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Thursday, May 04, 2023

Ownership Of Land For Relocating Unser Museum Raises Questions, Plus: Defending Mayor Marty’s Crime Fighting Efforts, And: The Year Was 1974 

Now that the ABQ City Council has approved a $4 million bond issue for the November election ballot to relocate the Unser Racing Museum from Los Ranchos to Central and Unser, readers are asking questions. 

Chief among them is who owns the land where the museum would be relocated? Reader Alan Schwartz discovered it is not the Unser family and it is not the city of Albuquerque, So who is it? 

Well, it appears it is none other than the Garcia automotive family, major land developers who own large swaths of downtown area real estate. The Garcia’s are also part owners of the New Mexico United soccer team, which spent lavishly on a campaign for an $80 million downtown soccer stadium that was defeated by voters last year. In addition, the family has been a major political supporter of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. Here’s Schwartz’s legwork:

Joe, according to Bernalillo County records the owner of the current museum site is Rio Grande Valley Ventures LLC located in Saint Paul, MN. Does the Museum operate as a nonprofit? According to records at the NM SOS, it appears that was the case at one time but currently the status is “Revoked Final” and the standing is “Not in Good Standing”. I was unable to find any Unser Museum records at GuideStar. 

The Museum does not own the Unser and Central site. Until recently it was owned by the Al Unser revocable trust. But in January of 2021 a real estate contract was executed between the trust as Grantor and Start Your Engines LLC as grantee. The mailing address listed for Start Your Engines is 8301 Lomas which is Garcia Motors and the agent for Start Your Engines is Edward T. Garcia and the business classification is “Real Estate Development” per Open Corporates. 

The necessity of relocating the museum, which has continually suffered from low attendance, is a valid debating point and now so is the ownership of the land where the museum would be relocated. Stay tuned.

CHAVEZ AND CRIME

Blogging about the proposal from ABQ City Councilors Sanchez and Grout to abolish the strong form of mayoral government in Albuquerque and replace it with a strong manager form, we mentioned Mayer Chavez as among the mayors who failed in recent years in fighting the city crime wave. Former Councilor Greg Payne, who was a transit Director under Chavez, says his old boss does not belong on that list:

Joe, while most of your "Fixing ABQ" post was spot on, lumping former Mayor Marty Chavez in with R.J. Berry, and current Mayor Tim Keller, was an absolute miss. Everyone knows Marty was ABQ's last good mayor. The buck stopped with him. He ran the city, and he ran it well. The economy was booming and crime, murders and the cartels weren't out of control.  Berry and Keller were and are birds of the same feather - and that bird is called "Political Peacock". They're inept poseurs. All style and zero substance. You can literally pinpoint ABQ's decline to the election of Berry. And, after six years, Keller has proved to be little more than a progressive version of R.J. (they both gave us A.R.T. - thanks, but no thanks).

Chavez was a good mayor but we still believe he belongs on our list, because he was desperate to hire a total of 1000 police officers and in the process lowered the standards to become an officer. That led to major trouble for APD and for crime fighting in Albuquerque. 

TV Journalist Janet Blair, now retired, covered the 1974 transition from the manager form of government to the strong mayor form. Today she reads the blog from Corrales and has this comment: 

 Hi Joe--It is inconceivable to me that the city council is even considering going back to the city manager form of government. I covered this debate in 1974 and I clearly remember what a muddle the city was in with a city manager. Talk about lack of accountability! Albuquerque is way too big to return to this.  Mayor Keller (and his predecessors) may not have solved the crime problem here, but a return to a city manager would guarantee a diffuse and hapless approach to the major problems that face Albuquerque.  Not a smart idea. 

THE YEAR WAS 1974

We end the week where we started, with the passing of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca at the age of 88. He served from 1975 through 1979. Today we post one of his media ads from the ‘74 campaign that garnered so much praise back then and set the path for future political campaigns. Chris Brown was the media consultant for that effort. 50 years later we asked him to comment on its creation: 

We intended the jogging motif to define several positive aspects of Jerry Apodaca. Energy to get things done.  Authenticity: he’d been a star running back at UNM, so his athletic image was natural, not contrived. Engaged with his kids in healthy and wholesome activity. He ran with his sons at his side in the TV bio, and shot hoops with his daughters in the driveway. And to project the opposite image of a politician puffing on a cigar and throwing down the hard stuff in a smoke-filled, deal-making backroom. The white running suit was a bonus. White evokes several positives: We caught a lucky break in that he had to borrow a white suit for the first still shoot in Santa Fe because he forgot to bring his own from Las Cruces, seen in TV spot filmed later.

Thanks, Chris, for a truly memorable moment in the history of our beloved La Política.

It was announced st a Legislative Council meeting that Governor Apodaca will lie in state at the Roundhouse on Monday, May 15, 2023 from noon to 3 PM. 

Thanks for stopping by this week.

This is Joe Monahan reporting from various undisclosed locations and this is…

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Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Hopes Rise For Clean Up of Funky Video Of Capitol Committee Hearings, Plus: Unser Museum Attendance And Aiding The Acequias 

Some hopeful news regarding the lousy video coverage of the Legislature’s committee hearings provided by the current configuration of cameras and audio. A reader complained recently about it and that drew this update from a denizen of the Roundhouse:

 Joe: Per the letter from one of your readers published April 20 criticizing the quality of NM Legislative Committee Hearings, please note that the Legislative Council Service (LCS) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on February 28, 2023 to accomplish IT upgrades before the 2024 Regular Session convenes next January. HB 1 (the "Feed Bill"), enacted during the 2023 Regular Legislative Session with an emergency clause making funds available when the Governor signed the bill on January 20, 2023, contains a $1.5 million dollar appropriation to "supply and install audio and visual system upgrades" in various Senate and House Committee Rooms on the Third Floor of the Roundhouse. Proposals in response to the RFP are due to the LCS by April 13, 2023 with a contract starting May 1, 2023 through "substantial completion" on November 30, 2023. A copy of the LCS Request for Proposals is available here.

We really need that upgrade. We keep getting questions on what Sen. George Munoz really looks like. 

UNSER MUSEUM

Some Albuquerque voters may be of a mind to vote against the $4 million bond issue on the ballot in November that would pay to relocate the Unser Museum at Los Ranchos celebrating the life and times of the famous ABQ car racing family. Very poor attendance and questions over whether the museum will reach into the future linger. The bond money would finance a relocation of the museum to Central and Unser. Meantime reader Larry Anderson says there is one way at to boost attendance at the current location:

Joe, I think regardless of whether the city owns it or not, better signage before you get to the Unser Museum would help. Several times we have driven by there and then thought, oh yeah, I plan on dropping in some time. Out of town visitors might not get that second opportunity. 

When the City Council debated whether to approve the $4 million for the museum, which it ultimately did, the Unser Family was not heard from. 
 
ACEQUIA AID

Never let it be said that New Mexico doesn’t treasure its acequias. From the office of State Auditor Joseph Maestas:

…The state budget includes a $500,000 appropriation requested by the Auditor’s Office to help local public bodies become compliant with state financial reporting laws. These local public bodies include Acequias, Ditches and Land Grants. This funding will allow the Auditor's Office to hire accountants to bring them into financial compliance. Almost $6 million in capital outlay appropriation is being withheld because they are behind on their financial reporting. An Executive Order restricts them from receiving those funds if they are not up to date on their annual financial reports. The $500,000 will help complete about 250 of the estimated 2,000 annual financial certifications. Auditor Maestas said: "This will allow my office to start the process of clearing up years of missed financial reports and getting these public bodies eligible for funds that could make a huge difference in the lives of so many New Mexicans.”

Acequias now. Acequias forever. Bizcochitos, too. 

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Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Fixing ABQ: Councilors Propose Stripping Power From Mayors; Why They Are Misfiring, Plus: Another Epstein NM Connection 

Albuquerque‘s problem isn’t a failed government structure, it is failed leadership.

That in a nutshell is the flaw of a proposal from frustrated Albuquerque City Councilors Louie Sanchez and Renee Grout who are proposing that we dismantle the Mayor/City Council form of government and replace it with a government led by a city manager where the mayor is president of the council but stripped of executive authority. 

Current Mayor Tim Keller is correct in calling the proposal a nightmare that takes the city back 50 years when the manager form of government then in place was rejected in favor of today’s structure approved by voters in 1974. 

At the time the manager led government had become something of a circus with various factions known as the Unity Party and such combating each other and gridlocking progress. City fathers saw the need for a strong executive and Council to move the city forward, and it worked. 

We don’t know exactly why, but what is one of the most heartening aspects of the form of government this past half-century has been the lack of major corruption scandals, a circumstance not all that common in big cities. That speaks to the strength of the current structure.

It’s true that Albuquerque is not the city it once was and is now plagued by widespread crime, homelessness and a more anemic economy. A good portion of this, however, is caused by national economic trends, especially economic inequality.

The crime wave has been particularly perturbing, but would a city manager form of government with a stronger Council have made a difference?  

If it could have, where have the Councilors of the past dozen years been as we and others pounded the table over their lack of involvement in providing desperately needed oversight to the city police department and a more vigorous response to the drug infestation. 

That’s not to excuse Mayors Chavez, Berry and Keller, all of whom failed in the crime department, in large measure because of the power allowed to accumulate in APD that has prevented painful but essential reforms as well as the national circumstances we previously mentioned. 

While the policy response has been woeful, voters get to weigh in directly on that performance even if in today’s troubled environment they don’t seem to be that stirred up. If the Council advances the proposal it would be up to voters to approve or reject a weak mayor system. 

A LONG-TERM LENS

Councilors Grout and Sanchez seem to be trying to pawn off today’s deep-seated social conditions crisis on the Mayor of today and not looking at the city through a long-term lens. 

The apathy and/or incompetence of previous city leadership has led to a very deep hole to get out of.  Crime abatement will require a top to bottom reformation of APD, and a deconstruction of it as a major political power center. Also critical is continued investment in behavioral health and housing which will now cost much more than most anticipate. 

A change in government is not the solution. If it were, a sum of some $20 million a year raised from a behavioral health tax that was implemented by Bernalillo County and its manager form of government years ago would have by now made a major difference in the community’s quality of life. Instead, the money has been frittered away or hoarded.  

That’s what you see when you hold the mirror up close, something that Councilors Grout and Sanchez should do rather than employing deflection pushed out as a solution.  

EPSTEIN NM CONNECTION

Joshua Cooper Ramo
The WSJ takes a deep dive into the Jeffrey Epstein saga and finds another NM connection—Joshua Cooper Ramo, a distinguished international business consultant and son of prominent New Mexicans Barry Ramo and Roberta Cooper Ramo. He has occasionally been mentioned as a possible candidate in La Politica:

The nation’s spy chief, a longtime college president and top women in finance. The circle of people who associated with Jeffrey Epstein years after he was a convicted sex offender is wider than previously reported, according to a trove of documents that include his schedules…

One of Epstein’s scheduled meetings with Mrs. de Rothschild, in January 2014, included another of his regular guests: Joshua Cooper Ramo, then co-chief executive of Henry Kissinger’s corporate consulting firm. Joshua Cooper Ramo had more than a dozen meetings scheduled with Epstein. Epstein scheduled more than a dozen meetings from 2013 to 2017 with Mr. Ramo, who at the time served on the boards of Starbucks Corp. and FedEx Corp. , the documents show. Epstein had special snacks on hand because he believed Mr. Ramo was vegetarian, the documents indicate. Many of Mr. Ramo’s appointments with Epstein were in the evenings, typically after 5 p.m., at the townhouse. Mr. Ramo also was invited to a breakfast at the townhouse in September 2013 with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, another regular guest, the documents show. Mr. Ramo, who still sits on the board of FedEx and recently stepped down from the Starbucks board, didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Kissinger said he wasn’t aware that Mr. Ramo was meeting with Epstein. 

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Monday, May 01, 2023

Death Of A Governor: Appraisals And Mourning For Jerry Apodaca; A Rise To The Peak And A Spike To The Bottom 

Journal 1977 (Nachtwey)
Jerry Apodaca’s star burned brightly but briefly. Still, his hard fought victory in the 1974 gubernatorial race pushed New Mexico toward more ethnically diverse executive leadership as he became the first Hispanic elected
Governor in 54 years

The half century plus of exclusion from the state’s top office began amid rapid economic expansion, including an explosion in mining and railroading, followed by the founding of New Mexico’s two major national defense labs presided over by Anglos who rushed to the state to preside over the boom. 

Apodaca, 88, who died last week in Santa Fe, apparently from the effects of a stroke, engaged in a clash with Republican Joe Skeen that featured not only  ethnic drama but was shadowed by the Watergate scandal and the resignation of the president in August of the election year. 

It was in this atmosphere that a youthful Apodaca emerged, sporting an  athletic physique, a camera friendly demeanor and a brilliant campaign slogan that captured the tenor of the times—The Man Nobody Owns. It was driven home in slick ads featuring Apodaca jogging on TV screens and billboards. 

While he was a new personality to most of the state, Apodaca actually emerged during the final years of an old pattern—picking governors from the Legislature. He was elected at 29 to the first of his two terms as a Las Cruces senator. At 40 he would become one of the state’s youngest governors. 

While his media image was handled smoothly by a team of professionals, his ambition was fueled by an often volatile personality as we discovered when we covered  him as a 19 year old for the UNM Daily Lobo and KUNM radio. Today we are the last working New Mexico reporter from the Apodaca days.

Born in the 1930s, Apodaca was of a generation of children often punished for speaking Spanish in the public schools. He later would become a high school teacher, a collaborative profession that seemed at odds with his sometimes bulldog style. 

As former Governor Toney Anaya, who followed in Apodaca’s footsteps in 1982, put it:

He was pretty tough in fighting for his viewpoints. You could often persuade him to temper his views whatever they may be, but he could be hard-headed.

THE PEAK

Apodaca beat Skeen by a mere 3700 votes in one of the closest elections in state history. It would be his political peak. Governors at the time were limited to a single four year term and Apodaca‘s subsequent attempts at higher office, including another run for Governor and the US Senate, were rejected.

Ironically, Apodaca fell from grace over corruption, a chief reason for his initial election. 

Even though today he is widely credited with conducting a successful administration by reforming the bureaucracy and advancing education, the  coverage of the day in the Albuquerque newspapers continually tried to associate Apodaca with what they perceived as shady political characters. One of them being trial attorney Billy Marchiondo who would successfully sue the Albuquerque Journal over their coverage, even though the jury awarded him only a dollar in damages.

The damage to Apodaca and his image as the man nobody owns was done. His ability to capture the political zeitgeist as he did so magnificently in the epic year of 1974 would elude him thereafter. 

However his chief accomplishment would stand the test of time. He rode through the state as a Hispanic Camelot, reinvigorating native voters and breaking an unwritten taboo. The doors to the Governor’s office had been pried open. 

DEATH OF A GOVERNOR

Consultant Chris Brown was Apodaca’s media manager for the ‘74 campaign. Now retired in Santa Fe, he reflected on the passing of the Governor:

Jerry was intensely loyal to his staff but cast a cold eye on favor seekers and had a strong nose for b.s. “The Man Nobody Owns” fit not only his times but him. Once elected, a few of us suggested he at least meet with a prominent power player with a "you help me I’ll help you” agenda. “Tell him no. I’m not going to kiss anyone’s ass.” 

His streamlining of state government, modeled on outside advice from UNM and management consultants, ruffled a lot of feathers in Santa Fe as it threatened to eliminate duplicitous jobs and many advisory boards and commissions. Jerry broke the hold of the good old boys on critical cabinet positions including DFA, Planning, Purchasing, and Health by naming Hispanic men and women. Many Apodaca administration alumni went on to serve high-level roles in the Carter administration, the most Hispanics ever.

It was Jerry's invitation to Governor Jimmy Carter to keynote our general election fundraiser at the Four Seasons in October 1974 that led to my managing Carter's New Hampshire primary and Tim Kraft the Iowa caucus, thus launching our careers as national political consultants. 

 AN IMPACTFUL LIFE

Richard de Uriarte had the challenge of heading up Apodaca’s communications. Now retired from the Arizona Republic and living in Phoenix he offered these thoughts:

He lived an impactful life as a star athlete, coach, husband, father of five, teacher, business owner, legislator, governor, Regent, presidential appointee, newspaper columnist and mentor. 

The state faced many issues in the '60's and 70s -- gas shortages, stagflation -- and challenges in state government. But first as a legislator allied with the liberal Mama Lucy gang, then as an elected governor, he welcomed those challenges and, along with many, many officials who were attracted to his leadership, they accomplished much. 

 He viewed state government as a laboratory of democracy and used as a tool to achieve progress. 

REVOLUTIONARY 

Retired ABQ broadcaster Mike Santullo was appointed by Apodaca to the Governor’s Commission on Public Broadcasting. He came with this:

Governor Apodaca was truly revolutionary in what he did in the consolidation of state government, establishing 12 cabinet positions out of many departments that were scattered all over the place with no rhyme or reason. Without a doubt, Jerry was ahead of his time and profoundly left his mark on New Mexico in a beneficial way. 

VIGOR AND ENERGY

From State Auditor Joseph Maestas:

As a self-professed “weekend warrior” athlete himself, Auditor Maestas pointed to Apodaca’s athletic legacy and its impact on his business and political career. Apodaca “developed a sense of vigor and energy as a standout athlete, and he brought that same vigor to the office,” he said.   

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