Thursday, June 13, 2019

More Obstacles For Legal Pot In NM, Big Bill's Advice To 2020 Prez Hopefuls And NM Ranks High On List Of "Fun States"  

This is pretty much a must read for NM legislators and Governor as they continue to weigh legalizing recreational marijuana.

When states legalize pot for all adults, long-standing medical marijuana programs take a big hit, in some cases losing more than half their registered patients in just a few years, according to a data analysis by The Associated Press. Much of the decline comes from consumers who, ill or not, got medical cards in their states because it was the only way to buy marijuana legally and then discarded them when broader legalization arrived. But for people who truly rely on marijuana to control ailments such as nausea or cancer pain , the arrival of so-called recreational cannabis can mean fewer and more expensive options.

And this factoid could help keep the legalization train parked at the station in Santa Fe:

Participation in the state's medical cannabis program has grown rapidly to 73,000 people after chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder were added to a list of qualifying conditions.

Throw in the bill approved in the last legislative session that decriminalizes possession of half an ounce or less of weed and you can hear the momentum draining away from the legalization crowd.


Former Governor Big Bill says his advice to the 2020 presidential candidates should be " perhaps taken with a grain of salt" since his own Prez campaign in '08 "fizzled." But, writing in the Boston Globe, he forges ahead anyway and offers a list of do's and dont's for the Dem contenders:

On the electoral front, don’t put all your eggs in one or two baskets, like I did in Iowa and New Hampshire, which favor more established candidates. Concentrate on a state that is not too crowded with other candidates and that’s early and manageable, like Nevada. And look around the corner and pick a few states where you can score on Super Tuesday.

And the former two term Governor, 71, who splits his time between homes in Santa Fe and Cape Cod in Massachusetts, has a 2020 prediction:

When I ran for president in 2008, the Democratic campaign was essentially a three-person race at the onset, a contest between Senators Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton. The voters wanted glamor and charisma, not resumes and credentials. But this year seems different: Voters will either go for the most electable candidate against President Donald Trump or generational change, and a relatively young new face.

With 23 Dems running that "relatively young new face" could be one of a dozen.


For those of us of a certain age ABQ often seems a town we no longer recognize. The news:

Volunteers, city, and county workers spend about one hour four times per month picking up needles and syringes around Bernalillo County. It is an initiative. . . by the county's Department of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS). "When we go out and find a lot of needles, yes, we feel some kind of satisfaction saying, 'oh, I picked up 150 needles today," said Michael Hess, a statistical analyst for DBHS. "But on the other hand, that means this is a place where there's a lot of people who are hurting who are using drugs and that's not a good feeling."


On the flip side of the negativity the personal finance site WalletHub says New Mexico is one of the better states to have fun in. In fact, compared to our usual dreary national rankings, fun-loving New Mexicans catapult us into 15th place in 2019's "Most Fun States In America":

With pure enjoyment in mind, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 26 key indicators of a jolly good time that won’t break the bank. They range from movie costs to accessibility of national parks to casinos per capita.

However, when it comes to "nightlife" the sleepy Land of Enchantment slips to #33. So take your nap then get your party shoes on this weekend and help us climb that fun ladder.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Local R's Prep For Trump Re-elect Announcement As He Talks A NM Longshot Play, Plus: A Look Back On His Wild ABQ Night In '16, And: More ABQ Crime Beat 

Amid talk that President Trump might make a longshot play to win New Mexico in 2020 the state GOP will host an ABQ watch party for his re-election announcement that's slated for next Tuesday in Orlando, FL.

The event will be held at ABQ GOP headquarters so it's not as though the Trump campaign has started to reach out to independents and Democrats who would be essential to pull off any upset. No R prez nominee has carried NM since 2004.

A thought: If the Trump campaign pursues its '20 longshot talk, might he attempt to score points with this?:

The Bureau of Land Management no longer opposes an effort by members of the NM congressional delegation that would ban oil, gas and other mineral leasing within a 10-mile buffer zone around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Trump is in good shape to carry the conservative southern congressional district but recent Democratic landslides in big BernCo are a roadblock that appear as impassable as his wall on the border would be.

It seems absurd that the Trump campaign believes it can win here but if Midwest states continue leaking oil on him desperate times will provoke desperate measures. For example, the Trump campaign is now even playing around in deep Blue Oregon.


With Trump set to launch his re-election bid, we take you back to his May 25, 2016 rally at the ABQ Convention Center for what was one of the wildest nights ever in state politics. We were there and here's how we wrote it:


Donald Trump cut Albuquerque in half Tuesday night. His appearance prompted violent street protests that drew national attention and at the same time had his hardcore supporters inside the Convention Center reacting with euphoria. (Complete video of Trump rally is here.)

Visiting the most Hispanic state in the nation and a Democratic city, Trump did not hold back. He hit hard all the hot button issues that have made his presidential candidacy the most controversial of our time. There was no change in tone or content to indicate he would pivot to generate more Hispanic support here or elsewhere.

It was a night of political theater unlike any ever seen here, giving an up front, uncut and unsettling look at the new brand of American politics that carries with it an air of danger.

When we left the Convention Center for the walk home to our near downtown neighborhood, protesters on the street and in cars taunted the Trump crowd, waving Mexican flags and shouting obscenities at them. Some vehicles spun their tires to burn rubber and send smoke into the faces of the Trump supporters.

It was a long walk home.


The head of the ABQ police officer's union was quoted here Tuesday saying police feel "handcuffed"  enforcing the law because of a federal consent decree governing APD. That drew this cutting dissent on Twitter:

Gag me -#APD is "handcuffed" by the gangster culture it wallows in and which caused more than $50 million paid out in lawsuits and the cost of the federal oversight. And this was not addressed by its union..#goodmoneyafterbad #DOJOversight.

A spokeswoman for APOA--the police union--comes with this reaction:

The DOJ has certainly been a challenge for officers. One of the most problematic things to contend with has been the McClendon settlement under the previous administration. . . The City has chosen to take the most liberal execution of the settlement, telling APD officers to not arrest for misdemeanors but rather to cite or give a summons to violators. This has truly handcuffed officers and they hate it. . .

The APOA believes that the way in which the settlement has been brought to bear on their daily policing can and should be reviewed. We think that officers should be allowed discretion in arresting individuals and certainly if they are known repeat offenders. . . 

. . . Officers need to have their discretion back, make arrests and send people to jail even if it’s only for a day or two. Officers are convinced that until the city allows them to make these arrests they won’t be able to make a lasting impact on the crime crisis in Albuquerque. This is not to say that the DOJ hasn’t made a lasting mark on policing here but when it comes to day to day crime and the quality of life issues we face, McClendon has been the real hang up, and that’s certainly not well understood by the public.

The McClendon settlement dealt with jail overcrowding as well as issues relating to APD's arrest procedures. More on that here.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

On The Crime Beat: Union Chief Says Cops Feel "Handcuffed" As City Works To Bolster Force With New Tax, Plus: City's Elites Debate How To Indict The Bad Guys  

The ABQ public safety tax that voters started paying last July to hire more ABQ cops may or may not have the intended result. Here's a worrisome take from the head of the police union on the recent decision to temporarily deploy state police officers on crime-ridden streets of the city:

“God bless the state police,” said Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association. “Part of the problem with Albuquerque's crime is because the Albuquerque Police Department is handcuffed."

The public safety tax will raise over $50 million a year with the goal of eventually having a 1,200 member APD. But if the cops feel they are "handcuffed" by the DOJ consent decree they must operate under how is that increased presence going to result in crime reduction?

Then there is the prosecutorial end. A spirited debate (an esoteric one for the general public) has broken out among the city's legal elites regarding the use of grand juries to bring indictments against the bad guys vs. preliminary hearings.

The hearings are often what you saw (and still see) on Perry Mason. A judge hears evidence from both sides and decides if a defendant should be sent to trial for his alleged crime. The grand jury is a panel of citizen who hear from the prosecutor on whether to bring an indictment.

Obviously, the BernCO DA (and Mayor Keller) would like to keep the grand jury system while district court judges argue its time is past. Here's reader and ABQ attorney Alan Wagman taking a dive into this angle of the city's crime spree:

For 6 years I was in the Albuquerque Public Defender office. I represented scores of grand jury defendants and also represented hundreds of defendants in preliminary hearings.

First, I was struck by the claim from BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez and Mayor Tim Keller in their letter to NM Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith Nakamura that police officers scheduled to testify at grand jury hearings could be given an exact time at which to arrive for testimony and be done within 35 minutes. While sometimes true, the claim is balderdash. I often waited hours before the hearing actually take place. Police officers who arrived on time had the same wait. The claim that grand jury hearings run like clockwork is wishful thinking from a District Attorney and a mayor who have clearly never gotten their hands into the day-to-day grind of how the criminal justice system here actually operates.

Second, preliminary hearings can prevent gross miscarriages of justice. To cite one example,  I defended individuals charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana. When these individuals are charged via grand jury, the arresting officer will tell the grand jury that the accused person had multiple sealed baggies of marijuana--perhaps 2 inches by 2 inches in size. The officer would testify that this was evidence of intent to sell the marijuana. 

I have defended individuals on the same charge in a preliminary hearing where I was able to question the officer. The officer had to admit that perhaps the accused had purchased what was a very small quantity of marijuana for personal use, and it just happened that he purchased it in the packaging--much the same as a person buying two packs of cigarettes. In the case heard by a grand jury, the accused would be charged with a felony and go to a wasteful trial, where the conviction--if any--would be for a petty misdemeanor. In the case heard by preliminary examination, the accused would be charged with a petty misdemeanor and the case would likely be quickly resolved by plea.

So, I ask, which method produces justice? And which method produces waste?

Meanwhile, the Governor has established a crime advisory group chaired by veteran trial attorney and former NM Dem Party Chairman Sam Bregman. What this group can possibly add to the discussion, which has been going on ad nauseam for years, remains to be seen. But with Bregman holding the microphone there's never a shortage of words.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Busting The Senate Coalition: Progressives Put Bullseye On Clemente Sanchez As He Brings Fight To Them, Plus: Northern Congress And Pinto Senate Seat Updates  

Sen. Sanchez
Dem State Senator Clemente Sanchez, a key member of the conservative coalition that controls the Senate, has a bulls eye on his back with progressive Dems ready to fire the arrows.

Sanchez, who is sure to draw a liberal Dem primary opponent in next June's primary, is already fighting back. In a an opinion piece Sanchez comes this close to actually calling himself a Republican, a label the progressives think fits:

. . . The Democrat Party. . . has manifested in factions splintering off, charging one another with ignoring the others’ commitment to the lower and middle class, otherwise cemented in popular culture as the 99 percent.

Isn't that supposed to be "Democratic Party"? Well, it is if if you consider yourself a member,

It appears Sanchez, 60, has avoided the first arrow aimed at that bullseye he sports. Ray Concho of Acoma, who had been entertaining a primary run, is apparently not going in. However a landline poll conducted in Sanchez's Valencia/ Cibola/Socorro/ McKinley district by a political operative reveals the cocksure Clemente could easily get a competitive race, if the right foe emerges.

That May 20 poll gave him a 36 percent favorable rating from likely Dem primary voters but 47 percent had no opinion of him. And when voters were told about Sanchez's opposition to a constitutional amendment to fund early childhood education from the $18 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund, as well as his opposition to background checks for gun sales, the race got interesting.

Sanchez, a Grants banker first elected in 2012, argued in his op-ed that he and others against the progressives are "moderate Democrats:"

Rhetoric and finger-pointing are designed to obstruct results. When progressives circle their wagons and collectively call out the moderate members of the Democratic Party they produce negative results – a splintered base and an emboldened opposition.

But calling himself a "moderate" will be called a stretch. The defining moment of his career is his membership in the coalition that includes all 18 conservative Republican Senators and only a handful of Dems.


The effort to bust the Senate coalition, which will be a top political story here in the next year, is also playing out in ABQ, but it's not about Dem vs. Dem.

ABQ GOP Senator Sander Rue is well aware that he could be endangered when he seeks re-election next year as BernCo continues to trend deep blue. No wonder he's getting started early on his re-election bid:

With a proven record of bipartisan and independent leadership in the State Senate, Senator Rue is uniquely prepared to fight for the Westside in today’s tumultuous political landscape. 

Note his appeal to the many Democrats now in his district. Will the progressive Dems field a strong candidate in Rue's working class Westside district, perhaps lessening the pressure on them to beat Clemente Sanchez or other Dem Senators to break up the coalition? We're staying tuned,


It appears the field for the race for the Democratic nomination for the northern congresiaonal seat is set. There are eight Dems seeking the nod to replace Dem Rep Ben Ray Lujan who is leaving the seat to run for Senate. One Republican has filed for the seat which is rated Safe D.

Repeating our "soft top tier" a year out from the primary: Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna, lawyer Teresa Leger Fernandez and former CIA operative and author Valerie Plame. We see them as best positioned to finance a credible run in the vast district.  More here.


We mentioned that friends of the politically prominent Navajo Begaye brothers--Russell, a former Navajo Nation president and Ray, a former NM state rep--report they are interested in replacing the late State Senator John Pinto. Here's another wrinkle as the San Juan and McKinley county commissions prepare to send recommendations to the Governor who will make the final choice:

Navajo Nation Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said Pinto did talk about whom he believed should replace him if he were to step down or vacate his seat, and that was his granddaughter Shannon Pinto. “I know Senator Pinto asked me to support his granddaughter Shannon Pinto,” said Crotty.”

The Navajo Nation council has approved a resolution calling on the Governor to choose a Navajo to succeed Pinto.

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