Friday, February 11, 2011

Clippings From My Newsroom Floor--Come On In & Pick Through The Pile, Plus: Hit The Road, Jack; Dems Will Miss Schmitt More Than R's 

Mary Beth Pizzoli
Governor Martinez seemed to escape major political damage from the natural gas shortage which until the political demise of Jack Schmitt was the major political story of the week. Her condemnation (and blaming) of the NM Gas Company resonated with those out of heat and the public at large. The administration--new at this--did seem to have to scurry to get their arms around things. But at a public hearing sponsored by the state's congressional delegation in Espanola Thursday, we're told only one of some 200 disgruntled residents pointed their finger at the Guv. Everyone was raging at the gas company.

We think our initial take had it right--that the big impact of the crisis could be on the energy industry's deregulation agenda. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of Dems trying to drag Martinez down for her performance. Sam Bregman, seeking to become NM Dem Party chair, accuses Susana of not being ready for prime time:

Thousands of New Mexicans lost their heat and needed help from their government. What did Governor Martinez do? First, she met with the gas company and did nothing. Next, instead of looking for the resources that would actually help solve this crisis, she started the blame game. She refused to ask for federal assistance...The first crisis for our new Governor and she failed. Cozy relationships with industry insiders are her priority while a devastating crisis that left New Mexicans in the cold and without heat is someone else's fault. This is leadership?

But The Guv's office says:

The Martinez Administration has been in contact with FEMA since the first day of the natural gas crisis, and the Governor anticipates that damages will rise to the level of a Presidential Disaster Declaration, which will enable FEMA to reimburse state and local entities for costs associated with uninsured damages...


A reader asked this week where the money would come from to pay the cost of sending ABQ police and firemen to the north to help relight gas deprived homes. It appears those expenses could be reimbursed by the state. The Guv signed an executive order that makes available up to $750,000 to local government for reimbursement.

ABQ firefighter union head Diego Arencon sends this YouTube video that he says pushes back against the contention that the firemen have it easy, except for an occasional emergency.

Expect NM Senator Jeff Bingaman to join the investigation of the Great Gas Shortage. His office says he will hold a one day hearing on the outage. Bingaman is chairman of the Senate energy committee.


We chuckled at the timing of this release when it came across our Apple computer screen this week:

New Mexicans tired of getting gouged by increasing gas prices may have an alternative—and some healthy incentives—to convert their cars to natural gas with a bill moving through the House. The House Business and Industry Committee approved Tuesday HB 198, which provides personal and corporate income tax credits to those who convert their petroleum-based vehicles to natural gas...

As long as the NM Gas Company isn't the supplier, we suppose this will work out.


It's quite a bit more expensive to heat your rural home with propane than natural gas, but some folks are sure to look into it after being hit by the gas crunch. The propane boosters are out in force as we see in this email from Jim Conway, of Conway Oil & Propane in Clovis:

...A lot of Mom & Pops in the propane industry have been doing what we've always done best--serving our customers on an individual and personal basis. Most of us were working around the clock keeping cost effective, readily available and efficient propane in our customers tanks.

We sold almost as much propane in the last 10 days as we sold all of last February, which was one of our best months ever. We had adequate inventory; enough delivery equipment; and motivated staff willing and able to work incredible hours. We...reinforced our position as the area's "Energy Supplier of Choice." The natural gas companies can't make the same statement!

Jim, if you ever get out of the propane biz, you might want to try your hand as a copywriter for commercials. You have it down pat.


The Democrats will mourn the loss of Jack Schmitt more than the Republicans. Schmitt refused to undergo an in-depth, but routine background check ordered by the Senate Rules Committee and the Guv withdrew his nomination to become secretary of the energy and minerals department. There was no way Governor Martinez could keep him around, not after she pledged a transparent administration to beat all administrations.

If Schmitt, 75, a former astronaut and US Senator, had been confirmed for the post, he would have been a convenient whipping boy for the Dems who decry his controversial views on global warming as well as his position on a corporate board of directors that caused him to have a conflict of interest over the NM Spaceport.

Did the Martinez team drop the ball in vetting Schmitt? Yes, he is respected, but has become downright ornery in recent years, publishing off the wall comments that made him a Dem dream. Didn't the vetters know that?

The Dems would have liked to keep him around, subscribing to the theory that it's always best to cripple your villain, not take him out for the count. But state Dem Chairman Javier Gonzales had to settle for this riff on Susana's first weeks in office.

Martinez tally of failure in just the past few weeks:

Harrison Schmitt flame out; Poor handling of gas crisis, which left thousands of New Mexicans in the cold, some for more than a week; No New Mexicans named to her education-reform team;
Still not one comprehensive jobs bill proposed by administration; Rebuffed by state Supreme Court for letting industry lobbyists write an order that attempted to halt clean-water protections

Martinez isn't the first Governor to stumble over the vetting process and won't be the last, but the difference this time is Martinez's Democratic foes will be as sad about the mishap as she will.

They don't have Jack Schmitt to kick around anymore.


Governor Martinez's political team is getting congratulations for winning an award for producing the best statewide TV spot in 2010 in the USA. The ad from Lincoln Strategy Group was called "Convicted" and showed Martinez destroying the credibility of an attack ad from Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish. The ad was produced by consultant Jay McCleskey who recently announced plans to open his own consulting firm.

The Reed awards were handed out by Campaign and Elections Magazine in D.C.

Meanwhile, over at state GOP headquarters, they've named a new executive director who is from out of town.


One of our stories this week has Dem US Senator Jeff Bingaman getting 57% approval in the PPP poll. It was actually 56%...

Speaking of headlines, we came across this one promoting a program on the legislative session:

"Expanded Legislative Coverage During This Crucial 60-Day Session."

Of all the adjectives you might use to describe the sleeper session in Santa Fe, crucial is probably last on the list. Yes, those are snoring sounds you hear emanating from the storied Roundhouse....

And was this the Joke of the Week?

The New Mexico Gas Company, according to Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks, plans to seek a rate increase soon. Isn't that like paying a pick-pocket?

Thanks for checking in here this week and making us New Mexico's #1 political site.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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