Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Berry's Rapid Bus Plan Thrown Knock Down Punches; Feds Look At Trimming Cash And Restaurant Group Rebels; Tone-Deaf At City Hall? Plus: New Party Forming Could Field Prez Contender On NM Ballot 

Mayor Berry
It's death by a thousand cuts for Mayor Berry's hyper-controversial ART project--or at least dozens of cuts.

The latest slashes at the Berry plan to tear up a large swath of historic Central Avenue to run rapid buses down a 10 mile stretch came from DC where a large chunk of the federal money needed for the project is in serious jeopardy, and in ABQ where the conservative NM Restaurant Association came out against the Republican mayor and his bus plan. My colleagues at the ABQ Free Press broke the news:

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has recommended a $19 million cut in funding for the project. . . The Committee. . .has recommended that the Federal Transit Administration's grant for ART be cut from $69 million to $50 million. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee has recommended that the FTA’s Small Starts grants – of which ART is just one applicant – total $240.7 million, about half of the $407.8 million the House wants. The difference in proposed spending will be worked out in conference committee negotiations, and those could be months away. The House-Senate compromise could lead to a funding cut for ART in excess of $19 million.

And Carol Wight, head of the NM Restaurant Association, came with important opposition to the project, echoing the belief of hundreds of small business owners along the proposed bus route:

We have hundreds of members on Central and all of them we have talked to are against this and have asked us to come out against it. They are not against doing something on Central; they are against the mayor’s proposal. If ART is built as designed, Albuquerque will have more diesel buses that connect to nowhere along a route that is already filled with empty buses.

Wight said the NMRA would support the legal battle against ART. A federal lawsuit has been filed to at least temporarily halt the project.

Berry has stubbornly clung to the bus plan even as dozens of restaurant owners along the route, like Republicans Larry and Dorothy Rainosek of the famed Frontier restaurant, plead with him to stop, citing the loss of business and the traffic jams they believe ART would case.

Other restaurant owners we talked with along the route complained of Berry's stubbornness--if not arrogance--in ignoring the widespread and firm opposition.

Even  in the face of that growing opposition and the problems in DC Berry and his acolytes insisted all is well, saying if they’re not given the full amount this year--their worst case scenario--they’ll take out a loan until DC pays them back to get construction done in time.

The tone deafness of the administration is turning out to be one of the biggest political miscalculations of Berry's tenure and only further erodes any hope he has of capturing the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination.

His best bet would be to admit a mistake and shelve ART. But when Berry goes into his bunker he formulates his own reality. The friendly media have let him get away with it as have the opposition Democrats and the somnolent city council.

As with Gov. Martinez it is his fellow Republicans who are taking him to the woodshed for a good spanking. And a federal court may do some more when it soon hears that lawsuit against ART.

Berry's rush to break ground on ART is now set for early August. Gone is late July. But the only thing that may get broken then is the bubble that the mayor appears to be living in.


Don't like the Donald or Hillary? There will be plenty of other choices on the ballot this fall including former NM Gov. Gary Johnson for the Libertarians and Dr. Jill Stein for the Greens. Then there's the Better for America group. It will file petition signatures this week with the NM secretary of state to quality as a new political party and could nominate a presidential candidate following the Dem and GOP political conventions. An insider reports the group is active in 43 states. From its website

The country deserves an independent presidential candidate who is better for America. Our mission is to get a credible candidate on the ballot who can win both red AND blue states, presenting the nation with a third party option who changes the historically bad choice we’re facing this fall. We need to unite around a candidate who will bring us together and lead this already great nation into the future.

The NYT reports of this effort:

A conservative donor who has been scouring Republican ranks for a third-party candidate is pressing ahead with a group to get on the ballot in dozens of states. The candidate will come once the group sees that the ballot access is possible. The donor, John Kingston, a bundler and ally of Mitt Romney, said he will bankroll a ballot-access project to create a path for someone to run as another option. The effort is being called Better for America. The idea is “to do a proof of concept for everybody,” Mr. Kingston said. “It exists, there is a pathway, there is a road that you can be going down.”

Under state rules, it will take less than 3,000 voter signatures for the new party to qualify.


More now on the renewed debate on NM children which came to the fore when NM was again ranked 49th in the nation for child-well being by the annual Anne E. Kasey Foundation's Kids Count report.

Allen Sanchez,  president and CEO of CHI St. Joseph's Children, is a longtime advocate of the proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters to tap a portion of the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood education. He writes:

Joe, it is outrageous that rich Republicans call investment in their children "throwing money at the problem." How many parents have paid for pre-K, private elementary, private high school, after school sports, swimming lessons, football and trips to compete in science fairs, etc.? I guess the rich call this throwing money at a problem. The problem being their child. 

All we want is for poor children and families to get a little help so they too can achieve. All persons of goodwill should be insulted when we hear the wealthy talk about throwing money at a problem when the state's Permanent Fund belongs to all the children. In America majority rules, and the funds belong to the majority. So let's invest in all our children. And for those who arrogantly call something less then what their own children get "throwing money," I hope they don't throw their own children scraps. I would bet not.

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