Wednesday, September 28, 2016

FBI Says ABQ And NM Face Some Of The Highest Crime Rates In America; What Do The Powers-That-Be Say About That? Plus: Oil Bear Ready To Strike State Coffers Some More, And: Colón Kicks Off Mayoral Bid  

Chief Eden and Mayor Berry
With the drugs and the poverty comes the crime. And how. From the FBI:

Both violent crime and property crime in Albuquerque increased (in 2015) by 9.2 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively. The violent crime rate – which was 966 per 100,000 residents – was higher than rates in cities with comparable populations, including Tucson, Louisville, Ky., Las Vegas, Nev., and Oklahoma City. The property crime rate was also higher than that of Las Vegas, Oklahoma City and Louisville. . . Meanwhile,  overall property crimes in New Mexico rose 4.4 percent last year while those crimes decreased nationwide.

And then there's the latest crime fad here:

The estimated number of motor vehicle thefts in New Mexico was 8,526, or a 35.5 percent surge from the 2014 estimate. That spike was well above the percentage increase nationally. The FBI says the estimated number of motor vehicle thefts in the nation was 707,758, or a 3.1 percent increase.

And not to be forgotten, the murder rate in the state is way up as well, much more than the national average.

The number of homicides. . . jumped by nearly 16 percent in 2015 from the year before, well above the percentage increase seen nationwide, according to the FBI. The estimated number of homicides in New Mexico last year was 117, a 15.8 percent increase from 2014. The estimated number of homicides nationwide in 2015 was 15,696, a 10.8 percent jump from the year before, the FBI said.

Well, maybe we just cut taxes some more and all those businesses rejecting locating here because of the out-of-control crime and drugs will look the other way? Not.

This being the election season, the Governor is blaming the state senate Democrats for not passing more tough on crime legislation. Republican Mayor Berry, in a rare comment on anything controversial, says he's conducting a study to find out why crime is spiking here:

Come on, Mayor. Again, it's drugs, poverty, lousy wages and few jobs. We don't need no stinkin' study. But we do need a fully staffed and reformed APD ready to protect us, more emphasis on drug prevention and treatment and more jobs.

APD Chief Eden, like Gov. Martinez, continues to shift the blame. He says:

There is this thought that we cannot overcome, with the judiciary branch in the state, that these career criminals are not dangerous to our community,"

Again with that, Chief? Then crack down on the career criminals. Let them know they are being watched and you aren't going to tolerate their behavior (within Justice Dept. guidelines) instead of throwing your hands up in the air as our community suffers. Of course, you need a fully staffed department to do that.

When are the alleged business leaders in this community--at the ABQ Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum, NAIOP and the publisher of the ABQ Journal--to name a few--going to hold the administrations in Santa Fe and ABQ to account for what's happening here? When does the brown nosing for government contracts stop and the problem solving begin? Can you imagine if this were Marty Chavez with this crime rate? They'd hang him in effigy from the tallest tree in Old Town.

From the outside looking in New Mexico looks increasingly like a place that is either not being governed or is ungovernable. As the saying goes, we have been left to our own devices.


ABQ attorney and former NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colón kicked off his '17 ABQ mayoral campaign last night at the South Broadway Cultural Center. Dozens gathered there to enlist in Colon's volunteer group.

Colón is a well-connected, affable personality who ran flat when he was the Dem nominee for Lt. Governor under Diane Denish in 2010. He has been cultivating support for mayor for months now and is expected to be a major candidate.

Colón's social media postings the past year have been upbeat about the city. Like the other candidates and potential candidates, he has yet to make a case for himself on the key issues facing the city. But there's time. The election is over a year away.


Another arrow is pointing the wrong way. As our energy Alligators predicted, the amount of oil being being pulled from the ground around here is starting a slow motion crash.  It's not unexpected as the price per barrel remains in the cellar. But low production combined with the low prices could mean an even bigger state budget deficit this year.


The Santa Fe New Mexican is kicking the ABQ Journal's butt. There's really no other way of putting it after the New Mexican--for the fourth time in five years--has been awarded the General Excellence award for large state newspapers by the NM Press Association.

The ink-stained wretches at the capitol city paper are constantly denounced by the Governor's political machine as being a bunch of liberal liars. But as Shakespeare wrote eventually the "truth will out." That's good news for the prize winning New Mexican and not so good news for the bacchanalian bunch in Santa Fe throwing bottles from balconies and desperately trying to spin facts into farce. 

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Trump Takes A Dunk But Anger Of '16 Keeps Him Ticking, Plus: More Ivory Tower Action At UNM: VP Harris Storms Out Of TV Interview Over Big Restaurant Tabs 

"It's the economy, stupid" was the 1992 campaign theme. This year? "It's the anger, stupid!" How else to explain the staying power of Donald Trump who does that Timex watch thing and just keeps on ticking, even after being water boarded by his own hand as often occurred at last night's 98 minute mutual character assassination bout, otherwise known as the first 2016 presidential debate.

Hillary let Trump bury himself, but did he? Probably not. His seemingly authentic anger is echoing across the swing states of America where the raw deal long ago replaced the new deal and where the middle class martini has been replaced by the heroin needle.

People want heir voices validated. They want to be heard. And that's why Hillary Clinton has been unable to completely put this game away. She hears them but he feels them. The debate will go on, despite Trump losing by every conceivable conventional measure last night. These are indeed unconventional times.

We turn to Republican turned Democrat and former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne for the essence of the showdown:

Clinton prepped for the debate. Trump didn’t. It showed. The question is, what does it mean for the polls? Clinton probably stopped the political momentum Trump has enjoyed since her fainting episode on 9/11. But Barack Obama had a bad first debate against Mitt Romney in 2012 and bounced back. Can Trump do the same? With all the twists and turns this race has had so far, neither campaign should operate under the delusion that the debate finished the race for either candidate.

As for New Mexico, it is colored blue by nearly all the pundits. The Journal will come with a post debate presidential poll this Sunday.


There's plenty happening at the University of New Mexico that would give Donald Trump much to rail about. The tone deafness at the Harvard on the Rio Grande seems to have no limits. The latest. . .

You may have thought the arrogance and self-entitlement among the top echelon at the University of New Mexico peaked last week with the creation of a $350,000 job for outgoing UNM President Bob Frank, but you would be wrong. Despite facing millions in budget cuts, UNM's leadership continues to flip the bird at the taxpaying public.

Take a look. . .

David Harris, the  $307,000 a year UNM executive vice-president, walks out of a TV news interview when he is questioned about a $1,300 donor dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada that included Harris and Gov. Martinez. It was hosted by UNM athletic director Paul Krebs and Harris signed off on it. Harris haughtily declared questions about that taxpayer funded Vegas soirée as "out of bounds" and stormed out of the interview. All of this is shown on TV news with the elderly Harris appearing oblivious to the damage he was doing.

In his interview, granted only after Harris blew up, Krebs, who makes $319,000 a year, is almost equally as arrogant as Harris in defending his bloated expense account for donor dinners. UNM spends more on them than all but one other school in the Mountain West Conference. Never mind that his department is running a deficit of $1.7 million. Just pass the prime rib, please.

The stonewalling of Harris and Krebs really cues up the ball for the legislature to slash and burn the UNM budget. The complete disconnect between what is happening to this state's economy and citizens and the attitudes of Harris and Krebs is stunning. But add it to the pile. The phony Frank job, the electric company wanting a 14 percent rate increase and the mayor of ABQ handing out double digit salary increases to his inner circle are just a few examples of why Donald Trump's bashing of the political elites resonates so loudly.

It's supposed to be public service but for Krebs and Harris et al. it has become a giant feed bag.

A reader piles on:

Joe, You called it correctly. Harris has become one of the most powerful persons in state government. His service(s) in Santa Fe to previous administrations and for the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC),  combined with his sinecure at UNM, has cemented his position as untouchable. Who else will the UNM Regents turn to for advice at this point but David? And who do the politicians turn to for advice on where the bodies are buried? Obviously, I'm concerned.

And ABQ Dem State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino wrote this to a constituent about the new Frank job:

Unfortunately, this is but the most recent example of the disdain with which the UNM Regents, Administration and I have to say, Governor Martinez, treat the taxpayers of this state. These are not supposed to be lifetime sinecures. But the Martinez-appointed Regents, who would not take such a step without the Governor's blessing, act in total disregard for the fiscal realities facing UNM--and the entire state. Brutal! 


The news:

ABQ Mayor Richard Berry spoke at the Domenici Public Policy Conference in Las Cruces about restoring public trust in law enforcement, and the efforts his city has taken in that direction.

Hmm. Isn't that kind of like  Dianna Duran and Phil Griego giving a joint speech on ethics?

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Trump Not Done With NM; Will Go On Airwaves Here Even As Odds Favor Clinton, Plus: UNM Outrage; Frank Out As President But New $350,000 Gig Created For Him Amid State Budget Crisis, And: APD And NCIC Spells Trouble  

Donald Trump isn't finished with New Mexico. Not quite. As his campaign prepares for the big debate tonight they are also keeping an eye on our corner of the world and will give us a wink with a TV ad buy:

Trump's new ad buy will include 13 states, from key battlegrounds such as Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, to new targets of Maine, New Mexico and Wisconsin, Miller said. About $40 million of the ads will play on national TV, 

Trump remains a long shot to carry the state, with FiveThirtyEight's latest odds giving Clinton a 73.3% chance of taking the victory. But even if Trump doesn't get a jump on her here, any over the air NM ads will also be seen in southern Colorado which is part of the ABQ TV market. That matters because:

If Trump were to win all the states where he currently holds any lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, he would still need to secure one more state to win a majority of Electoral College votes. Clinton now holds significant 5- to 6-point leads in the polling averages for New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. It's entirely possible that Colorado could end up putting one candidate or the other over the top in November.

The Trump jump into NM got the state Dems attention:

Donald Trump knows that his dangerous and divisive campaign is not resonating with New Mexicans, His desperate attempt to change that is not going to work.

Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, continues to poll well into the double digits here. That's expected to shrink but his presence is juggling the numbers and perhaps encouraging the Trump TV buy in  hopes of an October surprise.  No word yet on the size of the Trump ad buy.

Only one of our many analysts has predicted a Trump victory in the state. Veteran radio talk show host and independent politico Mike Santullo says "conventional rules don't apply this cycle and I believe there is a hidden vote for Trump that will give him the state."

Another independent analyst, former ABQ City Councilor and attorney Greg Payne, says Clinton's polling performance here has been "anemic" but in the end he expects her to carry the state in a "relatively close race."


Bob Frank
Trump was never supposed to get this far but the latest news from the University of New Mexico provides more evidence on why this deeply flawed anti-politician continues to appeal to so many who see the political and business elites out of touch with them and their daily lives.

In a move that is giving UNM critics a field day and prompting shouts of outrage on social media, UNM President Bob Frank announces he will step down from his $362,000 position next year. That's a bit surprising, but then the shocker. Instead of following custom and taking a regular faculty position in the area of his expertise (psychology) after completing his presidency, a brand new position is being created for Frank at the UNM Health Sciences Center (HSC) at a salary of...you guessed it...$350,000.

The move is all the more startling coming as it does against the backdrop of an historic state budget deficit that is going to see the UNM budget cut by millions in the year ahead. It has already prompted Frank to slap on a hiring freeze at UNM. Former ABQ Journal politics editor John Robertson comes out of retirement to take this one on:

. . . The Frank exit deal, with. . . a Health Sciences Center sinecure, was a way to avoid a fight over a second-term contract for the presidency. I am still left to wonder if the Regents or the governor want a new president and mystified by the decision to create a new $350,000 position in the midst of a budget crisis, on which Frank briefed school employees just the day before his exit announcement. If the Regents or the governor are behind it, New Mexico is not served well by constant turnover in top leadership positions, in academia or elsewhere. . . Why treat New Mexicans like a bunch of unruly kids and keep us on a diet of smoke and mirrors? Maybe my questions should be most immediately addressed to the chairman of the board of regents: You owe us more, too.

Frank recently joined with the UNM Regents to engineer a power grab that has UNM Health Sciences losing its independent governance and coming under the control of the Regents and the UNM president. Now Frank is going to go over there and be under the  supervision of Health Sciences boss Paul Roth, the man whose power he diminished. Mama Mia! Senator Alligator analysis is essential:

Joe, it was widely known that Frank's contract was not going to be renewed by the Regents. He is very disliked at HSC but he struck a deal with the Regents to get this new job created in exchange for leaving the presidency without incident. The former president always gets to teach in his field at a salary comparable to the highest in the department . However, it is my understanding the highest paid professor at UNM psychology makes about $150,000 so they create this new position and Frank gets $350,000. And its written so they do not have to consider any present employees for the position. 

The last couple of Regents appointed by Gov. Martinez-- Rob Doughty and Marron Lee-- are political puppets of Susana's and appear totally out of touch with UNM. A national search for a new president will cost at a minimum of $250k-$500k to a University that is hurting financially.

Interestingly this gives UNM Athletic Department Director Paul Krebs a free ride until a new President is chosen, even when Wisepies Pizza defaults in three months, as expected, on its $600,000 payment for naming rights for the UNM Pit.

Higher education watchers have been concerned that the Legislature will especially target the universities and colleges as it looks for a path out of the budget crisis. UNM is giving them more reasons for doing just that. And don't even ask about the role of Gov. Martinez and political svengali and longtime UNM executive Vice-President David Harris in this mess. Their fingerprints are everywhere.

While UNM may spit in the eye of the taxpayers with the Frank deal, they could get the middle finger in a Trump like gesture from lawmakers and a community fed up with the never ending cycle of self serving campus politics.

Meanwhile, expect his idea to pick up steam in the months ahead:

Karen Gardner, who works in UNM’s College of Arts and Sciences, said that after reviewing the number of salaried employees on the UNM campus who are paid more than $100,000 a year--and some even more than $200,000--she deduced that cutting those salaries by 5 percent could save some $8.3 million in one year. 


This is always a temptation for wayward political machines and law enforcement insiders hoping to smear their foes, and now someone in authority is speaking out:

The executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency has raised questions about how thoroughly Albuquerque police investigate officers who possibly misuse a federal law-enforcement database. Edward Harness, the director, said at a recent public meeting that he reviewed a case in which an officer accused of misusing the database in a civilian complaint was cleared of wrongdoing. The case marked the third time that Albuquerque police’s use of the National Crime Information Center database has been the subject of a complaint against an officer.

And a reader adds:

The NCIC data base contains confidential information not available to the general public. The unauthorized use or personal use of the data base by a police officer is a federal felony. According to the article, the APD Internal Affairs on more than one occasion has cleared police officers of improperly using the data base for personal use and “there is a pattern of it being taken lightly by APD.” This is further evidence that APD cannot and will not police itself. Internal Affairs needs to be removed from APD and the functions assumed by the City’s Inspector General in conjunction with the City’s Internal Audit Department, both which have subpoena powers and investigators.

And what will the mayoral candidates have to say about all that--and their plans for APD if they are elected next year? Stay tuned. . .

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Foe Of Senate Leader Sanchez Gears Up And Burrowing Into The Budget Crisis 

click to enlarge
Here he is. Belen attorney Greg Baca, hoping to take on the role of giant killer this year and defeat Gov. Martinez's archival, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.

This piece touting Baca's military service is part of putting a positive halo on the GOP challenger before waves of anti-Sanchez attack ads pour into the district financed, like this piece, by the AdvanceNM Now PAC, an arm of the Guv's political machine.

But the machine may need an oil job because once again as the action heats up it starts to leak. This AdvanceNM strike on an ABQ state senator is an example:

In what might be the election season’s most convoluted attack ad, a conservative political action committee (Advance Now) is using a liberal group’s criticism of the Republican governor to condemn a Democratic state senator. The ad’s target, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, describes it as “the governor’s PAC criticizing me for agreeing with the governor.” The flier’s central claim — that Democrats are attacking Ivey-Soto for his support of a law on public access to streams — is simply false.

Come on, Jay. You can do better.

Back on Senate Leader Sanchez, what if the long shot upset were to occur and he was defeated but the Dems, as expected, hung on to control of the Senate? Who would be the new majority leader? The consensus pick is Santa Fe Sen. Peter Wirth who sports more liberal stripes than Sanchez.

As for the week's big political development, the Guv's announcement that she will ask the special budget session of the legislature to veer off course and consider reinstatement of the death penalty for child and cop killers, a Santa Fe Dem state rep comes with the argument that might resonate with voters some:

Matthew McQueen (@mcqueenfornm9/21/16, 1:32 PM
Why doesn't the Governor wait just 4 months so the death penalty can be carefully considered during the 60-day session?. . . 


Cutting through all the noise and some distorted polling, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight pegs the chances of Hillary Clinton carrying New Mexico over Trump at 79% to his 19.5%. And that's why the presidential campaign in NM can't be spotted by even the most powerful radar out at Kirtland.


Bruce Krasnow
This next one has been bugging us as well as a number of our bean counter readers. Why are we getting different numbers on the state budget deficit from our leading news organizations?

ICYMI, the ABQ Journal reports the leftover deficit for the budget year that ended June 30 is $131 million but the AP and the New Mexican put it at $220 million, For the current budget year the Journal says the deficit estimate is $458 million. The New Mexican says it "might be" $430 million.

No one has covered the budget crisis in more detail than the New Mexican's Bruce Krasnow so to try to clear this up we tapped into his well of knowledge.

Joe, The recent revenue estimate lays out the numbers--the August 2016 adjustments--say a $223 million for 2016 and $431 million for 2017, but the situation is not that defined. 

First off, the 2017 number on Aug. 24 was an estimate based on no incoming data for even one month into the fiscal year. That hard data didn't come until last week when the state sent gross receipts tax disbursements to cities and counties for July. So to report a precise number on what is essentially an estimate is probably not helping readers. . . 

Given the volatility of revenue the last two years, we know the estimates will change. In fact, the $431 million number already has changed, but economists haven't yet determined what that change is. Budgets in current spending years are always moving targets, so to report approximately $430 million or some $400 million or at least $400 million in stories is probably more accurate. . .

The 2016 deficit number should be more precise. The year is over and the money is already spent. What's so hard about counting dollars already out the door? The answer lies in whether one thinks the state can have a negative reserve. I have refrained from saying the reserve is negative. How can that be? Once an account hits zero, there is nothing left to draw from.

But in the world of general fund accounting, there you have it on page 13 of the August LFC report...."Total FY16 ending balances were $130 million; however, that includes $219 million in the tobacco permanent fund, which cannot be used without legislative authorization."

So the revenue estimate assumes the Legislature will tap into the tobacco money. Only then do we get above zero. Until then we are in the hole $90 million.

The public health advocates will say you can't legally take all the tobacco money -- the statute says the general fund can appropriate enough "to avoid an unconstitutional deficit."

Does "an unconstitutional deficit" mean they can take it all to both bring reserves back to zero and to move forward with a balance sheet that shows a small surplus, which would mean there is a $223 million shortfall? Or can they only take only enough to bring the budget into balance with zero reserves to close out 2016, which means a deficit of maybe $90 million?

Thanks, Bruce. The bean counters are in ecstasy over this debate, while the rest of us of work overtime to stop our eyes from glazing over. But we think we get it.

We would add that we reported this week that one of our legislative sources says using capital outlay money instead of the tobacco settlement money to address last year's deficit is now on the table.

And on that dizzying note, thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

ABQ Taking Tax Hit Along With Small Town NM, Higher Ed ConsolidationGetting Serious Treatment, And: By Popular Demand; Another Edition Of Election Season Vox Populi 

Sec. Damron
Let's start out this Thursday on the econ beat. . .

The fiscal woes that have spread across the state and wreaked havoc with the budgets of small town New Mexico are now lapping up against the shores of the big city.

Officials report gross receipts tax collections in ABQ are down three percent for July and August compared to last year, and if it stays that way the city will come up $9 million short in its budget planning to the year. The slowdown is due, in part, to the crash in energy prices, but ABQ continues to add low-paying jobs in service industries that do not generate the spending that moves the gross receipts needle . . .

The stark reality facing the state's higher education system that we've been blogging about for a number of years is finally garnering the attention of policy makers in a serious way. State Higher Eduction Secretary Barbara Damron uttered the feared word "consolidation" in discussing the future of what she says is the most '"decentralized" higher education system in the nation.

There are nearly three dozen colleges and universities spread across the state, vigorously supported by hometown state legislators, but Damron points out that declining state revenues and falling enrollments mean the day of reckoning is fast approaching:

Damron did not lay out proposals for consolidating New Mexico’s independently governed colleges, universities and branch campuses. But she cited statistics showing that the number of campuses nationwide has grown 9 percent since 2007 even as enrollment has fallen from its peak in 2010 and said, “There is potential for consolidation.”

“The market for students can no longer support the number of institutions we have today,” she said, speaking in the context of national trends.

Consolidation of higher ed has had a day or two in the sun in past years, but soon retreated as state revenues blossomed. But with the state now clearly in a longterm (secular) economic stagnation the discussion and debate is here to stay.

Damron says her department will release a strategic plan for the future of higher ed a year from now so it's going to fall to the next governor since '17 is the last 60 day legislative session under Martinez. That gives the secretary an opportunity to confront the politics and recommend specific consolidation moves so the state can get on with the inevitable.


By popular demand, herewith is another edition of reader Vox Populi as the fast approaching election and its issues draw more attention.

Reader Michael Corwin writes:

Interim legislative committees can conduct hearings year round. Why not conduct hearings on CYFD and the NM Department of Corrections for their abject failure in protecting children> Why wait for the Attorney general to move on a request for an investigation by Senator Padilla when hearings can be held. Sure CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson and Corrections Secretary Greg Marcantel will probably be no show for the hearings, but a hearing is a hearing. Time for the Democrats to take the bull by the horn.

Readers continue to come with ideas on how to resolve the state budget crisis. Most of them are bound to be controversial in some quarters. Here's one from reader Charles:

20 years ago NM passed a bill allowing Native American to sell tax free gasoline. Every gallon of gas has a road repair tax included in the sale of that gasoline. Gas sold by Native Americans does not pay this even though all cars buying their gas are driving on NM roads. It is estimated that this has cost the state road fund at least a billion dollars Lawmakers should tax all gas sold in the state. When cars fly we can revisit this tax free gas.

Reader Michael Casaus writes:

Joe,  I was surprised you didn't cover the damning 5,000 word investigative report the New Mexican published ("Under Martinez, a more favorable environment for Helena Chemical") where they exposed a pay-to-play scandal between the governor and Helena Chemical Company. What does $55,000 in campaign contributions to the governor get you under her administration? Helena Chemical got $1.6 million in additional state contracts and were no longer required to carry an air quality permit (despite a history of air quality violations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines). Not a bad investment. Meanwhile, residents of Mesquite, including my family, still have to live next door to a chemical facility that is no longer subject to air monitoring or inspections.


Sec. Jacobson
Reader Steve Hemphill claims to have some insider info and writes in support of Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Monique Jacobson:

. . . The productive ranks inside CYFD are incensed at Sen. Michael Padilla's efforts to oust Jacobson. She has shown them to be a responsible and capable leader, learning the ropes from the inside. She is in a tough situation right now, since the interviews with Victoria Martens are in fact confidential. .  One would expect heads to roll soon, and from descriptions of Jacobson she is firmly planted in the middle of it all and doesn't have time for political gamesmanship while being a professional right now. Padilla's call is typical of old time NM politics, but AG Balderas has integrity so one should not expect a knee jerk reaction from him.

Sen. Padilla has called for Jacobson to be suspended while an independent investigation of CYFD takes place regarding the murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens. Padilla has asked the AG to launch such an investigation.


There's much concern over Mayor Berry's ART project which will run rapid buses down a big stretch of Central Ave. After a court battle allowing the project, the construction is underway. Los Ranchos architect John Hooker writes:

Joe, How much does the mayor and the city council want to punish Nob Hill businesses with his ART project? To start, I can't imagine why his staff approved that monstrous "Bourbon Street" themed condo and parking building on the SE corner at Carlisle with its concrete wall along the existing, narrow sidewalk. That's pretty grim by itself. Now comes the chaos of construction and the loss of customers from then on.

Curb parking spaces can offer up to $200,000 in added retail sales each for local businesses. But the city will take out spaces through Nob Hill without improving the pedestrian/destination experience for bus riders. (They promise to replace 50 spaces throughout the ART corridor and add another 50 more by providing 99 new parking spaces at the fairgrounds - except during September when school starts . . . .) How much benefit can slightly "improved" bus service have for businesses in Nob Hill after they lose convenient short term parking? Do these public servants and contractors really want to destroy existing retail and restaurant businesses there in favor of whoever might move into the shuttered properties that remain when the "new service" starts?


We inadvertently gave former State House Majority Whip Antonio "Moe" Maestas a promotion Wednesday. We referenced him as the current whip, but when the R's took over the House in '14 he lost the title. The current Majority Whip is Republican Alonzo Baldonado. . .

And in a first draft we said we were told the special session of the legislature is now expected Friday the 28th but the 28th is a Wednesday. We apologize for not checking the calendar. We're taking ourselves out of the special session guessing game. We have plenty else to keep us occupied.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Martinez Throws Molotov Cocktail Into Special Session As She Calls For Death Penalty Reinstatement Amid Budget Debacle, Plus: Ins And Outs Of Latest Budget Talks, And: Sen. Padilla Vs. Susana; It's Very Nasty 

Well, it won't be boring. That's for sure. Gov. Martinez has thrown a Molotov Cocktail into a planned special legislative budget session by calling on lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty for child and cop killers and corrections officers. As a result, Santa Fe's Roundhouse will soon be filled with fierce and polarizing debate, Machiavellian political maneuvering and the stench of political fear coursing through its fabled corridors.

Facing a fierce battle to maintain GOP control of the state House and a burning desire to increase Republican power in the state Senate, Gov. Martinez threw all caution to the wind and bet her poker hand of two shocking murders of NM policemen and the heinous slaying of 10 year old Victoria Martens. She believes public outrage over them will trump the hand held by the Democrats--an economy in a near death spiral with the nation's second highest unemployment rate and an historic state budget deficit spread out over at least three years that could top $1 billion.

The irony is that the state's economic disintegration under the administration has enabled the crime epidemic which has led to unimaginable acts of violence against children and which Martinez will now attempt  to use to her political benefit.

Former State House Majority Whip Antonio "Moe" Maestas of ABQ reacted this way:

Let’s call this what it really is - a campaign ploy to distract from complete economic failure and the Governor's disastrous CYFD that failed to protect Victoria Martens.

But using wedge issues like repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants helped the R's bolster their base and take the House for the first time in decades in 2014. Now they seek to hold that control for another two years with a divisive and emotionally-laden call for reinstatement of the death penalty.

It's emotional and not practical because it has no chance of passing after being repealed in 2009. The Catholic Church, instrumental in that repeal, went on high alert in the aftermath of Martinez's announcement with the NM Conference of Bishops saying:

It is evident that the Governor has chosen to use the deaths of police officers and children to drive a politically-motivated action to place the death penalty on a very short special session purely for the purpose of politics and campaign jockeying. We call on the Governor to recant her call for placing this on the agenda of the special session. We also call on the legislators to reject this proposed agenda item in the special session.


Most of of our Alligators agreed that the Martinez death penalty play would have the most impact with GOP base voters who strongly favor it as well as conservative independents. Both groups could be encouraged to get to the polls in November when the inevitable happens and the penalty is rejected. Turnout in a presidential election year skews more Democratic. Increasing GOP and conservative independent turnout a couple of points in the key swing districts could determine control of the state House where the R majority is currently 37 to 33.

Then there is the case of Senate Majority Leader Sanchez and Martinez's intense dislike (hatred?) for him. It will be Sanchez who will have to do the gritty work and kill the death penalty in the Senate. It is expected to quickly and easily pass the House. With that done, Martinez and her political adviser Jay McCleskey can go to work on Sanchez's re-election bid in Valencia County where he faces opponent Greg Baca.

The cost of the unsuccessful Martinez effort to take Sanchez out in 2012 went over $1 million and it appears it will be as much, if not more, this time. Getting rid of Sanchez would be the ultimate political scalp for Martinez and help ease the many self-inflicted wounds that have plunged her approval ratings into the low 40's (although an Internet outlier poll released Tuesday claimed she was at 50% approval).


The secret talks among top legislators and the administration aren't so secret to our Alligator sand Wall-Leaners. They fill us in. . .

It is State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith who is the lead negotiator with the Martinez administration as they try to strike a deal to close two years of  budget deficits. The one left over for the year that ended June 30 is put at $131 or $220 million, depending on which news account you are reading.

There is some good news on that front for those opposed to raiding the Tobacco Settlement Fund of over $200 million to resolve that deficit. Our insiders say a deal is brewing where some $80 million or more of unspent capital outlay funds would be used to close last year's budget hole. So what about using the tobacco fund to close the current year's deficit? Not so fast. The bean counters warn that the state could risk a lawsuit by using that money for other than its intended purpose of anti-tobacco education.

The deficit for the current budget year that began July 1 is put at $431 million and could go higher or lower. The total budget is $6.2 billion.

As Martinez  continues to resist tax increases or closing tax loopholes at the talks,  speculation is  growing that her end game is laying off a large number of state employees. Already nine workers from the Tourism Department have felt the axe. Polling probably shows little sympathy for public employees so Martinez is positioned to take any heat--but not until after the election.

We're talking huge amount of dollars and if Martinez does not find a way to come to the table she eventually risks splitting her Republican caucus. Will they stand by if the layoffs reach into the hundreds? What about the business community and the conservative newspaper? Are they comfortable that the special session is now going to be consumed in good measure by criminal justice and not the ailing state budget and its emptied reserves?

Those questions will likely await the post-special days. Faced with gridlock with the Governor, lawmakers may opt to fix last year's mess (which they must by law) but leave the mammoth current year deficit to the January session. That will give them much less time to resolve it but in the middle of the political season and with few of them wanting to touch anything remotely looking like a tax increase, off they will go to campaign.


Sen. Padilla
The nasty days of Campaign '16 are surely upon us as the always combative language of the Martinez administration grows even nastier. For example, when ABQ State Senator and Majority Whip Michael Padilla proposed that Attorney General Balderas form a nonpartisan committee to investigate the CYFD's handling of the notorious murder and dismemberment of 10 year old Victoria Martens, CYFD let the vitriol rip:

It’s unfortunate that Michael Padilla is playing partisan politics with this tragedy. Frankly, Michael Padilla lost all credibility after multiple women filed sexual harassment suits against him and won, forcing taxpayers to shell out more than $250,000 for his bad behavior. Among other allegations, the city found that he pestered female employees to go on dates with him and said women should stay at home, “make tortillas,” and “clean the house.” We take every child abuse case seriously, but we don’t take the political grandstanding of a discredited politician seriously.

Not to be outdone, an ally of Padilla's released the attack dogs on the Governor:

Discredited politician? Martinez should know something about that, having been in a drunken stupor at her Christmas party where staffers were throwing liquor bottles from the balcony of a swank hotel. The slurring Governor then berated the hotel workers and police who were called in to try to quiet them down. Yes, Susana Martinez knows something about being a discredited politician.  The Governor needs to lay off the liquor and quit laying the blame for her failures on those trying to reverse them.

And there's still a month and a half to go, folks.


The ABQ Free Press is doubling down. Dan Vukelich, editor of the alternative bi-weekly paper which we write for, says the paper is going weekly with its September 28th edition. And he says there will be a change of tone along with the change of schedule:

When it comes to local news, we will remain the hard-hitting paper we are known for, but we will be more of an open tent as we cover the arts and entertainment world and other topics more fully. We are broadening our reach, highlighting more aspects of our city and recognizing the positive along with the negative.

Vukelich, a former reporter for the ABQ Tribune, also says the Free Press has snagged high-powered sales rep Sarah Bonneau, former sales director for the weekly Alibi.

The Free Press was brought to life two years ago with funding from ABQ personal injury attorney Will Ferguson who remains co-publisher with Vukelich and continues to support the venture.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday Vox Populi: Readers Write Of Probing CYFD, Raising The Booze Tax, The Tale Of Tesla And Pearce's Resilence 

Before we kick off another edition of Vox Populi, we take note of some strong language from ABQ City Council President Dan Lewis concerning APD and the recent findings of Federal Monitor James Ginger that the department's upper command is stonewalling mandated federal reforms. Lewis, a Republican and possible candidate for mayor next year said this at last night's council meeting:

Why should the City Council or even the citizens of Albuquerque continue to have confidence in the leaders of APD in light of the monitor’s report?

We wondered aloud on the blog Monday on when the many mayoral candidature starting to line up as well as the city council would start saying something meaningful about the ongoing controversy over APD. Lewis is the first to do so. He was joined in his doubts by Dem Councilor Diane Gibson. Meanwhile, Republican Councilor Brad Winter defended APD and Mayor Berry's administration, saying of Monitor Ginger:

What he does is, he throws this bomb, and then he’s nowhere to be found.

We just might get a debate yet on the future of public safety in this crime riddled city. Just maybe.

Now on to Vox Populi:

State Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla is calling for an independent review of the management of the Children Youth and Families Department tn the wake of the shocking murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens. Reader Richard Flores agrees:

Although it is not clear that CYFD had culpability in the Victoria Marten's incident, it is clearly time for an independent review of the department. Even if the incident was not preventable, the public perception is that CYFD "dropped the ball" again. Predictably, the Secretary invoked the Children's Code as the reason she could not discuss details of CYFD's involvement with the family. The agency will do an internal review of how the case was handled, but the results will never be known to the media, the public or to the legislature. That's why Senator Padilla is right in advocating for an independent review of CYFD.

Padilla says he will be writing a letter to AG Balderas requesting an independent investigation of CYFD which would be conducted by a "nonpartisan group of former members of the state judiciary."


Marie Claire of the Santa Fe Prevention Alliance writes:

Thanks for including Mike Smith’s letter in your September 14 blog. It was great to see him give a shout out to Alcohol Taxes Save Lives & Money. Just to note a 25 cent a drink increase of the liquor excise tax is projected to raise an additional $154 million dollars. Mike stated it was $54 million dollars. More e more information about Alcohol Taxes Save Lives is here.

That's a lot of money that could go to help resolve the state deficit but the ABQ metro has recently seen a boom in the brewery biz and it's gearing up to fight any increase.  Also, Gov. Martinez would be certain to veto any new alcohol taxes.


This reader reminds us that before Facebook it was Tesla sending the economic planners here into ecstasy, but it appears we dodged a bullet by not getting the electric car producer to locate its gigafactory here:

Despite recent denials by Tesla's CEO Elon Musk, the company is far, far behind in keeping its Gigafactory promises to Nevada. Also, Musk's claim that "there is no way for Nevada to lose" is simply untrue. Nevada is already losing. Nevada will have a difficult time recovering some of the benefits. And, others are gone for good because Nevada lacks any legal right to recover them. None of this would matter if Tesla had enough money to finish the Gigafactory. But it doesn't, and absent another capital raise, it's doubtful it ever will.


Santa Fe reader Bruce Wetherbee comments on the big business news in Deming, the hometown of Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith:

Hello Joe, More great news ... not really. Kmart in Deming is closing at end of year. It appears John Arthur Smith will need to by his Arm and Hammer laundry detergent and dress shirts somewhere else other than Kmart. after the first of the year. Maybe he can slip over the line and buy his stuff in Mexico as their economy is probably doing a little better than New Mexico's! But he better do it before that wall gets built.


Rep. Pearce
Reader Karl Rysted writes from Las Cruces:

Joe, I've been enjoying your blog for the last couple of years since I moved here from Oklahoma. I'm a lifelong D and there's something I can't understand so please help...why does Congressman Steve Pearce do so well down here? I mean, I know he picked up a ton of votes in Lea County as expected, but why can't a D carry Doña Ana County in that race?

Good question, Karl. Pearce has proven to be a tough competitor for Dems in the southern congressional district even though the D's outnumber the R's there by six percentage points.

Dona Ana County is key to any hope the Dems have to take the district. In 2014 Pearce managed a 52 to 48 win in the largest and most liberal county in the district. And district wide he has been performing north of 40 percent among Hispanic voters, far above most other GOP candidates.

The Dems would need a powerhouse candidate to take Pearce out. A better bet would be when Pearce, 68, retires. Speculation continues to bounce around that Pearce may seek the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination. If he does, that would be the time for the Dems to pounce with a strong Hispanic candidate with middle of the road politics.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

How Crazy Will It Get? Some Polls Have NM In Play In Prez Contest, Plus: Lobbyists Warm Up As Lawmakers Eye Tax Loopholes, And: Federal Monitor Pans APD; Judge Overseeing Reform Faces Tough Questions  

New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff must have thought his presidential polling for the ABQ Journal this cycle was going to be a walk in the park. But it's turning into at least a jog for him as a couple of polls out there actually show our state unsettled when it comes to the Trump-Clinton contest. Much skepticism is in order but. . .

Over the weekend Reuters/Ispos came with a survey that actually has Trump winning the state 43 to 38 percent. That had the Dems grabbing for their defibrillators but they could take comfort in the fact that only 141 likely voters were surveyed, the poll was done over nearly a month and it was done online and not with live telephone calls.  Still, it was enough for the pro-Trump Breitbart site to trumpet the survey which we linked to above.

Earlier this month a Morning Consult poll--also done online--showed Clinton with 36 to Trump's 35, Johnson with 14 and the Green Party's Stein scoring 3 percent.

Like everything else this year, the polling is simply crazy. That neither Clinton or Trump is currently buying any broadcast TV here reveals they don't believe NM is suddenly in play. That's where Sanderoff comes in. He tells us he will conduct his first survey of the contest after the September 26 presidential debate. The results will hit the streets October 2. Research and Polling has a long, successful track record in polling New Mexico and understands the nuances. If its survey has Trump leading the defibrillator business is going to boom.

While Clinton is expected to take our state's five electoral votes what happened to the Hispanic vote being a no-brainer for her? The WaPo reports:

While Clinton holds a significant lead over Republican rival Donald Trump in every poll of Hispanic voters, less clear is whether these voters will turn out in numbers that Democrats are counting on to win. Clinton trails President Obama’s 2012 performance in several ­Latino-rich states, including Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona. In those same states, on which Democrats’ prospects of retaking the Senate hinge, some down-ballot Democrats remain unknown to many Hispanic voters.


With Gov. Martinez vowing to never approve a tax increase but perhaps open to considering closing "tax loopholes," Santa Fe's legion of lobbyists will finally have some real work to do in the '17 legislative session. The biz lobbyists have had it pretty easy under this Governor, simply putting her no new taxes pledge under their pillows at night and in the morning sending their invoices to clients.

The enormity of the state's fiscal mess is now putting a lot of possibilities on the table.  That means there are going to be winners and losers. There are dozens of "loopholes" in the tax code that are contributing to the money shortage. Behind each of them stands a well compensated lobbyist ready to protect it.

That's why the Governor's no new taxes pledge will continue to come under pressure. There may be a way to get a few of those loopholes closed but with the lobbyists forming a Praetorian guard, getting enough of them repealed to shore up the entire budget is as likely as a lobbyist refusing to pick up  John Arthur Smith's bar tab.

But the way, the smart money is still saying that a special legislative session expected soon will only tackle the $200 million plus deficit left from the budget year that ended June 30. As for the current fiscal year--with a deficit forecast of $431 million or more--that bundle of joy will be left to the 60 day '17 session. The obvious reason is that all 112 lawmakers are up for election in November and are in no mood to rock the boat.

And, yes, we are aware that the ABQ Journal, The New Mexican and the AP are using different numbers to describe the state budget deficit. A spokesman for the Legislative Finance Committee says there "are plenty of ugly numbers" to choose from. An explanation beyond that is above our pay grade, but we're working on it.


The historic Bear Market has so ravaged Artesia in the SE oil patch that the city government there is now a charity case:

Police and firefighters in Artesia will not have their salaries slashed thanks to an anonymous donor. The city announced immediate pay cuts of 10 percent last month for all employees for the fiscal year that began July 1. Officials say the cost-cutting measure was necessary in the wake of a revenue decline from the oil and gas industries. Mayor Phil Burch says a "local entity" came forward this week with a gift that will ensure all first responder personnel receive their normal wages for the rest of the year. Burch did not disclose the amount but it would likely be around $320,000. . . 

The money is probably coming from a local oil company which we await the mayor to identify.  Talk about "dark" money.


Judge Brack
We don't want to overuse the word "crisis" but there's another one in addition to the state budget that is ongoing and resisting resolution. That would be the culture of the APD command and control structure and its obstinacy toward the reforms mandated by the Justice Department.

The Federal Monitor appointed to see that the top cops get the job done, Dr. James Ginger, has finally run out of patience:

A special report by the independent monitor. . . took the department to task for a look-busy approach to holding officers accountable for use-of-force incidents and fostering a “culture of low accountability.” The report released Friday was exceptional in that it was not part of the monitor’s scheduled series of progress reports. . . It was sparked by a use-of-force incident in October 2015, in which four Albuquerque Police Department officers used knee strikes to the body and head of suspected car thief as they arrested him.

The special report says that while the department presents itself publicly as willing to change how it polices both citizens and officers, the behind-the-scenes reality is that APD has “almost no appetite for correcting behavior that violates existing policy.” Within the department’s system for monitoring use of force by officers, the report says, “each step appears preconditioned to rationalize or explain away officer conduct.”

Monitor Ginger reports to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack who may be waking up and smelling the coffee, instead of the barbecue lunch he recently served to celebrate the alleged "progress" of the reforms. Retired APD Sergeant Dan Klein says Brack's federal bench seat just got hotter:

What will Judge Brack do? This is the big question. Ginger’s report is for Brack, not for us. Brack is running the risk of looking like the the federal judge who oversaw the Oakland PD for 13 years (while a huge sex scandal was happening right under his nose). Ginger has made sure everyone knows he will not ignore anything. This is good. Now it is up to Brack to force the changes. 

The worse thing Brack could do is sanction the city. Why? Because APD Chief Eden and Mayor Berry will just write a check. It is not their money. Brack must do something to make Eden and Berry feel his wrath directly. Hold them in contempt? Probably not. Fine them as individuals? Not sure that he could. Recommend Eden be removed? Maybe. Place a civilian over Eden? Maybe. It is up to Judge Brack. He must do something to get the attention of Eden and Berry. How does Brack make Berry understand that he is not messing around and that APD will not become Oakland?

Brack has been seen as having the back of Chief Eden and Berry. Now he needs to start watching his own back as entrenched upper APD command signals they appear to be willing to stonewall the federal government.

And what about our nine sleepy city councilors? You could give that bunch triple caffeinated lattes and they would still slumber, but Klein takes a shot at awakening them:

Will the city council raise up and listen to Ginger (they are paying him millions of our dollars)? If they listen to Ginger the Council has no other option than to demand Eden be fired or resign, along with other top command at APD. If they ignore Ginger, then why did they ask for him and the DOJ to come in the first place? The council must show courage and state they have no confidence in Eden and it is time for him to go. What will Berry do? Nothing. As always.

Can we throw one more log on the fire, Dan? What about those planning to seek the mayor's office next year? Maybe it's time we heard a peep out of them as the APD bunker stays as hard as cement? Former BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta announced her candidacy back in May. She has raised some $40,000 since then but neither she nor the money are talking when it comes to this key litmus test issue. Brian Colon, Tim Keller and Dan Lewis are all but in the race. Any thoughts, guys?


Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith on the state deficit totaling hundreds of millions of dollars:

“By God, it’s like trying to turn the Titanic around!"

Yeah, and we know how that ended.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Wrapping The Week with The Facebook Frenzy, KAFB Jobs And DA Doings 

Joe Monahan
The Facebook frenzy will soon fade in New Mexico, its meager addition of several dozen jobs barely a blip and the fantasy that the data center in Los Lunas is the start of the next big thing for the state economy will be crushed. It's no fun saying it, but as Uncle Walter used to tell us, "That's the way it is." From the NYT:

. . . As technology giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft race to build networks of unprecedented size to provide services over the Internet, a technology trend known as cloud computing. Local people, along with many economists and officials, often think these data centers are a key to an industrial revival. But the reality is less impressive.

And from Iowa where data centers seem as plentiful as the corn fields, the true story of data center development:

. . .Iowa data centers combined have or will spend upwards of $8 billion developing their facilities, and they will employ 733 jobholders when all is said and done sometime in 2022. That’s a goodly number of jobs, but the cost per job in local and state. . . tax collections is immense. And just to make clear the level of tech job that is being created, that overall sector in Iowa paid annual wages and salaries per job of $56,947 in 2015 — that’s probably more, by the way, than what many data center workers in Iowa make. The U.S. average in that broad sector was $98,616. A difference that, I assure you, has nothing to do with Iowa’s lower cost of living.

Iowa’s heavily subsidized and sought-after data centers provide so-so pay to a comparative handful of mid-tech workers. The Iowa economy hardly notices the growth, the state subsidies never gets paid back in the form of net new state tax collections, and when all is said and done, the flow of benefits is decidedly one-sided — out of Iowa, that is. I’m quite sure Microsoft, Google, and Facebook shareholders are quite happy with the arrangement.

Sorry to be the one to take the punch bowl away from the euphoric politicos and the economic planners, but it's time to sober them up. These data centers are all over the place, akin to electrical transformers. They are not the forerunner of a high-tech economy.


We reported this week on the news of 327 layoffs by Lockheed Martin at Kirtland Air Force Base. That blow came on the same day as Facebook announced it was building a data center in Los Lunas. That news is not quite as bad as thought at first blush. Officials say "most" of those workers will be hired by a new contractor. However, even if they take on 70 percent of those getting the axe, that's still about 100 lost high-paying jobs. We don't think Facebook will be hiring any of them.


All the candidates for Election '16 statewide are official now and listed by the Secretary of State.

BernCo Dem District Attorney candidate Raul Torrez is already celebrating victory. His lone GOP opponent withdrew earlier this year and the R's did not replace him.

Many of you have wondered just what billionaire George Soros was up to in the primary election when  the liberal activist pumped over $100,000 into a SuperPAC on behalf of Torrez. Here's the answer:

The billionaire financier has channeled more than $3 million into seven local district attorney campaigns in six states over the past year - a sum that exceeds the total spent on the 2016 presidential campaign by all but a handful of rival super-donors."

- "His money has supported African-American and Hispanic candidates for these powerful local roles, all of whom ran on platforms sharing major goals of Soros', like reducing racial disparities in sentencing and directing some drug offenders to diversion programs instead of to trial. It is by far the most tangible action in a progressive push to find, prepare and finance criminal justice reform-oriented candidates for jobs that have been held by long-time incumbents and serve as pipelines to the federal courts - and it has inspired fury among opponents angry about the outside influence in local elections." 

While the involvement of Soros in DA races may have "sparked fury" elsewhere, it has been greeted with a yawn here. Of course, if Torrez ever gets the idea of seeking higher office the R's could get plenty furious over his indirect Soros connection.

That's it for this week. Thanks for stopping by.

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