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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mayor Backtracks On Minimum Wage Misstep, But Steps In Another Puddle, Plus: Debate Over APD Is Not Pretty, And: Coffee Talk At The Guv's Mansion 

ABQ Mayor Berry has moved to step out of one political puddle only to splash around in another.

Berry apparently agreed with the Alligators and others who warned him that not enforcing the city's new minimum wage law could be just what the Dems need to get off their seats and into the voting booths this October.

After first acting as if the city had little power to enforce the new law and showing very little interest in doing so, Berry's city attorney was told to cave. He then announced he is now willing to file a lawuit against the Route 66 Malt Shop for flouting the law. That puts Berry more in tune with the 66% of city voters who approved the buck an hour wage increase last November as well as an increase for tipped workers like those at the Malt Shop.

But then there's that other puddle. Before a business group Berry this week began talking about that old bugaboo "right to work"--another issue that could fire up the Dem troops of the union variety. Even the conservative crowd he was wooing seemed taken aback:

But there are opportunities, Berry said, citing trade, tax code improvements and, in a statement that made the room of almost 500 people instantly quiet, looking at right-to-work legislation.
“I’m not trying to be an ideologue,” he said. “In the last 10 years, right-to-work states have gained 1.2 million jobs.”

Not trying to be an ideologue is good self-advice for the Republican Mayor in a center/left city, but his campaign for re-election is getting off to a shaky start for that very reason.

Dragging your feet on enforcing the minimum wage and then trying to resuscitate the long-dead right-to-work debate are sure-fire ways to fire up the other side. That can take down those high approval ratings in no time at all.

BERRY'S BREATHING ROOM

The early mayoral mistakes ain't pretty, but Dems have given him lots of room to run. There are a number of Dem candidates on the field, but party insiders worry none of them is poised to break through. Insiders say Dem Lt. Governor Diane Denish has completed a poll to guide her in deciding whether to get in the race.

COUNCILORS EMERGE

In first blogging of Mayor Berry's blunder over the minimum wage, we wondered where the three Democratic councilors were. Talk about the Mayor giving them some low-lying fruit to pick. Well, lo and behold Councilors Garduno, Benton and Sanchez scheduled a news conference to go after the Mayor. His Honor reversed himself on enforcement of the ordinance about an hour before the three went before the TV cameras.

Hey, welcome back to the game, Councilors. You've been on the bench a long, long time.

GETTING UGLY

Lurking below the surface in the ongoing debate over the extremely troubled ABQ police department is ethnicity.  Activist Silvio Dell'Angela is a self-styled watchdog of APD who regularly emails updates to a wide circle. He comes with these comments to the city council:

Councilors: Not only is the police oversight process loaded with rich Anglos, but also look at the city’s leadership. Police Chief Ray Schultz, Mayor Berry, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, Vity Clerk Amy Bailey and City Attorney Dave Tourek--all Anglos. Do the Hispanics and others of color who are shot or brutalized by APD really stand a chance?  Just a bunch of rich white guys judging those poor of color.  The question is-just who do you represent?

The numerous fatal police shootings and many other incidents that prompted the federal government to launch a civil rights investigation of APD has opened some ugly wounds. It is not good for this town's image, for business or for our quality of life. It is sad.

SALLY, BOOTS AND A BOLO

Senator Martin Heinrich has apparently adopted the official state uniform of New Mexico while on the job in DC. At least he did on the day he met with Secretary of the Interior nominee Sally Jewell. As you can see, Martin has his boots and bolo all in order. Now what about Sally and New Mexico? He says:

I shared with her that there is overwhelming community support to establish the Río Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument outside of Las Cruces. 

Jewell, from the state of Washington and the CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), will face a confirmation hearing by the Senate's energy and natural resources committee on March 7. Heinrich is a member of the committee.

Interior is a critical department to New Mexico. The state's congressional delegation has traditionally kept a close eye on affairs there. New Mexico has vast stretches of public lands used for energy exploration and recreation. Balancing that and the concerns of enviros can often lead to infighting as Jewell will discover if she is confirmed by the full Senate. (Confirmation is expected.)

Heinrich and Jewell have another thing in common besides both being avid outdoors people. They both have degrees in mechanical engineering. Whether that makes for scintillating conversation between the pair, we will leave to you.

TURDS OUT?

In what one reader described as "the best typo ever," we used the word "turds" instead of "turns" in a paragraph about NM Senator Tom Udall Tuesday. Multiple readers emailed to rib us over that one.
We always knew we would be the best at something--but we did not think it would be in the category of typos. Of course, with Tom seeking re-election in 2014, our unintentional scatological reference may seem rather mild to him by the time the election is over.

SUSANA NOT A SARAH?

Reader Ry Ellison of Alamogordo writes of the discussion about Governor Martinez and whether she has a Palin problem:

Joe, I take issue with this so-called "Palin problem" you have diagnosed Governor Martinez as having.  Specifically, I disagree with your assertion that "Martinez is indeed fighting a meme in national circles that she has a Sarah Palin problem-- not up to snuff on the key issues...On what evidentiary basis do you make that allegation? 

I have attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington for a number of years, and, as one of the few attendees from New Mexico, I am often asked about Governor Martinez.  I can tell you that not a single person I have spoken to at CPAC has ever questioned the Governor's competence (as your not-so-subtle Palin reference does), nor have I heard anyone compare her to Sarah Palin (favorably or unfavorably). 

Beltway Republicans are well aware that Governor Martinez is an experienced prosecutor who has personally tried dozens of high-profile cases.  I hardly think she will struggle to articulate her position on key national issues if and when the time comes.  Governor Martinez is an attorney, and attorneys know that preparation is often the only element of a trial that they can control.  If her performance as a prosecutor is any indication, I am confident that she will be prepared when she steps onto the national political stage. 

Until that time, I believe you have confused her calculated strategy to prepare and avoid media overexposure with her inability to successfully step into the national spotlight.  When the time comes, she'll be ready.

We have heard the Palin comparison talked about in political and media circles. Is it true? The answer will come when she is truly tested.

COFFEE TALK

Maybe there's some political mileage for the Dems in the $100,000 kitchen remodel at the Guv's mansion in which a $2,700 coffee maker is the centerpiece, but probably not much. In 2010, Martinez labeled the state jet an unnecessary luxury and an abused one by Governor Richardson, but that came after years of pay-to-pay allegations and Bill's well-known regal lifestyle. The corruption platform had already been constructed before the jet was rolled out in TV ads to seal the deal.

Martinez quickly backtracked whee she was busted and said she will have the expensive coffee maker paid for with private donations. Just who that might be is public business. The Governor's Mansion Foundation? Corporate donors? Individuals?

That's probably enough to fade the heat as long as its not followed by another anti-populist move. After all, this is the Guv who says hubby Chuck Franco is a simple sort who uses a kitchen to make bologna sandwiches and little else. And then there was Susana's announcement that she shopped for furniture at Ashley. You can bet they don't sell $2,700 coffee makers there.

Knowing that Martinez is hooked on Starbucks as much as we are, we can easily see how she may  have given the go-ahead for the fancy coffee machine.  She said she didn't and doesn't even now how to brew a cup in it. Regardless, it is hard to resist the comforts of power the longer you are around them. Something for her staff to be aware of.

The fact that the expensive kitchen upgrade was to the public portion of the mansion where thousands are entertained each year--not the personal quarters of the Governor which also has a kitchen--is another mitigating factor.

The larger picture here is the mansion itself. New Mexico has a bad habit of patching up its major public buildings rather than building news ones when needed. We've cited ABQ's Tingley Coliseum as a glaring example of a building that needs to be razed to make way for the new. Popejoy Hall on the UNM campus is another that in the years ahead will need to be redone from start to finish--instead of patched up.

The Governor's "mansion" was built some 60 years ago. Now that we have a $2,700 built-in coffee machine there and high-end granite counter tops, it would be foolhardy to tear the place down and build a 21st century home. But that's what we should have done 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, let's relax and enjoy Frank sing "The Coffee Song" in honor of Susana...Yeah, Gators, now we're percolating....

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