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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Berry's Second Term Begins On Ominous Note; Legal Fallout From Police Shootings Lurks, Plus: Dems Now Control ABQ Council, And: Our Stagnant Economy; We're On The Story 

Berry & interim APD CHief Banks (Journal)
ABQ Mayor Berry's second term was ushered in on an ominous note. On the same day as his December 1 inauguration ABQ police shot and fatally wounded a suspect, bringing to the fore the issue that could haunt Berry in the years ahead and become an obstacle to his political ambitions--costly lawsuits over police shootings.

The Berry police department was so plagued with fatal police shootings the US Department Justice came to town to investigate. It is still investigating. ABQ police have been involved in nearly three dozen officer involved shootings--many of them fatal--since Berry took office in December 2009.

We have had a pause in the shootings--most of which took place in Berry's first two years in office--and the shooting this weekend involved a suspect police say has a criminal record--as did nearly all the other shootings. That helped keep the public in Berry's corner as he sought and won re-election in October.

But Republican Berry got a big red flag when in May an ABQ jury awarded $10 million in damages to the family of an Iraq war veteran who was shot and killed during a 2010 stand off.

How many lawsuits are ultimately filed and their final cost will be a lasting legacy of this Mayor.

DITCH "THE PLAN?"

Speaking of legacies, now that the Democrats have taken control of the ABQ City Council with a 5 to 4 majority, don't expect Berry's "ABQ: The Plan" to advance much. That's the word from a number of city councilors. The plan--never effectively branded for the public--has had lukewarm support even from Republican councilors.

At Monday night's council meeting Democrat Ken Sanchez was elected the council's president for the coming year, just as our City Hall Alligators predicted he would be. GOP Councilor Dan Lewis was named head of the budget committee. Neither councilor is especially close to Mayor Berry and both are eyeing mayoral runs in 2017. That should make things a bit more interesting than they have been.

As for that ongoing debate over the controversial roundabout proposed for the intersection of Rio Grande and Candelaria in ABQ's NW Valley, the Journal's Dan McKay reported from the council meeting:

The proposal to halt the roundabout at Rio Grande/Candelaria failed on 7-2 vote. So its future is unclear, but the council is not halting the project.

The final decision now appears to be in the hands of North Valley Dem City Councilor Ike Benton who has been wishy-washy on where he stands. But now it's time for him to stand up.

MORE FALLOUT

B Wayne Hughes Jr.
The fallout from the National Journal expose of Governor Martinez and her political adviser Jay McCleksey continues. It's like ash that slowly drifts from the skies after an explosion.

One of Martinez's more fervent financial backers took to his Twitter account to note his concern over the piece that showed McCleksey as a "shadow Governor" and Martinez his willing pawn.

B. Wayne Hughes, Jr. (@BWayneHughesJr)
Does my friend @GovMartinez of New Mexico have political #Rasputin on her shoulder? 

Hughes, whose father became a billionaire from his company Public Storage, has been one of Susana's biggest donors, contributing $100,000 to her campaign in the 2010 cycle. This year he has donated $10,400 to her 2014 re-election campaign, the maximum allowed under the state's new campaign contribution limits.

Martinez has been leaving the state regularly to raise millions for her '14 campaign. We know the National Journal piece has shaken her national political status. Will it knick her in the finance department? 

By the way, the Rasputin Hughes tweeted about is an example of one of history's more notorious political advisers. 

THE GUV RACE

The five Democratic candidates for Governor have been given an opening by that National Journal piece but beyond showing that there is a shadow government, they will have to demonstrate that it is harming the state economically and linking it to the ceaseless stream of poor state economic news:

New Mexico’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 6.6 percent in October and the state added 1,800 jobs in the 12 months that ended Oct. 31, but the state’s civilian labor force shrank by 1.8 percent in the past 12 months, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said. The state’s civilian labor force--those people looking for jobs--decreased by 16,400 from October 2012, according to the BLS. . . .At the end of October, the state’s civilian labor force totaled 920,700 compared to 937,100 in October 2012. From September to October, the state’s civilian labor force fell by 3,900, the BLS said. And over the month, the state lost 400 jobs.

In other words, a considerable number of people continue to give up on finding work here or leave the state to find it. A retired UNM professor peels the onion on this:

New Mexico saw an out-migration of residents in 2012 when 15,228 more people moved out of the state than moved into it, according to the US census. Retired University of New Mexico Professor Allen Parkman said the state’s shrinking labor force could be due in part to less educated males deciding to stop looking for work. “The demands of the marketplace have gone up and many guys don’t have the skills and they are unwilling to grovel for the lower-end jobs,” Parkman said.

That's part of it. Other parts include a stagnant economy that is bad across-the-board, preventing the formation of small businesses that provide the bulk of the jobs in the private sector. Then there's the unattractiveness of the state to outsiders because of the poor reputation of the schools and the social conditions crisis that is encompassing an ever growing swath of the state's population.

WORST AGAIN

Like we said, the bad economic news since Martinez took office has been pretty much ceaseless. Not that all the blame can be laid at her doorstep, but this is politics and there's a campaign right around the corner. The news:

New Mexico has the worst private-sector economy in the nation when it comes to the percentage of private sector jobs in its workforce, according to a study released by George Mason University. According to the study, 68.1 percent of New Mexico’s jobs were “real private sector” jobs-- that is, private sector employment that isn’t supported by the federal government. Public sector and federal contract jobs totaled 31.9 percent of the state’s economy, compared to the national average of 19.2 percent, according to the study by GMU’s Mercatus Center.

This cuts both ways. Remember, all those government contractors and employees make pretty good money. The bad news we are losing some of them because of Federal cutbacks.. . . .

The Martinez corporate tax cut package aimed at attracting private sector jobs here took effect in July. The Guv announced Monday that General Dynamics will add 200 jobs to its support center (call center) in Las Cruces and her administration credited the corporate tax cut. Be interesting to see the evidence for that claim. Meanwhile, still on the econ beat, Senate Dems say:

At the the Legislative Jobs Council meeting Monday, legislators learned that a projected 160,000 jobs must be created within the next 10 years to return New Mexico to its previous economic state before the 2007 national recession. 

THE BOTTOM LINES

Former ABQ GOP State Representative Conrad James--as expected--announced he will try next year to get back the NE Heights seat he held for one term and that he lost to Dem Elizabeth "Liz" Thomson in 2012. James has since been appointed to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents. R's say that serving on the Regents and in the legislature is no problem, but we could be hearing more about it in the days ahead. James was the first African-American Republican elected to a House seat from Bernalillo County. . . 

We erred Monday when we said that the father of the late ABQ broadcaster Art Ortega was a former US Attorney for New Mexico. Reader Mark Bralley says we had Arturo Ortega--Art's father--confused with Victor Ortega--who was a US attorney here in the 1970's. Art Ortega passed away on Thanksgiving Day.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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