Thursday, December 02, 2021

Clown Car No More; Majority of PRC Finds Their Voice And Fights The PNM/Avangrid Merger; Our Commentary On Why They Are Right, Plus; MLG Starts Buttering The Election Bread 

Because of the personal antics of various commissioners it was once the most infamous clown car in the state but today a majority of the five member Public Regulation Commission is showing real moxy. Three of them continue to oppose the controversial $4.3 billion merger between PNM and foreign-controlled Avangrid. 

That opposition is in the face of a $1 million plus advertising blitz, the complete capitulation of the state's political class and string-pulling by radical enviros here and out of state who are unconcerned about anything but allegedly saving the planet no matter the cost to the working people of the state. 

At a public meeting Wednesday these commissioners again cited the checkered ethical record of Avangrid/Iberdrola and the difficulty in regulating and controlling the many tentacles of the company which is owned by Spain-based Iberdrola

The PRC's chief hearing officer for the case has recommended against the merger. That takes a set of brass balls given the backing of the flawed deal by  the media, the aforementioned extreme enviros, the PNM executives who will reap millions if the deal succeeds, various business groups enamored with anyone who has more money than them and assorted labor unions looking for a quick paycheck instead of at their families' futures. 

Talk about unholy alliances. 

We are continually told via the over-the-top Avangrid/PNM propaganda campaign that "everyone" (or everyone except Mariel Nanasi of New Energy Economy who they attack in their ads) supports this merger. Everyone!

So what do the PRC hearing officer and the three brave commissioners--Fischmann, Becenti-Aguilar and Hall--know that "everyone" doesn't? You needn't look long at a Google search to eyeball the facts that are prompting these commissioners to face off with a multi-billion dollar entity. 

A little state like ours with barely 2 million souls is simply not in need of shouldering the burdens of this merger. We have done reasonably well with PNM for over a century and will continue to do so if the merger is rejected. 

Yes, that means continuing to pursue climate change solutions but ones that also protect our people and not have them run over by billionaire-funded environmentalists who command that we "sign here" and then pay the bill. And not by a foreign corporation of which we would be a pimple on an elephant's back. 

The clown car is no more at the PRC and the elites pushing this deal saw it coming as they persuaded the Legislature (and hoodwinked voters) to abolish the elected PRC and replace it with one in the future that will be appointed by the Governor who can then be better controlled by campaign contributions. 

That and the already failing Energy Transition Act foisted on the public by a PNM led Roundhouse stunk up this deal from the beginning. The profound misgivings voiced by consumers and others in Maine where Avangrid operates was icing on the cake. Add in the Iberdrola bribery charges and what you have is trouble coming faster than the traffic on I-25 to Santa Fe. 

Then there is the semi-pathetic reasoning of PNM for the merger. "We don't have enough money to buy new technologies to get at renewable resources." Say what? Haven't they heard of the bond market? Or record low interest rates? For Heaven's sake, PNM, you're listed on the NYSE. Start acting like it.  Good luck to the commissioners in opposition. If they falter and approve this deal they ought to have clowns at the signing. Yes, send in the clowns. There ought to be clowns. 


MLG is starting to prepare the buttered bread for Election '22 and the first group to get a slice is New Mexico teachers who the Guv says deserve a 7 percent pay raise. She will push for that at the January legislative session. If approved, the raises would be seen next fall just in time for you know what. 

The pay hikes would cost the state $280 million in annual revenue but that's piddling in the face of a projected surplus that is headed toward $1.5 billion and probably more, not to mention the billions in federal aid soon to flow. MLG has a whole loaf of bread to hand out and the line is forming behind those teachers. 


There is only one independent in the state House. Freshman ABQ Dem Rep. Brittney Barreras started out as an indy but has since joined the Dems. Both Wikipedia and Ballotpedia still identity one Dem leaning indy and one R leaning indy in the state House. We blogged that info in a first draft Wednesday. The R leaning indy is Rep. Phelps Andersen of Roswell. The current House breakdown is 45-24 Dem and independent Anderson.

Reader Doug Crandall writes of a blog misspelling:

I think you meant the cavalry and not Calvary, although it could be a reference to Representative Herrell’s religious base. Anyway, as a long time New Mexican living in Arizona, I enjoy keeping up with your blogs.

And we enjoy doing those blogs for you. Thanks to all for tuning in. 

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Herrell About To Face Redistricting Music As Dems Feel Free To Make Their Move; Observers Also Say Dems Could Grow Their Legislative Strength A Bit; Special Session Kicks Off Monday 

Trump and Herrell
Don't expect the cavalry to come to her rescue when the Dems move to redesign the southern congressional seat held by Republican Yvette Herrell and make it more friendly to them beginning with the 2022 election. 

Even though Herrell is a former GOP state House member, one veteran lawmaker says:

The R's are not about to fall on their sword for Herrell. They have their own seats to worry about.

The legislature's special redistricting session kicks off Monday and the southern congressional seat gets top billing, although the 112 lawmakers who will be finalizing district boundaries for their own state House and Senate seats are obviously more consumed with their own futures.

The lead up to the session has been pretty buzzless, mainly because the Dems control the Legislature and the Governor's office. This redistricting doesn't have the edge that it had ten years ago when the R's had the governorship. While this legislative redistricting is not a nonevent it is nothing like back then when lengthy and expensive court battles erupted in the aftermath of the redistricting session (not that the R's couldn't file suit after this one).

What will be the final impact of the 2021 redistricting expected to be completed in about a week? Back to our veteran lawmaker:

The issue is whether the House and Senate will get more Democratic or not. Republican strength is not going to grow. We could end with a status quo state Senate that protects the 27-15 Dem majority. In the House the leadership may try to pick up a seat or two but that is not uncomplicated. 

The current breakdown in the House is 45 to 24 with one independent identifying with the R's.

As for freshman Herrell, a number of insiders we spoke to off the record attributed the lack of interest in her fate to her coziness with Trump, calling into question the 2020 election results and warming to radical R's such as Sheriff Couy Griffin who she since has tried to distance from. Said one:

She's made it easy for the Democrats. They don't see reshaping the seat as a political issue but as a moral issue. The Herrell wing of the GOP to them represents a threat to democracy. If she had adopted a more moderate tone it may have been different but probably not.

But there could be vigorous debate over how to make Herrell's district more Dem friendly. The so called Peoples Map that was one of several sent to the Legislature for consideration by the Citizens Redistricting Committee is coming under harsh fire for the way it sends the southern district into ABQ proper and also splits in two the city of Hobbs. 

A longtime Santa Fe Wall-Leaner explained:

That map enrages Southeast New Mexico. They already feel ignored even as their oil boom gives the state historic surpluses. Splitting Hobbs is a spit in their eye. There is a way of making that congressional district more favorable to the Democrats without humiliating the Republicans and oil country. 

2022 is shaping up as a tough year for the Dems so even with a new map the southern CD could still stay in play given the large swatch of conservative country it is still expected to cover. 

As for spicing up the session, Governor Lujan Grisham could add some fireworks to the redistricting show by adding other items to the agenda. How can she resist?


We blogged of the good news for ABQ Mayor Keller Tuesday, explaining how he carried all nine city council districts as he won re-election November 2. But there is even better news now that the numbers have been recalculated. The main point holds--that Keller took all nine council districts as he did in the 2017 run off but. . .

Political consultant Sisto Abeyta apologizes for a data entry error that had Keller garnering 63 percent of the vote in SE Heights District 6 when it should have been a whopping 75 percent. And in the Downtown/North Valley District 2 Keller secured 73 percent of the vote not the 59 percent initially reported. 

Keller's percentage did go down in some of the districts with the recalculation. In Westside District 5 he won with 46 percent in the three way mayoral race; in NE Heights District 4 he took 50 percent of the vote and in Valley District 3 he won with 49 percent. All the outcomes are posted in the graphic that was composed by the Keller camp from the final official numbers. We updated yesterday's blog to show the change. 

Sheriff Manny Gonzales finished second in all 9 council districts and Eddy Aragon third.

As for Abetya's initial take, he will be given the traditional punishment of ten lashes with a wet noodle and also is banned from Barelas Coffee House for 30 days.

Better you than me, Sisto.  

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

He Did It Again: Stats Show Keller Swept All Nine ABQ City Council Districts In Mayoral Re-elect; Did The Same In '17, Plus: Ranked Choice Voting For Council Contests? And Spending The State's Big Surplus  

Mayor Tim Keller has a lot to be proud of from his sweeping November 2 re-election victory. Not only did he handily defeat challengers Manny Gonzales and Eddy Aragon but he did it going away, winning in all nine city council districts. 

It was the second time he achieved the feat. He also swept all nine districts in the 2017 mayoral runoff when he captured 62 percent of the vote in a two way contest with Republican Dan Lewis.

We reported to our radio and blog audience during the election that Keller's 56 percent win seemed to be across the board, but now we have the numbers (thanks to political consultant Sisto Abeyta) to back that up. 

Keller blew the doors off in liberal SE Heights District 6, racking up his best percentage in any district as he garnered 75 percent of the vote, an impressive feat in a three way contest. 

His second best finish was in North Valley/Downtown District 2 where he scored 73 percent. In Valley District 3 he won with 49 percent. 

Keller has to be pleased with his victory in Westside District 5. While Republican Dan Lewis was defeating incumbent Dem Cynthia Borrego, Keller won the threw way mayoral contest with 46 percent.

Even in NE Heights Districts 4, 8 and 9, which have a conservative lean, Keller managed 50 percent of the vote in 4, 51 percent in 8 and 50 percent in 9.

Back on the Westside in District 1, while Councilor Lan Sena, who was appointed by Keller to fill a vacancy, was getting a thumping from Louie Sanchez, Keller felt no pain. He took the district with 52 percent.

Of course when it comes to ABQ mayoral races, past results are no guarantee of future performance. Since the modern form of government began in 1974 no mayor has ever gone on to higher office. 


Meanwhile, with one week to go until the December 7 runoff elections in City Council Districts 7 and 9. . . 

After we said on the Monday blog that Attorney General Balderas endorsed Dem Rob Grilley in the  District 9 runoff but had not endorsed progressive Dem Tammy Fiebelkorn in Distinct 7, an "endorsement alert" popped up in the afternoon on Fiebelkorn's social media.

Balderas endorsed her and cited her experience in working to reduce domestic violence, saying the city needs councilors with "hands-on" experience working with law enforcement. Fiebelkorn is the president of Positive Links, a nonprofit "dedicated to educating the public about the link between animal abuse and human violence and providing training to domestic violence workers. . ." 

A number of readers have expressed support for ranked choice voting instead of conducting low turnout runoff elections when no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote in the first round of balloting. The ranked choice method where voters rank all the candidates would settle the matter Election Night without the expense of a runoff and campaigns that are hard-pressed to get close attention 

There could be a compromise for the new City Council to consider: Keep the runoff election for the office of Mayor but go to ranked choice voting for the council seats.


What to do with the largest projected surpluses in state history? One idea suggested here was tax rebates--significant ones for middle and low income New Mexicans. Reader Karl Kiser tries to throw cold water on that one:  

I must take issue with tax rebates. Much of this money should go to offset the bad effects of oil and gas production. Too many companies produced negative environmental outcomes and the damage is ongoing. Many companies are bankrupt and will provide no funds for remediation. This includes damage to air, water and land. Priority should go to the most dangerous sites. 

I would look to clean up spills, cap old wells, offsetting the water effects of climate change (the state engineer recently resigned because of a lack of resources), enforcement of methane leaks (not enough inspectors plus the San Juan Basin shows a large methane spot from the air), and I could go on. 

Then there's that $3.7 billion in federal infrastructure money about to be let loose. Former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez has been named by MLG to supervise the vast sum. All those in favor of blowing up Chavez's phone, say "Aye!"

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Monday, November 29, 2021

Conservative Pastor Smotherman Butts In On Council Runoff And Trouble Starts, Plus: Readers Rebuke Senate R's For Attacking Roundhouse Vaccine Requirement  

Pastor Smotherman
Conservative Pastor Steve Smotherman has done a favor for ABQ City Council District 7 runoff candidate Lori Robertson that she may have liked to do without--he openly backed the Republican hopeful from his pulpit at a November 16 service. 

Robertson's opponent, Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn, now questions whether Smotherman violated IRS rules governing nonprofits such as his Legacy Church. (Video here.)

The open campaigning by Smotherman could indeed be an IRS violation that he may or may not get called out on, but his political fervor for Robertson violated what has been her political rule for this election--keep her conservatism low key. 

The last thing the real estate broker needed in the December 7 runoff in a Democratic dominated district was a loud whistle from Smotherman who appeals to Republicans but not to run of the mill Democrats and probably not much to independents.

Robertson complains that Fiebelkorn has “repeatedly tried to paint me as a right wing extremist." Never mind Fiebelkorn, Smotherman's heated rhetoric on Robertson's behalf did the job. He told the church gathering:

We need people like her (Robertson) on the City Council to make sure this crazy guy they call mayor doesn’t continue to push his agenda.”

That statement pinned Robertson firmly to the corner of a right wing wall. That could help rouse R's but is not a good look in a district where Dems outnumber the GOP 49% to 26%.

As for Pastor Smotherman, he is an effective and successful leader of his church but perhaps should leave the political analysis to the pundits and bloggers. 

Congrats on your endorsement, Lori. . . or something. 


Let's look at the major Dem endorsements in the District 7 and 9 runoff races to get a feel for the politics at play.

We note that Gov. MLG endorsed fellow female politico Feiblekorn but did not do the same for Dem Rob Grilley in the more moderate District 9 where he faces Republican Renee Grout in the runoff. Grilley is touting endorsements by Dem Attorney General Hector Balderas and BernCo DA Raul Torrez.  

Progressive Fiebelkorn did not receive an endorsement from the middle of the road Balderas, but the DA did endorse her. Mayor Keller endorsed both Fiebelkorn and Grilley. (Balderas endorsed Fiebelkorn Monday).

Grilley has been walking a fine line in the far NE Heights district that includes affluent Four Hills. He would be the first nonconservative to win the district since its inception in 1974. The strategy being that Balderas is a better endorsement fit in his district than MLG who is also a middle of the road adherent but seen as more partisan. 


The statement from state senate Republicans on the Thursday blog condemning the vaccine requirement for Roundhouse visitors to the special legislative redistricting session next week and the regular session in January drew sharp pushback from Covid watchers. Here's that statement again: 

This is not a COVID driven policy. If it was, the clear evidence of vaccinated individual’s ability to spread the virus would negate the reasoning for the rule. Instead, COVID has proven to be an effective means by which the political elites can justify their power grabs and limit public access.

Larry Gioannini in Las Cruces has the pushback: 

Unfortunately, I'm not surprised about the Republican canard that vaccinated people spread Covid. True, vaccinated people who get a breakthrough infection spread Covid like the unvaccinated but the much, much larger population of vaccinated people who do not get infected do not spread Covid. That's how we get back to "normal" ASAP. 

Reader Lissa Knudssen weighed in with this:

Joe, I saw the quote you used from the Senate Republicans about the “vaccinated individual’s ability to spread the virus” and thus there not being a need for a vaccine mandate in the Roundhouse. I am forwarding this blog post about this topic from a reputable epidemiologist and I am asking that you include some follow up for your readers as it is a matter of life and death in NM. 

Some lawmakers have not had vaccinations but will be allowed to enter the Roundhouse during the sessions because of constitutional provisions.

From Cedar Crest reader Andre Larroque writes: 

What disturbs me most about the Legislative Council Service rules is the necessity for increased security measures like bag checks, etc. at the building entrance. Our fully accessible and welcoming Roundhouse has become an unfortunate victim to the sometimes armed ‘shows of force’ exhibited at other state houses and the events at our national capitol building on Jan.6. 

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