Thursday, October 24, 2019

Zack Attack: Newcomer Council Contender Feels Sting of La Politica, Plus: Debating the ABQ Rail Yards 

First came the Benton bashing now it's the Zack attack.

ABQ City Councilor Ike Benton is getting bruised in the mailboxes from an independent committee backing Zack Quintero in the six way District 2 city council battle in the Nov, 5 election. Now an indy committee backing Benton--Progressive ABQ--gives political newcomer Quintero his first encounter with the sting of La Politica.

In the mailer posted here Quintero is scored for saying he was hired as an economist for the city of Santa Fe. The recent UNM School of Law grad is not an economist and Santa Fe doesn't even have one on the payroll. So you get this hit:

Why won't Quintero tell the truth about his job history? Because he's not qualified to be our city councilor. Quintero keeps saying he was Santa Fe's "city economist" when, in fact, he was an entry level employee and Santa Fe doesn’t even employ a city economist.

Quintero says that the job title of "Economic Development Specialist" that he was given did not match the actual work that he did and that he was indeed an economist.

Well, that's a thin reed to try to stand on and the Benton backers got their revenge.

As for the black and white pic of Zack appearing to appraise a poker hand, we don't know what that has to do with him fudging a job title, but we do know his hole card. If he can somehow keep Benton below 50 percent Election Night he would force a run-off election. Now that would be a high limit poker game.


Meanwhile, Councilor Benton is taking umbrage with our recommendation that voters cast ballots against the $8 million in Metropolitan Redevelopment Bonds. Five million of those bonds would go to "clean-up" the historic Rail Yards in Barelas which we see turning into a bottomless money pit. Benton paints a different picture:

Say it ain’t so, Joe! I’m disappointed to see you oppose the GO bond, and suggest demolition of the historic Rail Yards. . . Do you want to add this to the Alvarado, Franciscan and other tragic losses? The purchase by the city was a longstanding priority of the Barelas neighborhood and preservation advocates. I enthusiastically followed through in 2007 by assembling funding for that purchase with Mayor Chavez. Even through tough times and meager funding, the Sunday market is now a huge and growing success. CNM’s film institute will provide a strong anchor for other tenants. These amazing structures are widely recognized and are on the National Historic Register for historic preservation. The redevelopment has exceptionally strong support not only in the adjoining neighborhoods, but the wider community – witness the $7.5M bipartisan funding support from state this year, which we are attempting to leverage with the GO Bond. 

The Sunday market is a plus and if CNM follows through with the film plans that too would be an added plus. But there's much land there, so what else? After 12 years there have been no big bites from the private sector and the "clean-up" costs keep mounting. That looks like the beginning of a money pit. We expect the Yards bond to prevail, but then so did the ART project--until it didn't.


In our first draft Wednesday we blogged that the APS bond issue was $100 billion. That would be nice, but it's only $100 million. And in quoting a release from Mayor Keller he said the economic impact of the city's $128 million bond issue from jobs etc. would be $1.5 million. That should be $1.5 billion.


Cheryl Haaker of the League of Women Voters Central NM writes:

Joe, Thanks for the shout-out and link in Wednesday's blog! We could tell that people were using it by all the calls that came in reporting "issues." I've since corrected everything reported and am standing by if there are more. You've got a great readership and the League really appreciates your work.

We're glad to hear that, Cheryl. And for those that had trouble accessing the voter guide, here again is the link.


Me in 2006
Cheryl thanking our readers brings to mind that this month marks the 16th year of NM Politics with Joe Monahan. That Sweet 16 Birthday makes this the longest running political column in the state and one of the longest in the USA.

We started in the Internet Stone Age in 2003 but the basics remain the same and always will--write to add value to the lives of your readers and like what you do, even on the rough days. There's a whole lot of other stuff that goes into the mix but a killer sunset and the World Series are both playing right now. Catch you later, Gators. (And thanks for tuning in).

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

ABQ Election '19: APS Looks For Passing Grade From Voters, An Address For the Homeless And Campaign Mode For Keller 

What's the most important message in this mailer in support of the ballot questions for the ABQ Public Schools that face metro area voters in the Nov. 5 election? Is it "safer schools" or "no new taxes?;"

Both are equally vital to passage after APS was spanked by voters in February when a trio of ballot measures that would have raised property taxes 4.7 percent to finance school improvements were soundly rejected--57 to 43 percent.

APS is nothing if not a good student and has learned its lesson. They are back before voters asking for a second chance and with a scaled down plan that asks voters to continue the current mill levy for the schools and a $100 million bond package--neither of which would raise taxes a penny.

In February voters simply could not buy the APS argument that it needed a batch of new schools and major construction money when APS enrollment has actually been falling. Throw in what has been an anemic metro economy and property owners in particular turned sour on APS.

This time--with considerable community support--the election outcome should not be another failing grade for APS.


The controversial question of where to place a 300 person capacity ABQ homeless shelter--if a $14 million bond issue is approved by voters Nov. 5--has revealed growing frustration with the seemingly intractable homeless problem. Reader Joel Gay chimes in with this:

I'm sure I'm not the first to suggest it, but why not put the new shelter in the Rail Yards lot?

A $5 million bond issue to be used to spruce up the historic but decayed Rail Yards is also on the ballot, even though the city hasn't been able to do much with previous bond money since it purchased the Yards in 2007. In that context, Joel's suggestion to place the homeless shelter there doesn't seem too far fetched, plus the city would not have to buy any land.

Reader Brian Fejer comes with this:

Since the Public Library downtown already acts as a de facto homeless shelter, why not redesign the library for the 21st Century. Why not add restrooms, showers, and computers for the homeless in the basement, along with counseling and referrals. The first floor could be a library again, and put the kids space and a community theater on the third floor. 

Like we said, there's a lot of frustration in this community and others around the nation as the homeless problem shows no signs of abating.


Mayor Keller is in campaign mode--not for himself but for the $128 million in city bonds on the ballot, including those for a homeless shelter and Rail Yards. His pitch:

These bonds are more than bricks and mortar. Without raising taxes, they invest in solving our biggest challenges: funding police substations, railyards redevelopment, repairing our roads, and finally building a homeless shelter to address a huge need. The business community is one hundred percent behind these efforts, and we are coming together to ask the community, with one voice, to help us invest in building Albuquerque by voting and passing this bond.

The capital investment package will support approximately 1,084 jobs over the life of the projects and have an estimated economic impact of $1.5 billion. If voters say yes at the ballot box, bonds will fund projects that span across every Albuquerque district:

· $30 million in road improvements,
· $14 million for a 24/7 homeless shelter,
· $7.25 million for a police station in the SE Area Command,
· $13.3 million for parks including Balloon Fiesta Park and Daniel Webster Children’s Park,
· $5.5 million for a new International District community library,
· $5 million for Railyard cleanup, and more.

Keller is also urging voters to approve a 10-year renewal of a 20-year-old quarter cent gross receipts transit tax that funds additional road repairs, bicycle infrastructure and trails and transit. Taxes will not increase if the renewal passes.

One worrisome trend is the scaling back of the size of our bond issues because of past financial decisions. $128 million is not much considering the aging of the city. Back in 2009 the bond issue for that cycle was $160 million.


The League of Women Voters of Central NM is out with its in-depth guide on the candidates and issues of Election '19. It is here.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Debate Over Homeless Shelter Won't Stop With Election; Location Battle Expected, Plus: More Benton Bashing And An Alligator Strike On UNM 

Winning voter approval for a $14 million bond issue to construct a large ABQ homeless shelter may be the easy part. Where to put it could provoke a battle for City Hall as the NIMBY forces--not in my backyard--rush to reject any selected site. 

To tamp down objections before the November 5 election the city is being  intentionally vague about where the shelter would be built. But already concerned residents are expressing fear that the 300 person capacity shelter could be situated near them.

Government insiders point in the direction of Lomas Blvd. east of downtown as a possible shelter location. There are large swaths of vacant land there owned by UNM. Whether UNM or other potential sellers would be amenable to the land being used as a homeless shelter is another matter.

There isn't much residential development immediately around the Lomas land but neighborhood opposition can be expected within several miles of any shelter address.

The Westside Shelter in use in the winter months is too far out to effectively serve the homeless and it costs the city too much for transport.

The bond issue for the shelter is not a stand alone item but is lumped in with bonds totaling $21 million for community and senior centers. That will make its path easier, but if the approval percentage falls to 60 percent or below it will be a red flag for Mayor Keller.

Also, because of widespread addiction and mental health issues among the homeless, Mayor Keller says the new shelter will accept anyone--sober or not. Behavioral health, housing and other services would be offered.

The Lomas location is liked because it is on the bus line and close to downtown where a myriad of other homeless services are already offered.

Whatever the proposed shelter location there will likely be a pitched battle.


Benton bashing begets more Benton bashing as veteran Dem City Councilor Ike Benton fends off five challengers.

The latest is over a campaign mailer posted here Monday that shows Benton listening intently to a police officer. The headline said: "Isaac Benton is working to keep our families safe." The mailer could easily be interpreted that Benton is endorsed by ABQ police.

APD union president Sean Willoughby pointed out that APD officers don't lend themselves to campaign literature and that the officer posing with Benton was likely an actor. He also decried the piece because Benton has said publicly that he did not want the endorsement of the APOA because he says it has "obstructed" police reforms. The union endorsed Zack Quintero in the District 2 race. Said Willoughby:

We have a video of Councilor Benton disrespecting police officers. For him to use the mantra of pro-public safety and supportive officers is a slap in the face because that's not what he told his constituents when he said he would not seek or want the APOA endorsement. We have been good stewards in the federal oversight process, not that we don't sometimes disagree. What we have from Councilor Benton is a sleight of hand in his mailer. 

The Benton campaign retorted that Willoughby's complaints are a "nothing burger."

Candidates can't use city resources for campaigning or political purposes, so of course these aren't actual APD officers. Ike talking with police officers is something he does regularly, and in no way does he imply or say the police union has endorsed him. The Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) who endorsed Trump over Clinton and Steve Pearce over Lujan Grisham has endorsed Zack Quintero for District 2. This is a nothing burger.


The news here Monday that Barbara Damron, former Sec. of Higher Ed under GOP Governor Martinez, has taken that plum position of UNM government relations officer at least until June 30 had the Alligators writhing. One came with this:

Your item about UNM hiring Barbara Damron is an eyebrow-raiser because it was Damron’s actions as Secretary of Higher Education that put UNM’s accreditation in danger and was one of the main causes of UNM’s controversial decision to cut sports last year.

As Secretary, Damron came down very hard on UNM and its athletic department. She put UNM on an “Enhanced Fiscal Oversight Program,” demanding that the athletic department “pay back” $4.7 million in budget overruns. UNM strongly objected. Damron’s action led to the Higher Learning Commission to closely scrutinize UNM to the point that its accreditation was in jeopardy.And UNM President Garnett Stokes cited Damron’s action as one of the reasons that it made the controversial decision to cut sports last year.

Barbara Damron and Garnett Stokes, you've just been subjected to an Alligator Strike. Congrats. . . or something.

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Let The Benton Bashing Begin; Foes Focus On Longtime Councilor's Record, Plus: Voter Bonding And Plum UNM Post Gets A Temp 

Let the Benton bashing begin. And it has. With Election Day Nov. 5 and with early voting in full swing, negative mailers against ABQ Dem City Councilor Ike Benton are in the mailboxes in an effort to unseat the veteran councilor.

It's been a long time coming. Benton, who represents District 2 which includes Downtown/Barelas and the North Valley, has long been seen as the most vulnerable of the three incumbent councilors seeking re-election but his five opponents--that's right five--have held off attacking Benton whose support of the controversial ART project and a historic crime epidemic make him a prime target.

Robert B. Nelson came with the Benton hit posted at the top of the blog, faulting the architect/councilor for advancing ART, the rapid transit project on Central Avenue that has led to chaos for local businesses as well as drivers.

Nelson's fellow twentysomething, Zack Quintero, also came with a mailbox stuffer that declares:

Public safety has not been a priority in District 2. I will change that. I am the only candidate endorsed ire our firefighters and police officers.

Pointedly, both pieces do not mention Benton by name. Is that holding back too much at this point?  Probably.

Despite the late hits, neither Nelson or Quintero have carried them during free media opportunities on social media, at community forums or with interviews with the ABQ Journal and Alibi.

Benton continues to mail positive pieces, his latest posted here concentrates on the crime that his foes hope will be his downfall.

The bottom line is whether Benton, first elected in 2005, can be held below 50 percent and forced into a Dec. 10 run-off with the second top votegetter. You might think a run-off is a no-brainer in a six person race, but Benton's opponents let the summer and early fall slide without a whimper. That leaves a lot of ground to make up.


Measure Committee Benton attack
Also hitting Benton is a measure finance committee called ABQ United for District 2. It's latest report showed only $2,300 in the bank. Maybe they added to that to come with their piece attacking Benton for ART and posted here.

The committee is financed in large part by businessman and Quintero backer John Strong.

Will the committee come with significant money in the final days and shake Ike?


All the 2019 ABQ bonds--totaling about $129 million--appear headed for passage. None has been singled out for intense criticism or paid media attacks, although local homeless shelter directors have questioned Mayor Keller's backing of a $14 million bond for a centralized 300 capacity homeless shelter.

There's also been grumbling about the $5 million in bond money to renovate the ABQ Rail Yards in Barelas near downtown. The city purchased the historic Rail Yards back in 2007 and nothing much has happened since. It's the only bond we'll be voting against--Metropolitan Redevelopment Bonds--because it is threatening to turn into a money pit.

The city announced that CNM will build a film production center at the Rail Yards and a successful seasonal Sunday market has developed but that's a long way from generating economic development that makes a real difference. And that $5 million could be used for more pragmatic programs like needed road repairs in the historic areas around the Rail Yards. Better to bulldoze most of the Rail Yards and devote the remaining portion to the film center and some boutique development. Otherwise, the Rail Yards could be ABQ's next ART.


More news on that plum "government relations" (lobbyist) position UNM is filling and that could pay anywhere from $118,000 to $236,000 to start. After a bunch of politicos applied UNM held off on naming someone. Now this from the UNM President's office which has been skittish about making a final pick.

. . . Effective October 21, Barbara Damron will begin serving as our chief government relations officer overseeing all UNM legislative activities. All campus leadership will need to coordinate federal, state and community governmental relations work with Dr. Damron. This role will continue through the end of the fiscal year. We plan to reopen the search for the permanent position in the spring.

Republican Damron, a former Secretary of Higher Education under Governor Martinez, once sought the UNM Presidency.

The permanent lobbying post seems prepped to go to a Dem, considering outgoing BermCo Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, Sen. Jon Sapien and other name D's are lining up for the gig.

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