Tuesday, August 02, 2016

ART Hits Slow Lane As Fed Appeals Court Puts On The Brakes; Readers Debate Berry's Buses, Plus: More Flynn File; Enviro Sec's New Job Draws Reaction 

Now that the federal appeals court in Denver has temporarily halted construction of ABQ Mayor Berry's controversial ART project, what are the chances the court will approve an order that would stop the project for much longer and likely kill it? One of our Legal Beagles says it's no better than 50-50.

While that's not great odds for the anti-ART forces, it's better than what they got from Federal Judge Kenneth Gonzales who ruled Friday against a lawsuit seeking to halt the rapid transit project. Now we await the appeals court ruling, probably within a week or so.

Our Monday blog on the Friday ART ruling and on the "celebratory picnic" thrown by the federal judge overseeing APD reforms drew reader response. Here's former ABQ District Court Judge Anne Kass:

The "fierce public opposition" to ART that you cite represents a disconnect between that opposition and a government anxious to put $119 million of public money into their contractor buddies' private hands. The public has made it known it most certainly does not feel well represented. There was ample testimony from that under-represented and under-served public. However, Judge Gonzales seemingly accepted the economic development claim raised by the City suggesting he has accepted the current controlling ideology that all economic activity or development is good and thus serves the public. That's what passes for critical analysis these days--money always trumps conscience.

As for Judge Brack's celebratory picnic, as a former judge, that just knocks my socks off. The saddest part of these two judicial decisions is as you so eloquently stated:

"The majority gets momentarily outraged but without leadership to galvanize it there is no oxygen to sustain it and it tires and retreats. It is this political emphysema that results in million dollar buses to nowhere and courtroom barbecues instead of bold police reform."

Reader David Nava comes with this in support of the nine mile rapid bus route down Central Avenue known as ART:

--As a Democrat, it is an article of faith with me that there is no such thing as a bad mass transit project. Period.

--Central Avenue, as a road, is not in great shape. It will need to be completely torn up and replaced in the very near future. Economies of scale will not permit this to be done block by block. It will be done in huge sections, not quite on the scale of the Lead & Coal project, but close. There will be large disruptions for that and we will be left with the same thing we started with - a simple street. Why not get some added value for the disruption - a transit system - if you’re going to have a massive disruption anyway?

--The project is not so much for today but for the future, for economic development, for making Albuquerque a more attractive destination. Once the stations are built and the route is set, in 10 years it will be a simple matter of laying in the rails for a light rail system, much like Denver and other cities have.


Former ABQ City Councilor Pete Dinelli, an ART opponent, says current city councilors Ken Sanchez and Diane Gibson, Democrats, are finally feeling the heat on ART. His take:

City Councilor Ken "I'm running for Mayor" Sanchez and City Councilor Diane "I'm running for re-election in a swing district" Gibson finally realize just how mad city voters are, that the ART bus construction destroying Route 66 will be going on in the middle of next year's municipal election when they will be held accountable for supporting ART and not putting it to a public vote.

Gibson says she will introduce legislation to put the ART bus project on the November ballot when she said before that was not possible. Sanchez says he will now introduce legislation stopping the project until things are cleared up with affected business owners but his earlier inaction forced them to sue. The truth is, the City Council and the Mayor do not have to wait for a court order and could vote now to stop this poorly designed project immediately now that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has issued a stay on the project.

It's unlikely a council majority will approve a public vote on ART.


Gov. Martinez isn't endorsing Trump for president and was quick to jump on the bandwagon criticizing him for his controversial attack on the parents of a Muslim soldier who died heroically in Iraq. Susana said grieving parents "have every right to voice their opinions in the political process," and that disparaging them is "absolutely wrong."

But, several readers ask, what about southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce, a Vietnam Veteran? Why hasn't he made a statement about Trump's statements?

Unlike Susana, Pearce is voting for Trump and this will probably be one of a long series of headaches the GOP prez nominee gives the R's who have backed him.


Sec. Ryan (ABQ Journal)
When state Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn leaves this month to become the new executive director of the NM Oil and Gas Association he will not have a problem with the law that prohibits a former public official from lobbying for one year. That's the take of former NMOGA executive director Bob Gallagher. He says:

I commend NMOGA for the hiring of Ryan Flynn. My 10 years in the job allowed me to gain valuable insight into both the public and private sector. Ryan's background and work history is a perfect fit for NMOGA. Not to worry about the 1 year ban on lobbying, he has a vice-president of govt. affairs who serves as the association lobbyist, and no less than 15 different member companies who have a registered lobbyist. 

Meanwhile, the environmental group Conservation Voters NM is awaiting official confirmation of Flynn's new job. It says:

We have plenty to say if this is indeed confirmed, but here's a big one: why didn't the Gov announce Flynn's new job when they announced his departure? Because they know what it looks like because that's what it is. It's Flynn doing the job he's been doing since his confirmation, just more honestly. As Environment Secretary, he has prioritized making things easy for industry with no regard for the health and well being of New Mexicans that are negatively impacted by the environmental, health and socio-economic woes that oil and gas dependency brings with it. Now, he'll just have a title to fit.

Reader Kathryn Carroll has a take on the departure of Flynn from the Martinez administration as well as the departure of NM Spaceport executive director Christine Anderson:

This is just the first of what will be a continual stream of resignations from her cabinet, who know their time is limited and need to find more long term employment. I keep wondering how long Public Ed Secretary Skandera will hang around. Chances are the Governor will muddle through the next two years of her term without appointing anyone to fill either of these vacancies or any in the future in order to avoid confirmation hearings. We all know how well the Skandera confirmation hearing(s) went.

The Governor says Environment Deputy Secretary Butch Tongate will serve as "acting secretary." He could do that for the final two years of the administration and, as Carroll speculates, not be subjected to state Senate confirmation hearings.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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