Thursday, April 22, 2010

Santa Fe's New Buzz Word: "Restructuring"; How They Can Make It Count, Plus: Our Chicharrones Debate Gets Heated; Old School Vs. New School 

Sally Ruddy
You could say it was forced upon them but the state House has risen to the occasion and now has a Government Restructuring Task Force. We've been among those pounding the table for something like this in Santa Fe, something that really hasn't happened since Governor Apodaca's reorganization back in 1975. With the state facing a new economic paradigm, now is the time. State Rep. Patty Lundstrom a member of the panel, says:

This is a foundational proceeding that takes a serious look at our budget during this recession. Government restructuring occurs every 20 to 30 years. This task force is the most important interim committee of the decade. As a group we must respond and be flexible to future changes in the way our government works...

Or as former Governor Carruthers once said: "Never let an economic crisis go to waste."

The restructuring task force needs to look at consolidating agencies and eliminating some, assessing all state boards and commissions and report on our tax structure (yes, strongly recommend restoring the progressive income tax rates).

But most of all, the task force, initiated by Santa Fe Rep. Lucky Varela, needs to look at restructuring our government in the context of long-term solutions to our economic plight.

The rampant poverty in the rural areas, especially among Native Americans, keeps the state at or near the bottom of most economic success lists. The ongoing DWI slaughter on the highways continues; the long-standing Hispanic and Native American education gap is another challenge as is the insidious drug addiction in Rio Arriba County and elsewhere.


The next generation of New Mexican government needs to shed the La Politica jobs and commissions. It may also need to defer some issues in order to address the urgent ones we listed above.

We need a leaner state government but not a meaner one. A government restructuring offers the opportunity to focus on the big picture issues that have held New Mexico back. In other words, it's not just about saving money, but about reforming the government to have it efficiently focus on and attack the fundamental and decades-old problems that have had the citizenry here wondering if improvement will ever come.

You often hear that this is a lousy time to be a legislator. There is no money and there is only pain to hand out to constituents. But for the lawmakers on the restructuring task force, this may be the best time to be a legislator. The economic crisis delivers to them a climate where the public is receptive to profound change in the way Santa Fe governs.

As Carruthers said, let's hope they don't waste the opportunity.


New Mexico's 21st century problem is not about conservative or liberal solutions; it's about restoring hope and progress for the state's huge underclass and getting them into the middle class.

All this came to mind as we watched Senator Udall on the Senate floor Wednesday, marking the 122nd anniversary of the birth of the greatest New Mexico US senator--Dennis Chavez.

When Senator Chavez left this world in 1962, he was eulogized by Vice President Lyndon Johnson (who) remembered Senator Chavez as ‘a man who recognized that there must be a champion for the least among us.’ And four years later, when the U.S. Congress placed Senator Chavez’s statue in Statuary Hall, Reverend John Spence summed up the man nicely. Senator Chavez, Spence said, was ‘ever a champion of the underdog, the poor and oppressed.'

Aren't New Mexico's baleful social conditions in so many households--Anglo, Hispanic and Native American--the civil rights issue of our time? Senator Chavez might think so.


Once the Gators and assorted wall-leaners dubbed Allen Weh as the front-runner to take the GOP Guv nod June 1st, the "stop Weh" email started. For example, Republican reader Vic Segura, working as a contractor in Iraq, writes:

I have been a good strong Republican and have nearly always supported the Republican candidates, especially those that were veterans. However, if Allen Weh were to win the GOP nomination for Governor, I think would vote for Diane Denish.

Allen Weh has a reputation of never listening to anyone, believing you do it my way or the highway...I never saw him support the Hispanic programs or Hispanics. In fact, I believe more Hispanics left the Republican Party during his tenure than came in. I would like to see him defend his record of supporting Hispanic’s and bringing in Hispanics to the Republican Party. I really don’t think he can. I have not decided who I would support for the GOP nomination, but it is certainly not this guy.

A few wrote in to charge that we and the Alligators were saying positive things about Weh to help Dem Diane Denish because Weh would be the weakest candidate against her. Right, we have all that power!

And the last we looked, we weren't on the payroll of either major political party. Maybe we're on their list of people who piss them off--but definitely not their payrolls.


It's been a depressing descent for Big Bill. The state's epic corruption scandals in his second term overshadow what may have been the most successful first term in state history. Now the watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), adds insult to injury by naming Richardson to their list of "worst governors." The group lists these sins:

--Used state investments to benefit political allies --Allowed pay-to-play scandals to plague his administration --Rewarded close associates with state positions or benefits, including providing a longtime friend and political supporter with a costly state contract --Failed to make state government more transparent

The Guv's office was bitter about the report, telling newsman Trip Jennings:

This report is ridiculous considering Governor Richardson has led the way for ethics reform in New Mexico. It’s also difficult to take it seriously since it relies almost exclusively on the Albuquerque Journal as its source.

Was it that long ago that the Journal and Bill were bedfellows? The state's largest newspaper gave the Guv their endorsement for both of his terms.

Bill drives you crazy with the pay to play, and then he does stuff like this that reminds you that this was and is a leader of national consequence:

Gov. Bill Richardson has urged Arizona's governor to veto immigration enforcement legislation that critics say will lead to racial profiling. Richardson, a Democrat, recommended the veto in a telephone call Wednesday with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican.


Now to the really serious issue of the day--the proper method for stirring chicharrones. It all started with a pic we ran Tuesday of Dem Light Guv hopeful Brian Colón using a metal paddle to stir a batch of the tasty pork morsels for his weekend Matanza. A Senior Alligator chastised Colón, saying a wooden panel is the only authentic means of stirring chicharrones. Now comes another Alligator defending Colón's use of metal:

Joe, Let the purist pendejo (dumbass) Alligator know that times change and using a stainless steel paddle is acceptable in our modern times.

My primo, Alfredo, retired the wooden paddle after my Tio, his father, Ernesto from
La Plaza Vieja (ABQ's Old Town), passed away. He now keeps it as an heirloom to remember the tradition of the "Matanza" that my Tio passed on to him. My Primo Alfredo is the best and last of our generation to keep this tradition going. After our generation passes, this great tradition will most likely pass too, so it will not matter if a wooden paddle was used or a stainless paddle.

But the Senior Alligator isn't buying this "new school" thinking, responding with this:

Times change, but not necessarily for the better. Few make tortillas like Grandma, but nobody argues they were better. Metal in a hot batch of chicharrones leaves them with a metallic taste and alters their cooking by drawing heat away. At one time such would have earned a good hiding with a thick belt or a bull whip.

Grown men often fought to take possession of the deceased chicharrone paddle. There are those who will not compromise their high standards and those who will slide.

Pendejo is not used in polite company. Thus, I'm not surprised that a person of such breeding would sanction metal in chicharonnes.

We remain firmly neutral on the matter of stirring, preferring to eat, not debate, this ancient delicacy.


And one more New Mexico food issue before we leave. ABQ's Carroll Cagle, reacting to recent postings here describing how New Mexican denizens of DC are often starved for real green chile, offers this:

My friend Gary has this website. Every year he ships more than a TON of fresh HATCH chile to the UNM Alumni Association of DC for their annual scholarship fundraiser…

It's an event in September and anyone desiring Hatch Chile can get it during their one day event. For D.C. expats who are interested, Gary says they can contact Larry Harris at: 703-370-3448; he’s the DC President of the UNM Alumni Association.

They pay us to do this, but it's true that most days we'd do it for free.

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