Thursday, February 11, 2016

Behavioral Health Upheaval; Was It Pay to Play? Plus: Berry's Buses Draws Reader Reaction, Santa Fe Mayor Talks Budget Pinch And Rio Rancho Mayor On Bond Debate 

We often talk about how the creepy crawlers come crawling out from under the rugs during a second gubernatorial term. It's no different for Susana Martinez. This week saw Attorney General Balderas report that 10 behavioral health providers thrown out of business by the administration over fraud allegations amounted to much ado about nothing and that he will not be bringing criminal charges. The real gold, if Balderas or anyone else is interested, is the campaign contributions and political connections that may have been behind that decision. Arizona companies were hurriedly brought in to take over for the accused providers. The mantra during Big Bill's second term was "pay to play." Deja vu?. . .


The news that the President's budget includes nearly $70 million in federal grant money for Mayor Berry's controversial plan for rapid transit along a stretch of Central Avenue has brought out the readers. Let's take a look.

Reader Jeff Baker writes of the plan:

I’m trying to understand the logistics of riding ART up and down Central. I live 2 miles north of Central Ave. Suppose my wife and I want to go downtown for dinner and a movie. Are we supposed to walk 2 miles to Central, hop on a bus, and ride it downtown? After the movie is over, do we hop on a bus, ride it east, get off the bus, and walk 2 miles home? Or, are we supposed to drive from our house to Central, find a place to park, and then take ART downtown? Will there be designated parking lots for folks like us who want to take the bus for the Central part of our commute? It’s questions like these which keep me up at night.

Reader Mick chimes in:

ART will make the most profitable section of NM's Route 66 bankrupt and back to two lanes like in the 50's. Hisoner doesn't really understand that former Mayor Chavez's plan wasn't well received and neither is his. Maybe someone will take up the cudgel against Berry like Berry did against Chavez over this rapid transit nonsense.

Ken Hughes, Transportation Chair, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, writes:

Joe, I was the first executive director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, an international nonprofit that works to increase safe and sustainable walking, bicycling and transit riding in cities around the world. 30 years later, separated bike lanes, and bus rapid transit systems have taken off in cities around the world. The group's evaluation of Albuquerque's proposal shows it has the promise to be the best bus rapid transit system in the US. While some Nob Hill merchants' currently oppose it, over time this at-grade subway project will truly benefit not only Nob Hill but the entire corridor, indeed, the entire city, enticing 8 to 15 times the project costs in private investment as properties adjacent to ART stops become more valuable in clusters of commercial and residential activity. No other injection of public funds comes close to this type of catalytic change. But of course, there are always some people who resist change, no matter what form it takes.


He finally came with something of a plan to solve Santa Fe's $15 million budget crisis, but Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales--who gave his state of the city speech this week--is presiding over a city that has lost mucho mojo. You can raise taxes, as Gonzales and the council are proposing to solve the current crisis, but you only get one bite out of that apple. The bloated government is a relic of boom times past. A tax increase now may put off more painful decisions for a time, but unless Santa Fe gets rejuvenated economically, pain there will be.

And sometimes you need a tax boost, as we believe is the case out in Rio Rancho. Here's Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull's full statement in reaction to news articles that reported he would not publicly support the $9 million Rio Rancho bond issue on the March 1 ballot, an issue that would mean a slight increase in property taxes:

Joe,  Your assessment – based on reading quotes from two articles that my position on the city’s upcoming road bond question has flip-flopped is completely incorrect. For the record, and so that there is no future confusion by anyone, I support the passage of the road bond question that will be on the city’s March 1 ballot, and this has always been the case. Since becoming mayor, I have analyzed the city’s budget, met with professional staff regarding the condition of Rio Rancho’s roadways, and received input from residents and businesses. What all of this information clearly shows is that Rio Rancho’s roads are in need of improvement, addressing roads is a top priority for community members, and existing city resources are not adequate to meet that need. For these reasons, I support passage of the road bond.

Ultimately, it is up to the voters to decide whether or not they want to slightly raise their property taxes to address two major roads in Rio Rancho that are used by more than 20,000 motorists daily. In the past, some City Councilors prevented voters from even having the opportunity to decide whether or not they wanted to raise their taxes to support road improvements. I firmly believe that giving people the opportunity to decide if they want to invest in their community is paramount. Investments such as these enhance quality of life, protect property values and encourage business investment. This is why I broke the tie and supported placing a road bond question on the March 1 ballot.

Berry, Gonzales and Hull. It's not always easy being a mayor around here.

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.

website design by limwebdesign