Friday, January 09, 2009

Chavez Camp Touts First Poll Of Mayoral Contest, Plus: Layoffs Hit ABQ Journal, And: The Crazy Week That Was, Warts And All 

The camp of ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez is celebrating a year-end poll that they say puts the mayor in a commanding position to win his third term in a row and his fourth overall. The survey was conducted by Lake Research Partners and, if it's right, there apparently isn't much "Marty fatigue" out there. Let's go right to the money paragraph from the Lake polling memo circulating among top political operatives:

Voters continue to hold Chavez in high regard. Two-thirds (66%) say they have a favorable impression of the man, including 28% who have a very favorable impression of him. Only 27% have an unfavorable opinion of Chavez.

That is about as high of an approval rating we have seen for Chavez in recent years. It shows him better positioned than an automatic phone survey your blog commissioned back in October. That survey put the mayor's job approval rating at 45%. However, the poll was of voters in Bernalillo County. The Lake survey was taken among 400 likely voters within the city limits where the mayoral derby will be decided. The margin of error is put at 4.9% and was conducted Dec. 20-22. We do not have the wording of the questions.

There may be some debate on Chavez's job approval rating, but the Lake Survey also asked city voters whether the city is headed in the right or wrong direction. Those results mimic what you hear around town in casual conversation:

Nearly two-thirds (64%) say the city is headed in the right direction, with fewer than one-quarter (23%) saying things are off on the wrong track. Thirteen percent are unsure.

If voters don't think the city is headed down the wrong path, what reason will they have for tossing Chavez from his 11th Floor office at Government Center when they go to the polls this October? Well, that's the question that will have to be answered by Marty's foes. So far, former State Senator Richard Romero and City Councilors Michael Cadigan and Debbie O'Malley have announced they will challenge Chavez. All are Democrats.

We did not receive polling that pitted Chavez up against his foes, but an insider says some was done and all the potential challengers scored "in the single digits." The bad news for the challengers is they have a long way to go; the good news is that they have a long time to get there.


No one will be surprised to hear that the recession is now hitting the newsroom of the ABQ Journal, the state's largest newspaper, but what is worrisome is that the layoffs of seven newsroom staffers may be only the beginning of the job losses. KRQE-TV's Maria Medina informs us that four of the seven newsroom employees laid off are news reporters.The Journal joins papers across the country feeling the severe pain of an advertising crash and a loss of subscribers to the "dead tree" edition of the paper in favor of the Internet offering. They can sell ads on ABQJournal.com, but they can't charge as much and therein lies the dilemma facing the entire newspaper industry.

"The people affected are good journalists who have made valuable contributions to the Journal," said publisher Tom Lang of the family owned enterprise. And, we might add, to the city and state.

We don't yet have the names of the reporters who are out. Gene Grant, a Monday columnist for the paper, informed his readers recently that his column has been canceled. And it's not just the Journal hurting. KOB-TV laid off about 10 employees late last year. Insiders say the contract of reporter Shelton Dodson recently expired and it will not be renewed and he will not be replaced. The Santa Fe New Mexican has laid off a couple of dozen employees (But only one news reporter). The non-profit online news outlet--The NM Independent---cut four part-time workers only months after undertaking their venture.


The downsizing of New Mexico's only statewide newspaper doesn't include only reporters. Staff reductions have been announced in circulation, advertising, production and other departments. Also, the Journal confirmed what we have been getting in our e-mail: Distribution of the paper has been reduced in eastern and southwestern section of the state and the Rio Rancho and West Side Journal editions now go to Thursdays and Saturdays only. Also, the Thursday Business Outlook has been canceled. The Monday Outlook remains.

The Journal's local news hole has been shrinking in recent months as it cut back on printing costs and editorial employees. But the investigative wing of the paper--a long tradition--has been strong during the recent Big Bill pay to play story. Some will argue that many of the minor crime beat stories and other daily minutia are not critical to the function of the paper. But with last year's death of the ABQ Tribune, original local news coverage is taking a hit.

Journal Monday through Friday circulation for the period ending 9-30-2008 is 102,266, up a bit from Sept. 30, 2007 when it was 101,981. Journal Sunday circulation is at 134,110, down a lot from Sept. 30, 2007 when it was 140,395. Saturday circulation is 109,646, up a bit from Sept. 30, 2007 when it was 108,658.

Layoffs in the national press and big city newspapers are of concern to us but not as much as the local losses because there is so much redundancy at the national level. Original statewide coverage of New Mexico news is essentially limited to the Journal, a smallish AP presence and three television stations. And don't blame the blogs. The Journal news stories on the Web are being read by more people than ever, they just can't turn a big profit on those readers.

We didn't mean to diss the Journal on the day they delivered their personal bad news, but it turns out we did--inadvertently. One of our "Alligators" e-mailed in a cool photo of Big Bill and his chief of staff in a candid pose at a UNM basketball game and left the impression that he had taken the pic. We were quick to boast about it, and were so taken with the snap that we announced a "photo caption contest" with the winner getting free lunch. Well, we were too quick to boast. The pic--unknown to us when we posted it-- was actually lifted from the Journal's Web site. It is the fine work of Journal photographer Maria Brose. The Journal is being good-natured and permitted continued use of the photo so we can complete our contest which will end Monday. So take a look below and e-mail in your caption. We think you're going to have fun reading the submissions.

Adding to the weirdness of the mishap was our receipt of our advertising bill from the Journal for the ad our blog ran in their recent special section noting the retirement of Senator Pete Domenici. No, we were not trying to stretch our ad dollars by lifting their photo!


It's just been a crazy week around here. It started Sunday morning with Big Bill withdrawing his name for the commerce secretary post and has just gotten more intense with that political news and then all the other exclusive stuff we bombarded you with. So it's no surprise that among the thousands of words we churned out, we let a mistake go by. But this wasn't a little error and the resulting e-mails from the legal beagles had us red-faced, but being Irish we are always red-faced so it wasn't so bad.

But on to the correction. We said federal grand juries operate under secrecy and that we should not be surprised that Big Bill was not saying much about the investigation. We were only partially right as explained by this e-mailer familiar with the matter:

Civilian witnesses before the grand jury (non FBI) are not sworn to secrecy. They can talk or not talk to the media if they want....Very little actually gets done in front of the grand jury, the real action is in the conference rooms at the FBI and U.S. Attorney's offices. Only the prosecutors, federal agents, the grand jurors and court clerks and court reporters are sworn to secrecy.

So when Bloomberg news reported they talked to someone who appeared before the grand jury, it was not unusual and not a violation of secrecy. Thanks to those who straightened us out on this one.

Terell Prowling
So asks Steve Terrell. You read our mind, Steve. The New Mexican reporter tells of the news of a state grand jury probe into a regional housing authority. The news broke Thursday night. Terrell blogged it at the new address for his political blog which you will want to bookmark in time for the upcoming legislative session. (Reporter Kate Nash has a blog too, found at the New Mexican site.) Terrell's music blog remains here. One more: An old friend, noted science author and former New York Times reporter George Johnson, continues to blog about Santa Fe in a most interesting way. If we could remember half of what this guy has forgotten.....


It's Marci Youngmark, a small business owner, who is considering a bid for the City Council seat of Michael Cadigan. We mangled her name in the early editions of the Thursday blog....And a note for Congressman Martin Heinrich: The honeymoon is over--already. The new ABQ US Rep., sworn in Tuesday, issued a news release Wednesday under the headline:

Heinrich cosponsors fair pay legislation on 1st day as member of Congress

And then came the e-mail in reaction:

Joe, This bill allows trial lawyers to file retroactive claims years after the fact. So, Martin's first act was not to end the war, support the labs or Kirtland or to kill Bush's evil tax cuts for the rich. No, it was to pay back the trial lawyers for all their support. Welcome to day one of the 112th Congress. Please don't use my name.

Gee, Martin has barely had time to find a parking space. We almost feel sorry for him, but we can't--that would have the Alligators snapping at us. Good Luck, Congressman. And welcome to La Politica....

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