Thursday, June 08, 2017

Time For Another Edition Of Vox Populi As Readers Weigh In On The Major Issues Of The Day In La Politica 

It's time for another edition of the always popular reader Vox Populi, where the readers weigh in on the pressing and maybe not so pressing issues of our beloved La Politica:

Let's kick it off with former State Land Commissioner Ray Powell who is seeking the '18 Dem nomination for that office. He informs us that he has changed his mind about supporting a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to tap a portion of the state's $16 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to finance very early childhood programs. He had previously opposed the amendment:

The most important investment we can make is in our children’s education. And in a short fifteen years, today’s children will be adults pursuing their dreams. The majority of New Mexico’s children are in dire need. Their future and that of our state depends on bold and decisive action. As an important part of my commitment to our children’s health and success, I support the additional increase in funding from the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) for early childhood education. The issues that have concerned me about protecting the integrity of the LGPF, accountability, and measuring programmatic success have been addressed in the most recent proposed legislation. I fully and enthusiastically support this action to help our children and our State.


Reader Doug Echols comments on the state's decision to reduce funding for the state lottery scholarships for higher education from 90 percent of tuition to 70 percent:

Looks like the state just raised taxes by $700 a year on every hard working New Mexico family who rely on the Lottery Scholarship.

Meantime, former state Rep. Dick Minzner comes with the controversial idea of ending the lottery scholarships whose funding has become unreliable and force the legislature to deal directly with the problem.


Reader John Ingram reacted to our blog this week that said New Mexico's great mistake of this century is austerity politics--(tax cuts, etc.) instead of investment in human capital in the aftermath of the Great Recession:

Joe:  New Mexico's first great mistake occurred in 1980, when legislators passed and our governor signed the 'Big Mac' tax cut. Big Mac effectively removed property tax revenues as public education's primary funding source. Our lawmakers then voted to fund schools, colleges and universities with revenues gained from gross receipts taxes, sales taxes, and state income taxes. Since 1980,  lawmakers have doubled-down on those first two mistakes with a third one: passing hundreds of gross receipts tax exemptions, as well as corporate tax loopholes, corporate tax cuts/credits/giveaways, film tax credits, and personal state income tax cuts. Over time, these anti-tax measures resulted in fewer state budget revenues. The tax cuts also caused too many years of either public education cuts, freezes, or stagnation. New Mexico's economy, good jobs and higher standards of living are dependent upon sufficient and adequate investment in our public education systems.  The dire conditions which you so clearly detailed in your blog document the failure to provide that investment.


A while back reader Frank Haley wondered what ABQ westside City Council Candidate Cynthia Borrego meant when she said the environment can be a crime-fighting tool. We asked her to explain:

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPED) is to influence new development and redevelopment relying upon the ability to influence offender behavior. Specifically, altering the physical design of communities to deter criminal activity. . . and influencing the amount of opportunity for "eyes on the street."  Some strategies include: Limiting access to buildings and subdivisions; encouraging a mix of  land uses to promote walkability and pedestrian activity; encouraging natural surveillance such as better lighting, landscaping that allows for improving sight lines and developing policies related to security that allow for fostering a sense of common place and purpose. . . Research into criminal behavior shows that the decision to offend or not to offend is more influenced by the perceived risk of being caught than the reward or ease of entry.

Borrego is a former city planner. She is a Democrat seeking the District 5 seat being vacated by GOP Councilor Dan Lewis who is running for mayor. We will have the final list of all city council candidates shortly after June 28, when the hopefuls must file the necessary petition signatures with the city clerk. Borrego's most prominent foe is GOP attorney Robert Aragon. Five of the nine council seats are up for election this fall.


Dem ABQ City Councilor and congressional hopeful Pat Davis was scorched this week for playing budget ball with Republican Mayor Berry and refusing to join his Democratic colleagues in overriding the mayor's budget veto. Among those blasting Davis as a faux progressive were former Dem City Councilors Greg Payne and Pete Dinelli. Davis responds:

Albuquerque has very real and concerning budget issues. On the Albuquerque City Council, I’ve fought to increase funding for first responders, community programs, the arts, sidewalks, and for investment in our local economy to create jobs. I voted the way I did because I refuse to hurt hundreds of New Mexico families by furloughing vital city workers to score cheap political points.

For 6 years, I’ve been the most vocal and active critic in our state against Susana Martinez, RJ Berry and Donald Trump as the head of ProgressNow New Mexico. We need progressive champions in Congress now more than ever to stand up for working families, to create jobs from the bottom up and to hold the Trump administration accountable. That’s why I’m running for Congress.


Reader Bob Perls of NM Open Primaries opines about the possibility of there being as many as eight or more Democrats seeking next year's nomination for the ABQ U.S. House seat:

Hi Joe, If we end up with 8 or more candidates in the Dem. primary, it is a stunning example of how and why we need election reform. A candidate could move on to the general with less than 20 percent of the primary vote and walk right through the general. 

Since we have a closed primary, only the hardcore party base is going to turn out, so you have a fraction of the people registered and a fraction of those will actually vote and those who vote will not be representative of most New Mexicans. Since this is a strongly leaning Dem seat, there is a good chance that fewer than 1 percent of New Mexicans in CD-1, and fewer than 5 percent of the registered voters will actually decide who goes to Congress. 

Open primaries or ranked choice voting could take care of these problems leading to electing a person that has a mandate and actually had to reach out to the full spectrum of political beliefs to get through the first round elections. Instead we will see Dem. candidates doing the usual shuffle to the left in the primary and a shuffle to the center in the general perpetuating the view that politicians will do and say whatever they want to get elected and stay in office. And that damages our democracy.


A reader writes of a similarity they see between the Trump White House and Gov. Martinez's office:

Steve Bannon is to Trump as political adviser Jay McCleskey is to Gov. Martinez--a nation and a state run entirely by political handlers:

"Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough repeatedly called Steve Bannon "President Bannon" on his show recently: "TIME magazine was right: Steve Bannon is the president of the United States."

"He has gone in. Donald Trump doesn't know anything about policy. Donald Trump doesn't know anything about politics. Donald Trump doesn't know anything about anything. He can get up and give a good speech. You listen to him talk about any topic and he wanders from sentence to sentence to sentence. So Steve Bannon is now the President of the United States."

Reader Dennis Martinez also isn't happy with the Santa Fe administration:

Governor Martinez hides behind her crime bills because she is unwilling to face reality. She will leave state government in worse financial shape than it was when she was elected and the state’s economy in decline and declining. She realizes (too late) that she has run out of time to make any improvements. She never overcame her dependence on her experience as a district attorney and she never grew into her job as governor. She was vindictive, unwilling to compromise and a believer in failed economic policies.


Finally, the campaign of ABQ Dem congressional hopeful Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez writes:

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez announced that her campaign had received endorsements from former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid, Albuquerque State Senator Bill Tallman, Albuquerque State Rep. Miguel Garcia and PRC Commissioner Cynthia Hall.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Mayor Berry Approval Rating Plunges To New Lows; Insider Polling Has Nearly 60% Of Voters Disapproving, Plus: Liberal Councilor Davis Plays With The R's And Pays A Steep Political Price  

It appears the bottom has dropped out of ABQ Mayor Richard Berry's political support. Insider polling conducted last month shows nearly 60 percent of voters surveyed disapprove of his job performance--58 percent to be precise.

The survey was conducted by landlines among about 300 registered voters. It was done for a third party with an interest in city politics. We were given the numbers in exchange for anonymity but we can say the polling firm that did the survey has in the past been a very reliable source.

That Berry has apparently plummeted into the polling cellar is not a bolt out of the blue. The hyper-controversial ART transit project on Central Avenue, the continuing crime wave that sees more victims daily and a plodding city economy have all likely contributed to voter dissatisfaction with the two-term incumbent.  For example, here's a comment from Facebook reacting to the recent news of the city's soaring murder rate. It amplifies the Mayor's problems:

He's such an epic failure of a mayor. He will go down as one of the major reasons for the increase in crime, departure of many college grads, loss of jobs, poor infrastructure, businesses leaving, and dilapidation of the city. October can't come soon enough!

Berry will be out of office December 1. The political chatter over him possibly seeking the '18 GOP Guv nomination has long ceased, although the media still give it a pro forma mention when listing potential candidates.

One insider close to the administration says Berry would be more likely now to look at the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Dem. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grsham who is running for governor. But with numbers like his, Berry appears to already have a leg in the political graveyard.

So, does Berry's unpopularity mean a Democrat is a shoo-in to replace him in this year's city election, the first round of which is October 3? Not necessarily. There is no Dem contender who is known exceptionally well citywide and dominating the field. Dem State Auditor Tim Keller is in the early polling lead but GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis is not far behind and continues to try to position himself as an opponent of Berry. How they and the other candidates conduct their campaigns will be critical as voters don't yet seem to have deep-seated feelings about any of the hopefuls.


One Democratic congressional hopeful who has been running into a buzzsaw of criticism over his alleged switch from liberal to something more moderate made life even more difficult for himself when he again made nice with the very unpopular Berry.

City Councilor Pat Davis suffered a humiliating defeat this week when a budget compromise he attempted to craft with two conservative Republican Councilors--Brad Winter and Trudy Jones--blew up in his face. How badly was he injured? Well, for the first time since he took office nearly eight years ago, the city council overrode a Berry veto. And Davis was the only Democrat not to join in that rebuke of Berry's budget which was widely celebrated by his party brethren.

Davis, head of the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow NM, has for years positioned himself as a vociferous critic of both Berry and Gov. Martinez, but since he has joined the council he's donned less liberal stripes and has been very accommodating toward the Republican mayor. That is exactly the opposite of what Dems expected when he was elected from his liberal Southeast Heights district. And for that he is being subjected to blistering criticism by fellow D's. Among them is former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne:

After this latest cave-in to Berry, it's clear that electing Pat Davis to Congress to supposedly take on Donald Trump would be tantamount to sending Barney Fife to fight ISIS. If Davis can't stand up to a political wimp like R. J. Berry, what does anyone think he will do against a bona fide bully like Trump?

As for the "cave-ins" that Payne finds offensive, they are chronicled in detail by another former Dem City Councilor, Pete Dinelli, who was also a '13 mayoral candidate:

--Davis refused to put the ART Bus project on the ballot, voted to fund and support ART and saying there was nothing he could do.

--When he served on a task force to overhaul our public finance laws, Davis declined to advocate meaningful changes that would make it easier for candidates to qualify for public finance.

--Davis has done nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and has never challenged the APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms.

And that's just for starters.

All of this is making Davis' bid for the Dem nomination for the US House seat much more complicated. As his progressive credentials get tarnished, the reason for his candidacy diminishes. In other words, having a bromance with the Republican mayor doesn't set aflutter the hearts of the nominating wing of the Democratic Party.


Coincidentally or not, the day after Davis was plowed under by his council colleagues in that 6 to 3 vote to override Berry's budget veto, Deb Haaland, one of his rivals for the Dem congressional nomination, came with an endorsement of her candidacy from former US Senator Fred Harris, one of the state's leading progressives:

As a former U.S. Senator, national chair of the Democratic Party, presidential candidate, and political science professor, I am proud to announce my support for Deb Haaland. Deb was an outstanding student of mine at the University of New Mexico. She knows firsthand what it means to work for a living, because she's had to work all her life - including working her way through the university and law school.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Spring Of Our Discontent: Poll Shows A Record Number Of NewMexicans Believe State Is On The Wrong Track; How It Happened, Plus:Polling Pearce Versus Grisham As '18 Guv Dance Continues 

"Before this period of history in New Mexico is resolved you are going to see and hear things you thought were simply not possible."

We've said that many times since the Great Recession took hold here in 2009 and has yet to release its grip. Unfortunately, we're not done saying it. Today's entry into the previously thought impossible is how New Mexicans feel about the direction of their state.

In a May 20-23 poll of 605 registered voters an off-the-charts 73 percent of respondents say the state is on "the wrong track." Correct us if we're wrong, but we believe that is the highest level of New Mexican discontent ever recorded in a public survey.

The Tarrance Group, a firm that works for GOP candidates and organizations, stated in a poll commissioned by GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce:

The vast majority of New Mexico voters are not happy with the direction in which the state is headed. Only 15% say things are going in the right direction, while fully 73% of New Mexico voters say things are going down the wrong track. This is not a lightly held opinion, as a 54% majority feel strongly that things are “wrong track.

The existential crisis that is New Mexico today demands powerful and courageous leadership if the state is to resume the role it once relished and prospered under:

A growing Sunbelt state, albeit with long term economic and social problems, but one that was fighting to keep its head above water and more often than not succeeding.

Veteran TV journalist, longtime political observer and Taos native Rodger Beimer rightly points out that the state's descent into economic darkness has been hastened by global events beyond our control---trade, technology etc. But he joins the chorus in singing a lament over the apathetic, ineffectual and weak leadership at the state and local levels during this prolonged period of crisis (and that includes both parties).

The Great Recession here was followed by what might be called the Great Withdrawal. Instead of fighting to save the state, many left for nearby greener pastures and many who stayed looked inward at their own personal standing as the economic storm raged. And it became a perfect storm for the decline when the state opted for laissez-faire leadership in Santa Fe and ABQ.

Those who have stayed around have witnessed child well-being and poverty rankings become the worst or near worst in the nation; the state suffering a downgrade to its bonding status; the fleeing of the educated millennials; a historic low in workforce participation; employers unable to find skilled and drug-free employees; the highest unemployment rate in the nation and a tidal wave of lawlessness in the state and its largest city fueled by a ferocious drug epidemic and feckless leadership. Thousands of New Mexicans have been dumped at the side of the road by this economic calamity, as have thousands more in places like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For many it will be the end of the road and a life buffered by Medicaid and food stamps.

The great, historic mistake New Mexico made in this century was the pivot to austerity politics when the circumstances demanded stimulus and massive investment in human capital. So here we sit with the mess we made and now 73 percent of the state fully recognizing that we took a very wrong turn. But recognizing it and doing something about it are concepts still far apart in the minds of voters and have not been connected for them by our political leadership.

New Mexico has a Grand Canyon to dig out of, but before the digging can commence the descent must be halted. That is a tall order even if we are someday blessed with dynamic leadership. To once again paraphrase the late great singer Marty Robbins, "Lord, this time you gave us a mountain, a mountain we may never climb. It isn't a hill any longer. You gave us a mountain this time."

Before this period finally ends, those lyrics may become the official state song.


That same poll from the Tarrance Group measuring the right track/wrong track in the state also conducted a hypothetical match-up for the '18 gubernatorial race between GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce and ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. She's already announced her candidacy for her party's nomination and Pearce is thinking about doing the same. The survey showed Grisham leading Pearce 47% to 43% with 10% undecided.

The Pearce forces took heart from the survey, boasting they were only four points behind But other operatives looked at it quite differently, pointing out that Pearce has been on the state scene for over twenty years and can't break out of territory that represents the base Republican vote. Meanwhile, they pointed out that Grisham, who is not yet know statewide is just a few points from 50% in the head-to-head match.

Some R's fear a debacle if the very conservative Pearce is their nominee, citing his landslide defeat in 2008 by Senator Tom Udall. Pearce then managed only 39% of the statewide vote. But a debacle may be awaiting the party even if Pearce doesn't run because they have no other candidates of stature in their bullpen. Pat Lyons, Aubrey Dunnpp or anyone else flying under the R banner will face a cycle with the wind blowing in their face.


Lujan Grisham
That Democratic Guv nomination is becoming more valuable by the day. But with a full year to go before the primary some Dems are getting antsy over the spin that the nomination is closed out and that Grisham is the default winner. That doesn't sit well with ABQ businessman Jeff Apodaca who is also vying for the Dem nod and, of course, it rankles the political junkies who always ache for a spirited debate.

Given that background, it was no wonder that a mini-frenzy developed in La Politica when last week we mentioned that businessman and foreign affairs expert Joshua Cooper Ramo made some phone calls to top Dem politicos wondering aloud about running for Governor. A Dem operative reports he lives in NYC but also has a place in Santa Fe and is registered to vote there.

He is not running, a family member and numerous others near his circle assure us. But the stir caused by the possible entry of Ramo, a native of the ABQ metro with well-known parents and who has had a star-studded career back East, reminded everyone that we have a long way to go and that a Coronation Day for Rep. Grisham is still a bit premature.

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