Thursday, January 02, 2020

Death Claims Longtime ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez; Champion Of The Westside Was 63, Plus: Readers Talk "Irishman" 

ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez died too young at 63, but with nearly 25 years in elective office and a record of involvement and achievement, he will be long remembered for effectively championing the Westside of the city, which was often treated as an orphan in favor of more prosperous neighborhoods.

Sanchez, who had an undisclosed "medical emergency" over a month ago, died New Year's Day. No cause was announced. Another Westsider, City Council President Klarissa Pena, summed up Sanchez's impact during his 14 council years beginning in 2005:

We lost a pillar of our community – a true giant in his service to others, his generosity, and his morality. He believed in this community and in our government’s ability to continue to make Albuquerque a better place, and he lived it through his actions every day. It’s with heavy hearts that we must bid farewell to a man who was a friend, colleague, mentor, and supporter to so many – he will not be forgotten.

Sanchez made a living preparing tax returns, among other things. The financial acumen he brought to the nine member council was a defining feature of his career. He was one of the few councilors who truly understood city financial affairs.

A moderate to conservative Democrat, Sanchez climbed to area fame along with like-minded ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez. Sanchez was elected to the first of two terms on the BernCo commission in 1995 while fellow Westsider Chavez had been elected to his first mayoral term in 1993.

Those were the salad days for them and the city. ABQ's future looked limitless, with tech and other companies beginning to flock here as the economy had a sustained boom along with its population.

Sanchez and Chavez were at their most effective meeting and nurturing those growth challenges, with Sanchez ensuring the then rapidly growing Westside received its share of the prosperity.

Like fellow Councilor Brad Winter who last year concluded a 20 year council career, it was the later years of Sanchez's career that gave him trouble. The ABQ these two dedicated men had known their entire lives started to come undone with the 2009 economic crash. Crime soared, APD started to unravel and opportunities dried up. Sanchez continued to champion the Westside but it wasn't the same. Nothing really was.

One of Councilor Sanchez's last public appearances was on my long-running KANW 89.1 FM Election Night broadcast. It was for the November '19 ABQ city election. I thought he was ribbing me when he said it had been "a 30 year dream" of his to appear on the roundtable. But he wasn't. He was a truly humble man who loved ABQ with fervor. Talking about that love on Election Night was something he savored.

Mayor Keller will name a replacement to fill out Sanchez's council term which will be up for election in 2021. They will truly be big shoes to fill.


A film review of "The Irishman" on the New Year's Day blog by reader and reviewer Eric Lucero drew a response from reader Mitchell Freedman in Rio Rancho:

Joe, I hate to break it to Eric Lucero, but The Irishman is based upon a falsehood. Frank Sheeran was lying about his supposed role in killing Hoffa, as the legendary investigative reporter, Dan Moldea has shown. See also Jack Goldsmith, the former FBI lawyer who turned against the Bush administration on the subject of torture, who has written a recent book debunking Sheeran, based upon the fact that one of his family members was tied up with the Mob and Hoffa.

Sheeran's allegations and claimed admissions were thoroughly investigated and found wanting. If moviegoers want to see a film that gets at truth in a dramatic way, and far less long a time of movie watching, I would suggest "Dark Waters," about DuPont poisoning countless people with its product known as Teflon, particularly for workers in West Virginia where the product was made.

And reader Nancy Cliff in Silver City wrote:

Thanks for the review of The Irishman. Having grown up on the East Coast in the period covered, the film resonated. It was overly long but director Martin Scorsese takes advantage of the audience when he can. Robert De Niro is on screen most of the time, but his acting is so nuanced and subtle that one hardly notices. Thanks too for the explanation of the book title. "Splatter" made it all too real. Happy 2020.

The Irishman is playing on Netflix.

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Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year! 

We're taking a break today and will be back tomorrow. Meantime, here's a film review for your enjoyment from reader Eric Lucero. Happy New Year!

The Irishman (R) Drama ****1/2 Stars out of 5--available via Netflix

Legendary film maker Martin Scorsese’s 3.5 hour plus opus is carefully adapted from Charles Brandt’s 2004 eye opening ‘true crime novel’ which details mob hitman Frank Sheeran’s self-confessed, murderous working life and his alleged involvement with one of the 20th century’s great unsolved disappearances, that of bombastic UAW Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa.

Screenwriter Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List, 1993) should win a second Oscar for his work here. Needless to say, Scorsese will get nods as well. The performances by Hollywood icons Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, as well as by a memorable supporting cast, were compelling and do justice to the source material.

This mob time capsule is brilliantly realized, researched, executed, acted and based on detailed interviews undertaken by Brandt, the bestselling author who is also a former homicide investigator, prosecutor and defense attorney.

“The Irishman” is the short title of Brandt’s longer and more revealing title: I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa."

The phrase “I heard you paint houses” is said to be mob lingo, with the ‘paint’ being the blood that splatters when bullets are fired into a body. I shudder to think. Well, you get the point.

As for what really happened to Sheeran’s buddy, Jimmy Hoffa, I liken it to the Occam's Razor principle that "simpler explanations are generally better than more complex ones"--as you shall see. You will be challenged by this revised and informed view of American history. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

MLG And Keller Rush To Turn Calendar To 2020 After Final Dreary Week Of '19, Plus: New Taos State Rep And Political Fortune Cookies 

Keller & MLG
The state's two best known political figures are rushing to turn the calendar to 2020 after a final week of 2019 that both could have done without.

For Governor Lujan Grisham it was the sensational sexual abuse charges made against her by former campaign staffer James Hallinan that dampened her post-Christmas days. For ABQ Mayor Tim Keller it was a yearly murder rate that reached 80 victims Monday, the most ever, and that sank his hopes for a happy exit from 2019.

MLG can recover some goodwill with a good legislative session that starts later this month. For Keller only better crime outcomes will do.

While the prospect of that pair may be momentarily darkened, the state economy ends the year on a high note. West Texas crude oil has climbed to over $61 a barrel, above state forecasts. ABQ hasn't seem much economic action lately but neither has it suffered eye-catching layoffs.


Taos Mayor Dan Barrone has two hats to wear in the new year. The Taos County Commission Monday named him to fill the state House vacancy created when Rep. Bobby Gonzales was appointed by MLG to the state Senate seat left vacant by the September death of northern Dem Senator Carlos Cisneros.

Barrone will fill what's left of Gonzales' term and will have to run in the June Dem primary and the November election to keep the seat. The primary is key in the heavy Dem district. Taos environmentalist Kristina Ortez has already announced she is running.

Barrone says he will not resign his position as mayor of the town of 5,700. The popular Barrone, a former Taos County Commissioner, was re-elected in 2018.

The new representative can expected to be a business-friendly Dem at the Roundhouse. He has been a  big booster of the Taos tourist economy which has improved in recent years. Political newcomer Ortez will try to unite progressives against him.


We received a nice holiday gift from reader Janet Bridgers and her gal pals. Of course, it had political overtones--a tin of homemade fortune cookies filled with fun predictions for the new year. A sample:

--Your flu shot will not cover the strain you catch

--Cougars for Sen. Heinrich will officially become a PAC,

--ART will be officially rated "A Great Drunk Trolley."

--In 2020 it will be chile in every pot and pot in every bowl.

Thanks for the treat, ladies. Our own safe prediction for 2020 is that the follies of La Politica will continue and your front row seat will be right here.

Happy New Year, New Mexico!

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Monday, December 30, 2019

"Crotchgate" Grabs The La Politica Spotlight; Guv And Ex-Staffer Exchange Barbs Over Alleged Sex Abuse; A Story With Legs Or One And Done?  

Hallinan & MLG
Will the squabble between the Governor and a former campaign staffer over charges that she sexually assaulted him remain unresolved or will James Hallinan produce a witness that keeps this story alive? Let's do a deep dive into what one of the Gators calls "Crotchgate."

The political community barely had time to unwrap their presents Christmas morning when their phones began buzzing over the unfolding of a bizarre series of events.

'Twas the night before Christmas when Hallinan took to Twitter to make his allegations. The story grew legs as he gave interviews in the following days. He did this while on an island in the Dutch West Indies where he said he went because he feared for his life for attacking the Governor. Like we said, bizarre.

As for corroborating the alleged abuse, that could be a difficult task, analyzes this Alligator:

If there were only three people in the room besides Hallinan, presumably those people were MLG, Rep. Armstrong, (Campaign Manager) Gabello and/or another staffer. None of those folks are likely to turn on Hallinan and substantiate his story.

Hallinan claims that MLG poured a bottle of water on his crotch (thus Crotchgate) and then grabbed his genitals at a 2018 campaign staff meeting at the home of ABQ Dem Rep. Deborah Armstrong. Hallinan said the incident came after he offered suggestions for the campaign that MLG apparently felt were weak.

The Governor's office first said of Hallinan's allegations that "no such incidents" occurred, but then came with another statement that said of the meeting:

We’re a rambunctious bunch. I think they were playing around with water. Three other people who were in the room attest to the fact that what he says happened did not happen. It’s not a he-said, she-said situation.

From nothing happened to "playing around with water?" A Senior Alligator pounced:

Hallinan’s story does reveal some cracks. It weakens the attempt by the Governor's office to portray their operation as thoughtful, balanced and organized. The spokesperson confirmed that they were “playing around with water” at the meeting and had a “rambunctious group.” That’s a definite walk-back from “nothing happened” and definitely not the image they want to sell of a serious gubernatorial operation.

Hallinan never did file a police report but says that's because senior MLG staff convinced him not to. He now says the trauma of the attack is catching up with him emotionally and has resulted in extreme distress, and that's why he has gone public. He calls MLG an extreme "bully" and says he will contact a detective about the matter.


Hallinan's PR clients read like a who's who of New Mexico politicians, including AG Balderas, Auditor Colón and BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales. He is known for his aggressive representation.

He told us recently he had a falling out with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, including ABQ Mayor Tim Keller and liberal City Councilor Pat Davis. He just opened a PR firm that focuses on the private sector not the political and accuses Davis of trying to hurt his business. He also asserts that money has nothing to do with his decision to surface the allegations against MLG.

The Governor's office painted a picture of a volatile and unpredictable Hallinan in the message dismissing his claims. Her defenders on social media said MLG has a well-earned reputation as a prankster, but is no predator. Others claimed the charges were "sour grapes" because Hallinan did not get a state position after MLG was elected.

Hallinan has not yet named anyone who would corroborate his story and without that corroboration--under oath--it's hard to see where we go from here, unless additional allegations surface. The Guv's office says those at the now storied staff meeting say they did not see sex abuse that Hallinan alleges, including Rep. Armstrong.


MLG is taking a hit. The allegations tarnish her governorship, shifting it into the muck where Gov. Martinez left hers. The now revealed scandal involved Martinez's personal relationship with one of her state police body guards, the attempted cover-up of which cost the state millions in lawsuit settlements paid out during Martinez's final weeks in office.

There is no equivalency between the two incidents, but the Governor forced to defend herself against charges that she grabbed a staffer's genitals certainly doesn't spark thoughts about education or health care. That the allegations concern her behavior as a candidate and not as Governor, is small consolation.


Predictably, there was a boatload of social media commentary on Crotchgate.

Prominent ABQ Democrat Kathy Meeks Duffy recalled how MLG pressured ABQ Dem state Senator Michael Padilla out of the '18 race for lieutenant governor because of past allegations of sexual misconduct:

Please say it isn't true, it would be terrible if she called out our State Senator for harassment and then she were guilty of such a thing as well. 

Ralph Arellanes, Jr. said Hallinan is not to be believed:

I’m not buying this BS. Why didn’t he go through the proper channels like the EEOC? This guy launches a big splash on Christmas Day and says “I’m leaving the country and I’ll have a lot more to say when I return” Come on. Who is this, “Secret Agent 007!?”

Ironically, what MLG needs now is PR advice on how to change the conversation from the path it's been put on by her own onetime PR man.

Happy New Year, Fourth Floor. . .or something.

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