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Friday, February 03, 2017

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

Sen. Baca
He doesn't look like a giant killer but GOP state Senator Greg Baca can rightfully claim that title. Here he is being sworn in after defeating a true legislative giant--state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen.

 It was a whirlwind campaign for Baca who was handled by the Governor's political machine which had worked for years to oust Sanchez, the Governor's longtime arch-enemy.

When Sanchez lost it was noted by this corner and others that the new majority leader would be even more liberal than Sanchez and the Governor might have cut off her nose to spite her face. Far from it. The new leader has shown himself to be much less of a thorn in the Martinez side.

When it comes to putting Greg Baca in place and putting Michael Sanchez in his place, the word from the Fourth Floor is "no regrets."

BUILDING SOMETHING

Ye gads! We're building something for the future in New Mexico:

Construction of the new McKinnon Center for Management at the University of New Mexico’s Robert O. Anderson School of Management officially got underway. The school is constructing a new 61,000-square-foot building for 21st Century classrooms, community spaces and career planning and placement services. The $25 million building is scheduled to open in mid-2018. The project was made possible, in part, by a $5 million donation from the McKinnon family. . . Ian McKinnon, and his wife, Sonnet, an alumna of UNM Anderson, are long-time supporters of the school.

Ian McKinnon is a graduate of the ABQ Academy and made a ton of money in the investment business back east where he and his wife live. Maybe he should run for governor here and campaign on a pledge to keep building up the state even if we stay broke.

DEFENDING DAVIS

Our email has contained a number of swipes at Dem ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis who is eyeing a bid for the ABQ congressional seat. A Dem ward chair said that Davis has failed to take on Republican Mayor Berry as expected and that his support of the controversial ART project on Central Avenue makes his hopes of landing the Dem nomination for the congressional seat "delusional." A member of the Davis political team responds:

The Dem ward chair comments about Davis are off the mark. When Berry proposed privatizing law enforcement, Davis refused to let the bill go forward. And on ART, the mayor and council had already approved ART spending before Davis was elected. Until he showed up, Nob Hill businesses weren't being heard. He forced the mayor to add a new stop in the International District for working people. Also, when the mayor announced plans to ask the legislature to pre-empt local minimum wage laws, Davis launched a campaign to oppose it causing the Mayor to back off.  It says a lot that insider Dems are already taking pot shots at Pat. They know he'll be a strong candidate.

THE BOTTOM LINES

In a first draft Thursday we said Deb Haaland is the "former chair" of the state Dem Party. That won't officially happen until the new chair is elected at the end of April. And we omitted the first name of Dem BernCo Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. Both women are likely candidates for the Dem US House seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham who is seeking the Dem Guv nod in '18.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Dinelli Won't Do It; Nixes Another Mayoral Run Citing Cash Challenge, Guv's Machine Takes Care Of Ousted Rep And Long Knives in ABQ Congressional Race As Davis Takes Digs 

Dinelli
Money--or more specifically the lack of it--has claimed its first victim in the ABQ '17 mayoral race and there will be more to follow. Democrat Pete Dinelli, who ran and lost against Mayor Berry in '13, has decided not to return to the mayoral stage this year, despite burnishing his profile lately with sharp-eyed and adversarial social media posts about the state of affairs in ABQ:

I would run for Mayor if I was able to raise the necessary contributions to run a successful campaign. . . After talking to supporters and people willing to contribute and raise money, I concluded I cannot raise necessary money to run a viable campaign. Four years ago, I ran on Democratic core values including opposing the late term abortion initiative on the ballot, supporting gay marriage, city hall enforcement of the minimum wage, advocating for the working class, police reform, civilian oversight of APD and economic development.

Attorney Dinelli, 65, a former city councilor and deputy administrator for public safety, says he is not taken with any of those who have already announced for mayor and the ABQ native made no endorsement as he headed toward the exits.

However, Dinelli will do his best to keep the mayoral hopefuls honest as he continues to blog and Facebook away. Heck, the new editor of the ABQ Journal might want to take the incisive Dinelli on as an editorial writer.

Supporters of GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis, the leading R candidate, say it could take as much as $800,000 to $1 million to run an effective campaign. Supporters of Dem Brian Colón don't disagree. Each candidate has already raised over $200,000. Dem Tim Keller will take public financing which will give him about $379,000 but his supporters also expect an outside PAC to weigh in for the state auditor.

A dozen candidates are in the race. Most are likely to get out because of the lack of money or the inability to get the 3,000 petition signatures of registered voters needed to get on the October 3 ballot. That would leave us with five or six finalists.

MACHINE MAINTENANCE

Never let it be said that the Governor's Machine doesn't take care of it own. Take former metro area GOP State Rep. Paul Pacheco. He was tossed out of office by Dem Daymon Ely last November, but maybe that was a good thing. Look at the plum Susana threw him and announced by David Jablonski, Cabinet Secretary-Designee for the state corrections department:

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Paul Pacheco as  as our new Deputy Secretary. Paul brings with him a wealth of experience in law enforcement. . . Paul worked as a police officer with the Albuquerque Police Department for 27 years in various capacities, including a patrol officer, a field training officer, a certified general police instructor and a detective. In addition, he also served as President of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.

Pacheco does not return our messages (come on, Paul, ask Jay for permission) so we don't know if he is double-dipping--receiving a pension from his service as an ABQ cop and also pulling down a juicy salary at corrections. In any event he can finally live the dream that Rep. Ely took away from him. Pacheco is now doing "all crime all the time."

KNIVES SHARPENED

Pat Davis
Our mention this week of the very early positioning for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is seeking the '18 Dem Guv nod, drew notice.

Friends of NM Dem Party Chairwoman Deb Haaland say you can add her name to the list of those very likely to seek the seat. She would join BernCo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins and Dem City Councilor Pat Davis among the first tier of contenders. Those two are already organizing. But Davis is already running into some headwinds. Critics say he has failed to take on Republican Mayor Berry as was expected when he was elected. A Dem Party ward chair in BernCo came with this:

Pat Davis is delusional if he thinks he can win a Democratic primary after stabbing his constituents in the back over ART. I doubt he could get re-elected as City Councilor. As Central Ave. businesses circle the drain, so do Pat's political prospects. He's a dead man walking. Please don't quote me directly. I'd rather tell him to his face.

The long knives have yet to come out on Stebbins and Haaland but you can bet they are being sharpened.

We won't go as far as to say "no R's need apply" for this one, but the ABQ congressional seat has become more blue than our beautiful skies.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Heinrich Looks For Sparring Partner In Martinez But Doesn't Find Much, Plus: Spinning Over Susana's Vetoes And Jay Watching; Memories Of Grand Jury Revived By DC Tumult 

Heinrich and Martinez
How about that attack (albeit indirectly) on Gov. Martinez leveled this week by Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich right in the heart of the Capitol? If he had done it a year or so ago (pre-Pizza party) it might be seen as the prelude to a big 2018 fight over Heinrich's senate seat. But Martinez has faded dramatically and a senate run seems highly improbable. She even has significant opposition in her own GOP, making even winning a primary a problem.

But then there is Lt. Gov. John Sanchez who is mulling over a Guv run but is also eyeing Heinrich's Senate seat, After all, running for Governor on Susana's record would be like walking on nails. Maybe this hit from Heinrich as he addressed the legislature was also aimed at John--just in case:

It would be easy if the poll-tested policies that build a political resume aligned with a better and brighter future for New Mexicans, But that approach has failed to produce results.

Martinez's office fired back but rather meekly for them:

A Martinez spokesman blamed “Washington politicians” for not securing more federal military spending.

The Governor  has a point about DC dysfunction, but the last we looked it was her Republican Party--not Heinrich's Democrats--that control the three branches of government. How about her asking President Trump and congressional leaders to pump more military spending into NM? The same goes for GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce who seems to harbor ambitions about becoming governor.

When it comes to Trump, Susana treats him like a nurse treats an infectious patient--showing sympathy but at all times wearing a mask and gloves. And the chances of Trump taking a pleading phone call from Martinez on defense spending are about as likely as having him sign up for Spanish lessons.

As for Sanchez, he's again competently presiding over the state Senate during this 60 day session. But the once high political hopes held for him have dimmed. His refusal to separate himself from Martinez being a key reason.

Trump's election has been a Godsend for Heinrich who is reacting constantly to what he and the D's see as the chief executive's numerous outrages. Of course, when it comes to Trump and politics who knows what things will look like in '18 when Heinrich is on the ballot, but right now the freshman senator is getting a lot of running room.

SPIN ROOM

The spin from both sides of the aisle at the Roundhouse is that cutting $46 million from public schools cash reserves to balance the current year's budget--as was approved by the legislature and signed by the Governor Tuesday--does not have any impact whatsoever on "the classroom." ABQ Public Schools will take a $12 million hit and doesn't see it that way. A financial expert for APS, explained:

School districts operate on a reimbursement basis. There is a time gap from when the districts spend their money and get reimbursed. It is up to two months from the state and   federal reimbursement can be as long as four months. APS, for example, pays expenses like utility bills and payroll from its reserves and awaits reimbursement. But now the draw down in the reserves means we can't float those expenses as we usually do and then wait to get paid back. We will have to reduce spending and/or services because of the raid on the cash reserves.

Meanwhile, Dem Senate Finance Committee Chairman Smith says of Gov. Martinez vetoing $26 million from the solvency plan she signed off on Tuesday:

Governor Martinez’s vetoes are short-sided and leave our state with inadequate reserves. Kicking financial woes down the road is rejected in the private sector and is an irresponsible way of handling our state’s finances. Her misguided action today means that now, more than ever, we need new revenues to responsibly address next year’s budget.

He means some kind of tax increase to make up the difference but he's not going to get it. The game of kick-the-can continues.

HE WON, TOM

Senator Tom Udall says of Trump's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court:

President Trump received nearly 3 million fewer votes than Secretary Clinton. He does not have a mandate to appoint an ultra-conservative justice to the nation’s highest court.

Uh. What does the popular vote have to do with who the President nominates? He won the presidency via the Electoral College and has its full powers. That is his "mandate." Sorry, Tom, but if the Dems had nominated Bernie, you wouldn't be in this fix. You can't overturn the election results.

JAY WATCHING

Jay McCleskey
The Jay watchers have been out in force since Acting Attorney General Sally Yates refused to enforce Trump's immigration ban and got herself promptly fired by the President.

For the uninitiated, Jay watchers are not part of a bird watching club. They are those who keep close tabs on Gov. Martinez political consultant and Svengali Jay McCleskey. They note that it was apparently then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates who called off the dogs on Jay when given the chance of going forward with an indictment against him on campaign finance abuse charges.

A federal grand jury here investigated McCleksey and the story line goes that indictments were going to come down but were axed by Yates in DC. Andrea Goff, a former Martinez fund-raiser and foe of Jay who provided info to the grand jury, wrote about it here.

So while Dems are holding up Sally Yates as a political martyr of sorts for disobeying Trump it seems when she had her chance to put a real dent in the Guv's Machine, she took a pass. The doesn't quite make the cut for martyrdom.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Down The Wrong Path? Fresh Voter Poll Shows New Mexicans Not Happy With State's Direction, Plus: Will New Editor For ABQ Journal Mean New Ways? 

So how is New Mexico doing? Not so good, according to a polling tidbit found in the latest Common Cause survey on ethics issues:

Just three-in-ten voters--30 percent statewide--believe that things in New Mexico are headed in the right direction, while over half (52%) believe things are off on the wrong track. Eighteen percent did not offer an opinion. Voters in the North Central region (64%) and those with a graduate degree (70%) are more likely to say things are off on the wrong track.

The poll, conducted by Research and Polling, asked 495 registered voters for their thoughts.

Gov. Martinez's approval rating in the SurveyUSA conducted last last year was 36 percent, a bit above the small minority of 30 percent who think the state is headed down the right path.

And where are people finding out about New Mexico politics and the legislature? Well, a good chunk of them rely on websites like yer little 'ol blog. Twenty percent of the poll's respondents say they are blog readers. Of course, the mainstream media dominated with 58% relying on TV news for political info, 50% on newspapers and 32% on social media like Twitter and Facebook. The poll broke it down this way:

Two-thirds of voters age 50 and over say they rely on television to get their information about New Mexico politics and the state legislature compared to 49% of those under the age of 50. Nearly half of voters under the age of 35 and 39% of those between the ages of 35 and 49 say they get their information from social media.  Seniors (63%) are most apt to say they get their information from newspapers.

SPEAKING OF NEWSPAPERS. . . 

There's a new boss at the state's largest. Karen Moses, 61, who has been at the ABQ Journal for 35 years, takes over as editor of the paper this week as Kent Waltz, 66, who has held the post for 22 years, retires and becomes a senior editor.

The Journal has been undergoing significant belt-tightening in recent years as it fights the digital encroachment into print which continues to die a slow and painful death. The Journal's older readership combined with a tight economy are major challenges. Some see the paper in the years ahead reducing its seven day a week print schedule to perhaps four or five.

Others wonder if the new editor, in a move to build readership, will veer away from the agenda driven journalism that has put the paper squarely and somewhat unabashedly in the corner of Republican Governor Martinez and Republican ABQ Mayor Berry. That has caused many Democrats and independents to steer clear of it. It's not likely the conservative publisher is going to allow a major tonal change but Moses could do some welcome tweaks.

The paper's abandonment of adversarial journalism could haunt them in the months ahead as creepy crawlers that have been hiding under the Martinez-Berry carpets start surfacing as they usually do in the final years of administrations. As they do, the question will be asked: "Where was the Journal?"

Still, as the Common Cause survey shows, with more than half the public now getting political news from blogs and other social media, there is less reliance on the mainstream media. And, unfortunately for the Journal, that also applies to advertising.

Those of us involved in public affairs all want a healthy, vibrant and balanced daily newspaper but when journalism presented as objective reality is actually being shaped to bolster a particular political agenda the product becomes less valuable and relevant.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Senator Martin Heinrich gave a speech to the state House and Senate Monday:

It is long past time to put our Permanent Fund to work for early childhood education. . . Inaction is moral failure for a state with the third largest permanent fund ($15 billion) in the country and far too many children who show up to their first day of kindergarten without the skills they need to succeed. . . A failure to invest in early childhood education compounds the problem of poverty we all know must be addressed. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Good News For the Guv: House R's Will Not Support Overriding Any Possible Vetoes, Also: Budget Mess Appears On Course To End With Another Kick The Can Plan, Plus: Two Top Dems Line Up To Replace Grisham 

Good news for the Guv. The head counters report state House Republicans will likely stand firm against any tax increases and also not support overriding any gubernatorial vetoes should tax hikes somehow make it to her desk this legislative session. The Dems control the House and Senate but not by the margins they would need to override a veto.

The session is unfolding pretty much how our Alligators said it would. Gov. Martinez wants to come out of this budget crisis with no tax increases and it's not only the R's who are paving the way for her to do that. The Democrats are lending a hand. How?. . .

Well, the Santa Fe spin from the Legislative Finance Committee and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith is that things might actually look better for the  budget year that begins July 1 as tax collections are showing a slight uptick and the oil price is holding in the low 50's, above the price the state anticipated.

So what if the LFC and economists have been wrong for years on end, constantly overestimating revenue and forcing special sessions and all kinds of kick-the-can down the road measures?

Kick-the-can is a popular political game on both sides of the aisle. So if the state budget reaps $10 million for every dollar the price of oil goes up, predict it will go up $10 bucks or so and you get a fast $100 million--at least on paper.

And then there's all those esoteric state cash accounts that have been raided for one time money to keep the lights on in Santa Fe. Every year more of them seem to surface, along with an endless supply of unspent capital outlay funds tucked away that are "swept" into the budget.

Of course, none of this creates a long lasting recurring revenue stream to put the state on steady footing for the future. But it does let Martinez keep her promise of never raising taxes and the Democrats from actually having to confront the Governor who still seems to put the fear of God in them despite her fading popularity and failed austerity politics.

So forget about the sound and fury coming from the Roundhouse. You might call it #Fakenews. The fix is in--yet again.

CYFD AND YOU

Victoria Martens
The Children Youth and Families Department could use some extra gubernatorial and legislative attention. One case in particular would justify a special legislative hearing during the session. The horrid abuse and murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens continues to reverberate and the news is not good for CYFD. The agency had much more contact with the Martens family than first thought and a number of experts say they dropped the ball--big time. One of them is reader Richard Flores, a former longtime CYFD employee, who was, among other things, a treatment supervisor, investigators supervisor and CYFD regional manager: CY

It's disturbing to that CYFD has concluded that they did as much as they could in the case of Victoria Marten's. The secretary asserts that they found no evidence of abuse or neglect, and apparently did not provide additional services following four investigations. This goes against all precepts and principles of practice and clinical assessment. 

I wouldn't expect a political appointee to understand the dynamics involved in child abuse/ neglect, nor what is required in the conduct of a CPS investigation. There are many multi-referral families that come to the attention of CYFD, and most referrals are based on valid concerns posited by teachers, family members, neighbors, and concerned citizens. Neglect is insidious, often hidden from public view or entrenched in a manner that requires persistent and diligent inquiry, especially when there are multiple reports. Investigators with insufficient experience will not follow this route unless properly guided by supervisors who ostensibly would have a greater degree of experience and expertise. 

Thinking outside the box is critical when you have multiple reports of abuse or neglect. Falling back on laws and policies to answer complex issues involved in family dysfunction does little to instill confidence in the public, and to change perceptions of state mandated services for the protection of children. I hope CYFD has learned some valuable lessons from this case.

Would a state constitutional amendment allowing a small portion of the state's Land Grant Permanent Fund to be devoted to very early childhood education (which includes numerous home visits) help halt the epidemic of child abuse in the state? The amendment would require voter approval but first the legislature must give the voters a chance to vote.

CONGRESS  '18

It may be a year and a half away but the June 2018 primary for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat is well underway. Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is vacating the seat to seek the '18 Dem Guv nod and two prominent Dems have lined up to replace here. Both BernCo Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins and ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis are letting it be known they are interested and are starting to organize. And there will be more because the Dem nomination is worth a boat load. The national R's would be hard-pressed to contest the district which has turned heavily blue in the last ten years. The winner of the Dem primary is likely the next US representative.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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