Thursday, January 16, 2020

Idea For Speaker Egolf To Avoid Primary, Plus: Rats Amid Homeless Close Colorado Park Near Capitol, And: A New Uniform For NM Senate Dems  

Here's an idea for NM House Speaker Brian Egolf: Put in a good word for your primary opponent Lyla June Johnston, a Navajo Nation member, to get this Dem Party gig and escape a possibly bruising campaign for your Santa Fe House seat:

. . . The Democratic Party of New Mexico announced recently that we will be partnering with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to bring on a full-time Native American Outreach Organizer. The addition of this position so early in the election cycle will allow DPNM to more effectively engage Native communities and ensure that Native voices are being heard in the Democratic party.

Meanwhile, Johnston, a climate activist and poet, among other things, has announced she will fast for a full week on the steps of the state capitol and pray for a resolution to global warming.

While the Dems talk about bringing more Native American and Hispanic support to their cause, isn't the meager representation of people of color in the legislative leadership looking even more glaring as this majority minority state continues to add minorities?

These positions are all held by Anglos: Speaker of the House, State Senate Majority Leader, Senate President Pro Tem, Senate Finance Committee chairman, House Appropriations Committee chairman, Senate Minority Leader, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Whip and Senate Minority Whip.

Just three of the ten posts in the official legislative leadership are minorities in a state that is now well over 60 percent majority minority.


Colorado legislators went back to work this week and are facing something that thankfully New Mexico's lawmakers won't when they go back to work at the Roundhouse next week:

Rats close park near Colorado Capitol after spike in homeless camping. . . Denver officials closed Lincoln Park Wednesday, fearing diseases, bites and more from a rat infestation that grew worse as tents popped up in the area. “Human and animal waste, drug paraphernalia, food waste … it’s making the conditions unsafe,” said the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. “We’ll reopen the park when it’s safe for people to be here again.”

While we don't have that kind of public health hazard, homelessness here has apparently been rising faster than elsewhere in the USA:

. . .  A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report shows New Mexico had the nation's largest percentage increase in homelessness from 2018 to 2019. That increase of 27% is detailed in the 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. In addition, the report shows that the state had a 57.6% increase in chronic homelessness last year, also the highest in the nation.

ABQ voters last year approved a $14 million bond issue to finance a 300 person capacity homeless shelter. Mayor Keller is asking legislators for an additional $14 million. We can only hope rural legislators give us city folks a helping hand and approve the Mayor's request. It's not as if there isn't plenty of money to go around.


Another hopeful or you might say "wishful thinker" is throwing his hat into the race for the GOP US Senate nomination. Rick Montoya of Sandoval County, a former assistant Secretary of Interior in the Reagan and Bush administration, is prepping a run, friends report.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan is the presumptive Dem nominee, although he has token primary opposition. He is heavily favored to win Blue New Mexico in November. No R has won since Sen. Domenici's re-election in 2002.


State Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth has unveiled the new uniform Democratic Senators will sport at the 2020 legislative session.

Designed in a state workshop, the uniform is a classic beige/tan, reflecting the high desert topography of New Mexico and most ably modeled by Sen. Richard Martinez of Rio Arriba County. Don't you think?

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Progressives Livid as R Takes Over as Chair Of BernCo Commission; Rare Recent Win For GOP, Plus: who Will Take Sanchez Council Seat And A Legal Beagle Is Bitten 

Charlene Pyskoty
"She was supposed to be one of us." So said one progressive Democrat bemoaning last night's BernCo commission vote that put Republican Lonnie Talbert in as chairman of the five member panel, despite the Dems having a 4 to 1 majority.

The turncoat, as the progressives saw it, was Dem Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty, who they said campaigned as a progressive but has since backed off and grown more moderate, perhaps because she took the East Mountain seat from a conservative R in the Dem wave of 2018.

Pyskoty voted with Talbert and moderate Dem Commissioner Michael Quezada to give the gavel to conservative banker Talbert. The business and GOP community was ecstatic as Pyskoty had already teamed with Quezada to water down a sick leave ordinance that left the progressives out in the cold. Now this win and in a major election year to boot.

Talbert was elected on a 3 to 2 vote with Commissioner Debbie O’Malley and recently appointed Dem Commissioner Jim Collie voting against.

Talbert's chairmanship is an abrupt shift from that of liberal Dem and former Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins who recently resigned to take a state job.

Attorney David Bucholtz, an expert in local government, wrote in months ago to correct us for saying that the commission's ideological make-up had not changed much because of Pyskoty's election. He argued that Pyskoty would be a reliable progressive. He was right for a while. But the commission is again a lukewarm Dem panel with the R's--thanks to Quezada and Pyskoty--having a fighting chance on key issues.

As we noted several months ago, the progressive wave that has swept big BernCo appears to have peaked. Pyskoty turning her back on the progressives and the progressives inability to put Ane Romero into a GOP held ABQ city council seat late last year are signs of that.

Pyskoty didn't not walk away empty handed for her controversial move. She was elected as vice-chairman but the vote was 4 to 1, with Commissioner O'Malley voting against her fellow Dem who out maneuvered her for the chairmanship. There is no peace meeting scheduled.


More progressive vs. moderate Dem action is in store in the metro.

Who will Mayor Keller pick to replace westside City Councilor Ken Sanchez who passed away earlier this month? Not a lot of names circulating but a prominent one is that of attorney Damian Lara. He unsuccessfully sought the 2018 Dem nomination for the ABQ US House seat and has recently said he plans on running for the Dem nomination in the June primary against Dem Public Regulation Commissioner Cynthia Hall.

The pick is tricky for Keller because Sanchez was a moderate Dem who upset progressives and who now want one of their own on the council. But there is pressure to keep the seat in the hands of a moderate Dem to keep the council from going too far left and to best represent his working class district with a moderate streak.


Recently one of the Legal Beagles speculated that the sexual abuse charges leveled against MLG by James Hallinan, her campaign communications director, could have legs if the matter makes its way into civil court. The Beagle said those at the meeting where the alleged abuse occurred could be placed under oath and that could make a difference. MLG's current communications chief, Tripp Stelnicki, says that's far fetched:

We're projecting/assuming that the multiple witnesses who confirm this (charge) is a fiction would all be perjuring themselves? But Hallinan "talking to a detective" i.e., filing a false police report and making his claims under oath would not be? There's two sides to that coin. and even if he does not go to the police, he's done plenty to diminish and minimize the genuine claims of abuse made by children and adults who deserve to be heard. 

In addition to consulting a detective Hallinan now says:

I am currently vetting counsel to assist me in pursuing this matter to its conclusion and will provide a public update when appropriate.


Hey, get that contract renewed before the oil boom goes bust someday:

 New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s Board of Directors announced a unanimous decision to extend the contract of Executive Director Ryan Flynn through 2024. Flynn has led NMOGA since September 2016, having previously served as the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources Trustee.

Flynn ran into major controversy when he was busted for DWI in 2017. There were allegations that Dem BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez went easy on Flynn who once served as a cabinet secretary for GOP Guv Martinez. The DWI was dropped and Flynn was only charged with careless driving.

Flynn survived that mishap and is now one of the major political figures in the state because of the unprecedented oil and gas boom. Like we said, it's all about timing.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Teacher Pay Raises, The Oil Boom, Hulk For APD And Calming The Freeways 

MLG has proposed a 4% across-the-board pay increase for New Mexico teachers for the budget year starting in July. Democratic House speaker Brian Egolf trumps her with a 10% proposed increase. Which one do you suppose has a June primary opponent?:

Lyla June Johnston, the first person in years to challenge House Speaker Brian Egolf in a Democratic primary, said she plans to fast on the Capitol steps for seven days and nights as a form of prayer for the planet during a time of rising global temperatures.

Johnston, a Navajo Nation member, poet and Stanford grad is not to be taken lightly in the liberal Santa Fe district.

Some politics may be in play with Speaker Brian's raise but in fairness New Mexico is in a desperate chase to recruit teachers who are paid much more by neighboring Texas. In that context a 10 percent increase would not be out of the ordinary (but don't look for it to pass).

It's just a little old New Mexico oil boom:

Eddy County saw 7,766 workers employed in the oil and gas industry, an increase of 4,985 jobs since 2009.

Former ABQ mayor and state land commissioner Jim Baca doesn’t have a bad idea here:

. . . Hard attention needs to be paid to the lack of any concerted effort at auditing the oil and gas industry to make sure it pays what it owes. It is no secret that under the Martinez administration, the auditing procedures (have) dissolved. Billions of dollars are being made; millions of barrels of oil are being pumped; and there is little being done to make sure all the numbers are adding up.

Stepped up auditing by the MLG administration and agreed to by the oil guys in exchange for nixing Land Commissioner Garcia Richards' insistence on an oil royalty increase would seem like a decent deal, although Baca and Richard might not agree.

Never mind Santa Fe going nuts at the legislative session, they’re already there in Doña Ana County:

Southern New Mexico's Mesilla Valley, an American hub of pecan production, helped the state lead the United States for the second year in a row.

Well, Senator Cervantes and family must doing well with their agricultural interests. Now if he could only nail down the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Just what kind of fantasy is KOAT-TV peddling? That recently retired ABQ GOP City Councilor Brad Winter stood up to former Republican Mayor Richard Berry? They kissed each others backsides whenever they got the chance. Oh, the article is authored by the former head of Berry's Real Time Crime Center. Got it.


Here's our personal nominee for the next police chief of Albuquerque in case Chief Geier wants to cut out early:

“The Incredible Hulk's Lou Ferrigno will soon become a deputy in New Mexico. Socorro County Sheriff William Armijo is scheduled to deputize the actor. Officials say Ferrigno will bring decades of law enforcement experience to the department. He will also play a role in recruiting for the department and the county. The 68-year-old has served as a sheriff in Los Angeles and Arizona.

Hallelujah! Finally some traffic enforcement on the ABQ freeways. Now maybe the average speed will be cut from 90 to 80 mph. Or wishful thinking? Well, enjoy while it lasts--it's only for a month:

State police will be out in full force starting (this past) Monday. Officers will be conducting targeted operations on I-25 and I-40 in Bernalillo County. The operation is in response to a request by Albuquerque Police for help with traffic enforcement. State Police say the increased patrols will also help with faster responses to crashes. After 30 days, the department says it will consult with APD to determine if more assistance is needed.

To "determine if more assistance is needed?" Duh? Does a bear do you know what in the woods?

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Monday, January 13, 2020

MLG-Sen. Smith Deal Will Give Legislative Session A Conservative Tilt; Moving Needle On State's Deep-Seated Social Problems Could Remain Stalled 

Will the upcoming 30 day legislative session make a difference in the state's bottom of the barrel rankings in child well-being, poverty, high school graduation rates and the crime and drug epidemics? It appears not.

Governor Lujan Grisham has decided to make peace with Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith which means the session will have a conservative tilt that will not directly attack the social conditions crisis that afflicts us. Instead, we will get incremental steps, baby steps, if you will.

Seeking peace with Smith instead of taking a more aggressive stance means that proposals such as the constitutional amendment to tap a small portion of the over $18 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education are dead for this session. In its place is a much more meager measure that would appropriate about $300 million from the oil and gas surplus for an "endowment" to be funded from the interest of that fund. The difference? The LGPF proposal would provide upwards of $150 million annually early childhood education while the endowment would provide perhaps $25 million.

Also, there is no serious discussion in Santa Fe about implementing widespread drug treatment and detox programs to make a bigger dent in the addiction rate that is largely responsible for the crime wave. And talk of trying harder to curtail the drug imports from Mexico along the interstates with beefed up state police force is nearly nonexistent.

Lujan Grisham and Smith will continue to fill some of the deep hole left by the fiscal austerity of GOP Governor Susana Martinez. While that may help halt the state's decline, it is not likely to lift the state up. For that to happen this Governor and the senate conservatives would have to agree to take some risk with the enormous state surplus and invest heavily in human capital programs that are dearly expensive but would get at the culture of decay that afflicts so many households.

MLG has self-reported herself as a "fiscal conservative." By doing so she has consigned herself to getting conservative results. That may be enough for some, but a year from now when the latest stats on the social conditions of the state arrive and show little change after two years of the administration, frustration will deepen.

That is as why the June state Senate primary elections are so important. An even slight ruffling of the feathers of the conservative Dem incumbents could give this Governor a push away from the status quo and toward the more aggressive stance that she has rejected.

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