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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Colón Has A Good Week On Mayor Trail And That Brings Out The LongKnives; Attacks Surface As He Hits The TV Airwaves, Plus: It's GoodbyeGarrey And For Good 

Balderas & Colón
Brian Colón had a good week on the ABQ mayoral campaign trail, firing up his supporters with the first TV ad of the season and getting solid marks for his answers to the Journal's lengthy questionnaire. But good news puts a target on your back in an eight way mayoral scramble and the mumbling and grumbling got underway in earnest when that TV spot started to play.

His foes were soon talking behind-the-scenes about the law firm he works for--Robles, Rael Anaya--and that defended one of two ABQ policemen accused in the notorious slaying of homeless camper James Boyd. How can Colón claim to be a police reformer, they mused, when his own law firm is invested in defending the current system?

And what about all those city contracts the firm gets? Will those continue under a Mayor Colón? And, if so, what are the ethical implications?

The long knives came out as well for Attorney General Balderas who barged into the mayoral contest with that TV endorsement of Colón. His critics say the AG has had a great chance to help reform APD but has taken a pass. They point out that long ago State Auditor and mayoral candidate Tim Keller delivered to Balderas a report alleging that former APD Chief Schultz rigged a $2 million city contract for Taser to supply APD with body cameras. But that report, now covered with dust, sits on the desk of Balderas while the AG argues his good friend Colón will clean up the city's crime problem and APD.

And hardcore Dems also raise the issue of that letter Colón and Balderas wrote to the State Senate Rules Committee supporting Governor Martinez's naming of Republican attorney Matt Chandler as a UNM Regent. Chandler headed up a political action committee to attack Democrats running for election. The Dem controlled state Senate did not listen to Balderas and Colón. In a rare move it defeated a regent nomination. Does playing footsie with Chandler and the Governor mean Colón will welcome the Martinez/McCleskey machine into City Hall for various deal cutting? (Robles, Rael Anaya also has hefty state contracts).

All these questions are to be expected as Colon makes his big move. The next question is whether Colón's foes (or any of the political committees backing his opponents) start making the attacks forcefully and publicly. The answer could have a significant impact on the October 3 contest.

GOODBYE GARREY 

The melodrama over NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers ended Wednesday with the school's Regents affirming their decision not to renew the former Republican Governor's contract that ends next July and voting 4 to 0 to go forward with a search for his replacement.

The Regents, a majority of whom owe their appointments to Gov. Martinez, were lobbied furiously by political and business leaders to keep Carruthers, 78, on board. They claimed  he was the subject of a Martinez vendetta because he harshly criticized her for vetoing the higher education budget. This was accompanied by speculation that Martinez herself was eyeing the chancellor job for when her Guv term ends next year.

While Carruthers and Martinez clashed over education, they still have something in common. Both are looking for new jobs.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Alan Webber
A leading NM progressive is backing Deb Haaland for the Democratic nomination for the ABQ congressional seat. Santa Fe's Alan Webber, who sought the 2010 Dem Guv nod, has endorsed Haaland's candidacy. He had a lot of hopefuls to choose from. A total of nine are seeking the Dem nod for the seat being vacated by Rep. Lujan Grisham who is running for Governor. . .

Tom Trowbridge has ended a long run as the voice of Dateline New Mexico, the five minute daily political radio broadcast that airs on about two dozen stations around the state. Trowbridge left to become the news director of Santa Fe public radio station KSFR-FM. Dateline, operated by Lorene Mills, widow of legendary broadcaster Ernie Mills, will continue with the return of former host Mark Bentley.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

All Crime All The Time: How this Crime Wave Is Different, Plus: Repeat Offenders; How Many And Who? And: The Legal Pot Beat 

U
Come on, try your best to get excited about the ABQ mayoral contest. But before you get your heart beating faster over the heat of the campaign to come, make sure you're registered to take part. From BernCo County Clerk Linda Stover:

The last day to register to vote for the 2017 ABQ Election is September 5. You may register to vote if you are a resident of New Mexico, a citizen of the United States, eighteen years old or older at the time of the next election, not legally declared mentally incapacitated, and convicted felons who have satisfied all the terms and conditions of sentencing. Voter registration information is here.

The City Clerk will administer the election but the County Clerk is responsible for voter registration.

Crime and the coverage of it is relentless during this face-off for the city's top job and that's because it is constant and widespread across the metro. That's unlike a previous crime peak in 1996 which the allies of Mayor Berry (and the Mayor) are fond of mentioning as if to downplay the current epidemic. But that long ago crime wave had much narrower geographic boundaries and we were not number one in the nation in auto theft then. Also, that crisis was resolved in a relatively short period of time under the leadership of Mayor Chavez. (Do you miss him yet?).

This current crime wave under Mayor Berry is happening in all quadrants of the city and has been ongoing for years. Sure, there's still especially high crime areas, but never have we previously heard so many citizens across the city express fear for their personal safety. Never. That's why security system sales are skyrocketing and folks continue to move out of here. That's the big difference between the 1996 crime wave and today.

Reader Steve Crespin writes with an example of how life has fundamentally changed here because of the no-end-in-sight crime outbreak:

Joe, I know crime is out of control in Albuquerque, however, I am amazed how we have started to accept it and learn to live with it. Recently I was at a Sprint store on San Mateo. While waiting to be served there were a couple of people looking at phones, then some creepy looking guy walks in and in a few minutes we heard a loud snap and the guy starts for the door. One of the Sprint employees was told by a lady that the guy just stole a phone (the loud snap was the guy ripping the cable from the wall). He just walks out the door and leaves with an $800.00 phone. The Sprint employees just go back to what they were doing as if nothing happened and the other customers went back to what they were doing as if nothing happened. When I was being served I mentioned something to the employee and he said the phone turns into "a brick" once it's reported as stolen as if it's an everyday thing. Has crime gotten so bad that we accept it as something that just happens and have learned to live with it?

P.S. One thing I failed to mention, is the police were not called. The question is how much of crime like this goes unreported because that's just the way it is. If crimes like this go unreported crime may be far worse then then we are being told.

And that may very well be another difference in this historic crime wave--fewer crimes going reported than back in the 90's because they are so common today.

WHO ARE THE REPEATERS?

What about the contention of Mayor Berry and mayoral candidate Dan Lewis that the crime wave is being caused primarily by repeat offenders. We asked retired APD Seargent Dan Klein for his thoughts:

. . . By blaming crime on “repeat offenders” without a definition of what that means, the public is just being duped. We need to know, with actual facts, exactly what type of person is a repeat offender and how much they are to blame for our current crime crisis.
I recommend that the University of New Mexico, or some independent group, review all felony arrests made in 2016 in Bernalillo County. There are thousands, but with computers this research can be done quickly.

How many of these felonies were done by first-time offenders? How many were done by people awaiting trial for other felonies? How many were committed by people out on felony probation/parole? How many were done by hardcore ex-convicts who have done prison time?

Will the number of ex-cons committing felony crimes be what we are told? That a small number of criminals are committing most of the crimes? And what is that number?
But what if we find that most arrests are for people with no prior convictions? What does that say about our community? What if the number points to people on felony probation/parole as the ones committing many criminal acts? We need to know so we can create a plan.

Good questions and ones that the next mayor could get a handle on by commissioning that study Klein recommends. Perhaps the business groups that back Mayor Berry's arguments about repeat criminal offenders could play a part by volunteering to finance such a study? Isn't it time we had some real answers instead of vague and unconfirmed statistics? Whichever way the study turned out, it would be a helpful guide for the next mayor.

MAYORAL QUESTION

Will someone please ask each of the 8 mayoral candidates if any of them plan to keep on board Rob Perry, the city's chief administrative officer? After all, that is the most powerful position in the day-to-day running of the government--not necessarily the mayor.

LEGAL POT BEAT

Uh, do we need this in an already drug-addled New Mexico? From the Denver Post:

The 2013-16 period saw a 40 percent increase in the number of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado, from 627 to 880, according to the NHTSA data. Those who tested positive for alcohol in fatal crashes from 2013 to 2015 — figures for 2016 were not available — grew 17 percent, from 129 to 151. By contrast, the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana use jumped 145 percent — from 47 in 2013 to 115 in 2016. During that time, the prevalence of testing drivers for marijuana use did not change appreciably, federal fatal-crash data show.

So far the only 2018 NM Democratic Guv candidate who is advocating for legalizing marijuana is Santa Fe's Peter DeBenedittis. Ironically, he's an alcohol-prevention teacher.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Clash Of the Governors: First Round Goes To Carruthers And It Could Be Final Round, Plus: Mayor '17: The Soft Touch Of Tim Keller; Too Soft? Tries To Find Balance On Tricky Terrain, And: Colón Is First With TV Ad; Hits Crime And Hector Helps 

Carruthers
In the clash of the Governors the first round goes to Garrey Carruthers. The Regents of New Mexico State University now say they will meet Wednesday and possibly reconsider their decision to dump Carruthers as chancellor of NMSU effective next July. And if Governor Martinez was thinking about replacing Carruthers at the helm of NMSU when her gubernatorial term expired next year, she's going to have to do some rethinking.

Carruthers, widely praised for his stewardship, let it be known that he was being dumped by the Regents and his allies were unleashed to go ballistic on Martinez who they said was behind the Carruthers coup attempt. A majority of the Regents who showed Carruthers the door were appointed by Susana.

The speculation that Martinez is eyeing the job for herself--Carruthers is paid $380,000 a year--went full blown on your blog and reached directly into the Fourth Floor when the ABQ Journal asked Martinez's office about the viral rumor:

No, the governor is not interested in being a chancellor or president of any university. The governor remains focused on leading New Mexico and fighting to make our state stronger.

For now, Susana is sidelined when it comes to NMSU. If the Regents approve a contract extension for Carruthers it would take him into 2019 when a new Governor will be in office, killing any move to place Martinez at the NMSU helm.

Carruthers, who was elected to a four year Guv term in '86, has always been a crafty political player but he has been helped by the speculation that Martinez could take his place. It was an audacious thought coming as it did following her April veto of all state funding for higher education, a move that prompted Carruthers to go public in attacking her and that prompted the war between the two Republicans. (Higher ed funding was eventually restored in a special legislative session).

NOT SHY 

Martinez and her political adviser Jay McCleskey have been anything but shy when it comes to dumping on fellow Republicans like Carruthers. Their battles with fellow R's will take on legendary status in the years ahead. They include warfare with former GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, State Senator Pat Woods, Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn and literally a cast of dozens more. But the ill-fated move on Carruthers and the subsequent running for cover by the NMSU Regents are reminders that we are dealing with a lame duck Governor whose job one is really to find herself a job.

RETIREMENT TALK 

When we first blogged of Susana's rumored interest in the NMSU post we were given state retirement info that had her possibly collecting a pension well over $200,000 if she became NMSU Chancellor for three years at a salary of say $300,000 a year. But several state employees weighed in with further info on the Public Employee Retirement Act (PERA) as well as the Educational Retirement Act (ERA). They were quick to report that while she would receive a substantial hike in her retirement payout if she were to snag the high-paying NMSU post, it would not skyrocket to the 200k area. One of those state workers writes:

The reciprocity between the two retirement plans allows you to combine ERA and PERA years of service to vest in the plan(s) but the benefits calculation would be split according to years of service in each fund. So if Susanna takes an ERA job (like head of NMSU) she will automatically be vested in the education retirement plan. If Susana earns $300k/year for three years of ERA service, she will receive 2.35% x 3yrs x $300k average = $22,500/year in ERA benefits in addition to whatever her earned PERA benefits would be. 

Since the majority of Susana's government service has been as a district attorney and Governor under PERA, most of her retirement benefits would be calculated on the salaries she received under that plan, not any short-lived, high paying gig as NMSU head. Martinez is paid $110,000 a year as Governor. Still, NMSU would be a nice retirement bump for the now 58 year old Martinez but with the Carruthers fiasco blowing up in her face, it all seems. . . well. . . academic.

THE SOFT TOUCH

Santullo
Front-running ABQ mayoral candidate Tim Keller has come with his first major social media video of the campaign, a nearly two minute piece that takes a very mellow, laid-back tone on the city and on him. For example, he says:

Unfortunately, with a combination of where we are in terms of crime and the economy we probably don't have the best reputation at this point but I think there's a lot a mayor can do with that.

We "probably don't have the best reputation?" Actually, the city's reputation is in the gutter and the camera-friendly Keller knows it, but the focus groups and polling probably reveal "hometownism" that says don't be too harsh so Keller's consultants have him walking softly. That, perhaps, is not a major problem in getting him into the run-off election between the two top vote-getters that will follow the initial October 3 balloting, but it could pose challenges in that run-off scheduled for November.

La Politica veteran Mike Santullo, 70, a former communications director for ABQ Dem Mayor Ken Schultz, as well as a pioneer of local talk radio and himself a mayoral candidate back in 1974, says the danger is that the state auditor is coming up short in the temperament department:

No matter what the focus groups show or the consultants say, I see the mood underneath this electorate as boiling. They want strong, Alpha leadership that will sit down with the next police chief and promise to kick ass and take names over what is the worst public safety crisis in the city's history. Yes, they want responsible leadership but they also want a strain of populism that articulates the fear and rage over what has happened here. That's where Keller may be coming up short. He may not be signaling enough strength.  

Right now, among the eight candidates Republican Wayne Johnson seems to be the one coming closest to tapping into that mood. But none of the candidates are being bold enough so that it would create a big head of momentum that would make them the obvious choice. Keller, as the leading progressive candidate, may be decently positioned for the run-off but it is a wide open race when it comes to the ultimate winner.

GATOR REVIEW

And one of the Alligators who is well-placed in Dem politics comes with this critique of the Keller video:

I have been to multiple community meetings in parts of the city that perform overwhelming Democratic. At all of those meetings, crime is the only issue. In Keller's two minute video, this is what his campaign has to say about crime, “Everybody is extremely concerned about public safety. Tim is the only candidate to come out with a real strong and articulate plan.” That was eight weak seconds devoted to the most important issue in this campaign in a two minute video, and it came after mentioning the ART project. WTF.

Everybody is extremely concerned about public safety? That is an understatement. In 2009, 3,399 cars were stolen in Albuquerque. Last year there were over 11,000 auto thefts. Does this video depict a person who can take control of the crime epidemic?

Santullo and the Alligators may not have to wait long for Keller to pivot to a tougher image, according to one politico close to his campaign. And expect the Keller forces to dig at Brian Colón, Keller's chief Dem rival in the contest. And on the subject of Colón. . .

FIRST TV 

Colón and Balderas
The ABQ attorney and former chairman of the NM Dem Party shook the race up a bit Monday as he became the first of the eight hopefuls to hit the broadcast TV airwaves. His campaign says his initial buy is $72,000 and if he were to do that weekly, he would end up spending about $350,000 on the tube before the October 3 balloting.

As for his first spot, it wastes no time hitting the #1 issue of crime. And it also brings forth a familiar face and Colón BFF to help Colón to corral the critical Hispanic vote. Attorney General Hector Balderas is featured as much in the ad as Colón.

The ad highlights how a small business owner stopped a would-be carjacker and is now supporting Colón. Another small business owner--a Hispanic woman--also weighs in for Colón. Balderas says:

Brian will put more police on the street to protect our families and keep dangerous criminals behind bars 

The ad finishes with what may become the candidate's slogan: "Because enough is enough."

Insider polling has Colón in 4th place behind Keller and Republicans Dan Lewis and Wayne Johnson--but there is a huge block of voters--40 percent--who are still undecided. Colón hopes his TV will be the key in vaulting him into at least second place and getting into the Nov. 7 run-off. Here's Alligator analysis of his maiden TV outing:

Hector helps with Hispanics. It seems like Colón is riding Balderas's popularity. That's smart. Colón polling must show that only crime matters. He is not even introducing himself to the voters. The video of the crimes being committed will get people's attention. The business owner in the commercial is the same guy who chased away the carjackers. Here is the TV news story about the incident. Getting him to do the commercial is a good move. I remember the story when it ran. At some point, Colon will need to introduce himself. I think starting with crime, a business owner who protected his clients and Balderas was a good move. It's somewhat soft but lays the groundwork for the necessary toughness that must follow. 

And a contrary view from a Keller supporter:

It's always nice to be the first one up with an ad, but for a guy with low name i.d. that is polling tied for 4th in some internal polls, this is not the ad that breaks you through. This ad is trying to do too much. An endorsement from Hector, 2 small businesses people telling their stories, some surveillance video and a guy running for mayor. You wonder, who is this Brian Colón they're talking about? The reason Colón won his Lieutenant Governor primary in 2010 is because he came with a compelling bio piece that stood out and told you who he was and why he is running. I'm sure that sappy stuff is coming from Brian but with so much ground to cover he needs to move numbers and instead he's confused the message and put a target on his back for opponents.

Perhaps, but he has the money to run a lot of TV ads and his opponents mostly don't. One other thing. Why did Colón launch his TV campaign on Monday? From the City Clerk's Office:

(Today is the) first day for the City Clerk to issue absentee ballots to voters whose applications have been approved. (And it is the) first day for Absentee in-person voting at the Office of the City Clerk.

To quote the Carpenters, when it comes to the mayoral media campaign, we've only just begun.

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
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