Thursday, September 03, 2020

Labor Day 2020 Sees Appreciation For Front Line Workers But Union Membership Remains Slight, Plus: First Nonpartisan Polling Coming In Key NM Races, And: Seeking Younger Poll Workers. 

Labor Day 2020 is celebrated Monday but there won't be that much celebrating at union halls around the state. That's because there aren't many such halls left. Neither are there many members of labor unions.

The latest stats are from 2019 and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They put NM union membership at only 7.1 percent of the workforce of 813,000. Colorado is at 9 percent and Arizona just 5.7 percent.

Overall in the USA union membership was 10.3 percent of the workforce in 2019, down 0.2 percent from 2018, say the Feds.

While the unions lack big numbers they still have muscle, especially those for government workers such as teachers and also in the construction trades. Right in time for this Labor Day Bernalillo County proposed. . .

Unions could play a guaranteed role on the next major Bernalillo County construction project under proposed legislation going soon before the County Commission. Supporters say the “Community Workforce Ordinance” could mean more local workers on job sites and ensure they have health benefits, while opponents dispute that. 

Whether a member of a labor union or not the public has rediscovered the value of working men and women during the pandemic. Grocery store clerks, nurses and other front line workers are celebrated for their bravery and service. As they should be.


For the professional political class campaigns are now multi-year events but the general public doesn't really start paying attention until about now, on Labor Day. What that public is thinking as Campaign 2020 comes into focus will be better known Sunday when the ABQ Journal unveils its first poll of the season looking at key races and issues.

The Journal, facing financial challenges like most papers, took a pass on polling in the June primary for the first time since they started their surveys 25 years ago. But the paper appears to be back full strength for the fall cycle and will do not just one but several surveys, says longtime pollster Brian Sanderoff.

The race most watched is that featuring Dem US Rep. Xochitl Torres Small and Republican Yvette Herrell who is trying to unseat XTS after losing to her in 2018. The only public poll conducted of the  the contest was for the GOP and showed the race tied in early July. Will it stay that way? The Journal's scientific surveys employ live interviews with likely NM voters so the poll should give us a good idea where that contest stands and then we are really off to the races.


It's no secret that most poll workers on Election Day are well into their 60's or older. Normally that's not a big deal, but this year with older folks more susceptible to COVID the Secretary of State is asking younger people to take on the job of poll workers to further public safety. The gig lasts for some 12 hours on election day and minimum pay is $7.25 an hour, but it's a public service and afterwards you can hook up with coworkers at a favorite brewpub and watch the election returns. The form to apply is here.


It may have been a while since you have flown out of the ABQ International Sunport and it could still be awhile before the pandemic relents and the coast is clear for cautious travelers. But when things do get back to normal a new airport website could make that trip easier. The site features. . .

. . . a streamlined menu, increased functionality and an attractive, cutting-edge design. These improvements help create a better user-experience and allow travelers to get the information they need, when they need it.

The site is indeed an improvement. If you don't plan on any travel but still yearn for a look at your favorite airport, there's a webpage highlighting the outstanding and unique art that greets locals and visitors alike at the state's welcoming gateway.

That's it for now. Homebound or away, have a Happy Labor Day.

Frank, take us out of here and into the air.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan and. . . .

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Wednesday, September 02, 2020

What Happened To ABQ? Few Dare Say It's Name But It's Chief Cause Of Ongoing Crime Wave, Plus: ABQ's Alibi Gets Reprieve; Paper Bought By City Councilor  

Record murders. Record or near auto theft and break-ins. Year after year. What gives?  Few dare say its name but a new reality has changed the very nature and character of the state's largest city:

The drug battle on the border is shifting and authorities say New Mexico’s growing meth problem is being fueled by criminal operations in Mexico. U.S. Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson credits the rise in cheap and available meth for driving Albuquerque’s crime crisis. “. . . I see meth as being the number one public safety threat in that respect as a driver of violent crime,” Anderson said. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, New Mexico’s meth problem is getting worse, with 2020 on track to surpass 2019 and 2018 for total meth seizures coming from Mexico. Federal authorities are seizing larger amounts of drugs in the state, and Anderson said there are a few reasons why.

“I think it's the cost and it's also a function that the fact that tremendously greater amounts of it are being produced in what we call the super labs in Mexico. I think for many years our meth was made locally, was made in much smaller quantities. That has largely been eclipsed by the mass production and cheap production that we're seeing coming from Mexico.” Anderson said his office is working closely with the DEA to intercept drugs being funneled into the country. They’re also working with Mexican authorities to shut down superlabs.

That's one of the more cogent and important explanations of what has happened to our city and why.

Meth heads kill people and steal cars, giving much of ABQ a more menacing and sinister atmosphere. Failed educational outcomes and low incomes exacerbate poverty thus the addiction and crime. Drug interdiction to decrease the supply and more drug treatment are just two of the ongoing challenges. The relatively benign days when crime in ABQ was bad but not supported by drug cartels are gone. Is crime now out of our control or not? That question will begin to hover over ABQ as the 2021 mayoral campaign approaches.


Like so many other newspapers it found itself on its death bed. But at least for now it has been saved and by a somewhat unlikely savior. ABQ City Council President Pat Davis and his business partner Abby Lewis have purchased the Weekly Alibi, the city's alternative newspaper that has had a nearly 30 year run.

The news received limited coverage, another sign of the decline of the once muscular weekly which suspended print public during the pandemic. Davis says he wants to revive the Alibi's once robust local reporting but that will take money and advertising. The latter has dried up as the city's entertainment venues--the major supporters of the paper--remain mostly shuttered. The manger of a prominent downtown bar tells us he does not expect his bar or others to reopen until there is a vaccine found for COVID.

Davis, a Democrat, says he has no plans to use the paper as a personal promotional tool and that news articles will adhere to traditional journalistic standards.

The prospects for the Alibi in this changed environment remain highly uncertain. What Davis paid for the financially ailing paper has not been disclosed. It couldn't have been much. That will give him and the city time to decide if the Alibi is a nostalgic relic or can be rebooted for a future still clouded by COVID and its immense consequences.


Jousha Hernandez, 34, who works at the ABQ branch of the Agenda PR agency as a digital marketing manager and who has dabbled in political consulting, has been named to replace Rio Rancho GOP State Rep Tim Lewis on the November ballot. The Sandoval County GOP Central Committee took that action after Lewis resigned the seat to spend more time with family. No Democrats or Libertarians filed for the navy Republican District 60 seat so Hernandez will be seated at the Roundhouse in January.

Former state Senator and banker Don Kidd, a pillar of the Carlsbad business scene, has succumbed to cancer. He served from 1993-2005 and represented Eddy, Lea and Otero counties in District 34. Kidd was 82. . . Old-timers will remember Fran Langholf who served as the longtime office manager for GOP US Senator Pete Domenici and who was deep involved in GOP politics. Langholf died Aug. 20 at the age of 96. Domenici was NM's longest ever serving US Senator and passed away in 2017 at the age of 85.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2020

September Heat On The Campaign Trail And The PRC Goes Homeless  

As the calendar turns to September the heat is still on in New Mexico and spreading to the campaign trail. Endangered incumbents are taking notice of the fast approaching election which will likely be decided before the official election day of November 3 because of an expected record turnout of early and absentee voters prompted by the coronavirus.

One of those endangered is ABQ GOP State Senator Sander Rue. You can tell because now he is ready to give up a cherished perk of legislative service--the $192 a day each lawmaker gets for attending not just the official legislative sessions but also numerous interim committee meetings. And even though those interim meetings are now conducted virtually and legislators don't need to pay for hotels, gas or food away from home, they are still eligible to receive the per diem, thanks to a ruling from the Legislative Council. The embattled Rue, facing Dem challenger Harold Pope, a retired air force officer, has an idea:

Taxpayers can trust that I won’t accept any per diem paid by them as I serve the public at this summer and fall’s interim committee meetings. As an owner of my own business, I do lose work the days I am in the committee meetings, but I will not incur any out of pocket expense because the committee meetings are video conferences this interim, so, I will not accept any per diem. It is the right thing to do.

In ordinary times it can be hard to stretch that $192 but with the pandemic you can stay the night at the downtown ABQ Hyatt Regency for a mere $76 a night. And with that savings you can head over to the historic Los Poblanos Inn for a light gourmet dinner for two and easily drop $116. Afterwards take a relaxing walk and savor the bucolic scenery and cool evening.

And to think Senator Rue is giving all that up just for you and me. What a guy. . .

Also on the topic of virtual meetings, maybe the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) will be permanently meeting that way. The problem? The five member panel that regulates electric rates and much else was ordered by the state in March to vacate its offices at the PERA building by the end of June and find another place (extended until Sept. 30). But they haven't and the PRC has now joined the growing ranks of homeless. That sparks this letter to the Guv from the NM House GOP leadership: . . . 

Failure to provide this constitutionally established entity with a proper location to conduct its statutory responsibilities is, frankly, incomprehensible. We encourage your office and the General Services Department (GSD) to work closely with the PRC staff and to immediately identify needed office space. . . The PRC still has no office space in which to operate and, as a result, has essentially been forced to cease all regular operations. . . It is well-known that your administration is less than pleased with the PRC due to its various decisions regarding the implementation of the Energy Transition Act (ETA). It is salso well-documented your administration is the driving force behind a proposed constitutional amendment that would dramatically change the selection process of PRC commissioners and place the operation of the commission fully within the governor office's authority. 

It's true that the PRC has acted as a stumbling block for the ETA which mandates the state generate 100 percent of its electricity from carbon free sources by 2045.  It's also true that MLG backs that amendment voters will decide in November that would abolish the PRC and replace it with gubernatorial appointments. Unfortunately for the PRC it appears the amendment could pass unless there is a well-financed effort to derail it. Mailers supporting the amendment have already been spotted. Well, if it does pass at least the commissioners won't be homeless any more.


We were thinking of past money troubles Monday when the NMGOP was referenced here as "penniless." Not today. The party reports raising $1.6 million in their federal account for the 2020 cycle under the leadership of Chairman Steve Pearce (not including transfers from other GOP committees.)

The party says the previous high for a cycle was $1.4 million for 2016 under Chair Debbie Maestas. At the end of July the GOP reported $501,000 in cash in their federal account and another $200,000 in cash in their state account at the end of June.

In their latest federal report Dems reported raising $1.087 million since January 1, 2019. That figure includes $457,000 in transfers from other committees.

That is just a snippet of the money story, of course. Money spent on campaigns and causes is pretty much out of control and often untraceable with a multitude of committees raising dark money and spending with abandon. In politics there never seems to be a recession.

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Monday, August 31, 2020

Trump Campaign Still Hanging Around NM; Odds On Win Remain Long, Plus: Fight Covid The California Way? And: No Joke; Guv Apologizes To Española  

The Trump campaign came with a two week TV buy in early July featuring a crime ad but since then it's been zilch. Skeptics labeled the play a throw of the darts to see if Blue New Mexico could somehow be brought into the Trump fold. It doesn't appear to have worked but there are still signs of life of Trump in the state, albeit lower profile signs.

For example, take this mailer recently sent out from the NMGOP attempting to paint Joe Biden as a card carrying member of the "Radical Left." Independent voters were among its recipients. It appears the Trump campaign is pumping money into the state GOP.

Will the campaign be back on TV here and make a full play for the state? That probably depends on the polling. Right now 538's computer model scenarios have Biden beating Trump here 90 times out of 100, not exactly a welcome mat. (The Trump campaign has also run Spanish radio ads attacking Biden's position on abortion.)


The president doesn't have many personal connections to the state although he says he enjoys his visits here. However, his son, Donald Trump Jr., spent considerable time here and told KOAT-TV it was "amazing":

I had some amazing experiences there. I used to camp out at Navajo Dam when I was literally right out of college and spent weeks at a time there living out of the back of my truck, fly fishing the San Juan River and hiking in the mountains over there so I'm pretty familiar with the state.

A NYT Sunday profile of Trump Jr. reports he spent a year and half in Aspen, Colo., skiing, hunting, fishing and tending bar at night.

As said many times, how Trump performs in the southern congressional district is critical to the chances of Republican Yvette Herrell who is challenging freshman Dem Rep. Torres Small. The guns are already blazing there. And we do mean guns. Both contenders are up with ads showing them shooting guns as they go after the rural vote. That led to this observation spotted on Twitter:

Dear God, at this point just challenge each other to an actual duel.

The problem with a duel between XTS and Herrell is that neither would agree to use blanks.


Why should a place like Catron County (Pop. 3,600)with only five recorded cases of COVID be subjected to the same restrictions as counties with much more of the virus? That's a question a number of readers have asked since California Govenror Gavin Newsom answered that counties like Catron shouldn't be as restrictive.

Newsom unveiled a new reopening plan for the nation's largest state under which counties with low COVID cases will be allowed to reopen more rapidly. It may be a good lesson for New Mexico where policymakers have been making a specious argument that big city folks under restrictions would travel to places like Pietown in Catron County to party it up. The California example ash cans that argument and puts in place a sensible plan to control the virus and also do less harm to jobs and the economy.

MLG is already using the California model when it comes to reopening the public schools. In the latest directive in-person elementary school classes are allowed to resume after Labor Day in counties that meet goals for containing the virus. However, the ABQ Public Schools (and others) have decided to keep all students on remote learning for the remainder of this year. It does not appear the state has the power to reverse that decision--not that it would--but Legal Beagles say a court challenge might be worthwhile from those who believe a limited number of elementary students should be back in the classroom in all districts.


It's no joke. At least it wasn't late last week when MLG complained about driving through Española and not seeing citizens wearing required face masks. That irritated the Republican mayor of the northern NM city famous for being the target of crass jokes about its culture. He complained mightily and MLG apologized but not before the NMGOP got this dig in:

The governor is acting like a ruler with complete power. Here, she passes through a town in her capital chariot and chastises Nortenos along the side of the road.

Hey, don't some of the Española lowriders call their cars "chariots?"  Uh, oh. We may need another apology.

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