Thursday, October 10, 2019

It's The Bulls Vs. Bears On NM Oil Boom, Plus: Staffing Up The State And Gracing New Mexico  

The oil Bears were out in force when this article hit. Reader David Meurer was among many readers who pounced:

Signs of a slowdown permeate the Permian Basin, the 55 million acres in West Texas and New Mexico whose abundant oil and widespread fracking fueled America’s quest for energy independence. Dragged into the downdraft of this year’s 19% drop in drilling are orders for everything from giant earth movers that build well-site roads to chemicals used to kill bacteria during hydraulic fracturing. Rig counts are down, hotel proceeds are declining, home sales are slowing and fewer jobs are available than just last year.

Well, David and others, like any boom the first couple of years are the most intense. We suspect the Permian will find a slower growth pattern for the coming years that will continue to generate substantial money to NM's General Fund. The “crashes” of the past are probably history, given the  presence of the giant multinationals (such as Exxon) that can continue to profitably pump oil at very low prices, unlike the smaller independent companies that once dominated the state oil scene. It is true that one of the most dangerous sayings around is: "This time it's different." But you can't ignore the evidence. This time it really does look different.

Senator John Arthur Smith, chairman of the influential Senate Finance Committee has had it wrong on the oil boom and now says two years of gargantuan surpluses in a row still doesn't make us oil Bulls geniuses. But he has been stunned by the anticipated surpluses and we Bulls have not. We have urged Santa Fe to be more daring in funding annual programs that could make a dent in the state's dismal social conditions standing, rather than stuff all the money under the mattress waiting for the sky to fall along with the oil price. Not many takers, but we do find common ground with "Dr. No's" assessment of the state workforce:

State agencies are understaffed and have been for a decade. Despite a steady increase in personnel funding, the number of state employees today is well below 2009 levels. There are simply too few parole officers to effectively monitor offenders, too few social workers to protect vulnerable children – simply too few. . . Some jobs are hard to fill because the workers--especially teachers and healthcare workers – simply don’t exist, and they aren’t in the higher education pipeline. Clearly, rebuilding the workforce for some state services will need the collaborative effort of lawmakers, the state’s colleges, and executive agencies.


Actually, this is a pretty good legacy for retiring 80 year old Santa Fe State Rep. Jim Trujillo, chairman of the House tax committee:

Trujillo. . . was the. . . primary architect of a tax package. . . that paved the way for state and local governments to start levying a tax on online sales--a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed states to do so--and requires nonprofit hospitals to pay the same tax rate that other hospitals do. In addition, the legislation will likely create a new personal income tax brackets for higher-earning New Mexicans, while reducing the tax burden on others by increasing an existing tax credit for working families.

Well done, sir.


It's not well-known in New Mexico but word has spread across the globe about Santa Fe's Inn of the Five Graces. In the 2019 Conde Nast Readers' Choice Awards the Inn ranked 17th out of the top 50 hotels worldwide. Pretty impressive.

If you want to squeeze a stay into your weekend plans, prepare to pay up. The starter room is a two bedroom suite and goes for $925 a night (plus taxes). But you will have plenty of elbow room. The suite is over 600 square feet.

And you don't have to miss out on that breakfast burrito you would have had if you went to the final weekend of Balloon Fiesta. They'll deliver a made to order breakfast directly to your room, included in the $925 price tag. Yeah, now you're livin'.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Xochitl's Choice: Pressure Ramps Up As White House Defies Impeachment Probe, Plus: Vice-Chair Of Powerful Santa Fe Committee Eyed, Also: Northern Negativity; Serna Unloads On Plame 

Torres Small
Welcome back. Here's what's happening. . .

That fence southern Dem Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small is sitting on when it comes to the impeachment inquiry of President Trump is getting increasingly uncomfortable. She is one of only a handful of House D's who have not given their support of the inquiry. Torres Small now faces the question of whether to change her mind in the face of the newly announced defiance of the inquiry by the White House.

Torres Small is in a true swing district and will face a stiff Republican challenge from the winner of the 2020 GOP primary. The President's defiance presents both a matter of law and politics that will be difficult for her to ignore. Even if she gets off the fence and parts with the White House, she steps into a pro-Trump briar patch. You can call that Xochitl's Choice.

On Thursday, Torres Small flipped and said she now backs the impeachment inquiry:

Torres Small said a lack of cooperation from the administration leaves her no choice but to support an impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Donald Trump.(she) had been criticized by members of her own party for her refusal to take a stand on the inquiry. And Republicans are using the issue in their campaign to unseat her, staging a “Stop the Madness” rally outside of her office in Belen

A #2 HAWK?

In Santa Fe, the Wall-Leaners are wondering who will be the new vice-chair of the Senate Finance Committee in the aftermath of the passing of Senator Carlos Cisneros who had held the post.

Gallup Senator George Munoz is a name heard frequently. He's been a fiscal hawk during his service on the committee and would be right at home sitting next to fellow hawk and committee chairman John Arthur Smith. The senate's Committee on Committees will make the decision at the next legislative session, but by then the vice chairman deal should have been cut.

It's quite an important position because the Governor is already at odds with the committee on a number of big ticket items. The gulf between the two could grow or diminish depending on who is selected for the #2 spot. Also, that senator would be in line to succeed the 78 year old Smith.


As for the Cisneros seat, not much has changed. One of the Capitol Gators says Caroline Buerkle of Taos, a top aide to the Guv, is not going after the seat. State Rep. Bobby Gonzales and Taos nonprofit executive Kristina Ortez are two names that seem to be at the top, with maybe Gonzales higher. The four county commissions in the northern district will send names to MLG who will make the selection to fill out the rest of the Cisneros term.


Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna made the smart move and moved to the ideological center (e.g. anti-Green New Deal) in the Dem race for the northern Congressional seat that is crowded with liberals. Now in a new digital ad he attacks Valerie Plame, one of the leading liberals in the contest whose catchy ad of her driving a sports car drew wide attention.

Some people drive fancy cars and want us to believe they are a female version of  James Bond. They think they can impress us with make believe lies that happened over a decade ago. . . The truth is people of the third district want to elect someone to Congress who knows our issues, understands our values and fights hate crimes and anti-Semitism.

That anti-Semitic reference is based on Plame's retweet of an article widely seen as attacking Jews. She apologized. Serna quotes former Santa Fe Mayor Sam Pick as saying Plame's apologies ring "hollow." The problem is the Serna ad spells "hollow" on screen as "hallow."

In contrast to Plame's estimable driving skills in her racy car ad, Serna is shown in his doing some impressive horseback riding. It's Old School vs. New School.

And if we made any spelling errors in this congressional report, just send them to Valerie. We're sure she'd be glad to correct them.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Some Words Not Heard Often In Santa Fe, River City District 8 Musings, New R Candidate Learns A Lesson And Another Ben Ray Money Bomb 

You don't hear this very often in Santa Fe. From Dem State Rep. Jim Trujillo on his decision not to seek re-election next year:

It’s time. By the time of next year’s primary, I’ll be 81 years old. It’s time for me to turn it over to a younger generation. I’ve done the best I could for my district." Health concerns played a role in his decision, he said. In 2017, he was treated for a stroke in a Denver hospital.

"It's time" are not words you hear from 78 year old state Senator John Arthur Smith or 87 year old Senate President Mary Kay Papen who, if re-elected, will head into their 80's and 90's in their next terms. That leaves the "younger" generation of Dems on the back benches. They don't seem to mind. They just kiss up to Mary Kay and John Arthur and all is well.


Here in River City we blogged Monday of how most Dems seem to think the far NE Heights district of GOP City Councilor Trudy Jones is safe for her re-election. But Catherine Sherwood, volunteer campaign manager for Jones' Dem challenger Maurreen Skowran, makes a point. The city has turned so blue so fast that it's hard to keep up:

District 8 can be flipped: The voter registration in District 8 is about 16,000 Dems to 16,000 GOP with 10,000 DTS. State House Representatives who have precincts in this District include: Democrats Melanie Stansbury, Liz Thompson, Natalie Figueroa and Bill Pratt. . . There is a strong grassroots network within key areas in this District and we all know. . . how much this District truly needs someone who has its best interest in mind. 

The Jones district has been R for over s decade and she's still favored. Would Mayor Keller endorsing Skowarn, as he did two other council Dem contenders, make a difference? Maybe. But Skowran getting tougher on Jones could prove more decisive. So far, we're not hearing much of that.


Jill Michel
A Republican woman running for the seat of retiring Dem State Rep. Bill Pratt may have the right idea. She's sounding a bit like a Dem as she tries to take the seat back for the R's who held it for years before Pratt pulled the upset. (He's leaving for health reasons). Here's the lowdown on GOP contender Jill Michel from her campaign:

 . . .She has been an advocate for children while fostering hundreds of New Mexico children. . .Michel is a founding board member of the New Mexico Child First Network, an. . . organization that helps foster parents and children in state care. Michel has been a member of Davita Medical Group’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. . .Michel and her husband were Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) with New Mexico Kids Matter. 

“If we don’t begin to focus on the. . . failures of crime, education and child well-being. . .New Mexico will continue to be last in every category. I am running to be a strong voice in Santa Fe so that (children) have access to a great education, increased economic opportunities, and the safest communities. . .

No Trump or tax cutting talk there, but an emphasis on a background and platform that could have crossover appeal.

The Dems will drill down on Michel's underlying conservatism, but she appears to have learned a lesson from the Dem BernCo '18 landslide that left only one R in the county's legislative delegation.


Dem US Rep and US Senate candidate Ben Ray Lujan threw another money bomb. He says he raised a bit over $1 million in the third quarter, almost replicating the $1.1 million he raised in the second quarter. He says he's not taking any corporate PAC money. He did not report his cash on hand. That will be made public when FEC reports are released Oct. 15.

Lujan remains the favorite for the Dem nomination. Rival Maggie Toulouse Oliver has strong support in Big BernCo but not his money.

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Monday, October 07, 2019

City Election Gets Moving This Week With Absentee And Early Voting; Where The Four Council Races Stand, Plus: ABQ Looking Good To This Big City Retiree 

The 2019 ABQ election gets underway in earnest this week. The first batch of absentee ballots go into mailboxes tomorrow and continue through Oct. 31. Early in-person voting also gets going tomorrow with voting at the downtown BernCo Clerk's annex. Early voting citywide for the Nov. 5 election begins October 19.

It's the races for four seats on the nine member city council that will garner the most attention in the final stretch. Here's how they look today:

District  Two--Downtown/North Valley/Barelas. This has been an exceptionally quiet campaign, given the sometimes controversial service of Dem incumbent Councilor Ike Benton. He has drawn four challengers but they have run campaigns so below the radar that political pros wonder if Benton can get 50 percent of the vote and avoid a run-off election. A run-off would be held Dec. 10 between the two top vote-getters if no one gets to 50 percent Nov. 5. Benton may have a shot for a first round win but his opponents still have a couple of weeks to move the needle.

District 4--This seat in the NE Heights is drawing attention because incumbent GOP Councilor Brad Winter is retiring and has endorsed Republican Brook Bassan. But Bassan is running into trouble because of her voting registration habits. We broke the news recently that Bassan switched to the R's only in May. The Alibi adds:

Bassan changed her registration to Republican in late May of 2019 after spending two years as a registered Democrat. In fact, Bassan has changed her registration from Democrat to Republican five times over the past 13 years.

Bassan's back and forth registration drew one of the first negative hits in a council race with Dem contender Ane Romero chiding her with this email:

. . . Republican Brook Bassan, has changed her registration “from Democrat to Republican five times over the past 13 years.” And she changed her registration from Democrat back to Republican just a few months ago and halfway through the public finance period in June, presumably for some sort of political advantage. . . I think this District deserves steady, transparent leadership. You'll always know where I stand on the issues that are important to District 4.

The third candidate in the race is Athena Ann Christodoulou but this is a two way drama. Dems think the Bassan registration controversy and endorsement of Romero by Mayor Keller increases their chances of taking this swing seat--and without a run-off. Bassan backers hope that her to and fro registration shows she is not a hard core partisan and is a good fit for the swing district.

District 6--In this sprawling SE Heights district incumbent Dem Councilor Pat Davis remains favored despite concerns over his crime fighting record and his backing of the controversial ART project. His Dem foe is attorney and neighborhood leader Gina Naomi Dennis but she has hardly put a glove on him and time is running out.

District 8--This appears to be the lone bright spot for the R's as Republican Trudy Jones is positioned to win another four year term in the far NE Heights district. Her Dem opponent Maurreen Skowran is praised by Dems as highly competent but Mayor Keller did not endorse her and the district remains dominated by R voters.


Crime remains a major problem but ABQ's star shines bright for those weighed down by the high cost of living in big cities. A headline from Marketwatch:

This 57-year-old said ‘screw this’ to San Francisco — and retired to ‘delightful’ Albuquerque, where she slashed her expenses by 70%

It’s an artsy spot — there are hundreds of galleries and art studios; monthly art crawls, and a robust performing-arts scene — and a city where outdoor enthusiasts flock to. That’s helped along by the miles of hiking and biking trails as well as the roughly 300 days of sunshine. And Reinstein says she loves that it’s a diverse city with its own unique cuisine and celebrations.

We ran that because Mayor Keller wants everyone to clean up their act for Balloon Fiesta. Fine, Mayor. Just don't ask us to clean up a homeless camp.

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