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Friday, February 22, 2013

Santa Fe: Looking For the Passion, Plus: A Final Take On St. Pete And His Tarnished Halo; Readers And Bloggers Parse His Secret Paternity 

Rep. Garcia Richard
Watching for a big moment in Santa Fe is like waiting for a statue to bleed, but we've got our eyes out for you. Maybe some passion is starting to build as the session nears its final heartbeats. Three freshman Dem state reps--ABQ's Christine Trujillo and Liz Thomson and Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos split with their colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee and voted against the $5.9 billion state budget. They did so because of their opposition to starting up a merit based pay system for school teachers as favored by the Republican Governor.

They are being called tools of the teachers' unions, but as we've blogged before--anyone showing some fight--some passion in Santa Fe--on either the left or the right--gets our attention.

This has to be one of the more featureless sessions in recent memory.

Who would have thought it would be like this after the multi-million dollar nasty campaigns the Guv ran against so many legislators last November? It's like the Stockholm Syndrome where those taken hostage become grateful to their captors--in this case the Guv.

That state budget bill was approved Thursday on a 53-16 vote. 13 other Dems joined the three above to send a message to the old guard Dem leadership that they would like to tangle with the Fourth Floor.

(Speaking of the old guard, what's this we hear about freshman Rep. Garcia Richard getting an earful from the old guard during a lengthy House Democratic caucus meeting this week? Lighten up, old-timers. Remember when you also used to really care?)

Just how small potatoes is this session coming as it does in the middle of an historic downturn in the state economy? Folks, they're telling us a 1% pay raise for state employees is a major philosophical difference between Susana and the Dems. Do we look that dumb out here? Okay, don't answer that....

DAYS OF DOMENICI

The long ago sins of St. Pete heated up the water cooler conversations across the state (and nation) this week. Readers here were among them as they parsed the sensational news that Pete Domenici--the longest-serving NM Senator in the state's 100 year history--wasn't who he seemed to be.

Who the Republican legend seemed to be to his legion of loyal followers was a devoted family man, a faithful Catholic who was the father of eight (not nine).

Political insiders were aware of Pete's bawdy side, but even some of them expressed shock when it was learned that he kept secret the fact that the had impregnated the daughter of Senator Paul Laxalt and that the existence of their illegitimate son had been kept secret for nearly 35 years.

We end the week with a round-up of commentary and reader email on Pete's personal saga which now enters the long and colorful history of La Politica.

From a WaPo blog:

“I deeply regret this and am very sorry for my behavior,” Mr. Domenici said.  ”One night’s mistake led to pregnancy more than 30 years ago,” said the mother, who raised the child alone, by choice she said.  I don’t know about you, but these statements strike me as more than a little callous.  How does it make the child, now a grown man, feel?  Hopefully, he worked it out long ago, but it cannot have been easy and he probably wants few reminders.  His parents reacted like politicians, covering their own reputations and throwing their own son aside.  That’s the real transgression. 

A reader writes:

Joe , With St. Pete's peccadilloes outed, will the citizens now demand that his name be removed from the public buildings as has been done to other public structures named for politicians once some ridiculously bad behavior been discovered? What's next? (Former Governor) Richardson will be accused of consorting with a female lobbyist in Santa Fe? The horror, the horror!

Self described "liberal Democrat" JD Robertson writes:

What is this morbid interest in the sex life of public servants? Four hundred years ago Cardinal Richelieu of France opined: "If you will give me six lines written by the most honorable of men - I will find something in them to hang him." Truth be known I don't know anybody who is eligible to "cast the first stone."  Good God! Pete's indiscretion was three decades ago after which he lived the good life. And while I'm quoting--somebody said, "To err is human, to forgive divine!" I wasn't particularly interested in hearing about it in the first place and I most certainly don't want to hear about it now.

From an Esquire magazine blog:

True story--years ago, when my daughter was a baby and refused to take a nap, we would place her on the floor of the den and turn on the most boring thing we could think of on afternoon TV, which invariably was the US government as broadcast by CSPAN. I developed a little shorthand whereby I would say, "OK, let's see what our friend Pete Domenici is up to," since he was the sine qua non of boring politicians. "NO!" my daughter yelled one day. "No, Daddy, no Pete Domenici!"

I herewith apologize to Pete Domenici for ever having thought him boring, and I also herewith apologize to my daughter for whatever damage may have been done by my exposing her to this bounder.

Reader Jeff Potter writes:

Joe, Re. the admission of Senator Domenici's secret son--you are right about questioning it in relation to the Clinton impeachment.  Then, there's further hypocrisy when Republicans went on a post-Clinton presidency binge re-naming of the US District courthouse in ABQ from Clinton to Domenici...Let's strip it from Senator Domenici and give it back to President Clinton.

REACHING THEM EARLY

Can any of Santa Fe's fiscal hawks be convinced to support a constitutional amendment that would devote some of the state's nearly $12 billion permanent fund to very early childhood education? Here's something for them to weigh:

Heckman and his coauthors started from the observation that those who received preschool in the Perry experiment ended up earning more money — and thus paying more taxes — as well as using fewer criminal justice system resources (because they committed fewer crimes) and receiving less in the way of welfare, food stamps and other transfer payments. He tried to determine the annual return on investment, using those cost reductions to society, and to the government in particular, as benefits and comparing them to the upfront $18,000 a year cost.

Another note: former PNM chief executive Jerry Geist--a Republican--says he supports the constitutional amendment that would go to the state's voters in 2014. He sees it as a necessary element in a very long march to resolver the state's generations-old social conditions crisis. The amendment is on a long journey. It passed the Senate Rules Committee this week. We'll keep you posted.

DON'T GO CHANGIN'

Finally, a reader writes to object to another reader's suggestion that the troubled ABQ police department--under investigation by the federal Department of Justice--drop its college credit requirement for new recruits:

I would like to respond to the statement from a previous reader that we should go back to the old standards. I personally believe having an officer with some college hours under his belt is a good thing. In addition to showing he has some experience with higher education, studies have shown that officers with college degrees tend to have fewer formal complaints filed against them, make better decisions, and also tend to think  before acting. This would have the impact of ensuring that the officers we do have do not incur 27 officer involved shootings within 2 years, and a more ethical and reasonable police force that is more professional, and in the end, much more effective in serving and protecting Albuquerque.

The turmoil in APD--one of the big stories of 2013 and being tracked here.

Thanks for your company this week. Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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