Monday, June 15, 2015

Mayoral Power Over Future APD Chiefs Could Diminish, Plus: Feds Show Some Teeth On PACS And Even More On Santa Fe's Big Pork Bill 

Berry and Schultz
The idea of electing the ABQ police chief has faded away and in its place is this:

. . . A proposition to be submitted to the voters at the October 6 municipal election to amend the City Charter to specify that the appointment of the Police Chief will require the consent of the City Council. The charter amendment would also allow Council to remove a Chief for cause with a 2/3-majority vote. This proposition is on the agenda for the Monday, June 15 City Council meeting.

So under this proposal if six of the nine councilors vote to eject the chief, he (or she) is gone. This is a significant shift in the balance of power. The chief currently serves at the pleasure of the mayor. But the current executive did not move to replace the chief or the upper command during the historic police crisis that has engulfed his administration. His predecessor did fire a police chief who became engulfed in scandal.

It was Mayor Berry's decision to keep former Chief Ray Schultz through thick and thin. If the amendment goes to the voters and they approve it, future mayors will have to deal with more oversight on how they deal with their police chief. And they'll have Mayor Berry to thank--or not.


Some water experts in New Mexico don't always seem to get it. Long standing precedents and complicated water rights law would all dissolve in the face of extreme drought. Here's how it's coming down in California:

Farmers with rights to California water dating back more than a century will face sharp cutbacks, the first reduction in their water use since 1977, state officials announced Friday. The officials said that rights dating to 1903 would be restricted, and that such restrictions would grow as the summer months go on, with the state facing a prolonged drought that shows few signs of easing.

Much of New Mexico is no longer in drought so farmers here don't have to worry about restrictions--at least not yet.


The Feds are showing some teeth when it comes to the PACS that are playing insider baseball with the campaigns. We're going to file this one away for possible future reference:

A former Republican political operative convicted in the first federal criminal case of illegal coordination between a campaign and a purportedly independent ally was sentenced Friday to two years in prison — a lighter punishment than prosecutors sought but one that still served as a sharp warning. Under questioning from U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady, Tyler Harber said: “I’m guilty of this. I knew it was wrong when I did it.” But Harber said he was not motivated by greed or a lust for power — he simply wanted to win an election and believed that what he was doing was a common, if illegal, practice. “I got caught up in what politics has become,” said Harber, 34, a resident of Alexandria.


An ABQ businessman writes of the special legislative session last week where a $295 million capital outlay (pork) bill was approved:

The Democrats have been pilloried by the Albuquerque Journal, the business community and the Governor for not passing the capital outlay bill at the end of the regular legislative session or coming to terms with the Republicans until the special session. Now we learn that a big bone of contention actually had to do with fiscal responsibility. And the responsible adults were the Democrats led by Sen. John Arthur Smith. Only in the most recent Journal article was there mention that Democrats were opposing using severance tax bonds to pay for road repairs.

Each year, the state’s annual budget sets forth how recurring revenues will be used to pay recurring expenses in the next fiscal year. In addition, there is a capital outlay process through which a number of bricks and mortar projects are selected and also paid for with recurring revenues. Finally, a smaller number of large capital projects are selected and paid for through the issuance of severance tax bonds to be paid with severance tax revenues in future years.

The Governor wanted to turn this process upside down, insisting on using severance tax bonds to pay for road repairs — a recurring expense. This is money that will have to be paid back later with interest. While that money comes from severance taxes, it will make less money available in the future for public projects.

Why? Road repairs are badly needed but the Governor was hemmed in by her “no new tax” stance (which is all about boosting her national political cred, not New Mexico’s needs). So she killed a ten cent increase in the gasoline tax -- even though gasoline prices are down nearly a dollar a gallon from a year ago — then said the money should be provided by issuing severance tax bonds.

In the end, the best the Democrats could do was to get the Republicans to agree that road repairs will be paid for with a mix of recurring revenues and severance tax bond proceeds. So the harm has been reduced but not completely avoided. But there’s always next year.

Maybe we need to stop electing Governors with national political aspirations.


Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins doesn't agree with reader Cheryl Haaker that the state Dems should move their primary to February of next year--instead of June--in order to play a more important role in the selection of a Dem presidential nominee;

The last time the Democrat Party tried this it was an unmitigated disaster.

Ellins is referring to the 2008 February presidential caucus here that featured long lines and a vote count that took the party weeks to tally. The caucus was moved up to accommodate the presidential ambitions of then-Gov. Bill Richardson, but he was knocked out of the race a month before New Mexico Dems met.

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