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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Change In The Wind: ABQ Council Approves Budget That Reverses Austerity, And: Campaign '14; Two Weeks To Go And Mad Scramble Begins, Plus: Prez Gives Sens. Heinrich And Udall Big Enviro Win; Pearce Not So Much  

People in the streets and blood on the streets finally moved the ABQ city council to action. After four years of austerity brought about in part by the sour economy and conscious conservative policy by Mayor Berry, the nine councilors finally broke with the executive last night and came with a budget that restores funding for social service programs for the homeless and mentally ill and gives rank and file city employees a 3 percent pay raise instead of the cuts or 1 percent hikes that have been the norm.

Besides restoring funding for sorely needed programs in a city that has been pounded mercilessly by the recession, the budget actually restored some hope that the conversation about this community is finally changing.

25 fatal police shootings since 2010 (many of which involved the mentally ill or homeless) millions out the door in lawsuits against APD, the Department of Justice investigation of the police and the continuing loss of jobs has the city in what some have called a death spiral. But where there's life there's hope. And the council--five Dems and four Republicans voted unanimously for the budget.

City Council budget chair Dan Lewis--a Republican--spearheaded the new direction. The vote came after a spring of APD street protests and a takeover of council chambers by protesters.

When Mayor Berry puts his signature on this budget, cautious optimism will be in order that our city's long, painful and costly slumber may finally be coming to an end.

MAD SCRAMBLE

It's mad scramble time with the June primary now just two weeks away and heavy early voting underway across the state.

The battle for the Dem nomination for Governor goes on without any public polls to determine who stands where, but it's a good bet that the candidates up on TV--Alan Webber and Lawrence Rael--are on the move. Gary King is expected to join them on the tube this week.

Sparks are flying after King won the endorsement of the ABQ Journal. His supporters say he is the obvious choice--experienced, reasonable and well-known. His foes say the Journal wants him because he would be crushed by the Guv they love--Susana. Three Dem activists--James Aranda, Charlotte Lipson and Frances Madeson--desperate to oust Martinez--come with this:

Democrats have great choices to take on Susana Martinez . It’s time to be real though: If King emerges as the Democratic candidate Democrats will lose in November. The stakes are high. Martinez is vulnerable. She has ridiculed teachers, given tax breaks to out-of-state corporations for nothing in return, and has overseen plummeting ratings for our state in job creation and child well-being. But Gary King won’t defeat her. He may be from a revered political family, but he has too much negative baggage to beat Martinez. As the AP noted in 2006, “King also has a history of unsuccessful candidacies.” And it’s no wonder. You know his name, but do you know the facts? His record as Attorney General is filled with inaction and incompetence. That’s why our vote is for “Anybody but Gary.”

Attorney general King was leading in the early polls because of his widespread name ID based on his own service and that of his Bruce King--his legendary father who served three terms as Governor.

King received a stunning setback at he Dem preprimary convention in March when he finished last  among the delegates. Can he still win this thing? No one has ever won without getting at least 20% of the preprimary vote, but the race has been so muddled, anemic and lacking in zest that it has the King candidacy still in play.

DEFENDING WEBBER 

The Webber critics had their day on the blog Monday. Today Webber backer Laura Stokes picks up the pieces:

. . . The NM status quo politicos are really worried that Webber might win the nomination, maybe even the governorship. No ideas? His entire campaign has been focused on specific ideas for changing NM, and he is gaining supporters hour by hour with these ideas. Maybe they are too scary to be taken seriously by the status quo crowd. And his attire? Really? Are we reduced to that kind of pettiness? Sounds like sour grapes to me. I must relate a little anecdote. An elderly Hispanic couple whose family roots date back generations were supporting another candidate until they saw Webber’s ad. They are now Webber supporters because they said they believe it is time for real change in NM. Maybe that is scaring a lot of people but many others see an opportunity that has never been an option in NM politics.

TREASURER CLASH

The only other statewide Dem primary action is for the nomination for state treasurer--and plenty of action there is. Dem John Wertheim comes with a TV spot calling himself "the real Democrat" and slamming his foe--former state Senator Tim Eichenberg. It's the kind of spot (it accuses Eichenberg of being weak on gay and women's rights) that is going to make Eichenberg take a good look and decide whether to match it (his campaign says he will). Wertheim had much more cash on hand in early May than Eichenberg, but Eichenberg has the personal wealth to fight back.

Eichenberg assumed the front-runner position in the race when he scored a win over Wertheim and Patrick Padilla at the Dem preprimary convention. Padilla was then forced off the ballot when Wertheim challenged his petitions. And now our readers pick up the story. . .

NEGATIVE DIALING

Those negative robo calls have started now that Primary '14 is in full swing. Reader Joan Fenicle writes:

I received a recorded call from former {Bernalillo County Treasurer Patrick} Padilla accusing {state treasurer candidate} John Wertheim of being a "bully'" for pushing him off the ballot, saying he was the only qualified candidate and the only Hispanic. Wonder who paid for that?

And reader Jeffrey Baker adds: 

I received a recorded call from Patrick Padilla, asking voters to vote for Democratic Tim Eichenberg for state treasurer in the June 3 primary. According to Padilla, John Wertheim challenged “the only Hispanic” on the ballot. The recorded call went on to say Wertheim has a history of being “deceitful.” At the end, the recording said it was paid for by “Friends of Patrick Padilla.”

The Hispanic voting bloc is proving key in the state treasurer's contest.

SAVORY VICTORY 

Sens.Udall & Heinrich
The relationship between southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce and Dem US Sen. Martin Heinrich has deteriorated for a variety of reasons of late so it's not hard to imagine some fist pumps at Heinrich's office when it was announced that on Wednesday President Obama will designate New Mexico’s iconic and stunning Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks near Las Cruces as a national monument. That ended a decade long argument.

Pearce argued that congress should do the job and sharply limit the amount of acreage becoming a national monument in order to protect ranchers and hunters and he claimed monument status could interfere with the Border Patrol. But it was not to be. Heinrich--an ardent environmentalist as well as Dem Sen. Udall--also known for his environment-friendly views--carried the day. The Dem president handed them and a dedicated and hard-working Dona Ana coalition of groups a victory to savor.

Pearce did not react kindly: "With this land grab, the President is once again going out of his way to derail any attempt to form a consensus, and do what local people want."

New Mexico has a long and deep tradition of environmental protection because of its awesome natural beauty. Millions of acres of national monuments and wilderness resulted because it is what the people wanted.

Speaking of Heinrich, Politico reports Julie Heinrich has landed a DC gig:

The public relations and public affairs firm Powell Tate has added Damien LaManna, Daniel Pellegrom and Julie Heinrich as vice presidents. . . .Heinrich, wife of Sen. Martin Heinrich, is joining Powell Tate’s social impact team. Her previous gigs include overseeing projects and digital media for the Mid-Region Council of Governments in Albuquerque and a stint working for the City of Albuquerque.

Well, that ought to help with those hefty DC mortgage payments. . .

THE STAIN

Yet another:

Albuquerque police say a 4-month-old girl is in critical condition at UNM Hospital after a domestic dispute at her northwest Albuquerque home on Saturday. Police arrested and charged 30-year-old Michael Hyer with child abuse resulting in great bodily injury after the incident. According to the criminal complaint, Hyer was watching his girlfriend's children, the 4-month-old and her 2-year-old brother. Officers responded to the home on 72nd Street around 9 p.m. on a report of a domestic dispute involving an unresponsive child.

And our coverage continues:

A social worker for CYFD says Molina Healthcare--which is one of the health insurers running the state's Medicaid program has been luring away workers from CYFD with higher salary offers. A reader responds:

You can't blame Molina. Our economy is built on business practices that compete for workers. CYFD workers are leaving because of depleted morale and poor management policy first introduced when the  Governor froze positions at the beginning of her term.  The governor has micro managed CYFD into a position where it has become almost impossible to restore morale and strategically address the shortage of workers and soaring caseloads. Bringing the state budget under control at the expense of vulnerable children has turned into a travesty that places children at risk of harm. I spoke to a CYFD supervisor recently who has no workers in her unit. How does this serve children in New Mexico? Hiring new workers to replace those that depart after a few short months of state employment makes no sense from an economic standpoint or from a management standpoint. Where else can we pin the blame? Certainly not on Molina.

Last month Martinez unveiled a reform package designed to improve how CYFD handles child abuses cases.

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