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Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Photo Blogging And Hanna's DC Detour Apparently Dead 

Sens. Smith and Wirth
You might call them "Co-Majority Leaders." The one with the actual title is liberal Dem Senator Peter Wirth of Santa Fe, but conservative Dem Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming holds at least as much sway, if not more when it comes to economic policy.

That's why the tax package the Senate and House sent the Governor does not include a politically popular increase in the income tax for the "one percenters." That would help bail out the budget. Instead, Smith ushered through a ten cent a gallon boost in the unpopular gas tax. It made sense from a policy perspective but the Governor will veto the gas tax, claiming she is again sparing "hard working New Mexicans."  Could she say the same if she cast a veto against a very modest income tax increase on the wealthiest taxpayers?

Wouldn't it have been best for the Dems to include a bit of both in that package--the gas tax and the boost on the one percenters? Yes, but with "Co-Majority Leader" Smith unchallenged and controlling just enough other conservative Democratic votes to prevent passage, it was not to be. The tax policy they came up with wasn't bad but without something for those "hard working families" the Dems bombed in the messaging department.

Photo: Eddie Moore, ABQ Journal.

HANNA HELD BACK

One of our Senior Alligators (accuracy rate 99%) had it pretty much on the mark when he told us back in November that controversial NM Sec. of Education Hanna Skandera was planning to bolt to DC for a nice job with the federal Dept. of Education. Our report was shot down by Skandera, but Politico then reported she was indeed under consideration. Now comes word that Skandera is apparently stuck here and all those teachers who don't care for her are stuck with her. Conservative Senate Republicans, reportedly upset with her over her support of Common Core standards for education, have nixed her move to DC, again according to Politco.

That news is certainly devastating for Skandera who has close ties to the Bush political dynasty but none to the ruling Trump family. And it bodes poorly for Gov. Martinez if she pursues a ticket out of here via Trump. Martinez refused to endorse Trump for president and he is known to hold a grudge. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if word arrived soon that the White House had a hand in cancelling Hanna's escape from the Land of Entrapment.

SOMETHING POSITIVE

Reader Marc writes:

Joe, how about something positive?  Take a look at the Best View in NM as reported by Travel and Leisure magazine...and it's in Albuquerque!

We like it, Marc. That view is nicely above the carjackings and the ART traffic jams.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sen. Cervantes Next Up For '18 Dem Guv Race; Says "He's All In", Plus: First Big Reversal In Mayor's Race; Colón Now Says Eden Would Be Out, And: A Not So Special Welcome To ABQ 

Sen. Cervantes
Next in line to announce their candidacy for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination is veteran legislator Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces. He tells me: "I am all in" and says he will make a formal entry into the contest in April.

Already the big question hovering over the state Senator is how much of his considerable personal wealth he will put at risk in pursuing the nomination. A political consultant who has worked with Cervantes said he has advised the candidate that if he opts to personally finance his effort he should be prepared to bring $1 to $2 million to the table. Cervantes offered no comment to us on his financing plans.

A mention of a possible Cervantes candidacy has drawn chuckles from some longtime political observers who remember his past tentativeness in deciding whether to get in big state races. But he says this time there will be no hesitation.

The attorney, a 12 year House member who was elected to the Senate from Dona Ana County in 2012 and re-elected in '16, is expected to run as a moderate Democrat, pitting him against what is expected to be a more liberal campaign from ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham who has already announced her candidacy.

Expected to also officially hop in the race soon is ABQ businessman Jeff Apodaca, the son of former NM Gov. Jerry Apodaca. He and Cervantes appear to be vying for much of the same Dem vote.

In a bit of irony, if Cervantes were to become governor he would be the first legislator to do so since Jeff's father, also a state Senator from Las Cruces, pulled off the feat in 1974.

Attorney General Hector Balderas is another big name still on the sidelines in the Dem Guv battle. A decision on whether he will jump in is expected sooner rather than later.

REVERSING ON EDEN

Brian Colón
We've had the first major policy reversal among the ABQ mayor candidates. Former NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colón, who has been hedging on whether if, as mayor, he would fire APD Chief Gorden Eden, reversed himself at a Tuesday North Valley mayoral forum, saying he has told Eden if he wins Eden is out.

But in a February interview with the ABQ Free Press, Colón said he was undecided about firing Eden, saying then,  "Anyone who has devoted themselves to public service deserves to have a sit-down with their new boss."

That might have been the end of it, but then Colón was back with mixed messaging about Eden in a campaign fundraising letter from Jered Trujillo sent following the mayoral forum:

I was impressed that Brian was the only mayoral candidate to have reached out to the current Chief of Police. Improving public safety is a cornerstone to Brian’s campaign, and his involvement of those on the front lines shows he will involve those with experience at the table.

Colón's gaming of both sides of the political aisle has been his early strategy. Whether it stands the test of time and scrutiny remains to be seen.

GOOD CROWD

A large crowd for a mayoral forum--about 150--turned out, perhaps signaling a healthier interest and a good voter turnout come October 3. For Colón it may have signaled that with the city facing deep-seated problems he and the other major hopefuls--all of whom earlier said that Chief Eden would not be retained--could be facing an electorate that is keenly interested in the meat and potatoes of policy concerning the crime wave fueled in large part by drug addiction, speeding up Federally mandated APD reforms and bolstering our city's long-standing anemic economy.

The forum was welcome but early. Come April 28, when candidates are required to turn in 3,000 petition signatures from registered city voters, the field that now numbers in the double-digits will thin considerably.

Sadly, here's the latest example of monumental mismanagement at APD that the new mayor will have to confront:

The Albuquerque Police Department has gone $3.9 million over budget to pay overtime for its strained and understaffed force, according to a report from the city's Internal Audit Office. The office has been looking into APD's overtime spending after an anonymous tip came into the office. The findings show overtime APD spending soaring to nearly $4 million over the $8.9 million overtime budget in 2016. It is a pattern that seems to show overtime spending climbing as officer numbers decrease. The Albuquerque police officer's union says it puts cops and the people they serve in danger.

WELCOME TO ABQ

And then there's this most common and menacing crime in the city. . .

A visitor flew into Albuquerque from Atlanta Tuesday for a golf trip, but moments after landing at the Sunport, he had a gun in his face as a victim of a carjacking. David Carpenter was loading his luggage into his friend’s BMW curbside when the suspects pulled up in a small sedan. “The girl screams at us to get out, another guy comes up with a gun, points it at us, tells us to get out of the fucking car,” Carpenter said. Carpenter grabbed his computer and golf bags from the BMW. “They were still pointing the gun at us, and we backed off behind the car and about that time, all the police cars came around,” he said.

Don't worry, David. All will end well with Mayor Berry presenting you with the keys to the city--if they haven't already been stolen.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ABQ Free Press Ends Print Run; Will Stay On-Line, APD Street Cred Hit In Martens Case, And: A Letter From Austin Lamenting What's Happened To Our Beloved Duke City  

The ABQ Free Press was tilting against the windmills when it launched as a print publication a couple of years ago in an increasingly digital environment. That run has now come to an end. The weekly has discontinued its print edition, but will still be up and running as an on-line publication. The feisty journalism delivered by writers like Dennis Domrzalski will still be available there.

ABQ attorney Will Ferguson, the publisher of the outlet who has financially backed the enterprise, will now do so on-line as the outlet works to monetize what editor Dan Vukelich says will be a "robust" Internet presence.

Speaking of the Free Press, retired police sergeant Dan Klein recently authored an opinion piece that earned a good deal of attention:

APD is fond of saying, “If you see something, say something,” especially when it comes to the abuse of children. . . But the events leading up to the murder of 9-year-old Victoria Martens say otherwise. After another 9-year-old, Omaree Varela, was killed in December 2013, APD Chief Gorden Eden promised that the department would do a better job of protecting our children. Taxpayers paid for a study that came up with new guidelines to ensure that our most vulnerable children would be protected. Three years after Omaree’s death, it appears that the only change at APD has come in its ability to spin the news. It ignored its own policy in the case of little Victoria, who in August 2016 allegedly was drugged, beaten, raped, murdered and mutilated by her mother and two others.

As for APD, its funny how the town barely blinks at news like this that in a different time would have had people in an uproar:

The City of Albuquerque reached a settlement agreement with the family of a woman killed when an Albuquerque Police Department officer ran a red light and caused a crash. The city will pay $8.5 million to Ashley Browder's family, according to a press release from the law firm representing the family. The 21-year-old Browder died on Feb. 10, 2013, when then-APD Sgt. Adam Casaus sped through a red light at Paseo del Norte and Eagle Ranch Road and collided with Browder's car. Ashley Browder's sister, Lindsay, was seriously injured.

$8.5 million out the door with more millions to come. What a malignancy on City Hall.

And the APD news rolls on. . .

Now some of the City Councilors are being accused of trying to wiggle out of their responsibility to rebuild and fully staff the severely understaffed and troubled APD. The Council has approved spending $50,000 to study a consolidation of APD with the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department. One of the mayoral candidates, Republican Dan Lewis, is behind the study. He's going to find just how unpopular that idea is when the campaign is fully joined. Meantime, the current mayor, RJ Berry, has his hands full. . .

The unpopular ART project that is tearing up Central Avenue to put in rapid transit has Berry taking hits citywide. Now there's the news that the federal funding for the project is threatened and could lead to a fiscal nightmare for the city. Reader Melanie Majors jokes:

Well, after the budget news about ART, I don't know if there will be a rail around to run Mayor Berry out of town with!

HELLO FROM AUSTIN

Reader Paul Nixon, formerly of ABQ and now of Austin, writes:

Hi, Joe. I’ve been reading your blog for many years, dating back to the time when I worked for two Attorneys General in New Mexico. Although I’ve been living in Austin since I left Albuquerque in 2007, I still  keep an eye on what’s happening because I vowed one day that I would return. But it’s shocking to observe, even as an outsider, what’s happening there:

--The explosion in crime.

--The mass exodus of population from the state.

--The continued cutting yo the bone (now into the marrow?) of education funding.

--The ridiculous compromise on predatory lending affecting New Mexico’s most dire population.

--No impactful movement on ethics oversight.

--An ABQ mayor seemingly hell-bent on tearing up an historic and vibrant section of his own city for a project whose funding is now in serious jeopardy from Trump’s budget cuts, and worst of all. . . 

--An entire population of proud people suffering from low employment, high poverty, and lack of hope or opportunity.

I don’t believe you’re using hyperbole when describing these issues. Yet, it’s almost as if the leadership there in New Mexico is only arguing over who gets to ride shotgun in the fire truck while Rome burns. As someone who dearly loves the state and its people, what can I or anyone else as non-residents do to help turn things around? I always brag how I worked for the people of your great state and try to recommend that people visit as often as I can. But I’m almost starting to fear that they would be a crime victim or see the sad shape of the cities and population. It’s not a rhetorical question that I ask: what can I do to help?

Thank you for reading and thank you for the effort you put into your blog. Please send me the New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan t-shirt.

Thanks for that insightful missive, Paul. There's not much we can add except to say the last of the t-shirts went to Jay McCleskey, Pat Rogers and Mickey Barnett. But we hope to have a new batch ready real soon.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Susana's Rehab Could Last Months; Ski Accident Gives New Meaning To Lame Duck, Plus: "The Martinez-Sanchez Economy" And: Nagging Nate 

They call the Governor a lame-duck because she can't seek another term but as reader Greg Lennes points out, because of her recent skiing mishap that label may soon take on a literal meaning for Susana:

This Governor could miss a lot of work after her fun trip to Utah. Unlike a broken leg, the diagnosis for a torn ACL usually means surgery and nine months of rehab. Thank goodness she is not a teacher.

Maybe the Governor will be one of the lucky ones and avoid surgery. If not, there will be robust demand for any pics of her walking around the Roundhouse on crutches.

Meanwhile, Martinez is deciding on when to call lawmakers back into special session to resolve the budget stalemate, but upset Senators are in no mood to deal with her. One scenario making the rounds has the Senate repeating what happened in last fall's special session over the budget: The Senate meets, approves a budget and adjourns. The House would then have to stay in session for three days to force the Senate to return when a final agreement would be cobbled out. What would be in that agreement, however, is  unknown.

One of the Alligators wants to vent over the legislative session and it's a pretty epic rant:

The disconnect between our pampered political class and the harsh reality most New Mexicans face couldn't have been on greater display than it was during this meaningless session of the Legislature. If this session hadn't happened, no one in New Mexico would have known the difference.

Donald Trump's Twitter feed has more impact and meaning to the people of NM than this session did; a session that didn't address jobs, didn't address the economy, didn't address early childhood education, didn't address payday and title loan sharks (capping interest rates at 175% is some sort of victory?); this session didn't address anything meaningful to the average New Mexican.

Once again, it was all about self-congratulatory legislators and their lobbyist enablers occasionally tinkering at the edges but ultimately propping up a failed status quo. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the Roundhouse has become little more than a well-heeled and privileged collection of 112 rubber-stamping, status quo adherents who signify nothing to the real people of our state, and NM's death spiral will continue as a result. And the group most to blame are the Democrats in the Legislature who would rather go along and get along with their Republican masters because they have no true political convictions or passion of their own to match this state's minority party.


Our take: The session was not "meaningless" as our Gator and the Governor assert. It's just that what was addressed and the small accomplishments made are dwarfed by the crises in unemployment, economic stagnation and social conditions that the state faces but seems unable to confront in the big way necessary.

JOHN AND SUSANA

It appears state Dems are preparing for the possible '18 GOP Guv candidacy of Lt. Gov. John Sanchez. They are starting to hang Susana around his neck. From the state party:

Martinez-Sanchez Veto of a living wage prioritizes donor class over New Mexican families. . . Gov. Martinez said this weekend that she will veto modest minimum wage increases that the House and Senate delivered to her desk. There’s a reason the Martinez-Sanchez economy is one of the worst in the country. Governor Martinez and Lt. Governor Sanchez spend too much time pleasing their corporate donors at the expense of hardworking New Mexican families. 

The "Martinez-Sanchez economy?" Is that like the "Richardson-Denish economy" of 2010?

NAGGING NATE

Rep. Gentry
Democrats just might get somewhere in the budget talks if they put some heat on House Minority Leader Nate Gentry in his ABQ NE Heights district. Take a look:

Nine House Republicans represent Clinton turf, while only two Democratic House members hold Trump seats. State Rep. Gentry holds the most pro-Clinton seat of any of the nine Republicans. Gentry’s Albuquerque-area HD-30 went from 50-44 Obama to 48-37 Clinton, with Johnson taking 12; Gentry won his fourth term 52-48.

Despite the walloping Trump received in his district and Gentry's own close call, he is still acting like a dyed-in-the-wool R. If the Dems worked him over in his district with robocalls etc. before the special session, could that make a difference in cracking open the House GOP caucus? Another question might be do the Dems care enough and have the intestinal fortitude to try?

MAYORAL SHRINKAGE

As expected the ABQ mayoral field has already begun to shrink. Radio station owner and unabashed Trump supporter Eddy Aragon became the first of the 14 announced hopefuls to call it quits. He told his radio audience Monday that he will not have the time to devote six months to the campaign because of his business obligations. Candidates must turn in to the city clerk 3,000 valid signatures of registered city voters by the end of April. That's a big reason why the field will continue to shrink.

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, March 20, 2017

Winners And Losers From The 2017 New Mexico Legislative Session  

Sen. Ingle
While we wait for the Governor to announce the date for the special session, let's take a look at our annual winners and losers list from the just completed regular 60 day legislative session:

Winner: The big winner of this legislative session was. . drum roll please. . .that wily Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle. In quite the under reported story, Ingle agreed to the lean $6.1 billion state budget sent to Martinez by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. And he brought along many of his colleagues as the budget won approval 38-8. That budget, which the Governor is rejecting, includes a number of tax increases, including a ten cent a gallon tax on gasoline. Ingle is a conservative R. The difference between him and the radical Republicans in the House is his belief in governing flexibly.

There are times (as rare as they may be in Ingle's view) but there are times when the state needs to raise some revenue. This is one of those times. Sometimes you cut 'em and sometimes you raise 'em. That's how it used to be when New Mexico was working. Now Ingle will need to continue to take a stand against gubernatorial unreasonableness as we enter a special session. It's not like the 30 year legislative veteran hasn't done that before.

WINNER: You would expect a Democrat to move to override the veto of a Republican Governor. But Rio Rancho Republican state Senator Craig Brandt surprised nearly everyone when he refused to back down and moved forward with a successful Senate override of Gov. Martinez's veto of a teacher sick leave bill (the override failed in the House). Brandt managed to get half the GOP senators to go along with him, as Martinez's sway over the freshly elected Senators was put to the test as she nears the end of her term. Still, it took guts to stand up to Martinez whose political machine has set  records for payback and vindictiveness. Will Brandt use his success with the override to take a more prominent position in the Republican Party in the post-Martinez era? We'll see.

WINNER: The payday loan industry may have looked like they got the short-end of a compromise that took the top interest rate they can charge from 375% to 175%. But considering that in other states the high rate is 35 percent this was a shrewd play for the payday loan industry, with some calling it a legislative embarrassment. It sure had the well-paid payday lobbyists smiling all they way to the bank where the interest rates for a loan is more like 3 or 4 percent.

WINNER: Ethics advocates scored an overdue victory when he Legislature finally relented and agreed to ask voters to approve a state ethics commission at the '18 election. Whether it was as "historic" as they claimed was open to debate. Much of the details will be filled in after the voters approve the amendment which they are expected to do. That gives opposition lawmakers plenty of time to work out sabotage plans.  Still, the fact that the word ethics is on its way to being in the state Constitution is a win.

WINNER: Yet another GOP Senator entered the winner's circle when the Governor's political guru, Jay McCleskey, sounded off against him and got a pointed response. ABQ GOP Senator Sander Rue sponsored a bill that would shine more light on the Governor's contingency fund that she uses for parties and the like. That soured Advance NM Now, the PAC run by McCleskey, which accused Rue of sponsoring the bill because Martinez had vetoed a measure that would have allowed Rue and other lawmakers who did not sign up in time for the legislative pension system to still get  pensions. Rue's comeback was a classic:

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do harbor hurt feelings that I was not invited to her ‘pizza party.’ It must have been a heck of a shindig if the police were called out to break it up. By the way, it was paid for from the governor’s contingency fund; SB 27 would require an accounting of how that taxpayer money is spent.”

Lt. Gov. Sanchez
LOSERS: Lt. Gov. Sanchez again did a great job presiding over the state Senate but did nothing--absolutely nothing--to publicly separate himself from an increasingly unpopular Governor who he may try to succeed by seeking the '18 GOP gubernatorial nomination. But as presiding officer of the Senate and in tandem with new Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth they made music together. Too bad they can't run for something together.

LOSER: It's darn hard for Gov. Martinez see her relevancy wane but wildly vetoing bills that get near unanimous legislative approval is no way to get back in the game. And now the Supreme Court could rule that the Governor did not properly veto a handful of the bills and they will become law. A lot more could be said on why this was a lousy session for Martinez, including the news that was dropped on her that the state's unemployment rate is now the worst in the nation.

LOSER: Keith Gardner, the Governor's chief of staff, is now looking like Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer. If Martinez appeared naked in public but insisted she was wearing clothes, you could count on Keith to swear to it. There's a difference between loyalty and unquestioning servitude. There's probably a number of fires Gardner put out behind the scenes that he will never get credit for, but being unable to bring Martinez to the table on the budget--which was so close--will go down as one of his big failings. Maybe he can reverse it in the upcoming special.

LOSER: It wasn't much of a budget cut but it was a cut and could foreshadow even more of them down the road. Contained in the budget sent to Martinez was a one percent cut across the board for higher education. The public schools managed to escape with no cuts and a flat budget. They have public support but the universities are still fair target practice for revenue starved lawmakers. If things don't improve, they could be in for some more.

LOSER: The Legislature took heat in this corner and elsewhere for wasting time talking about making the green chile cheeseburger the state's official burger as well as adopting an official state song. There's a time and place for that stuff but with the condition of the state today, it was imply the wrong optic. And so there it sits on the loser list: the New Mexico Green Chile Hamburger. Now you know we're in trouble.

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