Monday, August 01, 2016

Why Trump Gets Traction: Two Federal Court Actions Here Highlight Disconnect Between Public And Government, Plus: Martinez Environment Secretary HeadsTo Oil Industry, And: Opening Up The Special Session  

Judge Gonzales
Look no further than the state's federal courts if you're mystified as to why the cult of Donald Trump has taken hold. Two actions by federal judges amplify the disconnect between the populace at large and the increasingly elite political class.

First, Democratic Judge Kenneth Gonzales, even as he expressed personal doubt about the project, refused to grant an order to halt ABQ Mayor Berry's hyper-controversial ART project--the $119 million, nine mile rapid bus line down Central Avenue that has drawn fierce public opposition.

Then there was the bizarre "celebratory picnic" thrown (and paid for) by Judge Robert Brack, a Republican, to mark the alleged progress being made in implementing federally-ordered reforms of the deeply troubled ABQ police department.

Participants on both sides of the equation feasted on barbecue in Brack's courtroom, even as the headlines continued to reveal APD's stonewall culture is alive and well and as crime continues to soar. While Brack's barbecue went down fine within the insular and myopic world that is overseeing APD reforms, it was enough for Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico to throw up their lunch.

The gulf between the powers-that-be and the public has never been wider. Nationally, the anger and frustration created by the comfortable political and legal class has spawned Donald Trump and it may push him into the White House.

But what about here? Would any poll show majority support for ART?  Does anyone other than Judge Gonzales (and the city) accept the contention that public opinion was adequately aired on ART? That the federal paperwork wasn't a rushed mess?

And what of the absurd contention of Judge Brack that his barbecue represented a "topping off" ceremony, stipulating--incredulously--that the police reform process is effective and halfway through, even though he is nearly the lone player holding that view.

So the question du jour is: Will the continued disconnect between the governed and those doing the governing give birth to a New Mexico populism?

Judge Brack
Its been fascinating, if not depressing, to watch the public reaction to the strong-arm tactics of Berry and Gov. Martinez, both Republicans elected just before the worst of the Great Recession took hold. They've been treated like one of those teacher's pets in high school who is given a hall pass that lets them roam around at will.

The state's economic crisis--unprecedented since the Depression--turned the population inward. Political involvement took a back seat to personal uncertainty. Thousands fled the state for jobs elsewhere and tens of thousands more found refuge in food stamps and Medicaid. The opposition Democrats clammed up, not wanting to own what they decided could not be solved. Much of the state's media--already predisposed toward a conservative or apolitical view--became more dependent--dangerously so--on city and state government advertising.

Given that backdrop the governor's political machine cut through the state like a hot knife through butter. Now, predictably, it is self-destructing. But its minority ideology lives on as we saw in the embrace of it by the two federal judges appointed for life.

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.


One of our Senior Alligators informs us that Ryan Flynn, who has resigned as state Environment Secretary effective August 12, will be named the new executive director of the NM Oil and Gas Association.

Flynn, 38, who has clashed with enviro groups during a somewhat turbulent tenure, may have some fancy footwork facing him when he takes on his new post. State law prohibits former public officials from lobbying the Legislature for one year after they leave their government posts. The oil and gas position is heavy on government relations.

Former GOP state Senator Kent Cravens left the senate to become the head of the association in 2011, but the law exempts legislators from the one year lobbying prohibition.


Longtime NM lobbyist, KOB-TV executive and former eight year Las Cruces state House member Ray Davenport died July 20. Serving from 1961-68 he chaired the Labor, and Ways and Means Committees.  He was a respected lobbyist in Santa Fe for 25 years for a wide array of concerns. The family obituary says "he was a philosopher, historian, writer, sociologist, futurist, economist, fervent Democrat, and a sagacious observer of the human condition."

And we might add a devoted and appreciated blog reader for many years. Ray Davenport was 87.


About that likely special session to resolve the state's budget crisis and that Gov. Martinez wants conducted in a mere four hours, the NM Foundation for Open Government makes a point:

The Foundation urges legislators to open all meetings in connection with the budgetary shortfall to the public, whether such discussions occur prior to or during any upcoming special legislative session. Should the Legislature and Governor Martinez determine that a special session is necessary, that session must be as transparent and open as possible. It has been suggested that party leaders may pre-negotiate solutions to the budgetary issues, and then rubber-stamp them in a very short session. These types of back-room negotiations would effectively shut the public out of the process.

They often call open government "watching the sausage getting made." Given the state's budget outlook, in this case it's very lean sausage.

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