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Monday, April 27, 2015

Life In the Old Gal Yet? ABQ City Council Finds Some Hind Legs, Plus: Heinrich Redux, And: Haaland Is New Dem Chair; Now What? 

Councilors Lewis & Harris
Maybe there’s life in the old gal yet. That’s the takeaway from the ABQ City Council’s 7 to 2 vote to hold the APD federal monitor's feet to the fire. Five Dems led by Council President Rey Garduno were joined by two of the council’s four R’s—Dan Lewis and Don Harris—in refusing to approve (for now) a $4.5 million four-year contract with monitor James Ginger because of concerns about the agreement. It was a rare occasion of the council breaking with the Mayor Berry administration and inserting itself into policy when it comes to the long-running APD crisis.

While the action seemed extraordinary because of the way the council has mostly hibernated during the mayhem that has surrounded APD, it was actually quite ordinary for the legislative branch—on equal footing with the mayor—to inject its concerns. It’s finally letting it be known that it too wants a seat at the table in resolving a matter that has given ABQ numerous national black eyes and demoralized APD officers.

Allies of the Mayor immediately criticized the seven councilors, saying their action was merely symbolic—that the federal judge monitoring the monitor and the city administration will have the final say over Ginger's contract. But symbolism should not be underestimated.

Berry, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, APD Chief Gorden Eden and federal monitor Ginger have treated the council as an aside. Anyone familiar with the history of the nine member panel knows it is much more than a wall flower, even if the current crop of councilors has let its muscles atrophy. The 7 to 2 vote had the council finally doing some of the heavy lifting that is needed to renew confidence in APD and city government. Welcome back, councilors, please visit often.

HEINRICH REDUX

Dem US Sen. Martin H Heinrich had a nice little bounce back in the headlines in the aftermath of his embarrassment for being busted for violating Senate rules by using office money to reimburse himself for personal commutes. While the R’s were relishing that, Heinrich upset their apple cart with a proposal that would allow the Feds to approve the siting of power lines if the state and local governments don’t decide on such proposals within a year. It's aimed at improving the electric grid and promoting solar and wind power.

That brought howls from GOP Gov. Martinez and GOP Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Jr. who wailed that local governments, not DC, know what's best. That reaction is actually good for Heinrich whose enviro credentials are solid and make up a good chunk of his support among base Dems. Martinez and Dunn are playing to their oil company base but from a statewide perspective, Heinrich takes this battle. The states rights advocates are a smaller slice of the pie, coming from the least populous counties. Meantime, support for renewable energy continues to grow, something we're sure Heinrich is mulling over during those pesky commutes.

DEB'S DUTIES

The New Mexican Democratic Party has never been so flat on its back. Part of the reason is the new campaign money laws that bypass parties in favor of mega-bucks PACS, but it is also a function of AWOL leadership. Bombastic Sam Bregman promised to bring a "storm” to Gov. Martinez but he soon petered out and what was to be a storm turn out to be what New Mexico farmers call Virga—rain that never reaches the ground.

The silence of Sam will be noted no more as the party's chairmanship baton has been handed off to Debra Haaland. The 2014 Dem lieutenant governor nominee won it at Saturday's ABQ meeting of the Dem Central Committee, defeating former Santa Fe County Dem Party Chair Richard Ellenberg 214 to 168 (56%-44%). So now what? . . .

Haaland is going to have to put some vitality into the moribund party which in recent years has been devastated by twice losing the governorship, handing the state House to the Republicans for the first time in 60 years and losing the normally Democratic offices of secretary of state and land commissioner. The Dems failure to effectively fight the governor's political machine has the R’s eyeing possible gains in the Dem-controlled state Senate in 2016, despite a higher turnout in the presidential year when Dems can be expected to fare better.

As our analysts have said repeatedly about state politics, all the passion and purpose has been on the Republican side. Haaland, the first Native American to hold the chairmanship, has to somehow connect with a turned off Democratic base of middle and low income voters. Their apathy has resulted in turnout crashes in in the off year elections and possibly a downturn next year.

The Dems need to start acting like a party out-of power and not simply waiting for the GOP storm to pass. Bregman had it right. The Dems have to cause a storm for the R’s but he was the wrong weatherman. Now it’s Haaland's turn.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

It's getting pretty wild when it comes to the BernCo DA and APD. She now says she fears for her safety:

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg fears for her safety because of her decision to charge two Albuquerque police officers with murder in the fatal shooting of homeless camper James Boyd last year, she told ABQ Free Press. 

The DA said she’s been told by friendly APD officers that she’s a target of forces who want her out of office and punished for daring to challenge the police department. . .  “I fear for my safety because other APD officers have told me that I should.  I don’t think they’re going to kill me, but I have been told to fear for my safety.” Brandenburg has hinted that APD’s criminal investigation into allegations that she intimidated and bribed witnesses in connection with a burglary case involving her son are part of the wider attempt to intimidate and smear her.

One of our Senior Alligators thinks a special session of the NM Legislature is going to come off in mid-May:

I am hearing a deal has been reached to hold a special session. The Legislative Council Service will soon set a couple of Legislative Finance Committee meetings that will prep the move towards a mid-May call by the Governor for the session. Not sure about the tax package, but I do not think it will be on the call.

The primary purpose of the special would be to pass that $264 million capital outlay bill for construction projects that died in the final moments of the recent legislative session.

There's been pressure to include a small tax break package in any special but that's been resisted by Senate Dems. If a special is going to happen, insiders say mid-May is a good time as the budget year to start spending the construction money begins July 1. . .

Who will be the new chair of the NM Democratic Party? We'll know tomorrow afternoon as the party's central committee members meet at ABQ's Valley High to decide between Richard Ellenberg and Deb Haaland. Whoever takes it, their first order of business will be boosting Dem turnout in the '16 election and raising money to achieve that goal. The party  will also elect a treasurer and other officers.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gaming Over Special Session Goes On; Guv Indicates Tax Breaks Not Essential For Deal, Plus: Martinez Talks Capital Outlay Reform; A Problem In Need Of A Plan, And: Don't Forget Jeff 

The Guv appears to have inched closer to agreeing to a special session of the Legislature without including a package of tax breaks in her call. That has been the sticking point with Senate Dems who seem amenable to a special but only if it is limited to the $264 million capital outlay bill that died in the final moments of the recent session. That would set up a quick one day meeting that keeps wrangling to a minimum. Martinez told a biz crowd that the special "could" include the tax package not that it would or had to. . .

The small tax break package is not unpopular but there is no reason it can't wait until the next regular session in January. After all, it totals about $6 million, hardly an amount that is going to impact the broad economy. So if the tax cutters can curb their obsessive- compulsive disorder for a couple of months, we might be able to get hundreds of millions flowing into the economy starting this summer. . .

Not many will disagree with Gov. Martinez as she ends her silence on the mess that is known as capital outlay but what's her solution?

Martinez sounded a familiar call for New Mexico’s capital outlay system to be overhauled. The Republican governor said state lawmakers should fully fund infrastructure projects included in the annual capital works bill, not just provide partial funding. “We need to fully fund projects."  Piecemeal funding means state dollars frequently go unspent, she added, saying, “You can’t spent it because it’s not enough (to complete the project) — so it just sits there.”

The unspent hundreds of millions in money approved for various construction projects is much more of a sore point today than it was when the state's economy was vigorous. Santa Fe is going to have do more than just state the problem and actually do some heavy lifting and engage in political infighting to free up money that's frozen for projects unlikely to ever be completed. In other words--the governor and legislators are going to have to spend some political capital to get the needed reform.

As for that $4.5 billion in unspent state fund balances (including unspent capital outlay) that the State Auditor says is out there--some of which could and should be redirected and spent--here is that office's rundown of the various funds the money is in. Next, we need a complete list of specific projects that are stalled out. Maybe the Dept. of Finance under Secretary Clifford can get to work on that?

14 MONTHS

And we've got some 14 months to endure the speculation about Martinez being a possible VP pick on the 2016 ticket. The latest has her paired with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, even though everyone knows the two can't stand each other. Like we said, 14 months of this. . .Ugh.

DON'T FORGET JEFF

Romero
In the first draft of the blog Wednesday--since corrected--we wondered how long it has been since BernCo had an Hispanic district attorney. Well, we received a deluge of email on that one. It certainly wasn't at least 50 years ago as we said. Attorney Jeff Romero was elected DA in 1996 and defeated for re-election in the Democratic primary of 2000 by Kari Brandenburg. However, it does raise the question of whether Romero has been the only Hispanic to hold the post in the last 50 years or more. We think he is and perhaps the only Hispanic ever elected to the job.

Sorry we forgot you, Jeff. The traditional ten lashes with a wet noodle have been administered. Ouch. . .

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Campos Conspiracy Theory Bites The Dust, Speculators Keep DA Doings Going And Heinrich Takes Fire; "Taxigate" Gets Them Talking 

Drat! Another conspiracy theory bites the dust. The six finalists for the presidency of NM Highlands University have been released and nowhere to be seen on it is the name of longtime northern Dem state Senator Pete Campos. This after full-blown conspiracy theories circulated at the Roundhouse during the recent legislative session that Pete was playing pals with Susana in order to snag the Highlands prize (for example, he was the only Dem Senator to vote to confirm Republican Matt Chandler to the UNM Board of Regents and Susana's political machine gave Campos some help when he had a contested Dem primary in 2012).

Well, maybe Pete was snuggling with the Guv because he just wanted more goodies for his home district. Don't fret for him. He remains head of the  Luna Community College in Las Vegas. He said he never did submit a formal application for the Highlands post, although he did so when it was vacant in past years.

Okay, so the Campos conspiracy is done, but there's always black helicopters flying around here. Read on. . .

DA DOINGS

Leave it to the speculators (and the conspirators), now that Republican Jessica Hernandez, the former legal counsel to Martinez, has been confirmed by the ABQ city council as the new city attorney, her name is already being floated as a possible GOP candidate for Bernalillo County district attorney next year. The Dems already have two announced contenders in the race--Raul Torrez and Ed Perea.

Thinking out loud about that race, it comes to mind that no Hispanic has been elected DA in how many years?  It was in the late 90's when Jeff Romero was elected. In '14 Manny Gonzales became the first Hispanic in memory to be elected BernCo sheriff.

TAXIGATE?

The anti-Heinrich crowd jumped at the chance to pile on the freshman Dem US Senator over Tuesday's blog about his violation of Senate rules by reimbursing himself with government funds for commuting expenses between his home and the Capitol. He paid back $1,900 in expenses after they were revealed by the national press. Reader Ron Nelson writes:

Whoever the Dem insider is that shared on the blog excuses for why Heinrich filed bogus expense claims missed the point. The question should be: Would he have come forward if he wasn’t caught?

Kimothy Sparks writes:

Joe, another reason Martin Heinrich may be able to escape what you call a "rare misstep" of "getting reimbursed with government funds for commuting between his home and office" is because left of center bloggers and reporters will downplay it as you did in Tuesday's blog and will not bring it back up in the midst of an election. A fair reporting of the event would be to call it what it is. If it had been Governor Martinez or Congressman Steve Pearce, you would have commented on it daily for perpetuity.

Slow down, Kimothy, and tell us why no prominent NM Republican has attacked Heinrich for his misstep, never mind alleged blog bias. If and when they do, you will read about it right here.

(In our first draft Tuesday we had Senator Martin Heinrich serving two terms on the ABQ city council. He served one term.)

Martin isn't the only politico of late to have trouble with finances. Gov. Martinez gets busted in this piece that the Dems have been salivating over:

Records show Susana Martinez' campaign had enough money. . . to return contributions made by a Texas developer charged by Las Vegas, Nevada, police with physically assaulting a woman in an October 2012 incident. The revelation contradicts public statements made by the Republican governor's spokesman (who) told the ABQ Journal that shedding thousands in contributions donated by the developer, Marcus Hiles, would not be feasible. On June 3, 2014, Hiles contributed the $10,400 limit to Martinez' campaign, reports show. His wife, Nancy Hiles, also contributed $10,400. “The campaign has long since ended, and you can’t return money that’s already been spent,” the Journal quoted the governor's spokesman. But new reports filed with the secretary of state's office. . . show that the same day the Journal published that quote, Martinez' committee had roughly $70,000 cash-on-hand.

Of course, this will all be discussed when Sen. Heinrich squares off agent Gov. Martinez for the US Senate seat in 2018. Right?

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Impact Of Heinrich's Stumble Is Weighed, NM On a Worst List You Would Not Expect And Meet The Newest State Senator 

It was an embarrassing mistake for freshman Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich when it was revealed he was getting reimbursed with government funds for commuting between his home and office, a well-known prohibited practice that forced Heinrich to apologize and pay back $1,900 in unauthorized expenditures.

The rare misstep for the 43 year old lawmaker comes amid an envious winning streak. He was elected to the ABQ city council then to a four year stint in the US House and then in 2012 it was on to the US Senate. Heinrich is not up for re-election until 2018 so in that sense he's lucky on the timing of the flap. Still, one of our Dem insiders says Heinrich has been slightly dented by the incident:

This type of stuff is going to plague Heinrich because he has no personal wealth. It's hard to be a senator or a congressman in Washington and go to events, lunches, coffees and then travel home and have to pick up some of those tabs. It gets expensive and that's why it's easier for wealthy people to be in Congress. However, Heinrich should know these rules by now. People like Heinrich come from modest means but live the DC lifestyle. Remember when as a congressman Heinrich slept on the floor of his office? That was about him not having the cash for an apartment. Unfortunately, he gives Republicans an issue and this makes a slight dent if he runs for re-election or tries to get confirmed for secretary of the interior in a Clinton Administration.

Heinrich should have no problem enduring the nick he received but the affair does raise questions about how his office is organized and why the error was not spotted before the senator was busted for it in the national press.

THAT ONE, TOO?

We're used to seeing New Mexico at the bottom of those worst lists, but this one was a mild surprise. The Kiplinger report ranks our enchanted land as one of the worst places in the USA to retire to:

Safety may be an issue. For every 100,000 residents in New Mexico, there were 3,705 property crimes, including burglary and car theft, and 613 violent crimes, such as rape and murder, in 2013. (Comparatively, across the U.S., 2,731 property crimes and 368 violent crimes occurred per 100,000 people.) The poverty rate for older residents is also high at 12.1%, versus 9.4% for the U.S.

It takes a lot for the lure of a Sunbelt climate and a dream landscape to be spurned by those about to embark on their golden years, but crime and poverty will do it every time,

Also on the crime front, we get this from the Atlantic that's particularly relevant to APD:

There is a tendency, when examining police shootings, to focus on tactics at the expense of strategy. One interrogates the actions of the officer in the moment trying to discern their mind-state. We ask ourselves, "Were they justified in shooting?" But, in this time of heightened concern around the policing, a more essential question might be, "Were we justified in sending them?" At some point, Americans decided that the best answer to every social ill lay in the power of the criminal-justice system. Vexing social problems—homelessness, drug use, the inability to support one's children, mental illness—are presently solved by sending in men and women who specialize in inspiring fear and ensuring compliance. Fear and compliance have their place, but it can't be every place.

THE NEW GUY

Senator Barela
Here's the latest addition to the NM state senate. He's Ted Barela of Estancia, shown here being sworn in last week as his wife Janice looks on.

Republican Barela was appointed by Gov. Martinez to fill the vacancy created when Dem Senator Phil Griego was felled by scandal. Barela's appointment makes the senate's partisan divide a bit closer. It's now 24 Dems and 18 R's.

Barela is a former mayor of Estancia who is a projects manager for the ABQ engineering firm Bohannan Houston. He is retired from state government where he worked 26 years at the Dept. of Transportation.

All 42 senate seats are up for election next year and Barela is expected to seek election to the sprawling six county district he represents. However, it won't be easy for him to stay in Santa Fe. The seat leans Dem and Liz Stefanics, a Santa Fe county commissioner who once held the seat but lost it to Griego, is the first D to announce that she will try to take it back next year.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Dr. No Gets A Yes From This Corner As Special Session Wrangling Escalates, Plus: Kari And the Cops; She Calls It A "Crisis" Setting Off Political Speculation 

Dr. No
It's been quite a while since we lined up with Dr. No but the game of La Politica is played on shifting sands so here we are. . .

For those new to the game, Dr. No is Democratic State Senator John Arthur Smith, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance committee and one of Santa Fe's chief austerity hawks thus his nickname. Currently the good doctor is in the driver's seat in trying to craft a deal with the Governor and the Republican controlled House for a special legislative session to bring back to life that $264 million capital outlay bill that died in the waning moments of Session '15.

Smith is trying to talk some sense into the rabid tax cutters of the Republican right, saying the special session should be on that one topic and one topic only--the big pork bill that would stimulate the economy. But the R's are pushing for inclusion at the special session of a tax incentive package (a pretty measly one of $10 million) that also died in the session's final moments. Smith is warning that he doesn't see the votes in the Dem Senate for that tax package and that it could be the deal breaker that keeps a special session off limits.

On this one Dr. No is giving the right prescription for good government. Will Gov. Martinez hush the tax talk, rein in the radical Republicans and join us in the Dr. No cheer leading section?

Then there's Dr. No's statement about that eyebrow raising finding by State Auditor Tim Keller that there is some $4.5 billion in unspent money in hundreds of various state coffers--including hundreds of millions not being spent on construction projects previously approved by the Legislature. The latest:

(Smith) pointed out that about $800 million of previously allocated capital outlay money hasn't been spent. And he added about $237 million is also tied up in projects that haven't moved. Reform is needed in "the worst way. The governor is going to have to step up to the plate and say we need to claw that money back if you don't spend it in a timely fashion," he said. Most of the money Keller identified is already spoken for and authorized for particular projects and programs across the state, the governor's office said.

That's the first call for action from a top state government leader we've seen since Keller came with those findings. Unfortunately, the Guv seems unconvinced and perhaps unconcerned. Why can't the administration and the Legislature do a line-by-line examination of each and every project? Those that are not going anywhere would have their funding reallocated and spent on projects to improve the state as well as stimulating our flat-lined economy.

In any event, our alliance with Dr. No will no doubt be frayed again when he restarts his nay saying ways but for now we're enjoying the medicine he's prescribing.

DEAL OR NO DEAL?

Here's an idea: The Senate Dems agree to that tax package the R's crave and in return the R's approve an increase in the state minimum wage to $9 an hour.

KARI AND THE COPS

A computer glitch delayed the posting of our Friday blog on the naming of a special prosecutor by Brandenburg in the case of the APD killing of homeless camper James Boyd. If you missed it just scroll down. Now more news from that announcement.

In announcing that veteran trial attorney Randi McGinn would be the especial prosecutor, Brandenburg became the first  high elected official we've heard refer to the ongoing saga of APD as a "crisis," even though we and countless others have routinely used that adjective:

We are in a crisis that I don't know we can recover from in my lifetime.". . . Brandenburg went on to say that she believes there's a sense of a lost faith in our government, but especially the police department.

That, of course, was an immediate appetizer for the Alligators. Is Brandenburg laying the groundwork for a '17 mayoral run? Chew on that, Gators, as you wonder what early polling would show.

As for her seeking a fifth term as DA in '16, she has yet to announce her plans. But that may be breaking her way. Former federal prosecutor Raul Torrez wants the job and has already raised $100,000 but along comes former APD commander Ed Perea who says he too will run, setting up a possible ethnic split in the Democratic Party that Brandenburg could run through to win the nomination. But be sure, with that mayoral speculation in the background, the R's will labor to field a heavyweight DA candidate of their own. . .

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Kari's Curveball: Names Noted Trial Attorney To Prosecute Boyd Case; Move Could Further Shake-Up APD And City Hall 

Randi McGinn
"Be careful what you wish for." So goes the old adage and so it is for the defense attorneys who insisted that Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg be disqualified from prosecuting murder charges against two ABQ police officers who shot and killed homeless and mentally ill camper James Boyd. Instead of facing assistant district attorneys, the defense is now going to be up against one of the state's most high-powered and well-respected trial attorneys in Randi McGinn.

In naming McGinn as special prosecutor for the case after the officers' lawyers--including Sam Bregman--had her disqualified by a district court judge, Brandenburg threw yet another curveball into the APD crisis that has roiled ABQ.

Her first curveball was actually bringing the murder charges against officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez. That came soon after it was revealed that APD had been investigating Brandenburg on bribery charges involving alleged criminal conduct of her drug addicted son. Talk about a legal soap opera. . .

McGinn is not the type of attorney to shy away from picking at the scabs of APD and seeing what is underneath. And with Mayor Berry's administration continuing to bunker in, what McGinn finds out could reverberate well beyond the courtroom.

McGinn served as a prosecutor in the DA's office in the 80's. Attorney Pete Dinelli, a former chief deputy district attorney who worked with her, told us:

From a defense standpoint, removing the DA from the case was a major tactical error. Randi McGinn is one of the most respected trial attorneys in the state and former prosecutor. The tables are now turned and defense attorneys Sam Bregman and Luis Robles now how a worthy opponent. Brandenburg lives to fight another day.

The Legal Beagles inform us that the most likely course for McGinn is to pursue the charges at a preliminary hearing which could be expected to last several weeks and go into detail about the Boyd case as well as overall APD operations. A judge would then decide whether to send the case to trial.

If, as expected, McGinn moves the charges forward, the city is in for a battle royale that will not only have the Legal Beagles on the edge of their seats but could actually serve to inform the city and nation just how Albuquerque became embroiled in a police crisis that has sadly become its identifying feature

McGinn is now a third major actor in this play. City Hall and the Justice Department have agreed to a consent decree to reform APD but who knows how aggressive the clean-up effort will be. McGinn, in investigating APD practices and procedures, could be likened to a special prosecutor for not only this murder case, but for the years-long shooting spree that brought the Feds to town in the first place.

Yep, Sam and RJ, be careful what you wish for (Bregman had no comment on the McGinn appointment.)

FEAR OR ANGER?

DA Brandenburg
Senior Alligator analysis now of the Brandenburg special prosecutor appointment:

Was it fear or anger Thursday as Kari Brandenburg announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the Boyd shooting case? No other district attorney in the state is willing to handle the case. Is that a show of solidarity with the BernCo DA or fear of APD retaliation? Kari took on the city's community leadership accusing it of being feckless in the face of an out of control APD and an elected leadership unwilling to take on tough issues. She wasn't specific but all of us who have pleaded for action on APD, jobs, capital outlay or hiring have a good idea to whom she refers. 

 We also worry that the Dept. of Justice is enabling the city in its foot dragging as it acquiesces to one delay after another in proceeding to reform and clean up APD. It has been a year since the DOJ announced its intention to address the APD mess and over a year since the Boyd shooting. It is enough to make a grown woman angry at least that is what I hope we saw in Kari Brandenburg Thursday.

THE POLITICS

Brandenburg's bold pick for prosecuting the Boyd case comes on the heels of BernCo Dem district attorney candidate Raul Torrez announcing he has already raised $104,000 for his campaign--$10,000 of which was a personal loan. Brandenburg has not announced yet if she'll seek a fifth four year term next year and face off with Torrez. Her profile has never been higher and her aggressive pursuit of this APD case--after years of holding back--is sure to garner the attention of the Democratic base. Will Brandenburg throw yet another curveball and announce a re-election bid? Stay tuned. . .

Thanks for stopping by this week.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Santolina And Mesa del Sol; History To Repeat? Plus: Oil Hits Santa Fe's Price, BernCo Needs A Building And Renewable Energy Office Get's Guv Veto 

Santolina, meet Mesa Del Sol. That's the semi-ghost town south of the city that the boosters said was to be crowded by now with thousands of middle class families living the ABQ dream. The economic crash took care of that and the after effects of the crash make Santolina look like a giant uncertainty--like Mesa del Sol. Still, we get this:

Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, the owner of the site, anticipates that the project will be developed to include roughly 38,000 households and about 75,000 jobs.

Maybe those are the jobs that somehow never showed up at Mesa del Sol?

The days of ABQ's uber-growth are long over. The secular economic decline/stagnation that struck in 2009 shows no signs of abating. ABQ will grow but more along the lines of "what you see is what you get." Still,  there's no law against developers losing their shirts betting on the wrong numbers. Just ask Mesa del Sol. . .

Also on the BernCo beat today. . .

Bernalillo County is tied up in knots over its office space--it's spread out and outdated. Yet the county commission is talking about buying the outdated and inconvenient Alvarado Square complex downtown and attempting an expensive renovation to make the 1980 building suitable for the 21st century.

But the county could have a brand new building where all its employees could be housed. Maybe not right away, but if it sold off the various parcels it owns around town it would give it the cash to float a bond issue and build something new (at historically low interest rates) and get on with the new century, instead of trying to go back in time to Alvarado Square. It could buy Alvarado Square at a bargain price, demolish it and erect the new building there.

Funding new government buildings is not popular with the public, but it has been 30 years since we built Government Center to house both the city and county. Look at the Federal government. They don't go for a patchwork solution. When a new courthouse complex is needed, it gets constructed. Every several decades a new one is built and updated with the latest technology and conveniences.

BernCo is currently having some rocky financial times but that needn't stop its leaders from doing what their predecessors did--planning for the future and building for it.

THE MAGIC NUMBER


The magic number is $56 a barrel and West Texas oil hit that mark for the first time in a while Wednesday. The state budget that goes into effect July 1 assumes the average price of oil is  $56. For each dollar it falls below that the general fund loses $7 million. The state budget has flat lined in recent years. It was squeezed this year by the crash in oil prices and the many tax cuts and incentives that have shaved revenue collections.

As for a special session of the Legislature to approve that $264 million capital outlay bill that died at the end of the last session, the Alligator odds have shifted in favor of a one day meeting. Still, it will take an army to keep Gov. Martinez and the radical right from jamming the whole thing up by trying to get tax cuts or repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. If everyone can take a deep breath and commit to one or two bills and one day, a deal can and should be had.

NOT RENEWED

This one hasn't been in the media yet, but our bill watchers note that Gov. Martinez used the veto to nix all the funding--several hundred thousand dollars--for the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA). Maybe some of our readers know what was behind that move? Meanwhile, here's some analysis from an energy Alligator:

The list of current projects shows RETA involved with 5 separate power line projects that together would create 13,000 construction jobs and over $5 billion in investment . These lines cost $2 million or so per mile. This would be huge investment in our state.

Also, these lines would allow renewable energy projects to be developed that would be worth many times the cost of the lines. The renewable energy projects would mean more money for ranchers, the Land Office/Land Grant Permanent Fund and NM/US residents/citizens because of the associated royalties, rents and fees.

I was just in Tulsa for oil and gas meetings and drove through Amarillo on the way out there. There is mile after mile of wind farms. Ranchers and farmers in TX will be able to expand and grow their ranches and farms because of the income from these projects. NM needs to get its act together.

EL PASO CITY

Maybe it's time for a weekend in El Paso:

The top five happiest metro areas also included urban Honolulu, Hawaii; Raleigh, North Carolina; Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California; and El Paso, Texas, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a measure based on factors such as feelings of purpose and physical health.

They call it "Sun City."

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

More On The Cops And Kari, Plus: Jessica's Choice; New City Attorney About To Enter Bunker, Plus: GOP Splits Over State Party Hillary Attack Plan 

The decision by District Court Judge Alisa Hadfield to disqualify the Bernalillo County district attorney's office from prosecuting murder charges it brought against two APD officers for the killing of homeless and mentally ill camper James Boyd hasn't been very controversial. But there remains a school of thought with a lot of students who believe DA Kari Brandenburg was "set up" by APD.

That school teaches that after it became clear Brandenburg would be filing murder charges against the officers, APD went public with bribery allegations stemming from Brandenburg's conversations with victims of burglaries committed by her drug addicted son. The charges are being reviewed by the attorney general. A legal beagle involved in the police shooting cases says:

Judge Hadfield made the right decision. The DA was set up by APD but the "appearance" of a possible conflict of interest is the operative term, and that must be avoided in the important tipping point Boyd case. 

So what of the Boyd case? Not many expect the APD officers to be convicted of murder charges and with good reason. The WaPo reports:

Of the 54 officers who were charged for fatally shooting someone while on duty over the past decade, 35 have had their cases resolved. Of those, a majority--21 officers--were acquitted or saw their charges dropped. Jurors usually see the officer as “the good party in the fight,” said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and expert in police use of force. 

“To get them to buy into a story where the officer is the bad guy goes fundamentally against everything they believe.” Most jurors, experts say, view officers as those who enforce laws, not break them. And unlike civilians, police officers are allowed, even expected, to use force.

JESSICA'S CHOICE

Hernandez
Mayor Berry's nomination of Jessica Hernandez as city attorney gives the laid back ABQ city council a chance to ask some pointed questions about APD. The nomination requires two-thirds approval from the nine member council.

For example, what is Hernandez's view on the relationship between APD and the DA and the APD desire to exclude the DA from fatal police shooting scenes? What about barring reporters from videotaping APD disciplinary hearings? What about using private email to conduct government business--an issue she faced while serving as chief legal counsel to Gov. Martinez?

Hernandez will be entering a well-fortified bunker constructed by Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry. The national media have pounded on it as has the Department of Justice but it continues to stand as witnessed by Chief Eden's refusal this week to answer media questions about a case of excessive APD force.

(Eden tried to quiet the storm by asserting he was limited in what he could say. He added that while he has turned over the case to the FBI he has not turned it over to the BernCo DA's office which APD has been at war with).

As a charter member of the Guv's machine it's hard to see Hernandez breaking away from the bunker. But she's not in Santa Fe anymore and the media scrutiny is much more intense--witness those New Yorker and Rolling Stone Magazine articles.

Hernandez is a 34 year old ABQ native with an up-by-her-bootstraps story, but if her plan is to join the bunker and make enemies of the media and the defense bar, she may as well make plans to take a generous sinecure at her old stomping grounds at the Rodey law firm.

PARTING COMPANY

The NM GOP says it is embarking on an attack plan against Hillary Clinton, highlighting what they call her history of "scandal." But not all R's on board. Sylvia Bokor of the tea party parts company with the state GOP:

Does it not occur to the Republican Party. . . that stressing accomplishments is more persuasive than attacking the opposition? Are they not aware of the recent studies of how attack ads have disenchanted voters? Do we not have anything to boast about?. . . Such as business people's creation of jobs and values which Republicans support? Such as the importance of ending ObamaCare? It is not gender or scandals or race that will win the Presidency. It is ideas. Until the GOP leadership recognizes that, we will continue to lose to those who claim government is the solution to everything.  Repeating worn out reports of scandals is not going to win votes. Showing why government does not solve problems is good. Showing how to reduce the size of government is better. Showing who in the Republican Party is doing that is best. 

THE BOTTOM LINES

Dem US senator Tom Udall has endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential bid. He tweeted the endorsement Monday, joining fellow NM Dem Senator Heinrich in backing her.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

No New Mexico Roadblocks Seen For Hillary While R's Hope For a Meltdown; More On Where She Stands Here, Mayor Berry Spins 800 Job Vacancies, APD PR Nightmare Continues And Senator Sanchez Says No Dial Tone On Guv's Phone 

This is Hillary's big launch week and everyone wants to know what she'll  be up to in New Mexico--if anything. We have the answers. . .

New Mexico's Dem primary is in June of '16, long after the nomination is decided so there won't be a Dem campaign here. Clinton, however, can be expected to mine the state for campaign dollars and high-profile Hispanic support that she can market nationally.

Many ask if New Mexico will resume its swing state status in '16. That is very unlikely. After two big Obama wins, NM is reliably blue. In March of last year Public Policy Polling did a match-up of Hillary and Governor Martinez as the GOP prez nominee. Hillary swamped Susana 53% to 39%. Clinton had healthy leads over all the GOP prez candidates surveyed in that poll.

The TV stations doing their '16 budgeting can pretty much forget about those good 'ol swing state days when millions was pumped in here for TV ads. The public can also consign to the good 'ol days all those visits from presidential candidates. That is unless some kind of curve ball appears out of the blue and takes NM into the red zone. . .

Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich announced months ago that he would support Clinton for the nomination. He repeated that support this week. That early nod gave reason to speculate that perhaps Heinrich--an ardent environmentalist and westerner--could be tapped for Secretary of Interior should Hillary take the White House. ABQ GOP Congressman Manuel Lujan was named to the post by President Bush in '89 so the speculation is not far out. Of course, there would be a slight problem. If Heinrich left the senate in '17, Republican Governor Martinez would get to name the replacement for the two years left in his term.

Also on the very early bandwagon for Hillary was former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez. He could be a job seeker if Clinton takes the prize. Senator Tom Udall tweeted his endorsement of Clinton on Monday.

One NM Dem not on the Hillary bandwagon is former Governor Big Bill Richardson. He's had a rocky relationship with the Clintons because he failed to endorse her 2008 presidential bid after he dropped out of the race. Says he:

I don’t see a path for anyone not named Clinton, You know I don’t get along with her. I’m not a Ready for Hillary person. I’m trying to be honest with you. It’s very likely going to be an unstoppable train.

ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has endorsed Clinton and is helping with fundraising. Northern Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is sidelined from an open endorsement because of his new role as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The NM GOP has been launching attacks on Clinton and says it will continue to do so in the apparent hope that Hillary falters and NM gets put in play.

EARLY MONEY

The '16 fundraising is well underway for Democratic Bernalillo County District Attorney candidate Raul Torrez. He says he's already raised a boatload of cash--over $104,000.

So far he's the only candidate in the contest, with four term Dem incumbent DA Kari Brandenburg on the fence about seeking a fifth. She could self-finance a race and get in at anytime. Obviously, Torrez is raising the bar early in an effort to keep her out. His campaign report filed with the secretary of state is here. No R's have announced for DA yet.

BERRY PATCH

Here's the Mayor Berry spin on the somewhat shocking news that the city of ABQ has over 800 job vacancies in a  town that is starving for well paying work:

While there may be that many listed on paper, about 400 of them have been disqualified because they don't fit within the city's budget, said Mayor Berry. Berry said Albuquerque's job vacancy rate is one percent lower than the national average when compared to similar city governments nationwide. He said he's worked hard to make the city more efficient and doesn't want to waste taxpayer dollars by hiring people to fill jobs that aren't needed. Basically, the city is getting by with the number of employees it currently has. He admitted, though, that some employees have to work overtime in order to make up extra work. 

The city's job vacancy rate may be one percent lower than the national average, but what Berry doesn't say is this:

. . . In the Milken Institute’s annual index of the country’s best-performing cities. Albuquerque placed 179 out of 200 in the large city category, falling 24 spots from its ranking of 155 in Milken’s 2013 index of best-performing cities. . . The index is designed to measure how well cities are “promoting economic vitality based on job creation and retention, the quality of new jobs, and other criteria.”. . . Albuquerque placed 20th among large cities in the Milken index in 2004.

And that's why Mayor Berry needs to be filling those vacancies at a much higher rate than other cities that have much more vital economies.

THE APD NIGHTMARE

When, oh, when will the long nightmare of APD management end? The latest PR disaster:

APD announced two police officers are under investigation for possible use-of-force violations. Chief Gorden Eden made the announcement on YouTube, in a two and a half minute video that raised more questions than it answered. We know that you’re accustomed to and enjoy seeing good news posted on our social media sites,” he said in the video. “We also have a responsibility to inform you of everything that goes on inside your police department.” The information, posted on social media after 5 p.m., was limited: “Possible misconduct – excessive use of force – by two of our officers was recently brought to our attention by an APD employee,” Eden said.

No media interviews allowed. Just another effort to bypass critical questioning and control the story. And the ABQ Chamber of Commerce thinks business is going to come into this city with that bunker mentality prevailing? If only it were just a nightmare. . .

And there's more. It seems there's always more:

KOB-TV feels it's important to tell you about alleged wrongdoing on the part of those who are paid by your tax dollars, such as police officers. But it can be hard to do when our cameras get shut out of public hearings. It's happened several times. There's a concern that banning our cameras is a violation of the Open Meetings Act. But the hearing officers disagree and continually prevent our cameras from being present. Back on Feb. 25, fired Albuquerque police officer Jeremy Dear was there to fight for his job back. Hearing Officer Pat Bingham never started the hearing because he didn't want KOB's cameras there. "I object to it, Ms. Levy objects to it. Her witnesses object to it. Obviously the staff objects to it," said Pat Bingham.

What will it take to blast open this bunker, let the truth prevail and let the process of reforming and healing our police department get underway? Where in the name of Harry Kinney is the AWOL city council that allows this infection to fester? It's a damn shame.

NOT REACHING?

Martinez & Sanchez
State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is disputing Governor Martinez's statement that her staff has tried to connect with him to discuss a possible special session of the Legislature. We noted Martinez's remarks on the Monday blog, but a spokesman for Sanchez says:

Senator Sanchez wanted to let you know that the Governor and her staff have not reached out to him or his staff nor "tried to connect.". . . This quote from her in your piece is false:

"Martinez said she has not spoken directly with archrival and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez but she said her staff has tried to connect."

They know where to reach him--his law firm in Los Lunas. (Governor Chief of Staff) Keith Gardner has his cell and the senator's Chief of Staff Lorraine Montoya is in his Capitol office every day. 

Hey, maybe we can do some of that Big Bill "Green Chile Diplomacy" and invite Michael and Keith for lunch at Barelas Coffee House where we can settle this special session deal. Don't forget your credit card, Keith, you're buying. . .

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