Thursday, February 05, 2015

NM Budget Is Still A Moving Target, APD Oversight Talk, And: Vox Populi: Readers Comment On Korte's APS Defeat And The Turnout And Flunking Third Graders  

The crash in the price of oil and gas has made the New Mexico budget a moving target, and it just moved again. Where it will bottom out is now a guessing game. If oil stabilizes, the new prediction that we will have $83 million in "new money" for the budget year that starts July 1 it will probably stick. But if oil tumbles lower, look out below. The bean counters are now counting on oil to hang in the $56 a barrel range. It is selling below that this week.

The legislative session began with a prediction of over $140 million in new cash. Now we're at that $83 million which in a $6.2 billion budget is just a little over one percent. The budget crunch has led Santa Fe to move from a reserve of over 10 percent of the budget down to a bit over 8 percent. If they want to do much of anything except keep the lights on next year, they may have to dig further into those reserves. . .

We wondered why the new Police Oversight Board had no attorneys as members, given the many legal entanglements we've seen with the police and the citizenry.  It turns out the board will have some legal expertise because the permanent director the board hires will be required to have law degree. The board budget also allows it to hire a contract attorney to give it advice. Attorney Edmund Perea, a member of the selection committee for the board, adds:

The focus and role of the selection committee was to select a strong yet, balanced group of community members that reflected the diverse views that make up our community without requirements for specific occupational categories. 

By the way, Perea is being mentioned as a possible '16 Dem Bernalillo County District Attorney candidate.

ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is tipping her toe into the troubled APD waters. She comes with this:

Congresswoman Grisham  is co-sponsoring legislation which calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate fatal police shootings and present the results to a judge in a probable cause hearing. The "Grand Jury Reform Act" would remove potential conflicts of interest that might exist when local prosecutors, who work closely with local police, help decide whether to charge an officer with a crime following a fatal shooting.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has been accused by the city of having a conflict of interest in investigating fatal police shootings because APD has investigated her on alleged bribery charges related to her drug-addicted son's criminal charges. Brandenburg says she supports a bill introduced in the NM Legislature that would put the attorney general in charge of investigating the fatal shootings. Meanwhile, she continues to handle the shootings.

Reader Carol Nordengren writes of Mayor Berry and APD:

Joe, I've tried to stay out of the Abq/APD fiasco. I'm optimistic that at some point our restaurants will stop closing. Our economy will return to robust. I'm sure City Hall will get a handle on all our "issues". But when the Mayor decides it is important go to the Baja to welcome gas balloonists? Surely they jest. With all the slams we received in the national press this week, a mayoral response (besides "I haven't read it yet") is surely in order. These dilemmas are a giant whirlpool, slowly dragging the City and citizens down.


To more email this Thursday. . .

Reader Alan Schwartz comments on the defeat of ABQ Public School Board member Kathy Korte who is a chief critic of Gov. Martinez's education initiatives:

Consider that in 2011 she garnered 39.49% of the vote against 4 opponents. Put another way, over 60% voted against her. In 2015 she gets 36.51% against a single candidate. There doesn't seem to be much of a shift in the voting preference. This one may have been over before it started.

Turnout was apparently up in Korte's race compared to her first outing. It was no doubt goaded by the gobs of money the Guv's machine spent targeting GOP voters for winner Peggy Muller-Aragon.

ABQ Dem State Rep. Javier Martinez writes of the Tuesday election:

A major concern of mine is the terribly low turnout in school board elections. It usually hovers in the single digits and Tuesday’s election may have been the lowest turnout yet. That is why I’ve introduced the Youth Civic Engagement and Voting Act, which extends the right to vote in school board elections to 16 and 17 year olds. While not a silver bullet to our dismal turnout problem, it is a step in the right direction.

And a reader picks up on Rep. Martinez's concern about voter turn out for these school board elections:

Only 2.6% of registered voters in Bernalillo County cast a ballot. The only people in New Mexico who do not deserve the education being provided by our local systems and the state are the children in the schools. The teachers, business community, the politicians and the parents are responsible. New Mexico will spend $6.6 billion on education, but people could care less about who occupies the school boards that will determine how $6.6 will be spent.

I asked three teachers and a handful of parents where to vote. Not one person had any idea where voting was taking place. I then asked the teachers and parents who they supported. Both teachers and parents said they did not know that there was an election. If teachers and parents do not care enough to vote, how will anything change in New Mexico?

Longtime Gov. Martinez critic Michael Corwin comments on the heavy involvement of the Martinez political machine in taking Korte down:

The concerted effort by Governor Martinez, to not just unseat but destroy Kathy Korte, serves only to reinforce the worst elements of Martinez's governance. The firing of both Kathy Korte and her husband Tim from their state jobs because Kathy Korte spoke up on behalf of our kids and public school teachers proves once again, that Martinez is vindictive, ruthless, mean, and puts her national political ambitions above all else.


Reader Andy Hernandez doesn't like the idea suggested here this week of the Dems giving the Governor her way on right-to-work and the retaining of third graders who aren't reading up to standards. The argument being that those measures won't work and the Dems would be able to pin the blame on Martinez in the '16 election cycle. Says Hernandez:

I think it would be a colossally bad idea for the Dems to accommodate the governor on third grade retention. Politically, they tried this a few years ago with the end of session corporate tax cut, and that didn't work out for them. Ethically, though, retention hasn't worked for any state that's tried it. For as much as Oklahoma is a great example of things gone awry, Florida has been an unmitigated disaster--which is all the more reason that Skandera and Martinez should be ashamed of themselves for advancing the idea again.

Here's the deal on thee ABQ Flying Star restaurant chain bankruptcy that we alluded to in the Tuesday blog:

A year before Flying Star filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the Albuquerque cafe chain fired its chief operating officer and chief financial officer, and the company has since accused them in court documents of financial improprieties. As part of a civil lawsuit initially filed by the former employees against the company in a contractual dispute, Flying Star Inc. and its co-owners, Jean and Mark Bernstein, claim former COO Clyde Harrington gave himself unauthorized bonuses, used the company credit card for personal charges and failed to pay vendors, while former CFO Donna D. Schmidt permitted and enabled such behavior.

And so it goes. . .

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