Thursday, May 25, 2023

Government By Commission; Solving The Problems Or Kicking The Can? Plus: GOP Sen. Moores Draws Primary Challenge From La Politica Veteran 

MLG and Bregman (Journal)
It may look good. It may sound good but it doesn't do much good. 

That's government by commission and apparently what we're in store for during the long grind that this second term of our peripatetic Governor appears to be becoming. 

CYFD is a hot mess where children slip into black holes of abuse and no-one is held accountable? Appoint a commission.

The housing crisis jumps across the state like wildfire causing an alarming rise in homelessness and unaffordable rents? Appoint a commission.

Finally ready to admit that operatives of the Mexican drug cartels have a firm foothold in the state as the fentanyl scourge of crime and addiction wreaks havoc? Appoint a commission.

What the Fourth Floor brainstorming did get right on what to do with the four additional years voters awarded them last November is the major policy challenges facing our state. But playing a game of kick the can with them is only going to make a dent in the can--not the problems.

Who wouldn't love to see BernCo District Attorney Sam Bregman and his black hat stop cold the cartel criminals as he heads up a newly resuscitated Governor's Organized Crime Commission? 

But we don't need him or a commission to tell us that state drug intervention is a job for the state police in coordination with the Feds. So why weren't ample additional resources doing exactly that set aside at the recent session of the Legislature? It's not as if there's a cash shortage. 

And how bizarre is it to hear the conservative state House GOP leader talk about the critical behavioral health aspect of the fentanyl crisis instead of the Democratic Governor?

"House Republicans are committed to using the interim to develop practical solutions that address the root causes of crime and the mental health issues plaguing our communities,” House Minority Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, said. “We are concerned about creating yet another commission allowing politicians to take political victory laps but not provide real solutions."

Of course, Leader Lane and company would be hard-pressed to commit to a spending bill to rebuild the behavioral health system so that anyone seeking drug treatment at any time in any of the 33 counties would get it within hours of asking. 

The current Governor is not clueless about this need but she is too conservative and it's making her dismiss historic opportunities while trying to substitute can kicking for can do thinking and acting.  

(Sam, don't put that in the report)

As for the housing commission led by former Speaker Brian Egolf, the look is almost silly and Brian must know it. The Governor and Legislature opted to hoard billions of dollars in reserve as they wait for the sky to fall in the oil fields rather than commit funds to get more housing built (as well as the aforementioned behavioral health revamp).

Waiting for the sky to fall and state revenues to collapse instead of seeking imaginative solutions and welcoming risk at this most financially auspicious time is an enormous waste. Maybe the new commissions can take a vote on that? 


A perky Republican primary could be shaping up in ABQ state Senate District 21 as former state Senator Michael Wiener announces he will seek the party's nomination next year even if state Senator Mark Moores decides to seek re-election. 

Wiener, the only person to have served as a state Senator, an ABQ City Councilor and a Bernalillo County Commissioner, said in a statement that Moores has "told supporters he will not be seeking re-election."

Moores, however, has not made any public statement about his intentions when it comes to seeking  a fourth term next year.  

Wiener, 68, was last elected in 2008 when he won a term on the BernCo Commission. He was defeated in his 2012 re-election bid by Lonnie Talbert. He served one term in the Senate from BernCo ('93-'97) and did not seek re-election.

The Senate district is strong Republican and the winner of the primary stands an excellent chance of winning in the general election. 

Moores, 53, is the only Republican state Senator in ABQ. All other districts have fallen to the Dems in a city that has grown increasingly Blue the past decade. 

Wiener did not fire any volleys at Moores as he entered the race, saying:

I look forward to being a conservative voice in the State Senate, to support Second Amendment Rights and to stand up to our Governor who I spent two years sitting next to on the Bernalillo County Commission."  I want to insure that New Mexico moves forward!

District 21 contains some of the wealthier precincts in the state, including North ABQ Acres, Tanoan Country Club and High Desert. 

Moores made a bid for the ABQ congressional seat at a special election in June of 2021 losing by two dozen points to Dem Melanie Stansbury. He was first elected to the Senate in 2012 and was one of the first GOP lawmakers to endorse legal cannabis, making him a key player in its eventual legalization. 

Moores and his wife own a pathology lab in Roswell.

Wiener is one of the more colorful characters of La Politica. A retired real estate broker, he travels extensively as one of the nation's most avid license plate collectors.     

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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

State of the City: Keller Threads The Political Needle On Homeless; Get Tough Is Combined With Far Reaching Housing And Treatment Plans; Crime Scourge Still Stubborn But APD Meets Fed Goals  

Like progressive Mayors around the nation, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller has been pushed to the right on dealing with the homeless and is now in a delicate dance with his political base. 

This was on display over the weekend as Keller, 45, delivered his State of the City address in which he unveiled more get tough measures to deal with the impacts of homelessness but at the same time won audience applause for his detailed program to provide more affordable housing in the state's largest city. (Full speech here.)

On the get tough front Keller said law enforcement would be stepped up at narrow city street medians that are used to panhandle from motorists, and he says "going forward" no large housing encampments will be permitted in the city. 

Keller's approval numbers have crashed to the mid-30's (not unusual for a second term mayor) amid the public's growing impatience with crime and homelessness. He has already shut down the most prominent homeless camp--at Coronado Park--and last week APD was rousting homeless from the Bosque. 

But a large swath of ABQ voters from Keller's political base are queasy over the more conservative approach so Keller is also going all in on a comprehensive housing and treatment program to ease their concern. It is that program that earned the Mayor lusty applause from his supporters gathered at the Rail Yards, a program even his detractors have to admit has plenty to offer, if it pans out. 

Some excerpts:

We know there is no magic wand we can wave to end homelessness. It's going to take creative, serious sincere solutions. . . (We have) a housing crisis that must be addressed. . . a shortage of as many as 30,000 housing units. . .The only way we can meet this demand. . . is by building faster and smarter (and) by updating outdated and restrictive zoning regulations. . . It's time to move housing forward in our city and make way for innovative ideas like supporting casitas for our grandparents and our adult kids. . . It's time to convert rundown hotels into housing and we're getting started. . .We've got our first hotel conversion going on right now. 100 units are going to be ready in months.

Keller's update of the long-planned and the soon-to-be fully opened Gateway Center to address the needs of the homeless, the addicted and others also drew audience praise:

What can we do to help our unhoused?  That's what the Gateway is all about. . . It's the largest investment ABQ has ever made in health care and homelessness. Under one roof we will provide a multitude of services available in a welcoming, culturally inclusive setting. . . The Gateway is a comprehensive resource hub that is all about connecting folks to help. . . whether it's help from addiction or a safe place to stay while recovering from surgery or simply a warm bed to get off the street. Once all these phases are complete the Gateway will be a place of hope and of healing and of housing that serves 1,000 people a day. . . That is the power of us coming together to change lives for the better. . . 

Those opposed to Keller's plans have argued that the housing crisis is make believe, but the median price of a new home in the ABQ area just soared to a new record of $344,000. Combined with higher interest rates, many more individuals are shut out of the market, accelerating the demand for affordable housing. Meanwhile, onerous rent increases have taken the cost of a one bedroom apartment to near $1,200. Even for those making $20 an hour, nearly half their after tax income would go to the landlord. 

That's a recipe for more social stress, including more homeless on the city's streets. For Keller to call it a crisis is not hyperbole--as it isn't for his fellow mayors around the nation facing similar circumstances. 

The never in my backyard crowd also decries the casita plan, claiming it would lead to ghetto like conditions. Nonsense. The plan is widely supported by the public as reflected at the City Council because ABQ is a family town. The casita concept would keep the generations closer together and in affordable surroundings. 


Mayor Keller
Keller has hopscotched from plan to plan the last five years to deal with the crime crisis. It has had limited success. His citing of a reduction of the crime rate in certain categories in his State of the City speech did not resonate. An air of danger still hangs over ABQ for too many of its residents. 

Still, APD is now nearly fully in compliance with a sweeping federal consent decree. So there is leadership there--if not yet fully realized. 

On housing and the homeless the administration is proving its mettle, while trying to carefully thread the political needle. 

The state of the city? It's not great but after a decade of stagnation--if not decline--one has to wonder if finally a bottom has been reached, if not a rebound. 

As for Keller, despite demoralizing polling he is still showing up. A glimmer of hope remains for his political future as it does for an ABQ revival. 


Republican Ed Mechem who died at 90 was the second longest lived former Governor of new Mexico, not the first as we said in a first draft of the Tuesday blog. Thanks to readers and Wikipedia, here's the revision:

First, while Apodaca lived a long life he was not the longest-lived former governor. That title belongs to Andrew W. Hockenhall who became governor upon the death of Governor Arthur Seligman in 1933. He only served out the remainder of the term to which Seligman had been elected in 1932, leaving office on January 1, 1935. However he lived on for almost 40 years after his term. Born in 1877, Hockenhull died in 1974, at the age of 97. He is the second Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico to assume the governor's office due to the death of the sitting governor. He also holds the title of the longest surviving former-governor of New Mexico, living 97 years, and 40 years beyond the expiration of his term.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Enviros Pound MLG Over Climate Vetoes But They Have Answering To Do As Well, Plus: Our Surviving Governors  

The pounding of Gov. Lujan Grisham by national and local environmental groups over her vetoes of several climate change bills from the last session of the legislature seems overwrought. After all these are the same groups who got into bed with her to ram through the Energy Transition Act which paved the way for the ill-advised merger of PNM with Spanish corporation Avangrid, a merger still pending and still a mess. 

Now the environmentalists are upset that the Guv is acting like a corporate Democrat after they did the same with the ETA?

Nevertheless team MLG has done a poor job of defending those vetoes, leading even the usually Guv friendly ProgressNow NM perplexed: 

The Governor seemed to offer a very confusing excuse as to why she vetoed the few small pieces of legislation relating to climate change that happened at this year’s legislative session. She claimed the tax incentives were “too small” while also claiming that that tax package was too big. So yeah, we’re confused too. 

We’re rarely confused because we were long ago schooled by the Alligators of La Politica to follow the money. And when you follow MLG’s multi-million dollar campaign money trail much of it leads to the fossil fuel industry.

The enviros know that but can’t say it because most of them are mucked up with dark money from California billionaires and such. Yes, enviros, there is gambling in the casino! The shock of it all.

Now if only the state Supreme Court would do some environmental clean up and get tough on the PNM-Avangrid merger that the enviros forced down the throat of the state in order to get their renewable energy standards approved. 


We regret not being able to attend the memorial service for former Governor Jerry Apodaca at the Roundhouse but we were out of the country. 

As a cub reporter in 1974 he was the first New Mexico chief executive we covered and it left quite an impression. 

This photo of the Apodaca service by Eddie Moore of the Journal caught our eye. It shows former Governor Toney Anaya, now blind, being assisted by former Gov. Bill Richardson as he paid his final respects to his old friend Apodaca who died last month at the age of 88 and who served one term as governor from 1975 to 1979. 

Their relationship was tight in ‘74 as they both campaigned for office, with Anaya getting elected Attorney General. But as AG Anaya went after powerful Democrats as he pursued an anticorruption agenda. That did not sit well with establishment Democrats. 

In any event the photo of Anaya and Richardson brought up the question of how many former New Mexico governors survive now that Apodaca is gone and how old those governors are. 

First, while Apodaca lived a long life he was not the longest lived governor. That title belongs to Andrew W. Hockenhull who became governor upon the death of Governor Arthur Seligman in 1933. He only served out the remainder of the term to which Seligman had been elected in 1932, leaving office on January 1, 1935. However he lived on for almost 40 years after his term. Born in 1877, Hockenhull died in 1974, at the age of 97. 

Republican Gov. Ed Mechem died in 2002 at the age of 90. Big Ed, as he was known, won four two-year terms as governor in the 1950s and early 60s. In 1962 He famously appointed himself to the US Senate to fill  the vacancy left by the death of Democratic Senator Dennis Chavez. Mechem, however, was not elected when he stood for office in 1964 but did go on to serve many years as a US District Court judge.

Now to the five surviving governors, starting with Toney Anaya  who served from 1983 to 1987. Now 82, Democrat Anaya was restricted from serving more than one term but probably would not have been elected to a second as he finished his first one highly unpopular. Today the Moriarty native is retired from his legal practice. 

Republican Garrey Carruthers succeeded Anaya when he was elected in 1986. He served from ‘87 to ‘91. Now 83, at last report Carruthers, a former NMSU president, enjoyed good health. Like Anaya he was term limited and unable to seek a second term.

Republican Gary Johnson pulled off an upset in 1994 when he defeated Democratic Governor Bruce King. Johnson went on to serve two four year terms, the first governor to do so under the law allowing the extended service. He has also run for President as a third-party candidate. Like Apodaca, Johnson was and remains a highly athletic individual. At 70 he regularly skis Taos where he now resides. 

Former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson served two terms from 2003 to 2011. An accomplished diplomat he continues to conduct missions to free Americans held hostage in foreign nations. Richardson, 75, is healthy and splits his time between Santa Fe and Cape Cod.

Richardson was succeeded by Republican Susana Martinez who was elected in 2010 and served until 2019. Only this week she made blog news as the subject of speculation about a possible US Senate run in a poll that surfaced that tested her strength against Sen. Martin Heinrich. Martinez, 63, is retired. She is a former district attorney in Dona Ana County and now lives in Albuquerque.

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Monday, May 22, 2023

Rumblings Over Getting Name GOP Senate Candidate For ‘24 Continue; Poll Circulates With Possibles 

Rumblings continue over whether Republicans will field a major candidate to take on Democratic US Senator Martin Heinrich next year when he will be seeking his third term. 

There are no major announced GOP candidates but a poll of unknown origin (with only the questions provided not results) circulating in the state landed in our email from a Senior Alligator. It lists these possible Republican contenders:

Former Governor Susana Martinez; former Lieutenant Gov. John Sanchez; businesswoman Nella Domenici, daughter of the late US Senator Pete Domenici, and unsuccessful 2022 GOP Guv nominee Mark Ronchetti.

Of particular interest is that former Gov. Martinez was the only contender in the survey placed in a head-to-head matchup with Heinrich.

None of the candidates listed is seen as a major threat to Heinrich, including Martinez, whose negatives were sky high at the end of her two terms and would be revisited if she were to make an unexpected run.

Her public statements on Facebook don’t indicate a candidacy is brewing but if her longtime political consultant Jay McCleskey, who recently handled the two unsuccessful statewide runs by Ronchetti, is behind the poll and looking for another big payday, Martinez may be his mark. 

In 2019 a similar anonymous poll circulated for that year’s Senate election that also included Martinez, Sanchez, Ronchetti and Domenici. Ronchetti ended up as the GOP nominee. 

This time that’s unlikely, given the former TV weatherman’s two notable failures. As for ex-Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, he is now apparently retired from politics. 

Nella Domenici could count on a personal fortune amassed on Wall Street to help her in a bid for the Senate but she does not live here full-time, has not been involved in the state’s politics and publicly has indicated no interest. 

The poll asks potential voters whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion about the possible hopefuls. Certainly most of them will rank high in favorability among Republicans.The problem is their appeal to independents and Democrats in a state that last elected a Republican to the Senate in 2002. 

There is no guarantee that Heinrich will not draw a well-known opponent but if they are to come from this list, the odds now being laid by the pundits that he will be reelected would not appear to be at risk. 

It’s not just a candidate recruitment problem. The GOP is locked in a far right Trump/DeSantis dynamic with little appeal in blue New Mexico. 

Minus a major scandal involving an incumbent or until there is a re-branding of the minority party, Democrats are likely to keep their hold on the five member state congressional delegation. But that doesn’t mean we and others won’t still be looking and hoping for some excitement to surface.  

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