Friday, February 08, 2013

More On Mayor Race: Could Super PAC's Come In? Plus: Dem Chair Race Action, Hollywood Not Starstruck With ABQ And Readers Argue Against State Takeover Of Fed Lands 

What about those new Super PACS getting involved in the ABQ mayor's race? Those are the outside groups accountable to hardly anyone and who can spend as much as they like when they like. If they hit town with buckets of cash for a particular candidate it could sure upset things.

Reb Wayne of Mesa Media in Austin, Texas (Texans on the blog. Ye Gads!) comes with this reaction to our Thursday piece that explained the rules for getting your mayoral campaign publicly financed:

Since the US Supreme Court Citizens United ruling and the advent of Super PACs, why would anyone go through all that trouble to collect 3,500 $5 bills to run for Mayor?  Frankly, the law is probably shaky constitutionally and it would be just easier to put your name on the ballot and then have your friends do, in effect, an independent expenditure to get you elected. Yes, a candidate coordinating with a Super PAC is an issue, but the FEC really isn't defining that--not yet. I doubt Albuquerque will see an example of what I've just described this year, but the city is certainly legally exposed under the current system.

The city's complicated--and some say onerous rules--to qualify to have your mayoral campaign  publicly financed to the tune of about $350,000 does seem to be on shaky ice in this new era of wide-open campaign rules. We would be surprised if there was not a court challenge sometime down the line.

By the way, ABQ Dem City Councilor Ken Sanchez--like Diane Denish before him--says the insiders and Alligators are premature to speculate that he won't run for mayor. He says he is still weighing the decision. So is Denish. Let's see how the Gators fare in their predictions when we get the final decisions.

(And we're not buying the idea that Republican Mayor Berry doesn't seek re-election and goes after the ABQ congressional seat held by Dem Michelle Lujan Grisham. Although it is fun to speculate over).


Retired ABQ police department Sgt. Paul Heh, 66, entered the mayor's race Friday morning. He is a Republican but says he is dissatisifed with both parties. Here is a quote from his announcement:

“Paul’s platform consists of a restoration to the basic pillars of sound government: Accountability, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Accessibility, Education, and Ownership.The Berry administration abandoned these basic principles and we are all paying for it. We are paying for it as a city as we see the evidence of his mismanagement:From the Department of Justice's fully comprehensive investigation into APD, spiraling private sector job losses, stagnant economic growth, and growing city expenses while city employees retire as soon as they can. All of this in a region where other cities have been prospering.”

Heh is a newcomer so his immediate challenge is going to be collecting the thousands of petition signatures needed to make the ballot as well as the thousands of individual $5 donations a candidate must get in order to qualify for public financing.


One of our Senior Alligators--a stiff foe of publicly financing campaigns--comes with this:

Joe, How about if we get a candidate for ABQ Mayor, go out and qualify him for public financing and then spend that $350,000 from the city on a giant block party for all those who helped us qualify? What's to stop us?

Well, it's hard to qualify for that money, but what a candidate spends it on is somewhat flexible. Instead of the block party, though, we'd take the trip to Europe.


Sen. Linda Lopez
There's another political race going on besides Mayor. It's for the chairmanship of the state Dem party and features ABQ attorney Sam Bregman and Carlsbad attorney Roxanne Lara. We've heard other names are interested, but they are the two serious contenders.

Bregman's team, working to beat back the view that the party would be well-served by putting a Hispanic female in the chair seat, comes with this:

ABQ area Senator Linda Lopez, Chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, has agreed to serve as co-chair of his campaign to be elected NM Democratic State Party Chair.

". . .  Sam will bring vision and bold leadership to the State Party, leading us into the 21st century.  Join me in supporting a hardworking, proven leader--Sam Bregman." Lopez said.

Lopez sought the 2010 Dem lieutenant governor nomination and is said to still harbor statewide ambitions.

Meanwhile, Lara has hired consultant Brian Morris to help her round up votes. Current chair Javier Gonzale is not seeking another term. Some 400 Dem central committee members will select the new chair in late April.


A reader suggested here this week that former University of New Mexico President Chris Garcia might consider suing the ABQ police department now that the prostitution case against him has imploded. The New Mexico Supreme Court issued a key ruling this week. Reader John Bussanich says he sees no lawsuit coming:

It's hard to see that Garcia was "defamed." Apparently he didn't break any laws and so should not have been arrested or prosecuted. But he trafficked info concerning prostitution. Just because he didn't profit financially does not restore his image one iota. Right? Of course the way things are around here, he could be appointed a UNM Regent or Athletic Director. 


Blog reader and veteran lobbyist Dan Weaks got them out of their seats and to their keypads when he touted legislation here that would have New Mexico take control of all the federal lands in the state. He says we could make a bunch of money by doing that and use it fund education. But the pushback came fast and furious. Joel Gay of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation was among those pushing:

Hi Joe, Thanks for all you do to keep us informed. I can’t tell you how often I come to work and we find ourselves talking about what was on Monahan that morning.

I do have to take issue with Dan Weaks. He’s right that some are talking about the idea of “taking back” lands from the feds. Utah passed and signed such a bill last year. Arizona also passed a bill like this, but Gov. Jan Brewer recognized its many flaws and vetoed it. Supporters came through New Mexico last year and got people fired up about the idea here. There are two such bills this session, HB 292 and SB 404. I won’t list all the problems we see in this cockamamie idea. . . 

Sportsmen may have some qualms with the way the Feds manage their 20 million-plus acres in New Mexico, but at least we have access to the land. Our State Land Office manages about 9 million acres (down from 13 million at statehood) but with few exceptions you can’t camp on state land, you can hardly scout for hunts and you can’t even go hiking without a permit. When Dan Weaks talks about good state management, he neglects issues like former Land Commissioner Pat Lyons’ attempts to trade off thousands of acres of prime hunting land in a backroom, closed-door deal with landowners.

GOP Congressman Steve Pearce has been banging the same drum--he has said more than once that the U.S. needs to sell off public land. The people pushing these state initiatives say land sales are not their intention, but we’re skeptical. We see the transfer of millions of acres to the states as a shortcut to sale, lease or development, all of which leave hunters and anglers with fewer places to go.

And former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca, who is also is an ex-director of the federal Bureau of Land Management, ws quick to diss the transfer idea:

That move by Dan Weaks and his oil and gas friends is a bunch of malarkey. It would be easier to say that Dan Weaks' house should be given to Al Gore because that is what we think is right. This is just a move to lessen environmental protection...


Hollywood is not as starstruck with ABQ as it once was. We've now slipped from #1 to #8 on Moviemaker Magazine's list of the top 10 cities in which to shoot a film. This is largely a result of the state chopping away at financial incentives to keep the industry coming in here. But in the newspaper coverage of our tumble down the top 10 list, no one apparently asked Governor Martinez or Mayor Berry for a comment--or any of the legislators who voted to slash the incentives. What do those policy makers think now? Martinez supported cutting the incentives. Mayor Berry would not take a position. Inquiring minds would like to know...


For your weekend entertainment, movie buff Eric Lucero sends us a review of a film about President Franklin Roosevelt--Hyde Park On the Hudson--that is currently playing:

Joe, Actor Bill Murray plays FDR with aplomb, zeal and, most importantly, with humanity. This period tutorial revolves around the genesis of how FDR, as a beloved national father figure, developed America’s ‘Special Relationship’ with our cousins’ across the pond. Thus, during June 1939, FDR and his wife Eleanor, hosted the King & Queen of England for a weekend at the family compound at Hyde Park on the Hudson in upstate New York. 

As any student of history knows, FDR was a gifted politician and a powerful presence on the world stage.  But  two key scenes, in “Hyde”, one with “Daisy” and another with “Bertie” define FDR’s human flaws and strengths; unvarnished and without apology. . . .The lessons offered in “Hyde Park on the Hudson” are just valid today as they were in the previous so called ‘American Century.’

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Thanks for stopping by this week. Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Running For Mayor: No Walk In Park These Days, Plus: Foggy Outlook In City Of Vision, And: Reader Ideas On Sparking Economy Here 

Way back in the political paleolithic age we once had over 30 candidates running for mayor of ABQ (1974) but the days of rowdy, crowded mayoral campaigns are long gone. No wonder. Look at what you have to do to qualify for the public financing that serious candidates need to compete. From one of our campaign watchers:

A candidate for Mayor who wants public financing must collect $5 donations from 3,500 Albuquerque registered voters and a candidate can only collect the donations from February 16 to March 31, 2013, which is a very tight time frame. (The city clerk will be giving the exact number, but it is at least 3,500). The $5 donations are donations to the city, not the candidate, and the city will issue receipts books. If a candidate is successful in collecting the $5 donations, the city gives you approximately $330,000 to finance your campaign. 

If you guessed that Mr. and Mrs. ABQ are not rushing out to give needy politicians five bucks, you guessed right. 

Some are saying we need to revisit the campaign rules--that they are too onerous and discourage candidates. In 2009 three candidates made the ballot and qualified for public financing.

Attorney Pete Dinelli is the only officially announced candidate in this year's race.

City politics watchers await word from former Dem. Lt. Governor Diane Denish on a possible run as well as an official announcement from GOP Mayor Richard Berry that he is going for a second term. Insiders say City Councilor Ken Sanchez won't run,  but when we originally posted that he called to say he is still weighing a bid. Investment banker Mark Valenzuela says he is weighing a run. Insiders say if Denish goes in, Valenzuela stays out.


One of our Alligators wonders if former UNM President Chris Garcia who won a NM Supreme Court ruling Wednesday in a prostitution case that shocked the city and state will now look at suing the ABQ police department:

I would expect to see a large, very large lawsuit coming toward APD as Chris Garcia is going to want lots of money for being defamed.  Does Albuquerque even have anymore money to pay these lawsuits?  Will anyone involved be held accountable for our money?  

The AP reported:

The NM Supreme Court dealt a blow to the prosecution's case against two aging college professors accused of helping run an online prostitution ring, and denied a request to overturn a lower court's ruling that nothing in state law made the website illegal.


ABQ attorney Jeff Baker suggested on the blog this week that we get some concrete ideas from our readers on how to put some life into the moribund economy around here. We do that quite a bit already, but Jeff's note brought some new responses. Here's a couple from reader Jim McClure:

We probably have more artists and galleries per capita than anywhere. The state can grow this industry further by promoting art tourism, organizing art events and building New Mexico's artistic reputation internationally. If more artists and would-be artists move here it will be worth seeing more bad paintings of the Sanctuary at Chimayo.

Also, make New Mexico even more gay-friendly. Sounds goofy, but when my hometown of Oak Park, IL, got a reputation as a gay-friendly community we saw an influx of DINKs (double income, no kids) who bought upscale homes and started businesses. Legalizing gay marriage could be an economic plus for New Mexico.

Thanks, Jim. Good line there about the bad paintings of the Santuario de Chimayo.


Rio Rancho calls itself the 'city of vision," but the economic outlook for the ABQ suburb of 89,000 is increasingly foggy. What a difference from five years ago when the place was booming and we and others wondered if ABQ would be bypassed by the dynamic growth. But now Rio Rancho--like ABQ is flat on it's back--perhaps more so. The news:

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/02/05/4601667/nm-nevada-govs-head-gop-latino.html#storylink=cpy

This fiscal year to date, the gross receipts tax revenue is 4.1 percent lower than last year.
Construction revenues contributed most to the decline between this January and last, according to Padilla-Jackson’s report. That sector had a 40 percent lower gross receipts payment this January than in 2012.

It's going to be interesting to see the population growth numbers for Rio Rancho going forward. It has been one of the fastest growing cities in the USA. But with the construction crash, Intel not expanding and the loss of jobs at Hewlett Packard and the like, don't be surprised if we see Rio Rancho with zero growth or even losing population. Unprecedented, but possible.


Back to the blog idea factory and veteran New Mexico lobbyist Dan Weaks:

The federal government needs to transfer title to federal lands it controls in New Mexico. Over 43% of lands within NM boundaries are owned or controlled by the federal government. So here’s the deal.

Make the feds give us the land (or at least most of  it) that they now hold and are making money off. Let the Legislature create a “secondary permanent fund” that would function like our present severance tax fund (part to the corpus, part to the bond  fund). Then add a component to fund economic development and educational initiatives. The latter component could be subject to annual appropriation by the Legislature.

With this new source  of funds there would be no need to try and "raid" the original permanent fund or the severance tax permanent fund. This kind of deal would have broad based support among various conservative groups--ranchers, energy states rights and social and business advocacy groups.

Western states have been getting screwed by the feds forever in terms of land ownership and controls. Time to give it up and let us control and manage our resources. We are all grown up now! We even have a good resource manager in the form of a State Land Office.  Let’s think out of the box for a change! And, what an opportunity for  our young congressional delegation to make a mark. Look for this to surface in this session of the Legislature.

Appreciate that, Dan. Have not heard much about this yet in the legislative session, but it sure is a good conversation starter.

(A reader writes after seeing this: "There is such a bill in the Legislature this year. It is HB 292-- "Transfer of Public Lands Act"--introduced by Rep. Yvette Herrell and Sen. Richard Martinez. 

Another reader writes:

Land Commissioner Powell has been talking about this concept for awhile.First hearing is Friday morning.


Gilbert Gallegos made headlines when he applied for unemployment benefits when Governor Big Bill left office and Gilbert's job as communications director ended. But all's well that ends well. From ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham:

Deborah Armstrong will serve as Deputy Chief of  Staff/Director of Lujan  Grisham’s District Offices, which includes offices in Downtown Albuquerque and the South Valley. . . . Armstrong served in state government as the Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Aging & Long-Term Services. She is a physical therapist and attorney. Gilbert Gallegos will serve as Deputy Director of the District Offices. Gallegos previously served as deputy chief of staff and communications director in the New Mexico Governor’s Office. Before that, he was a reporter with The Albuquerque Tribune.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Susana's Balancing Act: Dodging Bullets At Home While Playing Nationally; Dems Huff But Off She Goes, Plus: Is Guv's New Group A "Brownwash"? 

For Governor Susana it's about dodging bullets at the Roundhouse and heading out of town on the Old Santa Fe Trail to further her national political ambitions. It's a delicate balancing act (just ask former Governor Big Bill) but so far she has been blessed with a weak opposition that is giving her more freedom than a Republican Governor might expect in a Democratic state. For evidence, let's go to the videotape.

Susana was asked about that buck an hour increase in the minimum wage proposed by some Legislative Dems. She didn't even have to breath deep over the matter. Sure, you know she's opposed to it and would veto it if it got to her desk. She also knows something else you know: The odds of that bill getting to her desk are slim to none and slim just left the Roundhouse. Her mild-mannered quote:

During these uncertain and difficult economic times, we need to make sure that anything that passes through the Legislature makes New Mexico more competitive...

How about that? if you weren't the sophisticated blog reader you are, for a minute you may have thought she was for the darn thing. 

The split Dems simply can't make life difficult enough for her so off she goes. Who wants to talk about being 49th or 50th in everything or how this place is among the worst in the USA for job creation and folks are packing up and headed to the exits? Not when you can do this:
The nation's only two Hispanic governors will lead an expanded Republican effort to recruit Latino and female candidates for state offices across the country in an effort to build a base of potential party leaders. . .  Gov. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval announce the formation of the Future Majority Caucus, which will focus on attracting and raising money for more minority candidates at the state level. Martinez and Sandoval were active in GOP minority recruitment efforts last year, although President Barack Obama received overwhelming support from minority voters, including Latinos and women, in the November election.

Susana's continued tip-toeing onto the national stage, even as she faces a 2014 re-elect here, is surely a gift form the political gods. If the Dems had been doing their jobs, Susana wouldn't even be able to hop over to Texico without a hue and a cry.


Not that the Dems aren't plenty mad about Susana's latest foray outside of the state boundaries. They are huffing and puffing over it, even if they can't blow her house down. From a Dem operative:

This announcement is a total "brown-washing" for lack of a better word and should be called out for what it very transparently is. 

Susana defunded the NM commission on status of women. Susana signed an executive order putting Arizona style immigration checks in place. NM continues to slide in jobs, education and poverty under her watch. Hardly the stuff of someone who is standing up for women and minorities. This decision smacks of mere symbolism. 

My, oh, my. She's a naughty lady, that Susana. So top legislative Democrats, how about busting some heads and rounding up the votes to send her some tough bills--like that minimum wage hike--that would force her hand? Well, she's apparently not that naughty.


If anyone is the chief huffer and puffer on the Dem dais these days, it has to be Mr. Bombast himself--Sam Bregman. The man could set off a Category Three with the way he roars. But as he faces off with fellow attorney Roxanne Lara for the chairmanship of the state party, the bleacher seats want to know who Sam is huffing on behalf of--himself or the demoralized Dems who watch Susana waltz while they trip over their feet?

Well, to paraphrase Sinatra, put your dreams away for another day, Sam. Winning the state chairmanship in late April and then soon after announcing a 2014 Guv bid is not going to warm the hearts of the party faithful. He does seem to get it, sending out this rejoinder to the 400 or so central committee delegates who will make the decision:

By the way, being elected Dem State Party Chair is the only “job” I am interested in.  That’s why I ran in 2011 and the reason I am running today—--to build a strong, bold and energetic State Democratic Party. 

Well, not the Shermanesque statement of no intentions that some might want, but we suppose it's close enough for a lawyer.


Back on the Susana beat. (Really Guv, we must have Starbucks soon and dish the dirt about these Dems. We're both having too much fun). While her opposition here pokes at her with the force of that finger on the tummy of the Pillsbury dough boy, she is going to find the backbones stiffer when she starts talking about Republicans and Hispanics outside of our land of entrapment. By the numbers:

Less than a week after President Barack Obama highlighted his immigration proposals in Las Vegas, a new poll Monday shows 70% of Hispanics approve of the job he's doing. The number is slightly down from December, when 75% of Hispanics said they felt the same way, according to the Gallup survey.

And then there's the idea problem, as that Dem political operative above alluded to. A brown Republican talking old white man talk is...well...for old white men.

Martinez's move to compromise on driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants just keeps her up with the pack. Where are the breakout ideas that appeal to Hispanics who have abandoned her party in droves? If there are none, Susana and the Nevada Governor would be better off spending their time at the craps tables in Vegas than on the campaign trail.


That big $386 million bond and mill levy package for school repair and construction won resounding approval from ABQ voters Tuesday. Here are all the APS and CNM election results.


On the Tuesday blog we picked up on a story from the UNM Daily Lobo that included a paragraph about how the paper could not reach newly appointed UNM Regent Conrad James. We wondered why James could not find time for a press interview. The university says the problem wasn't James hiding from an interview but that weekend messages left at a University office for James never made their way to him. Conrad is ready and willing to talk, they say.

Well, having been a member of that loquacious body known as the state Legislature, we bet he is....

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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Bloviating In Santa Fe: The Talk Is There But Not The Votes, Plus: GOP Leader Bratton: He's Not In Lea County Anymore, Plus: Going Around On The Roundabout 

It really is so much bloviating in Santa Fe. Until there is a change in the dynamic in the state Senate (and the Governorship) nothing much is going to be done to stimulate the lagging New Mexico economy. That's fine for some. Not so for others.

Dems Monday held yet another cheerleader news conference to tout their commitment to "social justice" by advocating an increase in the minimum wage of a dollar an hour.

Does anyone expect that to pass muster with the conservative coalition in the Senate? To get to the Governor's desk?

Never mind that a minimum wage boost recently passed in ABQ with overwhelming support (66%). And never mind that the extra buck an hour would be spent immediately in local businesses giving them a badly needed boost.

This, gentle reader, is why we focused so much on that esoteric battle for Senate president pro tem. The real life consequences of that leadership battle in which the conservative coalition retained its grip include no hike in the minimum wage and "no" to just about any other measure to stimulate this lethargic economy.

That includes a mega-capital outlay bill, a constitutional amendment to allow use of the state's $11 billion permanent fund for very early childhood education, progress on building a dental school at UNM, increasing the salaries of the lowest paid state employees, filling some state positions that have been vacant too long, giving new life to the film industry by boosting its incentives...and the list goes on and on.

It's 2 against 1 in Santa Fe. The fiscal hawks control the Governor's office and the Senate. House Democrats and their Senate allies can spike the football all they want at surreal news events. But the fact is they're playing in a fantasy league. Of course, we welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong.


Rep. Don Bratton
Memo to new State House Minority Leader Don Bratton: You're not in Lea County anymore:

State Rep. Don Bratton believes in secrecy, selectivity and media manipulation. That makes him a politician. But he is a clumsy and arrogant one at trying to manage the news.

That broadside came from capitol newsman Milan Simonich as he covered how the House R's bungled the abortion issue recently--the first major challenge in Bratton's tenure.

Bratton made good money in the oil biz, but is untested in the complicated statewide waters of La Politica. Our advice to Don: Don't walk around Santa Fe like you're stuff doesn't stink when half the state doesn't have a pot to piss in.


Dem Santa Fe State Senator Peter Wirth writes of his legislation regarding genetically modified foods It was effectively killed when the coalition of conservative Dems joined with the Republicans;

I have to disagree with your characterization of SB 18 as "somewhat obscure legislation." It is not often "relatively minor bills" are killed in procedural hardball like we saw last week. Also note Monsanto and other opponents just spent $45 million to defeat a similar ballot initiative in California. And interestingly, some of the same interest groups who opposed SB18 here and in California are now discussing GMO labeling at the national level.


Can't former GOP State Rep. Conrad James, now a member of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents, find time in his busy schedule to do an interview with the student newspaper?"

The Daily Lobo tried to contact James once on Friday morning and once on Sunday afternoon, but he was unavailable for comment both times.

James, 38, lost his bid for re-election after serving only one term in Santa Fe from ABQ's Northeast Heights. Insiders say he did not campaign very hard/

He was appointed to the UNM Regents by Governor Martinez.


Today is an election day in ABQ. Several seats on the city school board will be selected as well as seats on the CNM governing board. The biggie on the ballot is a $368 million bond issue for construction and repair of schools. Info on that is here Other election info is here. We don't endorse candidates, but we do urge a yes vote on that bond issue that will provide some badly needed jobs.


Reader Martha Buddecke weighed in here Monday on the proposed "roundabout" at Rio Grande and Candelaria in ABQ's North valley, saying it is a recipe for traffic mayhem and urged city officials to back off the plan. But a resident in the area says it is a matter of safety:

Your letter from Martha Buddecke on the roundabout at Candelaria and Rio Grande represents the point of view of those who use the intersection only as a thoroughfare.  People who commute on Rio Grande see the roundabout as an impediment to their travel times.  Basically, it's their convenience vs. our safety.

Because we who live near the intersection have had family members hit and badly injured in the crosswalk on a green light, and because of our long experience with reporting accidents and attending to their victims and being interviewed as witnesses, the neighbors to this intersection went to the City for help in 2006. We got that help: three engineering studies that agreed that the best solution to the safety problems was a single lane modern roundabout.

In 2010 the City was awarded $1,125,000 in Federal Highway Safety Improvement funds to build the roundabout at Candelaria and Rio Grande. This was the only project in the state of New Mexico to receive full funding. Based on that award, the construction engineering drawings have been done and the project is ready to be built.

Transportation research shows that single lane modern roundabouts that replace four way intersections decrease crashes 39%, decrease injury-producing crashes 76%, and decrease fatal or incapacitating injuries 90%.  Ironically, transportation research also shows that prior to construction, public opinion is generally against a roundabout being built, but after construction, public opinion reverses.

We know we're showing our generation, but every time we hear about this roundabout we think of the song "Roundabout" by the rock group "Yes."


ABQ native Joseph Torrez wants to be Mayor of ABQ. But he has chosen the hard way. He says he is running as a write-in candidate. Here's his Facebook page.

Dem attorney Pete Dinelli announced his candidacy for Mayor in January, The election is in October. No other candidates are yet in the race.


Travel writer George Hobica calls ABQ "underappreciated" and then he goes on to appreciate it:

Albuquerque is of those cities where you show up and are like, what is everyone doing here? Answer: Same thing they have been for centuries--being New Mexicans. Officially founded in 1706, Albuquerque is the newbie around these parts..


While there is much to appreciate about the city, reader Alan Schwartz notes how we continue to change during this unrelenting economic downturn:

Joe, what I've been noticing locally is the "down marketing" of our retail. WalMart continues to see the need for additional stores, the expansion of the "upscale" shopping mall ABQ Uptown is now a Target and Midwest discounters like Conn's and Gordman's see expansion opportunity here. Combine that with a declining population and you get fewer retail transactions with lower dollars per sale.  That yields reduced gross receipts taxes.

Reader and ABQ attorney Jeff Baker says he has some blogging ideas when it comes to the lousy economy:

Joe, How about inviting readers to offer suggestions about how to improve the employment situation?  But in order to make it worthwhile, the writers will need to be more specific than "reduce taxes" or "improve education."  Which taxes should be reduced, and where is the evidence that reducing that particular tax will create jobs?  What type of education needs to be improved (reading scores? high school graduation rates?), and  where is the evidence that a higher graduation rate will attract more jobs?  Perhaps economic development officials can be invited to write about companies which did not relocate (or expand) to New Mexico because of "______." 

Thanks, Jeff. If they send them, we will blog them.

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Monday, February 04, 2013

Speaker Martinez: Two Weeks In So How's He Doing? Plus: The Conservative Coalition Lives (And Rules) State Senate, Also: Private On-Line School Plan Draws Scrutiny  

Speaker Ken Martinez
After two weeks of wielding the gavel new state House Speaker Ken Martinez has established "firm control" report a number of wall-leaners, Alligators and other assorted characters that populate the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. One of them colorfully says:

You might call him "The Stopper." Major elements of the Governor's agenda are already being put in a shallow grave with full burial not far away."

The speakership of Ben Lujan--who preceded Martinez--was weakened in its final years. Republicans had enough membership to threaten Lujan with a coalition of R's and conservative Dems. But Dems picked up two seats in the November election. That and more new faces in the House has strengthened Martinez's hand.

Still, there are always questions when the mantle of power shifts. Would Martinez establish command and control early and without wavering? It appears he has.

Martinez has also proven adept at taking advantage of opportunities that come his way. For example, when a Carlsbad GOP representative proposed an off-the-wall abortion bill that seemed to outlaw abortions for a woman who was raped, Martinez's operatives were pretty much all over it. The R's were hurt.

We're also told by our legislative experts that the committee assignments of wayward Dem Rep. Sandra Jeff are notable. They aren't good and they are a result of Martinez enforcing discipline in his party's caucus.  Jeff was the most prominent Dem thorn in the side of Speaker Lujan, refusing to support him or key Dem legislation. She apparently has some amends to make before getting out of the Martinez dog house.


 While Martinez may be the stopper in chief, his headache remains getting a Dem agenda through the Senate and up to the Governor. In the Senate, a coalition of R's and conservative Dems hold sway, putting the kibosh on any liberal legislation that Martinez could usher out of his House with relative ease.

Any spin that says the Democrats in the Senate are somehow united after their bruising battle over selecting a president pro tem is just that--spin. Our Alligators are on the big story, even as it plays out under the media radar and on somewhat obscure legislation. From just outside the Senate chamber, we get our report:  

Joe, I was surprised to see no reporting on this but the Senate conservative Dem coalition fired their first shot and it ruffled a lot of feathers in the Roundhouse.A bill requiring the labeling of genetically modified food passed the Senate Public Affairs Committee Tuesday night. As the Senate was reading committee reports Wednesday morning, GOP Leader Stuart Ingle made a motion to reassign it to the Senate Corporations Committee. Among the Democrats voting with the R's were Senators Sapien, Papen, Munoz.

 It was a relatively minor bill, already set to die in Senate Judiciary and sure to die on the floor, so the vote was more symbolic than pragmatic, but it did show the coalition's muscle and it led to a heated Senate Democratic caucus meeting Wednesday afternoon.  

Another interesting twist is this: The daughter of Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen is the lobbyist for the restaurant association which opposed the bill. The conservative coalition is alive and well and they showed it on this bill. It's very frustrating for those of us who worked so hard to elect many of them instead of their rivals who were allied with the Governor. 


Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez has been holding news conferences with Speaker Martinez to show Democratic unity in this session, but the truth of the matter is that House Dems are unified behind Martinez, but in the Senate the Republicans and conservative Dems run the show.

Sanchez can kill legislation but he can't give it birth. Democrats are unable to pursue an aggressive economic agenda because it can't get through both Houses. That's why we are seeing a diluted jobs package and not much when it comes to stimulating the  economy with state investment.

Outside of the Spaceport liability bill and perhaps a compromise on driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, Santa Fe is pretty much where is has been the past two years--in gridlock.


Hanna Skandera
A lot of reader interest in this one:  

Education chief Hanna Skandera, overruling the state Public Education Commission, will allow a new all-online charter school to open in the fall...The school will be called New Mexico Connections Academy and will contract with the online, for-profit curriculum company Connections Academy. The school aims to serve students in grades K-12...  

Skandera’s decision came as a national nonprofit, In the Public Interest, released thousands of emails between former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation and policymakers in several states, including New Mexico. Connections Academy is one of several online education companies that donates money to Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, an organization Skandera turns to for advice on reform initiatives.

In response readers send this investigative report about on-line schools in Maine:  

In many states, the companies have also advanced their interests through their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council. While ALEC claims to be a nonpartisan professional association for state legislators, critics say it is really a corporate-funded conduit allowing businesses to write legislation for compliant lawmakers. Virtually all of its funding comes from its corporate members--which include K12 Inc. and Pearson’s Connections Education--who have collective veto power over the text of its model bills, which cover everything from “right to work” labor laws to “stand your ground” gun laws. They also in effect pay the expenses of many legislative members to attend meetings.this investigative report about on-line schools in Maine...

This school privatization move reminds us when we had our last Republican Governor. Remember in the 90's how Gary Johnson privatized a portion of the state prison system.


Reader Martha Buddecke writes of a hot and heavy debate that we will likely be hearing more about in the October city election:   

Joe, The City is about to spend $1.6 Million to build at one-lane roundabout at the intersection of Rio Grande and Candelaria. I have lived off the northwest corner of this intersection since 1983 and this will be a disaster for our neighborhood and the entire North Valley.  This is the thoroughfare for all of Rio Grande Boulevard, clear up to Alameda. Virtually all of the streets on the west side of Rio Grande are dead end streets. This intersection is used by students and parents to and from Valley High. 

Most of the money is federal, some state and about $500K from the City. This is far from the most dangerous intersection in the City. Roxana Meyers, the new city councilor for our district, is trying to determine the true support for this project by posting a survey at www.ABQSoul.org. Anyone who has an opinion on this should access the site and post a response.   


One of the Alligators call this latest fund-raising missive from the state Republican Party "one last cynical fundraising hit from the grassroots before the Governor and (political adviser) Jay McCleskey capitulate":

 Instead of supporting a repeal of a law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses, Democrats voted against it and instead focused on trying to pass a law that would have allowed a parent to transfer a gun to minor child. As Republicans, we stand for freedom but also understand that one of the government's first priorities is keeping the people of New Mexico safe. It's too bad that those across the aisle don't share our concerns. Donate $25, $50, or $100 today..

The "capitulation" the Gator speaks of is the compromise the Guv has spoke of on this wedge issue. She seems prepared to sign off on a bill that does not call for the outright repeal of the licenses. But the capitulation is also smart politics. The Guv needs something to campaign on for her re-election in '14, doesnt' she?

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