Wednesday, June 07, 2023

DeSantis Gets In New Mexico's Space; Deming Used By His Administration To Fly Border Immigrants To California, Plus: Guv Explains Liquor Tax Veto, Or Does She?  

Hey, Ron. Unless you're having pasta with Mark Ronchetti, stay out of our space."

So quipped New Mexico Italian-American and veteran politico Mike Santullo upon hearing the news that the Florida Governor's administration transported by private plane to California three dozen migrants from the southern border by way of New Mexico.

As the AP reported

This isn’t the first time DeSantis’ administration has transported migrants from Texas to other states. Last fall, Florida flew 49 Venezuelans to the upscale Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.

In his latest gambit. . .

Two planes arrived in Sacramento, on Friday and Monday, each carrying asylum-seekers mostly from Colombia and Venezuela. The individuals had been picked up in El Paso, taken to New Mexico and then put on charter flights to California’s capital of Sacramento, said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. He’s investigating whether any violations of criminal or civil law occurred. Bonta said the immigrants told him they were approached in El Paso by two women who spoke broken Spanish and promised them jobs. The women traveled with them by land from El Paso to Deming, New Mexico, where two men then accompanied them on the flight to Sacramento.

Enough Ron. If you're anxious to play in New Mexico book a table at M'tucci's with Ronchetti. Santullo is buying. 


Meantime, MLG continued her delayed honeymoon in the Caribbean and did not take the DeSantis Deming bait, with her office saying:

Gov. Lujan Grisham stresses, yet again, the urgent need for comprehensive, thoughtful federal immigration reform which is rooted in a humanitarian response that keeps border communities in mind.


While MLG is away Lt. Governor Howie Morales is the state's #1. He hasn't fired anyone or called out the NM Guard. But we do get this:

Lt. Governor Morales toured the Mora County Acequias with Transportation Secretary Ricky Serna and met with other leaders in the area to learn more about the fire recovery. “I was given a first-hand look at the ongoing challenges this county faces as a result of fires in the area. . . ” said Morales.

That's a real yawner but he still has 10 days to stir the pot, not that La Politica is urging him on. (Go Howie!)


This clipping from our newsroom floor almost went missing but it so exposes the weak leg the Governor has to stand on when it comes to her veto of a minor increase in the state tax on booze that it demanded attention:

The governor vetoed the first increase in alcohol tax rates in 30 years but she does not oppose increasing alcohol taxes, her spokesperson Maddy Hayden emailed. The one-penny increase water down from a proposed hike of a quarter-per-drink—“would not have a material effect on alcohol prevention and treatment,” Hayden added, declining to say whether the governor supported a larger hike. 

The governor also vetoed a measure that would have directed tens of millions of dollars of existing alcohol tax revenues to alcohol treatment and prevention but she “believes unequivocally” that New Mexico needs to devote more resources to addressing alcohol misuse, according to Hayden. The governor felt the Legislature’s tax package represented “a potentially untenable hit to the general fund” and vetoed the reallocation of alcohol tax revenues “out of fiscal responsibility,” Hayden said, declining to clarify why the governor didn’t then retain the alcohol tax hike, which would have generated $10 million annually.  

The irony of the report is that it so twisted the Guv's spokeswoman in knots that her colleagues took her over to the Bull Ring for a shot and a beer.


The funeral mass for Archbishop Michael Sheehan who died Saturday at 83 will be held in ABQ early this afternoon: 

(The service) will be held at Immaculate Conception Parish on Wednesday, June 7 at 12:10 p.m. It will be streamed on the Immaculate Conception YouTube page. There will also be a public visitation Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with a vigil service at 7 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe. Another public visitation will also take place on Friday at the same location from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. The vigil and mass will be live-streamed on the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Facebook page and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi website.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Move To Strip ABQ Mayor Of Power Still Alive; Council Defers Final Decision, Plus: Speculation Swirls Over Possible Major Dem State Senate Primary; O'Neill Vs. O'Malley? And: Defending Stansbury's Debt Ceiling Vote  

The anti-Mayor Keller contingent of the ABQ City Council appears to have more work to do if it is to have voters at the November election decide a proposal radically changing the governing structure of the city by stripping the Mayor of his powers and turning them over to a city manager. 

Last night the measure was amended and then deferred to the Council's June 21 meeting.

We say the anti-Keller contingent because the proposal is being sponsored by Councilors Louie Sanchez and Rene Grout who are Keller's harshest critics. Six of the nine councilors must approve to get that November vote. 

If supporters had the votes last night they would not have gone for the deferral so the suspense continues.

Neutral observers such as UNM political science Professor Tim Krebs urged the city last night to maintain the current strong Mayor/Council form of government that has been in effect since 1974 and was adopted after the Council/Manager form devolved into chaos. 

Where do the Councilors stand? As with most issues, this council is very squishy. Our Alligators and longtime observers can't firmly whip the vote. They see the odds as against the proposal making the ballot but can't be certain. We asked one of our Senior Alligators with long city experience for analysis:

Joe, those who did not take this seriously are waking up. They will now need to pressure the Council. I see progressives worried about people of color having less say in city government without a strong Mayor putting heat on Mid-Heights Dem Councilor Tammy Feibelkorn who is not saying where she stands. Ditto for Councilor Benton from Downtown who indicates he has problems with the Council/Manager from of government but won't say how he will vote. Councilor Davis is also suspect. He too has been mum on his final vote. Councilor Dan Lewis is also on the fence and needs to be pushed off by his Republican supporters. 

This is one time progressives and the business community appear united against a ballot proposal. If they don't get busy and kill it at the Council level they are going to have to come up with considerable advertising money to make sure voters reject it in November.

Also joining the debate is longtime Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima who labors under the Council/Manager government but finds it unappealing for ABQ:

The main reason is accountability. I think Mayor Keller is doing a very good job of running the city in light of all of the issues surrounding all cities such as rising crime, homelessness, and residents with mental health concerns. I've been fortunate to serve my community for almost thirty years, sixteen as mayor. These last few years have been challenging, to say the least. Fortunately, I had the support of my colleagues on council to keep my city safe and moving forward. Although I have great colleagues to work with, there are a few things that I was powerless to prevent since I have just one vote like the others. I am allowed to propose policy, but I have to sell my vision to the council, but again that doesn't always happen. 

To be continued. . . 


Sen. O'Neill
Former ABQ City Councilor and Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley is being mentioned as a possible Democratic primary challenger to ABQ Dem state Senator BIll O'Neill in next June's primary. Meantime, Mayor Keller has named her Associate Chief of Staff for Policy: 

Debbie was the founder and first director of the non-profit development corporation responsible for the Sawmill Community Land Trust, and through her elected positions as a City Councilor and County Commission has continued to support and direct resources to the planning and development of affordable housing and housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. She has also been a strong advocate for behavioral and mental health support services for families and children in the community. 

O'Malley pushed through a measure as a county commissioner to build a tiny homes project for the homeless. It had a difficult start but since has stabilized

We asked Bill "The Fighting Irishman" O'Neill about the speculation that O'Malley may run against him: 

That's been out there for a while. All I know is that I have respected her and have had a good working relationship with her as well.

We asked O'Neill if he was planning to retire from the Senate. He said "no."

O'Neill is well-liked and an intrepid campaigner. A specialist in criminal justice he is also an author of books and plays and served in the House before taking the District 13 Valley Senate seat in 2013. 

He has a lifetime score of 95 percent from the progressive Conservation Voters NM so it would be interesting to see what issues O'Malley would use against him, if she does make a challenge. She has had 20 years in city and county elected offices so her voting record would also be on the line. 


ABQ Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury was pegged as a radical here Monday for voting against the deal to raise the government's's debt ceiling. Rio Rancho reader and author Mitchell Freedman has the pushback complete with some faint praise for the congresswoman: 

Your quote from a Senator (did you mean Senior?) Alligator that Stansbury's "no" vote on the debt ceiling deal was a "far-left" position is wacky. (Yes, Mitchell, we meant "Senior" Gator.) It was not "far left" to be opposed to the debt ceiling deal which added (1) work requirements that costs the government far more than it can possibly save, but it does definitely punish the small number of poor people who are unable to work otherwise; (2) restarting student loan payments after three years of pausing, with ballooned interest to add insult to injury; and (3) a fossil fuel deal Sen. Joe Manchin has long wanted, and where there can be no environmental-based lawsuits filed to challenge it. Oh, and for a bill designed to cut the debt, there was no repeal of the 2017 Trump/McConnell Tax Cuts which blew trillions into the debt.

Yes, Melanie Stansbury was the lone NM Congressperson to vote against the pro-corporate and pro-military-industrial complex deal. However, one may reasonably ask why Stansbury and other progressives in Congress did not lead rallies across the nation, or do anything for the past two months, other than sit in rooms with insiders, and let this monstrosity happen. Meaning, the "no" votes from progressives were merely performative, and certainly not a "Profile in Courage." 

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Monday, June 05, 2023

Blog Wheelhouse Flooded With News: High Stakes ABQ Council Meeting Today; Housing Crunch And Stripping Mayor's Power On Tap, Plus: Stansbury Debt Ceiling Vote Analysis, Also; Trujillo Out At State House And Archbishop Sheehan, Social Justice Champion, Dies At 83 

Benton and Davis
A whole bunch of news that's in the Blog wheelhouse started coming down this weekend so fun in the sun was out, although we did have fun attending the dinner and silent auction benefitting ABQ's Keshet--the Dance and Center for the Arts--and sponsored by the ABQ Wine Classic

One bidder with an open heart (and wallet) plunked down $5,000 for a dinner for eight at Santa Fe's renowned Compound. We won't say their name or the politicos might try to sign them up as a fundraiser. 

But we digress. The wheelhouse is flooded with news and we're going to bail it out. 

Two hot potato issues go before the ABQ City Council for debate today making for a closely watched session even if final action is not expected on both.

Allowing homeowners to construct casitas on their lots to help with the housing crunch and asking voters to change the city's form of government from a strong mayor to a weak mayor with a city manager are the two biggies. 

Let's go to architect and Councilor Ike Benton, the dean of the Council who has been there since 2005, for analysis and insight since these are proposals that could have a lasting impact on ABQ's quality of life. First, his take on the casita plan supported by the Mayor but not all nine councilors: 

Much attention has been paid to provisions to allow duplexes and secondary dwelling units (SDUs) in R-1 zones. I always saw accessory dwellings as a very small outlier in the effort to help increase density and affordability, yet they have always been the most feared. I proposed them years ago; there was a huge neighborhood outcry, particularly among very privileged neighborhoods, and it was shot down by the Council majority. Once again, most of the debate seems to be around them. R-1 is sacrosanct, yet nationally it has come to have hurt us. What was once a well-intentioned separation from noxious uses evolved into a means of segregating rich from poor and the primary reason for unsustainable urban sprawl. 

Critics say the casitas could cheapen the housing environment in the city. 


Now to the proposed change in city government that has been in effect since 1974. Council dean Benton opines: 

New mayors can come in and want to reverse much of what was started by a Mayor or Council before they arrived. It’s often frustrating from the Council side when projects are not expeditiously implemented. But Councilors are not necessarily good administrators either, and the Council makeup changes every 2 years. Even an excellent hired Manager will have to answer to 9 bosses. There is more chance of an unelected administration bureaucracy becoming entrenched.

 I am more interested in pursuing a City-County consolidation into a Metro Government, paired with some changes to the legislative-administrative structure. This was last attempted in 2003 and deserves another look. The model has been implemented in Nashville/Davidson County and Miami/Dade County, among other major metro areas. The proposed Middle Rio Grande Housing initiative is an example of how to overcome the type of inefficiency resulting from duplication of services by the City and County. Remember that City taxpayers fund over 70 percent of the County Government. 

Well, the architect hit the nail on the head. His mention of consolidating the city and county governments is the first we've seen in the debate. It's been 20 years since consolidation was rejected by voters. As Benton said, it's time for "another look." 


We asked Councilor Pat Davis, a two term veteran, for analysis on what to watch for today when it comes to that proposed historic change in the manner in which the state's largest city would be governed: 

The City Charter requires us to have two hearings on any potential Charter amendment. The first one was held at first reading last month. This week is the first meeting where it could receive final action. If the sponsors do not feel they have the 6 votes to place it on the ballot, the sponsors could attempt to defer until either of our meetings in August if they feel like more time would help their case. According to the city clerk, the resolution must be passed no later than the end of August to be on the November ballot.

Okay, thanks Councilors. We've got our seatbelt strapped on. 

The Council meets at 5 PM today. It can be viewed on GOVTV on Comcast Channel 16 and is also streamed live.


ABQ Dem US Rep. Melanie Stansbury was the only one of the state's three US Reps to vote against  the deal to raise the government debt ceiling. It was an unabashed assertion of her progressive credentials and brought this analysis from a Senior Alligator: 

She sided with the radical left and was the only member of the delegation to do so. It looks less likely she is aiming towards a statewide run with that vote because economic issues play far better than environmental issues. I wonder how her new constituents in Lincoln and Torrance counties feel about it? Unquestionably a default would be far worse for New Mexicans than the deal that was struck.   

Stansbury's reasoning

She didn’t agree with the cuts this bill will make to environmental and COVID-19 relief programs, the new working requirements for SNAP and Food Stamps, and the fact this bill will restart student loans payments. Stansbury says it wasn’t an easy vote to cast. “Look, the final bill passed with 314 votes. We knew as a Democratic caucus that we could not allow our country to fail. I think every single Democrat was prepared to take a hard vote in either direction, whether you are somebody who voted for the deal at large, or voted for the bill itself — it was an equally hard vote,” Stansbury said.

The vote may not have been a winner statewide but the ABQ district is still progressive despite the addition of some rural (and lightly populated) conservative areas.

A statewide race may or may not be in Stansbury's future but what is right in front of her is her '24 re-election bid and that won't be hindered by her debt ceiling vote. In fact, she still has no announced Republican opponent.


ABQ Dem state Rep. Christine Trujillo, 69, says her health and age are the chief reasons for her decision to resign her District 25 Mid NE Heights seat at the end of June.

Trujillo, a retired teacher who had an 11 year run at the Roundhouse, was a backer of education funding and efforts to curb domestic violence. 

She co-sponsored a measure this past session that prompted fiery criticism from some conservatives but made it into law. The measure requires that tampons and other menstural products are made available in school bathrooms. 

Trujillo ran unopposed in 2022. The five member BernCo Commission will name a replacement to fill the remainder of her term. Our insiders say that will probably come in August. 

District 25 is lower to middle income and prime territory for what Dems call "working families." It is solid Dem so no R's need apply, although it can be expected that progressives will push for a candidate similar to Trujillo while moderate Dems will seek one of their own for the seat. 

House Speaker Javier Martinez will be a key behind the scenes player in the replacement debate which means the moderates will have their hands full.  


Archbishop Michael Sheehan, who led the Archdiocese of Santa Fe through one of its most turbulent and difficult periods and who helped shepherd sweeping social justice measures into law, died Saturday at 83. Archbishop John Wester, who succeeded Sheehan in 2015, eulogized him:

Archbishop Sheehan’s peaceful departure brings to an end a remarkable journey that spanned over eight decades, during which he selflessly guided countless individuals on their spiritual path and worked tirelessly to uplift the lives of those in need. . . He leaves a legacy that will continue to inspire future generations. 

Allen Sanchez, president of CHI St. Joseph's Children, recounted how Sheehan--who served as archbishop from 1993 until his 2015 retirement--was a key player in many landmark legislative achievements including repeal of the state's death penalty, repeal of the tax on food, advancing the cause of using the state's Permanent School Fund for early childhood education and successfully opposing efforts to repeal driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. 

House Speaker Javier Martinez said on Twitter: 

As the head of [New Mexico's] Catholic Church for many years, he was in the middle of the biggest policy wins for working families. Godspeed, amigo.

Some of Sheehan's most important work came early in his tenure when he took over a church under a shadow from a sex scandal involving his predecessor as well as sex abuse cases involving Catholic priests. He remarked in his later years:

The Holy Father wanted me to come to help a church in difficulty. I had to remove some priests who had done terrible things, apologize to people and seek more vocations to the priesthood but I was convinced God was going to bring us out of it.

According to Gallup about a third of adult New Mexicans are Catholic making the state the 9th highest in the concentration of Catholics.

Archbishop Sheehan, born in Wichita Kansas, was a priest for 50 years. 


In our first draft on the award of $53 million for low income housing units in the metro area from the NM Mortgage Finance Authority we did not report that the money was in the form of federal tax credits, not state funds.

And there you have a rare June monster blog, kids. Is the pool now open? 

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Thursday, June 01, 2023

It's Not Your Grandpa's ABQ; Housing Crunch Continues To Gobble Up Big Bucks As Keller Casita Plan Nears Action, Plus: Guv's Honeymoon With Voters May Be Waning But She Has A Backup 

A lot of ABQ old timers can't seem to grasp how much their beloved city has changed when it comes to housing affordability and the number of homeless. That's why they were probably taken aback again this week when the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority announced approval of $53 million in federal tax credits for five affordable housing projects in Bernalillo, Sandoval and Dona Ana Counties. What grabbed the old timers by the collar is that the money will got toward the construction of only 281 affordable rental units. 

But in this new era of inflation, supply and building issues, that's what it costs. A bean counter at the Legislative Finance Committee adds:

“Poverty rates are high, labor participation is low. There is high substance abuse rates,” Kathleen Gygi, a program evaluator, told the legislative panel. “These are all things that compound the problems.” 

The city of ABQ is spending over $60 million a year on housing and needs associated with the homeless. Sounds like a lot but the nation has let the housing and homeless crisis fester. Getting folks housed is going to be a demanding budget item for years to come. Why? Because this is not your grandpa's Albuquerque. 

Along those lines we anticipate next Monday's ABQ City Council meeting where that proposal from Mayor Keller to permit casitas to be built on the site of single family homes may get action. Sure, it needs to be planned carefully but it needs to be done, and the casitas can be built without taxpayer support. 

It's a potential solution to the affordable housing dilemma for thousands of ABQ families now and in the future.


APD Chief Harold Medina did not tackle the specific concerns of ABQ attorney and former APD officer Tom Grover over the possible lifting of a Department of Justice consent decree that has been in effect for nearly nine years. But the Chief did have this reaction to Grover's analysis on the Wednesday blog: 

I would hope a former APD officer would support the work of today’s officers. They are putting in the work and the DOJ recognizes their accomplishments. Different department today.


It's not easy being a Republican around these parts. Shut out of all major offices and with dim prospects for the future, some conservatives are beyond frustrated, like this anonymous GOP reader reacting to the lack of a 2024 Republican challenger for Dem US Sen. Martin Heinrich: 

Joe, folks on the far-left have complete ownership of the state. Any R running statewide is simply looking up a dead mule's ass. Even at local level normal candidates can win only in the southeast corner. Santa Fe County votes 75% Dem every election. How many Rs do you think work for the city, the county or the state? We know how they'll vote. Voters in ABQ or Cruces mostly depend on government for groceries so it seems we're a one-party state forever. The philosophy is hate Republicans. 

With the party not reinventing itself ideologically to broaden its appeal, history says the best bet for a GOP bounce is a major Dem scandal. But the hole they have dug for themselves is what former Gov. Bruce King might have described as "mighty, mighty deep." 


As her second term takes hold, MLG's honeymoon with voters may be wearing a bit thin but she has a backup plan:

Gov. Lujan Grisham is traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a personal vacation with the First Gentleman to celebrate their honeymoon and first wedding anniversary. She is expected to return on June 16. Lt. Gov. Howie Morales will assume the role of the governor during her time out-of-state.

If the highly caffeinated chief executive really wants to slow down for a while she picked the right place:. 

St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John welcome the most visitors to their shores. An infinite number of pristine bays, coves, inlets and beaches can be made your own even if downtown is crowded. History, natural beauty and plenty of culture are on display, and the duty-free shopping is world famous. 

As for Howie, he will be Governor for his longest stretch yet--over two weeks. That's plenty of time to get into mischief, not that we would ever want that to happen. 

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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

An APD Free Of DOJ? Department Nears Total Compliance With Reforms Raising Hopes Of City Leaders; Numerous Police Shootings Have One Watchdog Saying APD Is Not Ready To Get Off The Leash, Plus: First Couple's 1ST Anniversary  

Grover with Officer
Now that ABQ's police department is closing in on 100 percent compliance with a Department of Justice consent decree that has been in effect for almost nine years, the city's leadership is chomping at the bit for the DOJ to close up shop here. 

But is APD really ready for less federal supervision given that there were 18 officer involved shootings in 2022? 

After all, it was the use of excessive force that brought the Feds to town for their long and expensive stay (over $10 million so far for a federal monitoring team) in the first place. 

Now that there is light at the end of the troubled tunnel the first serious analysis of what a DOJ withdrawal would mean is sprouting up. Not all of it is confident that APD is ready for more freedom, including that of ABQ attorney and former APD officer Tom Grover. He's been a pointed social media critic of Mayor Keller but has close ties to APD and has defended many of its officers involved in employment disputes. He gave this take on PBS of a possible DOJ-free APD:

When it comes to actual responding to crime, when it comes to actual training, there's been this perception gap between what is actually happening and what DOJ is seeing and I think as a consequence, if  DOJ does withdraw, the department is setting itself up for a very difficult transition period. 

(Removing the consent decree) is going to be like taking a soda can that's shook up and under pressure and DOJ withdraws and the cap comes off and it just fizzes out. Because with all the (police) shootings that we had last year, I think that's reflective of what's happened with the training, which is the officers either don't use any force or they instantly go to deadly force and they don't do anything in between. Without that pressure coming down from DOJ or various units that enforce DOJ mandates, they won't have that scrutiny and who knows what's going to happen because we are dealing with an entirely different generation of officers out there.  

The latest DOJ report said APD is now 92 percent compliant with the federally-ordered reforms and Mayor Keller is hopeful the decree will be removed. But Grover's skepticism is rooted not only in contemporary events but a long-standing APD culture that has given the city headaches for decades. He has been critical of the long-running overtime scandal at APD which has resisted the reform efforts of seven state auditors. 

It is those 18 officer involved shootings in 2022--a new record--that is so unsettling. How can that be after so many years of oversight over the use of force? APD promises more "targeted" training to reduce the shootings that can take innocent lives and cost the city millions in lawsuits.

Meantime, City leaders may want to squelch their desire to get off the DOJ leash until they see the impact of that new training. 

It took a year but we're finally getting a wedding photo of MLG and husband Manny Cordova. The Guv Tuesday released the pic on Facebook that was taken a year ago at the home of VP Kamala Harris who officiated at the ceremony. She wrote: 

On Sunday, the First Gentleman and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Manny, thank you for always supporting me, our family, and our beautiful state. Here’s to many, many more years together!  

The couple has been together since 2012 but their wedding, after being delayed because of Covid, came in the middle of historic wildfires in the state. It was a low-key affair with no official statement or even a photo released at the time. Mostly close family and friends were in attendance. 

Cordova, an ABQ area native who is now 67, runs an automotive  repair business. His relationship with the Governor has not extended to the public arena in which he is rarely seen. She refers to him occasionally in social media posts as "The First Manny."

MLG is 63 and an attorney who has spent most of her career in government and politics. Her first husband of 21 years, attorney Gregory Grisham, died of an aneurysm in 2004. 

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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Reader Vox Populi; They Sound Off On MLG And The Enviros, High ABQ Rents, The DA Not Charging In NMSU/UNM Shooting, Plus: Final ABQ Chapter For Unser Racing Museum Plays Out  

Time for a long overdue edition of Reader Vox Populi where our insightful readers sound off on the issues of the day. Let's get started. 

Gov. Lujan Grisham started her tenure as a darling of the environmentalists but her recent vetoes of climate change legislation sent her popularity plummeting with them. Reader and journalist D. Reed Eckhardt in Santa Fe offers up a theory about this new alienation between the chief executive and a key Democratic interest group: 

Thunderheads darkened the skies when Lujan Grisham announced her advocacy for a ”climate hub” in New Mexico. The problems with her proposal were evident: The governor’s hub would revolve around “blue” hydrogen, which uses methane to create hydrogen and gives off carbon dioxide. Using methane would spur further fossil fuel use, generate more significant emissions and harm the climate. Lujan Grisham supports blue hydrogen — a climate dead end —as an effort to appease the oil and gas industry, which would benefit most and fears a fading future. And she continues to back blue hydrogen firmly, even after her efforts were throttled in the 2022 session of the Legislature. 

This beating seems to have soured the governor on climate advocacy. Indeed, some of Lujan Grisham’s recent moves in the Legislature can be seen as payback for that defeat. Since Lujan Grisham has cozied up to the fossil fuel industry, that only has increased its power. It already moves too many levers in the Legislature. Add to that the governor’s office under the oil and gas thumb, and the job of climate advocates has gotten even more challenging. 


Our May 24 our blog focusing on ABQ housing mentioned that the average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment has neared $1,200 a month. That brought this from Kelley Vigil: 

Joe, $1,200.00 is pretty accurate. My son, 23 a student and a full time CNM employee pays $1,085.00 in Taylor Ranch. This for a junior one bedroom, a step up from an efficiency. CNM does not pay much, therefore guess who supplements his rent? Me. Our agreement as long as he works and goes to school. I realize he/we are the lucky ones. I feel for those facing housing, drug and homelessness. It’s very sad.  


Longtime blog reader and contributor Dan Klein thinks there's been a miscarriage of justice in the November shooting death of 19 year old Brandon Travis at the UNM campus:

Joe, did you see the editorial about BernCo District Attorney Sam Bregman and the UNM/NMSU murder? Two sets of justice, one for the elite well-connected and one for the rest of us. NMSU athlete Mike Peake, his teammates and those coaches should have been charged. The evidence was clear and very damning. Instead, nothing, because it’s NCAA basketball and it involves coaches. 

Prosecutors said Peake acted in self-defense when he shot Travis but there were numerous instances of possible obstruction of justice by NMSU's athletic department in the aftermath of the murder, among other legal questions, that were left untouched by the DA. 


Reader Michele Connelly of Gila Hot Springs writes of our take on the Govenror's habit of appointing commissions to address major policy issues. 

Thank you Joe, for your very astute comments about MLG’s lack of commitment to act rather than pontificate and punt to a commission on so many important issues. She’s been such a disappointment! She could have been a game changer for the state; instead one of the few times she acted with conviction without concern for the supposed consequences, was having an aide slip out and buy jewelry for her during the lockdown. That about says it. Sadly, like most politicians— think Big Bill, Susana, etc. etc-- her zeal has turned into self interest. So sorry I voted for her. Again. But I already knew Mark Ronchetti’s weather report couldn’t hold water. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like two really good candidates were asking for out votes instead of this nonsense? 


Al Unser 
The racing Unser family will always have an honored place in state and city history but the deal to move the family's racing museum from Los Ranchos to westside ABQ on the backs of taxpayers was questionable. The decision to instead merge the museum with the Speedway Motors Museum in Lincoln Nebraska was the right move.

The $4 million cost of moving the museum caused an uproar with supporter's of the ABQ Museum who said the diversion of money would comprise that museum's planned growth. Now that $4 million of a bond that the City Council decided to send to voters at this November's election is defunct, the ABQ museum could benefit. They are certainly working on it. 

The other questionable part of the story was unveiled here by reader/researcher Alan Schwartz who reported May 4 that the Unser Museum, if the move was approved, would be moved to land apparently owned by the Garcia automative/development family who have had a heavy hand in city politics as their real estate interests--particularly in the Downtown area--have grown. From Schwartz:

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 decision to move the museum avoids a taint on the Unser legacy. That the museum's final days were on Memorial Day weekend where the Indy 500 is held and at which the Unsers made so much history was especially poignant. 

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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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