Thursday, June 02, 2011

Momentum Grows For Simple Special Session; Ball In Susana's Court, Plus: Senate Money Chase Analysis, And: The Berry Bonds 

Momentum appears to be growing to keep the special redistricting session of the Legislature from becoming more of a political playground than one would normally expect from 112 politicians gathered under one roof.

Governor Martinez will ask lawmakers to take up the hyper-controversial issue of repealing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and perhaps other issues that led to gridlock at this year's regular legislative session. A newspaper editorial sums up the concern now swirling that the redistricting session, set for September, could morph into an ugly and divisive circus:

....Unless New Mexico’s leaders can walk into the Roundhouse with some compromise and consensus on those issues — or at the minimum a commitment to put things to a vote — the session promises to drag out as an exercise in futility that distracts all from the redistricting job at hand. And that makes the proposal for a separate special session, or waiting for the 2012 regular session, sound better all the time.

The session to redistrict the state's congressional and legislative districts to conform with the 2010 census is estimated to cost $50,000 a day--not chump change when the state can't even come up with money for supplemental food stamps for 4,000 old people.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez told us recently that he would like the special to last seven days or so. He pointed out that Governor Martinez can include on her "call" any issues she wants, but that doesn't mean the lawmakers will consider them.

Martinez has not yet come with her full agenda, but she's getting plenty of warning that if her political arm tries to turn the session into a lengthy wedge issue festival aimed at the 2012 campaigns and not the redistricting business at hand, she is going to have her hands full stemming the resulting rebellion.


By turning her back on the Senate bid of Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, Governor Martinez hopes to dry up his money. Some R's who don't want to be on the wrong side of the Guv will oblige, but it will be interesting to see how conservative oil money flows. They are no fans of Heather Wilson, the other major GOP Senate contender, but did give heavily to Susana.

Southern Congressman Steve Pearce, who beat Wilson for the Senate nod in 2008, could be very helpful to Sanchez in making up any money he loses because of Martinez's near endorsement of Heather. How much of a behind-the-scenes role will Steve play?

Also, with national conservative groups on the war path against Wilson, Sanchez seems positioned to get more out-of-state money than Heather, as well as indirect support through third-party TV advertising as Pearce did. How much out-of-state conservative grass roots money will flow his way is unknown, but if they put out the call, it could be substantial.

Then there is the X factor of personal wealth. No one knows yet how much Sanchez is worth, but the roofing company owner last year gave over $200,000 of his own money to his successful campaign for the GOP nod for Light Guv. If he comes with a similar amount for the Senate race, it would go a long way in a primary in which raising $1.5 million or so is a big deal.

Then there's that best fund-raiser of all--the polls. If Sanchez starts closing the gap with front-runner Wilson, the money will flow. No wonder Sanchez spent $25,000 on TV ads over the weekend---a year before the primary election.


ABQ Mayor Berry is promoting a number of "fun" quality of life projects as possibles for the $50 million bond issue he passed through the city council and which will be on the October city election ballot. But this Alligator says before the fun begins it's time to get serious about bond money already approved by voters. He comes with this example:

Before the Berry administration launches millions of dollars worth of "game-changing" general-obligation bond projects, it should audit how city bureaucrats have managed past GO bond money. Four years later, neighbors of Ladera Golf Course still don't know what happened to $750,000 in 2007 bond money earmarked for golf maintenance equipment there. Nearly two years after voters OK'd $1.5 million to replace Ladera's leaky 31-year-old irrigation system, nothing has been built. Where has this money gone? As Ricky Ricardo once told Lucy, the Parks and Recreation Department has "some 'splainin' to do" regarding past finances before it is entrusted with tens of millions more.

One project on the list for possible use of the bond money is reconstruction of the scene of the city's worst traffic mess--the Paseo del Norte and I-25 interchange. It will take anywhere from $250 to $450 million to get that done. If we took the entire $50 million in bonding capacity in question and put it towards that project, it might show the federal government we are dead serious and free up Uncle Sam's cash to see the project to completion (using local contractors and employees). It might not be "fun" but it might be more in line with the city's needs.

Larry Ahrens
We averred in Wednesday's blog that ABQ seems adrift, largely because of the lackluster economy, but also for reasons dealing with leadership. That view found support from veteran NM radio broadcaster and longtime Republican Larry Ahrens who now works in creative for Comcast:

Joe, Your words on our community adrift were very much appreciated. I made my living for years on the radio feeling the “vibe” of this city. There were a lot of people and institutions who carried momentum forward. Slow at times--but at least there was momentum.

The “vibe” now is just as you described. We are making do. Getting by. Taking it a day at a time.

I agree with you. I sense little urgency on the part of business and our political class to redefine things around here.

To acknowledge your point about both political parties, the stagnation of ideas is palpable on both sides. Nobody seems willing to look at new approaches. Over the years on the air, I always said that New Mexico doesn’t have to invent anything. Just go model cities and states where things are working and duplicate it. Texas seems to have some ideas on creating jobs. Let’s go see what they’re doing. Same for North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana and others.

Cities that are growing, creating jobs and prospering right now are Austin, TX, Columbus, Ohio, Raleigh, NC, Omaha, Nebraska, Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City. Isn’t it possible we could learn a few things from them?

Your comments come on the announcement of the passing of business icon Bob Hoffman. Bob never saw New Mexico as second-best. He always believed in what was possible both in the state and our city. It’s enigmatic that we should be mired in self-doubt at a time like this. Thanks to you for bringing this topic forward.

Pretty good stuff there, Larry. You even have us rethinking our attitude toward Texas. Maybe you ought to run for something?

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