Monday, September 19, 2016

How Crazy Will It Get? Some Polls Have NM In Play In Prez Contest, Plus: Lobbyists Warm Up As Lawmakers Eye Tax Loopholes, And: Federal Monitor Pans APD; Judge Overseeing Reform Faces Tough Questions  

New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff must have thought his presidential polling for the ABQ Journal this cycle was going to be a walk in the park. But it's turning into at least a jog for him as a couple of polls out there actually show our state unsettled when it comes to the Trump-Clinton contest. Much skepticism is in order but. . .

Over the weekend Reuters/Ispos came with a survey that actually has Trump winning the state 43 to 38 percent. That had the Dems grabbing for their defibrillators but they could take comfort in the fact that only 141 likely voters were surveyed, the poll was done over nearly a month and it was done online and not with live telephone calls.  Still, it was enough for the pro-Trump Breitbart site to trumpet the survey which we linked to above.

Earlier this month a Morning Consult poll--also done online--showed Clinton with 36 to Trump's 35, Johnson with 14 and the Green Party's Stein scoring 3 percent.

Like everything else this year, the polling is simply crazy. That neither Clinton or Trump is currently buying any broadcast TV here reveals they don't believe NM is suddenly in play. That's where Sanderoff comes in. He tells us he will conduct his first survey of the contest after the September 26 presidential debate. The results will hit the streets October 2. Research and Polling has a long, successful track record in polling New Mexico and understands the nuances. If its survey has Trump leading the defibrillator business is going to boom.

While Clinton is expected to take our state's five electoral votes what happened to the Hispanic vote being a no-brainer for her? The WaPo reports:

While Clinton holds a significant lead over Republican rival Donald Trump in every poll of Hispanic voters, less clear is whether these voters will turn out in numbers that Democrats are counting on to win. Clinton trails President Obama’s 2012 performance in several ­Latino-rich states, including Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona. In those same states, on which Democrats’ prospects of retaking the Senate hinge, some down-ballot Democrats remain unknown to many Hispanic voters.


With Gov. Martinez vowing to never approve a tax increase but perhaps open to considering closing "tax loopholes," Santa Fe's legion of lobbyists will finally have some real work to do in the '17 legislative session. The biz lobbyists have had it pretty easy under this Governor, simply putting her no new taxes pledge under their pillows at night and in the morning sending their invoices to clients.

The enormity of the state's fiscal mess is now putting a lot of possibilities on the table.  That means there are going to be winners and losers. There are dozens of "loopholes" in the tax code that are contributing to the money shortage. Behind each of them stands a well compensated lobbyist ready to protect it.

That's why the Governor's no new taxes pledge will continue to come under pressure. There may be a way to get a few of those loopholes closed but with the lobbyists forming a Praetorian guard, getting enough of them repealed to shore up the entire budget is as likely as a lobbyist refusing to pick up  John Arthur Smith's bar tab.

But the way, the smart money is still saying that a special legislative session expected soon will only tackle the $200 million plus deficit left from the budget year that ended June 30. As for the current fiscal year--with a deficit forecast of $431 million or more--that bundle of joy will be left to the 60 day '17 session. The obvious reason is that all 112 lawmakers are up for election in November and are in no mood to rock the boat.

And, yes, we are aware that the ABQ Journal, The New Mexican and the AP are using different numbers to describe the state budget deficit. A spokesman for the Legislative Finance Committee says there "are plenty of ugly numbers" to choose from. An explanation beyond that is above our pay grade, but we're working on it.


The historic Bear Market has so ravaged Artesia in the SE oil patch that the city government there is now a charity case:

Police and firefighters in Artesia will not have their salaries slashed thanks to an anonymous donor. The city announced immediate pay cuts of 10 percent last month for all employees for the fiscal year that began July 1. Officials say the cost-cutting measure was necessary in the wake of a revenue decline from the oil and gas industries. Mayor Phil Burch says a "local entity" came forward this week with a gift that will ensure all first responder personnel receive their normal wages for the rest of the year. Burch did not disclose the amount but it would likely be around $320,000. . . 

The money is probably coming from a local oil company which we await the mayor to identify.  Talk about "dark" money.


Judge Brack
We don't want to overuse the word "crisis" but there's another one in addition to the state budget that is ongoing and resisting resolution. That would be the culture of the APD command and control structure and its obstinacy toward the reforms mandated by the Justice Department.

The Federal Monitor appointed to see that the top cops get the job done, Dr. James Ginger, has finally run out of patience:

A special report by the independent monitor. . . took the department to task for a look-busy approach to holding officers accountable for use-of-force incidents and fostering a “culture of low accountability.” The report released Friday was exceptional in that it was not part of the monitor’s scheduled series of progress reports. . . It was sparked by a use-of-force incident in October 2015, in which four Albuquerque Police Department officers used knee strikes to the body and head of suspected car thief as they arrested him.

The special report says that while the department presents itself publicly as willing to change how it polices both citizens and officers, the behind-the-scenes reality is that APD has “almost no appetite for correcting behavior that violates existing policy.” Within the department’s system for monitoring use of force by officers, the report says, “each step appears preconditioned to rationalize or explain away officer conduct.”

Monitor Ginger reports to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack who may be waking up and smelling the coffee, instead of the barbecue lunch he recently served to celebrate the alleged "progress" of the reforms. Retired APD Sergeant Dan Klein says Brack's federal bench seat just got hotter:

What will Judge Brack do? This is the big question. Ginger’s report is for Brack, not for us. Brack is running the risk of looking like the the federal judge who oversaw the Oakland PD for 13 years (while a huge sex scandal was happening right under his nose). Ginger has made sure everyone knows he will not ignore anything. This is good. Now it is up to Brack to force the changes. 

The worse thing Brack could do is sanction the city. Why? Because APD Chief Eden and Mayor Berry will just write a check. It is not their money. Brack must do something to make Eden and Berry feel his wrath directly. Hold them in contempt? Probably not. Fine them as individuals? Not sure that he could. Recommend Eden be removed? Maybe. Place a civilian over Eden? Maybe. It is up to Judge Brack. He must do something to get the attention of Eden and Berry. How does Brack make Berry understand that he is not messing around and that APD will not become Oakland?

Brack has been seen as having the back of Chief Eden and Berry. Now he needs to start watching his own back as entrenched upper APD command signals they appear to be willing to stonewall the federal government.

And what about our nine sleepy city councilors? You could give that bunch triple caffeinated lattes and they would still slumber, but Klein takes a shot at awakening them:

Will the city council raise up and listen to Ginger (they are paying him millions of our dollars)? If they listen to Ginger the Council has no other option than to demand Eden be fired or resign, along with other top command at APD. If they ignore Ginger, then why did they ask for him and the DOJ to come in the first place? The council must show courage and state they have no confidence in Eden and it is time for him to go. What will Berry do? Nothing. As always.

Can we throw one more log on the fire, Dan? What about those planning to seek the mayor's office next year? Maybe it's time we heard a peep out of them as the APD bunker stays as hard as cement? Former BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta announced her candidacy back in May. She has raised some $40,000 since then but neither she nor the money are talking when it comes to this key litmus test issue. Brian Colon, Tim Keller and Dan Lewis are all but in the race. Any thoughts, guys?


Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith on the state deficit totaling hundreds of millions of dollars:

“By God, it’s like trying to turn the Titanic around!"

Yeah, and we know how that ended.

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