Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday Photo Fun 

This week we told you how we forgot Harry Teague, the southern Dem congressman who was elected in 2008, making the state's five member congressional delegation all from the same party for the first time since the early 80's when the Rs had it to themselves for two years.

Here's a picture from our photo file of that historic delegation, which has just been replicated with another all Dem delegation in 2019.

The three members on the couch--Rep Ben Ray Lujan, then-Rep. Martin Heinrich and Senator Tom Udall--were all freshmen, elected in 2008 when this pic was snapped.

Udall had just joined the Senate from the US House where he had represented the northern district before taking the Senate seat vacated by Republican Pete Domenici. Teague is seated in the chair next to the dean of that delegation--Senator Jeff Bingaman.

It was Democrat Bingaman's election in 1982 that ended the two year run of an all Republican delegation that occurred from 1981-83. He had to wait a quarter century to preside over an all Dem delegation in what would be his final Senate term. Bingaman was succeeded by Rep. Heinrich in 2012.

This all Dem delegation was as brief as the R's had been in the 80's. Dem Teague was defeated in 2010 by Republican Steve Pearce, after which he retired from politics.

Now in 2019 we again have an all Dem DC delegation. We will find out in 2020 if they can set a modern day first by making it two terms in a row.

That's Friday Photo Fun. Join us for another edition next week.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Early Bird Bills That Fall Short, Plus: Rough '19 Crime Start Earns Response From Mayor And Chief 

Well over a thousand bills will probably be introduced in the upcoming legislative session that kicks off next Tuesday. As usual there will be more bad ideas than good. Some of the bills have already been pre-filed, giving us a look at the good, the bad and the ugly. Let's draw from the bad pile. . .

First, a bill that would strip NM of what little power it already has on the national political scene:

Four lawmakers have introduced a bill to place New Mexico into an inter-state compact that requires Electoral College voters to cast ballots for the national popular vote winner. States representing 270 electoral votes must join for the compact to function.

Forget about that. Our little New Mexico with two million souls has often commanded presidential power because of its five electoral votes. The electoral college works for us. Look at all the love we got when we were a swing state in 2000, '04 and '08.

We are now solid Dem but that could change in the future. Having the electoral college ensures more NM power in national politics. This bill would put us at the back of the pack.


Kennedy & Chavez
Can't Santa Fe just give legendary NM US Senator Dennis Chavez a state holiday of his own? Once again a bill has been introduced to have a joint holiday for Senator Chavez and Cesar Chavez, the late farmworker union leader and activist.

A constitutional amendment to give Cesar Chavez a holiday here failed at the ballot box 17 years ago. How about a clean bill honoring Dennis, who unlike Cesar was a NM native who had lasting impact on the state and its civil rights advancements and whose influence is felt to this day?  Not to take anything away from Cesar but let's give Dennis his due--a leader in civil rights as well as building out New Mexico's infrastructure.


Then there's the bill to spend $1 million a year to market the state to retirees. The state already spends a questionable $250,000 a year doing that. That's money that could be used here at home. It is a tiny drop in the bucket and ineffective for an ad campaign to get the gray hair set to take a look at Lordsburg or Las Cruces. Besides, don't we have public information officers nestled into just about every state agency? Can't they produce puff pieces and get them placed in national publications that would equal or surpass the million a year this bill asks for? Yes, they could. And is attracting retirees when you have had an historic out migration of the state's best educated young people really a top priority?


If that Netflix deal putting $100 million a year for ten years into its ABQ production biz pans out, there should be quite a bit of spin off. And it's already starting:

Advanced Air will begin flying from Burbank, California to the Sunport later this month. Flights on the nine-seat luxury plane are open to all, but will target people in the film industry. With major corporations like Netflix moving to the Duke City, the $1,000 flights aim to make traveling to Albuquerque from Los Angeles easier than ever for film executives and business people.

A thousand a pop isn't peanuts. Do they throw in a steak burger or something?


Geier and Keller
It was a rough end of 2018 crimewise for ABQ and an equally rough start to '19. Two teenaged boys--14 and 15--were murdered and buried near Rio Rancho when a drug deal that started in the ABQ foothills went bad; a one year old baby drowned at home and the parents have been charged in her death; and a girl, age not released, was brutally murdered by her 15 year old cousin and her body left in a westside arroyo. This and more prompted responses from ABQ Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier:

Keller said:

Our community has been shaken by the recent deaths of these children and teenagers. These tragedies have ripped through our city, hitting home just how vulnerable young people can be. At one year old, Anastazia Zuber was only just beginning her life. Our community also lost a young girl to violence at the hands of a family member. And the deaths of teenagers Ahmed Lateef and Collin Romero showed us the depths of the challenges that young people today are facing. It is simply wrong and we cannot allow it to become normal. . .In 2019, we are continuing to invest in public safety and create opportunities for kids, especially those at risk. We are joining with neighborhoods, churches and community organizations to work hand-in-hand to address these challenges, and pushing for more diversion and prevention programs in our city.”

Police Chief Mike Geier said:

As first-responders, our officers are profoundly impacted any time they investigate the death of a child, no matter the circumstance. We have been challenged as a community with the deaths of several children in the past few weeks. As we grieve these losses, we want the community, and especially the families of these children, to know that officers are committed to pursuing justice on their behalf.

Most of us in law enforcement are parents. Some of us are grandparents. I made it a priority to bring back community policing in Albuquerque and encourage officers to engage with youth every chance they get. We have a responsibility, beyond law enforcement, to invest in the future of all children in the community. I ask the people of Albuquerque to join with us and redouble our efforts to protect children and support them when they need it most.


We have a new feature for the new year: Friday Photo Fun. So stop by tomorrow and see what we're up to.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

The Last Straw: ABQ City Council Scorned Over Straw Ban While Crime Crisis Goes On, Plus: Herrell Makes It Official; Running Again, And: Replacing Senator Cicso; He Gets A State Gig; Who Gets His Seat? 

It's a bridge too far--a big overreach--for critics of that ABQ City Council proposal to prohibit retailers from giving customers plastic straws, foam containers or those commonly used plastic bags you get at the grocery store. This, they ask, is the pressing issue in a metro area riddled with a crime and drug epidemic? One of our Senior Alligators weighs in:

This is utterly surreal. Crime is out of control. Our kids are being killed left and right. Drugs and drug-related activity basically run Albuquerque. But, according to four City Councilors, the biggest issue facing Albuquerque is plastic bags and straws. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Albuquerque is not a serious city. And this self-absorbed and aggrandizing ABQ City Council has less importance to our everyday lives than any APS student council.

Meanwhile, City Councilor Ike Benton, seeking re-election this year and one of the sponsors of the anti-straw measure, pushes back against the notion that he is an environmental councilor and not a crime fighter:

I strenuously advocated for more downtown police presence with the previous two police chiefs (to no avail), and publicly criticized the Berry administration’s weak and late response in 2017 when Lavu and other businesses threatened to leave Downtown. I co-sponsored  the passage of a police pay increase and benefits bill. I supported the recent GRT increase (Council-led), with the lion’s share of revenue dedicated to public safety. . . I consistently supported DOJ intervention that led to the consent decree. I am co-sponsor of the current bill to update the civilian police oversight ordinance.

Stil, that's not stopping at least one challenger from emerging to take on Benton this fall. Robert Nelson, a self-described "community activist and organizer" who is also a nonprofit manager, is telling friends he's planning a run against Democrat Benton. You can be sure crime will be a central issue in that race as well as the other three council contests on the ballot this year.


The Alligators around here (our informed sources) are now batting 100 percent when it comes to Yvette Herrell. As they predicted, Herrell on Tuesday announced she would again seek the GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat. She won the nomination in '18 but lost the general election to Dem Xochitl Torres Small. Herrell's announcement follows her news Monday that she would not challenge the outcome of the election.

But Republicans are not expected to all fall in line behind Yvette in 2020. She had a battle for the nomination in '18 with former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman and she can expect one or more competitors for the nomination this time, say insider R's. Why? . . .

First, she lost by 3,700 votes in the normally conservative district. And she ran a clumsy campaign, refusing to debate Torres Small and failing to respond to ethics allegations that the Dems continually pounded.

Then there's this: Shouldn't the R's put up a candidate not tied to the factions tearing the party apart and that hurt their chances in the south in '18?

Herrell is part of the anti-Susana Martinez GOP wing and Newman is part of the pro-Martinez wing. How about a GOP candidate from neither faction--a uniter who might give them a better shot of taking out Torres Small?

One other note: Does Herrell getting in mean former southern congressman and current State GOP chairman Steve Pearce will not run? That seems a fair conclusion.

By the way, Herrell did not formally concede the election to Torres Small in announcing her 2020 run. And saying you won't contest an election is not the same as calling your opponent and/or stating publicly you congratulate them and wish them well.


No sooner had ABQ Dem State Senator Cisco McSorley been named to a state job by the Lujan Grisham administration than the speculation began over who would replace him in the SE Heights seat he has held for over 20 years and which he resigned from Tuesday.

The first name to pop up was Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, whose final term on the panel ends in 2020. Years ago she worked as a legislative analyst for former State Rep. and House Speaker Raymond Sanchez.

Another name making the rounds is attorney Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, who ran for the Dem nod for the ABQ congressional seat last year.

It's the BernCo Commission that Stebbins sits on that will name McSorley's Senate replacement. The Commission is currently four to one Democratic. Without Stebbins voting, it is 3 to 1 Dem.

In a sidebar, Stebbins last night was named chairwoman of the commission for the year.

If Stebbins is the Senate pick her County Commission seat would open up. Her replacement would be named by the Governor.

McSorley, 68, was named director of the state Probation and Parole Division. The ABQ native is an attorney and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has been active in the push to legalize recreational marijuana in NM as well as corrections reform.

McSorley was a member of the state House from 1984-1996 when he was elected to the Senate. He proved popular with voters and has scored easy re-election victories since.


Retired APD Seargent Dan Klein in writing Tuesday of "sanctions" imposed on the current district attorney and his predecessor said both have been subject to court sanctions. In writing of DA Torrez he cited a case in which the office was fined for missing court deadlines. The news report also called that a "sanction." However, in the other case involving DA Brandenburg he cited a state payment that was made on behalf of the DA's office to settle a lawsuit. That payment was not a sanction. Dan apologizes for the error--which we also did not catch--but it's Klein we're feeding to the Gators. Get the barbecue sauce out.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

CYFD Hot Seat Goes To Out Of State Pick; Guv Bets On Blalock To Make The Change, Plus: Herrell Done But No Concession Yet, DA Torrez And Kelly Plea And APS Election Kicks Off 

Brian Blalock
Brian Blalock? Who's that? Well, that name is about to be one of the more common ones heard in La Politica.

Blalock of San Francisco has been tapped by Gov. Lujan Grisham to sit on one of the hottest seats in the state--that of cabinet secretary for the beleaguered Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD).

Blalock, 43, is obviously a smart guy with a masters from Harvard, a law degree from Stanford and extensive experience with troubled youth. The question for New Mexicans is whether he has the street smarts necessary to reform the forlorn, low morale CYFD culture that has repeatedly failed to protect youngsters who end up murdered or maimed, even after the agency often had repeated contact with the victims' families.

Before the R's get frantic about "a San Francisco lawyer" taking over, remember local leadership (politically inspired) has been an abysmal failure the past eight years. A set of eyes from the outside is sorely needed.

Lujan Grisham made a bold call by going outside the state and making a nonpolitical appointment. Now we wait and see if Blalock can play the complicated and treacherous inside game and do what must be done to rescue so many at risk youth.

If you get the vibe that this is one agency where MLG could exercise some of her famous micro-managing to get things moving, we're on the same wave length.

More about the secretary-designate here and more on other Guv cabinet appointments Monday here.

Reader Richard Flores wrote to us before the Blalock appointment:

Joe, your commentary on the CYFD cabinet secretary on your 12/26/18 blog is instructive for its contextual value, and for emphasizing the importance of the job. The former governor is largely responsible for the fiasco, but those state senators who voted to confirm the secretary should also reflect on their actions in confirming a person without relevant experience for this critical position. ABQ Senator Michael Padilla, who warned of that is thus vindicated. Those officials that represent us today should move forward with great caution, and set aside political expediency in favor of what is best for our children.

The Governor's website is listing her cabinet appointments as they are made along with their bios. 


So where's the concession? Southern congressional hopeful Yvette Herrell finally threw in the towel Monday and said that after a review by her campaign of the Dona Ana County absentee ballots she will not contest the election in which she lost to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. She said her plan was always to review the ballots not necessarily challenge the results. Whatever.

Our Alligators predicted no challenge a month ago. Now they're asking, "where is the concession?"

The Alamogordo state rep. has yet to extend a hand of congratulations to Torres Small who took office last week. Meanwhile, the Gators wait for the second part of their prediction to play out--that Herrell will again seek the GOP nomination for the southern seat.  Maybe she'll concede to Torres Small when she announces her second bid? Come on, Yvette, it's time.

UPDATE: Herrell announced via email Tuesday that she will seek the 2020 GOP nomination for the southern congressional seat. 


Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich appeared lost in the shuffle last week when he took office for a second, six year term. That's because the spotlight was on new congresswomen Deb Haaland and Torres Small. Heinrich, 47, can be seen taking the oath from VP Pence here.


BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez hopes he has lowered the political temperature a bit by getting Jessica Kelly, 31, to cop a plea Monday to a number of charges, but not murder, that could put her in prison for 20-25 years in connection with the notorious murder and dismemberment of 10 year old Victoria Martens. The plea, said one of our Legal Beagles, doesn't only mean that Kelly won't go to trial.

"The tactics and mishandling of this case would also have been on trial if Kelley did not take a plea," they commented. 

Legal Analyst John Day said it is up in the air whether the public will perceive the plea deal as sufficient justice for Victoria. The case was badly bungled and law-enforcement across-the-board shares the blame.

Former Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Pete Dinelli believes because of his name ID and generally positive news coverage Torrez is still favored for reelection in 2020 but says any quest for higher office by the DA may be severely hampered by the Marten’s case.


It's election time again. This one is a mail-in ballot to decide a property tax increase proposed by APS to finance a multitude of school construction projects and also to enhance school security. The ballots hit the mailboxes this week and voters have until February 5 to return them. The League of Women Voters says:

Tonight, January 8, we are sponsoring a forum for the APS mail in bond election. The forum begins at 6:30 p.m. at the studios of KANW, the public radio station. It will be carried by the station (89.1 on your FM radio dial and kanw.com) and live streamed on the KNME-TV website.

BernCo County Clerk Linda Stover says she "wants to remind residents of Bernalillo County that the last day to register to vote or update voter registration for the 2019 Albuquerque Public School Special Election is Jan. 8, 2019."

That's today. A sample ballot is here.

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Monday, January 07, 2019

Fortysomething Angst: Crime Wave Testing Mettle Of Mayor Keller And DA Torrez; Murder And Drugs Continue Their Relentless March Into New Year: Keller Struggles With APD; Torrez Shifts Blame And Gets Taken Down 

Keller and Torrez
The ABQ metros two young political hotshots continue to get tripped up by the ongoing ABQ crime wave, a reminder that advancing in statewide politics from the big city looks easy but really isn't.

First, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller, 41, fresh off a high in announcing a decline in a number of crime categories, including auto theft, is now haunted by yet another misstep by his APD that has prompted yet another internal affairs investigation. This one is over the drowning death of a one year old baby girl whose  parents are now charged with child abuse resulting in death:

. . .Family asked police to check on the baby on Dec. 18 and an officer did a welfare check on the baby at a Northeast Albuquerque apartment, but Romero told the officer the baby was with her sister, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday. At that point, the baby was still missing, and it’s unclear why police did not seek the public’s help in finding the family sooner. That’s under internal affairs investigation, that’s what we’re looking into,” a police spokesman said.

The problem is that back in May the same APD failed to fully investigate the abuse of a 7 year old girl whose drug-addled parents turned her into a child prostitute. The girl's blood-stained underwear was collected by an APS teacher but APD rejected it as evidence and had it thrown away. A shocked city saw Keller order an internal affairs investigation and be forced to make a public mea culpa over his initial support of his department's actions.

But here we are again. And that raises the question of whether Keller and his police chief Michael Geier have command and control over the department, which operates under the purview of the Department of Justice because of its checkered past.

 It also again raises the question of APD's culture and whether Keller and Geier are making enough progress with needed reforms. It also raises the more disturbing question of whether Keller and/or Geier have become part of the defensive/rogue culture that got the city in such a law enforcement mess in the first place.

And all of that raises questions about Keller's decision early in his term to reject choosing a new police chief from out of state to reform the rotted culture. Is it now time? Or is the Mayor going to continue to absorb the slings and arrows from an agency that seems largely unresponsive (or impervious) to his will for major reform?

Meantime, Dr. James Ginger, the highly compensated overseer of the DOJ decree governing APD, pronounces himself pleased as punch because, in part, unlike the Mayor Berry administration at least Keller and the chief talk with him. But that's not reform, Doc. That's ego stroking. And pretty darn expensive stroking at that.


The late '18 and early 2019 city violence has been unrelenting. We don't know if the parents of that one year old boy left to drown and then callously buried in a backyard forever to be forgotten were doped up, but isn't that usually the case in these twisted sagas?

And then there's the two teenaged boys--14 and 15--who were slain and buried in shallow graves near Rio Rancho over an apparent drug deal gone awry. The crime began in the ABQ foothills then went to the West Mesa where the boys were beaten to death, with the horror inexplicably being shown on Snapchat.

Then there was the killing of a young girl on the west side last week identified only as a "juvenile" whose 15 year old cousin went berserk, killed her and left the body in an arroyo. Drugs? No word yet.

The cops can't necessarily stop deranged cousins, but it's highly important to note that in the span of a couple of weeks we have a one year old dead and the parents charged; two teens in the grave because of drug abuse and a little girl aged unknown murdered and lying in an arroyo.

Those are the children of this city and state and this is not new. It is a continuation of the wickedness that began creeping up on us with the economic decline and increase in drug usage and trafficking.

ABQ has made some progress in reducing auto and property crime, but the fact remains that violence continues at historic and unacceptable levels--and it is the city's youth who seem to be in its crosshairs.

Keller doesn't try to spin that. But after 13 months in office difficult and potentially painful decisions about this city's policing and its rampant drug dealing have yet to be made. Hiring more cops is not the sole solution, if the culture is not revamped. That's like putting more salt in an already over salted sauce. The more the decisions are delayed by the 11th Floor the more pain it will bring to victims and to the future of the city.

The mayor has hired several old hands as consultants but we need fresh perspectives--from out of this region and state.


Now over to Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez, 42, whose political future appears to be getting swallowed up by perhaps the most horrific child murder in city history--the 2016 killing and dismemberment of 10 year old Victoria Martens.

Democrat Torrez has worked furiously during his tenure to shift blame for the crime wave to the judges. But his blame shifting has caught up with him in the Martens slaying which threatens to go unpunished under his watch and has the DA facing possible court sanctions over his public statements regarding the case. As is his custom, those statements worked to blame others for shortcomings in the case. (Has a DA ever been sanctioned here?)

This week Jessica Kelly's trial for Victoria's murder begins but Torrez has already alarmed the public by saying there could be "an unidentified" man who may have committed the killing and is still on the loose. And the DA has now had to drop the rape charges against her. And Kelley is being prosecuted against that backdrop? Truly this is bizarro world.

Late Monday morning Kelly copped a plea, perhaps lessening a bit of the political pressure on the DA:

One day before the first trial in the Victoria Martens case was scheduled to begin, the defendant, 34-year-old Jessica Kelley pleaded no contest to child abuse recklessly caused, resulting in death, tampering with evidence and aggravated assault. 

There is already talk that Torrez could face a Dem primary challenge in 2020 when he is up for re-election. The sanctions threat and the Victoria Martens case make him more vulnerable--even if he plans on running against the judges for the rest of his career.

They often say the 40's are the "worry free years," usually blessed with good health and career climbing. But for fortysomethings Tim Keller and Raul Torrez they are years when their mettle is being tested like never before. For them their 40's is when your hair starts to turn gray.


Harry Teague
We jumped the gun when we said in a first blog draft Thursday that for the first time in "living memory" our state's congressional delegation is now controlled by one party. It's true that all five positions are now in the hands of the Democrats, but as several readers reminded us we forgot about Harry Teague.

He was the southern NM Democrat who in 2008 was elected to the normally Republican  congressional seat there and who made the delegation all Democratic for two short years in 2009 and '10. That ended when Republican Steve Pearce reclaimed the seat in 2010. We missed that when we trotted out the "living memory" line.

So when was the last time before 2009 that the state's congressional delegation was comprised of solely one party? That was 1981-82 when we had two--not three congressional districts. They were held by Republicans Manuel Lujan and Joe Skeen. Our Senators those two years were Republicans Pete Domenici and Jack Schmitt.

In 1982 Dem Jeff Bingaman was elected to the US Senate, breaking the one party hold on the delegation. It wasn't until 2009 and Teague's election that we would again have solo party control/ If the Democrats hold their own in 2020 it will be the rare occasion when not only one party controls the delegation but does so for two consecutive elections.

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