Friday, July 31, 2009

Cartoonists Mainstream Denish, And: The Econ Beat: We Don't Let Up, Plus: Mayor's Race & Lots More Cool Political Stuff 

You know you've started to enter the mainstream when the cartoonists start their lampooning (Click on cartoons to enlarge). So it is for Lt. Governor Denish who finds herself getting gently poked by Santa Fe cartoonist Jon Richards over her recent "discovery" of the ethics issue. The dean of the cartoonists, Trever, came with his own take. Both are with the ABQ Journal.

We've dubbed Di's moves to avoid getting tarnished with the ethical scandals plaguing Big Bill, "Operation Separation." Trevor takes a similar tack. The cartoons may not be all that complimentary, but they are taking the Light Guv from the back of the stage to the front. And that's where she needs to be to keep the Dem field clear of potential powerful primary challengers--like State Senate Majority Leader Sanchez.

Still, this is going to be a campaign with a lot of grumbling over ethics and not just from R's. reader Alan Schwartz, an independent, provides an example of the impatience out there:

I'm still not "getting it" with Denish. She's calling for more frequent campaign reporting which will be filed at that black hole that is the Secretary of State's office. Why not call for a truly comprehensive transparency in government initiative that would put all these disclosures (campaign, contracts, etc.) under the direct supervision and control of an independent ethics board?

Denish does support an independent ethics board. Alan takes it one step further, providing food for thought.


If ex-GOP ABQ US Rep. Heather Wilson decides to make a run for Guv, the firing of US Attorney Iglesias and her role in it will likely be made an issue. Former White House advisor Karl Rove played a larger role in the firings of US attorneys than previously thought, reports the WaPo. Heather's role in the scandal is also recapped.

Meanwhile, Heather appeared on KKOB-AM radio Thursday morning and according to our insiders did not sound shy about a possible Guv run. No surprise there.


We all know about the 400 jobs that will be lost next year when GE closes its ABQ South Valley jet engine facility, but Bernalillo County officials are telling KOB-TV the situation is even more dire. They say as many as another 1,000 jobs at restaurants and other businesses impacted by the closing could be lost. Those officials are scurrying to make plans for the lost tax revenue.

Maybe the ABQ Journal, which has been doing major push back this week against our analysis of the state's economy, might want to do further reporting of this important story, or maybe check it out with their friends at the Chamber of Commerce.

And here's some more fat for the newspaper editors and their point men to chew on. From reader Lou Hoffman:

(GOP mayoral candidate) RJ Berry made a good point at the Economic Forum breakfast last week. He argued that unemployment in the private sector is substantially higher than reported city wide averages would suggest. For example, if one assumes that relatively stable governmental employment supports half on the jobs in ABQ, then private sector unemployment would actually be more like 14 percent....

Now there's a wake-up call for the Journal editors. That sounds like a heck of a story--not hyperbole. And then there's the closing of the second major car dealership in Espanola announced Thursday.

I believe UNM economist Larry Waldman says this is the worst or near worst economic downtown in New Mexico's post WWII history. The message to the press is this: Stop spinning about how bad it may be elsewhere compared to here and deal with the troubling reality facing our people and your subscribers. Report it and help resolve it. Stop trying to wish it away or pretend that fundamental and secular economic change is not happening here. It is not going to be the same. Businessess are permanently closing, never to reopen, unlike in past recessions. We will need a new economic way. As they say in the news biz, "Check it out."

We have.


There's 1,100 jobs on the line and a $25 million annual impact on the ABQ area economy at stake with the "Tacos." Even critics of Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich are going to have a hard time arguing he hasn't done his part.

Heinrich announced a major victory in securing language in the Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2010, for the 150th Fighter Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB). The language would prohibit the retirement of the Fighter Wing (commonly referred to as the “Tacos”) for a year following the enactment of this bill, and appropriates the funding needed to keep the Tacos flying. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 400 to 30.

But it's not a done deal. Now it's on to the Senate. And insiders are also awaiting word from the White House on how it feels about this language that keeps the
Tacos flying.


This one flew under our radar. We thought the conservative nonprofit headed by Farmington's Allen McCulloch would have to report all its donations and expenditures, unlike some of the progressive nonprofits that have been the focus of so much controversy. But according to this report, that is not the case. McCulloch's Southwest Citizens Coalition, which we wrote of on Tuesday's blog when they unleashed attack ads on Dem US Reps Heinrich and Teague, also will not be reporting who is giving them their money.

Mario Sanchez, who consults the group, says they won't be releasing their donation list "because we're following the law."

Well, this is what we warned about when the nonprofit genie was let out of the bottle in the 2008 legislative races. What we are getting in our state is essentially third political parties that have little public accountability. The progressives are concerned that they are being singled out, but it is now a systemic problem. The reporting issue is now in the federal courts.


Another low-flying story--this one on the ABQ mayor's race--comes from newsman Trip Jennings who obtained a court deposition in a lawsuit filed against Mayor Marty alleging pay-to-play for airplane rides.

According to a 391-page deposition taken of John H. Bode under oath, the state’s economic development secretary, Fred Mondragon, repeatedly pressured Bode, the operator at the city-owned Double Eagle II Airport, to provide free or reduced-price air travel for Chavez...

Chavez calls the Bode suit "absolute garbage." And he adds a dash of color:

“For $150 and a lawyer, you can say anything you want."

Didn't that used to be a hundred bucks to file a lawsuit? Where's that "deflation" they're all talking about?

It was reported earlier this year the FBI was sniffing around on the Bode deal, but nothing more has been heard from them since.

Actually, the stuff being slung against Chavez this time around is really quite mild. Chavez was personally eviscerated in the rumor mill in 2005, but this time, fortunately, the hate language seems to have abated. Can we keep it that way until Oct. 6?


Is AFSCME, the traditionally Dem-leaning labor union that represents 3,500 city workers, turning conservative? They've now come with endorsements for two city council candidates--both Republicans. This is on top of their first-ever endorsement of Chavez for Mayor, despite protests from liberals.

Mike Cook, a certified financial planner, seeking to unseat incumbent District 7 Councilor Sally Mayer, won the union's nod as did incumbent GOP Councilor Don Harris. Said the union which can help a campaign with get-out-the-vote efforts:

Cook was genuine when he spoke about helping the people in his district and the city. He was also very supportive of the services our members provide for the city...AFSCME wants to continue to build a solid relationship with Councilor Harris and to work together to improve the lives of everyone in Albuquerque.

Both R's have to be pleased as punch about that. The other candidate in the Dist. 7 race is David Green who has yet to make much noise. Harris is opposed by David Barbour, a Dem and recent transplant from San Franciso. His major potential foe, GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Brasher, decided against running.

There are rumblings among some AFSCME members who say fear of layoffs and furloughs are driving the endorsement process, not pro-labor stances. They argue the union would be better off staying out of races where there is not a clear labor favorite. But then these are not normal times. Keeping your family fed is as important as holding politicos to union principles. The union is going to need friends--D's and R's-- when and if the cuts come. So it goes when you have mouths to feed.


Inveterate blog reader Ellen Wedum of Cloudcroft has some thoughts on the challenges of the 2009 ABQ mayoral race:

I'd think (GOP mayoral candidate) Richard Berry might be wondering if he even wants to be mayor in these tough times. He is not going to be able to point to Mayor Chavez as the cause of the GE Aviation closure. What is the mayor's salary? Might be time to propose an across the board cut in city employee salaries, starting at the top. Everyone else is feeling the pain, including retirees like me whose investment dividends have tanked.

Another reader commented on advice one of our Senior Alligators had for Berry when it comes to the continuing layoffs in ABQ:

I agree that Berry has an opportunity on the jobs/economy front, but there's a possible downside for him....Has Cumbre, the construction company operated by Berry and his wife, maintained their employment levels? Which is to say, has Berry been downsizing and letting people go himself? If the answer is "yes" he's going to have a hard time making the case that he would do things differently as Mayor...

We'll check on that, but Berry's involvement in the construction industry hasn't hurt him with one group. The Board of Directors of the New Mexico Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors have endorsed Berry in the race for Mayor. They say they have 164 member firms and cite Berry's "decades of business experience, along with his pro-business track record in the New Mexico State Legislature" as key to the endorsement.

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