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Thursday, January 12, 2017

ABQ Mayoral Contenders Hits Double Digits But Will They All Last? Plus: Food Tax Talk Proved Sticky For One State Rep. 

Keller (Bralley)
Maybe we should charter a bus for all the ABQ mayoral candidates and drive them around town to make their case to the public. We're well on the way to filling up  a bus. The latest to shout "'all aboard" is Dem State Auditor Tim Keller who made his entry official Wednesday, coming with a website, a video announcement and a flurry of media interviews.

Keller is being closely watched as insiders place him among the top tier of the many candidates seeking to replace two-term Republican Mayor Berry this year. Veteran GOP consultant Bob Cornelius is among them:

Keller's announcement message was good and his video was good. A line that may resonate with Democrats is: 'We don't just need a mayor. We need a mission and a movement."  Democrats need to light a fire under their base to get the vote out. The lower the turnout the better it will be for the R's. Keller is mindful of that.'

Keller will be one of the few candidates to go the public financing route and if successful will collect $379,000 to run his campaign. Insiders say if he takes off he could also win support from a political action committee backed by labor and/or other interests. PAC's are free to play in the city election with few restrictions.

He was welcomed to the race by the state GOP which said:

Keller has evidently temporarily abandoned his gubernatorial aspirations and set his sights on adding another line on his resume. The voters of Albuquerque deserve a Mayor that views the office as an opportunity to make a positive impact upon the city, not as another step towards higher office.

Keller says he will answer that GOP call to make "a positive impact" by replacing APD Chief Gorden Eden and Assistant Chief Huntsman on "day one." Republican City Councilor and mayoral candidate Dan Lewis did not go that far in his Sunday announcement, saying, if elected, he will bring in new police leadership but did not explicitly say Eden would be out.

With so many candidates lining up our Alligators and analysts have formed a first tier and second tier of contenders as we wait and see who submits enough signatures of registered voters (3,000) on April 28 to win a place on the Oct. 3 ballot. Until then, the race will be in flux.

So far, there are four officially registered candidates on the city clerk's website. They are Democrat Stella Padilla, talk show host and independent Eddy Aragon; Dem Scott Madison who works at Kirtland AFB and independent Michelle Garcia Holmes. Independent Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, founder of Urban ABQ, is expected to join the race next month. All of those candidates are in our second tier.

In the first tier is Keller; former NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colon who announces January 25; former Dem BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta who announced earlier this year; GOP BernCO Commissioner Wayne Johnson who will announce next month; GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis who announced Sunday and possibly '13 Dem mayoral hopeful Pete Dinelli and Dem City Councilor Ken Sanchez who may instead opt for a run at the ABQ congressional seat.

That gives us nine certain contenders and 11 if you count Sanchez and Dinelli. We told you that bus was filling up fast.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

Reps McCamley, Gentry and Harper
Las Cruces area Dem State Rep. Bill McCamley styles himself as a progressive but he ran afoul of them when he teamed with GOP State Rep. Jason Harper on a tax reform plan (no bill was introduced) that included a reinstatement of the food tax. We mentioned that here Wednesday, noting that Gov. Martinez will not support any such reinstatement. As for McCamley, a sympathizer asserts he never explicitly supported the reinstatement:

Rep. McCamley is not in favor of reinstating the gross receipts tax (GRT) on purchases of food. If the legislature is considering reforming the GRT structure, including repealing the deduction for food purchases, he wants to make sure that repeal is coupled with legislation to assist the poor and middle income residents who will get hit the hardest by that change. He presented a bill with Rep. Harper that would offset some of the regressivity of reimposing that tax by allowing SNAP recipients to use their EBT card to not pay GRT on all food purchased. The bill would have also increased the amount of and income threshold amount to receive the Low-Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate. But he made it clear at that meeting that he is not in favor of the repeal, and has serious concerns about the entire proposed reform package. He even said something like "The only reason I agreed to get on this political suicide train..." is to ensure poor people are not significantly hurt by the legislation.

McCamley said this at a December legislative hearing that drew the scrutiny of the anti-food tax crowd:

What happens is that at the very very least, you come out even because you’re getting the same amount of money you would’ve spent on food tax anyway...but...you’re paying less of a tax on everything else that you’re buying.

Maybe next time the majority Democrats might want to present their own comprehensive tax package (minus the food tax) instead of trying to slow down the "suicide train" that voters had already derailed at the polls in November when they stripped Harper and the Republicans of their House majority.

Meanwhile, Santa Fe's Alan Webber, toying with another run for the Dem Guv nomination in 2018, continue to court the progressive crowd. About taxes to resolve the budget crisis, he says:

--Impose a state-wide tax on sugar-laced drinks. Increase “sin taxes” on tobacco and alcohol
--Health care providers are volunteering to pay an assessment because they know their contributions will underwrite critically important Medicaid for New Mexicans.
--Pegging the gas tax so it goes up and down with the price we pay at the pump will provide money for infrastructure investments, create jobs and make the actual tax adjustable to changing circumstances.

Guess we can call our tax coverage today food for thought.

Enjoy the holiday weekend. See you back here Tuesday.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Making Sense Of Susana's Budget Plan, Debating Third Graders And ABQ Crime Right In Your Face  

In the total context of things, Gov. Martinez's plan to resolve for the time being the state's budget crisis makes sense. She proposes to raid reserve funds held by the public schools for $120 million and get one-time cash from other government accounts.

The stinker in her plan is to reduce the amount state government contributes to the pension plans of state workers. The vast majority of them receive only modest salaries and have seen no pay raises in years. Martinez is at her punitive worst in trying to balance the budget on their humble backs. Lawmakers ought to push back on that one.

Martinez, announcing her budget plans before Tuesday's start of the 60 day legislative session, reiterated her pledge not to raise any taxes and for those concerned about a return of the dreaded food tax, that's good news. A return of the tax was contained in the baffling "bipartisan" and ultimately misguided Harper-McCamley plan that would do nothing to raise revenue.

Martinez, as we have blogged for years, has no interest in addressing the macro economic problems this state faces and at this point--with less than two years left on her term--we are best to wait for the next governor to tackle the systemic and long-term economic woes facing us. This budget patch, consisting mainly of only one-time revenue and keeping in place already approved austerity measures, will kick that can down the road.

Let's face it. The Democrats do not have the unity nor the fight in them to put this Governor on the spot by proposing a complex remake of how the state allocates its resources or raises revenue. Also, to what end? Martinez would veto any such plan and the votes are not there to override her veto.

Thee is still hope for a comprehensive plan to fix our lack of revenue, repair the damage done from years of tax cutting mania and to revamp higher education for the downsized state we face in the years ahead. But that hope now rests on the '18 campaign trail, not at the Roundhouse presided over by a lame duck Governor and uncertain Democrats.

THE LEGACY

The state workforce was at 21,905 full-time positions in October, down 18 percent from mid-2008. Rather than a sign of distress, the Governor and her allies see this smaller government in a positive light. She may see her lasting legacy not as presiding over a failed economy but as the Governor who downsized state government and never raised taxes. If so, that could mean the workforce continues to shrink and that layoffs, which have already begun to trickle in, could continue if revenue projections falter even mildly.

BACK AGAIN

For six years Martinez has been relentless in trying to persuade the legislature to adopt a social promotion policy--holding back third graders who do not pass reading proficiency tests. She's back at it for a seventh year and this time criticizing the public schools for not being very good at notifying the parents of third graders who are not reading well.

Commenting on social media ABQ teacher Jane Avon Rose gave some reasons why the third grade retention is again headed for failure:

Every teacher is required to, and does, send home six report cards and progress reports per student every year and holds two parent-teacher conferences, minimum. If those report cards aren't "notification" what is? Get real. If a parent doesn't know whether their own off spring "can't read," it's rarely because teachers of the child have failed to notify parents. And if a minority of teachers "fluff up" grades, you can bet your retirement it's out of legitimate concern over *some* parents going on the attack for being informed their child is less than perfect, be it via lawsuit, verbal assault, or, more often, modeling disrespect and disregard for teachers in front of the child, who then has permission to act that way in class. We have decades of data proving the ineffectiveness, in fact harmfulness, of retention, especially after age 6. Perhaps someday this administration will do any kind of valid "study." 

KELLER COMING IN

Dem State Auditor Tim Keller will formally announce his candidacy for mayor of ABQ at 10 this morning, according to his campaign. It will be a low key affair with Keller putting out a news release stating his reasons for running and then having "media availability" for 45 minutes in the afternoon. Keller's announcement is here. A video announcement is here.

Here's pic of what ABQ and its current and future leadership faces. Talk about crime right in your face.

According to APD’s Facebook page a victim observed the man pictured inside his car, attempting to steal it. The man got into a late model white Chevrolet Tahoe with another male driving. The man pictured here pointed a gun and fired a shot towards the victim. Anyone with information on this man or vehicle should contact Crime Stoppers at 505-843-STOP.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's A Hard To Get Ticket Out Of Here For Martinez, Plus: ABQ's Murder Meter Scales New Heights But That's Not The Half Of It, And: Ethics Commission Plan Is Back For Another Beating 

If she wants a ticket out of here Gov. Martinez is going to have to put to good use her time in DC now that she's announced she will attend the inauguration of President Trump. Insiders report there is absolutely no buzz about Martinez in the nation's capital when it comes to getting a plum job. That's not surprising as the president-elect prizes loyalty and Martinez and her political team have been anything but loyal. Her refusal to endorse or appear with Trump during the campaign leaves her stuck on the island, at least for now.

One school of thought has former Indiana Governor and VP Pence close to Martinez because she served as head of the Republican Governors Association and that Pence could pave a path for her. But then there's GOP Congressman Steve Pearce, who served with Pence in the House and is philosophically much closer to him than Martinez. And Pearce is no pal of Martinez's.

But the anti-Martinez wing of the GOP--that includes Pearce--faces a conundrum of sorts. They can't stand the possibility of Martinez advancing, but if she did there's a potential pay off for them that we've mentioned before--Lt. Gov. John Sanchez becomes Governor and much better positioned for the '18 race in which Dems are heavily favored to take back the Governor's office. But if Pearce gets serious about a Guv run, scotch the Sanchez as Governor talk. He could then be expected to to do all he could to stop that train from getting on the tracks.

MURDER METER 

While most major cities are experiencing a decline in their murder rates, with notable exceptions like Chicago, ABQ's murder rate continues to scale new heights. Former city Public Safety Director and possible '17 mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli breaks down the numbers:

A 20 year high in murders for one year is not the full story. Albuquerque has become one of the most violent cities in the country. Since 2010, Albuquerque’s violent and property crime rates dramatically increased by 14% to 20% percent. According to the FBI, in 2015 violent crimes increased by 9.2% and property crimes increased by 11.5%. APD officers have shot over 41 people with $50 million paid in police misconduct cases and excessive use of force cases. The number of APD sworn officers has fallen from 1,100 in 2009 to 850 in 2016. Only 430 sworn officers are assigned to field services responding to 69,000 priority one 911 emergency calls a year. Albuquerque needs 1,200 sworn police officers to effectively return to community based policing that will reduce crime. 

That pretty much sums up why crime in all its guises will be the dominant issue in the coming mayoral campaign.

And reader Bruce Thomson writes of ABQ's ranking as worst in the nation for car theft:

Police say folks warming up their cars in the morning may facilitate their theft but stealing older cars without an RFID chip in the key is really easy. Do an Internet search on "jiggle keys" and you'll find cheap blank key sets for sale and instructional videos on how to open & start locked cars "for locksmiths" (yeah, right!). My 20 year old Honda was stolen from my driveway in February by a fellow using jiggle keys and the tape from my video surveillance system showed it took him 30 seconds to get into the car and 3 minutes to start it. He was caught later the same day and we learned it was the third time he'd been caught in 60 days.

ETHICS FATIGUE

For the umpteenth year the Legislature will consider setting up a state ethics commission and as in previous years it appears dead on arrival. Even the press is becoming more skeptical. Political reporter Steve Terrell writes:

My biggest concern about an ethics commission — especially during this time of shrinking revenues and threadbare budgets — is that such a state agency would turn out to be window dressing, a half-baked agency suffering not only from a lack of financial resources but strangled by restrictions imposed by politicians. It could end up not having enough power or independence to truly ferret out corruption.

Meantime, ABQ Dem State Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto is proposing a watered down version of an ethics commission (he says it's more comprehensive than a commission) called the Public Accountability Act which he says "will significantly strengthen ethics enforcement across state and local government. It creates a venue for the public to bring forward ethical concerns related to the conduct of public officials and the management of public dollars."

Have mercy on the advocates for a state ethics commission. They're like a preacher on Skid Row urging sobriety.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Garcia Holmes
Was independent mayoral candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes playing to a GOP crowd by holding her Sunday announcement into the race at the upscale ABQ Country Club? Not at all. She explains that her father, the late Joseph Garcia, worked as a caddy at ACC back in the 1930's and the historic club has special meaning to her. It doesn't get any more working class than being a caddy which was our first job at the tender age of 11.

Michelle might have had a hard time gaining entrance to ACC back in the 30's when discrimination against Hispanics was standard and the caddyshack was the closest many of them ever came to being members. That she had her mayoral announcement there was not only a gesture to her father but a reminder of how far we have come.

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Monday, January 09, 2017

ABQ Mayor's Race Takes Firmer Shape; Lewis Is First Major R To Announce; Five Dems Test Waters; Some Announcing Soon; Our Complete Coverage And Analysis  

Lewis (Bralley)
The race for ABQ mayor began to firm up over the weekend with the first major Republican contender tossing his hat into the ring and five Democrats eyeing the office giving speeches to a liberal convention gathering. First, the GOP action. . .

Two term ABQ Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis came prepared for his Sunday entrance onto the city and state political stages. He had done pre-Christmas polling that showed the city's crime epidemic was far and away the most important issue for likely voters and he hammered away at it when he took to the podium. He said "our city is in a public safety crisis" and that we can't let "criminals define Albuquerque. . . Danger should not be the word that comes to mind when people think about Albuquerque."

(Complete video here. Lewis campaign platform here.)

Lewis, 46, is seeking to replace fellow R Richard Berry as mayor who is not seeking a third term. While he did not zing Berry directly he signaled when it comes to the deeply troubled APD he will not pick up where Berry left off:

We will embrace change not the status quo. As mayor, along with new police leadership, we will transform APD."

Lewis is the first mayoral candidate to indicate he may replace current APD Chief Gorden Eden. But he is not saying explicitly that Eden is out and that will be an issue until and if he does.

Lewis also said he would support the politically difficult proposal of consolidating city and Bernalillo County public safety agencies, arguing it would create "a new standard in accountability and efficiency."

On the city's struggling economy, Lewis did not offer much. He recited Republican boilerplate about making government friendly for business but relied on Berry's "Innovate ABQ" program for his economic message. In fact, he staged his announcement from one of the Innovate business incubators at Broadway and Central.

He took a bite out of the ABQ Public Schools by endorsing its break-up into smaller districts, calling it a "failed" district. The Legislature will tackle that issue in the upcoming session.

But it was on crime that Lewis made his mark. That is going to be the driver of the turnout in the affluent ABQ NE Heights which votes overwhelmingly Republican and has the power to advance a Republican contender into the mayor's office, despite the city being heavily Dem in registration. Turnout for mayoral elections is low so the always strong R turnout is magnified.

THE LEWIS SOUP

Johnson
The fly in Lewis's soup is GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson who may announce a mayoral bid soon. Also, the rumor mill has former APD Sergeant and Republican Pal Heh making another mayoral run. That could split the GOP vote rather than unifying it around one candidate like Lewis.

If no candidate gets 50 percent at the October 3 ballot the two top vote getters advance to a run-off election a month later. If there's only one big R name in the race he is virtually guaranteed a run-off spot.

Still, Lewis has the support of the Harvey Yates faction of the GOP which has battled with Gov. Martinez's camp. That means GOP grassroots support and money from the NM oil fields. Lewis has raised well over $100,000 and has hired veteran campaign fundraiser Teri Baird. Insiders say Johnson will have to come with at least $250,000 to be competitive and give Lewis a run for the top GOP spot. Heh will run off the fat of the land and play in single digit territory.

LESS NEOPHYTE

In recent years Lewis has shed his image as a political neophyte. He had a disastrous and short-lived run for the ABQ congressional seat that may have matured him politically. And he has some running room when the Dems and Johnson try to hang Mayor Berry around his neck. Lewis voted against the controversial ART project for Central Avenue and he called for the resignation of then-APD Chief Schultz as the department began its long decline.

Like Berry, Lewis comes across as a solid citizen with an affable personality who pursues a moderate image but as a church pastor has important evangelical support. The Reverend Steve Smotherman of Legacy Church, sporting membership north of 10,000, was one of those introducing Lewis Sunday. That could put a lot of boots on the campaign trail.

ANOTHER ENTRY

Also announcing for mayor Sunday was retired APD police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes. She is running as an independent. Mayoral races are officially nonpartisan but everyone carefully watches party affiliation. She cited the crime wave as a reason for ABQ's inability to boost its economy. Can the unknown Garcia Holmes make the case for a nonpolitician?

FIVE DEMS 

A day before Lewis stepped forward ProgressNowNM sponsored a "Progressive Summit" that gave a crowd of 200 a sample of the five Dems looking at a mayoral run. They are:

Former BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta has already announced; former NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colon will do so January 25th, State Auditor Tim Keller's camp says he'll announce this week; former mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli, who says he is leaning toward running again, and City Councilor Ken Sanchez who is looking at mayor but may run for the ABQ congressional seat in '18. A Senior Alligator on the scene analyzes the five minute speeches given by each of the hopefuls:

Keller, Archuleta and Dinelli seemed most tuned into the crowd and spoke well. Colon seemed a little out of touch giving a talk about his desire for the Mayor to be heavily involved in education and to “disrupt” the education system. Seemed a bit of a stretch in a town where crime and economic development are on the front page every day. Ken Sanchez just wasn’t progressive enough for the audience and seemed a bit out of his element.

Keller captured the audience and got the best reception with a talk about small business investments as a way to jump start the town. Deanna did the “we all need to get together and work things out message” and made some good, solid points. Dinelli was most targeted in his criticism of the current administration and was the most partisan. To this observer, it was clear that those three candidates read the audience and were well prepared. The other two missed the mark. But these campaigns are starting to gel — Keller and Archuleta clearly had staff working their campaigns.

The Dems face the same problem as the R's--a potential split of their vote, although it is more serious for the Dems. All five have a following and it's hard to see which one, if any, will break out. But that's what campaigns are for.

The complete speeches are here. They were shot by an amateur on the scene and can be difficult to follow. Better than nothing, but what happened to a nice good quality camera for a YouTube presentation to highlight their heroes ? Did George Soros cut the ProgressNM budget?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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