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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Reader Vox Populi, Raul And The Newspaper And A Warning Flag For Film Incentives 

Time again for another edition of the always enlightening Vox Populi, where readers unpack the news of the day with élan and imagination. And away we go. . .

So much has been said about the chaos and crisis of the UNM Athletic Department but this comment from Melanie Evans on Facebook cuts through the clutter and, we think, gets at the crux of the problem:

There's a lot of evidence that the generation coming up behind the millennials cares a lot less about sports, in general, and can't be counted on to support athletics in the future. Football, in particular, is probably going to die out or become a shell of its former self within 15-20 years. Not very many parents are willing to let their kids get CTE so they can play football. With the pipeline of players drying up, and the number of fans dwindling at all levels, how much longer will UNM be able to justify having a program at all? That would be the first thing I'd cut, especially considering the dismal records for both winning and player/coach behavior that have been set in recent years.

UNM is considering what sports to cuts as it grapples with deficits brought about by mismanagement and growing public apathy toward its once big money making basketball program. The new president doesn't seem to have the stomach to challenge the football program, but in the years ahead will that decision be forced on UNM?

An ABQ attorney writes of the city crime crisis:

According to the 2016 FBI Uniform Crime Report El Paso has a population of about 687,000 and in 2016, 812 reported incidents of auto theft. In the same  period, Albuquerque had a population of about 561,000 and in 2016, a stunning 7,710 reported incidents of auto theft.

This remarkable difference is more reflective of whatever is going on here in ABQ as opposed to whatever is happening in El Paso. And “that” in ABQ is a systemic issue and most definitely not what we’ve been hearing in terms of the cause: the courts, the laws, the mayor, the governor, or whatever. We need to get our act together and own this mess as a community because it’s bad. “Owning” it requires holding those officeholders, past and present accountable for contributing to this debacle just as much as the criminals out on the streets today....enough is enough.

Reader Ron Nelson comes with his take on the city report that for the first three months of the year crime in ABQ was done compared to the first quarter of 2017:

You will find that the reason the real reason statistics are down is that people are no longer bothering to report many property crimes. The police won't even take reports on thefts anymore unless enough was stolen to make it a felony. There have been cases where burglary suspects have been caught on camera, but the police don’t have any interest in pursuing the case. I can’t blame them though, why should I waste time chasing a thief who is just going to be released ROR in 30 minutes. This report is shameful because it shows that the citizens of the city have given up, and no longer have confidence in their elected officials or city institutions.

There may be something to the "give up" theory. We'd like to hear more about that and how and why it may have happened in other cities

RAUL AND THE JOURNAL 

The ABQ newspaper has grown more insular and emboldened in pursuing its own agenda in recent years so we're unsure whether this excoriating review in the respected Columbia Journalism Review about how the paper tried to protect BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez and a prominent politico will play over there.

The report centers on the story first brought to public attention here--that Democrat Torrez's office worked strenuously to reduce the DWI charge of politically connected Ryan Flynn, a former cabinet security in the Martinez administration and that the reward could very well have been the Governor's support for a  hefty increase in the DA's budget. It was not a story that the Journal felt was worth it's time but other media uncovered the somewhat sordid details.

Reading of how the paper has so openly aligned itself with those in power (with prominent exceptions) rather than pursuing a traditional adversarial relationship will come as no surprise, but the machinations to do so--and unabashedly--makes for an interesting read.

FILM WARNING FLAG

Time to wave a warning flag about state film incentives. Depending how much taxes the latest oil gushers bring to the state treasury, the tax breaks for the film industry here may have peaked. Here's why:

By 2009, 44 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., offered some form of film and television production incentives. However, the popularity of these programs has waned, and support for the film industry has decreased in recent years. In 2018, only 31 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands continue to maintain film incentive programs, and several of these states are tightening the requirements for qualifying expenses and reeling in per-project and annual program caps.

We can't imagine this picturesque state without film incentives, but we can see the state keeping them flat or make a play to rein them in.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Keller's Crime Count; He Says It's Down In Many Categories But Skepticism Lives And Patience Is Thin, Plus: Pearce's New Poll And More On McCamley's Money  

Keller & Geier (Brose; Journal)
Good news! Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier report crime in many categories was down in the first quarter of this year compared to 2017. Guess that means we don't need Tim's tax increase to hire more cops after all. We can get crime down with what we have. . .

Well, before City Hall breaks out the organic Kool-Aid or whatever the Millennials up on the 11th floor celebrate with, be assured that the crime stats that the mayor now says will be released every three months will jump around more than a roadrunner on a hot Tucumcari highway.

Still there is cautious optimism that new APD leadership is inspiring some of the existing force to get after things more aggressively. And then there is the question of how many cars can continue to be stolen when you're already the stolen car capital of America. You have to peak sometime.

While auto burglary and auto theft--subjects of recent special attention by Chief Geier and his force-- showed a significant decline over last year's first quarter, the drop in commercial and residential burglary was not very significant. That signals that the shortage of officers and the continued drug epidemic are sticky problems that aren't going away anytime soon.

Most revealing is the increase in the murder rate from 12 homicides in the first three months of 2017 compared to 18 this year, a 50 percent rise.

Human life is getting cheap, too.  A 15 year old killed another 15 year old earlier this month over a $40 debt. And only a few days ago a 24 year old was gunned down in the North Valley in a dispute over the same amount. That's stark evidence that the drug trade is robust and still at the heart of the public safety crisis.

PATIENCE DEFICIT

Anyone who enjoys a breakfast burrito can tell you it will take years to reverse the slide into criminality that the city has endured but patience is not a surplus commodity for Mayor Keller. Take this from V.B. Price, the longtime liberal writer and ABQ observer who was an ardent back of the Keller mayoral candidacy:

Why is Tim Keller seeming more and more like the former mayor — invisible and uninspiring, despite his flurry of good moves following his election victory? Who’s leading the substance and image of....the town these days?

And readers continue to vent over the seemingly everyday violence that has redefined the quality of life in the Duke City. Here's an example:

ABQ “civilization” has become a Hobbesian nightmare where life is “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” That hasn’t always been the case and, while it’s a relatively new dynamic, that’s where we are now. And there are no signs that it’s going to get better in the foreseeable future. This is primarily because no one in a position of leadership  (especially the ABQ City Council) wants to be honest about how far we’ve fallen and how far we’ve defined deviancy downward, especially while RJ Berry was mayor. 

While It’s true that he inherited one hell of a mess, Mayor Keller appears to be taking the same laid-back, easy-going approach to governing the city that Berry did. Which is incredibly disappointing to a number of his supporters who hoped Keller would be much different than his predecessor. Laid-back and easy-going is not going to turn Albuquerque around. All it will do is ensure that we continue to experience more of the same. A place where lives are cut short over $40 debts.

The crime wave and the many APD scandals has implanted a hard-core cynicism in the city. As an example this reader questioned the veracity of the numbers showing crime going down:

If crime went "down" it's because they monkeyed with the numbers. They won't be able to hide it forever. I don't believe crime is down for one second and neither does the public. 

It should be noted that the city report on crime for the first quarter says the stats are "subject to change" and the numbers do not represent official Uniform Crime Reporting numbers given to the FBI.

Three months of improved crime stats is good news for the city as well as Mayor Keller and Chief Geier but raising hopes after what this city has been through and is going through is like trying to raise the Titanic from the ocean floor.

PEARCE'S POLLING

GOP Guv hopeful Steve Pearce comes with a poll that he hopes convinces both the donor class and the public at large that he has a real shot at defeating Michelle Lujan Grisham, if she is the Dem nominee:

Pearce and Lujan Grisham are tied within the margin of error on the ballot test in this recent survey. This represents a tightening in the race from our poll in 2017. Currently, 45% of voters say they would prefer Pearce and 47% of voters Lujan Grisham, Undecided is 8 percent. Lujan Grisham starts this race with significant structural advantages, including national headwinds and a 14-point party registration differential, yet her inherent weakness with voters and Steve Pearce’s underlying strengths continue to show up in the numbers.

The Tarrance Group, a longtime national GOP polling firm, conducted the survey via telephone interviews with 608 registered “likely” voters throughout the state. Responses  were gathered April 9-12. Margin of error is + 4.1%.

Michelle won't be upset with Steve for showing a potential race between the two to be close. She'll use it to raise more cash.

More worrisome for her will be the attacks on her past record as as a state government official. And they have started to dribble in. This report from the  NMSU student newspaper runs down a variety of issues that have trailed the ABQ congresswoman and which no doubt you will be hearing more about in the days ahead. They include her time as head of the state aging department as well as Sec. of Health.

MORE McCAMLEY MONEY

State Auditor hopeful Bill McCamley came out swinging when the Guv's political machine questioned his campaign finance report, saying it didn't add up that McCamley, 40, reported no income of over $5,000 on his disclosure form yet gave himself a $45,000 campaign loan. He said the loan came from an inheritance and money he had saved when he had well-paying employment.

But McCamley didn't quite get it right. A new report reveals he did receive income of over $5,000 a year but failed to disclose it. The money came from a rental property. The news has McCamley playing defense:

. . . The Democrat wrote on Facebook that he lives in a studio apartment. But that only raised more questions because the address McCamley has listed on financial disclosures is a ranch-style house. McCamley (said) he lives in a studio apartment adjoining the house but rents out the three-bedroom residence. The price: $800 a month, or $9,600 a year. State law requires public officials such as legislators report any sources of income over $5,000. McCamley said he would file an updated disclosure form with the Secretary of State’s Office. “I was given some inaccurate information,” McCamley said, adding he believed it was not necessary to disclose the rental income because it was not a commercial property."

Brian Colón, McCamley's opponent for the Dem auditor nod, has so far remained quiet about his rival's woes. We did receive email from McCamley supporters vouching for his  frugal lifestyle and dedication to public service. Here's one from Marla Painter:

The man lives like a monk. He is an organizer more than a politician. In the past, we have put him up at our home when he was up north on legislative business. We have gotten to know him. A very good man. And my standards are very high. He depends on the kindness of his friends to keep his costs down to a minimum. He is his own campaign manager, scheduler, campaign communicator. He works continuously and tirelessly for his constituents and the common good of the entire state. His pleasures seem limited to one beer an evening if any at all (he rarely accepts an offer of a beer), a good meal, vigorous political or philosophical discussions, conversations with everyday folks and talking about his girlfriend in Las Cruces. The man seriously lives like a monk. He is a certified policy wonk, addicted to ideas and talking about them.

GOP State Auditor Wayne Johnson will run against the winner of the Dem primary.

JENNIFER RIORDAN

Mayor Keller issued this statement following the untimely death Tuesday of prominent ABQ businesswoman and longtime community volunteer Jennifer Riordan:

Albuquerque lost a thoughtful leader who has long been part of the fabric of our community. . . This is a tremendous and tragic loss for Jennifer’s family and many others throughout our city. Her leadership and philanthropic efforts made this a better place every day and she will be terribly missed. We are holding Jennifer and her family in our thoughts and prayers.”

Jennifer Riordan was 43.

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

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Congressional Cash Contests Provide Clues To Eventual Winners; Haaland And Sedillo Lopez Take ABQ Lead; Newman Turns Up Heat On Herrell, But She Sticks Around, Plus: The National Labs And Their Long Term Future  

Two exciting primary congressional battles are more fully formed today after the release of quarterly fund-raising reports. Here's what you need to know. . .

Yvette Herrell, the feisty state representative from Alamogordo who is locked in a do-or- die battle with former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman for the GOP southern congressional nomination, has been battered and bruised. But she's not down and out.

As expected, Newman outraised Herrell in the first quarter and reports a hefty $369,000 in cash on hand as of March 31 for the final weeks of the June 5 primary. But Herrell,who was prohibited from raising money during the 30 day legislative session, still reports $256,000 in cash. That's enough for a considerable media buy that will keep Newman on his toes.

Remember Herrell was the overwhelming choice of the delegates at the preprimary convention where she scored a landslide win over Newman. But she took a hit when an ethics charge against her was recently broadcast across the district.

Newman is being consulted by the controversial Jay McCleskey who handles Gov. Martinez. The campaign has become somewhat of a proxy war between the two wings of the GOP--those who support Martinez and those who don't.

The Herrell ethics charge and Newman's money edge have him in the pole position for now. Herrell is going to have to give Monty and Jay a taste of their own medicine to regain steam.

Newman or Herrell will face the winner of the Dem primary in the R leaning district but you can turn out the lights on that one:

On the Democratic side, Las Cruces water attorney Xochitl Torres Small reported getting $313,332 in contributions and has $243,409 in available campaign cash. Her lone Democratic rival, Mad Hildebrandt of Socorro, had not yet filed a report as of late Monday.

Hildebrand has put forth a decent effort but the national Dems are calling the shots and they think it is Torres Small who stands the best chance to pull off the upset in November.

ALBUQUERQUE ACTION

In the increasingly interesting race for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham we still have no public or insider polling. But that's okay. The public is still largely unacquainted with the contenders and the TV and mail campaigns are going to be decisive.

The money reports, combined with the outcome of the Dem preprimary convention, indicate the likely winner is either former NM Dem Chair Deb Haaland or law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. Former US attorney Damon Martinez is a dark horse and the other three--Lara, Davis and Moya are in the political ICU.

Sedillo Lopez is reporting $457,000 in cash at the end of March but the Haaland campaign says they do not see payments for polling or a mail campaign that Sedillo Lopez conducted during the quarter. Including that could take her cash count down toward the $400k level. Haaland, whose numbers we previously reported, raised $297,000, double that of her nearest competitor. She reports $347,000 in cash in the bank. Martinez is in it with $277,000 in cash but the big defeat he suffered at the Dem preprimary looms.

The Haaland campaign now says a super PAC composed of tribal money will help her, presumably with TV. She would be the first Native American woman to be elected to the US House. And so far that's really the only narrative that has stuck in this race. Sedillo Lopez is going to have to change the conservation if she is to take the prize.

The trailing three in the race are Pat Davis who reported $61,000 in cash; Paul Moya who reported $162,000 in cash, most of which he loaned himself, and Damian Lara who came with $139,000.

Thanks to Martinez campaign manager Abigail Collazo for providing the links to the Federal reports. New Mexican coverage here. ABQ Journal here.

LABS LONG TERM

The blog recently covered the differing views of leading Guv candidates Steve Pearce and Lujan Grisham on the security of Sandia and Los Alamos Labs in NM going forward, and that got us mulling over their recent budgets and their impact on Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico.

A NM Senate staffer sends this from Exchange Monitor which specializes in coverage of the nuclear weapons complex.

It shows that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) budget for Sandia and Los Alamos has grown considerably over the past decade, not that there weren't a couple of years when the budget actually went down and the economy here took a hit. But the drive to modernize the nuclear stockpile that started under Obama and that is gaining traction under Trump has sparked bigger budget increases.

The proposed FY 2019 NNSA budget request for Los Alamos is $1.906 billion, up from 1.394 billion in FY10. For Sandia the NNSA requests $1.924 billion for FY19. In FY09 the budget was $1.008 billion.

The Exchange Monitor further reports: "In its 2019 budget request, the agency included a five-year budget projection that shows annual funding climbing more than 14 percent to around $17 billion by 2023."

Including all missions and not just NNSA weapons funding, such as work for Homeland Security and other agencies, the total Sandia budget is now over $3 billion. The Los Alamos total budget is $2.55 billion.

That's over $5.50 billion in spending on the two labs. There are those who abhor the fact that New Mexico is so dependent on nuclear weapons for its economic well-being. They are joined by others who dislike government spending in general and want to diversify our economy with more private sector activity.

Meantime that money is going to be spent somewhere, if not here. That's why the proposal to take nuclear pit production from Los Alamos and send it to Savannah River is headline news.

Diversifying away from nuclear weapons based on moral objections can be understood. But claiming you can significantly diversify the ABQ and north central NM economy away from $5.50 billion in federal funding borders on lunacy.

Right now New Mexico is out of position with the Trump administration which--to use an ironic phrase in talking of nukes--makes the peacemaking ability of the state's mostly Dem DC delegation and our next Governor of paramount importance.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Talk Of The Town: Ambassador Sanchez? Here Comes The Mail, Looks Like Joe Is A Go And BernCo DA Torrez Busted Again Over Flynn DWI Wire Job  

Here's what they're talking about as the new week kicks off.

Not long ago we picked up on chatter about Lt. Governor John Sanchez possibly getting an ambassadorship from the Trump White House. But where? How about Panama?

That's the latest from the rumor mill on John, who is finishing up an eight year stint as Light Guv under Gov. Martinez. But a Panama posting wouldn't be all Piña coladas and sunshine. The US has had a troubled relationship of late with the Latin American nation. But for Sanchez it couldn't be more troubling than dealing with a Governor who doesn't even want to lay eyes on you.

The mailboxes are going to start getting cluttered soon in that multi-candidate battle for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat.  Readers report Dem congressional candidate Antoinette Sedillo Lopez has already hit with two mailers that appear to be aimed at women voters. No candidate is up yet with broadcast TV ads.

On it goes but it will soon end. We speak of that battle by Dem Guv contender Jeff Apodaca to keep rival Joe Cervantes off the June 5 primary ballot. For a second time a district court judge has turned back Apodaca. He'll make a final pitch to the NM Supreme court but it appears Joe is a go.

Mediocre. That's the best description of the most recent approval ratings for Dem US Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall. Heinrich, who is seeking re-election this year, comes with an anemic 41 percent approval rating and Udall manages only 44 percent. But they are not alone. Washington politicians aren't the most popular species these days. For example, both of Colorado's senators score approval ratings below that of ours. Ditto for Arizona. The pundits continue to rank Heinrich a heavy favorite for re-election. He will face Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian Aubrey Dunn, Jr.

Governor Susana's approval continues to be mired in the 30 percentile bracket. She scores 37 percent approval in the latest survey.

The national polling of all senators and governors by Morning Consult was done from online surveys conducted with about 275,000 registered voters from Jan. 1 through March 31.

A BUSTED DA

Thanks to our Alligators it was this blog that first questioned how the office of BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez handled the DWI case of politically connected Ryan Flynn, a former cabinet secretary under Gov. Martinez who is now the executive director of the NM Oil and Gas Association.

Torrez's office didn't take kindly to the questioning, went into bunker mode and lashed out at us for daring to question him.

But between this piece in the Santa Fe Reporter and this more recent piece by NM In-Depth, the Democratic DA is thoroughly busted. It is more than clear that Flynn's DWI was reduced to careless driving because of his political stature and interference by the DA. And that's a miscarriage of justice. Also, we reiterate that the Governor's support for a huge increase in the DA's budget during the last legislative session could very well have been a result of the Flynn/Torrez deal.

Emails show prosecutors misled public about plea deal with former Martinez Cabinet secretary.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Boone wanted to reassure his boss. A political blogger was raising questions in February about why the DA’s office had agreed to plead Ryan Flynn’s aggravated DWI charge, leveled after a May 20, 2017, traffic stop, down to careless driving. In a Feb. 8 email, Boone told DA Raúl Torrez he believed the case against Flynn could clear an initial legal hurdle. Additionally, because Boone’s direct supervisor, Metro Division Chief Jason Greenlee, was “really good friends” with lawyers on Flynn’s defense team, Boone told Torrez prosecutors had removed Greenlee from making any decisions about the case. But the Santa Fe Reporter and New Mexico In Depth have found that Greenlee was intimately involved with assessing evidence and negotiating Flynn’s plea throughout the case. Further, Boone, Greenlee and others misled SFR and NMID about the strength of Flynn’s case.

Torrez has often blamed others for the crime crisis in ABQ--the judges, his office budget, etc.--but the self-proclaimed "progressive Democrat" appears to have entered the ranks of the old ways network and that his tough on crime rhetoric applies to some but not to others. The refusal of the ABQ Journal to hold him accountable--probably because he has gotten into bed with their favorite Governor--only makes matters worse.

When the NM In-Depth piece hit Friday, Torrez was quick to put out a news release about gun possession to divert attention. The newspaper gladly obliged him.

Will there be more Ryan Flynns for DA Torrez? Well, deals with the devil aren't usually one time affairs.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Well, as noted above the the newspapers can have their biases but we don't believe they charge candidates for news coverage yet. According to this Gator in Cruces not all of them appear to be aware of that:

Joe, Jaime Gonzalescastillo, the primary challenger of Dem State Rep. Doreen Gallegos, has an interesting notation on his finance report--a $250 "in-kind" donation from the Las Cruces Sun News for an article they published about him. Gonzalezcastillo reported no contributions nor expenses and was told by the Sun News not to report its coverage as a contribution.

Lucky that article about Jaime wasn't negative or else he might have sent the paper a bill for $250.

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 2018
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