Monday, December 19, 2022

Progressives Appear In Line For An ABQ House Seat As BernCo Commission Chair Balks At Early Meeting, Plus: New Commissioner Pledges Behavioral Health Redo, And: A Not So Merry Ronchetti Resurfaces  

State House progressives appear to be in a good position to add a member to their ranks now that the chair of the Bernalillo County Commission has refused to call a meeting before the end of the year to fill an upcoming vacancy for House District 16 on the city's westside. 

That seat was held by moderate Dem Rep. Moe Maestas who after a bitter battle between commission progressives and moderates was named to fill the westside state Senate vacancy created when Jacob Candelaria resigned.

But the pleas of Maestas and Commissioner Michael Quezada for Chairwoman Adriann Barboa to call a meeting before the end of the year to fill the House vacancy have fallen on deaf ears. That means it will be filled by the new five member commission that will be seated January 1 and which will be decidedly more progressive than the current panel. 

Kindergarten teacher and former state House aide Melissa Duarte was appointed to a two week term to fill out the rest of Maestas' term but under redistricting the boundaries of the district change January 1 and a new representative must be named to fill that vacancy for a two year term. Duarte, an ally of Maestas and his lobbyist wife Vanessa Alarid, is not a progressive favorite and another appointment seems doubtful. 

The progressive who could be tapped is educator Flor Yanira Gurrola Valenzuela. Also, Lan Sena, a former appointed ABQ city councilor who was defeated for election to her westside seat, is interested. 

The swing to a progressive county commission--a first in recent political memory--is made possible by the victories of Commissioners-elect Barbara Baca in the North Valley, who replaces progressive Debbie O'Malley, and Eric Olivas of the East Mountains who replaces moderate Dem Charlene Pyskoty. They will join Commissioner Barboa to form a progressive majority while Commissioner Quezada and Walt Benson, the commission's lone Republican, will be in the minority on key issues. 

The dividing line will be particularly sharp over the sprawling Santolina development proposed for the far westside, a project despised by the progressives but supported by Quezada and lobbyist Alarid. 


The more liberal bent of the new commission is being welcomed by advocates for mental health programs and the homeless who have been prodding the commission for more effective spending of $18 million a year that flows into county coffers from a special tax approved by voters in 2015. Despite those funds mental health afflictions and homelessness have grown at alarming rates. 

Hopes are especially high for Commissioner-elect Eric Olivas, a former chair of the Civilian Police Oversight Board and a small business owner who campaigned on a detailed plan to make more progress with the behavioral health tax. That includes:

--Correcting "critical flaws' in the current behavioral health system.

--Collaboration with the city of ABQ and state to create a Bernalillo County Behavioral Health Authority, similar to the joint City/County Water Authority, to jointly manage all behavioral health programs and funds.

--Expanding the number of substance abuse treatment beds available and streamline the admissions process.

Behavioral health and homelessness are two of the most thorny problems facing local governments this century. But Olivas along with ABQ Mayor Keller are aggressively flooding the zone with ideas and concepts as the search for answers continues. Could 2023 be the turning point? 


The holidays apparently aren't cheering up losing GOP governor candidate Mark Ronchetti. In his first tweet since after conceding the November 8 election, the former TV weatherman attacks MLG's support for tax rebates from the state's historic budget surplus: 

Mark Ronchetti @MarkRonchettiNM ยท When we proposed giving a portion of the massive surplus back to tax payers the governor ran an ad saying we would have to cut funding for education and police to do it. Clearly that was a lie. 

MLG has been skeptical of rebates but did approve a batch that went out last summer. Ronchetti's plan would have made annual rebates automatic if the surplus grew by a certain amount, while MLG and the Dems want more consideration before approving rebates. 

But all of that was litigated November 8. For Mark it may be time to put a wreath on the door, some presents under the tree and don a Santa outfit. No one likes a grinch. 

This is the home of New Mexico Politics. 

E-mail your news and comments. (newsguy@yahoo.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.  

website design by limwebdesign