Thursday, December 21, 2017

Our Latest Edition Of Reader Vox Populi and Merry Christmas, New Mexico! 

How about an edition of reader Vox Populi hot off the presses to take us into the holidays? You got it.

Reader Fred Moran writes of the outbreak of hostilities between the camps of Dem Guv contenders Jeff Apodaca and Rep. Lujan Grisham over sex harassment:

Leave it to Democrats to snatch defeat from the mouth of victory. After two terms of a brutal Martinez administration, I could finally feel the winds of change coming to NM's government. While Grishom and Apodaca battle over sex related issues, New Mexicans would rather hear how these candidates, if elected, would approach the serious problems we face day to day. 

Dem strategy seems to be to form a circle and fire at will. It makes me seriously wonder if being Governor is more about personal power than representation of the citizenry. Oh well, things just got a little brighter for Mr. Pearce.

One of the Dem Guv candidates has been busy talking about the issues, Fred. Under-the-radar hopeful Peter DeBenedittis came with this serving of meat and potatoes this week:

Dr. Peter DeBenedittis has made single-payer health care his gubernatorial campaign’s top priority. DeBenedittis’ People First Campaign has just released a short video demonstrating the need for single-payer health care.

Another disgruntled Dem of the Senior Alligator variety also unloaded on both Grisham and Apodaca:

Whoever is on the Lujan Gisham team that is advising her to unload her opposition research on Jeff Apodaca in December of 2017 is really missing the mark. All she had to do was cruise and ride the women's wave to victory in the Democratic primary. Instead, she jumped in the lagoon with Jeff the swamp creature. It's Christmas for God's sake and no one wants to read about alleged missed kisses at whiffleball games or offended intern disputes. Get over yourselves and try to act Gubernatorial. 

Tell us about your economic plan or why you are less of a hot mess than Susana Martinez (because you both are starting to make us wonder. . . ). If this is the tone throughout 2018 people are really going to get sick and tired of Jeff and Michelle.


Our mention of the 45th anniversary this month of the moonwalk by astronaut and former NM GOP US Senator Harrison "Jack" Schmitt brought this comment from Jodi McGinnis Porter, his former PR staffer for his short-lived stint as the state's secretary for energy and minerals:

Senator Schmitt never refused a background check by the Senate Rules Committee. As a former United States astronaut he has had top secret government security clearances and is not new to background checks. He refused to sign a Release of Liability for the misuse of private his private information for the company doing the investigation.

We relied on news reports from 2011 in blogging about the background check.

Reader Alan Wagman checks in with an interesting Schmitt angle:

It is fitting that Harrison Schmitt became an astronaut, because he was born in space. In Grant County, people who were born in Santa Rita are referred to as having been born in space. This is because the site of the town of Santa Rita hovers in space over the open pit Chino Mine. Many of the houses in Santa Rita were moved to Silver City, fifteen miles away.

Talk bout learning something new every day, Alan. That sure fits.

And Reader George Richmond keeps us in the south with this comment on the NM Spaceport:

Recently, Virgin Galactic announced that its suborbital space trips are likely next year and will move many employees to the Las Cruces area. Then they announced a deal with the Italian Space Agency for launches from the NM Spaceport. So, it appears that Sir Richard Branson's venture into the space business is "taking wings and really starting to fly."

Perhaps the Martinez Administration might use this opportunity to sell the Spaceport to Branson's Virgin Galactic, or at least ask for bids and get this white Turkey out of our lives. Early childhood education could use the money.

"White Turkey," George? Didn't you mean "white elephant?" Or do we need to go hunting in Catron County?

This reader reacts to the misspelling of the word "gift" as "git" during our blogging of the Christmas gifts the politicos will be getting:

Is that supposed to be "gift"? Although, I kind of like "git." too. For some reason it seems to work: Git (slang) ... Git is a term of insult with origins in British English denoting an unpleasant, silly, incompetent, stupid, annoying, senile, elderly or childish person. As a mild oath it is roughly on a par with prat and marginally less pejorative than berk.

Okay, now we git it.


This is our 15th Christmas on the blog and we're thankful for your continued interest today and through the years. We look forward to informing and entertaining you in 2018. Blogging will be light through January 1.

Enjoy this special time of year and. . .

Merry Christmas, New Mexico!

Okay Frank, take us outta here. . .

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Apodaca And Lujan Grisham Battle Over Sex Harassment Escalates, About Those Tax Cuts, And: Jack Schmitt 45 Years Later  

Like we said yesterday, the season of goodwill is on hold for Jeff Apodaca and Michelle Lujan Grisham. The two candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination are now on nasty terrain over competing charges of sex harassment.

Apodaca claims a transgender intern was fired from Grisham's congressional office because of her sex. That sent the tongues wagging and they were wagging again when Apodaca was accused by a Grisham supporter of making an unwanted advance:

A political supporter of  Lujan Grisham accused (Apodaca) of attempting to kiss her on the mouth at a social event. Marianna Anaya, 28, of Albuquerque said that Apodaca tried to kiss her on the mouth earlier this year at a whiffle ball game in Santa Fe that brought together staff from the Democratic Party and the American Federation of Teachers. "While shaking hands after the game, Jeff — who I didn't know was Jeff at the time — came up to me totally smelling of beer and tried to kiss me on the lips," she said. 

Apodaca's campaign called the allegation absolutely false and an attempt to divert attention from claims that Lujan Grisham discriminated against a transgender intern. Insurance agent Laurie Martinez said she attended the whiffle ball event and disputed Anaya's account. She has known Apodaca since 1979. "I was there and I've never seen Jeff act in an inappropriate way," she said. 

Apodaca has called on US House Minority Leader Pelosi to investigate Grisham over the dismissal of intern Riley Del Ray. What, if anything, comes of that request as well as the Anaya charges, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, rest assured there will be no kissing under the mistletoe between Michelle and Jeff.


On our Christmas gift list for the politicos Monday we blogged:

Gov. Martinez--Santa has buffed up the Guv's resume and by the end of '18 he hopes to land her a good paying slot in the private sector. Chief Marketing Officer for Dion's Pizza is a possible, says Santa.

Reader Cheryl Haaker could not resist:

No! No! A thousand times no! We've been enjoying Dion's for over 30 years. It's a good place, and we don't want it messed up. Send the ex-Gov to "Wise Pies." Seems more her style. More flash than substance, fades over the long haul. A real "whatever happened to..." business, much like our Governor's second term.


We blogged recently of the ABQ city council:

"Sanchez, Pena and Borrego are from districts that supported Mayor Keller but are more conservative socially and economically and heavily Hispanic. Pena dragged her feet in endorsing Keller in the run-off and all three Westside councilors have been sympathetic towards the Santolina development project for the far Westside--not a fave of Keller's."

Councilor Borrego says in response:

FYI- I have not stated an opinion on my view of this project. Just wanted to let you know. 

Whether a position of neutrality is "sympathetic" to Santolina or not, we'll let you decide.


The Legacy PAC supporting the Governor is bragging in the mailboxes that she cut taxes 37 times. We pointed out that most of those were merely reapproving tax relief already on the books. Syndicated columnist Harold Morgan says this:

It is not true that the administration’s much proclaimed 37 tax cuts all were merely extensions of tax breaks already passed. Nor is it true that there were 37 cuts; there were 36. 

In January I did a column analyzing the cuts. The Governor’s office provided the list. Yes, a number of these “cuts” extend previously enacted tax credits or gross receipts exemptions such as House Bill 273 in 2011 for an R & D credit.

The one bill amounting to something was HB 523 in 2011 extending the exemption of locomotive fuel from gross receipts tax. In response Union Pacific promptly built its multimodal facility near Santa Teresa.

Harold did not mention one major tax cut that Martinez can take credit for--the cut in the corporate income tax in 2013. It remains controversial to this day because when passed it was argued that it would cause corporations to move here. That hasn't happened.


We ran into former GOP US Senator Harrison "Jack" Schmitt not long ago enjoying dinner with family and friends at the Prairie Star restaurant in Bernalillo. The 82 year old is fit and engaged and this month, besides celebrating the holidays, Schmitt may take a moment to ponder this event as relayed by the NM GOP:

. . .It was this month 45 years ago when astronaut and lunar pilot Harrison Schmitt walked on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission. Schmitt was one of only a dozen NASA astronauts to accomplish such a feat and it remains one of New Mexico’s shining moments nearly half a century later.

Schmitt was born in Santa Rita and studied at the California Institute of Technology and Harvard University before becoming a trained astrogeologist, a jet pilot, and then an astronaut.  Senator Schmitt is part of the fabric of our state, as well as our nation’s rich history of space exploration. 

As New Mexicans, we are proud of Sen. Harrison Schmitt, our homegrown hero who accomplished what few others have. 

Jack was elected to the Senate in 1976, defeating incumbent Joe Montoya, but in 1982 Democrat Jeff Bingaman defeated Schmitt when he sought re-election. Bingaman served longer in the Senate than Schmitt but then he did not step on the moon.

Jack, now an elder statesman, did not take the bait when we tried to lure him into a discussion about current state political events. Maybe he had his share when Gov. Martinez in 2011 named him as secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department but he was denounced by environmentalists because of his views on climate change and refused to subject himself to a background check by the Senate Rules Committee. That  ended his short tenure.

The former Senator told us he and his wife like keeping up with events and are regular readers of the blog. Well, like the moon, New Mexico politics is out of this world so it's no surprise La Politica continues to have its appeal to our New Mexican astronaut.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sneak Peek: Santa's Christmas Gifts To State's Politicos Revealed, Plus: Apodaca Fires Pre-Holiday Volley At Lujan Grisham 

Santa Claus won't forget the politicos. Our sources at the North Pole are in the know and give you an exclusive sneak peek at the gifts that will find their way under the trees of those politicos this Chirstmas:

Gov. Martinez--Santa has buffed up the Guv's resume and by the end of '18 he hopes to land her a good paying slot in the private sector. Chief Marketing Officer for Dion's Pizza is a possible, says Santa.

Jay McCleskey--The Governor's consigliere has been given a special gift from Santa--no FBI search warrants for all of 2018.

Keith Gardner--The Governor's Chief of Staff is getting what his boss is getting--a buffed up resume so he can land in the private sector when the Governor's term ends next year. One possibility: rainmaker for the Robert Aragon law firm.

Brian Egolf--The Speaker of the NM House will be getting a surprise Christmas card from Rep. Debbie Rodella, saying she won't run against him for Speaker anytime soon. You can thank Santa, Mr. Speaker.

Peter Wirth--Santa has s special gift for the Senate Majority Leader--a completely rewritten rule book on how to handle sex harassment. Santa isn't mentioning names, just that the Leader may be in need of that book.

Hector Balderas---The Attorney General will be getting free firewood from Santa this year. It will come from all of those leftover "Brian Colon for ABQ Mayor" signs.

Tim Keller--Santa is arranging for ABQ City Council President Ken Sanchez to run for State Auditor, win the election and then resign from the council next year thus removing a major thorn in the new mayor's side.

Michelle Lujan Grisham--Santa says he is going to solve all her lieutenant governor woes and make former State Rep. Rick Miera--"The Quiet Candidate"--the Democratic nominee (but do the voters know it?).

Steve Pearce--Santa says he will reveal to the congressman and likely GOP Guv nominee on Christmas morning that he has great-great-grandparents who were born in Rio Arriba County, thus giving Pearce a chance of actually winning in '18.

Mike Geier--Santa is gong to be generous with the new APD chief. He is giving him a year's supply of Sominex and Prilosec. And you know why.

Nate Gentry--Santa says he gave his gift to the state House Minority Leader early when GOP State Rep. Dennis Roche announced he will not seek re-election, removing Gentry's chief rival from his sight.

Manny Gonzales--You guessed it. Santa is sparing no expense and giving the Bernalillo County Sheriff 100 video lapel cameras for his deputies. The only catch is that the cameras come with a strict "no return" policy.

Jeff Apodaca and Joe Cervantes--Santa's gift to the two Dem gubernatorial candidates is six hours of free mediation to decide which one of them will get out of the race so the other could stand a chance of beating Lujan Grisham. Guv hopeful Peter DeBenedittis has been invited to observe.

Martin Heinrich--Santa promises the US Senator who is up for re-election in 2018 that there will be a poll soon that shows his job approval rating above 50 percent. But Santa won't say when.

Mick Rich--The likely GOP nominee to run against Heinrich will be awarded a name change by Santa Claus. Starting Christmas Day Rich will be known as "Richie Rich," finally giving him some name ID.

John Sanchez--Santa goes high-tech for his gift for the lieutenant governor. He will be given a free memory erasure session at the Mayo Clinic at which all memories of the past seven years will be permanently wiped. Santa values this gift as "priceless."

It seems Santa has been more than generous to our politicos. Now let's see how giving they are to Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico in the new year.


Goodwill toward men and all that will have to wait a few days for Dem Governor candidate Jeff Apodaca. Trailing far behind Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham in fund-raising and presumably public opinion, Apodaca fired a pre-holiday volley at Grisham Monday as he began to play the long game of catch-up:

(Apodaca) is asking U.S. House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to investigate claims Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham discriminated against a transgender intern. Apodaca said that Pelosi should launch a formal congressional ethics investigation into the charges from a former intern with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Riley Del Rey says she was fired from Lujan Grisham's office because of her transgender identity. Apodaca says "harassment and discrimination are totally unacceptable."

Grisham has denied any wrongdoing regarding Riley Del Rey. She did not directly respond to Apodaca's request for an investigation, but she did post pictures of herself on Facebook posing with members of the transgender community. They were from Equality New Mexico's recent Queersmas party.

Meanwhile, the demise of Michael Padilla as both a lieutenant governor candidate and Senate Majority Whip, events hastened by Rep. Grisham who called on him to get out of the lieutenant governor's race, has gone over well with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party but in the heavy Democratic ABQ South Valley--Padilla's home turf--the move has been more controversial and insiders say it may have created an opportunity for Apodaca there.


We blogged recently of the ABQ City Council:

"Sanchez, Pena and Borrego are from districts that supported Mayor Keller but are more conservative socially and economically and heavily Hispanic. Pena dragged her feet in endorsing Keller in the run-off and all three Westside councilors have been sympathetic towards the Santolina development project for the far Westside--not a fave of Keller's."

Councilor Borrego says in response:

FYI- I have not stated an opinion on my view of this project. Just wanted to let you know. 

Whether a position of neutrality is "sympathetic" to Santolina or not, we'll let you decide.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Lumps Of Coal In Keller's Christmas Stocking: Budget Deficit Revealed, Council Gets Balky And Hiring More Cops Could Take Years, Plus: Sen. Padilla's Second Fall; Ousted As Whip After Withdrawing From Lt. Gov. Contest 

Mayor Keller 
An anemic economy failing to produce enough revenue to run the city, a balky city council and a years-long timetable to recruit even just 100 more APD officers. Those are the lumps of coal in Mayor Tim Keller's Christmas stocking.

The largest lump was the surfacing of the budget news. Former Mayor Berry had projected that the city's gross receipts tax revenue would grow at an optimistic 3 percent, but the city has not seen that level consistently for years.

Keller has now been told the current budget year may be over $6 million short because gross receipts revenue is growing at a weak 1.7 percent, basically a no-growth rate when you factor in inflation. And the budget for the year starting July 1 could have a $40 million hole. Boom!

That's the "strong city" Mayor Berry says he left Keller?

Program cuts? Tax hikes? Both? Whatever it is, it's dead ahead.

And Keller still needs millions to recruit and hire APD officers for a department that has shrunk into the 800's when at least 1,000 officers are recommended for this city which is grappling with an unprecedented crime wave.

Law enforcement experts we consulted say it will take the mayor at least three years to hire even 100 more officers and possibly longer. The new Mayor will be dealing with the APD staffing mess for the entirety of his four year term.


Then there's the balky city council--or at least some of it. The nine member panel basically took an eight year nap under Republican Berry, but suddenly Keller has got their juices flowing--but in the wrong direction.

Frightened that the new mayor is a far left progressive and wanting to reenter the limelight, Council President Ken Sanchez, a Democrat, joined with Republican Councilor Dan Harris and moved to usurp Keller on the sick leave ordinance. They proposed a bill, released it to the press and did not even consult the Mayor. Here's the money quote from Keller's confines:

The sponsors failed to notify the Mayor’s Office before the proposed ordinance was released. We will review the legislation to give it the careful consideration it deserves.

Talk about a Frosty the Snowman line. The chill between Keller and those two councilors is worse than the one you'd get walking in your underwear among the Christmas Eve luminarias.

Democrats were rejoicing last month when the voters gave the council Dems a 6 to 3 majority but we warned that the Westside 3--Sanchez, Pena and Borrego--could be a problem for Keller. And here we are.

By the way, where was the city council when this deficit situation was developing? Why weren't they warning us? Still napping? Councilor Sanchez claims he has indeed been warning about  a possible deficit. Really? Where? When? To whom? Where are the news releases, the news conferences, the public speeches, the well-publicized meetings with then-Mayor Berry to discuss the problem?  Or was it just some muttering he made at a council meeting?

And Councilor Harris explains his AWOL by saying the projected deficits are never as bad as first predicted. Geez, Dr. Harris, thanks so much. You mean we only have to amputate one leg not two?

This holiday season Keller will still be basking in the glow of a 62 percent mayoral election victory but the Christmas bizcochitos are going to taste stale as he ruminates over the plate full of problems that have already been presented to his nascent administration.


One of the stranger spectacles occurred when Keller outlined the city's budget woes before the Economic Forum, a group dominated by Republican businesses and contractors.

Like the city council, the group went mute for 8 years as ABQ became a crime and drug-riddled metropolis with people fleeing and out-of-state businesses avoiding us like they would the smell of a skunk.

When Keller told them he would not be finger-pointing or playing the blame game--in other words letting Berry and his backers off the hook--the Economic Forum exploded in applause. It was as if a jury had come back absolving them of guilt.

Whatever happened to "those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it?" Looking at the wreckage of the past is not finger-pointing or blaming, it's dealing with reality and bursting a delusional bubble that has made ABQ a shabby imitator of its former self. But you already knew that. . .


Reader Jeffrey Baker weighs in on what the downtowners will call the Sanchez-Harris backstab:

The fact that Ken Sanchez and Don Harris announced a proposed sick leave ordinance without first providing a courtesy notification to the Mayor suggests Sanchez and Harris are feeling their oats and flexing their muscles. Not sure why, though. With ART cost overruns, a projected budget deficit because of unrealistic revenue assumptions which these two embraced during the budget process, and their chronic silence while R. J. Berry and Gordon Eden destroyed a once fine police department, suggests these two elected officials may be suffering from a newly identified mental illness--Trumposis (symptoms include undeserved self-importance).


In our our first draft Thursday on former newsman Gilbert Gallegos becoming the director of PR for the troubled APD, we said that he adds a civilian face to the PR team after two officers were found lying to the media and were disciplined for it. True, except it was not two "officers" lying. One of them was a civilian, Celina Espinoza. She has since left the department.

Espinoza has a political connection. She is the wife of Diego Espinoza, who was the 2016 GOP opponent of Sandoval County area Dem State Senator John "Landslide" Sapien.

Sapien beat Espinoza by 198 votes. In 2012, according to Ballotpedia, Sapien won election by a margin of only 161 ballots and in 2008 he squeezed out a 121 vote win.


Sen. Padilla (Bralley)
In different times state ABQ Senator Michel Padilla might have survived as a legislative leader following his withdrawal from the lieutenant governor race because of decade-old sex harassment charges. But the times they are a changin'. So Saturday the Senate Democratic Caucus, meeting as national political and entertainment figures continued to bite the dust over sex harassment, ousted Padilla from his majority whip position, furthering his descent down the political leader.

The caucus did not name a replacement Saturday. Speculation about Padilla's successor centered on ABQ valley Senator Linda Lopez who Padilla once ran against in a Dem primary and who now heads the Senate Rules Committee. The optics of replacing Padilla with a non Hispanic may not bode well for Anglo senators interested in the post. ABQ Senators Candelaria and Stewart are also interested in the post which will be decided  next month.

The charges that took Padilla down were long ago and far away from the Legislature. But what about the scuttlebutt involving current legislators? Will there be more shoes to drop and casualties claimed? Some legislators must be nervous.

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