Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Santa Fe And Right-To-Work: The Wrong Conversation At The Wrong Time? Plus: The Case Of Mary Han; The Cricket Coogler Of The 21st Century 

Santa Fe droned on for endless hours Tuesday, debating a right-to-work law that would impact practically no one, but nevertheless is serving the purpose of allowing the political establishment from looking squarely in the eye the state's real economic dilemma. It's also a nifty wedge issue for the Republican Governor and her political machine.

The ardent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was well-intentioned but irrelevant when one considers that less than 6% of the state's workforce belong to a union and union membership is what right to work is all about. And don't we already have some of the cheapest labor in the USA? (The committee will vote on the measure later this week).

Meanwhile, real news is happening out in the real world and not inside the Roundhouse bubble. News like this:

Analysts at Citigroup said the recent rebound in oil prices would likely to prove short-lived and predicted that rising inventory costs could push the price of oil as low as $20 a barrel.

Already UNM and CNM are warning of significant budget deficits because of the oil plunge. Recent disappointing high school graduation rates are a grim reminder of the continued stagnation in education as well as the economy.

Right-to-work will fly through the Republican House and then it will be up to the nominally controlled Democratic Senate to put it to death. But that place is shakier than cafeteria jello, populated as it is by a number of Martinez Democrats who live in the Governor's shadow of fear. One wonders if the expert insiders predicting that Majority Leader Michael Sanchez can hold the line and kill right to work have it right.

The entire state economic establishment--and its media arm--have embraced the obscure right-to-work measure as the panacea for New Mexico's multi-pronged mess. It may make them feel good that they are doing something. Also, it gives Martinez an issue to keep the Dems on the defensive and use to further her own national ambitions.

But New Mexico is wasting precious time as it engages in the wrong conversation at the wrong time.


Mary Han has become to the state's 21st century what Cricket Coogler was to the 20th. Coogler was a 19 year old Las Cruces waitress and party girl who was murdered in 1949 under mysterious circumstances that led to the doorsteps of prominent politicos. Her killer was never found, even as the case caused a political sensation in the early 50's and ripped the lid off a cauldron of steamy state political corruption (Some things never change).

Today there is Mary Han, found dead in 2010 in her ABQ North Valley garage from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Coogler was clearly murdered. Han, 53, may have been. She was a high-powered defense attorney who tangled repeatedly with APD. This week the ABQ Free Press revisits the Han case. There's no conclusions, but plenty of questions. For example:

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator found that Han died with a carbon monoxide saturation in her system of 84.8 percent. According to Forensics Unit investigators, most saturation levels in suicides by carbon monoxide poisoning are in the 30 to 40 percent range. McCutcheon was unable to locate a single suicide case by carbon monoxide poisoning with levels as high as Han’s. Despite these discrepancies, the OMI ruled Han’s death a suicide.

The Han case may never be solved but like Coogler's untimely death, it has all the makings for a shelf full of books and for endless speculation. Maybe someday. . .


ABQ has suffered through arguably one of the most ineffective periods of government leadership in its modern history. The APD disaster that has soiled us nationally and the never-ending recession/stagnation that has prevented any pay raises for most rank and file city workers for the past five years are vivid testimony to that. So when the salary commission that was established to determine the pay of the mayor and the nine city councilors came with a whopper of an increase this week, there was instant derision. The panel has ordered that future councilors earn $30,000 a year, nearly double from the $17,000 they now receive. The commission has ordered that the future mayor be bumped up to $125,000 a year from $109,000.

The commission's logic is that the hikes keep ABQ's councilors on par with those in Santa Fe and Las Cruces and the mayor with leaders in surrounding cities. But what about the moral position? Why not defer any action and recommend that pay raises only take effect for the elected officials once the city is able to reward its own workforce with pay raises? We don't live in Las Cruces or Santa Fe.


On the passing of former Lt. Governor Mike Runnels, we get this word:

A memorial event for former Lieutenant Governor Mike Runnels will be held in the Rotunda of the State Capitol on Monday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m. The event will feature remarks by family and friends. All who wish to make remarks, to simply attend, or to speak with Mike’s friends and family at a reception just after the event are invited to attend the Rotunda ceremony, the family said.

TV news reports that former ABQ police Chief Ray Schultz still has a contract with Taser International, maker of police lapel cameras. We blogged Tuesday that he no longer had that contract.

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