Thursday, May 09, 2019

Yvette Says This Time She's Ready To Debate Xochitl, Plus: ABQ Crime Spree Shakes State Senator; Now He Has Questions For Bernco DA  

Not that she had much choice, but southern GOP congressional candidate Yvette Herrell is changing her tune about debating Dem Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. Herrell now says that if she is again the GOP nominee next year she will take on Torres Small in a TV debate, something she declined to do in her losing bid last year. But then who says Torres Small will agree to debate her? Well, she likely will, but if the polling shows the incumbent comfortably ahead there might be very few Yvette vs. Xochitl TV nights.

There is another candidate seeking the southern GOP congressional nod. He's Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys who has loaned his campaign over $75,000 but is being shunned by the GOP establishment in favor of Herrell. Still, he knows how to prey on Herrell's weakness, letting this loose in the Hobbs newspaper:

I like Yvette, but frankly she wasn’t strong as our nominee. She wouldn’t debate anyone. Yvette, to be candid, she had her shot. Guess what, she didn’t make it and a lot of it had to do with just not being accessible and not working hard. I think voters need someone that’s going to work hard because if you work hard to get elected, you’re going to apply that same work ethic once you are elected.

The national GOP thinks they can push Herrell to victory in 2020 but Dems think Torres Small is dodging a bullet because it is rare for a defeated congressional candidate in NM to make a comeback.

Meanwhile, the northern congressional race is kind of slow. How slow? Well, the news is that an unknown candidate who was in the race for the Democratic congressional nomination for several weeks, Mark McDonald of Raton, is getting out of the race and endorsing Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna who is not yet an official candidate. Serna is expected to toss his hat into the ring by month's end. Yep, that's pretty slow going.


The ABQ crime crisis is impacting one state lawmaker personally. Take a look at this Facebook post from ABQ Dem State Senator Jacob Candelaria:

When are we going to see an improvement in public safety in this city? (I was) almost the victim of a potentially life threatening road rage incident Tuesday afternoon. A driver pulled a gun (after almost hitting me as he was driving way over the speed limit on Academy Blvd) he then changed lanes to try and pull next to me. I had to duck into a residential area to get away. 

Two years ago the legislature appropriated millions to the District Attorney for a safer ABQ. I helped fight for that money in the Senate. When are we going to see the results? Gun crime is on the rise. UNM student killed. Postal worker killed. Time to demand results. This three days before my wedding. This week I’ve gotten three calls from constituents feeling that ABQ is becoming a more dangerous city. I know the feeling.

Candelaria, who said he reported the incident to APD, is a new member of the important Senate Finance Committee. In 2018 that committee and the legislature approved a big budget increase for the office of BernCo DA Raul Torrez to improve crime fighting efforts. As the crime wave continues, Candelaria says he intends on grilling Torrez on how that money is being employed and why the city seems to be getting more dangerous, not less.

Tillery and Candelaria
As for his wedding, Candelaria, 32, is marrying Kory Tillery, 27, the son of Glen Tillery, president of Tillery Chevrolet in Moriarty. Kory Tillery is graduating from the UNM School of Medicine Friday.

The wedding is Saturday at Santa Fe's Eldorado Hotel and will be quite the social event with Governor Lujan Grisham officiating.

Candelaria won't be putting more heat on ABQ officials over the crime wave right away. Following the wedding he says the newlyweds will be honeymooning in the British Virgin Islands for two weeks.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Time For Another Edition Of Reader Vox Populi: Crime, ART, Senate Race All On Their Minds  

We lead off this edition of Reader Vox Populi with Jeffrey Baker who writes of the controversial ART project on Central:

Joe, From your column Tuesday: “Part of that message will be ART, the controversial transit project that Councilor Davis heartily backed under Republican Mayor Berry and which turned into one of the most bungled public works projects in city history.”

“one of the most bungled”?

Thanks, Jeffrey. Thinking it through, ART would indeed appear to be the most bungled public works project in ABQ's history dating back to 1891.

The only worse decisions regarding public works might be those the city actually failed to build. Two examples come to mind.

First was the failure to build multiple bridges over the Rio Grande as Westside growth exploded in the 80's and 90's. That divided the community physically and emotionally. More bridges would have led to a deeper sense of community as folks made their way back and forth, not to mention the economic benefits. Today drivers stick to their side of the river as much as possible because of the traffic headaches involved in crossing the span.

The second example was the failure to construct adequate flood control for the city which led to dangerous flooding in the Valley areas well into the 1950's. But that failure was remedied. Today's excellent flood control managed by the ABQ Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA) continues to make ABQ safe when torrential monsoons occur.

The times and the needs change. Today perhaps the most imperative public works project is the $14 million homeless center Mayor Keller proposes for the near downtown area. ABQ voters will decide on the bond issue for the center at the November election. The $14 million would cover the first phase of the $28 million project.


Reader Jean Bernstein is the owner of the long-established Flying Star restaurant chain in ABQ. The original location is at Nob Hill on Central Avenue. She writes:

Joe, I just read your May 6th post about the crime and violence on Central. As usual, very astute observations. Like many others, as owner of Flying Star Cafes and Satellite Coffee, I am weary from the bad decisions of the previous administration. The entire corridor, not just Nob Hill, but Highland, Downtown, EDO, and West Downtown has experienced an uptick in crime and a drop in visitors. And yet – a letter, written by Len Romano, a local business owner and signed by more than 200 business and property owners, was recently sent to Mayor Keller and the City Council demanding an increased police presence and affirming our intentions to stick it out and make the best of it. 

Despite the empty storefronts and bad press, there are still a large number of new businesses actively trying to make a go on Central. There are developers investing tens of millions and building new housing and hotels. After all, Central is Route 66, a place which still conjures up romance and fascination for people who visit Albuquerque from all over the world. 

Notice I am not blaming former Mayor Berry, ART, our current City Council or administration. What’s the point? Those of us who have survived the recent past see light at the end of the tunnel and are determined to push forward. Politics aside, conditions on Central and the rest of the city can be turned around significantly with increased policing. W believe the key to a clean and safe Central and Albuquerque is APD. Making sure the 2020 budget provides enough funding and giving them the support they need is all we should be talking about right now.


This reader writes of the murder of 23 year old UNM Student athlete Jackson Weller on Nob Hill early Saturday morning and wonders if such crime is on elf the reasons for the school's declining enrollment:

While the death of a student athlete is shocking, there have been and continue to be crimes involving student athletes and students that we never hear about. Would be interesting to compare UNM / ABQ police reports with UNM withdrawals to see what ABQ crime is costing UNM in terms of enrollment. At this point, I hate to even visit the Frontier restaurant late at night when one of my daughters visits town but go anyway ‘cuz it was one of her favorite high school hangouts.

The killer of Weller remains at large.


Reader J. J. Carrizales gets some digs in on NM GOP Chairman Steve Pearce regarding the race for the Democratic nomination for US Senate. Peace has called on contender Maggie Toulouse Oliver to resign as Secretary of State because he believes her job overseeing elections is a conflict of interest:

Joe, Please direct me to the article I must have missed concerning Steve Pearce’s call on Brian Kemp, current Republican Governor of Georgia and former Georgia Secretary of State, to resign his state office as he ran for Governor in 2018 against Stacey Abrams. I’m sure Pearce was as concerned then about the apparent conflict of interest represented by Republican Kemp’s run in Georgia as he is now for New Mexico and MTO’s run. Thanks for whenever you can provide a citation for that article!

Well, we will leave it up to Steve to provide that article, J.J. We know better than to get in the middle of a boxing match.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Underdog Watch: Challenger To ABQ Councilor Davis Says She Is Not Part Of A "Democratic Clique" And Can Pull Off The Upset  

Gina Naomi Dennis
A UNM political science student is among a number of readers and political observers who are urging that insiders give ABQ city council candidate Gina Naomi Dennis a second look. That's after her candidacy challenging incumbent Dem Councilor Pat Davis was given short shrift on the Monday blog.

The student and others argue that if any contender has a shot at pulling off an upset in November's election it is Dennis. That's because the SE Heights district continues to grapple with epidemic levels of crime and other serious issues.

Monday we chatted up Dennis, 40, who is an attorney and four year resident of the district. She tells me she grew up in DC where her father was a neurosurgeon and her mom an activist (as was her father).

Like her parents she became politically aware and eventually took her law degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, "a global leader in the education of women of African descent." She said she departed Spelman feeling "empowered."

Along her life path she snagged a top White House internship under President Clinton, helping to  compile his news briefings as well as clipping out the crosswords puzzles for him when he traveled on Air Force One. She also spent four months living in China, where she learned how to speak Mandarin while working on environmental issues (she is also a green building specialist).

Dennis wasted no time plunging into politics when she moved here to practice tribal law. She became president of the District 6 Coalition of Neighborhoods who face steep challenges with drugs, crime, vacant and abandoned buildings and poverty. She says the difference between her and Davis is this:

He is not being honest about the crime problem. Unlike him, I am not telling people crime is going down because it isn't. Because of apathy there is widespread underreporting of crime. And when police are called response times are still too slow. We as a community need to manage APD. For example, by getting officers who are on patrol that are experiencing low call volumes to get on a beat with higher volume. We also need improved lighting throughout the district. And vacant and abandoned properties continue to be a major problem. My opponent is part of a Democratic Party clique. I am not. But I can get the job done.

Dennis calls herself a "true progressive" who was a Bernie Sanders NM delegate to the '16 Democratic National Convention.

Dem ABQ Congresswoman Deb Haaland has openly endorsed Davis. No big surprise there since Davis dropped out of the US House race and then gave Haaland an important endorsement which helped propel her to victory in the 2018 primary and eventually to the US House.


Pat Davis 
Dennis says she would not be running if she had not heard from a cross-section of residents who want a change. She is pursuing public financing, as is Davis, and if she qualifies by the end of the month deadline she will have the money to carry her message.

Part of that message will be ART, the controversial transit project that Councilor Davis heartily backed under Republican Mayor Berry and which turned into one of the most bungled public works projects in city history. Dennis says:

The supposed leadership in District 6 drove right over our public input and gutted our historic Route 66--Central Avenue--and crushed our businesses.

Councilor Davis continues to campaign on the idea that his district (and the city) are turning around and are "back on the right track" especially on the crime front. That is a debatable proposition. Each time he says it there seems to be another shocking slaying, like the one this past weekend of 23 year old UNM athlete Jackson Weller.

Davis' high name ID and previous council win have insiders putting him in good shape for re-election. But there's no question a serious and lively campaign is in the best interest of the city--and Ms. Dennis assures us we're going to get one.


While the city council campaigns heat up over crime, more calls to get tougher on it seem to be circulating on social media in the wake of the ongoing violence. Here are two samples from Facebook:

Greg Cook--It seems most of the offenders that are caught have already been in the justice system and released...hint! The judges are not using their power to hold and imprison these offenders. People will say rehab before prison...I say rehab IN prison!

Mike Johnson--Rampant crime enabled and encouraged by left wing, soft-on-crime judges, DAs, and politicians. That is New Mexico True.

Republicans have stayed mostly under the radar on the city's #1 issue. No wonder. They had the helm of the city for eight years--from 2009-2017--when the trouble started and stayed.


Dem US Senate candidate Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has named his campaign manager, a familiar name in political circles. From the campaign:

Brad Elkins will serve as campaign manager for his Senate bid. . . Elkins managed. . . Senator Martin Heinrich’s reelection campaign. . . Elkins oversaw all operations for a campaign that generated a 24-point victory for Heinrich in a three-way contest. In 2016, Elkins served as deputy campaign manager for Jason Kander’s U.S. Senate race in Missouri. . .

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Monday, May 06, 2019

Are We Shocked Or Numbed? 23 Year Old UNM Student Athlete Latest Victim Of Unrelenting ABQ Violence; The New Normal? Council's Effort To Catch-Up To Crime Crisis Draws Heat 

Jackson Weller
They are not the run of the mill murders that routinely mar the city's SE Heights War Zone (feebly renamed the International District) but are high-profile killings that chill the conversation about the future of ABQ.

First, the April 22 slaying of US postal service carrier Jose Hernandez in broad daylight in Westgate Heights sent the city reeling. Then over the weekend a second high profile murder struck before the city had time to catch its breath. 

The killing of 23 year old UNM baseball player Jackson Weller outside the late night dining spot Last Call early Saturday at the city's once thriving Nob Hill, now a shabby replica of its once swaggering self, forced Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier to adopt a different tone in their reaction. Keller declared:
Jose Hernandez

I am saddened and angered by the news that a student’s life was taken last night. I am getting updates regularly from APD as they work hard to solve this case and bring the killer to justice.

That sounded like the blog advice the mayor received from former cop and ABQ attorney Tom Grover and others who urged him to toughen his tone as the gun violence grows increasingly shocking. It is also penetrating stratas of society previously thought immune--a federal employee and a UNM student athlete.

The tougher talk is essential if the criminal class is going to in any way feel confronted by the political and law enforcement apparatus of this city but the fear that an ultimate solution may evade us is seeping into the body politic. This from one of our Senior Alligators:

The city's crime solution of putting more police on the streets may be futile. They have plenty of police in Chicago and Baltimore and the gun violence has not ceased. It has become institutionalized in drugs, gangs and economic deprivation. With an anemic economy that produces mainly low-wage jobs, the point of no return--at least for the foreseeable future--may be being reached in ABQ or already has been. 

That the gun violence has been escalating for several years and maintaining its higher levels attests to the concern that rather than a curable anomaly we are seeing a poisoned and sickened culture become permanent, one that darkens the landscapes of other American metro areas, albeit much larger than ours.


Benton and Davis
Keller gets plenty of empathy for what he faces, even if impatience is brewing. He followed into office arguably the worst mayor and police chief in city history who ran APD into the ground and did nothing to improve the economy--except to bring us the disastrous ART project on Central Avenue that continues to reduce businesses to shells of their former selves or runs them out of business entirely.

Then there's the ABQ City Council, a group of nine who have been absent without leave for years when it comes to the city's crime epidemic and economic decline/stagnation. They are now trying to play catch up by proposing $1.5 million in funding for police bike patrols on Central as business owners deal with a plight brought to them by former Mayor RJ Berry, and as reader John Strong points out, also by some of the very councilors who are now seeking re-election this year:

Joe, I read with much interest the recent proposals by four of our city councilors to spend  $1.5M on additional police and safety measures along Central because of the struggles businesses are having recovering from the failed ART project ( I live at 15th and Central) There is no question that there is a problem, but I would remind people that three of these council members (Pat Davis, Ike Benton, and Ken Sanchez) voted for this debacle while completely ignoring the clear wishes of the citizens who live here. The public was correct in wanting to have very careful due diligence and public involvement before tinkering with Central Avenue, but instead seven council members decided the public didn't need a voice in this, and rammed it down our throats anyway, and now here we are. Not too worry though, they're coming to the rescue to atone for their horrible judgment, and of course they want to be re-elected as well.

Benton and Davis are seeking re-election this year, with Benton feeling the most heat, particularly from two young opponents. Davis has not drawn a strong challenger because of his appeal as a progressive in the very liberal district but also because so much of it is riddled with crime and violence who would want to take on the mess?

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