Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Edition: The Latest On The ABQ Council Contests Headed Into Final weekend Of Election '19, Plus: Readers Weigh In On Transit Tax And CNM Plans For Rail Yards  

Nothing too frightening to report on Election '19 as we mark Halloween, so let's steer the broomsticks over to the city campaign trail. Candidates are preparing for their final weekend of door knocking before early voting ends Saturday and Election Day voting kicks off Tuesday. . .

Maybe her polling is getting better. Dem Senator Martin Heinrich and Rep. Deb Haaland came with early endorsements of Dem City council candidates Ike Benton, Pat Davis and Ane Romero but left off the list was Dem Maureen Skowran who is challenging Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones. Now Haaland and Heinrich have come with late endorsements of Skowran. Mayor Keller, who endorsed Benton, Davis and Romero, is doing some walking for Skowran, but is not listed by Skowran as officially endorsing her.

Skowran has surged into the public eye with major money support from the progressive Working Families Party. Jones has now spent over $80,000 to defend the NE Heights seat which is not as Red as it once was.

Also in the ABQ NE Heights in Council District 4, Dem Ane Romero and Republican Brook Bassan are making their final pushes for the seat held by retiring GOP Councilor Brad Winter. This would be a big pick up for the D's and Romero is keeping the pressure on Bassan, coming with this to supporters:

Elections are about choices and differences. I also believe consistency in character is paramount. My opponent, Brook Bassan, has switched parties six times and is playing it “safe.” It’s hard to tell where she stands on issues other than she’s against an immigrant-friendly city, according to her recent mailer. I’m a proud Democrat and I believe that we create a safer, and more inclusive city when everyone trusts our local law enforcement. 

Bassan hasn't had much to say about Romero. Can she hold the fort for the R's? BernCo elections have been decidedly Blue of late. Bassan hopes her endorsements hold back an aggressive Dem effort:

I am proud to have the endorsements of the Albuquerque Police (union), outgoing Councilor Brad Winter, and the Albuquerque Journal! They know I'll be tough on crime, fiscally responsible, and will always put the needs of our district first.

Mayor Keller will be keeping the weight off in the final campaign days. Besides walking with Skowran, he will also tag along with Romero.


Dem Councilor Pat Davis remains favored for re-election in SE Heights District 6 but his support of the ART project on Central Ave. has cost him the vote of reader Mike Parks:

Joe, you're clearly right that negative views about ART have focused almost exclusively on Councilor Ike Benton. But I am a member of a presumably small, and definitely "silent" group that voted against Pat Davis exclusively because of ART.

Davis is being challenged by Gina Namoi Dennis, a 41 year old attorney and neighborhood activist.

In the six person District 2 ABQ Valley race that has received considerable coverage here, consultants from both sides say Councilor Ike Benton has run the best campaign. But a flyer put out by an independent committee ridiculing his chief rival Zack Quintero drew the ire of reader Peg Galbraith. The mailer pictured Quintero in an astronaut suit:

Joe, faster than I can say “Virgin Galactic,” you’ve managed to launch us into outer space for the District 2 race! Though I do wonder why Councilor Benton and his supporters don’t cite his accomplishments over his many years in office, rather than cooking up a "nothing burger” about opponent Zack Quintero’s employment history. Could it be because the hallmarks of Councilor Benton's tenure are the failed and Spaceport-esque A.R.T. project, the decimation of our police force and the reneging on promised raises to our firefighters? Not to mention the worsening of the Downtown homeless situation and the ongoing crime crisis. Let’s hope District 2 votes with our firefighters and police and elects Zack Quintero. Otherwise, I fear that our city really is really in danger of getting “lost in space."

Well written, Peg. Watch out for her, Ike.


Reader Art Tannenbaum adds info about the proposed renewal of a quarter cent gross receipts tax for ABQ transportation needs that voters are being asked to approve:

Joe, to clarify, the ¼-Cent ($35 million a year) Transportation Tax was first imposed as a “temporary” tax in 1999. Following its sunset the first time around the continuation of this Transportation infrastructure tax included revised dedication of the revenue. Albuquerque Transit Dept.’s share was increased about ten years ago to 36 percent from 19 percent--almost doubling ABQ Ride’s share of the take. City Council has yet to determine the percentage breakdowns this time around, which they can modify anyway they choose; they are waiting for voter approval before determining the dedications (roads, trails, and transit) of the ¼-cent tax revenue. Citizens can find out how this money is intended to be allocated only after approving yet another continuation of the ‘temporary’ tax.

Got it, Art. Thanks.


Voters are also being asked to approve $5 million in bonds to clean-up the historic ABQ Rail Yards but reader Susan Richards says the announced plans of CNM to use the Yards as a film production school is "misplaced energy:"

CNM’s plan to convert part of the Rail Yards to a school for film workers is misplaced energy. Just like the brewing program that got up and running after the state had over 50 craft breweries operating (How many can a state this size support financially?). 

The film industry has been successful in hiring local people for below-the-line work and providing them on-the-job training. Those who want the work, show up on time, follow instructions and learn new skills on set are succeeding. Ask most of those who do the hiring for below-the-line work and they will tell you that a certificate from a community college doesn't mean much to them. They prefer clever folks with a knack for on-the-fly solutions to technical issues and a real dedication to the work. Instead, CNM should consider pilot training as a long-term investment. Check out this video about careers in aviation.

Pilot training at the Rail Yards? That sounded odd until that PBS video report said that there is an unprecedented pilot shortage. 800,000 of them will be needed worldwide over the next 20 years.


Thanks for stopping by today. Join us Election Night, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM and KANW.COM. ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez and political consultant Sisto Abeyta will be among our guests.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Final Push Underway To Put ART On Benton's Lap, A Classic Reader Rage Against ABQ Council And: Primary 2020: MTO Is Out And BRL Is In 

Can a plethora of anti-ART mailers in the final days of Election '19 force Dem City Councilor Ike Benton into  a December 10 run-off?

The longtime councilor championed the failed ART project on Central Avenue, an epic public works failure that has enraged voters. They're now getting daily reminders of Benton's ART support, either from his main election rival Zack Quintero or an anti-Benton independent committee.

ART runs rhrough Benton's Downtown/Barelas/North Valley district which--like much of the city--has seen a sharp escalation in crime.

The surprise of this campaign has been the meager opposition to the incumbent councilors seeking reelection, given the ART disaster and the sharp, crime-caused decline in the quality of life for many residents. That has given Benton and Councilors Pat Davis and Trudy Jones plenty of running room for their re-election bids.

But there is fervent and passionate opposition to the status quo, even if not loudly heard on the campaign trail. This reader's rage was prompted by the Democracy Dollars proposition on the Nov. 5 ballot that would give ABQ residents $25 vouchers to support their choice of publicly financed council and mayoral candidates. Hold on to your hats. Here we go. . . .

File this under “Fool Me Once." Democracy Dollars, the brainchild of former City Councilor Eric Griego of the Working Families Party of ABQ and other progressives, is a follow-up to Griego’s failed 2005 public financing scheme. Let’s not forget that Griego's 2005 bill brought us 14 years of a City Council that stood by as Albuquerque completely fell apart. 

Public finance didn’t bring us the transformative, grassroots, free-of-influence City Council candidates Griego promised. Instead we got a rogue’s gallery of do-nothing bumps on a log, including: Ken Sanchez, Issac Benton, Dan Lewis, Don Harris, Rey Garduno, Debbie O’Malley, Brad Winter, Pat Davis and Cynthia Borrego. 
ABQ City Council

These political hacks figured out how to team up with interest groups, professional campaign managers and work the public finance system to stay in office as long as humanly possible. They wilted when it came time to toughen up and face Albuquerque’s growing challenges. Former Councilors Pete Domenici, Vince Griego, Pat Baca and Ruth Adams could show these folks a thing or two. Democracy Dollars won’t change the poor quality we see in our City Council. Maybe it’s time to go back to the old way and elect some politicians that know how to get stuff done.

We dedicate the aforementioned rant to poet Dylan Thomas who famously wrote: "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Reader Eric Shimamoto writes of our coverage of Democracy Dollars:

Joe, the "absolute hypocrisy" I find difficult to ignore is of  Pete Dinelli, who ran a publicly-financed campaign for mayor in 2013, now claiming that the use of public funds for municipal campaigns is somehow a violation of the state constitution's anti-donation clause.


The anti-Benton forces believe their final-hours push on ART will keep Benton below 50 percent and force a run-off election with probable second place finisher Zack Quintero. But now they fret that their late start may not take Benton down to the 40 percent level which could make him an appealing target for well-funded outside committees. Then there is the backing of Benton by the entire progressive Dem establishment.In a run-off they would go all-out for Benton to avoid major embarrassment.


Reader Don Miller wants to talk about a little talked about item on the ballot--the renewal of a quarter cent gross receipts tax for transportation.. Have at it, Don:

I haven’t seen any commentary on the extension of the 1/4 cent for roads, sidewalks and bikeways so I  offer my 1/4 cent. It is promoted as not being an increase in taxes. However should it fail, the gross receipts tax in ABQ, currently at 7.875 percent, would go down by a 1/4 cent, so a vote for this tax is actually an increase. Additionally, when this tax was initially imposed, it was based on a promise that it would sunset in 20 years. I am not opposing this tax, but feel that taxpayers should know what they are voting for or against.

That transit tax was first approved back in 1999. As we recall, it was done via a mail-in election which increased turnout. That gave the electorate a more moderate bent thus overwhelming the anti-tax voters.


It was a bit of a surprise but not a stunner when Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Olive rpulled the plug on her bid for the 2020 Dem US Senate nomination and endorsed Rep. Ben Ray Lujan Tuesday. After all, she was completely overpowered by him in the money department. He had back to back quarters in which he raised over $1 million and had $1.6 million in the bank. MTO was down to $85,000 in cash. That's not even chump change in the high dollar chase for a Senate seat. Best to bow out and live to fight another day.

For Rep. Lujan this is just the ticket he needs. With no primary opponent he is now able to begin his general election race and move back to the center after MTO pushed him perhaps too far left as he endorsed the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and the impeachment of the president.

In thanking MTO for endorsing him on her way out of the building, Lujan mentioned her support for "healthcare for all" not Medicare for All. Further, there was no mention of the Green New Deal she advocated but instead Lujan mentioned the "climate crisis." Intentional or not, that's the path that could quiet the southern and eastside resistance and lead to a big win.

We can't say "no R's need apply" when it comes to the Senate derby but GOP contenders Mick Rich and Gavin Clarkson have a better chance of getting elected Navajo Nation President than to the US Senate.

MTO's departure makes the election of a native Hispanic US Senator likely. That's something we haven't seen since the 1970's. Surely a woman will someday secure a senate seat but not this cycle. 

(Elisa Martinez, an R who is anti-abortion, is expected to run for the GOP nomination, but poses no serious threat)

As for MTO's future, she is eligible for re-election in 2022 and to serve through 2026. For higher office, the future is cloudy for the capable SOS. There is the long shot chance that Dem Senator Martin Heinrich could be named Secretary of Interior if a Dem wins the White House next year. If he left the Governor would appoint his replacement. For now then, the best advice that can be offered Maggie is this: Be nice to Michelle.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Prez Pops Up In City Election; Trump And Trudy, Plus: More Democracy Dollars Debate 

One week to go in ABQ Election '19 and candidates are seeking last hours momentum in the mailboxes to push them over the top or in some cases into a run-off election.

We wondered when President Trump would turn up as he seems to in every election these days. And here he is being used against Republican incumbent City Councilor Trudy Jones who is sparring with political newcomer Maureen Skowran in a race seen as leaning R but no longer the solid red territory it once was.

Skowran, a Marine Corp veteran who is now a data analyst at UNM, is getting some mail help from the progressive Working Families Party. The Jones campaign says the party has put up $50,000 in independent money for Skowran but the party says it is spending that money on ballot measures like Democracy Dollars as well as Skowran's candidacy

Jones attacked in a mailer accusing "out of state" interests of trying to buy the District 8 seat. Skowran fired back that Jones, a long time Realtor, is the tool of "Real Estate Developers," who, her campaign says, have donated $46,000 of the over $70,000 that Jones has raised. Skowran qualified for about $40,000 in public financing.

Click to enlarge
While Mayor Keller, Senator Heinrich and Rep. Haaland have endorsed Dem candidates in the three other contested council races, Skowran did not get their embrace. The national Working Families money is helping her make a race of it.
(Haaland has given a late endorsement of Skowran).

The district now has only a few more R's than Dems--about 20,000 each--plus 11,000 independents. The NE Heights has been getting more Blue as evidenced by the '18 election when several longtime GOP state House seats in the area fell to the Dems.

Jones has held her council seat since 2007. She was unopposed four years ago.

Another Jones mailer urges her re-election because she is "tough on crime" as she works to fend off Skowran in the most affluent of the nine council districts. If she were to be upset on Election Night it would open the possibility that the city council, currently controlled 6 to 3 by the Dems, could go 8 to 1 to the Dems.


Speaking of Election Night we're going to have coverage for you on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com Nov. 5  at 7 p.m. Among our guest experts will be longtime ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez and NM political consultant Sisto Abeyta.


BernCo Clerk Linda Stover reports that through the weekend 20,019 early votes had been cast in the county which has 407,698 registered voters. Of that, 360,092 are registered ABQ voters. The clerk is expected to post the early vote results shortly after the polls close Tuesday at 7 p.m. Because a majority of votes are expected to be cast early, the outcome of most of the races and ballot questions will be known then.


Andrea Serrano
Election '19 coverage rolls on with push back to the contention of political consultant Sisto Abeyta expressed here Monday that the ballot provision Democracy Dollars will be defeated. He says that's because voters don't understand the concept. Andrea Serrano, Executive Director of OLÉ, one of the progressive groups backing the measure, comes with the counterpoint:

Maybe Sisto hasn’t been keeping up, but there has been a community effort to pass Democracy Dollars for nearly two years. Beginning with collecting 28,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, the organizations and community members working to pass Democracy Dollars have been having thousands of one-on-one conversations with voters all over Albuquerque and one thing is clear: voters are done with the way that big money dictates elections in our city.

Democracy Dollars are a way to push back on the idea that a candidate can only run for office if they are connected to a large donor base. Every eligible resident will receive a $25 coupon they can then give to a candidate of their choice, as long as that candidate has qualified for public financing. The program is already paid for through the Open and Ethical Elections Fund and administered by the city clerk. . .  Our experience has been that voters are smart, and they understand exactly what this program does--creates a community donor base and gives everyday folks more of a say of how their dollars are spent.

The most vocal critics are also registered corporate lobbyists. Asking corporate lobbyists if we should increase public financing is like asking the fox if we should strengthen the door to the hen house. Here’s a study done on Albuquerque electoral donors.

But there's more. Here's ABQ attorney, former city councilor and 2013 mayoral contender Pete Dinelli:

Joe, Albuquerque Working Families made cash donations of $80,000 to Democracy Dollars and had Mayor Keller on the flyer endorsing Democracy Dollars. In the 2017 Mayor's Race, $122,000 was raised and spent by ABQ Working Families on Keller’s behalf to get him elected. It is very difficult to ignore the absolute hypocrisy of the supporters and promoters of “Democracy Dollars” when they engage in the very conduct they condemn and supposedly deplore.

It is highly likely that in the event that the “Dollars for Democracy” passes, it will be challenged in court as a violation of the New Mexico Anti Donation clause in the New Mexico constitution. The language of Article IX, Section 14, is very clear when it states “neither the state nor any county, … or municipality … shall directly or indirectly … make any donation to or in aid of any person, association or public or private corporation ” The “Democracy Dollars” $25 vouchers are clearly a donation and aide to people given to them to give to another. This is the very type of activity the anti-donation clause was designed to prohibit.

Good stuff there from Andrea and Pete. Thanks to them as well as to our readers who have been watching their mailboxes and sending the campaign pieces.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

ABQ Election '19: Democracy Dollars Debated, Benton And Quintero Continue To Clash, And Beating The Bonds: It's Rare But Voters Can Revolt 

Advocates for city ballot proposition "Democracy Dollars" report "in-kind" contributions of tens of thousands of dollars in staff time. The coalition pushing the proposal includes Common Cause NM and the NM Working Families Party. They have also been hitting the mailboxes trying to educate and persuade voters. A recent mailer is posted here.

Democracy Dollars (DD) would give each eligible voter--not only registered voters--a voucher worth $25 that they in turn could donate to any candidate who has qualified for public financing. One idea behind it is to try to bolster the publicly financed candidates in races with those receiving robust private financing.

It's a tough sell because campaign money floods into elections in the form of outside PACS which are lightly regulated and can freely spend what they want. That means DD would be trying to  catch up to a pile of seemingly unlimited campaign money. Still, Common Case believes it's worth a try:

A review of donations from individuals to mayoral and city council races in 2017 shows that those who contribute to campaigns. . .  do not reflect Albuquerque’s diverse population. Instead, the donor class is whiter, older, and higher-income than the general population. As a result, people of color, young people, and middle- and working-class residents are underrepresented in the city’s politics and policies. Our elections are fairer—and our democracy works better—when politicians listen to the entire public instead of only to a few, unrepresentative big donors.

At first blush Democracy Dollars is not easy to understand. That leads Dem political consultant Sisto Abeyta, who is not an ally of the progressive Dems leading the effort for DD,  to believe it will be defeated at the November 5 election:

Agree of disagree, it is hard to understand without considerable voter education. Most of the voters confronted with this will vote no, not necessarily because they don't like the idea, but because they don't understand it or never head of it. 

Critics say some voters will turn thumbs down because of the possibility of fraud with the hundreds of thousands of $25 vouchers that would be distributed. It's another interesting issue to watch on Election Night.


As expected, the battle for the District 2 ABQ city council seat has narrowed to Councilor Ike Benton and Zack Quintero, his chief challenger in the six person race. Quintero, making his first run for office at 29, was ridiculed in a mailer financed by an independent group and posted here last week. Quintero backers were none too happy. Here's one that we heard from:

Joe: The mailer going after Quintero was more humorous than effective. Voters understand the attempt to wordsmith a job description versus Ike's record of voting for A. R. T., the closing of businesses and the rampant crime in District 2. The so-called "progressive PAC" responsible for the Zach attack needs to up their game to be taken seriously. Benton is making a last ditch effort to stave off a run off but many folks are hearing from him for the first time in his long tenure on the council. The race is about getting a new set of eyes for the district. This is the opportunity for a new generation of leadership with a long term vested interest in the future of the city. 

If Benton can't make it to 50 percent Nov. 5  he will face a Dec. 10 run-off election for the Downton/Barelas/N. Valley district with the second place finisher. That would likely be Quintero.


Bond issues are rarely defeated in ABQ elections, but former GOP BernCo County Commissioner Michael Wiener thinks we could see that rarity this election:

I honestly feel quite a few of the bond issues will be voted down. I have spoken to many friends and neighbors and they tell me they voted against the bonds to send a loud message to City Hall. There appears to be a lot of unrest and unhappiness over increasing crime, the outrageous number of stolen cars, proliferation of homeless panhandlers, rising tax bills and the overall direction Albuquerque is heading. (You heard it here first).

We'll see soon enough if Wiener, a former ABQ city councilor who once represented the NE Heights, is mainly getting blowback from fellow Rs or whether that discontent has seeped into the Dem column.

There are $128 million in bonds on the ballot. The most controversial is $14 million for a 300 person capacity homeless shelter. But voters are not able to vote specifically on the Center because it is lumped in with other bonds totaling $21 million. That has led to accusations that the Mayor and council are trying to mislead voters who are upset that no specific location has been named for the proposed shelter.

To defeat the homeless shelter voters will have to reject Bond Question 2. That is $21.7 million bond issue titled "Senior, Family, Community Center, The Homeless and Community Enhancement Bonds."

Another bond that has drawn debate is for $5 million to clean up the historic Rail Yards near downtown. The city bought the large acreage in 2007 and has spent considerable funding over the years to bring the Yards to life but with mixed results. Again, voters will not be able to vote specifically on the Rail Yard bond. It is lumped in with $8 million in bonds in Bond Question 11--Metropolitan Redevelopment Bonds. To defeat the Rail Yard bond voters will have to reject that Bond Question.


Our records show that from 1985 to 2003 no city bond issues were rejected. However, in 2003 a $52 million street bond was defeated that contained  $12 million for the then controversial Paseo Del Norte extension near Petroglyph National Monument on the city's westside. Voters approved it at a later election. Here's our report on that Election Night  from Oct. 29, 2003.

At the 2011 city election voters turned down a $50 million bond issue advocated for by then-Mayor Berry It failed because you could not vote separately on the $25 million bond to rebuild the Paseo del Norte and I-25 intersection and a $25 million bond for a sportsplex. The sportsplex was widely scorned and the entire bond issue was defeated by 70 percent of the voters. Here's our September 2011 report we filed on that controversy. Voters later approved the Paseo bond--without the sportsplex--at the Nov. 2012 election.

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