Thursday, June 20, 2024

Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor  

Some items of interest that fell to our newsroom floor this week but have been recovered. . .  

There's still hope that ABQ will avoid a radical change in its election process. City Councilor Klarissa Pena, a sponsor of the City Charter amendment approved this week that would eliminate run-off elections for mayoral and council elections, may be wavering. Mayor Keller announces he will veto the proposal that Councilors want voters to decide at the November election. Pena says: 

Regardless of a veto, she said something needs to be done (about low turnout) — even if it’s not the charter amendment.“I’m not sure plurality is digestible for people. I just hope people recognize we need to do something about waking the sleeping giant.” 

Keller says he will veto the proposal because it would give an edge to incumbents in crowded fields of candidates that could arise if victory could be won with a very low percentage of the vote. 

But that's a secondary concern. In open mayoral and council races the threat would come from far left or far right candidates getting elected with a very small plurality of votes.

The council approved the amendment on a 6 to 3 vote so one supportive councilor will have to switch if Keller's veto is to prove successful. If it isn't and the amendment goes to the voters, trying to defeat it by saying it would help incumbents is too anemic. The right approach would be to also condemn the amendment for encouraging extremism--not majority rule. 


Jeff Apodaca, the ABQ businessman and and force behind the NM Project seeking to get more Hispanics voting and elected and for less progressive politics, has made his first response to a lawsuit filed against his group by the State Ethics Commission. The suit says the nonprofit NM Project is violating the law by not disclosing their donors. Apodaca says:

Outside ultra-liberal progressives demand the votes of Latino Democrats but want to silence our voices, expecting us to remain complacent. The minute we challenge them, they launch attacks on our political leaders and Latino community. The national progressive movement has used New Mexico as a testing ground for their agenda, targeting and attacking our Latino leaders and elected officials. Their agenda and policies have failed. Just look at the numbers:

--Worst state for healthcare in the country with 2,500 doctor openings; most violent and most dangerous state; Worst in education; Homeless, mental health ranked last; Lowest job growth in the USA.

Ultra-liberal progressives within our own Democratic Party have now weaponized the NM Ethics Commission to stifle the voices of Latino voters and our first amendment rights of freedom of speech.

Much of the group's funding has come from oil and gas and development interests. But it did not make a big difference in this month's primary election. Conservative state House candidates were defeated by progressive Dems in the races the NM Project participated in. Apodaca says they plan to be active in the November election.


Jim Thorpe of JT Land and Cattle in Newkirk (east of Santa Rosa) comes with this: 

Joe: Are our legislators going to tackle the very serious copper theft epidemic in NM from construction sites and businesses? Recently a number of popular Santa Fe restaurants (Horseman’s Haven, Rustica, Ranch House) were sall hut down for the busy Father’s Day weekend because thefts had left them without power and spoiling food in refrigerators. As with stolen catalytic converters, can’t our state create an effective system to stop the fencing of stolen metals at the scrap yards? That might be a good topic for the upcoming “crime” session? 

That July 18 special legislative session has been surrounded by confusion as the Governor tries to get lawmakers on board with her crime bills. 

Copper crime is not on the list yet but the outbreak of destructive fires in Ruidoso could be a late addition to the session agenda.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Not Great But Good Enough: Polling Shows Biden With Lead Over Trump And Again Poised to Carry New Mexico; Bleed of Hispanic Voters To Trump Is A No-Show  

The first public poll of the NM presidential race isn't great news for President Biden but it's good enough and he is again poised to carry the state against Donald Trump in the November election. 

Conducted by PPP June 11-13, the survey has Biden defeating Trump 48 to 41 percent. 11 percent are undecided. 

That margin is less than the 10.8 percent Biden beat Trump by here in 2020, is on track to get closer to that mark.

At 41 percent Trump is at the lower end of the Republican base vote and does not pose any serious threat. He won 43.5 percent in '20 and seems headed for a re-run.

In his first two presidential runs in '16 and '20 Trump repeatedly teased that New Mexico would be a state he would make a play for. He didn't then and with these new numbers it's expected he will again take a pass. 

Key to the PPP polling of 555 registered voters via landline and text is the Hispanic vote. Biden receives a solid 57 percent to Trump's 31. That is a bit below expectations for Biden but on the right track to get to 60 percent or more by the fall. 

Polling elsewhere has shown Hispanics drifting away from Biden but that is not the case here, probably because we are different. 

Hispanic households here do have a higher proportion of lower income residents but they also have a higher rate of land and home ownership. They also have deep roots in the economy as business owners as well as members of the the professional and political classes. 

All told, inflation and the economy are hurting Biden with Hispanics more in other states. His path here is easier.

(White voters give Trump 48 percent with 40 percent for Biden.)

Of course, the state's historic Democratic lean and antipathy toward Trump are also important factors. Only 38 percent of voters here approve of Trump while Scranton Joe's approval rating is 44. That's low but not devastatingly so and more than enough compared to his GOP rival. 

We don't have the gender breakdown but Biden leads Trump with women in all other polls as Trump leads with men. The sense is that women voters may be more animated in their support of Biden this time because of the national battle over reproductive rights that resonates in pro-choice New Mexico.

Hurting Trump is his limited appeal to independents. He only wins them 43 to 41, signaling weakness perhaps in suburban areas around ABQ that he needs to shore up. But this number will be closely watched by both sides for clues that the race is shifting. The resources it would take to boost Trump's share of independents as well as peeling off Democrats is substantial. 

Trump can continue to tease New Mexico as a possible playground but right now not enough of his playmates are here. 

The margin of error in the PPP survey is plus or minus 4.2 percent.


Tuesday's blog take from ABQ watchdog Dan Klein on sick leave awards for top ABQ City Hall officials leaving their jobs brought a number of comments. Reader Terry Storch writes:

Joe, Klein's tone of moral indignation was a bit much. The issue is violation of the Merit Ordinance Rules, which appears to be an unfair and outdated regulation; the actual outcome likely is less troublesome. Under the city system, every hour of sick leave is forfeited if you have not accumulated 500 hours of it—that is roughly 12 weeks of work. In many other places of employment, the employee is not monetarily punished for working hard but rather is allowed to cash out all or some of those hours, and/or to apply them towards the final months to satisfy retirement requirements. The ordinance needs to be changed so employees have an incentive to not gobble through sick leave hours.

Klein responds:

Even if the administration thinks the law is wrong they should not be allowed to violate it without any repercussions.

Mayor Keller's office said: 

The Inspector General never said negotiating leave was illegal, just inconsistent with policy, and comparing that to the DWI scheme is like comparing oil and water. This is another subjective opinion from the OIG that wasn’t even approved by the Accountability in Government oversight committee, which oversees the OIG.

Klein responds: 

The OIG, like the State Auditor, cannot bring criminal charges, they can only do the audit, make it public and hope law enforcement authorities do their jobs. Mayor Keller can put this controversy to rest and instead of attacking the OIG publicly ask the AG, the DA or US attorney to investigate these unearned payouts. If Mayor Keller is so positive that nothing illegal was done he should demand they investigate and make their findings public.

Retired state government worker Arcy Baca writes from the North:

Joe, upon retirement sick leave is only paid after 600 hours are accumulated and only at half the hourly rate. Vacation can only be paid up to 200 hours at departure. If you had more you could donate to a sick worker or loose those hours. As state employees we all knew to save the 200 hours if you were planing on retiring because PERA checks could take up too a month to kick in! I lost over 600 hours of sick leave.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Latest ABQ City Hall Transgression: WatchDog Is "Sick Of Being Sick" As Sick Leave Scheme Revealed; Comes On Heels Of DWI Scandal; Lack Of Consequences Encouraging Wayward Ways? Plus: Council Sends Voters Radical Plan To Change Mayoral Elections  

Keller & Nair

"I'm sick of being sick over our town." 

So says retired APD sergeant, City Hall watchdog and part-time journalist Dan Klein as he turns an eye toward the latest downtown transgressions. 

This time it is the abuse of sick leave policy, although the administration denies it, coming fast on the heels of an historic APD scandal. That wrongdoing involves numerous officers who allegedly took bribes from a lawyer of DWI defendants to get them off the hook by not showing up for their trials.

That's a lot of wrongdoing on Mayor Keller's plate--as well as that of the nine City Council. Klein brings the city up to date. 

Again, the following are the opinions of Klein and written by him: 

It's a sordid story in which the city's Inspector General investigated possibly illegal sick leave payouts to some of the highest ranking members of the administration of Mayor Tim Keller. That includes Sarita Nair, the city's former Chief Administrative Officer and ten other higher-ups. 

Nair is now a cabinet secretary under MLG and has refused comment on the wrongdoing.

The IG investigation confirmed that the top-level staffers were awarded over $52,000 in sick leave hours they did not earn and that was handed out like candy, but only to Keller’s inner circle. This allowed these the top dogs to cash out those hours and take extended paid leave when they resigned their positions.

This is sick time the IG stated that city regulations prohibit. Keller’s staff argues this “paid leave off (PLO)” has always been done and it’s their right to do so. Really? 

I invite Mayors Richard Berry, Marty Chavez and Jim Baca to tell us if they allowed this to happen under their watch?  The IG, the taxpayers' watchdog, vigorously disagrees that Keller has such authority.

The Merit Ordinance and Rules and Regulations do not provide for employees with less than 500 sick time hours to be compensated for that time. If you have less than that you forfeit those hours when you depart the city. That's  is how it has always been with thousands of past city employees obeying the rule.  

None of the individuals involved can plead ignorance nor can they claim they have the authority to change rules whenever it serves them or their buddies.

Keller's spokeswoman says the city can “create exceptions for leave policies and it’s not unusual to do so for senior employees…” 

This amounts to telling the citizens of Albuquerque to ignore their Inspector General and take Keller at his word that all is well.  It seems Mayor Keller, nearing the end of his second term, believes the citizens he serves are simpletons. Clearly arrogance, power-obsession and gaslighting have infected the 11th Floor.

This sick leave scheme allowed these well-compensated employees (the CAO was making nearly $200,000 a year) to either extend their employment days by getting a paycheck for months at a time without going to work. They also gained pension credits while sitting at home.  


Why would city regulations be so blatantly disregarded? Part of the answer is sheer arrogance. Another is that the administration does not fear those who are in a position to oversee them. They don’t fear BernCo District Attorney Sam Bregman, Attorney General Raul Torrez, State Auditor Joseph Maestas or US Attorney Alexander Uballez.

And they think the City Council is a joke.  

Because of the inaction of past Attorney General, Hector Balderas, who failed to pursue charges for "tasergate" during the Mayor Berry years or the referral that then-State Auditor Colon sent him regarding widespread APD overtime abuses, it was clear to those involved in the sick leave caper that there is no consequences for illegal actions. 

When “the gardeners” stop pulling the weeds from government, those weeds multiply and take over. In Albuquerque’s case the weeds and the gardeners are all friends. They hang out together and they support each other and their families. Maybe that is why corruption inside City Hall is ignored?

It’s time that our gardeners put friendships and politics aside and open investigations into what the IG says were illegal payouts. They work for the taxpayers and we deserve to know if a crime has been committed and if so, the violators will face justice.  

We just witnessed history in two trials regarding Trump and Hunter Biden. Those gardeners did not turn a blind eye. What our gardeners do next will either put Albuquerque on the map as a corrupt city with no consequences or a city where justice is equal for all.

Postscript: The IG has asked that those who took the sick leave in question return it. Only one city employee has done so. They returned $526.00. 

Thanks, Dan. 


Keller's political weakness may in part cause unnecessary changes to the ABQ election system. Last night Councilors voted 6 to 3 to send to voters in November a radical proposal in how we elect our city's Mayor. Common Cause explained the shocker on the socials:

@ABQCityCouncil took us backward by amending an already bad proposal. Rather than lowering the threshold to be elected mayor or city councilor from 50% to 40%, they've eliminated any threshold altogether. Candidates under this scheme could be elected with 10% for example. The 6-3 passage of this proposal means, voters will be confronted with a question on this November's ballot to eliminate run-offs and move to a free-for-all voting process where fringe candidates and special interests will dominate our elections.

The conservative wing of the Council and Keller have butted heads but the unneeded and anti-Democratic move picked up some Democratic support, an indication of the overall Council frustration with Dem Mayor Keller. 

But the move is temperamental and bad for our city. We had a no threshold election in 1997 when liberal Democrat Jim Baca was elected with 29 percent of the vote in an eight candidate race. The results were not pretty and the no threshold requirement was abandoned. 

This measure approved last night with a veto proff majority would bring to the mainstream divisive far left and far right politics that ABQ has largely avoided.

A crowded November ballot does not bode well for alerting ABQ voters of the foolish leap this Council has taken and persuade them to reject the Banana Republic plan. But we'll do our best between now and then.

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Monday, June 17, 2024

Confusion And Uncertainty Reign Supreme As Special Legislative Session Approaches; Weekend Dem Caucus Meetings Do Little To Clear The Air; MLG On The Firing Line As Trainwreck Fears Grow  

Senate and House Democrats met separately over the weekend to focus on the special legislative session called by MLG for July 18 but great uncertainty and confusion remained following those meetings, report our highly reliable and senior sources.

Following the Senate caucus at the Isleta golf course clubhouse, one source declared that that there is "zero support" for the crime bills that are on the Governor's agenda for the session. They explained:

None of the bills are seen as essential and the Governor failing to get a deal before calling the session is now coming back to bite her. The caucus is at a standstill.

In the House caucus held over Zoom, our sources report that leading conservative Democrat Patricia Lundstrom was a no-show as were other conservative Dems, some of whome were beaten by progressive opponents at this month's primary election:

That raised the fear that the conservative D's could join with the House Republicans to kill the crime bills as they did at the last regular session with the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act.

Republicans have been offering an alternative set of get tough on crime proposals since the Governor called the special session, labeling hers weak and largely irrelevant. 

A House coalition to derail the session is not unthinkable. The possibility of the Senate shutting down early to force an end to the session and a breakthrough deal with the Governor before the session is also still on the table. A Senior Alligator commented:

Joe, if you're confused over the outlook, so is just about every legislator. Talk about a ball being up in the air. 

Keep in mind, these are the majority Democrats expressing dismay and confusion. 


There was talk following the caucus sessions of another possibility--that MLG and lawmakers could seek a "soft landing."

That would entail walking back the special session by announcing that progress has been made and that the bills will be dealt with in the 2025 session. 

But MLG is not one to give up her grip easily even as her critics pile on over her handling (or mishandling) of this special session. That, critics argue, is only one of her problems. A sample:

--She did the extraordinary by calling a special session without a pre-arranged deal with lawmakers. The oversight is glaring and reminiscent of her unpopular veto of $50 million in capital outlay she had to be bailed out from by Dem legislators.

--Her staffing remains weak with no one on the Fourth Floor with extensive legislative experience who can craft a deal. Combine that with a chief executive who specializes in micro-management and deal-making is like climbing Everest.

--The Governor has been unfocused, taking numerous out of state trips and involving herself in national issues but not tending to the home fires. That has given rise to renewed speculation that she is back on the job-seeking trail with the Biden administration and that is her priority.

--The narrative that the "crime crisis" is mainly an ABQ metro continues to grow among lawmakers who are looking to local governments to tackle the scourge--not the Roundhouse.  

--The bills she is backing seem like small ball in the face of a historic crime wave that demands nuanced solutions not given to quick resolution in a special session.

MLG's bills include prohibiting felons from being in possession of a firearm and a batch of mental health measures, including "an overhaul of state law concerning "assisted outpatient treatment," or court-ordered treatment for mental illness or addiction." That plan has drawn public criticism from even Democratic lawmakers. 

Two other measures are seen as nearly pointless by opponents: Requiring crime statistics reporting from state and local law enforcement agencies and prohibiting pedestrians from standing on some roadways and medians. 

The latter is seen as having serious constitutional problems and the former as a routine bill that lacks urgency.

No matter the outcome of the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the special legislative session--if it occurs--it is not expected to last longer than three days.  


Reader Peter Ives writes:

 Joe, Your Mimbres contributor (6/12) somehow equates having more than two major political parties with "democracy." Apparently, he hasn't seen past presidential ballots. Numerous third parties ranging from the extreme right (Constitution Party, etc.) to the left (Socialist Workers, etc.) and single-issue parties like the Prohibition Party decorate the ballots. But hardly anyone votes for them. Nations with effective multiple parties work best in parliamentary systems. Look north to Canada which has it at both the provincial and national levels.  

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