Friday, January 24, 2014

Senate Leader Sanchez Lashes Out At Dem Party Chairman And This Blogger In Floor Speech; Defends Sen. John Arthur Smith As Frustrations Grow Over State's Standing, Plus: Our Response To The Majority Leader  

Sen. Sanchez & Bregman
Not only is New Mexico still struggling with the impact of the Great Recession, the opening week of the 2014 New Mexico legislative session showed we are still facing a "Great Disconnect."

It began with Governor Martinez's Tuesday State of the State speech in which she papered over the state's severe economic difficulties and ended Thursday with blistering remarks on the Senate floor from Majority Leader Michael Sanchez who defended conservative Democratic Senator John Arthur Smith and unloaded a heap of criticism on this blog.

Through both events we saw the state's political class--both Dems and R's--unified in denying or deflecting the reality that is so clear when one is not encased in a Roundhouse bubble.

In his floor speech Sanchez first turned his wrath toward NM Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman who last week said Sen. Smith should become a Republican if he continues to block a vote on a constitutional amendment that would use a portion of the state Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education. Railed Sanchez:

No party should ever tell us what we have to do on this floor or how we should vote on this floor...For some member of our party to try to embarrass a member of the New Mexico Senate is just not right, it’s just not good. . .No one in our party, either that side or this side of the aisle should tell us what we have to do.

Then the Senate leader humbled himself before Smith and apologized to him for Bregman's remarks. Smith effusively praised Sanchez for the favor calling him "honest" and "truthful."

Those of us who remember former NM GOP Chairman John Dendahl whipping Republican legislators into line as if they were his branded cattle had to chuckle at Sanchez's tirade. That's what political parties exist for--or used to---to enforce ideological discipline and to keep their membership in line.

Yes, the Democratic Party can be a big tent but when a guy with a knife starts ripping away at that tent, he has to be called to account.


After excoriating the Dem chairman Sanchez then turned his attention to this blog which has focused on the existential crisis facing the state and has joined with those asking Senator Smith to allow a vote on the early childhood amendment:

For the blogger who is going to blast me, I'm sorry. If you don't like it, come down here and join us. If you want to run for office to see what it's really like being an elected official run for office and then you might be able to understand what we go through on this floor. We are family on this floor. And I will defend anybody on this side of the aisle for doing what they believe is right and in the best interest of their constituents and the state of New Mexico.

"What you go through," Mr. Leader? Really?

How about what abused 9 year old Omaree Varlela went through when he telephoned a state agency expressing fear for his life and ended up dead at the hands of his mother?

How about what thousands of people have been going through who have been forced to flee this state in search of employment elsewhere?

How about the business owners who continue to lose those businesses because of a dreadful economy?

How about the sub-par lives of so many children here that we rank 50th in the United States in child well-being?  How about what they are going through?

In light of those circumstances it would seem the last priority of the leader of the Senate would be to protect Senator Smith who is one of our most privileged and powerful citizens. Forgive us, Senators, but when it comes to the trials and tribulations of doing your part-time jobs, we are all out of Kleenex.

And, Mr. Leader, if you in the Senate are "family" why is one member of that family allowed to prevent all other family members from voting on the early childhood amendment?

Senator Sanchez, you are not defending the "family" or the Senate as an institution, you are defending one man's dictatorship and his "right" to block all of you from voting. In turn, he is voting to keep you as majority leader.

The supreme irony is that Senator Sanchez is the chief sponsor of the childhood amendment that Smith is determined to kill.

It's odd to see Senator Sanchez--whom we like and have much respect for--pull out his long knives on those who have empathized with the social and economic goals he says he espouses. Will the leader make a floor speech with equal passion over his disagreements with the polices of Governor Martinez and her chief political adviser Jay McCleskey? Where is that speech, Senator?

There is, as Senator Sanchez states, a "family" involved here, but he misidentifies it as the comfortably affluent 42 members of the state Senate.

The real family is the over 2 million New Mexicans whose futures are at stake and who see a calcified, insulated and unresponsive Legislature and Governor unwilling to take aggressive action in the face of historic change.


Rebuttal now from GOP southern NM Congressman Steve Pearce over that WaPO report that quoted Pearce as saying in his autobiography that women "should submit" to their husbands. Steve's office responds:

The Post falsely and inaccurately mischaracterizes Pearce’s comments. The chapter in his book discusses how the Pearce’s manage their relationship and how they grappled with the bible’s words. This was a piece of either sloppy journalism or wilful intent to deceive. The words clearly written show that Pearce believes the phrase “submission” is widely misunderstood in society and criticizes those who distort the bible to justify male dominance.


So who is the heavyweight investigative reporter who is "returning" to KOAT-TV in February to shake things up? The promo--which is in heavy rotation--has been getting a lot of attention from the politicos who are always curious about anyone investigating anything.

Our Alligators report it's none other than veteran NM journalist Nancy Laflin. She moved over to KOAT from KRQE and has been working as a producer at the ABC affiliate. Laflin was a longtime KOAT reporter before she went to work for the state as head of the NM Music Commission.  She will return to the airwaves as that mystery investigative reporter....

In our Thursday blog we said that State Sen. John Arthur Smith had attended a dinner this week in Santa Fe of the Sierra County Dem Party. Actually, it was a dinner sponsored by Sierra County officials...

The Hispano Chamber of Valencia County is having its 14th Annual Matanza this Saturday in Belen, hometown of Senate Majority Leader Sanchez. Hey, Michael, if we run into each other, be nice and don't throw any chicharrones at us....

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Campaign '14: Latest On AG Race, The Guv Chase And Party Strategies, Plus: Attention Ladies: You Must Submit To Steve Pearce 

Let's head out to the '14 campaign trail where we find the race for attorney general taking shape.

Susan Riedel, a former chief deputy district attorney under then-Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez, confirms she is seeking the GOP nod for AG. Riedel, who was appointed as a Las Cruces district court judge by Gov. Martinez, immediately becomes the front-runner in her contest with ABQ attorney Paul Baiamonte. Her ties to the sitting Governor will give her the inside track on the campaign cash.

Top tier GOP prospects Matt Chandler and Amy Orlando are taking a pass on the AG's contest...

Riedel can grab the nomination but beating Hector Balderas, the current state auditor and unopposed Dem contender for AG, will be a different matter. No R has been elected AG since '86.

But with wild west campaign money laws, Balderas has to be concerned truck loads of out-of-state cash could come in to try to take him out. He says in a fund-raising pitch in reacting to Riedel's entry:

When the dark money starts pouring in from out of state, we'll be relying on our grassroots supporters right here in New Mexico to keep us standing strong.

A secondary motive for the R's when it comes to Balderas is mucking him up, even if they can't beat him. They don't like the talk that if he gets to be AG, he will make a run for Guv in '18 if Susana is re-elected this year.


You have to like the R's playbook from a strategic point of view. They have female candidates for Governor and attorney general as well as Dianna Duran for secretary of state, even as the GOP membership is weighted toward men.

As far as the Dems getting a constitutional amendment or two placed on the November ballot that would help them drive voter turnout, there seems little chance.

At the legislative session conservative Dem and Senate Finance Committee Chair John Arthur Smith signaled this week he will work to kill the amendment to legalize marijuana. He is also digging in his heels on the proposal to increase funding for early childhood programs via the state Permanent Fund. Either constitutional amendment could draw heavy Democratic crowds to the polls.

But what about Smith getting chastised by NM Dem Party Chairman Bregman for not allowing a vote on that early childhood amendment? One of our Alligators in attendance with Smith at this week's Sierra County dinner dinner reports:

Smith isn't going to move an inch and the Bregman remarks have made Smith think he's on a crusade.


If you are new to La Politica, be reminded that the state Senate is ruled by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Dems. Smith is the ringleader of the "Martinez Democrats." Often along for the ride with him are Dem Senators Mary Kay Papen, George Munoz, Clemente Sanchez and John Sapien.

There are 42 state Senators--17 of them Republicans. When five of the Dems team with them, they kill liberal leaning legislation. On tie votes of 21 to 21 GOP Lt. Governor Sanchez will break the tie in favor of the coalition.


In the race for the Dem nomination for Governor Santa Fe's Alan Webber has hired Leanne Leith as deputy campaign manager. She is well-known in Santa Fe for guiding the political strategy of the Conservation Voters of NM. Veteran political consultant Neri Holguin is managing Webber's effort....

State Sen. Howie Morales is boasting of this endorsement of his Guy candidacy:

Nationally renowned education leader Diane Ravitch announced her support of Senator Morales’ bid (for) Governor. Ravitch has established herself as a national education leader through her work as a teacher, policy analyst, author, federal administrator and historian. She served on the National Assessment Governing Board under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Morales started his career as a special education teacher...

Phil Sisneros, the director of communications for Attorney General Gary King, who is also a Dem candidate for Governor, writes:

I am wondering why no one seems to remember how Susana Martinez built her image as a tough DA prosecutor by exploiting the death of "Baby Briana." To say that the Attorney General is using the death of 9 year old Omaree Varela solely to advance his political interests is hypocritical and ignores the fact that it is part of his job as the AG to look into such tragic cases. 

By the way, it would seem only responsible to mention that Gov. Martinez is seeking re-election when pointing out that the AG is seeking to oppose her. Not doing so gives the impression that everything the Governor does is because she is governor, conversely, everything the AG does is because he is running for elected office?


Back on that constitutional amendment on early childhood, reader Ellen Gore, who describes herself as an early childhood educator, writes:

Joe, I would be interested in asking Senator John Arthur Smith and the “Martinez Democrats” when will be the right time to dip into the so called “rainy day fund.” Is it after we have been ranked 50th in child well-being and early education for 5 years? 6 years? 10 years? By that time we will have perpetuated the cycle of poverty ten times over. By then even fewer New Mexico children will be reading by 3rd grade, even fewer New Mexico teens will be graduating from high school, and even fewer New Mexico young adults will be prepared for college. By then, it will not just be raining, it will be pouring.


Funding for the public schools and higher ed comprises the lion's share of the New Mexico budget. Here's a complete primer for the education junkies among us as authored by Save Our Schools Los Alamos.


Pearce & wife Cynthia
We didn't read southern NM GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce's new autobiography but the WaPo did and this quote from it is giving him plenty of headaches this week:

"The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice," he writes, citing the Bible. "The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else."

That had Pearce's probable '14 Dem challenger--Rocky Lara--coming with this reaction:

(It's) no surprise given his long voting record against women. As a woman who worked my way through law school and opened a small business in Carlsbad, I am appalled by Congressman Pearce’s offensive rhetoric. My father and mother raised me to believe that if I worked hard I would always have access to the same opportunities as my brother.

Come on, Rocky. Submit to Steve. How can you resist? And, Steve, how does this submit deal work in gay marriages? And how about at least giving some candy or flowers before the wives have to submit?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gov. Martinez Opens '14 Session To Mixed Reviews; State of State Lacked Previous Years' Punch, But Did Position Her For Coming Campaign, Plus: Finally Time To Consolidate State Universities?  

The Governor's State of the State speech? Well, it was like spraying a can of Lysol on a really big pile of manure. But Susana did it with a smile and with a Democratic opposition that's essentially neutered. She did no more and no less than she had to do in her fourth such speech on an opening day of the Legislature.

The full speech is here. Text and video here.

The November election was writ large in the House chambers as the Governor began her over 45 minute talk. Unsurprisingly, much of the speech centered on education--an issue that appeals to all voter blocs.

As ABQ Mayor Berry did in his re-election bid last year, Martinez ignored that manure pile and painted a picture of a state with some mild challenges. That did not include depopulation, massive job losses, a weak-kneed economy that continues to teeter, a last in the nation ranking in child well-being as well as a last in the USA high school graduation rate.

By now the New Mexico public knows the score; they know this Governor's promise of "bold change" has turned into a whimper in the face of these generational challenges. But they don't blame her--not yet.

Someone has to shoulder responsibility and Susana trotted out her favorite foil:

The federal government remains deeply in debt, forcing federal budget cuts. Partisanship still rules the day, and the national economy is sluggish. We cannot bank on that changing, not anytime soon.

And she reminded everyone of what observers believe could be the pivotal political moment of her tenure--convincing legislative Democrats to take ownership of the dismal economy by embracing a tax package that included that controversial corporate tax cut:

On tax reform, all sides compromised, and we achieved a great deal for the people of New Mexico. We cut the business tax rate by 22 percent, closed loopholes, and enhanced film incentives for television series filmed in the state.

Not much in there about the Dem bread and butter issues of income inequality and low wages, is there?

The only thing the Dems can now do to break out of the box they are in is to pass aggressive economic and social legislation, put it on her desk and make her cast vetoes. But they have neither the gumption or the votes.

That leaves it up to the Dem Guv candidates to make the case for change. There's still that big pile of manure they can point to, but first they have to get that Lysol can out of Susana's hands.


Senate Majority Whip and Dem state auditor candidate Tim Keller was one of those who voted for the corporate tax cut. Maybe he regrets it. Here's his response to the Guv's speech:

The challenges New Mexican families face are plentiful but the Governor’s speech painted a rose-colored picture. It was notably absent of any of the big ideas our state needs to truly move the needle on our lagging job growth, to implement sorely needed early childhood programs that benefits our kids first and foremost, or to get our behavioral health system back on track after months of crisis.


Several of our Alligators were on the floor of the House as Governor Martinez gave her State of the State. We're going to allow them a critical look, mainly because Martinez is continually touted as a national political figure. With that in mind, to the floor:

The Governor seemed off. Either she was nervous, bored, hadn't spent enough practice time with the speech and/or the tele-prompter. She showed up late and the lieutenant governor had to stall for time. She was clearly irked by the icy reception she got from the Democrats and forced several irritated smiles in their direction.


It seemed less polished and more disjointed than previous speeches. It lacked any broad thematic efforts that pointed to who she was. She logically pointed to jobs and education as her themes but failed to hammer home why they were so important. Most governors would talk about why where we are is unacceptable in those areas (that was surely her approach years ago) but she seemed to shy away from that and attempt to claim very weakly that we were improving.


Her legislative efforts were largely centered around extending current policies and she resisted touting any new ideas. Notably absent in all of her boasting of child protection efforts was any reference to the tragic death of a 9 year old in Albuquerque recently. Any plans to reform CYFD? No. 


She did a good job of bringing interesting guests to the room that she cited in her remarks, but she had a difficult time with the build up to introducing those guests. Kind of underwhelming. I wondered, what happened to the speaker we saw at the 2012 Republican National Convention?


Striking to me was how disinterested the crowd was from the start. Prior speeches of hers or Gov. Richardson's kept people captive. But in this case, people started leaving halfway through. All in all it was a strange speech for such a highly-touted speaker that allegedly has national aspirations.


Our take was that the buzz has left the building. When the cash is flowing and the hammers are hitting nails there's money and power up for grabs. Not so much anymore. After five years of getting slammed and still seeing no end, the state has become poorer and its politics more anemic. We won't call Martinez's so-so speech boring.  Let's just say it wasn't compelling because it addressed a reality of her own making, or, as Sen. Keller said:

The Governor’s proposed policies do not touch on the everyday realities that New Mexicans experience....


As we blogged yesterday, Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler Monday night abruptly announced he would resign as DA effective March 1. What made the 38 year old rising GOP star throw in the towel on his political career and go into private law? A state legislator familiar with the situation says Chandler's resignation was a result of "personal, family matters." The details will soon be filled in.


With this news as a backdrop, now seems the perfect time to at least attempt to consolidate the state's sprawling, inefficient and too expensive university system:

Western New Mexico University {in Silver City} plans to slash spending by 4 percent to make ends meet, a move that will likely involve layoffs of faculty and staff, followed by additional job cuts, higher tuition, consolidation of classes and the elimination of less popular courses. The changes are needed because a projected 5 percent increase in student enrollment did not materialize,

WNMU, Eastern New Mexico University and Highlands University are all going to encounter financial problems in the years ahead as rural populations dwindle. Education experts will tell you the state would do well with only UNM and New Mexico state, with the others being branches of those colleges.

Our small state has all these universities because of the politics of the past. That's not going to play in the 21st century. The WNMU woes give NMSU President Carruthers and UNM President Frank the opportunity to get the ball rolling.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

All Eyes On House As 2014 Legislative Session Kicks Off; Dem Absences Could Cause Power Shift And GOP Mischief, Plus: Our Session Preview On Key Players And Issues, And: Chandler Stunner: He Will Resign As Clovis DA  

Governor Martinez's State of the State speech is expected around 1 p.m. today. The speech will be streamed here.

Maybe the Republicans won't have to wait for the November elections to take over the NM House. That's the story on everyone's lips as the 2014 legislative session kicks off for a 30 day meet today.

Dona Ana Dem Rep. Phil Archuleta won't be at the Roundhouse for the start of the session as he recovers from hip surgery and ABQ Dem Rep. Ernie Chavez will not make it either--also because of health problems. That will make the partisan split in the House 35 Dems to 33 R's. A switch of only two Dems and a unified GOP would give the R's a working majority--at least until Archuleta or Chavez return.

Of course, the standing joke is that after House Speaker Kenny Martinez rammed through a controversial corporate tax cut at the last session, the GOP is already in control and giving them a working majority isn't going to change much of anything.

Speaking of the Speaker, our Senior Alligators posted at secret locations in the storied Roundhouse come with this take:

Action in the House will remain a nail biting experience. Since the last session's last minute movida on corporate tax cuts, Democrats and progressives activists continue to question why Speaker Kenny Martinez drove the Republican corporate tax cuts through in the final seconds. The Speaker also prohibited anyone rising to debate or question the surprise tax cuts. The questions include what the Speaker accepted from the Governor in return for shepherding through the House the supply side philosophy that cutting taxes for the wealthy will trickle down to average New Mexicans. The Speaker's own tax committee chairman and several other Democratic members of that committee opposed the corporate cuts despite Speaker Martinez's support...

If Archuleta and Chavez don't show, the Speaker may not be able to hold up bills in House committees and will have difficulty controlling procedural floor votes. Already, House Democrats now caucus only infrequently to avoid inflaming internal disagreements.

And the consequences to the Speaker of  his ramming that corporate tax bill through will be apparent this session. He may no longer be able to credibly invoke the "sanctity" of the committee process. His own members may join with Republicans to "blast" bills out of committee and beyond the Speaker's control. The corporate tax bill was cobbled together in the last minutes and the bill never went through any committee approval.


Another Dem and one with a long memory and burned by the 2013 session was ABQ Dem Rep. Mimi Stewart, chair of the education committee. She voted no on the Speaker's (and Governor's) corporate tax cut and told the media on the floor of the House afterwards that the tax cut was a "royal screw job."

Insiders say whatever deal the Speaker cut with the Governor's staff also didn't include the soon-to-be influential Appropriations Committee member Patty Lundstrum. If you begin to see the trend it's the displeasure of many women Dem Reps, who had been looking forward to a different House under Martinez than the one run by former Speaker Lujan. Count Representatives Sandra Jeff, Sheryl Stapleton, Mary Helen Garcia, Debbie Rodella and many freshman reps who are now disillusioned.


This theory was also making the rounds at the Roundhouse in the hours before the session. Does the fact that the Speaker cut a deal with the Governor's people in the final minutes of the last session set an unintended example? Will House Dems feel at liberty to now cut their own individual deals and make  a path to the Fourth Floor inadvertently cleared by the Speaker himself?

Martinez's administration has not proven itself effective at passing its top legislation, but after getting the corporate tax cuts Republicans wanted, even this administration can figure out how to peel off the two or three Dems it might take to move the Republican bills to the House floor.


The Speaker will rely on the Senate to block the Republicans, but he may not be able to protect his own members from having to take problematic votes in committee and on the floor. Republicans can smell a takeover of the House for the first time since Eisenhower was President.

They will want Democratic incumbents in swing seats taking committee and floor votes which poll right, and which can then be used by Republican challengers in November. Expect controversial and partisan bills to be strategically introduced in the House and "messaged" by the Governor's political team, which will be running the House session from "The Fifth Floor."


Another wall-leaner told us what could be "the ultimate irony."

That would be if the Governor and her handlers take over the House at the November elections. The decision of the Democratic Speaker to pass Republican corporate tax cuts might have been the pivotal moment that cost Democrats the majority and the Speaker his title. That bill may have also assured the Governor's reelection and a capitulation by the Dems legislative leadership almost two years before the election.


Blogger & Leader Sanchez
The Democratic-controlled Senate will dispose of any hard-core Republican agenda coming over from the House. But Democrats and progressives are puzzled that Majority Leader Michael Sanchez called up the corporate tax cut bill in the final minutes, when he was in a position to stop the rushed legislation. Sanchez had it both ways and voted against the bill he called up for a vote.

The Senators now running for Governor (Linda Lopez and Howie Morales) voted against the corporate cuts knowing that voting otherwise would doom their ambitions for higher office among the party base.


One of the most powerful members of the legislature is conservative Democratic State Senator John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith, chair of Senate Finance. Roundhouse veterans say notwithstanding Dem Party Chair Bregman's protests, Smith will continue to dominate all matters of budget, finance and tax policy in Santa Fe.

The Governor's staff will continue to defer to Smith and other fiscally conservative Democrats over the budget and make minor changes around the edges. Though the Governor has repeatedly threatened special legislative sessions those threats have been mostly hollow. In an election year legislators won't believe any threats of a special session and the Governor will have little leverage on the budget in Senate Finance.


The Governor has been traveling the state announcing favored capital outlay projects. All have been based on an assumption legislators will relinquish their power of appropriation. It won't matter that the projects announced in news conferences by the Governor may not actually be enacted by the Legislature. The point in this election year was the favorable press coverage itself.


Top lawmakers say education will again be a battleground as it has been the first three years of the Martinez administration. Not much change can be expected. Despite statements of Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Linda Lopez, it remains uncertain if education secretary-designate Hanna Skandera will come up for a confirmation vote in the Senate. Also, expect sharp debate over the future of the lottery scholarships and who should qualify for them.

One legislator close to the issue says the relationships between the Governor, educators and administrators are so strained that the likely outcome is continued stalemate. There is growing skepticism among Democrats of the administration's motivations and relationships with the private education industry.


Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler, often thought of as a rising star in the NM GOP, stunned the state Monday night announcing he will resign as district attorney March 1. Chandler, the DA since 2005 and the GOP's 2008 attorney general candidate, said:

After several months of prayer and consideration. I made the decision to pursue new endeavors in the private sector.

Chandler says he will open a private law practice.

Rumors have swirled around the 38 year old Chandler in recent months--that he might be in line to become Governor Martinez's chief of staff or that he would again run for attorney general (Martinez will name a replacement for Chandler).

Chandler was recently appointed special prosecutor for the Roswell school shooting case and says he will see that case through.

Asked about running again for AG this year, he said:

At this time, my focus is going to be on the transition of the district attorney’s office, as well as opening my private practice in Clovis.

That seems a bit enigmatic, but so does this sudden resignation from the DA job he held for nearly ten years.

Just what is going on with Matt Chandler? That's a question La Politica is not going to let go of until it gets some answers.


There's a new member of the Santa Fe lobbying corp this session--one with very close ties to the Fourth Floor--and the Fifth Floor. He's Darren White, the former Bernalillo County sheriff and ABQ public safety director and most recently a VP at the ABQ Downs.

Records from the secretary of state show that White is now operating Buzzsaw Strategies. He identifies three companies he is lobbying for--the ABQ Downs, Century Link and Scientific Games which contracts with the NM lottery.

White landed his Downs job after the Martinez administration approved a controversial 25 year lease for the racino. Prior to that he was forced from his ABQ public safety job when his wife was involved in an auto accident and he in turn involved himself in how police handled that accident.

White, 50, is a close friend of Guv political adviser Jay McCleskey (aka "The Fifth Floor") and appeared in a campaign ad on behalf of then-Guv candidate Susana Martinez....

The top lines of the AP's session preview make for the bottom lines on the '14 session:

The challenges are plentiful. New Mexico lags behind its neighboring states in job growth. Thirty percent of students fail to graduate from high school, and the state was ranked worst in the country for child well-being last year by a national charitable foundation.

Good luck, Santa Fe.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

New NM Econ Scare As Intel Layoffs Loom And More Gloom Unveiled On State's Future Prospects, Plus: CYFD Crisis Spotlighted  

With the exception of oil and gas, the economic momentum in our state in 2014 continues to the downside. The announcement that Intel will shrink its workforce by 5,000 worldwide sent shivers through the metro area. Intel laid off 400 at its Rio Rancho plant in 2013.

They won't say how much of a hit--if any--we will take in this latest round but optimists are about as plentiful as vegetarians at a matanza...

These are high-paying manufacturing jobs at risk--the kind that we were supposed to attract when the Legislature pushed through a last minute corporate tax cut earlier this year. But taxes have hardly anything to do with what's going on around here. We are being buffeted by global economic forces as exemplified by Intel and by a shrinking Federal government presence...

State government might be able to give us a reprieve by stoking the economy by increasing the amount of capital outlay projects and filling the many state government vacancies. But the austerity hawks and the recession deniers hold sway...

The WaPo came with a devastating look at the state's economic indicators based on a report from UNM. It should be must reading for the Governor and the 112 legislators who will begin a 30 day legislative session tomorrow. Among its grim highlights:

Population growth has slowed to practially zero, the state is now home to the widest gap between its wealthiest residents and its middle and lower classes; reliance on food stamps and Medicaid continues to rise and the real unemployment rate--including those who have given up is 14.1 percent. The full UNM report is here

It's enough to make a legislator cry in his complimentary martini at the Rio Chama.


Downtown ABQ is faced with a Depression level real estate vacancy rate of over 30 percent. It is death by a thousand cuts. The latest:

Downtown dwellers and workers will have one less dining option come February. La Esquina owner Roy Venaglia said he plans to shut down the 100-seat eatery at the end of this month. La Esquina had been in the First Plaza’s underground Galeria space since 1979, Venaglia said. He took it over in 1984.

The downtown death spiral shows no end in sight. Gap will abandon its corporate offices there later this year.

We seem to be repeating a cycle of the 60's when downtown was abandoned as shops fled for the NE Heights and the Interstate system replaced Route 66 as the primary traffic route through town.

The Federal Model Cities program helped stop the death march back then and subsequent mayors put their fingers in the leaking dike. Now it's Mayor Berry's turn to come up with something to bring life to the area. We don't envy him. A turn in the economic cycle here might do the trick, but that appears to be years away.


In 2002 the median sales price of a square foot of residential real estate in the city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County was $150 square foot. And in 2013 a square foot was going for....drum roll please...$150 a square foot. (That excludes the Roundhouse where lobbyists pay a whole lot more for a square foot of the place).


Ortiz y Pino
We talked about upping Governor Martinez's request for $600,000 for new social workers for CYFD to triple that amount in the wake of the tragic abuse death of 9 year old Omaree Varela, but ABQ State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino says that's not the issue:

The number of vacancies in that CYFD division (child protective services) approaches 100 (15% of 800, though not all those are social workers; includes some administrators and some support). Conservatively, you can use the figure of $70,000 for each new hire. That's $7 million to be fully staffed in that division. But CYFD actually reverted $6 million back to the general fund this last year as budgeted but unspent personnel costs from the entire department. So we could get real close to full staffing without even adding any new money. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith has already indicated he's willing to add more funding for raises and additional positions, so that's not really an issue. The real problem is CYFD can't hold on to workers once they've been hired because they are hiring non-social workers (degrees in other, related fields) instead of social workers and they are turning over as fast as they get hired because they aren't prepared for the demands of this job. So they hire 100...and 100 leave within six months for less demanding work elsewhere. Morale sinks with each vacancy and it leads to more and more turnover. Raises might attract professionally trained social workers and that should be done. But the management at the top is inexperience, in over its head and can't get out of the deep water.


State Auditor and Dem attorney general candidate Hector Balderas came with his long-awaited audit of NM Expo and the ABQ Downs late on Friday afternoon, just as we entered a holiday weekend. In other words, he wasn't shouting from the rooftops about his findings or calling for a vigorous investigation of that controversial 25 year racino lease awarded to the Downs by the Martinez administration. (The audit is here).

A spokesman for NM Expo took the opportunity to gloat over it all, saying that the awarding of the lease was all above board. But whether the lease deal was a pay to play deal is now in the hands of the Feds. They have plenty of evidence to investigate as reported here and elsewhere over the past several years. Auditor Balderas and Attorney General Gary King have washed their hands of the shadowy deal.

Balderas' report comes just weeks before the filing deadline for statewide political candidates. Speculation that he would get a strong challenge has dwindled as neither east side District Attorney Matt Chandler or former Dona Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando have made a move. ABQ attorney Jim Baiamonte is the only announced R. Balderas is unopposed for the Dem nomination.

Now we are hearing that Las Cruces district judge Susan Riedel--a BFF of Susana--will be entering the AG race on the R side. All will be clear in early February when the filing deadline comes upon us.


We blogged last week about the hearing the Senate Rules Committee will conduct this legislative session over the administration's awarding of that controversial ABQ Downs racino lease. ABQ State Senator Jacob Candelaria points out the Senate and the House do have the power to subpoena witnesses--if a majority of Senators or Representatives vote for it. Senate Rules Chair and Dem Guv candidate Linda Lopez apparently does not plan to ask the Senate to give her subpoena power. The Governor's office calls the upcoming hearing a "political circus."

A political circus in Santa Fe? Okay. Somebody cue up "Send in the Clowns" and let's get this party started.

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