jobs issue and sends this:

As Albuquerque sinks deeper and deeper into recession under the failed Berry Administration, we need a leader who can get people back to work and get Albuquerque moving in the right direction again. Mark, who has raised a billion dollars for his clients over the past three years, is someone we should be looking to for leadership out of this dead economy."

Valenzuela, 43, is in investment banking in ABQ with George K. Baum & Co. He is a native of Dona Ana County and has lived in the city 16 years. He is a past director of governmental affairs for the NM Finance Authority.

So far, former ABQ Public Safety Director and attorney Pete Dinelli is the only officially announced candidate for the October election. GOP Mayor Berry is expected to make a re-elect announcement soon, despite rumors that he won't seek the job again.

Meanwhile, the old boss of Dinelli and Valenzuela has a new gig:

Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez has been hired by a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm. Ibarra Strategy Group announced Tuesday that Chavez recently was hired to assist with "business development and strategic advice."

Chavez left a high-paying job in DC to run for the ABQ congressional seat in 2012. He lost the Dem primary to Michelle Lujan Grisham.

'14 CALLING

And it's not too early for candidates to start eyeing statewide positions up for grabs in 2014. Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima is one of them. He tells me he is looking at running for the Dem nomination for State Treasurer. Incumbent James Lewis is term limited.

ABQ Dem State Senator Tim Keller has said that he will also look at the Treasurer and the Auditor races.

The Dem nomination is worth having. No Republican has been elected to either post since the 1960's.

BEN RAY VS. STEVE

Rep. Lujan
Northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan had a barely disguised zinger for GOP southern  Congressman Steve Pearce when he addressed a joint session of the Legislature Tuesday:

Despite what some have suggested, New Mexicans are not takers. New Mexicans are not lazy or selfish.  New Mexicans are hard-working and generous; proud and tough.  We are giving in spirit, diligent in work ethic, and committed to our families and our communities.
 

We have given back much to our country through the search for scientific knowledge at our national labs to the proud tradition of service in our nation’s armed forces.  When America has called on New Mexico, New Mexicans have heeded the call.

Pearce got the tongues wagging earlier this month when he said many of the state's unemployed would rather be on welfare than work and that Americans overall were losing 'the work "habit."

LAYOFF CONTROVERSY

Keeping it on the jobs front, we blogged this week that our Alligators report that defense contractor SAIC has laid off 200 workers here with much of the layoffs coming recently. We are getting some push back from SAIC on this, but we are sticking with our Gators. While the 200 lost jobs may not have come "recently," it appears they have taken place in the past year. From our Alligator again:

They shut down their Air Park office at Kirtland and Uptown in ABQ Uptown. From the end of 2011 to date there have been at least 200 people in Albuquerque who have been laid off. There are SAIC people left in ABQ but multiple business units closed. 

A spokeswoman for SAIC emails:

...We made the decision in December to restructure our workforce, including a reduction of approximately 700 individuals across the company. These positions are at many locations and across the ranks, but limit the impact on those who are delivering directly to our customers. Of those impacted, 11 were in Albuquerque.  SAIC remains a significant employer in the area, with approximately 350 employees in the state.

We asked SAIC to give their ABQ year over year employment totals and also asked where in NM the 350 SAIC employees still here are located. We' haven't heard back.

And then we get a further report from this SAIC contractor:

I have done subcontract work for them since 1993, and continue to do so today. SAIC still occupies the Air Park building, although not the entire building like they have in the past. SAIC recently did a major restructuring that included selling off their Test & Evaluation division to American Systems Incorporated. The T&E division occupied the Uptown office, so technically SAIC no longer occupies those offices, but American Systems Incorporated does. Like most other contractors in Albuquerque SAIC has lots of employee churn as contracts come and go but they are still in the game.

Covering the deep recession here is challenging. Not all layoffs are reported and covering them is slippery as everyone tries to put the best face on things. But that doesn't change reality. We are in deep trouble on the jobs front.

OUTTA HERE

We've been getting more email like this one from Stephen Dick now of Pueblo, Co.:

I cannot live in the state at this point because of a large lack of opportunity for my field of work (civil engineering).  I went to New Mexico State and received an incredibly great education in that area that ranks with schools that have far larger reputations. If only there was more opportunity to remain in the state and make it a better place. It is a travesty that the state has had such a lack of political leadership in state government (the legislature cannot escape blame here either); but Martinez has been more mediocre than most of the recent governors.

It is time for her to put up or shut up and show that she can make New Mexico a place for opportunity.  Dividing her own party is not a good sign that she has that ability.  The state appears to be dying under her control, and I really fear for its long-term viability even more now than in a long time...If energy has a downturn, it is going to be disastrous for the state.

And it is time for the press to stop phoning it in about her and start to look at the inadequate trail of accomplishments she is compiling.

Thanks Joe. I had to get that off of my chest.


No problem, Stephen. And we're cheaper than a therapist.

ALL OVER IT

A reader writes:

Joe, You are all over the Roundhouse this year. No one comes close to your insight. I am glad to see some economy bills being put forth. One thing missing is ABQ Mayor RJ Berry. In your reports as well as the newspaper's, I have yet to see Berry pounding on tables in Santa Fe to get help for the Albuquerque economy. Is this just me, or is Berry just not around? 

The Mayor did take some heat when the Governor's proposed cap on incentives for the film industry were approved last year. He did not take a stand. Now a proposal is back to repeal the caps for an industry that has had a significant ABQ presence. We haven't seen any quotes from Berry on the matter.

Meanwhile, Martinez has firmly rejected lifting the caps or increasing their amount. The Dems are accusing her of more "my way or the highway politics."  

WATCH THE NUMBERS

Reader Cheryl Haaker says we and others quoting that stat that reveals 70% of the state's births are funded by the Medicaid program need to put it in context:

What percentage of births were paid for before the Great Recession? Was there a spike caused by the economic collapse, which is apparently continuing in New Mexico? What is the historic trend of Medicaid-funded births over the last decade or two? Is there any relation between number of Medicaid births and level of funding for Medicaid?

It's beyond dangerous to take one number which deals with one particular time and run with it, as if it's true for all time. Witness the big freak-out when it turned out that more than 50% of the population paid no federal income tax in the depths of the economic collapse, when unemployment spiked upwards. That was spun into Over 50% of people never pay any taxes! Ever. The culmination of this distortion seemed to be Mr. Romney's slogan about the "47%".

Extremely bad policy can be made from inadequate or cherry-picked, data. When we see a story like the one about Medicaid funded births, the immediate question should be: What about the other years?


Thanks for your great blog, I read it every day.

Reader Stephanie DuBois also has some thoughts on that startling Medicaid stat:

Republicans have continuously pushed for "Abstinence Only" which clearly is not working and they have been against comprehensive sex education. I am not pushing for abortion. But I do think education in this area could make a difference in what we spend to raise a child to majority age. But most of these girls are not content with the state raising one child so they are obliged to have multiples that you and I have to pay for. I think some of our over zealous Republican women lawmakers that want to criminalize abortion would do better to present a bill for sex education. Ok, I can dream can't I?

Of course, you can dream, Stephanie. We find the best time to do it is when the Legislature is  debating driver's licenses....

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