Thursday, July 28, 2022

In Praise Of Small Town New Mexico  

One of the outstanding things about New Mexico that you miss living in Albuquerque is the tremendous community spirit and the joy of people pulling together for a common cause that are defining features of our state's smaller cities and towns. 

In Albuquerque it's always a fight--about everything. Our factionalism too often leads to gridlock and holds the city back. Modern ABQ has become more separated economically, geographically and ethnically. We are more alienated from one another than we once were. 

Then there's those other places. Like Carlsbad--conservative but tolerant. Las Cruces, where the public debate is spirited but lacks the harshness one might expect in an area of over 200,000; in Socorro where they've had the same mayor for over 30 years; in Bernalillo where their mayor has also served for decades and in Clovis where keeping their military base and protecting their water keeps them bonded. 

All this comes to mind especially during a gubernatorial election. The news becomes a bit less ABQ centric as the candidates traverse vast expanses, giving the city folk watching a welcome glimpse of a different tone and attitude toward public life. 

Unlike ABQ and Santa Fe where urban problems continue to pile up and defy solutions, there is much celebration over political accomplishments out there. 

In Carlsbad they rejoice over improved roads to the oil fields; in T or C they toast a rebuild of the State Veterans' Home; in Las Cruces they're excited over a new branch of the state's Film Academy; in Clovis the long delayed Ute Water Project is nearing reality and cause for celebration; in fire-scared Mora and vicinity they are in touch with the simple things--gratitude, friendship and hope--even as they despair over their losses. 

It's not easy being a small place in New Mexico. The ruins of towns brought to their knees by war, depression and booms gone bust still dot the landscape. To survive you have to work together. And that's a lesson for their big city brethren in these most tumultuous times.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Second CD Race Fizzling Fast; National Dems Nowhere In Sight As Vasquez Fights For Oxygen And Herrell Gets A Committee Boost; Southern Race Now Being Billed "Lean R" By Insiders, Not A Toss-Up 

Rep. Herrell
Since we last checked in on the southern congressional district in late June things have gone from bad to worse for the Democrats. 

Consultants, insiders and Alligators are all flagging us that large-scale national Democratic involvement in the contest between GOP freshman Rep. Yvette Herrell and Democrat Gabe Vasquez is exceedingly unlikely and the seat is starting to look "lean Republican" rather than the "toss-up" that the Potomac pundits assign to the race. 

If former Las Cruces City Councilor Vasquez is on his own, the chance of the Dems flipping the seat are slim. He did boast that his second quarter fund-raising beat out Herrell by $54,000 but she maintains a huge cash on hand advantage of $1.695 million to Vasquez's $623,000.

To oust Herrell would take millions and with August beckoning time is running out, if it hasn't already. 

In 2020 the southern race was the most expensive in the nation with spending from all sources soaring over $37 million. What a difference two years make. 

As we reported in June, the national Dems are reluctant to pony up the needed cash this year because of the steep challenges they face in districts where they are trying to hold off charging Republicans. 

Also, Vasquez's profile as a progressive Dem has left a sour taste among the DC Dems who believe a moderate or conservative is a better fit.

Vasquez was hand-picked for the seat by his former boss, Sen. Martin Heinrich, and there's already finger-pointing over that decision. 

The newly drawn district has a four point "partisan lean" for the Democrats, but many of those are conservative and voter turnout for those who are not can be a problem.

Herrell is hewing to a stern conservative line on cultural issues issues such as abortion and gay marriage, betting that turnout for her in rural areas outside of Las Cruces will carry the day. 

Also, the new Democrats in the district in the ABQ South Valley and Westside lean moderate, making it more difficult for Vasquez to score a landslide win there that he needs to win. 

There have been no TV ads from either side yet and no public polling. But you don't need a microscope to see the handwriting on this wall. 


Meanwhile, if Herrell is re-elected and the House, as widely expected, is put back in the GOP corner, she will find herself chairman of a subcommittee, specifically the Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. 

She is warming up in the bullpen as the newly named Ranking Member of that subcommittee. As usual she is on offense:

I am excited for the opportunity to stand up for my constituents who have been railroaded by reckless, one-size-fits all executive actions by this administration. I will work to provide oversight over executive actions that have increased energy prices, harmed American agriculture, and ignored the expertise of local families and businesses. I am proud to champion New Mexico’s legacy of environmental stewardship and lead Republican members on the Environment Subcommittee. 

While Herrell relishes a chance to needle the opposition party, our sources say don't look for her to spread her wings in state politics, if she captures a second two year term. Offered one:

Herrell will not get deeply involved with the state GOP and try to steer it or start recruiting candidates. Thats not her thing. She's happy with what she has and what may be coming her way.

A "happy" Republican in Dem-dominated New Mexico? Oh my.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

At Wits End: ABQ Mayor Keller Tries Confronting Confounding Homeless Problem; City To Shutter Coronado Park; New Park Nearby Could Spell More Trouble 

Coronado Park (Journal)
Public impatience over the homeless crisis first cropped up in California and now has breezed into ABQ as Mayor Tim Keller went before a conservative business group Monday and announced the closure of Coronado Park near Downtown.

The park near Second Street and I-40 has become the permanent home for an estimated 100+ homeless and a blight on the community, riddled as it is with drug and alcohol abuse, unsanitary conditions and periodic violence.

That Keller is at wits end over Coronado and the homeless problem in general was evident when he admitted he does not know what the future holds:

That situation is absolutely unacceptable, so we’re going to stop it. In August, we’re closing Coronado Park. It doesn’t matter if we know exactly what we’re doing next. It doesn’t matter exactly what the timing is or how we’re going to do it, but we have to do better than what’s happening at Coronado Park.

The announcement came before NAIOP, the commercial real estate development group dominated by Republicans, and was an abrupt rejection of the progressive philosophy to live and let live when it comes to the homeless, a rejection also seen recently by liberal politicians in San Francisco and elsewhere. 

(Keller did say the city would "revisit" its homeless policies at his early July state of the city speech.) 

But Keller's acquiescence on Coronado--some called it a surrender--did not go all the way to the right. Keller said nothing about increased law enforcement to deal with the homeless as conservative Dem City Councilor Louie Sanchez and GOP Councilor Dan Lewis have been urging. 

Keller is a a creature of the city's progressive base, much of which will be infuriated with his sudden action. Bringing up law enforcement would be a bridge too far for this Mayor who is probably already suffering polling damage in the traditionally cursed second term.

What the city did bring up--confusingly--was the simultaneous announcement that a new park near Wells Park Community Center between Fifth and Sixth streets will soon open to serve the downtown area communities. 

Does that mean the homeless from Coronado will simply migrate to the new park? With the Mayor admitting he doesn't know "what we're doing next" the possibility seemed distinct.


Mayor Keller 
Events have overtaken the administration on both homelessness and the crime crisis and they now appear to be grasping at straws. 

Earlier this month Keller announced an unusual plan to have downtown businesses pay extra for law enforcement in their district--on top of the taxes they are already paying. The plan promptly backfired

Now the closure of Coronado whose occupiers will again be offered resources to get off the street. 

One option, however, will not be offered--the once highly-touted Gateway Center (aka Gibson Health Hub.) That SE Heights facility on Gibson Blvd., site of the old Lovelace Hospital, was originally envisioned as a place for 300 beds for the homeless. In light of neighborhood opposition that capacity has for now shrunk to 50 and only for homeless women. Other services will still be offered. 

But it is a bitter pill for the city to swallow after voters approved a $14 million bond issue in 2019 to acquire the Center property, plus millions more from state, county and city coffers for start-up costs. The city council shares the blame. 

If he could, the frustrated Keller would probably give bus tickets to the homeless. Instead they are being given walking directions to their next pit stop. 

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Monday, July 25, 2022

MLG's Take On Ronchetti's Abortion "Compromise", Plus: Deciding Abortion Policy; How and Why It Still Matters Who Is Governor 

An abortion compromise?

MLG was asked that question for the first time in a New Yorker podcast where it was pointed out that her GOP Guv foe Mark Ronchetti wants abortion in NM limited to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy while MLG does not believe in any government imposed limits. As for a compromise, she said: 

"No. If you. . . are protecting women's privacy rights and the relationship between their medical providers, my attitude and my personal decisions and the government's have no bearing on those personal decisions. . .

I believe like many Americans that abortion should be rare and the reason I believe that is because we should be doing more (about) violence, rape, domestic abuse, incest, underage sexual activity--all of it. 

If we did better family planning and comprehensive sex education and made contraceptives more available and we were better at primary care access, then you get to the place where we should all be--preventing unwanted, unexpected pregnancies. But to say I can make a personal decision for women who do not currently have those options, particularly in states where they don't have access to contraceptives, that is outrageous to me. 

On MLG's point about contraceptives, according to CNBC:

At least eight states banned all forms of abortion, including the abortion pill mifepristone, within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision. Many women in states with bans on abortion will likely turn to websites to order mifepristone, which is taken with misoprostol, and self manage abortions at home.

The Governor was also asked if she worried that Hispanics, often socially conservative and anti-abortion, would vote against her because of her abortion stance:

No. I don't think so. Most Hispanic families and women, most Hispanic men today--the majority of those voters--do not want the government in this space. 

Abortion rights have emerged as a top issue in the '22 Governor's race in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court ruling repealing Roe and after ABQ Legacy Church Pastor Steve Smotherman told his congregation that Ronchetti told him personally that he is for banning all abortions not just those up to 15 weeks. 


Regardless of who is the next Governor the NM Legislature's pro-choice tilt is demonstrable and no anti-abortion measures would be expected to pass. That has led some to argue that who is occupying the Fourth Floor doesn't really matter and abortion should not be an issue. But that reasoning doesn't match reality. Here's why. 

---MLG has issued an executive order "protecting medical providers from attempts at legal retribution and establishing that New Mexico will not entertain extradition attempts from other states relating to receiving or performing reproductive services."

That action could not be expected from a pro-life Governor. Without it, conceivably the Texas Rangers could ride in here to arrest abortion violators. With the order, they are turned back.

---In thirty day sessions of the Legislature, which occur in even numbered years, the state Constitution limits subjects for discussion to the budget, revenue and taxation measures and proposals placed on the agenda by the Governor.  So a Governor can interject abortion into such sessions. A pro-life governor could test the limits of the Legislature by introducing restrictive measures and using the power of their office to twist arms. 

---There is also the issue of legislative appropriations regarding abortion rights. Recently the ABQ City Council approved $250,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood. The funding was approved on a 6 to 3 vote. A mayor opposed to abortion could have vetoed such funding. That would also be the case if the state had an anti-abortion Governor and lawmakers approved a similar appropriation.

---The sitting Governor also appoints the 11 members of the NM Medical Board that issues license to physicians and disciplines incompetent providers. In 2013 pro-life activists accused the board of trying to shut them out of the complaint procedure involving physicians who perform abortions. Obviously, a Governor's position on abortion can greatly influence the membership of that board and in turn how the board regulates abortion in the state. 

So the argument that it makes no difference who is Governor because New Mexico is already a pro-choice state doesn't hold up. Regardless of your political persuasion, these examples show that it matters very much who is Governor in the aftermath of the historic Roe ruling. 

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