Thursday, February 01, 2018

A Fresh Edition Of Vox Populi Where Readers Write The Blog; Today's Topics: A Tragic Slaying, The Keller-Sanchez Rift; The ART Fiasco, Mental Health In NM; Federal Jobs And "Rules to Remember In Life" 

The mail is stacked up with insights and keen commentary so it's time for another edition of reader Vox Populi. Join us. . . .

Reader Melissa Ariel addresses what she sees as yet another systemic failure in the latest outrageous and tragic child death in the state, that of a 13 year old Nambe boy who was subjected to horrific abuse for years before allegedly being murdered by his mother and her boyfriend and the boyfriend’s son::

It is beyond belief. No one in the schools notices that a kid drops off the rolls for 2 years. No one at Corrections in Santa Fe asks any questions when the mom gets thrown into  the lock up, even though she'd lost custody before. No one at CYFD does a welfare check even though custody has been revoked before. No one in the family notices when the child is missing for 3 months. None of the neighbors call CYFD despite the child not being in school. 

There are so many failures here beyond the parents, it's just tragic. Meanwhile our Hispanic leaders are more concerned with undocumented immigrant children than our Native born Hispanic and Native American children. It's just astonishing.


Reader Bruce Shah comments on the growing rift between ABQ Dem Mayor Tim Keller and Dem City Council President Ken Sanchez:

Sanchez reminds me of a cat running away from his litter box.  I read with nothing short of astonishment the op-ed comments of Sanchez, who 'stands by' the Council's decision to cut the salaries of the police, firefighters and other city employees during an 'extremely tight' budget year in 2011. A tight budget year? Then perhaps the Council should have been a lot more rigorous while performing its oversight duties. During those difficult years:

--$62 million has been paid out for APD-related settlements.

--ART won council approval without seeing a penny from the Feds. That despite a $120+ million price tag.

If my math is correct, just a small portion of that money would have been enough to pay all the salaries that were cut back due to budget constraints. And, that $8 million would still be in the city's bank account.

We would all be better served by the City Council if it stopped running away from its own actions. Acknowledging its oversight failures and offering an apology to the people of Albuquerque would be an appropriate first step.

Yep, the ABQ City Council is about as popular as the ART project.


An anonymous reader writes on the same subject:

Joe, I think the main reason these two are at odds is ART. Ken is a staunch supporter of this "bridge to nowhere" ART project and has yet to cast blame on this boondoggle on anyone from the city . He continues to play the " new things have problems" game. 

Ken the buses may be new to ABQ but concrete and steel are not. I ask again a simple question; Where was the guy with the tape measure? My opinions probably fall on deaf ears but a tape measure is now worth $100 million dollars. Knock it all down and move on Mr. Keller.


Reader David Ley Ph.D writes of whether the Martinez administration's interference in the behavioral health system can be blamed in part for the crime wave:

Joe, I’m a longtime behavioral health provider and also sit on the APD's Mental Health Response Advisory Board, a body established by the Dept. of Justice consent decree. I cannot and do not speak for MHRAC. But, I can say that we have been reviewing data showing a substantial increase in police calls involving behavioral health issues, since 2013. In addition, we’ve recently begun discussing the degree to which our system of care is woefully inadequate to serve the growing number of repeat offenders who have both mental illness and a significant history of violence.

In short, system impact from 2013 might have a role, in that it reduced availability of services. Worse, it removed from our system a tremendous resource of institutional knowledge in those experienced providers, who might have been able to guide our system towards effective intervention and prevention strategies. Ultimately though, it is one factor among many.


Bill Knief, a self-described "just another retiree from Taos," writes:

Joe, at 71 I’ve finally managed to retire my tired rear end from higher education and I have a few things to say, especially after the grotesque distortion of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The shameless duplicity (mendacity) of the Republican Party thus far in 2018 apparently has no limit. While putting out the line that it is the Democrats that don’t really want a DACA deal, the Republican bargaining position is straight out of the boko haram playbook: “Give us $18 billion for the wall or you’ll never see those 800,000 children and young adults again.”

Too shrill? I don’t think so. 


James W. Ross, Former Deputy Cabinet Secretary of Health and Federal Affairs Director for Governor Martinez, writes to part company with the Governor on her attempt to revive the death penalty:

While there might be some polls that show a majority of New Mexicans approve of a narrow reintroduction of the ‘ultimate’ punishment for certain crimes, any bill that seeks to reintroduce this cruel penalty is filled with fallacious elements that seek to not only disenfranchise members of society, but more importantly hold certain lives in higher esteem than others.

The death penalty across the United States has been widely seen as a scourge, something that even prosecutors have described as flawed and as a non-deterrent. Repealed statewide in 2009, New Mexico courts only carried out this punishment on one person to this ultimate penalty since 1976. One person. While I would never defend the barbaric acts that certain individuals have committed, a definitive sentence of death is misinformed and will do nothing to prevent violent crime, and merely an attempt to deflect from the ‘real’ problems New Mexicans face with criminal activity.


Kara Gibson of SmartAsset writes:

In a new study, SmartAsset analyzed data across four metrics to find the states that are most dependent on the federal government, and New Mexico ranks in the number one spot. Almost 6% of the New Mexico workforce is employed by the federal government, placing the state fifth-highest in that metric. Compared to the average job, working for the federal government is a good gig. The average federal worker in New Mexico earns over twice as much as the average private sector worker. New Mexico residents also get quite a bit of bang for their income tax buck. For every dollar the state sends in income tax, they get back $1.87. That's the second-highest ratio of federal funding to income taxes paid in our study.

Thanks, Kara, Could you send that to the Koch Brothers financed Rio Grande Foundation, The NM Biz Coalition, the Economic Forum, NAIOP and the ABQ Chamber of Commerce? We think they may have missed it.


Finally, reader John Cordova writes of  "Rules To Remember In Life:"

--Money cannot buy happiness - but it's far more comfortable to cry in a Porsche than on a bicycle.

--Forgive your enemy - but remember the asshole's name.

--Alcohol does not solve any problems - but then, neither does milk.

--If you help someone when they're in trouble - they will remember you when they're in trouble again.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Riffing On The New Mexico News Of The Day  

Monahan (Bralley)
Welcome back. Let's change it up and riff on the news this Wednesday. . .

Dubai or Deming? That is the question:

“I don’t know why lobbyists spend so much money on a small handful of legislators,” Viki Harrison of Common Cause said. “It also boggles my mind that a lobbyist can spend $1,700 on a dinner for a small group. This is Santa Fe, not Dubai.”


Things go better with Coke. You know that, but it's even better if you're running for mayor of Santa Fe.


Perhaps one of the more worthwhile pieces of legislation under consideration at the Roundhouse?:

Senate Joint Resolution 1 seeks to change the constitution to create nominating committees to vet and recommend applicants for seats on university boards of regents. And the amendment would require the governor to nominate regents based on those recommendations.


From a reader:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all the Saints in Heaven. What is wrong with this place? Again??:

Authorities say a 13-year-old boy whose body was found buried in a remote area of northern New Mexico had endured years of abuse that included being locked for hours at a time inside a dog kennel and being fed there. Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia choked back tears as he provided details. . . 

What's wrong with this place, gentle reader, is a combination of widespread poverty and a drug epidemic of unimagined proportions, both of which demand to be addressed in a comprehensive, warlike manner but are not.


Please don't nod off while reading this:

As ABQ Dem Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto shared his thoughts for the memorial (dealing with Parkinson's) disease, he said: “. . . I don’t mean to be. . .insensitive… I do have to say I love talking about stuff with the Parkinson’s folks because I get all of this nodding and it feels very affirming as I’m talking,”

Meeting video shows some in the committee room laughed at Sen. Ivey-Soto’s remarks, Governor Martinez’s office didn’t.


Reader Larry Gioannini writes from Las Cruces:

As bad as it is, if the ART project on Central Ave. in ABQ were completed at least some local people would be able to use it. I doubt we will ever see a live New Mexican depart from the Spaceport.

If not the living, how about the dead, Larry? They could launch the cremains of all those who paid a quarter of a million dollars for a space ride but passed away waiting.


From the Red River Miner:

Coming off of a 5th place team finish at the Utah Invitational, the UNM Logos are headed for Red River for the Lobos Invitational set for the Red River Ski Summer Area February 3-4.

Maybe they meant Legos?


Have we got a great idea! Let's diversify New Mexico's economy! On
second thought. . .

ExxonMobil has announced plans to triple its total daily oil production in the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico by the year 2025. The global oil giant cited recent corporate tax cuts as making possible the investment, which includes more than $2 billion on transportation infrastructure. . .


That's a pretty cool headline from the Quay County Sun: "A Life Of Convenience":

Lonnie Allsup first became interested in retail grocery sales when he was 10 years old in his hometown of Morton, Texas. He used to stand on a box to stock and bag. The passion continued for the rest of his life, his name linked to hundreds of Allsup's convenience stores across Texas and New Mexico. Allsup died Sunday at his Clovis home. He was 84. 


And from the Farmington Daily Times an editorial headline we can all agree with:

A Solution Is Finally On The Horizon

Boy, have we been waiting for that one.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The City Hall Beat: Alligators Update Department Director Drama, The ART Boondoggle And The Mayor-Council Clash, Plus: Rio Rancho Mayor Race Gets Going 

Mayor Keller has been on the job for about two months now and our Alligators deep inside City Hall are getting active. One of them writes:

Is Mayor Tim Keller having a hard time finding department directors for his administration? 

The city website lists job openings for several department director positions, including two that had previously been announced as filled: Economic Development and Animal Welfare. This could mean a number of things. No doubt, Mayor Keller’s requirements are high, with many of his top personnel holding doctorates, juris doctorates, CPAs, MBAs or multiple degrees. But are they too high?

It could also mean that current “acting” directors like those for Senior Affairs, Aviation and Family and Community will be shown the door or moved to lower level positions. They all served under Republican Mayor Berry, and are most likely being kept only until their replacements can be selected. One vacant director job not being advertised is for Cultural Services, which operates the city’s libraries, museums and the BioPark. Even though Mayor Keller has not yet announced a director for Cultural Services, Dr. Shelle VanEtten de Sanchez has been introduced in community and social settings around town the past few weeks as the new director.

As for that hot seat at Animal Welfare, Keller has named longtime City Hall bureaucrat John Solday as interim director. A nationwide search is being conducted for a permanent director. As for economic development, longtime econ player Fred Mondragon was also named by Keller as an "interim director."

The Gators confirm that the new administration is having some difficulty filling positions citing, for example, the vacancy in the key City Attorney post.

Although the pay for these jobs is in the $100,000 area, top notch pros could fear the uncertainty since you serve at the pleasure of the mayor and there's not much security. And many potential candidates are already making higher salaries. Also, we've lost a lot of talented Millennials to the better economies of neighboring states.

Another factor: The Dems have been out for 8 years and many on their city bench are retired or gone. Those left are the old guard. Mondragon is 75 and David Campbell, a former city CAO appointed by the mayor as new city planning director, is also in the Senior Citizen demo.


On another topic, pressure is growing on Keller to bail on the BYD contract to provide electric buses for the controversial and stalled out ART project on Central Avenue. The myriad problems with the 60 foot buses, according to City Hall insiders, are even more extensive than already revealed.

The argument goes that if the BYD deal was busted the city could use non-electric buses to fill the void. In other words a spiffed up Rapid Ride which is already operating on Central but could be recast as ART. That way the city could still get the $70 million in Federal ART money the city is counting on.

Keller has said that he can't put a timetable on when the bungled ART project will be up and running, another reason he is feeling the heat to dump BYD. The longer the mess on Central takes to clean up the more Keller will own the project politically, even though it was Mayor Berry's baby.

Finally on the City Hall beat, Council President Ken Sanchez continues to be a thorn in Keller's side. The longtime councilor comes with an op-ed that is critical of Keller's reasoning for cutting a deal with the city firefighters union over back pay. It's just one of a series of shots Sanchez has fired at Keller since he took office December 1. For example, he and another councilor proposed a new sick leave bill without consulting Keller. That signaled the cool relationship.

The Alligators predicted that the Hispanic Westside councilors--Sanchez, Klarissa Pena and perhaps Cynthia Borrego would be the most problematic for Keller. They got that right. Stay tuned, Mr. Mayor. You’ll be the first to get the Gators’ latest news releases.


While ABQ wrestles with an ongoing crime crisis the suburban city of Rio Rancho is having an easier time of it. The news:

Rio Rancho is one of the best places to live in the country, according to Time: Money. Every year they compile a list of the best places to live in each state based on economic and educational performance, affordability, convenience and safety. This year, the City of Vision is Time’s pick for New Mexico. The website cites Rio Rancho’s scenic desert landscape, school system and call it one of the safest places to live in the state.

That's good news for Rio Rancho GOP Mayor Gregg Hull who is seeking a second four year term in the March mayoral election. His chief rival is former Dem Mayor Tom Swisstack. Newcomer Christoper Muldrow is the other hopeful.

Despite the nice Money Mag mention, Swisstack can make some hay. The city does not have a crime crisis but neither is it a crime free zone. And roads and flooding are perennial issues. So is the economy as the Intel downsizing took a big toll on the city of 96,000.

This is a three way race and if no candidate gets 50 percent March 6 there will be a run-off between the top two contenders.


Thanks to the Realtors Association of NM for their hospitallty last week at La Fonda in Santa Fe as we mulled over the state's future economy. They also heard from a number of politicos who are out on the campaign trail, including Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver; ABQ congressional contenders Dem Damon Martinez and R Janice Arnold-Jones; Dem Guv hopeful Jeff Apodaca; Dem lt. gov. candidates Rick Miera and Jeff Car and GOP AG candidate Michael Hendrix. Realtors executive director Steve Anaya was ringmaster. Also on hand was former ABQ GOP State Senator Kent Cravens who is now Executive Vice President for the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors.

All agreed that good paying jobs remain the key to a healthy home building market. And that education is the key to getting and keeping those jobs. As for the La Fonda, we've never seen the storied hotel in better shape. It really is a national treasure. And that's a good thing.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Leading Biz Democrat Rodella Readies For Primary Battle As Lobbyists And Biz Watchers Watch, State Budget Pain Eases And Oil Boys Boast, And: A Letter From A "Former Everything" 

Rep. Rodella 
What's going on with Roundhouse powerhouse Debbie Rodella? That's the really important news to the state's elite lobbyists and titans of the biz community. They like the often conservative Democrat as chair of the House Business and Industry Committee and are weighing an announced primary challenge to Rodella from progressive Democrat Susan Herrera.

Rodella, 56, one of the most senior Dems in the House having been first elected out of Española in '92, is seen as a check on the more liberal instincts of Speaker Brian Egolf and the Dems left wing. She has been rewarded for that with scads of campaign contributions from a who's who of lobbyists and business interests. As of October she had over $64,000 in her campaign kitty to wage battle against Herrera who is also no lightweight. She served as the former CEO of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation and is a former director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

(Hey, isn't Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the leading Dem Guv candidate, the current chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus? Yep. Hmm.)

If Rodella were to lose her seat a less conservative Dem would likely end up chairing the powerful House Biz panel so expect this primary battle to be one of the more pricey contests in '18. No R's need apply. This northern district is all D all the time.


Nothing like an influx of nearly $300 million to take the heat off of the 112 lawmakers gathered in Santa Fe. They're now more worried about the flu and pink eye making the rounds than a busted state budget. Now that the extra money has been confirmed by the bean counters and the state's reserves have finally been restored, the sparring can begin over how to spend that surplus cash. That's a lot more fun than the dreary budget-cutting that has depressed lawmakers the past several years.

The new booty, of course, is due to a rebound in oil prices and more production. And that has Ryan Flynn, the head of the NM Oil and Gas Association, puffing out his chest and exclaiming:

NMOGA is going to be the most powerful organization in the state of New Mexico, period."

Careful, Ryan. As they say, pride goeth before the fall and a fall in oil prices again is as reliable as Hector Balderas staying bald.

Warning: For budget nerds only: The complete Legislative Finance Committee brief revising upward the state's revenues.


Friends of ABQ Dem Sen. Linda Lopez, chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, are calling this her "Badge of Honor:"

Gov. Martinez is protesting delays in the confirmation process for her political appointees by vetoing funding for the (Senate Rules Committee). The Republican governor crossed out funding of the committee as she signed a bill that provides $21 million for legislative operations (for the) 30-day legislative session.

In reaction to Susana's veto Lopez immediately scheduled two dozen confirmation hearings for the Guv's appointees but had to cancel them because there was no money. (Just kidding).


Here's a twofer for you, if you like politics and haven't seen the new Hotel Chaco near ABQ's Old Town:

NM's Libertarian Party is hosting a Meet the Candidates event at Hotel Chaco on Monday, January 29th from 5pm-7pm on the fourth floor in the Sky Suite. This is a chance to speak with all Libertarian candidates one-on-one.  In 2018, there are Libertarian candidates running for all three U.S. House seats, the U.S. Senate and other statewide and local elected offices. 

But will the Libs run a Guv candidate and give Republican Steve Pearce heartburn? Maybe not. Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn just switched from the R's to the Libertarian Party and is now expected to announce a bid for the US Senate seat held by Dem Martin Heinrich. But that means he would peel off conservatives from expected R nominee Mick Rich making it especially difficult for them to give Heinrich a race.

Dunn has confused observers by deciding not to seek a second term as land commissioner--which he might have been able to win--and then launching a soon aborted bid for the southern congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Pearce. Now the Senate run. Not only are the observers confused, Aubrey seems to be as well.

By the way, you may be confused as you see some news reports refer to NM as a "purple state." In other words a "swing state." Let's clarify. New Mexico is a solidly blue state when it comes to federal elections. The Dems have won the last three presidential elections here big and they have long-controlled four of the five US Senate and House seats. Now when you get to the state level offices, purple is a fair description as we are wrapping up an eight year GOP Guv run and the state House went R for two years in the '14 election. The preceding was brought to you by Crayola crayons.


We're going to scoot around the corner from the Hotel Chaco to the NM Museum of Natural History where an exhibition celebrating the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci is set to open to big crowds in February. But the admission price of $22 a person for Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico seems a little steep so we asked Dianna Flores with the Museum about that:

A pricing structure has been put into place with different scenarios depending on when and how you come. By this I mean, there are Group rates, Family Passes, Culture Passes, and or Free Sunday's with a reduced ticket price for the Da Vinci Exhibit. 

Our Executive Director will continue to evaluate the pricing structure that will enable our NM residents the opportunity of seeing this exhibit.


Armijo and Gallegos 
You want La Politica. We'll give you La Politica. Get this missive direct from the ABQ South Valley and Steve Gallegos, who now sports the title "Former Everything" and opines on the zeitgeist of the moment:

We need a community discussion on the impact of drug addiction in Albuquerque and surrounding communities. The costs on our communities is a redundant drain on budgets and horrible pain to families and friends of those who need to steal to feed their addiction. More emphasis needs to be placed on drug rehabilitation, both in and out of jail. A task force approach, with implementable recommendations is needed ASAP.

I'm not in law enforcement, but the stolen vehicle problem needs help from federal sources and needs a strong directed activity from local, state, and federal forces. Wouldn't it be novel if ICE changed it's ways and started helping US citizens with vehicles being hijacked to Mexico. (I don't have any data but my stolen truck ended up in Mexico.)

Steve D. Gallegos
Former Everything

Love that title, Steve, and you earned it. He served as an ABQ City Councilor, BernCo Commissioner and State Senate Seargent at Arms, among other things. His BFF is former City Councilor Alan Armijo who was director of constituent services for ABQ Republican Mayor Berry. So what's Alan doing now? Well, he's been reappointed to that position by Democratic Mayor Tim Keller. Oh yeah people, that's La Politica.

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