Thursday, March 06, 2014

Ready Or Not Here Comes 2016; Paid Ads Slam Sen. Cisneros On Early Childhood Funding, Plus: Political WIPP Lash; Radiation Leak Impact Analyzed 

(click to enlarge)
The first serious shots of Campaign '14 have yet to be fired and they're already lighting the rockets under Campaign '16. Look at this--a full-page ad in the Taos News running today. It slams state Senator Carlos Cisneros for  his move to table a constitutional amendment that if passed by voters would provide money from the state's $13 billion Permanent Fund for early childhood education.

Supporters of the amendment describe themselves as frustrated with members of the Senate Finance Committee--like Cisneros--who voted to avoid sending the amendment to the full Senate for consideration, It died on a 8 to 2 vote in Finance. Cisneros voted to block the amendment even though in previous years he has offered his support,

Carlos says he voted the way he did because of the way its supporters roughed up Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith at a public hearing last year. They presented Smith with a card that said Mississippi thanks New Mexico for taking over the 50th spot in a national child well-being ranking. That, said Cisneros, was over the top and he withdrew his support.

With the state continuing to experience a social conditions crisis that has grown deeper with the economic stagnation, rhetoric and action is going to get cranked up.

Amendment supporters have had a majority in the state House. Opposition among key Senate Democrats has been their focus. Now they have to worry that the House gets taken over by the R's in November and the amendment is killed there. All 70 House seats are up for election this year. The 42 Senate seats go before voters in '16.

It's likely that Cisneros is going to get hit with more than adveritisng in the next two years. Insiders say amendment supporters are looking for a '16 primary opponent for him. They say former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya is one possibility.

The newspaper ad was paid for by the Center for Civic Policy, a liberal advocacy group that has been active in the state for a number of years. Under IRS rules, it does not have to disclose its donors.


We doubt if anyone knows more about WIPP than Don Hancock of the environmental group Southwest Research and Information Center. He opposed the facility when it was conceived back in the 70's and retains his skepticism in the wake of a never-supposed-to-happen radiation leak from the low level nuclear storage waste site near Carlsbad. That event has Hancock coming with the best piece of explanatory reporting we've seen on the subject. Here are some of the unknowns he lists:

* What caused the leak?
* How much leaked into the underground salt mine?
* How much leaked into the environment?
* Where are those radioactive and toxic wastes now?
* To what amount of radiation were the workers exposed?
* What are the health effects for those workers?
* What decontamination is necessary in the underground mine?
* What decontamination is necessary on the WIPP site and surrounding area?
* If WIPP reopens, what changes in the operation, monitoring, and safety culture will be implemented?

The Feds are now saying that workers exposed "aren't likely" to experience an ill effects.


Sens. Udall & Heinrich
WIPP was conceived as a storage site for low-level nuclear waste but boosters in SE NM have tried for years to expand the mission to include high level waste, Obviously, that is now out of the question--perhaps forever.

Governor Martinez's administration seems reasonably on top of the situation, but this is a federal facility run by a contractor for the Department of Energy. The feds--and thus our congressional delegation--have to take the lead.

Southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce, whose district includes WIPP, was slow off the mark in reacting to the sensational news that there had been a radiation leak, He has now scheduled a town hall in Carlsbad Friday to hear citizen concerns. Senators Udall and Heinrich have issued statements saying they are communicating with administration officials. DOE will hold a town hall for Carlsbad residents tonight.

Will our environmentalist Senators arrange a congressional oversight hearing (in due time) at WIPP? Will they not allow local economic concerns about WIPP to interfere with an aggressive posture over this incident? Hancock says WIPP has a lackadaisical "safety culture." Sounds like a subject for that congressional hearing.

And what about Carlsbad boosters? Isn't it time for them to back off their insistence that WIPP take on high level nuclear waste? Of they continue to promote that mission, those who have been consistently supportive of federal funding requests for WIPP may be much less so.

As for the politics of this, Pearce is vulnerable in moderate Las Cruces over his refusal to rule out a high level waste mission for WIPP. However, his probable Dem opponent--former Eddy County Commissioner Rocky Lara of Carlsbad--has said nothing since the Valentine's Day breach. Is she silenced because of the hometown boosters? Stay tuned...


And now gentle reader, we present to you another chapter in the continuing story of "The Most Transparent Administration in State History":

The state law enforcement academy has changed the way it trains police cadets on the use of deadly force but it’s unclear exactly what those changes are because the state has refused to make the new curriculum public despite a rule requiring that it be published. In other changes, the state academy’s curriculum was shortened from 22 to 16 weeks of training. All this comes at a time when at least two law enforcement agencies in the state--the Albuquerque Police Department and the State Police--have come under scrutiny for their use of deadly force.

The best selling item at the Santa Fe Walgreen's is a pair of Ray-Bans--so the bureaucrats can be sure no sunshine gets through.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.      

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign