Thursday, March 08, 2018

Does NM Owe Trump A "Thank You?" Plus: Carr Convention Power? Pushing Pat, A Shocker In Española And Keller Vs. Lewis (Redux) 

Welcome back. Let's check out the latest La Politica. . .

We didn't see any thank you notes to Trump for this from Senators Udall or Heinrich, but:

The U.S. Energy Department released more details of how it hopes to fund nuclear weapons projects in New Mexico, outlining a combined request of $4.2 billion for nuclear security spending at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. The request for fiscal year 2019, which relies on congressional appropriations, represents an increase of about $249 million for Los Alamos and $377 million for Sandia over the labs’ budgets for fiscal year 2017. 


Dem Lt. Governor candidate Jeff Carr of Taos pushes back against Alligator analysis that has him fighting to get 20 percent of the delegate vote at Saturday's Democratic pre-primary convention. He says he will get 30 percent and says if he does we have to buy him dinner. And if he doesn't, he buys.

Where should we take Jeff to dinner? How about some chicharrones at Barelas Coffee House? As for us. don't fret, Jeff. We're easy. If we win, just book a table at Ruth's Chris. Make sure your credit limit isn't capped.


Supporters of ABQ congressional candidate Pat Davis note that we did not mention him in the blog that gamed the convention action. They say Davis has a strong grassroots organization and look for him to surprise at the meeting.

Maybe Davis' foes are getting nervous. One of them takes this dig: "Someone should point out that Pat's new campaign office is on Central Avenue, right in the heart of the ART project that he voted for as a city councilor but that isn't running."


And more pushback against claims that there was hanky-panky at some of the county conventions that sent delegates to the pre-primary. BernCo Dem Chair Bill Peifer writes:

Claims of “rigging” the process by me or the party in favor of any of the campaigns fall somewhere between pure political posturing and absurdly ridiculous. I have been meticulously careful about any semblance of partiality in this primary race, to the point that I don’t even attend events of, or sign petitions for, even the unopposed candidates. When we selected site coordinators for each of the eight locations where ward meetings were held we chose individuals who did not have direct ties to any of the campaigns and eliminated a few of our best volunteers who had gone public with who they were supporting. 


Española, in the heart of the Democratic north, has elected a Republican mayor? Really? Yep:

Española voters elected Javier E. Sanchez to replace Mayor Alice A. Lucero, who opted not to seek a third term. Sanchez won with an overwhelming majority over Robert J. Seeds and Adrianna Ortiz.

Locals say Sanchez is the first GOP mayor in the city in decades.

(That sound you just heard is Emilio Naranjo rolling over in his grave.)


So who wins the popularity contest? Santa Fe Mayor-elect Alan Webber or ABQ Mayor Tim Keller? Both are progressives now at the helm of the state's two most prominent cities. (Sorry Cruces and Rio Rancho). Webber managed to get 66% of the vote Tuesday. in a five way race to win the Santa Fe contest and Keller was elected in a two way runoff in November with 62%. But Webber was elected under the "ranked" system where he was picked by many voters as their second choice which made his big percentage possible. Still, quite an accomplishment as was Keller's. However,

In the first round of four rounds of voting--before he was awarded second choice votes--Webber garnered 39% of the vote. In the October ABQ election featuring 7 candidates Keller had an identical amount--39 percent. But because he faced more candidates he ekes out a win in the popularity contest.

The bad news for this political duo, who are good friends, is that often a mayor's popularity peaks on the day he is elected.


The man Keller defeated in November--former City Councilor Dan Lewis--lambasted the new mayor for supporting a tax increase this week that was approved by the city council and for doing so without the public vote he promised. Reader Ken Tabish has the inevitable pushback:

What do you expect from a sore losing conservative Republican who lost the mayoral election in a landslide? Same old Republican policies which haven’t worked for the past eight years under ex-mayor Berry--cut services and middle class city jobs to balance a budget--and Berry still left the city with a deficit and a disastrous ART. I really dont see that as “competent leadership.” Let's remember that the deficit has come from a Republican administration and not a "progressive liberal" one. I guess Lewis thinks the crime wave will just go away all by itself. 

It's a “wish list deficit” to want to invest in the city by hiring more police officers to alleviate some of the crime we are experiencing? Balancing the budget and investing in our police force costs money. We want to attack the crime wave and balance the budget but we dont want to pay for it? As they say everything costs and we are paying the price. I agree that the gross receipts tax is not the best way to solve the deficit and invest in our depleted police force. It needed to be done and Keller and the city council were willing to take the political hit to pursue and pass the increase.

Tax increase or no tax increase, for ABQ, as the old country song says, "It's time to pay the fiddler."

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Dem Pre-Primary Convention Gamed; Who's Up And Who's Down Going Into Saturday Meet? Candidates Vie For Crucial 20% Of Delegate Vote, Plus: City Election Results; Webber Wins; GOP Incumbents Too 

There will be a lot of doing and some dying at this Saturday's Democratic Party Pre-Primary nominating convention. The nearly 1,500 delegates from across the state will winnow the field for the June 5 primary election when they vote to place candidates on the ballot. If a contender fails to get 20 percent of the vote, they can still get on the ballot by submitting additional petitions signatures but in almost all cases failure to cross that 20 percent threshold dooms a candidacy. Money and morale dry up.

So how does does it look only days away from when a sea of blue will form at the ABQ Convention Center? Our Alligators, Insiders, Wall-Leaners and Hangers-on have all checked in and here is how they see the pre-primary shaping up:

GOVERNOR--Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has long been the front-runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The consensus is that she will score from 60 to 69 percent of the delegate vote. That would make it impossible for the three other contenders to each get 20 percent. Jeff Apodaca is seen as having the best chance.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR--State Senator Howie Morales of Silver City appears to be on the brink of a big pre-primary win, say our insiders. In 2014 he won the pre-primary in the governor's race but lost the primary to Gary King. King is the only candidate to ever win the June primary without getting at least 20 percent pre-primary support. Chasing Morales this time will be former ABQ State Rep. Rick Miera who is expected to finish far behind Morales but still get 20 percent. Light Guv contender Jeff Carr says he has the votes lined up to make the 20 percent mark.

ABQ CONGRESS--A field of six hopefuls is battling for the crucial 20 percent in this contest but it appears no more than three will make it and there's a decent chance it will be only two. Former NM Democratic Party Chair Deb Haaland is expected to finish at the head of the pack, with attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez seen as the second place winner. Former US Attorney Damon Martinez has raised over $300,000 for the primary but the convention delegates lean liberal and he is more moderate. He would no doubt continue his candidacy even if he fails to get the 20% but if Haaland wins big the race could be redefined.

LAND COMMISSIONER--First place likely goes to northern NM State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard; second to Gallup State Senator George Munoz and third to environmental leader Garret VeneKlasen. Garcia Richard is more liberal than Munoz and thus picking up more delegate support but the electorate moves more to the center for the June 5 primary. With his base in Gallup and northern Hispanic support Munoz will be in the thick if it. VeneKlasen needs to make something happen.

STATE AUDITOR--Again, the liberal make-up of the convention is going to be a factor here with Las Cruces area State Rep. Bill McCamley favored to take first place, but ABQ attorney Brian Colón, a former chairman of the party, shouldn't be far back. Like Munoz, he is counting on heavy Hispanic support to make the difference June 5, and it very well could.

SOUTHERN CONGRESS--Contender Mad Hildebrandt of Socorro told you all you need to know this week when she attacked her party, saying:

Washington’s political elite has pushed every Democrat out of this race except my Democratic Primary opponent, whom the D.C. insiders have endorsed, and me. On behalf of all the loyal Democrats. . .the insiders have tried to silence, I’m not going anywhere.

Her opponent is Xochitl Torres Small of Las Cruces, a former congressional staffer who the national Dems see as a rising star. She will score the big pre-primary win so Hildebrand will have her work cut out for her in the June balloting. But come November Small, if she is the nominee, will have no easy time of it. The seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce is still a GOP stronghold.

Political parties may not matter as much as they used to because of the big independent money out there, but they still have some muscle and Saturday it will be shown off.


Mayor-elect Webber
No major upsets in the Tuesday mayoral balloting in three of the state's largest cities. Incumbent Republican Gregg Hull managed 50.7% of the vote in Rio Rancho against former Dem Mayor Tom Swisstack's 44.6% with a third candidate getting the rest. If Hull fell below 50% there would have been a run-off with Swisstack who was hoping for a more energized Dem vote given the Trump factor, but that did not appear to happen even though the 13 percent turnout was larger than usual. Both Hull and Swisstack are well-respected figures in Rio Rancho but Hull was more of the moment.

In Santa Fe the chips fell as most observers thought they would. Alan Webber, who handily outspent his rivals, was elected with 66 percent of the vote in the new ranked voting system. Webber, 69, is a successful entrepreneur who sought the 2014 Dem gubernatorial nod. His challenge will be to fully represent not just the older, wealthy Anglo class which has become a growing factor in the City Different, but also the Hispanic majority population which was attracted to the candidacy of Councilor Ron Trujillo. Webber received endorsements from prominent Hispanics so he's on his way. He will also be a mayor with new powers which should help.

In Roswell former Mayor Del Jurney failed in his comeback bid. Incumbent GOP Mayor Dennis Kintigh was re-elected with 40% to Jurney's 32%. Other candidates trailed. Kintigh is also a former police chief who is wrestling with a nasty crime problem in the SE NM city, but Roswell residents apparently didn't see Jurney handling it any better.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Tuesday Potpourri: Collectors Items, An Oil Boom, A "Progressive Liberal" And A Lament Over The Tone Of Today 

The election is still eight months away but we're already scooping up collectors items from the campaign trail and preparing to put them on ebay.

This Grisham-Gonzales sticker was cute when it first came out but then the chances of would be Democratic Lieutenant Governor Javier Gonzales sank faster than Trump leaving for a golf game and he dropped out of the race. How much are we bid for this prized item?

And if you have any campaign buttons saying "DeBenedettis for Governor or "Dunn For US Senate" you can start your own collectors stash. . .

Michelle Lujan Grisham put out a campaign poll last week that gives her 72 percent of the vote in the June Dem Guv primary. So does that mean she will underperform if at this weekend's Democratic preprimary convention she wins less than 72 percent of the delegates support?


At the top we said Election Day is eight months away. That's for the statewide general election, but as you may know today is city Election Day in Santa Fe, Rio Rancho, Roswell and other municipalities around the state.

The five way Santa Fe mayoral contest has generated a lot of interest since the new executive is going to have more power. Also, ranked voting where voters make more than one choice has been an eye-opener, leading to a mostly positive campaign because everyone is appealing to, well, everyone.

Even though we didn't learn what misbehavior they were up to in high school, we did learn enough to know to make a rare statement: these are five strong candidates and whoever wins is going to be up to the job. We met personally with Ron Trujillo and Alan Webber but neither bought us lunch so we really are neutral. Much of the vote was cast early. Here are today's Santa Fe polling locations.


The boom is back. Hotel prices in Carlsbad are in the heavens again as the shale fields in the Permian Basin near the city are being pumped for three million barrels a year.

Carlsbad is notoriously short of hotel rooms for these kind of spikes. It shows at the La Quinta Inn where a night's stay is going for $374 a night (is that the honeymoon suite?). It could be even higher if so much of the Permian was not in West Texas. SE NM has only a slice but it's enough to keep even the most humble lodgings packed with workers with ample paychecks.

Oil prices are in the $60 barrel range, the sweet spot for shale production, say the experts. If it stays there or rises the state budget will continue to be stabilized from the taxes and royalties coming from the Permian. That's at least one piece of good news for the incoming Governor in 2019. Insiders are already saying that Governor will face a mess similar to what ABQ Mayor Tim Keller found when he took over the reins from Mayor Berry.


From the state Dems:

Over the weekend, it was revealed that GOP State Representative Sarah Maestas Barnes has been operating a fake Facebook account under the name, “Stacy Baca.” The account regularly sends friend requests to other New Mexicans and appears to target friends of Maestas Barnes’ opponents.

In New Mexico, we value respect and trust. But Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes breached that trust with many of her constituents. . . to troll her opponents. In an era in which fake Facebook accounts are being created to undermine elections by foreign adversaries, it’s absolutely irresponsible of Maestas Barnes to use those tactics. . .

Well, "Stacy" has now disappeared from Facebook. Did she move to Moscow?


As expected the ABQ City Council wasted no time in rushing through a tax increase at its meeting last night to bail out the under water budget. The vote was 8 to 1, with only GOP councilor Winter voting against. Mayor Keller backed away from his campaign pledge to send the three eights of a cent gross receipts tax increase to the voters. Dan Lewis (remember him?) the former GOP city councilor who lost to Keller in the run-off election in November, comes with a bit of revenge:

Did you expect that a self-proclaimed progressive liberal mayor would not suggest that raising taxes is the way to solve a budget deficit? Did anyone believe that this Mayor would keep a promise to put a tax increase before the voters? There is not a budget deficit. There is a wish-list deficit, and a leadership deficit. A leader in the mayors office goes to the nine members of the City Council and asks them to balance a budget on what we have, and make the budget reflect a solid financial priority for public safety. A leader in the mayor's office will propose that kind of budget himself. A $40 million so called deficit goes away immediately with a competent leader in the mayor's office. 

A progressive and a liberal? Now that's a twofer.


Andrew Sullivan, writing in New York Magazine, best describes the current political zeitgeist:

There are moments when everything I have come to believe in — reasoned deliberation, mutual toleration, liberal democracy, free speech, honesty, decency, and moderation — seem as if they are in eclipse. Emotionalism, tribalism, intolerance, lies, cruelty, and extremism surround us (and I have not been immune in this climate to their temptations either). Trump has turned the right into a foul, spit-flecked froth of racist reactionism, and he has evoked a radical response on the left that, while completely understandable, alienates me and many others more profoundly with every passing day.

Gosh, after reading that kids, we need a really long vacation or at least a big breakfast burrito to numb the pain. . .

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Monday, March 05, 2018

Keller Rolls The Dice On Tax Hike Without Voter Approval; Rush Is On To Approve Controversial Boost; Necessary Or Funding The Government Of Yesteryear?  

Mayor Keller
Mayor Keller and the ABQ City Council are on breakneck speed as they rush to approve a three-eights of a cent increase in the gross receipts tax, with the measure before the Council today.

There is no sunset on the proposal. It would be permanent and take the tax to just under 8 percent.

Keller has all but signed off on it, releasing a report that decries the city's financial situation but that pooh-poohs budget cuts as unreasonable or too painful, even as it it presents them as alternatives to a tax increase.

However, when it comes to the proposed GRT hike the report does not point out any negative consequences, including the fact that it is felt most by low income households and that businesses could also suffer because a high GRT can stifle economic development.

The new mayor's popularity is going to take a hit for the tax increase. He pledged during the campaign that a tax that would in large measure go for public safety--like this one--would be presented to the voters. By walking back that pledge, he will pave the way for Republicans and independents to coalesce in opposition. He can afford some slippage since he was elected with 62 percent of the vote. But after the tax increase the city's politics will be more polarized and Keller will have a bigger target on his back.

Ultimately, Keller's fate will rise or fall with the crime rate. If there is a tax increase and crime shows a notable decline, he'll be hailed. If not, he'll be labeled a heel.


Former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne has this reasoning on why the Council is so determined not to send the tax to voters:

The Council won't send this tax out for a vote because they know it will be voted down. The public isn't inclined to pay for the past eight years of the City Council's complacency, incompetence and malfeasance. But just like ART the public is right about this tax. It needs to be axed--along with the City Hall fat no one seems willing to go after.


Ex-Mayor Berry
The administration's report reveals some of the epic mismanagement that occurred under Mayor Berry and which the City Council did little, if anything, to thwart. It was sad to read of the ransacking of city departments, financial hocus pocus, the city's stagnant economy and the woeful state of public safety. Not that we were unaware that the Berry gang was running amok. But it's sad that as a community--the City Council, business interests, citizen activists and we in the media did not do more to rein in Berry.

Keller will do better. The bar is low. But his rush to embrace this tax increase and ignore those calling for bold reforms to right size the city after eight years of recklessness is redefining him as a more cautious personality. Reader Ezra Spitzer explains it best:

The revealing quote is this: "Keller said the GRT tax increase represented the “least worst option."  It seems the new mayor is already operating in an echo chamber. The easiest solution is rarely the best solution. 

There seem to be two primary drivers of the budget imbalance--poorer than expected economic activity and a poorly run city. We all know the gross receipts tax rate is already too high and therefore we carve out a million special interest exemptions to it which further undermines the revenue from it and makes the tax even more regressive to working families. Furthermore, raising the rate certainly won't address the stagnation in the economy. If anything it will have the opposite effect. And even if it were the best short-term option wouldn't you promise a sunset one year from now?

We have to find real solutions to our revenue problems not ones that fall disproportionately on the poor and further widen the divide between the rich and poor. We need bold leadership willing to listen meaningfully to the community and to take a stand.


So what is bold leadership? Well, slow the budget train and fully audit each department and not just proclaim that "Mayor Berry already cut everything." That's a blanket assumption not a plan.

What the mayor and the Council and so many others cannot bring themselves to admit is that ABQ is not the city it once was and the odds are there will be no reversal in our economy anytime soon.

Albuquerque had the lowest population growth of 10 major cities in the region, and it continued a six-year population stagnation. Since 2010, the city’s population has grown by 13,142 people, or 2.3 percent. As of July 1, 2016, Albuquerque’s population was 559,277.

We are funding a government designed for yesteryear when this place was booming. There is a way to avoid this tax, or at least minimize it, if the City Council and Mayor don't panic. Take a look:

--The city's financial report assumes it is essential to have 1,200 cops but that rings hollow when you look at the immense cost. How about budgeting for 1,000, get there and then look around? That would be an increase of nearly 20 percent and even that will take several years to achieve.

--The city's report says if 200 currently unfilled positions are left vacant the annual savings would be over $13 million, Some of those positions are vital, but City Hall can't make the tough decisions to save $8 million there? It would go a long way to resolving the projected $40 million deficit for the budget year that begins July 1.

--Another cost cutting alternative is to sell Ladera Golf Course for $1 million in annual savings. Do that and then realize millions more by selling the land to a motivated private developer who can deal with the drainage issue opponents say prevent a sale. (By the way, there has been an explosion in golf course options here, even as fewer participate in the sport).

--Why aren't the city's hefty legal contracts targeted for savings in the administration's report? These are the most well off citizens who should be called on to sacrifice--not just low income households that would be most impacted by a GRT increase.

--Needless to say, not one of our leaders downtown have the stomach to even broach  the idea of redirecting a portion of the BioPark tax to public safety even as they call public safety "a crisis."  And where is the Council and media oversight over how effectively that money is being spent?

That's just for starters. Then there's the city travel budgets, take home vehicle policy and overtime and sick time abuse. No mention of that. At all.

To reiterate what reader Spitzer said: "We have to find real solutions to our revenue problems. 

Hiking city taxes with no accountability for the excesses and incompetence of the previous administration and City Council will simply paper over the long-term problems that will continue to fester and lead to more tax increases and more stagnation. No wonder the Council is anxious to push it through. But the Mayor can and should do better.

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