Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day 2017 

Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Shoe Is On The Other Foot But The R's Don't Seem To Quite Get It, Plus: Another Study And Another Last Place For NM, And: Former NM GOP Chair Remembered 

Suddenly the Roundhouse air is filled with talk of bipartisanship. Funny, when the R's had control of the House as well as the governorship, there wasn't much sweet talk going around. Now that they have lost the House and Gov. Martinez is a lame duck, the GOP wants "bipartisanship." IT seems the R's haven't fully absorbed message the voters sent them in November. Look at this from the state GOP:

Republicans in the House and Senate will be focusing on the legislation our state needs to diversify our economy, bring jobs back to New Mexico and protect our children and families from rising crime. We hope we can count on Democrats to work for their constituents and help Republicans pass these important measures.

Say that again? The R's want the D's to "help Republicans" pass their pet measures? Let's see. The R's lost control of the House and let go of two seats in the Senate. And they are led by a lame duck governor sporting a 36 percent approval rating. Maybe new Senate Majority Leader Wirth and Speaker Egolf need to be a bit more forceful and remind them of that? Ya think? . . .

Meanwhile, budget plans to resolve the shortage for the fiscal year that ends June 30 are speeding along in Santa Fe. But as soon as they can strike a deal on this year's budget, more cuts are in store when they tackle the budget for the year that begins July 1.

What else can you say? It's a damn shame what has happened to our state. This is the latest WalletHub study on the best and worst places to raise a family:

New Mexico ranked 51st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the study, which looked at the percentage of families below poverty level, unemployment rates, divorce rates, education quality, infant mortality, child care costs and other factors. New Mexico ranked particularly poorly on poverty (50th), unemployment (48th), violent crime rate (48th), divorce rate (46th) and the percentage of two-parent families (47th). The only relatively positive metrics were the infant mortality rate and the “family fun” ranking, in which the state ranked 18th. It was around the middle on child care costs (27th) and came in at 36th on housing affordability. Overall, the state ranked just below Mississippi. At the top of the list were North Dakota, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Hmm. That would make for once heckuva "State of the State" address. Reader Chris Rucker piles on:

". . . diversifying our economy, reforming our education system and keep our communities safe,” said Governor Martinez. What state does she think she governs? Other than brew pubs, and building business incubators, what economic improvements have we had in the past 6 years? We lead the nation in car thefts, near the top in homicides per capita and New Mexico graduates fewer HS students than almost any other state. More problems surrounding addictions of all kinds while we encourage alcohol consumption and gambling because it's an easy way to raise more state revenues. Come on, our leadership needs to focus on fixing our quality of life problems that cost taxpayers so much money every year.

Can't someone in legislature help out with this?

Gov. Martinez’ administration continues to insist on keeping secret how much taxpayer money has flowed to a well-connected Albuquerque attorney who frequently represents the governor in court. And that’s despite a determination from the state attorney general that withholding the information breaks the law. SFR has sought to pry attorney Paul Kennedy’s billing records out of the state since late 2012. Officials sent journalists on a wild goose chase to various government departments, claimed records didn’t exist or can’t be released because of the attorney-client privilege and, most recently, cited a state law most commonly used to protect confidential settlement amounts.

And that's from the self-proclaimed "most transparent administration in history."


Reader Patrick Gutierrez writes:

Joe, After seeing a growing list of U.S. Representatives planning on boycotting Trump's inauguration, I noticed that Congressman Ray Ben Lujan's name is not on this list! I called his office here in Santa Fe and their response was "he is not boycotting the Trump inauguration, he feels that it is job to show up, although he won't be attending any of the festivities."The job of the Democrats in our congressional delegation now is to represent the people's will in New Mexico and stop pussyfooting with Trump!


John Lattauzio, who died at the age of 78 last week, built his businesses out of Alamogordo and for fifty years he pursued those interests with vigor and success. Along the way he got bit by the public service bug and served as chairman of the Otero County Republican Party and then in the early 90's as NM Republican Party chairman. That's when La Politica got to know him as a fierce defender of his party but not a hater of his foes.

Lattauzio loved a good debate and he gave us one, especially when Marty Chavez made his first run for ABQ Mayor in '93 and Lattauzio led the charge against him. Chavez won by under 600 votes to former GOP Governor Dave Cargo, the closest margin in city history.

Lattauzio retired to St. George, Utah a few years ago. Until illness struck he was a regular blog reader and on occasion emailed his take on current happenings in the GOP which were always insightful. The NM GOP said:

Lattauzio was a larger than life figure at the Republican Party. . . He presided over a time of great success for the Party and his remarkable commitment to the cause has stood as an example for many New Mexico Republicans in the time since his retirement. The legacy he left will not be forgotten.

And Kevin Moomaw wrote:

John hired me to be the Executive Director of the Republican Party of New Mexico. Nobody worked harder and traveled to all corners of the state to promote the Party than John. Good man who will be missed.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Martinez Speech Appraised And Critiqued, Mailing It In For The Final Two Years? Plus: What's In Speaker Egolf's Sandwich?, And: Monkeys In The Roundhouse 

Governor Martinez was less strident than years past as she delivered her next to last State of the State speech to open the '17 legislative session. Perhaps the absence of Senator Michael Sanchez, her arch-enemy who she finally succeeded in ousting last November, made her feel more conciliatory, even as she advocated much the same policies that she has unsuccessfully promulgated for six years. Let's go right to the Senior Alligator analysis:

The Governor’s address was better this year than last when she was visibly shaken by the “Pizza” incident, but her speeches overall get less inspired each year. There was no evidence that the governor would change her stripes or attempt something aspirational in her final 2 years. It appears that she is just going to mail it in for the remainder of her term. When she says things like “it will take courage” or “look at the progress we’ve made,” those statements ring hollow when you have so little to show for it and your state is careening into oblivion. She’s the only Governor that has failed to see her state recover at all from the recession or produce a quarter of economic growth greater than 1%.

The Governor invited several business owners to the speech to single them out for praise but as one of the Alligators pointed out:

Even the profiling of business expansion and location achievements are modest at best when those businesses add few professional, degreed jobs and more and more low-wage jobs. Dean Baldwin Paint, Valley Cold Storage and Precheck are employers that mainly feed from the bottom of the workforce. New Mexico is getting those employers because other states don’t really want or need them. Even when she helps land Facebook, it’s only adding a meager 50 permanent jobs.

And a wall-leaner take:

She seemed to have the most energy for crime issues and children’s issues. But again, she’s not demonstrating that this passion has resulted in really any achievements. Even when announcing the good news that our high school graduation rate rose you don’t get the sense that anyone really feels that great about it given the negativity surrounding her effort to get there and her inability to draw wide support for her approach.

Stylistically, if you look at these speeches over the years, she’s becoming a less compelling public speaker over time -- either that or she’s less interested in making a good impression. She was clearly engaged in 2012 or 2013 but now it has become routine. For instance, when she introduces individuals to highlight a story she has a hard time selling their story, pronouncing their names or acting like she even knows them. This Governor never really grew into this job and now we start the slow march to the end.

The Governor officially became a lame-duck following the '16 election. The speech reinforced the view that she sees no need to swing for the fences and is at peace with a legacy based in traditional Republican orthodoxy of never raising taxes and downsizing state government.

State Sen. Joe Cervantes, a possible '18 gubernatorial candidate, gave the Dem response to Martinez's speech and it can be seen here. His money line? "The State of the State is unacceptable."


The Governor prides herself on being a "fighter." Prior to the session she said she would "never stop fighting." But it turns out what she is fighting is the frightful reality that the state has become. In her speech there was no mention of the behavioral health or opioid crisis, the fleeing of the job-hungry Millennials from the state or that we continue to rank near worst in the nation in child well-being, poverty and unemployment. Instead, the Governor presented selected facts to paint a Pollyannish picture at odds with the reality of most everyday New Mexicans. That's how your popularity rating plunges from the 60's to the 36 percent approval Martinez scored in the SurveyUSA late last year.


Here is something from the GOP Governor of Arizona that our legislators might want to mull over. Gov. Martinez is proposing to have all state employees and school teachers take pay cuts by making them pay more into their pension plans but across the border:

Arizona has not projected a shortfall for the current fiscal year or for the upcoming one. The Legislature’s budget analysts expect a surplus of about $24 million will be available for new initiatives next fiscal year, but Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal showed a surplus of more than $110 million. Ducey has proposed a $9.8 billion spending plan. It would include $114 million for K-12 initiatives, including teacher pay raises and free tuition for prospective teachers.


Speaker Egolf
At 40, State Rep. Brian Egolf of Santa Fe is one of the younger speakers we've seen in recent history. Here he is Tuesday at the opening of the '17 legislative session accepting the Speaker's gavel from outgoing Speaker Don Tripp, 70, of Socorro.

Egolf's rise to the speakership is a credit to his political acumen, but it also speaks to the relative lack of competition for the top job. When Dems not excited about Egolf's rise were asked if they would support him, many stammered a common refrain: "Who else is there?"

Indeed, many legislative veterans and power players have cashed in their chips during the past decade as the dreadful Great Recession/Stagnation/Despair took hold and refused to end its grip. The ongoing budget crisis has made much less money available for politicians to play with, and politicians who are truly into the power game don't enjoy presiding over a bare bones government. They want to build things.

Egolf is boxed in by the new economic realities of the state. He will now see that even more as he deals with a contentious Republican Governor and a Senate that often says one thing, but then does another.

One wall-leaner, watching Tripp hand the gavel to Egolf, joked: "It's like watching someone hand over a shit sandwich." Well, at least expectations aren't too high. Congratulations, Speaker Egolf.


Union representative Daniel Secrist gave us today's bottom lines as he wrote on Facebook:

I am witnessing the beginning of the 53rd session of the NM State Legislature. Governor Martinez is entering to deliver her official Message. We already know, pretty much, what it will be. My message to all my fellow New Mexicans is simple: This is our circus. These are our monkeys.

Hey, just in time, too. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus announced this week it will close after 146 years. Never fear, the Roundhouse will pick up the slack, even if there's a lot fewer elephants marching around the place.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Our Exclusive '17 Legislative Session Analysis From The Inside; All Angles Covered On The Politics At Play, Plus: Heinrich Hammered: Vote Against Importing Drugs From Canada Sets Off Social Media Firestorm  

Gov. Martinez will open the 2017 legislative session today with her State-of-the-State address in early afternoon. It will be streamed live by all the local TV stations. Democratic State Senator Joe Cervantes will then deliver a response which can be found here.

Welcome to our big Tuesday blog on the opening day of Legislative Session '17. The first order of business is complete analysis and insight on the politics awaiting this session. Here are the keen takes gathered across the political spectrum from those with decades of Roundhouse watching and which you have come to expect from NM Politics with Joe Monahan.

--Joe, this will be the last 60 day full session for Governor Martinez and her last real chance to try and leave behind something other than comparisons to Nero. Legend tells us Nero fiddled while Rome burned and Governor Martinez’s 6 years are mostly noteworthy for her fundraising prowess, high-end travels out-of-state, and her infamous partying ways. That and fighting to stop issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants and now issuing them driver “privilege cards” instead.

Our comment: That pretty much nails it. The only major legislation that we can see anyone remembering from the incumbent Governor ten years from now is her decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. And now that may not even last as the GOP-controlled Congress considers its repeal.

Joe, If the Governor has anything new in mind for 2017, she hasn’t said so to this point, and this session will be her roughest yet. Although she was once seen as a promising politician on the rise, the Governor and her handlers badly miscalculated last year’s election. After 6 years they haven’t built any solid legislative alliances or goodwill and have failed to gain any confidence of legislators from either party.

Our comment: No disagreement here. The Governor's party lost control of the House and lost seats in the Senate. And she and her political adviser have ripped to shreds the unity within the Republican caucuses of both chambers. The roughest yet? Yep.

Joe, In private it is the Republican legislators and leadership of her own party who are often the Governor’s harshest critics. Since the legislative session a year ago the NM Republican Party has been taken over by the Governor’s strongest adversaries within the state party. Without another election in her future, the Governor can no longer use the threat of fundraising for Republican primary opponents in order to hold together her bloodied tribe. The state Republican Party is not about to send her a lifeline and she’s not yet begged forgiveness from soon-to-be President Trump.

Our comment: They will begin to treat her like an afterthought, but she still has power. We don't see the votes in the House for overriding any possible vetoes she makes. At least not yet.

Joe, In the House, Republican Speaker Don Tripp read the writing on the wall and won’t bother sticking around after the opening Tuesday. Former Democratic House Speaker Ken Martinez has probably told Speaker Tripp what the view looks like from the back corner seat that the former Speaker occupied after he and the Dems lost the House in 2014.

Our comment: Neither Speaker Martinez or Speaker Tripp made much of a difference. Both conducted themselves with professionalism but their politics were mostly inconsequential in this era of decline (except, perhaps, when Speaker Martinez agreed to the ill-advised corporate tax cut to placate the Republican Governor).


Joe, Expect House Republicans to be especially surly this session. Before 2014 House Republicans had not tasted power since the Eisenhower years. For decades they were comfortably irrelevant and complacently waited for the dinner bell and a nice steak at the Bull Ring. Until 2014 they had no idea what they had been missing. But for the past two years House Republicans enjoyed chairmanships, big offices, larger staffs and they controlled the agendas in committees and the House chamber. Then came November, with the Governor’s approval ratings in the tank and her myopic obsession with defeating Sen. Michael Sanchez. As a result, the offices of House Republicans are now boxed up, and those members are headed back to cubby holes and shared offices in the Capitol annex.

Our comment: To the victors go the spoils. That never changes.

Joe, It will take House Republicans a couple of weeks to fully realize what they have lost. That’s how long it will take for their legislation to reach a first committee and where their bills will be tabled. By mid-session there should be practically no Republican legislation still moving in the House which is precisely what Republicans did to Democrats in committees the past two years. Certain Republican committee chairs and leaders, who were not magnanimous in victory after 2014, will now see harsh retribution.

Our comment: Payback is a bitch.

Joe, Because Republican agendas will be killed swiftly by House committees, there will be no floor drama this session. No debates over abortion, death penalty or union busting. The Governor will not even get to hear the House debate her crime agenda. House Judiciary is likely to be chaired by Rep. Gail Chasey, a strong opponent of hers.

Our comment: And who is going to be bothered by that? Most will be relieved.

Joe, The important House Appropriations Committee will have a new chair in Rep. Patty Lundstrom from Gallup. Few other Democrats in the House understand the budget like Lundstrom, and the Republicans on that committee will be happy to have the Dems doing the dirty work of cutting budgets.

Our comment: That's one good thing for the R's. They will let the Governor keep the blood on her hands while the lobbyists hound the Dem majority to spare their programs.

Joe, The Governor not only lost her Republican majority in the House in November, but Democrats also increased their numbers in the Senate. Instead of moving New Mexico toward Republicans and conservatism, the Governor’s singular focus on defeating Michael Sanchez ultimately assured a more progressive Legislature for the Governor’s final two years. It may now be impossible for the four conservative Senate Democrats to side with Republicans and prevail over the liberals with coalition votes.

Our comment: We're not sure about the Senate coalition being completely dead. How much footsie will new Senate Majority Leader Wirth play with those four conservative Dems who so often play with the R's? Stay tuned.


Joe, In the 2016 election Gov. Martinez misjudged and scorned President-elect Trump who may now not give her a ticket out of town. Trump made clear he believes Gov. Martinez is not up to the job here. Still, plenty of other prominent Republicans who were on the wrong side of Trump have been willing to grovel and swallow hard. We may see the Governor’s name, along with that of Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera, answering D.C. help wanted ads. A female, Hispanic Republican is still a novelty item, and Trump might want to check off a few boxes with an ambassadorship to say…Uruguay.

Our comment: Uruguay?? Perfect!

Joe, If Santa Fe is seen in a historic context this will be an entirely new day. For the first time in recent memory the Legislature will not rely on the once dominant patron system for power and leadership. With his brother Michael Sanchez as the Senate Majority Leader and controlling the daily agenda, former House Speaker Raymond Sanchez continued to exercise considerable influence as a lobbyist--despite his own defeat years ago. That will now change.

Our comment: Any objections?

Joe, The big mystery this session is whether Republican legislators will continue to stand with the Governor while she begins to amputate limbs after already cutting state government to the bone.

 With the Governor’s low approval rating in the polls (36 percent in SurveyUSA) and the alternative being employee furloughs or shuttering state services and schools, it’s possible Republican Legislators will put aside partisan loyalty and consider overriding a Gov. Martinez veto. Otherwise, Republican legislators will have to do what the Governor seems intent on doing, which is to leave the state’s fiscal mess for someone else to clean up after she manages a quiet exit stage left.

Our comment: The radicalizing of the GOP on the tax issue---never raise taxes, no matter what--leads us to believe the veto override is improbable. They would rather make more cuts which their conservative constituencies will not take as hard as those in Dem dominated districts.

Yep. That pretty much nails Session '17. Now sit back and enjoy the Governor's State-of-the-State address. And if it gets under your skin, just smile and think "Uruguay!"


Senator Martin Heinrich was scorched on social media following his controversial vote against a measure aimed at lowering prescription drug prices by allowing the drugs to be imported into the USA from Canada and other countries. The howls grew so loud that there were rumblings that a fellow Democrat should primary Heinrich when he seeks his second six year term in 2018.

Much the cacophony came from supporters of Vermont Senator and onetime presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who pushed the measure. Heinrich didn't have to wait long for a dressing down,  Reader Mike Folsom opined:

Not sure what Martin was thinking when he cast his vote against the amendment to allow US citizens to import drugs from Canada but because of Facebook everybody saw it. Now we all know that he has sold out to Big Pharma. The argument that this is a safety issue is just so much bullshit - it is protecting drug company profits and political corruption of the first order. I hope Martin got lots of dollars for supporting drug companies over New Mexico voters because he may need them. He needs to be called out for stabbing us all in the back!

According to OpenSecrets.org, Heinrich has received over $150,000 from the pharmaceutical industry and associated individuals since 2011 as he gathers cash for his '18 campaign kitty. He and the other opponents of the measure argued that drugs from Canada and other nations do not meet FDA standards and it would be unsafe to let them come in here. Said the freshman Senator:

I have been fighting for years to allow the federal government to use its negotiating power to secure cheaper prescription drugs and I support importation if we can ensure FDA safety standards to protect consumers.

But, as we said, that pacified few of the supporters. For example:

National Nurses United sharply criticized 13 Senate Democrats who defeated an amendment that would have aided tens of millions of patients struggling with skyrocketing prescription drug costs, voting instead to ally with the pharmaceutical industry. "This vote is a disgraceful betrayal of every patient and consumer in America,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of NNU.

Blog reader Deryle chimed in:

Why did Heinrich take the side of big pharma and the neoliberals on this one? From here, he's starting to look increasingly like a citizen of DC these days.

Heinrich's vote came the same week Heinrich was vociferously attacking the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare. But his critics pounced asking whether most New Mexicans also support Canadian drug imports which would lower their health care costs?

The kicker is that 11 Republican senators, including several of the most conservative voted for the amendment which failed on a 52-46 vote (even Ted Cruz voted in favor).

Heinrich has earned a reputation for being overcautious but he may have overdone it on this one.  Cynics will argue that it takes millions to get re-elected and that was the primary motivation for Heinrich's vote. Unfortunately, for Heinrich, when you have fellow NM Dem Senator Tom Udall voting for the same measure the cynical argument carries even more weight.

The outburst over Heinrich received hardly any mainstream media coverage but his vote could loom large in his upcoming Senate race--whether he is heavily favored or not.

Spotting the trends, measuring the impact and offering solutions from across the political divide. That's why. . .

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

ABQ Mayoral Contenders Hits Double Digits But Will They All Last? Plus: Food Tax Talk Proved Sticky For One State Rep. 

Keller (Bralley)
Maybe we should charter a bus for all the ABQ mayoral candidates and drive them around town to make their case to the public. We're well on the way to filling up  a bus. The latest to shout "'all aboard" is Dem State Auditor Tim Keller who made his entry official Wednesday, coming with a website, a video announcement and a flurry of media interviews.

Keller is being closely watched as insiders place him among the top tier of the many candidates seeking to replace two-term Republican Mayor Berry this year. Veteran GOP consultant Bob Cornelius is among them:

Keller's announcement message was good and his video was good. A line that may resonate with Democrats is: 'We don't just need a mayor. We need a mission and a movement."  Democrats need to light a fire under their base to get the vote out. The lower the turnout the better it will be for the R's. Keller is mindful of that.'

Keller will be one of the few candidates to go the public financing route and if successful will collect $379,000 to run his campaign. Insiders say if he takes off he could also win support from a political action committee backed by labor and/or other interests. PAC's are free to play in the city election with few restrictions.

He was welcomed to the race by the state GOP which said:

Keller has evidently temporarily abandoned his gubernatorial aspirations and set his sights on adding another line on his resume. The voters of Albuquerque deserve a Mayor that views the office as an opportunity to make a positive impact upon the city, not as another step towards higher office.

Keller says he will answer that GOP call to make "a positive impact" by replacing APD Chief Gorden Eden and Assistant Chief Huntsman on "day one." Republican City Councilor and mayoral candidate Dan Lewis did not go that far in his Sunday announcement, saying, if elected, he will bring in new police leadership but did not explicitly say Eden would be out.

With so many candidates lining up our Alligators and analysts have formed a first tier and second tier of contenders as we wait and see who submits enough signatures of registered voters (3,000) on April 28 to win a place on the Oct. 3 ballot. Until then, the race will be in flux.

So far, there are four officially registered candidates on the city clerk's website. They are Democrat Stella Padilla, talk show host and independent Eddy Aragon; Dem Scott Madison who works at Kirtland AFB and independent Michelle Garcia Holmes. Independent Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, founder of Urban ABQ, is expected to join the race next month. All of those candidates are in our second tier.

In the first tier is Keller; former NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colon who announces January 25; former Dem BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta who announced earlier this year; GOP BernCO Commissioner Wayne Johnson who will announce next month; GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis who announced Sunday and possibly '13 Dem mayoral hopeful Pete Dinelli and Dem City Councilor Ken Sanchez who may instead opt for a run at the ABQ congressional seat.

That gives us nine certain contenders and 11 if you count Sanchez and Dinelli. We told you that bus was filling up fast.


Reps McCamley, Gentry and Harper
Las Cruces area Dem State Rep. Bill McCamley styles himself as a progressive but he ran afoul of them when he teamed with GOP State Rep. Jason Harper on a tax reform plan (no bill was introduced) that included a reinstatement of the food tax. We mentioned that here Wednesday, noting that Gov. Martinez will not support any such reinstatement. As for McCamley, a sympathizer asserts he never explicitly supported the reinstatement:

Rep. McCamley is not in favor of reinstating the gross receipts tax (GRT) on purchases of food. If the legislature is considering reforming the GRT structure, including repealing the deduction for food purchases, he wants to make sure that repeal is coupled with legislation to assist the poor and middle income residents who will get hit the hardest by that change. He presented a bill with Rep. Harper that would offset some of the regressivity of reimposing that tax by allowing SNAP recipients to use their EBT card to not pay GRT on all food purchased. The bill would have also increased the amount of and income threshold amount to receive the Low-Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate. But he made it clear at that meeting that he is not in favor of the repeal, and has serious concerns about the entire proposed reform package. He even said something like "The only reason I agreed to get on this political suicide train..." is to ensure poor people are not significantly hurt by the legislation.

McCamley said this at a December legislative hearing that drew the scrutiny of the anti-food tax crowd:

What happens is that at the very very least, you come out even because you’re getting the same amount of money you would’ve spent on food tax anyway...but...you’re paying less of a tax on everything else that you’re buying.

Maybe next time the majority Democrats might want to present their own comprehensive tax package (minus the food tax) instead of trying to slow down the "suicide train" that voters had already derailed at the polls in November when they stripped Harper and the Republicans of their House majority.

Meanwhile, Santa Fe's Alan Webber, toying with another run for the Dem Guv nomination in 2018, continue to court the progressive crowd. About taxes to resolve the budget crisis, he says:

--Impose a state-wide tax on sugar-laced drinks. Increase “sin taxes” on tobacco and alcohol
--Health care providers are volunteering to pay an assessment because they know their contributions will underwrite critically important Medicaid for New Mexicans.
--Pegging the gas tax so it goes up and down with the price we pay at the pump will provide money for infrastructure investments, create jobs and make the actual tax adjustable to changing circumstances.

Guess we can call our tax coverage today food for thought.

Enjoy the holiday weekend. See you back here Tuesday.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Making Sense Of Susana's Budget Plan, Debating Third Graders And ABQ Crime Right In Your Face  

In the total context of things, Gov. Martinez's plan to resolve for the time being the state's budget crisis makes sense. She proposes to raid reserve funds held by the public schools for $120 million and get one-time cash from other government accounts.

The stinker in her plan is to reduce the amount state government contributes to the pension plans of state workers. The vast majority of them receive only modest salaries and have seen no pay raises in years. Martinez is at her punitive worst in trying to balance the budget on their humble backs. Lawmakers ought to push back on that one.

Martinez, announcing her budget plans before Tuesday's start of the 60 day legislative session, reiterated her pledge not to raise any taxes and for those concerned about a return of the dreaded food tax, that's good news. A return of the tax was contained in the baffling "bipartisan" and ultimately misguided Harper-McCamley plan that would do nothing to raise revenue.

Martinez, as we have blogged for years, has no interest in addressing the macro economic problems this state faces and at this point--with less than two years left on her term--we are best to wait for the next governor to tackle the systemic and long-term economic woes facing us. This budget patch, consisting mainly of only one-time revenue and keeping in place already approved austerity measures, will kick that can down the road.

Let's face it. The Democrats do not have the unity nor the fight in them to put this Governor on the spot by proposing a complex remake of how the state allocates its resources or raises revenue. Also, to what end? Martinez would veto any such plan and the votes are not there to override her veto.

Thee is still hope for a comprehensive plan to fix our lack of revenue, repair the damage done from years of tax cutting mania and to revamp higher education for the downsized state we face in the years ahead. But that hope now rests on the '18 campaign trail, not at the Roundhouse presided over by a lame duck Governor and uncertain Democrats.


The state workforce was at 21,905 full-time positions in October, down 18 percent from mid-2008. Rather than a sign of distress, the Governor and her allies see this smaller government in a positive light. She may see her lasting legacy not as presiding over a failed economy but as the Governor who downsized state government and never raised taxes. If so, that could mean the workforce continues to shrink and that layoffs, which have already begun to trickle in, could continue if revenue projections falter even mildly.


For six years Martinez has been relentless in trying to persuade the legislature to adopt a social promotion policy--holding back third graders who do not pass reading proficiency tests. She's back at it for a seventh year and this time criticizing the public schools for not being very good at notifying the parents of third graders who are not reading well.

Commenting on social media ABQ teacher Jane Avon Rose gave some reasons why the third grade retention is again headed for failure:

Every teacher is required to, and does, send home six report cards and progress reports per student every year and holds two parent-teacher conferences, minimum. If those report cards aren't "notification" what is? Get real. If a parent doesn't know whether their own off spring "can't read," it's rarely because teachers of the child have failed to notify parents. And if a minority of teachers "fluff up" grades, you can bet your retirement it's out of legitimate concern over *some* parents going on the attack for being informed their child is less than perfect, be it via lawsuit, verbal assault, or, more often, modeling disrespect and disregard for teachers in front of the child, who then has permission to act that way in class. We have decades of data proving the ineffectiveness, in fact harmfulness, of retention, especially after age 6. Perhaps someday this administration will do any kind of valid "study." 


Dem State Auditor Tim Keller will formally announce his candidacy for mayor of ABQ at 10 this morning, according to his campaign. It will be a low key affair with Keller putting out a news release stating his reasons for running and then having "media availability" for 45 minutes in the afternoon. Keller's announcement is here. A video announcement is here.

Here's pic of what ABQ and its current and future leadership faces. Talk about crime right in your face.

According to APD’s Facebook page a victim observed the man pictured inside his car, attempting to steal it. The man got into a late model white Chevrolet Tahoe with another male driving. The man pictured here pointed a gun and fired a shot towards the victim. Anyone with information on this man or vehicle should contact Crime Stoppers at 505-843-STOP.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's A Hard To Get Ticket Out Of Here For Martinez, Plus: ABQ's Murder Meter Scales New Heights But That's Not The Half Of It, And: Ethics Commission Plan Is Back For Another Beating 

If she wants a ticket out of here Gov. Martinez is going to have to put to good use her time in DC now that she's announced she will attend the inauguration of President Trump. Insiders report there is absolutely no buzz about Martinez in the nation's capital when it comes to getting a plum job. That's not surprising as the president-elect prizes loyalty and Martinez and her political team have been anything but loyal. Her refusal to endorse or appear with Trump during the campaign leaves her stuck on the island, at least for now.

One school of thought has former Indiana Governor and VP Pence close to Martinez because she served as head of the Republican Governors Association and that Pence could pave a path for her. But then there's GOP Congressman Steve Pearce, who served with Pence in the House and is philosophically much closer to him than Martinez. And Pearce is no pal of Martinez's.

But the anti-Martinez wing of the GOP--that includes Pearce--faces a conundrum of sorts. They can't stand the possibility of Martinez advancing, but if she did there's a potential pay off for them that we've mentioned before--Lt. Gov. John Sanchez becomes Governor and much better positioned for the '18 race in which Dems are heavily favored to take back the Governor's office. But if Pearce gets serious about a Guv run, scotch the Sanchez as Governor talk. He could then be expected to to do all he could to stop that train from getting on the tracks.


While most major cities are experiencing a decline in their murder rates, with notable exceptions like Chicago, ABQ's murder rate continues to scale new heights. Former city Public Safety Director and possible '17 mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli breaks down the numbers:

A 20 year high in murders for one year is not the full story. Albuquerque has become one of the most violent cities in the country. Since 2010, Albuquerque’s violent and property crime rates dramatically increased by 14% to 20% percent. According to the FBI, in 2015 violent crimes increased by 9.2% and property crimes increased by 11.5%. APD officers have shot over 41 people with $50 million paid in police misconduct cases and excessive use of force cases. The number of APD sworn officers has fallen from 1,100 in 2009 to 850 in 2016. Only 430 sworn officers are assigned to field services responding to 69,000 priority one 911 emergency calls a year. Albuquerque needs 1,200 sworn police officers to effectively return to community based policing that will reduce crime. 

That pretty much sums up why crime in all its guises will be the dominant issue in the coming mayoral campaign.

And reader Bruce Thomson writes of ABQ's ranking as worst in the nation for car theft:

Police say folks warming up their cars in the morning may facilitate their theft but stealing older cars without an RFID chip in the key is really easy. Do an Internet search on "jiggle keys" and you'll find cheap blank key sets for sale and instructional videos on how to open & start locked cars "for locksmiths" (yeah, right!). My 20 year old Honda was stolen from my driveway in February by a fellow using jiggle keys and the tape from my video surveillance system showed it took him 30 seconds to get into the car and 3 minutes to start it. He was caught later the same day and we learned it was the third time he'd been caught in 60 days.


For the umpteenth year the Legislature will consider setting up a state ethics commission and as in previous years it appears dead on arrival. Even the press is becoming more skeptical. Political reporter Steve Terrell writes:

My biggest concern about an ethics commission — especially during this time of shrinking revenues and threadbare budgets — is that such a state agency would turn out to be window dressing, a half-baked agency suffering not only from a lack of financial resources but strangled by restrictions imposed by politicians. It could end up not having enough power or independence to truly ferret out corruption.

Meantime, ABQ Dem State Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto is proposing a watered down version of an ethics commission (he says it's more comprehensive than a commission) called the Public Accountability Act which he says "will significantly strengthen ethics enforcement across state and local government. It creates a venue for the public to bring forward ethical concerns related to the conduct of public officials and the management of public dollars."

Have mercy on the advocates for a state ethics commission. They're like a preacher on Skid Row urging sobriety.


Garcia Holmes
Was independent mayoral candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes playing to a GOP crowd by holding her Sunday announcement into the race at the upscale ABQ Country Club? Not at all. She explains that her father, the late Joseph Garcia, worked as a caddy at ACC back in the 1930's and the historic club has special meaning to her. It doesn't get any more working class than being a caddy which was our first job at the tender age of 11.

Michelle might have had a hard time gaining entrance to ACC back in the 30's when discrimination against Hispanics was standard and the caddyshack was the closest many of them ever came to being members. That she had her mayoral announcement there was not only a gesture to her father but a reminder of how far we have come.

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Monday, January 09, 2017

ABQ Mayor's Race Takes Firmer Shape; Lewis Is First Major R To Announce; Five Dems Test Waters; Some Announcing Soon; Our Complete Coverage And Analysis  

Lewis (Bralley)
The race for ABQ mayor began to firm up over the weekend with the first major Republican contender tossing his hat into the ring and five Democrats eyeing the office giving speeches to a liberal convention gathering. First, the GOP action. . .

Two term ABQ Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis came prepared for his Sunday entrance onto the city and state political stages. He had done pre-Christmas polling that showed the city's crime epidemic was far and away the most important issue for likely voters and he hammered away at it when he took to the podium. He said "our city is in a public safety crisis" and that we can't let "criminals define Albuquerque. . . Danger should not be the word that comes to mind when people think about Albuquerque."

(Complete video here. Lewis campaign platform here.)

Lewis, 46, is seeking to replace fellow R Richard Berry as mayor who is not seeking a third term. While he did not zing Berry directly he signaled when it comes to the deeply troubled APD he will not pick up where Berry left off:

We will embrace change not the status quo. As mayor, along with new police leadership, we will transform APD."

Lewis is the first mayoral candidate to indicate he may replace current APD Chief Gorden Eden. But he is not saying explicitly that Eden is out and that will be an issue until and if he does.

Lewis also said he would support the politically difficult proposal of consolidating city and Bernalillo County public safety agencies, arguing it would create "a new standard in accountability and efficiency."

On the city's struggling economy, Lewis did not offer much. He recited Republican boilerplate about making government friendly for business but relied on Berry's "Innovate ABQ" program for his economic message. In fact, he staged his announcement from one of the Innovate business incubators at Broadway and Central.

He took a bite out of the ABQ Public Schools by endorsing its break-up into smaller districts, calling it a "failed" district. The Legislature will tackle that issue in the upcoming session.

But it was on crime that Lewis made his mark. That is going to be the driver of the turnout in the affluent ABQ NE Heights which votes overwhelmingly Republican and has the power to advance a Republican contender into the mayor's office, despite the city being heavily Dem in registration. Turnout for mayoral elections is low so the always strong R turnout is magnified.


The fly in Lewis's soup is GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson who may announce a mayoral bid soon. Also, the rumor mill has former APD Sergeant and Republican Pal Heh making another mayoral run. That could split the GOP vote rather than unifying it around one candidate like Lewis.

If no candidate gets 50 percent at the October 3 ballot the two top vote getters advance to a run-off election a month later. If there's only one big R name in the race he is virtually guaranteed a run-off spot.

Still, Lewis has the support of the Harvey Yates faction of the GOP which has battled with Gov. Martinez's camp. That means GOP grassroots support and money from the NM oil fields. Lewis has raised well over $100,000 and has hired veteran campaign fundraiser Teri Baird. Insiders say Johnson will have to come with at least $250,000 to be competitive and give Lewis a run for the top GOP spot. Heh will run off the fat of the land and play in single digit territory.


In recent years Lewis has shed his image as a political neophyte. He had a disastrous and short-lived run for the ABQ congressional seat that may have matured him politically. And he has some running room when the Dems and Johnson try to hang Mayor Berry around his neck. Lewis voted against the controversial ART project for Central Avenue and he called for the resignation of then-APD Chief Schultz as the department began its long decline.

Like Berry, Lewis comes across as a solid citizen with an affable personality who pursues a moderate image but as a church pastor has important evangelical support. The Reverend Steve Smotherman of Legacy Church, sporting membership north of 10,000, was one of those introducing Lewis Sunday. That could put a lot of boots on the campaign trail.


Also announcing for mayor Sunday was retired APD police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes. She is running as an independent. Mayoral races are officially nonpartisan but everyone carefully watches party affiliation. She cited the crime wave as a reason for ABQ's inability to boost its economy. Can the unknown Garcia Holmes make the case for a nonpolitician?


A day before Lewis stepped forward ProgressNowNM sponsored a "Progressive Summit" that gave a crowd of 200 a sample of the five Dems looking at a mayoral run. They are:

Former BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta has already announced; former NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colon will do so January 25th, State Auditor Tim Keller's camp says he'll announce this week; former mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli, who says he is leaning toward running again, and City Councilor Ken Sanchez who is looking at mayor but may run for the ABQ congressional seat in '18. A Senior Alligator on the scene analyzes the five minute speeches given by each of the hopefuls:

Keller, Archuleta and Dinelli seemed most tuned into the crowd and spoke well. Colon seemed a little out of touch giving a talk about his desire for the Mayor to be heavily involved in education and to “disrupt” the education system. Seemed a bit of a stretch in a town where crime and economic development are on the front page every day. Ken Sanchez just wasn’t progressive enough for the audience and seemed a bit out of his element.

Keller captured the audience and got the best reception with a talk about small business investments as a way to jump start the town. Deanna did the “we all need to get together and work things out message” and made some good, solid points. Dinelli was most targeted in his criticism of the current administration and was the most partisan. To this observer, it was clear that those three candidates read the audience and were well prepared. The other two missed the mark. But these campaigns are starting to gel — Keller and Archuleta clearly had staff working their campaigns.

The Dems face the same problem as the R's--a potential split of their vote, although it is more serious for the Dems. All five have a following and it's hard to see which one, if any, will break out. But that's what campaigns are for.

The complete speeches are here. They were shot by an amateur on the scene and can be difficult to follow. Better than nothing, but what happened to a nice good quality camera for a YouTube presentation to highlight their heroes ? Did George Soros cut the ProgressNM budget?

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Friday, January 06, 2017

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

Working the Beat
This is surprising. Whether it's prudent is another matter:

Employees at the federal government’s only underground nuclear waste repository resumed disposal work Wednesday after a nearly three-year hiatus prompted by a radiation release that contaminated a significant portion of the facility. Two pallets of low-level radioactive waste were emplaced in one of the underground disposal rooms at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico, the U.S. Energy Department confirmed.

Reader Ezra Spitzer disagrees with our take and doesn't think imposing the state's gross receipts tax on big online retailers like Amazon.com is the way to go when it comes to raising badly needed revenue for the state:

I'm not a no tax yahoo and consider myself a progressive, but totally disappointed seeing you and others jumping on expanding the gross receipts tax to Internet sales as a "fix" for all that ails us. The gross receipts is a horribly regressive tax...just about as bad as they come and I hate to see folks arguing for its expansion. We should be trying to get the dang thing lowered and fewer things taxed by it instead of expanding what it touches. I also fail to see Macy's or Big 5 or any other big box as a "local business." Amazon just beat them at their own game. There are so many tax solutions that would fix our problems and I refuse to believe any expansion or increase of a regressive tax is the right solution.

In the old days, before today's radicalization of tax policy in which no tax increases whatsoever can be entertained, the short-term solution to the state's budget crisis would be relatively easy. The liberals give by supporting that Internet tax, the conservatives give by agreeing to a freeze on the recently enacted corporate income tax cut and to an increase in the capital gains tax. Both sides agree to a nickel or dime a gallon boost in the gas tax (for a specified time period) and some selective government cuts. And you are on your way. But radicalization has led to gridlock and a never ending crisis. In other words, Susana Martinez is no Garrey Carruthers.


When we first posted this pic of Susana and a forlorn looking bystander, we did not know it was Tom Church, the secretary of the state's transportation department. We joked that he looked as if he were in mourning and that perhaps he was thinking that soon he would have to be looking for a new job as Susana's final two years commence. All in good fun, of course, but this reader, who in the past worked with the secretary, says Church may look sad but he's not turning in a sad performance:

While I appreciate the need for humor (especially these days), I'm a little disappointed that it came at the Mr. Church's expense as he is among the few outstanding appointments made by this administration. Under Mr. Church's leadership, the NMDOT has dramatically increased the number of projects under construction, made progress in delivering big projects on time and under budget (think Paseo del Norte), and has resisted the old patron system of project selection in favor of prioritizing road work based on citizen safety and need. Also, Mr. Church came up through the ranks, he was not placed there as an act of political patronage. We, as a state, would be lucky to have him remain the head of NMDOT after Susana is long gone. 

Well, that ought to give Church a needed grin.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, January 05, 2017

Susana And Aleppo, Macy's Departure, Angst For Jeff Apodaca, TheSonntag Saga And We Get Faked Out Over Farmington 

That big podium from which Gov. Martinez announced yet another round of anti-DWI proposals seemed to swallow up the compact chief executive, much like the events of the day that have left her administration limping into its final two years.

But the former prosecutor is not about to change her tune. Law and order and crime and punishment are her home turf and the deep-seated economic and revenue problems facing the state--and which will dominate the upcoming legislative session--are as appealing to her as Aleppo was to Gary Johnson. It's foreign territory and will always remain such. Besides, attacking crime polls well, even if the "all crime all the time" agenda from the once Republican-controlled House was an utter failure at the ballot box. 

There has been really only one central and consequential element to Martineznomics--that she will never, ever raise taxes. It is a pledge that could well be put to the test in her final two years as even Republicans look for "revenue enchantment" to resolve the state's fiscal crisis. It could come down to matter of what constitutes an "increase." When Bill Clinton, in the middle of the Lewinsky scandal, he famously stated: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." 

Will we see similar fancy footwork by Martinez or will any revenue raising be viewed as she views crime and punishment--all back and white--and emphasized with veto threats?

As for that photo of Susana at the podium, who is that fella to her right? He looks as if he is in mourning. Maybe he's thinking that he has to find a new job in two years and the clock is ticking? (It's Tom Church, Secretary of the NM Dept. of Transportation).


What Martinez really needs to be making news about is having the gross receipts tax applied to Amazon.com and the like as retail increasingly moves on line. For example, Macy's leaving ABQ's Cottonwood Mall on the westside and its over 50 employees. Extending the gross receipts tax to all Internet sales would not be a "tax increase" but extending a tax to out-of-state retailers that our local folks already pay. Maybe someone can persuade Susana.


Early news on the '18 Guv front as a dispute that possible Dem hopeful Jeff Apodaca had with his most recent employer makes a splash:

Jeff Apodaca, the son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, filed suit in August against Entravision Communications Corp. and two Entravision employees, alleging breach of contract and wrongful separation. . .On Dec. 27, the Court dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, rendering Apodaca unable to sue the defendants on the same grounds in the future. Apodaca’s attorney, said the lawsuit was dismissed because “the matter had been resolved,” though he declined to elaborate further. Apodaca alleged he was fired in retaliation for complaining to human resources about “harassment, bullying, and intimidation” from Mario Carrera, Entravision’s chief revenue officer.

Entravision is a Spanish language media accompany where Apodaca was a top executive. If he does make the Guv run his rivals are sure to have him explaining in both Spanish and English a lot more about that lawsuit.


Why can't new NM GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi simply apologize to private citizen Carla Sonntag and move on? It's well-known there was no love lost between Sonntag and former GOP Chair Debbie Maestas, but Cangiolosi is the new guy on the block who should be making the peace, not flaming an old war: The news:

The head of a state business group filed a defamation lawsuit against the Republican Party, the latest chapter in a roiling spat sparked by anonymous emails amidst a backdrop of party infighting. Carla Sonntag, president and founder of the New Mexico Business Coalition, filed the suit in Albuquerque. The lawsuit claims neither Sonntag nor her family members were behind the anonymous emails, which levied allegations against several prominent Republicans in the run-up to the election of a new party chairman. It also says the state GOP’s claim that Sonntag was the source of the emails has caused her “personal humiliation, mental anguish and suffering.” In addition, the lawsuit alleges the GOP’s claim has led to some donors suspending their ties with the NM Business Coalition. Among other Republicans, the emails in question targeted Republican National Committeeman Harvey Yates Jr. and Ryan Cangiolosi, who was elected last month as state party chairman.

The whole sordid mess, including some pretty ugly emails, are included in Sonntag's lawsuit which we helpfully post here for your bedtime reading.


Confirmation now of the story we broke here this week that Gail Armstrong is in line to be appointed to the House seat held by Rep. Don Tripp, the outgoing House speaker who is retiring this month. Tripp is now actively campaigning for Armstrong who served as his legislative aide and is the wife of TLC Plumbing owner Dale Armstrong.


For a time Wednesday the blog met the infamous fake news machine and the machine got the upper hand.

We took the bait when we spotted a "news item" on the Facebook feed of our old friend and longtime newsman Frank Haley. It seems famed actor Clint Eastwood was traveling through Farmington, his car had broken down and he heaped praised on all the local help he received--even a hamburger lunch while he waited for his rental car to be fixed. If only it were so. But economically battered Farmington will have to wait for some uplifting news.

Not long after we put that item up readers sent us a story about actor Jim Carrey praising residents of Hobbs, NM for the very same reason Eastwood was supposedly singing the praises of Farmington--for the help he received when his car broke down there. Well, congrats fake news.  It took a while, but you got us.

It sure would be nice if you guys running that machine could make some of the news around here fake--like the massive state budget crisis, the ABQ crime wave and the economic decline. Unfortunately, you can't fake it in the real world. A final word on this from Farmington and reader and broadcaster Scott Michlin:

Greetings from Farmington, Joe. I am the General Manager of KSJE 90.9 FM,the public radio station in San Juan County. I appreciate your blog and read is regularly. Unfortunately, the Clint Eastwood story about his time in Farmington isn't true. The websiteeven has a disclaimer&nbsp that it is an entertainment website composed mostly of articles containing fantasy news or satire). As much as all of us in San Juan County would welcome some good news, this isn't it. Although, I can report we have plenty of places to provide a good burger when Clint (or you) come for a visit. Keep up the good work and thanks!

I'll take you up on that burger offer, Scott. As Clint would say, it would "make my day."

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