Thursday, January 18, 2018

ABQ Repeat Offender Mystery Resolved; Study Says There Are Plenty, Plus: PNM And You; Big Bond Plan Draws Scrutiny, Also: What We Missed in '17 

Along with you we've wondered about the constant refrain that repeat offenders are largely responsible for the ABQ area crime wave. Former ABQ police sergeant and APD watchdog Dan Klein even called on UNM to conduct a study so we would not be flying dark. Well, UNM didn't, but the Legislative Finance Committee did and comes with this take on the thorny problem:

-- 62 percent of arrests involve suspects who have been arrested three or more times; 20.4 percent involve suspects who've been incarcerated 10 or more times before.

-- Repeat offenders statistically are more likely to commit violent crimes the more times they're arrested. First time arrestees commit violent crimes only 23 percent of the time while people who have been arrested eight or more times commit violent crimes 72 percent of the time.

-- Albuquerque has the worst crime rates among the 30 largest U.S. cities.

So what to do? The LFC report points out:

According to National Institute of Justice, police deter crime by increasing the perception that criminals will be caught and punished. Sending an individual convicted of a crime to prison isn’t a very effective way to deter future crime. The swiftness and certainty of being caught is a vastly more powerful deterrent than the punishment.

And that leads back to the major officer shortage at APD. Fewer cops means the "swiftness and certainty of being caught" is an idle threat to the city's criminal class.


A glimmer of good news on electric rates for New Mexicans. PNM's planned rate hike  over the next two years is in the 2 percent range instead of the double-digit range. And you can thank, in part, President Trump's tax corporate tax cut. (Hey, how come PNM didn't give us a break when Susana--with the help of the Dems--passed a 2013 corporate income tax cut?)

PNM still has problems, chief among them paying the big bill for dismantling the coal-fired plants in the Four Corners that are now dinosaurs in the era of climate change. ABQ Dem westside Senator Jacob Candelaria was scored on the opening day of the Legislature for his sponsorship of a bill that progressive Dems call a $350 million "coal bailout" for PNM. Candelaria responds:

 The bill does what 13 other states have done when faced with the challenge of shutting down coal and nuclear power plants. It gives the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) the ability to approve the issuance of bonds that get a much lower interest rate to pay for the shuttering of coal burning plants and transition to renewable forms of energy.  Without this bill, PNM would have to pay a much higher interest rate.

Some say punish PNM. Make them pay a higher interest rate for shutting down the coal plants. They should have known 30 years ago that coal would become too expensive. But then, so should have state regulators who approved the leasing of those plants. That kind of vindictive politics feels good, sure. But who suffers? Ratepayers. 

With this bill ratepayers save over $100 million in interest costs alone.  This bill requires that any savings on reduced bond interest rates be passed along to ratepayers. The claim by New Energy Economy that this bill would be a windfall for shareholders is false. As is their claim that these bonds would be backed by taxpayers. That is also completely false. I’m more interested in getting NM out of coal, and saving my constituents money than I am about extracting a pound of flesh from PNM. 

A petition circulating by foes of the PNM bond bill and to be delivered to the legislative leadership points put that a surcharge would be put on your electric bill to pay off the bonds for shuttering the coal-fired plants and demands that PNM shoulder the burden:

PNM's "Energy Redevelopment Bonding Act” will force ratepayers to pay the $350 million to Wall St. bondholders (who have paid PNM up front) from a monthly increase on everyone's electric bill. It’s time to hold PNM accountable, to protect ratepayers from PNM’s greed, and deny PNM a bailout resulting from their utility management malpractice!


The first big demonstration of the 30 day session is today. From Allen Sanchez at CHI St. Joseph's Children who we do work with:

The annual One Thousand Kid March in support of using the Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education and care will take place at the Roundhouse. The need for expanded early childhood education and care in New Mexico is more crucial now than ever. Early Childhood Programs are fundamentally important in protecting children. Of children ages 0-5, the poverty rate is 36%, the worst in the nation. Yet we have A $17 billion Permanent Fund dedicated to the education of our children. The discrepancy between these two facts must be made right. Parents, educators, advocates, and children will gather for a march around the Roundhouse to raise awareness for the kinds of early childhood services and programs, like home visiting and early care and education, our youngest children need.

The march will start on the west concourse at 11:30 am. At noon there will be speeches and presentations in the Rotunda.


Election Night '17
While we were ahead of the curve predicting that the state's vast permanent fund wealth would be more and more present in the political narrative, we also had a big miss in 2017. While it's a bit painful to look back it has a lesson for the months ahead.

As we broadcast the results of the first round of balloting in the 2017 ABQ mayoral race for KANW 89.1 FM in October, I mulled over, along with my panel of pundits, what was driving the turnout to nearly 100,000 voters, numbers not seen since the 2001 election following 9/11 which sparked voter patriotism and turnout.

We mused whether it was due in part to Tim Keller's ground game, the then very recent Las Vegas shooting massacre that may have motivated some to take part in the public process or folks being fed up with the state of the city and its omnipresent crime.

Probably all those factors played a role, especially the Keller ground game, but what we missed was the impact of the Trump presidency. In hindsight it appears clear that discontent with Trump in a Democratic city got many voters out of their lounge chairs and into the voting booths. But we and our panel did not mention that Election Night. Mea culpa.

That's important because all 70 state House seats are up for election this year as well as the Governor and statewide executive offices. How Trump is doing and being perceived and how candidates interpret it will have much to do with the make up of the Legislature next year. And the Governor's office, too. We knew that back in October but did not make the connection with the mayoral contest. Today, looking in the rearview mirror, it was right in front of us.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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