Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Martinez Vs. Estrada: A "Lose-Lose" For The Guv? A Legal And A Political Trial, Plus: APD Oversight Debated, And: Santa Fe's Plaza: "Shlock Heaven?" 

Tuesday's hard-hitting blog on what could lie ahead for the Guv's administration in the emailgate case had a number of political operatives wondering out loud if there won't be some kind of last-ditch effort to get former Governor Martinez campaign manager Jamie Estrada to cop a plea and put an end to what threatens to become a three ring political circus.

But don't go spending your circus money on something else.

A spirit of all-out war prevails between Estrada and the Governor's political team. His side doesn't see anything to gain from a plea deal--not when he is seeking redemption in the public eye. And a full-blown public trial isn't going to do any more damage to his reputation than has already been done. In other words, the likelihood of a peace pact between Martinez and Estrada is about as likely as Jay McCleskey nominating this blog for a Pulitzer Prize. Not gonna happen.

(One of our readers speculated that if there is any plea deal on the horizon it would be one in which Estrada would plead down his emailgate charges if the Feds needed him as a witness for any bid rigging case that arose over the controversial ABQ Downs racino lease approved by the administration).

We will get a better clue on where Estrada is headed when his attorney makes known what documents he will ask to be produced in the "discovery" phase of the pre-trial period. What surprises will we get then?

This is a two track deal--the legal case and the political case. Even if the Guv ends up winning the legal case, a weeks-long trial that has key administration figures testifying and challenging charges from Estrada and other former Martinez staffers is going to do damage.

To the public at large much of this is going to look like a political kangaroo court. They know Estrada is not charged with violating national security and that this affair is along the lines of political dirty tricks that politicians play on one another.  In fact, the whole affair looks like a frat boy prank gone wrong.

The Governor calculates that the public is outraged that emails from her campaign account "were stolen." But she forgets she is not only Governor--but a politician. Folks don't shed tears or get outraged when politicians muddy each other up. They expect it.

It's hard to see the voting public taking the case too seriously--but they will be avid and serious listeners if the case reveals previously undisclosed activities of the administration (think that ABQ Downs racino lease). And that's where the damage could come from. You've heard of "win-win" scenarios. This one could well be "lose-lose" for Martinez, with even an Estrada guilty verdict not being worth the political price.

When she was a district attorney in Dona Ana County Martinez was not big on plea bargaining, but as a sitting governor facing a possible runaway court case, she must be having second thoughts about her position.

(By the way, Estrada is a native of Dona Ana County, not Valencia County where he currently resides.)


An ABQ City Hall insider has an update for us on what is going on with the Police Oversight Commission:

The Police Oversight Commission (POC) is hardly in chaos (from your June 17 column); although they are in the limelight. The Commission has added 7 new members since last May. Hostile remarks made regularly by aggrieved citizens pertain to the previous Commissioners, not to the current fresh faces. 

 Public hearings, which previously took as little as 20 minutes and included mass approval of all cases now take several hours...

APD may not appreciate the increased scrutiny, and nobody is going to entirely ease the pain of citizens who have lost loved ones, but the commission is actually meeting with renewed attentiveness and purpose. In remarks June 13 several Commissioners broadly endorsed a review of the oversight Ordinance, as outlined in legislation sponsored by Councilors Garduño and Winter, but took issue with the proposal by Councilors Jones and Winter to suspend their operations

Removing Oversight from a citizen panel and giving it to a city-designated administrator can hardly engender the public’s confidence in the review process.

Winter and Jones are both Republicans from the NE Heights. Garduno is  Democrat. The proposal to suspend the oversight commission is being read by some as a political move to keep the commission out of the headlines while Berry seeks re-election in October. but the actions of past commissioners are drawing fire from across the political spectrum, giving political support to the Jones-Winter suspension proposal.


You hear it all the time and you have to wonder if the folks at the NM Restaurant Association and the state Tourism Department are listening--service in Santa Fe and ABQ is lousy. It's especially relevant as we enter peak tourism season and compete for the tourist dollar. Real estate broker Richard Randals was prompted to write in when he read our Tuesday report on the closing of Packards, an iconic retailer on the Santa Fe Plaza. He comes with what is an unfortunately familiar scenario: 

We were in Vail, Co. this past weekend It's a nice resort town that fits into the same category as Santa Fe.. The difference is service. Folks in Vail can be pretty uppity, but the hotel and restaurant employees assist you in a very professional manner--unlike Santa Fe. They are not rude and they speak friendly, with correct verbiage. 

I have been in New Mexico all my life and would rather be whipped with a wet rope than go to the "City Different." The folks that can afford Santa Fe and spend time there want polite service and are willing to spend money to get it. If they don’t, they go to places they can. I would got back to Vail anytime rather than Santa Fe again because of the quality service and compassionate people. I do not believe it is solely the bad economy hurting Santa Fe tourism, it is the attitude of the vendors play a big role...

Poor service by befuddled staffs is a major turn off in the Land of Enchantment--especially for people who can choose where they visit. Can't our Tourism Department do more to train seasonal workers and educate small business owners on the level of service that is expected of them by those who are spending their vacation dollars here?


With that end of summer closure slated for premier Santa Fe Plaza retailer Packards because of the lousy economy, a reader writes:

With Packards closing, the Plaza may well become kitsch-and schlock-heaven for all the Johnny-come-latelys and their over-priced junk. What originally drew all of us to the Plaza is now replaced by stores that I wouldn't take my sainted mother-in-law to visit, much less to try to entice her to spend some of her hard-earned gelt. Yes, there are a couple of good art dealers, but they are the exception. Thankfully, First National is still there.

We've said this epic New Mexico bear market will reshape this state in fundamental ways. The remaking of the Santa Fe Plaza is just one of them...

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