<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Our Report On ART Money Concerns Confirmed By City; Incompetence Or Criminal? Separate "Reviews" By City And State Auditor; Join Us Back On The City Beat  

Our blog report and your worst fears about the bungled $135 million ART project were confirmed Wednesday. Shortly after we reported that a senior source told us that the funding for the transit project was undergoing scrutiny because of serious questions about how it was spent Mayor Keller's office reacted:

Today the City of Albuquerque confirmed that it has an ongoing investigation into Albuquerque Rapid Transit (A.R.T.). The investigation is looking at the process for planning the A.R.T. system, including funding and procurement related to construction and buses. The investigation is being conducted by the City of Albuquerque’s independent Inspector General. The investigation will be made public when it is complete. . . We look forward to getting to the bottom of this,” stated Mayor Keller.

But like just about everything to do with ART the messaging on this was unclear. Keller called the IG's involvement an "investigation" but IG Harper in an interview with the newspaper walked that back and called it a "review." That's worrisome because it's obvious a project with bad buses and bad construction deserves an "investigation" not only a review.

Harper did confirm that he is launching a "low level investigation" of a city transit employee for possible misconduct involving ART. Does it seem this IG is very anxious to avoid entertaining any possibility that there was "higher level" wrongdoing? And exactly what does he mean by a "low level" investigation? Does that mean the alleged misconduct is minor?

Harper says he will issue a report in a month or so. Whatever he concludes, by his milquetoast language he has already put the public on notice to be skeptical of his findings.

Getting to the bottom of perhaps the worst handled public works project in the city's modern history now involves not only the IG "review" but State Auditor Wayne Johnson confirms that he has begun an investigation of ART spending. After the IG and Auditor get their look then it could be determined if there is reason for a criminal investigation involving possible wrongdoing on how ART finances have been handled.

Given that this is a federally sanctioned project one would suspect federal law enforcement might have an interest in the outcome of the initial investigations. Also, now that ART is under official scrutiny, what about that $75 million in federal funding the Berry administration promised would be here but has been tied up in Congress for months? Do these developments increase the chances that city taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

And what about that gross receipts tax increase proposal that was introduced at the City Council Wednesday and that has been met mostly with hoots of derision? This is the same City Council that failed to conduct proper oversight of the ART project but now wants a $55 million year tax increase to bail them out of their budget woes. If they could not be trusted to handle ART or oversee the police department, why should they be trusted with even more public money?

MORE CITY BEAT

We've suggested that after City Hall deals with the messes and possible corruption of the past administration, then and only then should a tax hike be considered. And if we must have one, we should redirect some of the $17 million in construction money that is going to the BioPark each year from a voter-approved tax hike several years ago. Not all agree, including reader Nancy Hendrickson:

Joe, let's not bite the hand that feeds us. I, for one, love the BioPark and its major improvements are pulling in major bucks for the whole area. It is earning a national name for itself and is something that Albuquerque and, indeed, NM, can point to as a major family attraction. We may not be a Balboa Park yet, but for the high desert, we are on our way. A proud moment in some pretty bleak time. So let's not second guess the voters and leave our money in something that can help pull ABQ out of the muck and is brings the families here when jobs, schools, nothing else can attract them.

Reader John comes with a counterpoint:

Way to go (Councilor) Ken Sanchez. Tax us some more. So far all we have seen from the  BioPark tax is one more CAO and one more Deputy CAO at the Park, but no more construction or maintenance crews. Go ahead Ken, tell us how you were asleep while all this happened!

Reader Dan Klein asked this week what happened to the $100 million accumulated under the Berry administration because of savings from vacant police officer positions. This anonymous reader reacts:

In response to Mr. Klein’s question on your blog about where all the salary savings for vacant APD officer positions went, for several years it has mostly gone to pay for Officer overtime. Go to the city’s transparency site and see how many regular patrol officers are making over $100,000 per year. 

That APD overtime is another debacle that the city council and Mayor need to resolve.

Reader Caleb Gluck picks up that thread:

Some good points, especially about where the savings went from allegedly being down 250 officers. Where did that money—was it budgeted?—end up. Personally, to me this “shortage” of officers is a canard. I’m from L.A. and one can drive the city for a day and never see a police car; here, I can’t go 20 ft. without running into one. Ditto San Diego. Just go there and see what I mean. There’s something very fishy about this whole officer shortage, crime rise, etc. etc. etc. Perhaps if 5 officers did not converge around a fender-bender we’d experience a better use of resources. . . In L.A. (again) motorists are expected to resolve their own accidents, nor do they close the freeway when there is the unfortunate fatality. That would not go over well. They call me The Truth Teller.

Welcome aboard, Truth Teller. When it comes to covering and (uncovering) just what happened to our city the past 8 years, your services are needed greatly.

FREE RIDE?

We assume that as State Treasurer Dem Tim Eichenberg is frugal and would appreciate nothing more than a free ride for e-election this year. And he just might get it.

His potential Republican foe, Arthur Castillo, is so tangled up in nominating petition snafus that he says he is seriously considering getting out of the race. And if he doesn't he faces a court hearing in the next week asking that he be disqualified from the June primary ballot because of his many errors, including not submitting enough petition signatures and having people not registered to vote sign them.

Courts are hard to convince to keep candidates off the ballot but if Castillo manages to hang on and qualifies for the June primary, is there a chance that he could still get out of the race and let the GOP Central Committee name his replacement? After the mess he has gotten himself in that might be a relief. Meanwhile, Eichenberg seems to be coasting toward an easy ride if not a free one

THE BOTTOM LINES

We're going to end our blogging week on a positive note. After our recent speaking engagement before the ABQ Teachers Federation Leadership Program, we received a batch of kind notes that were forwarded by Donna Teuteberg:

Your commitment and dedication to your work was insightful! We appreciate your support of New Mexico Teachers and Educators working to serve New Mexican children! Here are some thoughts from our group:

Thank you for coming to speak. We appreciate your time and your expertise! I agree with your perception that New Mexico needs to address the causes of poverty and school failure at the root instead of looking for a scapegoat. Thank you for your service in writing and maintaining your blog. We appreciate your clarity and pro- education viewpoint!

Thank you for coming to talk to us at the union office. Thank you for your political writing because it has the ability to shape public opinion on education and other important topics. Education is political.

Thank you for speaking to us. I appreciate your efforts to inform the public about important issues impacting New Mexicans. A free press is essential to our democracy, and in a time when information is constantly being called into question, I appreciate your voice.

With gratitude---Caitlyn, Amanda, Loyola, Turtle, Ginger, Sondra, Kathy, Deborah, Tomas, Chemain, Candice, Kelly, Mary, Donna, Dwayne, and Ellen

ABQ teachers are often vilified in the public arena and blamed for whatever goes wrong. But they are not to blame. They are on the front lines of an ongoing social conditions crisis, putting up a valiant fight and changing lives for the better. And that's something to be thankful for.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ABQ Tax Increase Debate: How Big Is Deficit Really? Readers Question Council; Where's The Audit Of The Berry Books? Cost Savings? ART Finance Records Hard To Find For New Mayor 

About that proposed tax increase that's being taken up by the ABQ City Council this week. First, possibly a bit of good news:

Councilors Ken Sanchez and Trudy Jones want to increase the gross receipts tax by three-eights of a cent to raise about $55 million a year to fix the budget deficit for the year beginning July 1 that is put at $40 million. However, downtown bean counters that have been through this before say don't be surprised if in the next projection before July 1 that number comes down by $5 million or even $10 million. That could put further pressure on the council and Mayor to hold off on a tax hike.

A chief reason City Hall is getting resistance to raising taxes is because a lot of folks want to know just where all the money was going under the 8 year tenure of Mayor Richard Berry. Reader Dan Klein is one of them:

How about all the salary savings from vacant police officer positions over the last 8 years? It amounts to close to $100,000,000 where did that money go? APD was budgeted for 1,100 officers and then the city council decided to only budget for 1,000 officers during a time where APD has only had 800 to 900 cops. Each officer costs about $100,000 per year (salary, equipment, benefits) where has that money gone?

The State Auditor needs to step in right now. Has the past administration and the city council misspent millions of our dollars? A complete audit by an outside agency is the only way to find out.

Obviously the vacant savings went to other city agencies, but where? How much? And on exactly what?

And an interesting sidebar: Klein called for State Auditor Wayne Johnson to conduct the outside audit of the city. Johnson is a former BernCo County Commissioner who was one of Keller's foes in the '17 mayoral race. He finished fourth in the first round of voting and failed to advance to the run-off. But when Keller was elected Gov. Martinez appointed Johnson to replace Keller as State Auditor.

It could be pretty rough waters if Johnson starts sniffing at the City Hall books. Who would Mayor Keller rather have doing that? Johnson or himself. Time to get ahead of the curve, Mayor?

GETTING FORENSIC

One of our Senior Alligators checks in to tell us that City Hall is having trouble rounding up all the financial records for the $135 million hyper-controversial and stalled out ART project for Central Avenue. He advised: "A forensic audit apparently is needed."

And what is a forensic audit? Glad you asked:

Forensic audits are used wherever an entity's finances present a legal concern. For instance, it is used in cases of suspected embezzlement or fraud, to determine tax liability, to investigate a spouse during divorce proceedings or to investigate allegations of bribery, among other reasons.

That sound you just heard was former Mayor Berry dropping his coffee cup to the floor when he read that paragraph.

And we're supposed to approve a tax hike before we get a look at whatever kind of horrid creepy-crawler comes out of that deal?

THE READERS WRITE

Readers continue to pick apart the proposed tax increase with research like this from Alan Schwartz:

Joe, does anybody really know how much it is going to cost to have 1,200 sworn officers versus the 850 number? An additional 350 rookies (out of the police academy) at $20.44/hr for 2,080 hrs/yr is almost $15 million. Then you have to add in the $5,000 signing bonus, health and pension benefits, more vehicles, and civilian support positions. Lateral employs start at a higher rate. The City Council owes it to the public to give us the real numbers, not Spaceport accounting.

"Spaceport accounting?" Now that's good blogging. . .

We reported that former ABQ Dem Mayor Jim Baca believes the GRT hike would be regressive and hurt the poor most. He adds:

The City is in a big money pickle. The malfeasance in the city council and Mayor Berry's office has brought on a true financial crisis. Of course, the council now wants to raise the most egregious tax they can, the extremely regressive gross receipts tax. Don't. Just raise the gas tax 10 cents a gallon and take care of half of the deficit that way. Really, it is a user tax at the end of the day. Gas just cost half of what it did a few years ago so it won't be too painful. Also, don't even think about earmarking money from a new tax for any single entity, including the Police Department. Not long ago the voters gave the BioPark their own 1/8th cent tax. That money could be used elsewhere right now. Time for common sense.

Common sense indeed. Weeks ago we raised the possibility of diverting some of that $18 million in annual capital money that is flowing to the BioPark from a one-eighth of a cent tax to assist in resolving the budget mess. You would need to ask voters to do it but they would probably jump at the chance so they could avoid taking the GRT rate up to nearly 8 percent, put an end to the overfunding of capital projects at the BioPark and getting on with restoring APD.

But don't ask voters for that favor before a complete auditing and reform effort at City Hall is instituted.

Community activist Chris Catechis comes with a long-term plan for solving the city's fiscal plight:

Instead of raising taxes on a struggling tax base, at what point can we have a serious conversation about consolidation of city-county government to find efficiencies by getting rid of duplication of services?

We have 9 city councilors and a Mayor, Chris. You would think at least one of them would start that conversation. Will we get that sort of leadership?

Reader Ezra Spitzer writes:

Thanks for Monday's blog about the proposed gross receipts increase in ABQ. Your are one of the few raising all the right points about this. This city deserves bold leadership... Not more of the same... disappointing.

Thanks, Ezra, we'll stay on the beat.

RADIO RICH

GOP US Senate candidate Mich Rich probably needs to go up on TV now and stay up until November if he is to have much of a chance at upsetting Dem US Senator Martin Heirncih, but Rich can't afford that so he's kicking his media off with a statewide radio buy.

In the 60 second spot Rich calls out Heinrich for voting against the big tax cut approved by Congress in December saying, "Our new mexico senator has fought these cuts and New Mexico is being left behind. . ."

Heinrich said he voted against the tax cut because it amounted to Republicans "recklessly blowing up the deficit in order to reward their wealthy friends and corporations with a tax cut that they do not need."

Rich has also named a state campaign chairman, but it appears he was off by about 100 years when it comes to the heritage of his new chief:

Rick Lopez of Estancia will serve as state campaign chairman. Lopez is the current First Vice-Chair for the New Mexico Republican Party. He has more than 10 years of experience as a county chairman, and many years of grassroots political organization experience. His family has been in New Mexico since 1498.

Of course you knew that it is 1598 when the first Spanish settlers and ancestors of Rick Lopez came to New Mexico--not 1498.

Mick Rich, welcome to the Alligator infested waters of La Politica. The never miss a meal.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Martinez Passes On Pearce Endorsement; A Snub or A Blessing? And: "Dr. No" Says He's Not Going Away Anytime Soon  

Pearce and Martinez
Was it a snub or a welcome surprise? That's the question in the wake of GOP Gov. Susana Martinez refusing to give soon-to-be GOP Guv nominee Steve Pearce her political blessing. But if she did endorse his candidacy, it may have been a curse.

Martinez is headed toward the exits this year with record unpopularity--in the low 30's in the last public poll--and maybe even lower in private surveys, say some consultants. And after two terms of beating up not only on Dems, but rivals within her own party, Republicans have also lost that lovin' feeling.

So Pearce not getting her endorsement--at least in the early going--is not a bad deal. One of his biggest problems is actually convincing the electorate that he is not a carbon copy of his fellow R. He already has overwhelming GOP support but is desperately searching for conservative Dems and independents to get him in a competitive position. Having Martinez snub him could actually help with that task.

It almost makes you wonder if the duo--who have long disliked each other--worked this one out behind closed doors.

SMITH TILL 85?

A statement from conservative Democratic State Senator John Arthur Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is sure to send shudders through the bones of backers of a constitutional amendment that would allow a portion of the state's $17 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund to be used for very early childhood education.

The 76 year old Deming lawmaker, who single-handedly killed the amendment this year and who many Roundhouse observers speculate might not seek re-election in 2020, is not only indicating he will run in 2020 but well beyond:

He has no plans to step aside, health and elections permitting. (Ike) Smalley, the cigar-chomping senator from Deming who was Smith’s patron and mentor, served for more than three decades and didn’t quit until he was 85 years old.“I was schooled by a good doctor that said, ‘You know, hard work has killed damn few, but lack of work has killed a lot more,’” Smith said. “My attitude is, I’m planning on working until my last day.”

Sen. Smith
The constitutional amendment passed the state House and the Senate Education Committee this year but Smith refused to give it a hearing in Senate Finance.

His stubbornness in the face of growing support for the amendment raises the question of whether a new Democratic Governor would apply pressure on him to support the amendment and/or a compromise? And can "Dr. No" keep all his members in line under the growing political pressure? For how long?

Smith has earned a legacy as an effective budget hawk but could he really hold sway over the state's fiscal policies into his 80's? After all, his mentor Ike Smalley was largely a symbolic figure in his last years in the Senate, not a powerhouse.

Smith doesn't have to worry much about 2020 and getting re-elected but he does have to fret about "aging out" as happened to Smalley. His biggest fear in the years ahead has be to be that his staunch opposition to the early childhood amendment will be overridden and all that he has worked for and accomplished will be forgotten and that one moment of defeat will be his legacy. Ultimately, that possibility is what could bring "Dr. No" to the negotiating table.

FOR THE RECORD

By the way, a newspaper editorial that asserted "Lawmakers were right to reject a proposal to tap into the state’s largest permanent fund to pay for early childhood programs" was not quite accurate. As we mentioned the measure passed the full House 36 to 33--hardly a rejection--and won the approval of the Senate Education Committee on a 5 to 3 vote. It died only when Senator Smith acted unilaterally and refused to give the amendment a hearing.

The point being that the amendment's support has grown and Smith did his fellow Senators a favor by not forcing them to take a public vote. As we blogged above, how many more years can that act run?

HO HUM SESSION?

While corners of the press that cherish the status quo regaled the recent 30 day session as  a bipartisan paradise that produced significant legislation, most of us in Alligator land--including observers of decades-long experience labeled it a "low energy" session in which lawmakers main goal was to avoid an election year fight.

Former longtime ABQ Dem Senator Dede Feldman, author of Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits and Citizens came with this:

Was it just me or did the 2018 session seem rather ho-hum? The extra money seemed to damp down underlying controversies, and the Governor and the Legislature seemed to be largely on the same crime-fighting page. Sensible tax generators like the Internet tax and the hospital tax that the hospitals don’t object to (!) once again seem destined for the chopping block and the use of a small fraction of the huge permanent fund for desperately needed early childhood education is running into the same old roadblock in the Senate Finance Committee. . . 

The only controversial item seems to be the decommissioning of the San Juan coal plant. The Sierra Club has put on an admirable lobbying campaign there. But apart from that, legislators are eager to get back to the campaign trail and even the reporters seem eager to go home. Am I missing something?

THE BOTTOM LINES


Word comes to us of the passing of Steve Lawrence who from 1995 to 2006 was the publisher of the popular ABQ/Santa Fe alternative newspaper Crosswinds. The growth of the Internet put a halt to the endeavor but it made its mark. Lawrence was also a frequent guest on KNME-TV.  He lived in Sherman Oaks, California. Lawrence was 75.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Tax Increase? Already? Councilors Float Tax Hike To Bail City Out Of Budget And APD Mess; Keller Noncommittal; Wants Everything "On The Table" Plus: Finding New Money Without Boosting Taxes 

Councilors Sanchez & Jones
A tax increase? Already? ABQ's City Council, reawakened after eight years of slumbering while the city was mismanaged into a deficit, presided over the ruination of the police department and an economic recession that goes on and on, now says the way to solve the city's problems is not to reform the wrongheaded ways that got us here but to paper it over by increasing taxes.

Specifically, Councilors Ken Sanchez, a Democrat, and Republican Trudy Jones are proposing a hike of 3/8ths of a cent in the regressive gross receipts tax ($55 million a year) that would take it very close to 8 percent, putting it at 7.875 percent. They want to use the money to resolve the city deficit and to hire more APD officers.

As former Mayor Jim Baca pointed out this is a regressive tax that would mostly hit the many low income households in the city. He urges Mayor Keller to veto it should it reach his desk.

We would add that a nearly 8 percent GRT is a red flag for professionals like doctors, lawyers and small business owners wanting to set up shop here.

So where is Mayor Keller as shrapnel flies from this mini-bombshell? Not very visible, at least not yet.

Remember, Keller is the former State Auditor who revealed millions in wasteful spending and fraud--a record that paved his way to being elected mayor last November. So it's natural to ask: Where is the Council's and administration's in-depth audit of the city before the tax bandwagon gathers speed? Where are the reforms to improve performance?

The past waste and mismanagement right in front of us is epic--the ART project, the $60 million in APD lawsuit settlements, the APD overtime debacle, just to name a few. And then there are the many creepy-crawlers still under the City Hall carpets that we don't yet know about. Heck, a controversial tax hike might invite Republican State Auditor Wayne Johnson, who succeeded Keller, to take a peek at the city's books.

KELLER CORNER

Mayor Keller 
Keller's only comment on the tax increase was to have his office say "all options" should be "on the table." It looks as if he is watching the wind to see if this trial balloon gets ballast. But a major campaign pledge of the Mayor's was to get voter approval of any public safety tax. And since Sanchez is saying the bulk of the money from any tax hike would go to public safety, it's hard not to get busted if that pledge is not kept.

Keller needs millions to hire more officers for the severely understaffed APD and if he doesn't show results in his first year, he may start going under water politically. That makes the tax hike look like the easy way out.

But after eight years of bungling it's hard to justify funding Mayor Berry's administration without deconstructing it.

--There is not at least a million or more in annual savings available by downsizing outside legal contracts?

--Business registration permits have been at $35 for over 8 years. Time for a increase?

--The Mayor's office can't lead the way and provide a quick symbolic $100,000 in savings? Ditto for the council?

--We can't put the economic development department under the mayor's office?

--How about finally dealing with APD overtime?

--How about raising some money by putting more traffic cops on the Wild West, anything goes freeways?

That's just little stuff. And the list goes on and on.

FINDING THE MONEY

Even with reforms and savings it's clear that there is going to have to be new revenue to plug the deficit--in the area of $40 million--and finance APD staffing. That money is staring the mayor and the council in the face. It's the $18 million a year flowing in from a 1/8th of a cent gross receipts tax increase approved two years ago for capital projects at the BioPark. Redirect 75 percent of that tax--with voter approval--to the public safety emergency and you get $13 million annually.

But that would take spending political capital. The BioPark protectors will vigorously defend their tax that came while the crime wave was building but which was downplayed by the business community and the media in an effort to avoid pinning responsibility on their favored Mayor Richard Berry. The true scope of the problem became known publicly only after the stats came out following the tax vote.

Raising taxes so soon after the last election as a faux means of solving the leadership problem the city faces is only going to further advance the current and correct stereotype that this city council is out of touch and unable or unwilling to produce real results. If Keller agrees to it before at least enacting true reforms and savings, it could be a sign that the new administration is not so serious after all and is going to govern by auto-pilot for the next four years.

TAX HIKE POLITICS

ABQ City Council
A Republican supporting a tax increase? NE Heights "conservative" R and tax co-sponsor Councilor Trudy Jones is not expected to seek re-election in two years. If she were staying she would not sign on to it.

Republican Councilor Brad Winter is also serving his final term and faces no political consequences if he supports the hike other than looking like a hypocrite. We'll see.

NE Heights GOP Councilor Don Harris is freshly re-elected but his somewhat conservative district is not going to swallow a tax increase without objection. Maybe he sells it as essential to break the back of the crime wave?

The council is divided 6 to 3 with Dems in the majority so the D's could pass a hike without any R support. But westside Councilor Cynthia Borrego represents a swing district. A vote to raise taxes as her first major decision would have possible opponents crawling out of the woodwork.

Dem Councilor Klarissa Peña represents a Valley district that is one of the poorest of the nine. Does she want to burden that low-income constituency with a higher tax on everyday expenses?

SE Heights Dem Councilor Pat Davis is running for the ABQ congressional seat. His liberal district might look favorably upon the proposal but if Davis votes yes, what does that say about what he would do in DC when it comes to taxes for working class families?

Dem Councilor Ike Benton suffered a recent loss when he proposed an increase in the gasoline tax to finance road repairs.  He would likely be a "yes" vote for the hike. Councilor Diane Gibson, freshly re-elected, may go for it because of the high crime in her NE district.

So it appears there are three firm votes for the increase: Sanchez, Jones and Benton. Much now is going to depend on how Keller plays his hand from the 11th floor.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Low Energy, Small Ball Session Crawls To Close; "They Came Here Already Checked Out." Plus: '18 Session Sore Loser Award And Sex Assault Charge Rocks Gonzales As He Quits Lt. Gov. Race  

The low energy, small ball legislative session of 2018 crawls to a close today. As one Wall-Leaner put it:

Joe, they came here already checked out, acted that way for the month and then just checked out. There was no energy."

Checked out meaning they were exhausted from the 7 years under Gov. Martinez and just waiting for it to end and get on with whatever comes next.

That it was a small ball session was not a disaster. The lawmakers did do their main job for a short session. They passed with little rancor a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. And while you will read of long lists of "accomplishments" in the press and elsewhere, that was the major significance of the 30 day meet.

Not that Santa Fe went on a spending spree. They didn't have the money to do that. As we have pointed out, the $6.3 billion general fund budget just approved is lower than the budget passed 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation.

Democrats decided to go easy on the minority R's, even to the point of giving some of them in theHouse ammo for their re-election campaigns. But the D's believe this cycle belongs to them so they assume this "checked out session" preserves the gains they see coming in November in the governorship, the statewide offices and in the House.

The 30 days is best compared to this year's annual Senate-House basketball game--unlike past games there were no injuries and no tackles.

A WINNER? MAYBE

If there was a big winner in Santa Fe this year, it came from the outside. BernCo District Attorney Raul Torrez received a big--a really big increase--in his budget after marshaling the media and convincing lawmakers who were afraid of being cast as "soft on crime."

It was well done as not one story appeared in the mainstream media--TV or newspaper-- about how Torrez is handling the money he already has, the office vacancy rate and whether current pay levels are appropriate.

State Senators put off by the Torrez pressure are now laying in wait and come next January will be expecting glowing reports from him about how ABQ crime is rapidly receding because of all that new money. Good luck with that.

And that so-called "bipartisan crime package,"containing as it does measures that have about as much bite as a month old puppy, was, like the DA budget boost, just an optical play by both sides to assure the public that were doing something--anything--about the crime waves that roll through the state.

Gov. Martinez laid low for the most part for her final legislative session. Like everyone else the fight is out of her. With only 10 months left her staff can be expected to start looking for work elsewhere and so can she.

PORK BARREL

This year's capital outlay or "pork" bill is about $180 million for projects across the state.  You can find a list of those projects for your area here. They are mainly financed with bonds drawn from the Severance Tax Permanent Fund which gets its money from oil gas taxes and royalties. And those have been going back up as oil recovers.

That pretty much sums up the major themes, but one final note. . .

GONZALES ALLEGATION

On Wednesday we referenced a "backstory" on Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales when we reported of his withdrawal from the race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Wednesday night that backstory went front and center when charges made against Gonzales at a Santa Fe City Council meeting from two weeks ago surfaced.

KRQE-TV decided to run tape from that meeting of Roger Rael addressing Gonzales at that council meeting and repeatedly demanding he answer his question: "Did you sexually assault a member of your family"? (Full news report here.)

Gonzales interrupted Rael and urged him to move on or he would be removed from the meeting. The TV station asked the NM State Police if they are investigating the charge that Gonzales assaulted a family member some 35 years ago when he was a teenager.
The agency confirmed it was investigating but added what the station called an odd addendum by saying that it is not naming any suspect because no crime has yet been charged.

The shock claim from Rael was rebutted by Gonzales' campaign who characterized him as a "right-wing nut job, an anti-Semite, anti-African American" and urged anyone who believes he has credibility to Google and YouTube Rael's name. Gonzales said in a statement that the charge dates backs to when he was going through a divorce. Gonzales has come out as a gay man but was formerly married and is the father of two daughters.

Gonzales denies that the charge had anything to do with him withdrawing from the Light Guv race. He said he got out because "my heart is no longer in it."

Whatever the reason for the withdrawal this mess would have been sure to sully the atmosphere for the Dems if Gonzales had become the ticket's #2. You can bet after getting an earload of this the Dem candidates for Governor are glad to bid Javier "Adios."

Earlier, ABQ Dem State Senator Michael Padilla withdrew from the Light Guv race because of decade-old sex harassment charges that resulted in the city of ABQ paying a lawsuit settlement.

Republicans have relished the Dem dysfunction from the sidelines and hope that there is more to come in this sex opera. The Dems are praying that the Gonzales mess is the end.

But it isn't the end of the Dem sex woes. The latest from the Dems PR arm at the Roundhouse:

After official allegations of sexual harassment against Dona Ana County Commissioner Vasquez came to light, Democratic Senators Mary Kay Papen (SD38), Bill Soules (SD-37), and Jeff Steinborn (SD-36) and Democratic Representatives Doreen Gallegos (HD-52), Bealquin “Bill” Gomez (HD-34), Bill McCamley (HD-33), Angelica Rubio (HD-35), Nathan Small (HD-36), and Joanne Ferrary (HD-37) released the following statement:

“As elected officials it’s essential that we conduct ourselves professionally and treat all citizens with respect. We are very troubled by reports of Doña Ana County (Democratic) Commissioner John Vasquez engaging in harassment and unwanted sexual behavior. We stand with the women who have come forward and been affected by this behavior, and call on Doña Ana County to immediately investigate and take action."

That one is dragging in Richard Ellenberg, chairman of the NM Democratic Party. And we thought the election was about the economy. Silly us.

SORE LOSER

The sore loser award for the session goes to PNM. Get a load of this from the electric company:

Public Service Co. of New Mexico wants to stir a public backlash against the Santa Fe-based environmental group New Energy Economy for its role in defeating a legislative bill this month that could have accelerated the utility’s replacement of coal-fired generation with renewable energy.

That statement after PNM received a giant federal tax cut that made unnecessary any major rate increase, sparing them more public enmity and also after years of increasing profits courtesy of previous rate hikes.

Hey, PNM, its not a winner take all game anymore. And for not recognizing that, you're the winner of the 2018 Legislative Sore Loser Award. Congrats or something. . .

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Trump's NM Numbers Still In Cellar: A Boost For Dem Hopefuls? Gonzales Is Gone; Ends Bid For Light Guv Nod And BernCo Dem Chairman Praises Socialism 

He's more popular here than Gov. Martinez but not by much and that could boost the Dems chances to pick up some strength this November.

President Trump, according to a Morning Consult poll taken January 20-29, has an approval rating of only 38% among the state's registered voters. The R's knew it was going to be a tough year for them and this survey signals the rough waters ahead as they attempt to hang on to the governorship and prevent erosion in their numbers in the state House.

Gov. Martinez had an approval rating of 33 percent in a Morning Consult poll that was conducted over the last three months of 2017.

Still, R's warn, the Dems could overplay their hand by going anti-Trump all the time, pointing out that there are a bevy of local concerns that they will use to keep the focus away from their White House weakness.

In neighboring Texas the GOP can breathe easier. Trump wins an approval rating of 51 percent in the Lonestar State. To our north, Colorado voters are similar to ours when it comes to Trump. Only 41 percent approve of the president's job performance.

One of the ABQ congressional candidates isn't wasting any time in trying to use Trump's unpopularity to his benefit. ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis, one of six hopefuls for the seat being vacated by Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, came with a TV spot Tuesday that said in part:

. . . He'll be a leader to battle Trump and fix a corrupt political system. With all that's going on we need Pat Davis in Congress.

A consultant for an opposing campaign said Davis only spent about $2,500 on the ad for a one month run and that it will air only on MSNBC. Davis has lagged in fund-raising compared to Deb Haaland, Damon Martinez and Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez.

But Davis is preaching to a small audience right now--the hundreds of delegates who will attend the March pre-primary convention where there will be a vote on the hopefuls. Whoever comes out on top or near it will claim momentum for the June primary.

GONZALES GONE

Is there a back story on why Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales has decided to end his run for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor? He confirmed he was out shortly after Alligators put out the word on the blog yesterday that he could be headed for the exits.

It was odd that he got in the race after saying he was getting out of politics to tend to the needs of his daughters. Then on his way out the door there were some nasty reports about Gonzales that were floated to this blog and to the New Mexican. They did not see publication but still. . .

Then there was Dem gubernatorial front-runner Rep. Lujan Grisham. Did she really want to run with Gonzales thinking he would be highly popular in the North? He would not have been, judging by his polling numbers in his own city.

In any event Gonzales's departure leaves four contenders for the #2 spot: Taos educator Jeff Carr, Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, former House Majority Leader Rick Miera and state Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City. Morales and Miera are seen as the two to watch.

A DEM SOCIALIST

Peifer
Here's some Dem messaging that had us doing a double take. BernCo Dem Party Chairman Bill Peifer recently wrote to party members:

Dear Democrat, Most Republicans believe that "socialism" is a terrible thing. They incorrectly equate it to communism, which they again incorrectly equate to despotic dictatorship. Most of them can't even comprehend situations where socialism works better than greed-based capitalism, even when they are themselves being helped by socialistic entities. . . In fact, sometimes they can't even see socialism working better than capitalism when it IS right in front of them.

. . . W can see dozens of areas where competitive capitalism just doesn't work. Socialism isn't a pervasive evil that needs to be eradicated. In general, it can be argued that the things for which all of society has an overwhelming need are best left to a socialized system. Fire protection, law enforcement, education, culture and basic old-age pension fall into that category. Quality healthcare is certainly another overwhelming need of society in general. Every other civilized country in the world has recognized that fact, and have socialized their entire healthcare systems. It's time for America to move into the 21st century and do the same.

Peifer has been one of the more active BernCo Party Chairs in recent years and has reinvigorated the base with fighting words like those. Of course, the R's could soon use those same words against him (and Dem candidates) to ignite their own base.

ROUNDHOUSE WIND DOWN

"Dr. No" is at again.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith says he will not give a hearing to the proposed constitutional amendment to use a portion of the state's $17 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood education. That's par for the course for the Deming lawmaker who has killed the measure in the past, despite its approval by the state House.

The amendment continues to pick up public and media support and will be back in the '19 session when supporters say if a Democratic governor is elected that could help win Senate approval and send it to the voters in 2020. . .

THE BOTTOM LINES

Ray Moran
Media and business old timers in ABQ and NM will remember the name Ray Moran, the pioneer broadcaster who in the 70's and 80's served as General Manager of radio stations KRST and KRZY in Albuquerque, growing them to industry prominence. He founded KTEZ radio in Lubbock in 1972. In 1981, Moran's Ramar Communications launched channel 34 in Lubbock, RX as an independent TV station.

We worked for Ray at ABQ's KRZY-AM and KRST-FM as a news director in the late 70's. He always gave us the freedom to report the news free of any commercial restraints or pressure. He believed in talent and we grew and prospered because of it.

Moran, 82, a past president of the NM Broadcasters Association, died February 11 in Lubbock. Ramar Communications currently has 16 TV and radio stations in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

Well done, Ray, and thanks. Those were the good times. RIP. . .

Political consultant Chris Brown is already earning lashes with the wet noodle. He made an error in predicting the Santa Fe City Council District 4 race on the Tuesday. His actual prediction is that JoAnne Vigil-Coppler will take the race, not the candidate he first mentioned here.

If his predictions don't pan out at the March election a more stern punishment of no green chile for a month will be handed down.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Martinez Kisses Trump Ring At WH Meet, Keller Hits DC For ART Money, John Sanchez In Line For Something Big? And Santa Fe Mayor Predictions  

DC sources close to the congressional delegation report that ABQ Mayor Keller was in Washington in late January making the rounds for $75 million in ART funding. They say he focused on the staffs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees where any bill that includes the delayed ART funding would be written.

His chances of getting the stalled cash for the so fair failed transit project appear to have improved. There are big dollar increases in the recently approved two year Federal budget so money for the ART project on Central Avenue might have have a better chance of getting here.

Keeping it on Capitol Hill. . .

When the star of US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi shines bright so does that of her NM protege, Dem Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. Right now the Pelosi star is looking a bit faded:

David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said that in an era when voters are disaffected with Washington, it is difficult for Democrats to make the case that they are change agents with Ms. Pelosi at the helm.

Ben Ray is chairman of the DCCC, charged with the campaign strategy to take back the House for the Republicans in 2018. He and Pelosi we're also in charge of that task in '16 and took heat for making only a tiny gain, but they survived. This could be the pair's last try. If they can't bring it home this year when the President's approval rating is so low, this could be their last hurrah as key national players.

We've reluctantly come to this same conclusion but see zilch in the way of momentum for a constitutional amendment that would be needed to make the switch:

. . . Upgrade the quality of legislators by paying them a base salary. A fair amount would be $50,000 a year. . . Having a reasonable base salary would allow people of every demographic group to run. By expanding the pool of candidates and, more important, the pool of talent, New Mexico might get better lawmakers. . . Some will say New Mexico cannot afford to add 112 legislators to the payroll. . . Good legislators are essential for state government to be what it often is not--efficient, open and competent. There are plenty of places to cut fat, starting with the job of lieutenant governor. That position pays $85,000 a year and the office drains another $447,000 annually.

Speaking of the lieutenant governor, the current one is John Sanchez whose political career has become roadkill under unpopular Gov. Susan Martinez. But all may not be lost. The rumor mill--and we stress it is the rumor mill--has Sanchez under consideration for a possible appointment as a US ambassador to somewhere. Well, considering what has happened to him here, John would probably welcome relocating to an exotic locale.

Is Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales dropping out of the race for the Dem nomination for lieutenant governor? Alligators raised the question and we asked Gonzales and his consultant for comment but got none. Phone home when you're ready, Javier. . .

UPDATE: Gonzales ended his candidacy Tuesday afternoon, saying when he got in he feared there were no progressive candidates in the contest:

. . . The progressive voice across the state is strong, and that many qualified candidates are bringing their passion and perspective to the Lt. Governor race. Unfortunately my heart is not in this race, so with a clear conscience, I have decided to end my campaign


Gov. Martinez was at the White House along with other Governors and politicos for a meeting with President Trump Monday on his infrastructure plan, She clapped approvingly and smiled cheerily at the man she refused to endorse for the presidency and which surely got her into his dog house. But now with limited time left on in her governorship maybe she's looking to get out of it and dropped off her resume during her visit. Can she at least join Sanchez on that rumor list of possible ambassadorial appointees? Knowing Trump he'd send her to Siberia if he could.

FILING ACTION (CONT.)

More Alligator musings on this week's candidate filings for statewide offices. This one deals with the Court of Appeals in which five seats are on the ballot:

Joe, it's interesting that it's 4 Republican men versus 5 Democratic women in the Court of Appeals races. And if my sources are correct, all the woman are graduates of the  Emerge program  designed to get Democratic woman elected to office. This would put 8 women on the ten member bench. Bad optics for the Republicans IMHO.

There are currently three women judges on the court and with the state leaning blue in the statewide races, we could easily get to 8. Dem Judge Jennifer Attrep is one of them and a sure thing. She was appointed to fill a vacancy but drew no GOP opposition.

SANTA FE MAYOR

Now that he's the clear front-runner in the Santa Fe march mayoral election, it's time Alan Webber to take the hits. Here's reader Savannah Baca taking a swing:

Webber is with the sugar tax bunch that were defeated soundly! The New Mexican endorsement can also be the kiss of death! Ron Trujillo has a strong and aggressive grass roots campaign so don't count him out.

Trujillo is a Santa Fe City Councilor and seen as one of the leading challengers to Webber in the five way race.

Longtime NM political consultant and media buyer Chris Brown, also a longtime resident of Santa Fe, starts the countdown fun to the March 6 mayoral election with the first round of predictions. Here they are:

Mayor Alan Webber. Broadest support, best ideas. Most money, but he started slowly. I don’t think his money or newspaper endorsement(s) will be decisive. He does have by far the most membership organizations endorsing him, so that has to be a plus.

Mayoral surprise: Ron Trujillo will get more eastside votes than one or both of our councilors, Maestas and Ives.

Mayoral top three in ranked order, as we say: Webber, Trujillo, Noble, in that order, all with strong showings. Then a big gap to Ives and Maestas


District 1--Incumbent Signe Lindell; 2--Carol Romero-Wirth; 3--Roman "Tiger" Abeyta (unopposed);4:Joanne Vigil Coppler.

In District 2 the edge goes to Romero-Wirth because of the Sierra Club endorsement which goes a long way in that area.

If Chris is wrong there will be punishment--at least 25 lashes with a wet noodle made fresh from one of this fancy Italian restaurants up there.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Monday, February 12, 2018

Trouble At The Journal And What Its Troubles Stem From, Plus: How Low can She Go? Susana Polling Slump Bad But Not Worst, And Webber Mo; Can He Keep It as Santa Fe Election Nears?  

The good news for the ABQ Journal is that the cartoon that caused such an uproar, well, caused such an uproar. It spoke to the relevancy (if still waning) of the only paper in town. The bad news? The cartoon again revealed the identity crisis the Journal now struggles with. Here are the key points:

--The state's population is now over 60 percent majority-minority, with Hispanics making up nearly 50 percent of that total. In BernCo 65 percent of the population fits the majority-minority definition. If the media can't stay in touch with that dramatic demographic change, it's in trouble

--The Journal has an aging, Anglo leadership which represents the demographic that is shrinking here. The publisher, the senior editor and the editor are all well into their 60's. All joined the paper when the city was a drastically different place economically and socially.

--That's not "ageist." It's just a matter of fact that keeping up with and truly understanding marked cultural change is more difficult when your point of reference is a world and decades away.

--The trouble the Journal is having adjusting was laid bare in the October mayoral election when for the first time they endorsed two candidates as they tried to navigate the new electorate that apparently so baffles them.

--The paper needs to attract more younger minority journalists who are tapped into the city's new zeitgeist and who can bring the paper more fully into the community.

All of that is a tall order for the 125 year old Journal which was founded by and for the town's new Anglo business interests who began to build the city in 1880 when the railroad arrived.

The Journal has adhered to those roots, catering to the local business community and quite often to the Republican Party. But corporate America has driven prominent local businesses from the picture and we now have the aforementioned demographic shift to a majority minority population. On top of that, the Republicans have been sent into hibernation in Bernalillo County, possibly for many years.

In other words the constituency the Journal is so accustomed to serving has shrunk and continues to shrink while the new constituency and its agenda is being ignored and waits restlessly for its majority voice to be recognized.

Whether the paper is even profitable at this point or being carried by the Lang family's real estate interests is unknown, but just about all newspapers today face financial challenges. The current publisher--William P. Lang--is known for his business acumen, but according to one source who spoke with him directly, he does not have a deep interest in day to day news operations.

Rather than fight for survival amid even more sea changes that are coming to the state's population and economy, this would seem a good time for the Journal's publishing family of nearly 90 years to sell the operation. But are there any buyers? Papers in DC, LA and Las Vegas have all gone to billionaires who are willing to assume some risk in exchange for the power of the publisher. But there are no billionaires here.

The often brilliant and now retired public relations executive Lanny Tonning once said: "The ABQ Journal: The only newspaper that resents the town it covers."

That may or may not be true but unless there is a reshaped agenda and leadership at the state's largest paper what it says in the future--no matter how controversial--may be greeted by the silence that accompanies irrelevancy rather than citizen demonstrations and condemnations from politicians.

HOW LOW?

Gov. Anaya 
How low can she go? Gov. Martinez's approval rating has plunged to 33 percent in the latest Morning Consult survey. That ties the low registered by Dem Gov. Richardson in his last year in office in 2010.

Martinez would appear to have hit bottom but if she hasn't she could still drop a long way before she became the state's most unpopular governor in polling history.

When Democratic Governor Toney Anaya ('83-87) was about to leave office in November 1986, an ABQ Journal survey had his "favorability" rating at an astounding low of 12.2 percent.

Toney's authoritarian instincts put off the electorate and his four year term was chaotic. But 12 percent? We dare say that's a record like DiMaggio's hitting streak--a record that will never be broken.

The irony for Martinez, of course, is that she rode Big Bill's unpopularity into the Fourth Floor in the 2010 election. Now the Dems appear about to do the same with her own unpopularity.

In practical terms Martinez's bad polls makes vetoing bills a more difficult prospect as even Republicans might be prone to override her. And her power to put public pressure on the Legislature is weakened.

And pity Steve Pearce, the GOP Guv nominee-to-be. He not only has Susana's baggage to carry but the Donald's as well. That's what you call a heavy load.

MO AND MONEY

With the Santa Fe mayoral election now less than a month away, he's got the mo and the money, but the often topsy-turvy politics of the City Different have been known to turn quickly so entrepreneur Alan Webber may find himself tested in the final weeks.

Besides raising more money than his opponents, Webber, who became know politically when he unsuccessfully sought the 2014 Dem Guv nomination,  also picked up the endorsement of outgoing Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. That might be a mixed blessing in a two way race. The Gonzales tenure has proved divisive and not all that popular, according to the polls. But the endorsement math works for Webber in this five way contest.

Webber has also won the endorsement of the New Mexican.

The mayoral campaign has been less aggressive than those of the past. The new system of ranked voting in which candidates need to appeal to voters not only to be their first choice but also their second--has calmed the animal spirits that usually take hold at this point.

Webber has worked the beat hard and assumed the front-runner position, making the question of the campaign not "Why Webber?" but "Why Not Webber?" Will any of his foes take up that question?

THE BOTTOM LINES

At the Roundhouse, it appears BernCo DA Raul Torrez will walk away with a big budget boost, if not all that he wanted. The Dem DA can thank GOP Gov. Martinez and the unrelenting crime wave that has caused near desperation as citizens look for solutions. . .

Some are saying that Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith has now given Torrez "enough rope to hang himself" if the money doesn't make much of a difference. And it may not.

By the way, not a bad play for lame duck Martinez in how she got Senate Finance to give in on overall crime funding.  No one likes being "soft on crime.". . .

The state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is coming in at around $6.3 billion. Despite having about $300 million more to appropriate, mainly because of rising oil prices, that budget is less than a 5 percent increase from the general fund budget of 10 years ago. How about that?. . .

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018

Thursday, February 08, 2018

BernCo DA Torrez Gets Major Pushback On 30% Budget Hike Plan, Alligators Pile On With Powerful Info As Senate Handles This Hot Potato, And: ABQ Congressional Race Heats Up Over Money Reports  

DA Torrez
The heat is on in the Senate Finance Committee to cave on a major funding increase for the office of Bernalillo County Democratic District Attorney Raul Torrez.

For example the conservative media--e.g. KOAT -TV 7--has started some kind of war to get the money. The general manager is urging viewers to jam the phone lines of committee members to get them to support a whopping 30 per cent budget increase for Torrez--$5.4 million--that is being supported by GOP Gov. Martinez.

Torrez maintains he cannot fully prosecute criminals without the extra funds and says in addition to felons walking, the office has a low DWI conviction rate because of a lack of resources.

But as Senate Finance prepares to meet on his request this traffic case apparently involving a former NM Cabinet Secretary under Gov. Martinez is making the rounds, raising questions at the Roundhouse about how Torrez handled it (were the charges the result of a plea down from a more severe offense?) and how it could impact his money request.

What gets your attention with this case is that the ABQ attorney for the former government official shares office space (201 12th St.) with attorney Paul Kennedy, the legal Mr. Fix-it for Gov. Martinez who has had hundreds of thousands in contracts with the state (maybe more but the state won't release the contract totals to the media).

Kennedy once defended Martinez in court by calling journalism "a racket." Maybe the news department at KOAT might want to look into this? They wouldn't want to be part of a racket, would they?

As for the media, go ahead and advocate, play favorites and show your true agenda. We won't mind. Just stop trying to bullshit the public that that this is any kind of objective "journalism." Because it isn't.

TEARING ON TORREZ

That's not Raul's only problem as he tries to pressure rural lawmakers for more money. Critics are coming out of the closet, like Pete Dinelli, a Dem who served as the Chief Deputy District Attorney for BernCo in the 90's:

Torrez wants funding for an additional 34 attorneys without explaining why he cannot fill the 18 attorney vacancies he has. Torrez has given no explanation how he is going to recruit so many more prosecutors to work for him while competing with other District Attorney offices in the state. What is known for sure is that Torrez is hiring retired Assistant District Attorneys and retired former Assistant United States Attorneys, some on contract, and paying them anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000 a year which is significantly more than entry level positions that pay between $45,000 to $50,000 a year.

In his first year in office Raul has railed against the judges and now he and his political consultants have employed the media to ride herd on the Legislature and shift the blame for the crime wave to them. But where is the coverage of the concern of how he is handling the budget he already has? We suppose the Senate Finance Committee will have to provide that.

ALLIGATOR PILE ON

The Alligators are everywhere on this one. Yet another Torrez takedown as the DA and his consultants attempt to redefine the criminal justice system to his liking but finding it's a tough sell to those in the know. Heads up Senate Finance. Here's the real deal:

It is short sighted to believe that the funding of the DA will actually solve anything. The DA wants 34 more attorneys to prosecute an additional 2,000 felony cases. The next step, the legislature would have to increase funding for public defenders who represent 85% of those cases. Then the legislature would have to fund the courts to pay for additional judges and jurors needed to handle all these cases.

And most costly, there will be additional funding to the Dept. of Corrections. For example, if the DA got a 1 year prison sentence on 10% of those 2,000 cases then that would be an additional 200 people in prison at 36k per year for a total of $7.2 million. Probation costs DOC $2,700 per year, so if the DA secures 1,000 additional people on probation then that would add up to $2.7m.

Senate Finance is staring at a $20 million hole if they go the DA's way and they know it.

Assuming the legislature is going to spend $20m to address the crime problem in Albuquerque, the question becomes 'what is the best use of that money? Torrez subscribes to locking people up in a cage as a way of addressing the problem. Many nationwide trends and majority of think tank institutes believe there are better ways. Education and prevention lead the way. Once a person is identified as having a mental illness or substance abuse addiction, it is far more effective and less costly to address and treat the underlying issue. 

First the DA chose to blame the district judges for his bad results. Then the DA blamed the defense attorneys for his bad results. Then the DA blamed the New Mexico Supreme Court's rules for his bad results. Now, the DA admits that his office fails to open cases, loses cases and is ineffective in its prosecutions. Would we allow a coach of a losing team to blame the referees for the loss, then blame the other team for cheating, then declare that the rules of the game must be changed. And would we then support that coach to get a pay raise and be promoted to athletic director?

Oh, my, Raul, you've let the Gators out of of their cages and there's not a darn thing KOAT's Mary Lynn Roper, KRQE's Larry Barker or the editorial writers at the Journal can do for you. That $5.4 million increase is not happening. Something less, yes, But all is not lost. You can then add Senate Finance to the list of those to blame for the crime wave that you were elected to help resolve.

A WILD ONE

That six way battle for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat is getting really heated. One of the Gators came with a round of analysis of the recent fundraising reports that had Damon Martinez, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Deb Haaland in the top tier and he took a bite out of Haaland for having spent so much of what she has raised. Another Gator has an angle more friendly to her:

Hey Joe, The analysis by one of the Alligators of the CD1 money race was a little bit misleading. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez raised $506,000 total so far but gave herself a $50K loan, her actual fundraising is at $456,000. Therefore she has $347,000 with the loan cash-on-hand but without the loan it is $297,000 cash. Sedillo Lopez has spent about 158K, most of it on her staff but some on media consulting. 

Damon Martinez has raised $370,000 total but gave himself $60K in loans, meaning his actual fundraising is closer to $310K. He has $322,000 on hand with his loan, $262,000 without the loan. Damon did spend very little of the money he raised--47K. This is not necessarily a good thing, there are very little payments for staff, and Damon does not have a lot of name recognition not to mention he entered the race late. 

Deb Haaland has raised $386,000 and has given herself no loans. She has 195K on hand which seems low, but why? Her expenses were $190K so far. This may seem like a lot and it is, but for good reason. Deb has already solidified her staff and media consultants, the other candidates have not.

DAYS OF DAVIS

And what about ABQ City Councilor and congressional candidate Pat Davis not making the top tier in Alligator land in this race? Davis has been a punching bag for just about everyone with a beef with the city. Here's Davis supporter Noah Seligman with some equal time:

I definitely consider Pat Davis a top tier contender. No other candidate can match his progressive credentials given his strong record in City Hall and with ProgressNow. He also is quietly building a top level field operation. His opponents will have to spend some of their money on expensive ads to introduce themselves to the small primary electorate. Meanwhile, Pat can invest more in field and targeted GOTV. I don't believe fundraising prowess or burn rate will be determinative. There's definitely lots of great energy for Democrats this year, but that doesn't mean turnout will equal general election levels. So that benefits the candidate with the strongest field operation and that's clearly Pat Davis.

Okay, Noah, and let's keep on our radar Damian Lara and Paul Moya, the two remaining candidates. This one is getting wild. Just the way we like it.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2018
website design by limwebdesign