Thursday, February 16, 2017

By Popular Demand, It's Another Edition Of Reader Vox Populi; They Write Of Intel's Downsizing, The Public School Cuts, How To Revive The Economy, Pearce's Possible Guv Run, The Mary Han Case And Much More 

Let's kick off this edition of vox populi with reaction to our reporting on Intel's planned $7 billion investment in Arizona while the company's Rio Rancho plant appears to be headed for the mothballs:

You must wonder what Susana was thinking when she saw the White House photo of the Intel CEO and the President announcing a plant expansion in our neighboring state of Arizona. There stood two of Susana's most famous disses. The first, the Intel CEO, who back in 2011 had a meeting in California with Susana canceled so she could pick up an award from the Republican Party. The second, Donald Trump, who she failed to endorse or show up at his New Mexico rally. These gentleman really are two bookends on the Martinez administration and frame her failed approach. In the end, New Mexico loses due to her arrogance. A

And what the hell were state economic development secretary Jon Barela and his deputy, Barbara Brazil, the much-vaunted team of former Intel executives, doing the last six years? As they say, Susana, payback is a bitch.

Reader Janet Blair thinks attracting retirees may be a way to  build up the state economy:

Joe, I don’t see why one way of out stagnation would be a vigorous retiree marketing campaign. It is “clean money” and add to that some tax breaks on pensions to match Arizona’s and we might have at least a partial solution to the flight of the millennials. We know our kids won’t come back! They are well established in Colorado and Texas….but maybe we can use our sunsets and chile contests to attract an older set.

Reader Sarah McKinney writes of public education cuts being approved by both political parties and the Governor:

I get that using money from unspent capital outlay funds is a one or two time fix, but what do you call taking money from public school cash reserves as the legislature has done? That is also a non-recurring fund source. Why do the schools have to keep taking such big hits for overall financial irresponsibility? At this point they are just trying to get blood from a stone, and to act like these cuts on top of our already dismal investment in education won't be felt in the classroom is a joke--ask any teacher who is out buying their own supplies or worrying over furloughs. 

What about saving the millions we give to private corporations for standardized tests and the computers and time required to administer them? I might not feel so bad about the school year being shortened if my kid hadn't already wasted days plugged into a computer for that purpose. I also want to point out that shortening the school year would  be disproportionately burdensome on working families who will then have to scramble to pay for child care arrangements when their children are no longer in school. I really enjoy keeping up with local news on your blog. It's ridiculous how difficult it is to get the real scoop on what is going on in our state. Thank you!

Thank you, Sarah. This is the place where the tough questions about New Mexico are asked and answers are often offered.

Another reader also calls for spending that unsent capital outlay (pork) on keeping the public schools' budget intact:

It is very clear that cutting back on school funding is the only way to preserve the self- serving capital outlay projects of state legislators.  This is not just bad policy but robbing school kids future to preserve lawmakers' gratification.

Our take: Not all the capital outlay left unspent is destined for frivolous projects but with so much of it languishing for years on end, much of what it is intended for is hardly as urgent as public education,

Reader Stan Fitch writes:

Hi, Joe. Instead of just cuts to education and public services, perhaps Governor Martinez should volunteer to cut her own pay in half and also grossly reduce the salaries of her staff.


Reader Al Duran, the self-described Crockagator, writes:

Joe, us grey hairs have watched economic problems in the past but not like this. We have never been so rich but yet are not able to access those riches because of those so called guardians of the bank vault. It’s time to replace those whose vision has so far not included a vision of what our K thru 12 schools could be, if we put our money to work to build a first class educational system. 

 You don’t have to look too far to see what money wisely spent does. I am referring to Native American casinos whose income provides educational benefits for all their members. It’s time to let the residents of our state vote on what we should do with our billions. Time for Change. 

The billions of dollars Al references is the over $15 billion in the state's Land Grant Permanent Fund (school fund). A constitutional amendment is again under consideration at the Roundhouse that would allow voters to decide if a portion of that fund (about $115 million a year for ten years) should be spent on very early childhood programs (ages zero to five) in an effort to interrupt our generations-long cycle of poverty and poor education outcomes.


Reader Violet Cauthon in Las Cruces writes of the speculation that GOP Congressman Steve Pearce may run for Governor in 20118:

Dona Ana County is the home of a large anti-Pearce-for-anything group who are letting Pearce know he has not one chance of being governor of New Mexico, that we are organizing and communicating that fact. 2018, 2018, 2018 is our mantra.

And reader Larry Gioannini, also writing from Las Cruces, doesn't like Pearce's idea of having another oil refinery built in the state and has three reasons:

1. The pollution released into the air, water and soil from the operation of the refinery.
2. The thousands of tons of CO2 pollution released from the use of the refinery products thus exacerbating climate change.
3. Delaying for years the creation of hundreds to thousands of good jobs in the renewable energy field; again putting us behind TX, OK and other forward moving states in the region.

Here in ABQ reader John is one of many still upset over Mayor Berry's ART project--the rapid bus line being constructed down Central Avenue that has caused major traffic disruptions and financial pain or many businesses:

Perhaps the vision is "creative destruction." The Mayor and his advisors may envision that, yes, a lot of the existing small businesses, restaurants and bars will die due to ART construction and operation, but perhaps 10 to 20 years from now, we will see higher-density, mixed-use "transit-oriented development" around the ART stops Perhaps not, with near zero growth for the foreseeable future and the westside Santolina development on the horizon.


ABQ Dem City Councilor Pat Davis broke the news here recently that he is indeed considering a run for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who is running for Governor. That announcement led to a lot of critical email about the contoversial Davis, head of the progressive activist group ProgresssNow NM. A political advisor responded to that criticism but that set off a new round of Davis mail. An anonymous reader writes:

You reported that a Davis "supporter" said that David refused to allow a bill to go forward that privatized the ABQ police department. This is far from accurate. In fact, it is BS. Pat Davis sponsored a bill that would have privatized the police. Pat Davis was working with Councilor Brad Winter, the person Governor Martinez appointed as Secretary of State, to privatize the police and give a no-bid contract to Brad Winter's campaign manager. The people who would have received the no-bid contract to privatize the police were Berry and Martinez supporters. The ABQ Free Press reported on it.

Democratic ward chair Don Schiff writes:

Pat Davis has the best campaign team in the state, but they're spinning like a top. Pat Davis voted to fund ART, period, and in a way which avoided a vote by Albuquerque citizens.  A 'no' vote might only have been symbolic, but Davis had an opportunity to stand up for his constituents, a vast majority of whom oppose this boondoggle for developers which is already killing Nob Hill businesses. Davis continues to defend ART as "mass transit," which is merely a cover story for unnecessary development and gentrification. Pat Davis is complicit in the destruction of our historic Rt. 66 neighborhood. Any future good he does on the margins cannot mitigate the outrageous harm he participated in at the first opportunity. We will not forget this betrayal. I have lost all respect for Mr. Davis. I don't trust the man, and neither do my neighbors. A public official who acts against his constituents' interests has no future.


Mary Han
One of our Legal Beagles writes of the recent court hearing into the 2010 death of ABQ attorney Mary Han. The unresolved issue is whether Han, who frequently sued APD, committed suicide or not. The Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) says it was a suciide. The Han family says no. Our Beagle says:

The OMI is desperately in need of some legislative action. The statutes that cover OMI require "an inquest." That does not necessarily mean a formal court-like proceeding but does require a formal process setting forth how people can access the OMI pathologists to challenge their autopsy reports and death certificates. The OMI only has a webpage that says "contact OMI" and just has email contact info for the administrative staff and the supervisor of field investigations.

No one at the legislature has made certain OMI is following its own laws for over 30 years. The legislature has just been rubber stamping the OMI's annual budget without making sure it is following the law. It took this (Han) trial to bring it to light and prove that sometimes the OMI chief will grant a review and sometimes not. Government requires due process and the OMI, whether they like it or not, are part of state government.

A district court judge will soon decide whether Han's death certificate should be changed from suicide to "undetermined."


Finally, Sue George sends along an email that counters the argument that the cuts to the public schools being approved by the legislature and Governor are not impacting the classroom:

Joe, I thought you might be interested in this email from the director of my childrens' school. For the Governor to say that the budget cuts won't affect the classrooms is flat out wrong, as evidenced by the email below--and this is just the first of many cuts this school (and I'm sure many others) will be making. I dropped off supplies (they're down to a case and a half of copy paper). We live in a beautiful, multi-cultural state with talented, creative people, but this beauty and talent is being wasted by an administration that refuses to put people over ideology and profit. It is a crime not to do better by our children.

From: Sam Obenshain
Sent: Tuesday, February 7, 2017 5:15 PM
To: 'Everyone'
Subject: Budget update - Help needed

Dear Parents and Friends of Cottonwood:

. . . The legislature passed a “solvency bill” that was approved by the Governor last week. This solvency bill has cut this year’s budget for many schools and districts across the state. Cottonwood will lose $18,693 from this most recent cut on top of $122,000 that was cut in the special session in the Fall. This will have certain impacts to the operations of our school for the remaining 4 months of our school year. . . I will let you all know as soon as possible what actions we will be taking to address these cuts.

In the meantime, I have put a freeze on all non-essential spending at Cottonwood. This will have an impact on your children as we are not purchasing some basic school supplies and materials for the foreseeable future, have cancelled school field trips that asked for bus transportation, and are reducing bus transportation for athletic teams for the remainder of the school year.

I am pained to have to make these decisions since we have done a great job managing our budgets over the years and have not had to resort to these kinds of drastic measures in the past. However, we cannot make it through the year without figuring out how to cover the state-imposed shortfall that we will begin experiencing here as soon as the Public Education Department begins adjusting the monthly distribution that comes from the state.

So, we need your help. If you are able to donate any supplies or materials, most notably copier paper (we are down to our last case and a half since I imposed a freeze), dry erase markers, pens and pencils, notebook paper, tissue paper, paper towels, etc., it will go directly to the classrooms! I know the kind of community that we have here and thank you in advance for your support.

While there will be more decisions that we will have to make before this is over, this first step will get us through the issues that are most pressing right now!

You can bring supplies to our front desk, or send them with your child to his/her first period teacher.

Thanks for your continued support of our school, the teachers, and your children!

Sam Obenshain
Executive Director
Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School

And that concludes this edition of reader Vox Populi. You guys really outdid yourself this time. The discussion goes on around the clock on our Facebook page where you are also always welcome.

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