Thursday, February 13, 2014

Round The Roundhouse: Downs Deal Provides Fodder; Balderas And Keller Positioning Eyed, Plus: We Dip Into The Blog Mailbag 

Wouldn't it be something to see state Senator John Arthur Smith vote to subpoena a member of the Martinez administration? Smith, the conservative Dem from Deming who leads the Senate Finance Committee and who very often provides cover for the Republican Governor, comes to mind in the wake of the news that Senate Rules Committee Chair Linda Lopez is "threatening" to ask the full Senate to give her subpoena power so she can bring before the committee State Fair Manager Dan Mourning. He was a no-show at Monday's special Rules Committee hearing on the hyper-controversial 25 year racino lease awarded to the ABQ Downs and which  has prompted inquires from the FBI.

Smith, one of the Senate Dems we've dubbed the "Martinez Democrats," for their often unabashed support of the Guv, could certainly use something to burnish his Dem credentials. It looks as though he will again this year squash any move to approve a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to allow money from the state permanent fund to be used for early childhood programs.

By the way, right around now--with just days before the session ends--you can imagine John Arthur whispering with Susana over the contents of the final state budget. Well, if history is any guide, you don't have to imagine that--it is happening.


Meanwhile, it did not go unnoticed that Democratic state auditor and attorney general candidate Hector Balderas appeared to have strayed into the Martinez camp. He was invited by Lopez to appear before Rules to talk about the Downs at that hearing, but he was a no-show. Now the Guv is using Hector for cover. Her office says:

Monday’s hearing was a political circus that was so over-the-top many committee members failed to show, as did the State Auditor.

After that love tap from the Guv and complaints from the Democratic base about Hector's flirtation, the auditor reversed himself and said he is now willing to appear before Lopez's committee and talk about the audit he did of the Downs. He says he missed Monday's hearing because he was out of town.

Meanwhile, ABQ Dem state senator and state auditor candidate Tim Keller, whose district includes the Downs, is ramping up his criticism. After Monday's hearing he called for an attorney general's investigation of the lease (even though the AG says he has been investigating it for 21 months). Keller is also unloading on State Fair Commission Chairman Larry Kennedy who Wednesday went before Rules for a confirmation hearing.

Keller complained of the large debt of the NM Expo (the formal name for the fairgrounds) and also scored Kennedy for not listening to area residents before the Downs lease was inked in 2011. Kennedy said he's working on the debt issue and did not remember ignoring Keller's constituents. To which Keller retorted that Kennedy was being "insulting."

There's a political backdrop to this. Keller and Balderas are both ambitious and friends say they are both eyeing the Dem nod for Guv in 2018 if Martinez is re-elected this year. So we ask: Are we going to have two Guv runs going on at once?


 And the news on the Downs lease just keeps coming. The Santa Fe Reporter hits with another in their series of reports on the Downs deal:

Documents obtained by SFR show the Sept. 27, 2010 meeting between the candidate (Martinez) and the racino owners had an agenda.Two days before the meeting, Martinez fundraiser Marie Vulaj emailed campaign manager Ryan Cangiolosi outlining the “expectations” of the encounter between Martinez and Windham. “Mr. Windham will be contributing $20,000,” reads the email, which hasn’t been published until now. Vulaj also provided a brief description of Windham’s career—from licensed general contractor to chairman of a company that owned and operated hospitals in three southern states to developer who “has business interests” in New Mexico. Jay McCleskey, Martinez’ top political advisor, calls the message “routine and unremarkable.”

Well, the back and forth over the Downs deal has been anything but "routine and remarkable" and it will continue throughout this election year.


Like water, money in politics will always seek a route to flow through. The latest example is the experiment with public financing in the Santa Fe mayoral election. Each of the three mayoral candidates received $60,000 in public financing. leveling the playing field. Right?


Now, political action committees (PAC's) operating outside of the public financing system--have already spent $20,000 on behalf of mayoral hopeful Javier Gonzales, giving him a big leg up on contenders Patti Bushee and Bill Dimas.

Nice try, Santa Fe. But in this new era of Wild West campaign laws public financing is DOA. The election is March 4.


Reader John Bussanich writes with a suggestion in light of the inability of state Reps Phil Archuleta and Ernie Chavez to travel to Santa Fe for the legislative session because of illness:

What a stupid political system that in a time of instant communication doesn't permit legislators who are ill to vote on crucial issues from a distance.

Reader Tom Greer of Tome, NM writes of the two recent child abuse cases that horrified the state and raised questions about the role of the state and the Children Youth and Families department in preventing such abuse:

Not to exclude the responsibilities that CYFD and law enforcement have to protect our children, where are the families, friends and neighbors? Is it government is job to protect everybody or are those who have a personal knowledge of the people and the situations just sitting on their hands? I can't for a minute believe in both the current cases that family members, friends and neighbor's didn't know what was going on and apparently didn't do anything about it. Let get some personal responsibility back for our own actions and those of our friends and family. We are the "first line of defense" in protecting the safety and well being of our children, not the government.

Reader Danny Hernandez writes of the ABQ Journal:

Have you noticed that Journal writers all seem to assume that, because there have been no indictments, that the FBI is done investigating the stinky 25 year ABQ Downs racino lease but they made every effort to discredit Gov. Richardson, and Lt. Gov. Denish by labeling his alleged but never proven questionable exploits "pay to play"? 

Instead, the Journal consistently tries to inoculate Gov. Martinez against future voter concern over the questionable acts of her administration no matter how they smell...

ABQ reader Peter Ives writes about our blogging on consolidating the state's higher education:

Having worked at UNM for 30 years, I've also often pondered NM's higher ed over-institutionalization. When Highlands, Eastern, and Western were small modest "state colleges" they performed a more rational function for a sparsely populated and geographically large state. The big mistake was when they all decided to  be "universities" and then proceeded to lard themselves up with numerous redundant (and expensive) Masters and Doctoral programs. . . 

However, rather than closing them down (politically impossible), they should be returned to function as basic four-year liberal arts colleges. No Ph.D. programs and fewer of the Masters. Their degrees, programs, and curricula could be coordinated with a statewide Board of Governors, assuring compatibility for students transferring. The same goes for the community colleges; have a true statewide system with a Board governing them and requiring compatibility. It would be a three-tiered system much like other sensible states. This is a discussion that really needs to take place. 


New Mexico this year will definitely be getting its first Native American on a major party's gubernatorial ticket. Democratic Lt. Governor Candidate Debra Haaland will run unopposed in the June Democratic primary. A potential opponent failed to file enough petition signatures to qualify for the June primary ballot. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo and works as an administrator at San Felipe Pueblo....

Veteran NM news reporter Bill Diven has started a blog. He says it's the "big picture in a random world."

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