Thursday, January 30, 2020

NM Supremes Defend ETA And Dismiss PRC; Our Minority Opinion, Plus: The O'Malley-Candelaria Clash  

Sen. Jacob Candelaria
Talk about a minority opinion. We have one today that has been swept aside by the powers-that-be. And away we go. . .

ABQ Dem State Senator Jacob Candelaria was thumping his chest and again berating the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) after the NM Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that said the controversial Energy Transition Act (ETA)--approved by the legislature last year--must be applied by the commission as it considers PNM's plans to shut down the coal-fired San Juan Generation Station near Farmington.

But as much as Candelaria and other PNM supporters argue the ETA will in the long run mean lower electric bills for consumers, that is far from assured. Take a look:

Utility executives have said residential customers would end up saving about $7 a month in the first year after the plant closes under its preferred proposal. They have not been able to say what, if any, savings customers would see after that due to uncertainties about the costs of replacing the power with a proposed mix of new natural gas plants, renewable energy and battery storage systems.

Enviros went gaga over the ETA because it also sets high renewable energy standards for the state. Like Candelaria, they exhibited no patience when it came to concerns of ordinary ratepayers while the five member PRC did. The majority of the commissioners argued that San Juan shutdown costs may be too weighted in favor of the utility.

But with enviros carrying "The End is Nigh" signs over climate change, giving away the store to PNM and balancing the bill on the backs of the working classes was of little concern. After all, we're saving the world here.

Candelaria's fervent defense of the utility was so complete and his attacks on those who did not share his views so vociferous (he called for impeachment of PRC commissioners and labeled them "corrupt") that it earned him the nickname "The Senator from PNM."

As for the chest thumping, he declared:

I applaud the court’s decision which puts an end to needless delay and political game playing at the PRC. The need for reforming a broken and incapable PRC is now more clear than ever. And now I ask my colleagues in the legislature to quickly pass Representative Small’s bill to professionalize the PRC.

Nothing like being gracious in victory.

The moment of truth for Candelaria and others who unfairly scorned the PRC as it attempted to weigh all sides of the argument, will eventually arrive. About the time Candelaria launches his expected campaign for Attorney General in 2022 San Juan will be closed. A year or two later we will hear from PNM about how they intend to resolve those "uncertainties" that today prevent them from saying what savings will occur for ratepayers. Will it be rate hikes, not savings, because everyone--except the PRC--turned a blind eye away from that question?

Climate change is real and the world needs to be saved. The argument that the ETA ruling puts more of the climate change cost burden on ordinary citizens than the corporation may have lost in court Wednesday but it's only round one. As the late, great Ernie Mills used to opine: "Don't say we didn't tell you."


Not to keep jabbing at Jacob, an erudite and committed lawmaker, but he's doing so much of his own lately that it calls out for comment. Like this email broadside he delivered against fellow Dem and Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley:

"Your behavior and lack of commitment and support for the westside is a matter of record. You don’t work collaboratively, and you throw bombs because you feel you know better than all of us and our communities,” he wrote, adding that he was “happy” that she was term-limited.”

What set Candelaria off was mild-mannered O'Malley's "push to get a West Central Route 66 Visitor Center feasibility study completed before construction began."

The $12 million center has been widely cited as a boondoggle that bows to parochial interests but as with the ETA, the Senator seems to interpret opposing views as personal affronts.

To borrow from the Godfather: It's not personal, Senator, it's just business."


Reader Marie Bass of Santa Fe writes:

Your post Tuesday noted a positive report by the Alibi on northern Dem congressional candidate Valerie Plame. Please note an earlier positive Alibi interview with candidate Teresa Leger Fernandez. I am an avid supporter of Teresa.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Latest Radio Ratings, ABQ's Mean Streets, Capping The COLAS And Busy Senate Committee Passes Legal Pot And Red Flag Law 

It's been while since we checked the ratings for ABQ's top radio stations so let's take a look at the December Nielsen book:

Coming in at #1 is 94 Rock (KZRR-FM) with a strong 5.8 share. Second place is held by Top 40 station KKSS-FM with a 5.4; #3 belongs to talker KKOB-AM-FM with a 4.7; Fourth place belongs to country station KBQI-FM with a 4.6; Classic hits station KABG-FM takes fifth with a 4.6 share and it's public radio station KANW 89.1 FM (where we do Election Night results) in sixth with a 4.1 share.

The ratings are for the 6 a.m. to Midnight time frame and measure listeners 12 and older.

In another notable radio note, after nearly 100 years of broadcasting New Mexicans will no longer hear an announcer intone: "This is 770 KKOB-AM." The 50,000 watt station isn't going off the air but will no longer be promoted because so much of the audience has moved to the FM band.

KKOB is also broadcasting at 96.3 FM which is heard in ABQ/Santa Fe. Cumulus, the station's owner, wants to move all of the audience to the FM frequency and away from the fading AM band.

KKOB-AM traces its roots to Las Cruces where it began broadcasting in 1922. It is heard in 17 states at night and is one of the original high power AM stations in the nation. But time and tastes change--even after nearly a century.


We quoted retired undercover DEA agent Michael Vigil Monday as saying ABQ has mean streets. Readers responded, including Caleb Gluck:

Combined with rampant and highly dangerous tailgating, red light and stop sign-running and speeding, these have indeed become very "mean" streets.


If you live in ABQ City Council District 1there's still a couple of days left to kickstart your political career:

Mayor Keller is accepting applications for the District 1 City Council seat, a first step in filling the seat held by Councilor Ken Sanchez for over 14 years. Those interested in applying must fill out an application on the City website here. The deadline to apply is February 1.


A proposal that would reduce the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for New Mexico government retirees has caused a hue and cry among that group. But it's not that they are engulfed in greed. One of them points out that the annual 2 percent COLA that retires get from the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) is quickly eaten up by health care costs:

Yes, inflation is low, except when you factor in health insurance. For PERA retirees it goes up almost 8% yearly (capped by statute) and that is for the retiree only. The spouse and children are not capped. For my wife and me health insurance costs us (non-Medicare plan) almost $10,000 per year with vision and dental. This 25 year plan to make PERA 100 percent solvent is insane. It will not fix anything and it will drive PERA into deeper problems. It will also get a number of senators and representatives un-elected come November.

Not surprisingly the Wall-Leaners say the PERA reform plan, backed by MLG, is in trouble. That's partly because all legislators are up for re-election this year and retirees are very, very likely voters.


The Senate Public Affairs Committee was the center of Roundhouse action Tuesday, with the committee voting on party lines (R's in the minority) to approve legalized recreational marijuana and a Red Flag law. The marijuana bill looks problematic going forward, based on public statements from a number of Senators.

New Senate Judiciary Committee Joe Cervantes says he will now seek a compromise on Red Flag. Thirty of 33 NM county sheriffs oppose the law. If he can come up with a bill that passes the Senate, his new nickname might be "Joe the Magician."

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

ABQ Homicide Count Continues Rise In New Year And How You Break A New Mexico Fast  

The new year certainly hasn't brought any relief in the ABQ violence department. Seven murders so far this month (8 if you count a homicide where a homeowner shot an intruder) which puts us on a path to meet or surpass the 82 slayings of 2019. That one of the killings took place outside the historic downtown Kimo Theater, even though the police presence there has been increased, shows how intransigent the violence has become.

Retired undercover DEA agent Michael Vigil, promoting his new fiction book with KKOB radio host TJ Trout Monday, said the obvious but isn't said enough by the city's elites:

The vast majority of crimes in ABQ are drug-related. There's also a lot of anger. I see that on the streets.

The state labor secretary came with what seemed to be an hallucinogenic inspired statement when he commented on the state's recent job growth:

More and more people are seeing the wonderful quality of life in New Mexico

Of course, the vast majority of job growth--direct and indirect is due to the SE oil boom. Population growth there is on an upswing but remains stagnant elsewhere, especially in crime-ridden ABQ, but when it comes to putting lipstick on a pig no one does it better than the bureaucrats.

UNM tried to dress up its forlorn Athlete Department Monday with the news that former winning UNM Lobo football coach Rocky Long has been hired as the program's new defensive coordinator. Hours later it was announced that a woman had been shot in the leg at a weekend party populated by UNM student athletes and recruits. Welcome back, Rocky. . . or something.

What some of the Wall-Leaners are already calling a low-energy 2020 legislative session continues. Even as enough revenue pours in to pave Cerrillos Road with gold, the narrative at the Roundhouse remains the same. The crash is coming and the boom is going to turn to doom. Veteran ABQ Dem state Rep. Moe Maestas pushes back this way:

We need to change the narrative so it’s less about saving for tomorrow and more about investing to save tomorrow.

Pretty wise words there but then Moe recently turned a wise old 50.


How do you break a seven day fast during which you lost 10 pounds? If you're Lyla June Johnston, who is challenging NM House Speaker Brian Egolf for his seat in the June primary, you check in to Santa Fe's Tune-Up Cafe and wolf down a heaping plate of enchiladas.

Her choice to break her fast seems to speak to the addictive powers of New Mexico's famed chile. A week can be a long time to be deprived. We can't speak to the righteousness of the Tune-Up's chile, having never dined there, but we won't argue with the opinion of someone who chose the place to break a seven day fast.

Johnston posted the pic of the enchiladas on social media following her fast at the Capitol to bring attention to climate change (and to her House candidacy). Egolf may have been too busy to notice. He is busy juggling the legislative agenda and his fine dining experiences are often at the Roundhouse Cafe.

Egolf remains favored to win the primary for his Santa Fe seat but should there be an upset and Lyla June goes on to win, here, according to one reviewer, is what she has to look forward to at the Cafe:

Only open during the session, this is the place to assuage not only one's hunger, but also the stress of a legislative session. The food is cheap, good, reliable and comforting.

If only the legislative sessions could be as comforting.


Former state GOP Executive Director Marge Teague died at her Oregon home Monday. She was 84. "Marge was a true force and a trailblazer in New Mexico Republican political circles for decades," said the GOP. Marge Teague was 84.

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Campaign Updates: Plame Under Fire With Leger Fernandez On The Move, GOP Senate Hopeful Ronchetti Scorned As "Never Trumper" And Dems Playing Favorites In Yvette And Claire Combat? 

Valerie Plame
Celebrity combined with smarts can't be underestimated in modern politics but it's being put to the test in the race for the Democratic nomination for the northern congressional seat that will decide who succeeds Rep. Ben Ray Lujan in this heavy Dem district.

Valerie Plame stunned the crowded field with a boffo first TV ad and ran over her foes in the fund-raising department, garnering donations nationwide because of her status as a famous outed CIA spy. Now with the crucial March 7 preprimary convention nearing, where delegates will decide which contenders will get an official spot on the June 2 primary ballot, the long knives are coming out.

One of the sharpest was wielded by the NYT when it came with a piece that roughed Plame up over her tangled and controversial relationship with the nation's Jewish community. On the heels of that piece, Plame's chief Dem rival, attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez, (TLF) received yet more important endorsements including this one from the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club and another from the Latino Victory Fund. Earlier she scored the backing of Emily's List and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. (Not all of Plame's recent press has been bad. She got a hug in a profile by the Alibi).

Normally that might have been enough to claim the mantle of undisputed front-runner, but TLF lacks the celebrity of Plame as well as a known public service record. So while Plame wobbles from the blows, including the charge that she is an uninformed carpetbagger in the heavy Hispanic and Native American district, she has yet to hit the canvas.

Leger Fernandez
One thing does seem to be happening, however. The eight person race may be consolidating into a two way contest between Plame and Leger Fernandez. Santa Fe County District Attorney Marco Serna is the other key player but his performance has been unsteady.

All three have enough cash for major media buys which will be critical, given their unfamiliarity in the sprawling district. No one is going away anytime soon.

Consultants are urging Plame and other contenders to go after Leger Fernandez before she starts running away, saying her record as an attorney has not been vetted and there could be opposition gold there. As this exciting race moves forward, the long knives will now be cutting in many directions.


Another celebrity candidacy, that of Mark Ronchetti, the former weatherman turned GOP US Senate hopeful, is also coming under scrutiny as his foes fear his name ID may vault him to the winner's circle.

One of those leading the attacks is radio talk show host Eddy Aragon, who decided against a Senate run of his own and is now using his conservative ABQ airwaves--The Rock of Talk--to paint Ronchetti as a "never Trumper"' unworthy of GOP voters.

Aragon is a fervent Trump supporter. He is blasting the appearance of former GOP Gov. Susana Martinez at the February 1 Bernalillo County GOP Convention, arguing it is a ploy to win over delegates to the March 7 preprimary convention for Ronchetti. Martinez, who finished her governorship with a 32 percent approval rating, refused to support Trump in '16 and is widely distrusted by his supporters.

Aragon further says that former BernCo Sheriff Darren White, also a never Trumper and now a talk host on competing station KKOB, is now promoting Ronchetti for Senate.

Ronchetti, one of five candidates for the GOP nod to succeed retiring Dem Sen. Tom Udall, is concentrating on raising money and is not responding to the jabs of Aragon and others. He expressed support for Trump in his video announcing his candidacy and did so again in a recent fund-raising mailer.

The pro-Trumpers have claimed one victim. Geoff Snider, executive director of the BernCo GOP, was forced out of his position by the state party leadership when he said Trump supporters were "acting literally like Nazis."

There are five candidates for the GOP Senate nomination. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan faces token primary opposition. Pundits rank the Senate race likely Democratic.


It appears the national Dems are more concerned about Claire Chase winning the southern GOP congressional nomination rather than her main rival Yvette Herrell. Why else would the DCCC bring up that controversy that cost Snider his job and say GOP voters could do something similar to Chase:

. . . Snider’s expulsion from the party should raise alarm bells for Claire Chase, who was outed as a ‘Never Trump’ Republican in September. Maybe that’s why Claire Chase been tweeting wildly about the President, in a desperate attempt to make New Mexico voters forget that Chase. . . has said repeatedly what she truly believes: that Trump is “an a**hole unworthy of the office. . . 

Herrell, the early favorite for the GOP nod, was defeated in '18 by Dem Xochitl Torres Small. National Dems may believe they know how to handle her in a rematch with Rep. Torres Small. Chase is young, articulate and unknown, If she gets the nomination, the D's will need a new and untested playbook.

Herrell vs. Chase and Plame vs. TLF. These heated races may soon need to hire Holly Holm as a referee.

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