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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Red Flag Goes Up In Key House District In Battle For Control Of Chamber, Plus: ART And Innovate Draw Reader Scrutiny, And Real Aggie Pain 

Red flags are going up over a key state House race that could decide which party ultimately controls the lower chamber following the November election. The latest campaign reports filed July 7 show incumbent ABQ GOP State Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes sporting a nearly three to one lead in cash on hand over Democratic challenger Ane Romero. The stunning divergence has Romero with $47,000 to Maestas Barnes' $130,000.

Obviously, independent political action committee money will be coming in on both sides and there is still plenty of time for Romero to catch up. But the early cash disparity in this swing district that covers parts of ABQ's North Valley and NE Heights shows the challenge that awaits the Dems as they try to retake control of the House which they lost for the first time in over 60 years in 2014.

One other note: Romero's reports shows she has been spending roughly $3,000 a month for political consulting, a large sum in such a contest where there was no primary opposition. Such big consulting fees in low level races are a new feature this cycle for many Dem candidates. While the R's also pay up for consulting, they tend to spend less by paying for it over a shorter duration and harvesting their cash for the final crucial months.

The state House is currently divided 36 to 33. Macro political trends favor the Dems but this will be hand-to-hand, district-by-district combat. Less than 10 of the 70 House seats are truly competitive. We rate the battle for control of the House as a toss-up.

ART AND INNOVATE

Our take on Innovate ABQ, the Mayor's proposal to foster entrepreneurship and that starts with a $35 million government-funded building at Central and Broadway to house aspiring entrepreneurs, drew a number of responses, including this from reader James McClure:

Joe, I am waiting for someone to explain how a new business can start in a garage but a government job-creation program requires a $35 million building.

And on Mayor Berry's controversial ABQ rapid transit plan for Central Avenue--ART--McClure says:

I have a quibble with your characterization of ART as speedy buses. We already have seen one politician ask for an extra bus stop in his neighborhood. More will follow because that is what politicians do with transit systems. Just as adding stations at every Native American pueblo doubled the Rail Runner’s time to Santa Fe, ART will provide easy access but will get nowhere fast. If memory serves, didn’t Mayor Marty Chavez want an event center at the Central-Broadway site and a trolley on Central? So conservative-Republican Berry has out-boondoggled a Democrat. Go figure.

Back on Innovate ABQ, this reader notes it has delayed hiring a chief executive officer:

There's more that's troubling about the Innovate ABQ project. The reason they can't find a CEO is because no one wants the job. Many have been asked to apply but it is clear that the CEO will start the job with a $5-$35 million fundraising deficit and will have little to no money for operations. Even raising the CEO's salary will be tough as government entities aren't continuing to fund it. The likelihood for failure is tremendous in this "build it and they will come" scheme.

Mayor Berry says of those critical of ART and Innovate ABQ:

We’re at a pivotal point in our city. I think we’re ready to stop talking ourselves out of every idea that comes along.

But Berry and his fellow Republicans tried to talk the state out of the RailRunner and Spaceport and in retrospect they made some good points. Berry's ART and Innovate seem to have similar characteristics. Where are the Republican critics now? City Councilor Dan Lewis voted against ART but so far he's a lonely GOP voice.

Back on ART, Maria Bautista writes:

Joe, no matter what, Mayor Berry will rape every fund to try and install a bus that tears through the heart of RT66. This is his claim to fame after he guts our city, destroys our police department and works to try and become elected to another position. Why? Albuquerque is being taken for a ride.

John Hooker writes from Los Rancho about the spate of national violence:

If you're Black and didn't graduate from high school, you're more likely to be in jail than to have a job. The U.S. has 5% of the world's population, but 20% of the incarcerated. We've increased spending on jails by 324%, but we increased spending on schools by 107%. Which problem are we trying to solve by "just throwing more money at it?"

REAL PAIN

Carruthers (Sun-News)
Real pain now in higher education as the state's new economy reality tightens its grip:

Job cuts will make up the bulk of $12.1 million in trims to New Mexico State University's budget, but the ax also fell on an academic and athletic program. On Wednesday, Chancellor Garrey Carruthers laid out the university's budget plans at a special meeting of the NMSU Board of Regents. The Las Cruces campus will lose 126 positions — 89 that are vacant and 37 that are filled — and engineering surveying and the equestrian team are planned for elimination.

Fewer high school grads, a lousy state economy driving youth away, too high tuition rates and the oil and gas crash that has crashed the state budget. Those are all reasons for the dire Aggie budget outlook.

Should we say yet again that it is time for an entire restructuring of NM higher education to deal with the future economic reality? Yes, we should.

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