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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

No Special Session Now, But Later Is Up In The Air, Plus: Freelancer Uses His Lance And More On ABQ's ART Ache 

It does not appear there will be a need for a special session of the Legislature between now and July 1, says state House Minority Leader Brian Egolf.

Soon after Gov. Martinez signed off Monday on the state budget for the year starting July 1, Egolf noted that lawmakers gave her enough flexibility to move money around to handle the ongoing revenue shortfall for the rest of this budget year. However, Egolf tells us, if the price of oil does not rebound to the $38 a barrel level as the year wears on--and as forecast by the bean counters--there could be the need for a special session later in the year.

Martinez signed a budget that is actually lower than the previous year's. That hasn't happened in five years. It speaks to how the state budget has been brought to its knees by the crash in oil and gas which generates so much of the state's revenue. It also speaks to the no recovery economy we have here which is hurting state tax collections,

In signing the budget Martinez made a point of saying NM is faring better than other energy dependent states. Maybe we're not hemorrhaging as much budget revenue as those other states but we have the highest jobless rate in the USA. She left out that part.

USING HIS LANCE

There's still a place for freelance journalism in this age of journalistic austerity. Maybe more than ever as cash-strapped establishment newsrooms tighten their belts.

Veteran freelancer Peter St. Cyr is getting much of the credit for bringing down former State Senator Phil Griego who resigned his Senate seat amid a scandal over a land deal he brokered and who Attorney General Balderas announced Monday will face criminal charges. St. Cyr authored the investigative piece for the Santa Fe Reporter in 2014 that was instrumental in uncovering the story and forcing action. And he also was in the news this week for successfully suing the state to force it to release the names of the state's medical marijuana producers. They did so on Monday. That's a lot of lancing. . .

ART ACHE

An award for political duplicity? Certainly Mayor Berry's comments about the public hearings for his controversial rapid bus plan for Central Avenue (ART) is a leading contender for such an award.

Below a misleading newspaper headline that reads, "Colorful language greets mayor at ART meeting," Berry addresses the loud objections heard at recent public hearings on ART. The mayor has not attended the public meetings and faced the protesting public, but says: “Progress invites controversy but if we shy away from progress and improvements to our city simply because we don’t have the stomach for controversy, we’re going to shortchange our city, our citizens and our future.”

Just who doesn't have the stomach for controversy? Well, could that be the mayor who sends his no-name administrators out to face the angry public while he hides behind the curtains?

Apparently nurturing hopes for some kind of political future, Berry refuses to attend the meetings and face the howls of discontent over his plan that would make for some interesting TV clips. If there's anyone with a weak stomach around here, it's not those in the peanut gallery, it's the weak-kneed Mayor.

Then there's the spectacle of Berry insider and commercial real estate developer Paul Silverman blasting Jean Bernstein, owner of the Flying Star restaurant chain, for opposing the ART project because she believes the construction would be disruptive to Nob Hill and ultimately choke off business when it is completed.

Silverman points out that the Flying Star is in a bankruptcy reorganization that has nothing to do with construction but how she runs her business. Never mind that Bernstein isn't blaming any current construction for her woes, what about Silverman and what critics call his his crony capitalism, consisting of big public subsidies for his downtown apartments and grocery store near Central and on which ART buses would run? Or how about his appointment by Mayor Berry to serve on the ABQ Development Commission.  Does all that perhaps have an impact on his opinion of ART?

Silverman denigrates Bernstein for her bankruptcy, but could he make it in the free market without his subsidies and friendships with City Hall? He might want to ask himself that the next time he attacks business owners like Bernstein who are not lining up at the City Hall trough at feeding time but battling it out in the real world of business.

Reader Bil Diven writes of the bus controversy:

Where is the creative leadership to improve and promote the existing bus system especially in lieu of new river crossings? And what about finally accepting Rail Runner as a regional asset instead of a Richardson hangover? There's a lot of infrastructure being left behind in pursuit of the new shiny toy.

Want to voice your opinion on ART? The ABQ Free Press is conducting a survey. You can take part by clicking here.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In our first take Monday we said that ABQ State House District 15 was an "open seat" when Dem Emily Kane was defeated there in 2014. Actually, Kane was the freshman incumbent seeking re-election. And on our February 22 blog we said there were three Democrats in the five member state congressional delegation. There are four.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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