Monday, February 23, 2015

Out Of The Wilderness? Udall, Grisham Speeches Have Sharper Edge, Plus: ABQ Is More Than APD And Session Reaches Halfway Mark 

Grisham & Udall
Maybe NM Dems are hitting bottom. When you hear ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham urge the Legislature to declare a "war on poverty" ala Lyndon Johnson and Sen. Tom Udall joining Sen. Heinrich in supporting a constitutional amendment to tap the state's vast Permanent Fund for very early childhood, something is up.

Grisham has never been a fave of the party's liberal wing and she still has not given the nod to that amendment--which is turning into a litmus test of sorts for for the party's progressives--but her speech to the Legislature signaled that Dems may finally be realizing that unless they shake something up, they are going to cede even more ground to the R's.

In Grisham's case, she needs to curry favor with base Democratic voters who will be showing up in the far away 2018 Dem Guv primary--if she chooses to go that route. Whatever the case, we think Dem attorney general and possible Guv contender Hector Balderas is paying close attention.

For Udall, safely re-elected in '14 to a second six year term, pressure has been growing. The dead-end NM economy has meant even more poverty--especially among children--and the shocking depopulation of the state that is occurring under his watch--screamed out for attention from a senator considered a leading liberal light. His shout-out before the Legislature was acknowledgement of that.

Are the Udall and Grisham speeches precursors to a change in the political narrative from wedge issues like repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants to the more fundamental issues facing the state? We'll see. . .


Halfway through the 60 day legislative session now. It appears it's going to be another minimalist gathering, with approval of an essentially flat $6.2 billion state budget and the state Senate again looking like a graveyard for the Governor's perennial wedge issues (with the addition this year of right-to-work). Martinez is going to need a hat trick if she is going to get a headline grabber at the end of this gathering


With the ABQ police department being roiled like never before in the national media, the city's image has taken a severe hit. But what about the 5,000 or so city employees who labor outside of APD?

Since the recession/stagnation took hold here in 2010 they have seen pay cuts, been subjected to furloughs and seen vacant positions go unfilled. Most of them earn a middle-class salary and are not getting rich. If the national spotlight shined on them, they would come out looking pretty darn good. For example. . .

City bus drivers zip along, providing competent, courteous service. The ABQ fire department has a new chief and a commitment to modern firefighting. It makes for a safer city.

The ABQ Sunport, as we've mentioned before, is simply one of the best in the USA. Excellent customer service combine with a great terminal to create a friendly experience. Don't blame them that the recession has made getting a flight trickier.

The Animal Welfare Department never has a slow day, yet it routinely goes about the business of attending to the needs of thousands of abandoned pets, providing a service near and dear to the hearts of city residents.

The ABQ Museum is about to unveil a $4 million update to its permanent exhibit explaining the intriguing history of ABQ, with all the 21st century technology that entails.

While money has become tighter, major city street repairs seem to be getting done. The recent paving of the intersection of University and Central, where cars were subjected to severe wash boarding, is a prime example.

The Solid Waste Department is another agency that has a solid record of delivering on its promises. Over the decades garbage collection in ABQ has been modernized, sanitized and made more user-friendly.

There are many other departments and employees who go about their business, competently and diligently. We see it in our everyday lives as we take advantage of a well-conceived park system, well-maintained libraries and a zoo that has built a strong following.

We've hit the wall economically in recent years but the legacy of past leaders and citizens of building a strong, modern government lives on. To preserve and enhance it, today's city leaders need to act with more urgency to put APD back on the path of progress.


Rick Lass writes of reader Jim McClure's suggestion that we do away with low voter turnout school board elections and have the mayor appoint the board members:

I just don't think it is workable. Very few school board district boundaries would coincide with municipality boundaries, for one. Plus, I still like the idea of electing governing bodies. One idea would be to include school board members on general election ballots--when people are already going to the polls. Of course, naysayers will worry about "too long" ballots. There is a bill introduced this year to move them to the fall of odd-number years, but I don't see how that would help. My suggestion would be that school elections be conducted by mail. Naysayers will be concerned about fraud and ID, etc. But really, it is no different than the absentee ballot system allowed for all other elections, and works very well.

Good idea, Rick. Moving the school board elections to November and/or a mail-in ballot would seem the logical way to raise interest.

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