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Monday, December 14, 2015

Counterpoints Offered to Guv's "Operation Lilly," Plus: More Of OurReal Deal Biz Coverage In Wake Of Oil Crashing, And: Candidate Announcements Start Piling Up 

(Hanson, Journal)
Gov. Martinez is back in front of the public in a big way with initiatives on DWI and road rage and keeping far, far away from the jobs and economic issues that exposes her to political danger.

Coverage of her announcements, as usual, was uncritical so we pick up the spear to provide the counterpoints.

Martinez announced “Operation Lilly," a multi-agency effort to target aggressive drivers" and named after 4 year old Lilly Garcia who lost her life to a road rage incident this year on Interstate 40 in the city. A reader writes:

"Operation Lilly" is yet another emotive photo-op allowing our Governor to again dodge her day job and play the PR-hound prosecutor-in-chief, where moralizing is obviously more to her liking than facing up to the complicated issues she pretended to take on when she ran for Governor. It is long past time for her to step up to her real responsibilities and start getting her picture taken actually talking with and listening to economists, public finance experts, job creation experts, tax and rev experts, oil and gas experts, poverty experts, child welfare experts, education experts, bipartisan legislators, etc. about how to salvage and restore our state. That's what governors do. That's what voters trusted her to do. 

And former Dem ABQ Mayor Jim Baca adds:

Do the math. There are maybe 400 APD  officers (maybe) available for patrol over three shifts over seven days, minus sick leave and vacation time. This is what the current city administration has presented us with. That is only 19 officers available citywide on any shift, not accounting for any officers out on sick leave or vacation (sometimes there are more police on duty on weekends or evenings). It is time to get rid of some of the full-time horse teams, swat teams, gang teams, etc and put them in patrol cars. This really is nothing but Susana and the Mayor fiddling again.

In Martinez's defense, if she can increase state police patrols on the city's Wild West freeways that could restore some sanity to the driving habits there.

THE REAL DEAL

Of course, road rage is a sidebar issue as shown in our continuing real deal biz coverage.

Socorro is getting absolutely hammered by the ongoing recession/stagnation/depression in large swaths of rural New Mexico. The Smith's there is now closing and that comes on the heels of the loss of a major auto dealership.

If you are state House Speaker Don Tripp, who represents the area, are you looking for some major capital outlay for that area to stimulate the economy? You should, unless your Republican austerity puts you in a strait jacket. Same for State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, a conservative Democrat, whose Luna County is now on the list of USA counties with the worst unemployment pictures. Will Luna get some love from the powerful chairman in the next legislative session?

In his latest op-ed northern Dem State Sen. Pete Campos reports how state government job vacancies are taking their toll:

The Behavioral Health Institute at Las Vegas is the only state-owned and -operated psychiatric hospital in New Mexico. Employees care for more than 300 New Mexico residents with a variety of needs, including adult and adolescent psychiatric care; life-long term care; competency evaluations and treatment for patients who have allegedly committed a felony; and outpatient restorative services. However, position vacancy rates are at nearly 30%, leaving the facility severely understaffed, and turnover is high. To maintain the required staff levels, employees can be mandated to work up to four 16-hour shifts in a week. Many employees work 72 hours a week.

As we've often blogged, much of New Mexico's fiscal problems of late have been brought about by tax cutting fever that is now morphing with the crash in oil prices to stall state revenues. In Oklahoma, another oil dependent state, the fallout is even worse:

Even as Oklahoma's economy was roaring thanks to an oil boom, Sarah Dougherty watched in disbelief as the Tulsa elementary school her children attend expanded class sizes and eliminated teachers because costly tax cuts and incentives ate up much of the surplus revenue. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and the GOP-led Legislature pushed through the latest cut, a quarter-point reduction in the top income tax rate, two years ago when $100-a-barrel crude buoyed the state's coffers. While the average tax filer will save only about $85 a year under the cut taking effect Jan. 1, it comes at a $147 million price tag to the state. State services — including education — are feeling the pinch.

"It's insanity land," Dougherty said. "It's demoralizing to live here and see that education is not a priority. These are our children and these are our neighbors. They need to make some changes.

For New Mexico, with gas prices at the pump crashing,  this would seem the right time for a small increase in gas taxes to finance needed transportation and road improvements. But getting that through the Republican-controlled House has as much chance as Chuck Franco becoming a vegetarian.

GETTING IN

Debbie Sariñana 
The candidacy announcements are starting to pile up.

Republican Richard Priem will seek the GOP nomination for the US House seat held by Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. He was unsuccessful when he went for it in 2014. The state GOP says: 

 Counter-terrorism expert and retired Army veteran Richard Priem stated his desire to run for the office to “provide much-needed national leadership, expertise and experience in combating and countering the terrorist threats that face our country, both at home and abroad. 

Priem may have better luck this time since he is the only announced GOP candidate but the November election is a different story. Grisham won her first two elections with 59% of the vote and with '16 being a presidential year she should equal that in an ABQ congressional district that is seen as increasingly blue at the federal level. 

Up north another Republican has an uphill climb:

Jemez Pueblo rancher Michael Lucero, whose family has fought with federal land-use agencies for more than a year over the fencing off of a creek where his cattle graze, is running for Congress. 

Lucero, 39, wants to to oust Dem Congressman Ben Ray Luján who is serving his fourth term in the U.S. House and faces no Dem opposition. His appointment as head of the Democratic Congressional Cmapaign Committee (DCCC) gives added luster to his political reputation. This one is safe Dem.  

And about that ABQ SE Heights Dem State House seat to which the BernCo Commission recently appointed Dem Idalia Lechuga-Tena to fill a vacancy. . . Idalia now has a foe for the Dem nomination: 

Manzano high school teacher Debbie Sariñana, 55, announced her candidacy for House District 21. Sariñana is an educator with deep ties to the district. She grew up, raised her family, and now teaches in the district. She’s passionate about making a difference for families struggling to make ends meet and will bring to Santa Fe a grounded and fresh perspective. . . 

That factoid about Sariñana growing up in the district is a zinger aimed at Rep. Lechuga-Tena, 32, who only recently moved into the district. However, she points out that she has many years living in the SE Heights area. This will be a Dem primary to watch. No R's need to apply in this deep blue territory.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2015

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