Thursday, July 15, 2021

Guv And Lawmakers Tussle Over Who Has Power Over Big Pot Of Fed Stimulus And More Cops And Crime 

There's a tug of war between the New Mexico governor and the legislature over who has the power to spend $1.75 billion in federal America Rescue Plan dollars and it appears headed to the courts to resolve. 

Does it have to be that way? Texas Governor Abbott pulled back on his decision to spend $16 billion in federal stimulus on his own and has called a special fall session of the Legislature to divvy up the money. 

On the other hand Arizona Gov. Ducey is taking charge of the spending, apparently without heat from lawmakers. Wednesday he announced $10 million of that state's $4.8 billion in federal largesse will go to advertising and other programs to boost state tourism. Earlier he shoveled $759 million into the state unemployment trust fund 

Is there a middle ground here, with MLG consulting leading lawmakers and getting a consensus before spending the money and avoiding a court battle? They already agree over $300 million of the stimulus should d be used to plug the hole in our state's unemployment fund. 

The NM Governor and the legislature already divide up capital outlay (aka, pork spending) among themselves each year. Why not look at that approach to start getting money out the door?

R's are trying to get the legislature to call itself into an extraordinary session, something that has only been done once in history. But Dem Senators Ortiz y Pino and Candelaria are siding with them. Meanwhile the AG has been asked for his opinion. 

Aside from who has the legal authority, both the Guv and the legislature have the moral authority to be involved in deciding how the huge pot of money will be spent. If the Governor awaits a court win she should still signal that she is willing to share the goodies with elected lawmakers. Right now she looks like she wants to open all of the Christmas packages by herself. How about some old fashioned deal making, Santa Fe? 


Reader David Ryan was one of several who came with this update on the latest polling activity:

Hi Joe, I received a robo telephone poll call (that may have been a push poll) about the upcoming 2022 primary election. The questions seemed to be aligned against MLG. Such as, do you agree with her policy to shut down small business and let big box stores remain open? Later on in the survey there was a question - if the Democratic candidates for governor were Sen. Martin Heinrich or MLG, who would you vote for? (I have paraphrased the questions.) What's your take on who would be doing this type of poll?

Thanks, David. Our take is that the R's are probably behind the survey. Heinrich has no plans to run against her next year, although he has mulled over a future run for governor. 


We continue to get reaction to that statement here from APD union head Shaun Willoughby that police officers do not get respect and that is a cause for the crime wave. Attorney Richard Valdez comes with this: 

APD and the union must think the public doesn't get it.  The public can see that APD refuses court compliance. The public can see that APD had/has the opportunity to comply, and refuses to reform. APD then says the public does not respect the police. APD only has itself to blame for that lack of respect. APD, through its actions and inactions, conveys it does not respect the court or the public. APD in effect, contributes to the raising crime rate. 

APD rejected the responsibility for reform. Now it lacks authority to garner respect. The solution is to have law enforcement actually comply with the reforms instead of resisting the changes mandated by the court. . . . While there are no easy solutions, it is also not lost on the public that all of these entities are being paid by taxpayer money.

The city's homicide rate set a record of 81 in 2019. The number at mid-year this year is near 70.


The city hearing where Sheriff Manny Gonzales will appeal the City Clerk's decision to deny his application for $661,000 in public financing for the mayoral race will take place today at 10 a.m today. The Zoom link is here

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Gonzales Prepping To Go Private Money Route? Hearing Pending On His Public Financing Fate, Plus: Too Hard? Observers Weigh City Campaign Finance Rules 

Manny Gonzales may be prepping for a defeat in his bid to overturn the ABQ City Clerk's decision to refuse to award him $661,000 in public financing. 

In an invite to a July 27 volunteer kick-off event the Gonzales campaign says the meeting will be a meet and greet with Manny and cover specific areas that volunteers can take part in. Among the areas listed are making phone calls, going door-to-door and "holding a fund raiser."

Gonzales would not be in need of any fundraisers if he were to win his appeal over public financing before a city hearing officer. That hearing will be held later this month. If he loses there Gonzales can appeal to district court.

If any volunteers were recruited by the campaign to hold fundraisers for that outside committee supporting Gonzales (Save Our City), they would be in violation of city election laws. The individual campaigns are prohibited from co-ordinating with outside committees advocating for them. The sheriff sure doesn't need another money mess.

The Mayor Keller campaign has presented powerful evidence that the Gonzales campaign at best blundered and at worst committed fraud in gathering the required 3,779 individual $5 donations (accompanied by the voter's signature) to secure public financing. They've gathered affidavits from voters and investigative reporters are confirming the foul-ups. 

Camapign pros agree that because of his widespread name ID and the city's controversial crime rate, Gonzales will not be finished if he must privately finance his campaign, but that doesn't  mean he can operate on a shoestring. The pros say Manny will need around $450,000 in private money to keep pace with Keller's $661,000 in public financing. Coming up much short of that and he could be drowned out on the airwaves come October. 

Could he raise that kind of money in short order? Quite the challenge but with so much money cascading through politics, you never know. 


The political pros, Alligators, insiders and wall-leaners at City Hall are also scrutinizing the city's current public finance rules in the wake of the Gonzales mess.

Putting aside whether the Sheriff engaged in intentional wrongdoing in getting those $5 donations, there is discussion about amending the public financing law that has been in effect since the 2009 mayoral race. 

A City Hall watcher says only six mayoral candidates have qualified for public financing since its inception, including Keller this year.  That's too high of a hurdle, the argument goes, and one made by Mark Fleisher, veteran Dem consultant and former chairman of the Arizona Dem Party:

The nearly 4,000 is too high. The requirement was put in to remedy the problem of having too many non-serious candidates cluttering the ballot. But it's clear that we have gone too far. I think around 2,000 donations to qualify for the money would keep the nonserious candidates away but still ensure that voters get adequate choices.

Back in the day--before public financing--mayoral candidates were required to get over 5,800 petition signatures to make the city ballot. That was lowered to today's 3,000. 

Perhaps following the Nov. 2 election we will see an effort at City Council to amend the public financing requirement. It would be timely.


Reader Sharon Kayne writes:

I feel the need to comment on the oft-cited fact that murder rates have increased in Albuquerque. While this is true, murder rates are up across the country. This is not an Albuquerque-specific problem. It's more of an inner city-specific problem, as much of it takes place in areas where incomes are low and public resources are scarce. Much of it also seems to be pandemic-related, as the recession has hit hardest those communities that were already hurting the most. Please see these articles here and here for more on this nation-wide epidemic: 

Not all cities are experiencing a spike in their murder rates and ABQ's homicides were escalating even before the pandemic. But as one of those articles we linked to points out, other crimes such as auto theft have been on the decline. 

Given the national trends, a tricky question in this mayoral campaign is how much of the crime can local officials be held accountable for? There could be as many answers to that as there are voters. 

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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Santa Fe's Webber Gets Break in Culture Wars; Infighting Seen Weakening Opposition, Plus: Eichenberg Nixes Auditor Run But Delivers Surprise Endorsement 

Cheerleaders for Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber cite developments in the city's culture wars that they see as favorable to him as he battles two opponents in the Nov. 2 election: 

The president and one of the board members of the Caballeros deVargas have resigned amid infighting. . .At issue is whether the religious and cultural group should send a letter to Mayor Webber. . .asking for the return of a controversial statue of conquistador Don Diego de Vargas to Cathedral Park or to the organization which commissioned the artwork. Webber’s unilateral decision to remove the statue . . . for “safekeeping” ahead of planned protests has been a sore point for the Caballeros, some of whom consider the removal an attack on Spanish culture. But how the organization should respond has sparked discord. . .“It has become blatantly apparent that I am not the person to lead this organization. . . Ron Trujillo, now former president of the Caballeros, wrote in his resignation. “One week there is agreement, the next week complete dissension. . ."

Webber's chief foe, Santa Fe City Councilor Joanne Vigil Coppler, has watched the culture wars from the sidelines, ready to lead a united Hispanic opposition if one were to form. But this dissension signals that's a far cry from happening. 
Vigil Coppler

If the move to make the mayoral derby about a vanishing culture doesn't catch fire, that sends the campaign back to the nascent economic recovery which is breaking hard towards Webber. 

There's still questionable management at City Hall that Vigil Coppler is scoring points on but with the city's cash registers ringing loudly and de Vargas back in the history books and off the campaign trail, Webber remains in control--for now. 


In the ABQ mayoral chase the outside committee supporting Sheriff Manny Gonzales continues to out-raise a similar committee backing Mayor Tim Keller. 

The Save Our City committee supporting Gonzales reported raising $52,500 from June 8 thru July 5 and had $85,000 in cash on hand. Valencia County trial attorney David Chavez gave $5,000; TLC owners Dale Armstrong and state Rep. Gail Armstrong came with $1,500 and International Protective Services donated $5,000. The committee paid out $20,000 to James Hallinan’s PR firm. 

The Build Back 'Burque committee backing Keller reported raising $9,235 during the period and reported $18,000 in cash on hand. Over half of the committee's donations came from businessman Steven Chavez of Mesa del Sol who gave $5,000. 

There's a large disparity between the two committees and a good early showing for Gonzales but expect the Keller supporters to narrow the gap as the Nov. 2 election draws closer. 

By the way, one of our city campaign finance experts says that Gonzales would not be able to have that PAC money donated to his private account in the event his disqualification from public financing is upheld on appeal.


It appeared to be an easy race for him but State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg has decided not to seek the Democratic nomination for state auditor in 2022--and he had a little surprise as he told us he would not run:

I ran for treasurer because there was not a qualified candidate, however Joseph Maestas is a qualified candidate for Auditor, and has the integrity to do the job. I love the work we do at AMAFCA, protecting life and property, and I look forward to continuing that work. As for a future political career, I'll look at any options that come my way.

That Eichenberg endorsement of northern Public Regulation Commissioner Joseph Maestas comes at the expense of the other announced auditor candidate--Zack Quintero--who ran a close race against ABQ City Councilor Ike Benton in 2019. 

With Eichenberg out analysts think there could be an opening for another prominent Anglo candidate to come into the contest.

Eichenberg, 69, is termed out at the end of 2022. The AMAFCA he references is the ABQ flood control authority. He serves on their board. He is also a former ABQ state senator who may be keeping his eyes on the upcoming legislative redistricting to see if that creates a possible future "option."

Current Auditor Brian Colón is not seeking a second term and is running for the Dem nomination for attorney general against BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez. 

No Republicans have yet announced bids for state auditor or attorney general.

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Monday, July 12, 2021

Mayor '21: Keller Trips Up Gonzales On Public Funding But Crime Crisis Keeps ABQ Race In Play, And: New Mexico's Space Gamble Claims A Spectacular Payout 

Keller and Gonzales
In any other year the refusal of the ABQ City Clerk to authorize $661,000 in public funding for the mayoral campaign of Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales could amount to a death blow. But this is not any year. 

Even as Gonzales was reeling from allegations of fraud and forgery leveled against him by the Mayor Keller camp and that were the basis for denying him the funding, the city's ceaseless and brazen violence again captured the headlines. More on that in a moment.

Gonzales' bumbling campaign will fight it out in the legal arena to get certified for the public money. If they lose he will be forced to go to private financing. At last report an outside committee supporting him (Save Our City) had $60,000 in cash which is unaffected by the Clerk's ruling. That committee's leaders --Sam Vigil and Karen Montoya--will trek to the Clerk's office today to allege problems with Keller's donations.

Gonzales argues the fraud charges are politically motivated by the Clerk who is appointed by the mayor with city council approval but his camp does acknowledge "innocent administrative mistakes" by volunteers.

Gonzales, a Democrat, has become the de facto Republican candidate in the race against Keller who has qualified for the public money. That could help Gonzales raise cash from prominent businesses such as those donating to that outside committee, if he were to lose public financing. But longtime Dem political observer David Alcon says:

Every dollar Gonzales receives from conservative parties will be scrutinized. People raise tons of money and lose because of the scrutiny.

ABQ has become a Democratic dominated city so GOP funding would be an easy target for Keller.

As a prominent Hispanic candidate, history shows there will be a default ethnic vote for Gonzales which could mean he does not have to match Keller dollar for dollar but he will have to be in the same neighborhood. 

The Gonzales campaign collected over 4,100 donations. He is being challenged over 149 of them. Did Gonzales manage to get the required 3,779 in $5 donations without any issues of fraud or forgery? If that is somehow proven or not disputed, does it mean he qualifies for the $661,000, despite legal problems with donations above the required threshold? Gonzales' team thinks it does. 

And if the allegations of fraud hold up, will prosecutors pursue charges against individuals associated with his campaign as the Nov. 2 election nears? 

Back to the violence haunting the city and that keeps Gonzales on life support. The Clerk dropped news of his decision late Friday. Only hours later an early morning shoot-out resulted in a murder in the heart of the city--downtown near 4th and Central--creating sensational headlines. Then later in the day the '21 murder meter jumped toward at least 70 when another slaying was recorded near Gibson and San Pedro SE.

It's this constant juxtaposition of unsettling crime news with the good news offered by Keller that's prevented him from closing the deal on his re-election. The sense is city voters want a robust debate over the crime crisis. However Gonzales ends up financing his uphill challenge, the blood being shed on city streets will ensure they get one. 


New Mexico had a 17 year roller coaster ride over Spaceport America but Sunday that rough ride finally came to an end with the successful launch into space of Virgin Galactic's winged rocket ship with swashbuckling billionaire Richard Branson aboard. 

Now a new challenge awaits as the state fights to fully capitalize on the awesome achievement on its home turf.

Branson almost didn't make it, at least not from here. As the years of delays grew so did the legislative voices calling for the Spaceport to be closed or sold off. But southern New Mexico fought hard for the facility near T for C, refusing to give up the dream that was financed with tax dollars from their counties.

That dream was the brainchild of Gov. Bill Richardson and his economic chief Rick Homans. Prior to the launch Sunday Richardson called the audacious plan to launch tourists into space announced back in 2005 a "gamble" and a "risk." 

Richardson was ridiculed for the Spaceport as the years ticked by with continuous setbacks. Critics lumped it with the expensive RailRunner as examples of Big Bill's profligacy and ineffectiveness. Even stalwart backers such as your blog had growing doubts. But Richardson never admitted defeat and was fully vindicated this weekend and then some. 

Depending on how the future unfolds, that Sunday morning trip to space may be the defining moment of his political life and certainly his governorship ('03-'11). There will be no more snickering over the Spaceport and it could even serve as an example for future politicians who propose bold plans that at first blush seem outlandish.

Back here on Earth, New Mexico is about to take another gamble that could also have a historic payoff. A constitutional amendment that would allow millions in funding for early childhood education goes before the voters in 2022. 

We're thinking big again. And that's a good thing. 


Join me at 5 p.m. today as we discuss all things La Politica with TJ Trout on KKOB 96.3 FM.

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