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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

A Proper Flag For Old Town? Lawyered Up At The Boyd Hearing; Any Day One Winners Or Losers? And Pushback On APD And Mayor's Repeat Offender Assertion 

Here's an idea. Instead of pulling down the old Confederate Flag at ABQ's Old Town Plaza, why don't we put up a white flag of surrender and let Colorado take us over? The news:

Albuquerque ranks 152 in the country when it comes to the best places in the U.S. for business and careers.That's according to the latest ranking of 200 cities in the U.S. by Forbes magazine, which finds Denver as the best city for business and careers. . . Raleigh, N.C., Portland, Ore., Provo, Utah, and Atlanta round out the top five in the 2015 Forbes list.

ABQ's exceptionally slow job growth was the main reason for it languishing near the bottom of the list. No wonder that mere 8 hour drive to Denver is looking so enticing to the city's millenniasl. (#4 Provo is only a 9 hour drive).

HEARING OF THE DECADE

The ABQ hearing of the decade got underway Monday. The preliminary hearing will determine if two APD police officers will stand trial on murder or lesser charges or not at all for the 2014 fatal police shooting of homeless camper James Boyd. Police lapel camera video that showed Boyd being killed stunned viewers around the globe. We asked former Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Pete Dinelli--who is sitting in on the hearing--to weigh in on day one:

You have very good, seasoned trial attorneys that are evenly matched and a trial judge--Neil Candelaria--in full control. Special Prosecutor McGinn's opening statement was succinct, effective, aggressive and set the tone. The cross-examination by defense attorney Luis Robles was exceptional in characterizing the facts of the case with answers from witnesses that were favorable to the defense. A major revelation on day one: APD Chief Gorden Eden testified that he has never read the final report on the Boyd shooting, even though he is chief and was at the scene. This is the same chief who said in a news conference the day after the shooting that it was justified. Other facts that came out--Boyd was well known to APD. For two years two Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) police officers were actually assigned to deal with him but that those CIT officers were not dispatched the day he was killed. This was the first round of a 10 round match and in my estimation it appeared to be a draw. 


James Boyd
Chief Eden's testimony drew sharp criticism from one of our Legal Beagles:

Chief Eden’s performance confirmed what most already know: APD’s cover-up culture is alive and well. Eden took the stand and claimed he hadn’t read the report on the Boyd killing. By claiming he hadn’t read it, Eden dodged having to testify about what the report said. The city just paid $5 million to settle the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Boyd's family, but Eden--who is paid $160,000 a year--wants the public to believe he hasn’t read his own department’s report? Eden also claimed there’s an ongoing investigation into why Officer Keith Sandy’s lapel camera video disappeared. Eden’s had a year and a half to get to the bottom of it. What’s the hold-up? The answer is Eden doesn’t want to know, or he knows what’s on the video and doesn’t want the public to see it. Despite former APD Chief Ray Schultz having fled the jurisdiction, APD’s past problems remain the same for this “new” APD. When the truth is inconvenient or might make APD look bad, count on the Cover-Up Cops to cover it up.

Those Beagles sure are good at sniffing out all the angles, aren't they?  Here's another one with pushback to the contention from Mayor Berry and APD that repeat offenders alone are the reason for the recent crime wave:

APD is attributing all the crime to repeat offenders. That is nothing new and doesn't explain the kinds of things we are seeing. APD officers are openly commenting that the city is super dangerous and they don't want their families on the streets. A big reason for repeat offenders being on the streets is the new court rule that went into effect on 2/2/15. It sets deadlines to speed up the disposal of cases.  Prosecutors can't proceed on cases without all the discovery necessary and it is next to impossible getting it from APD. So while prosecutors are waiting and sending request after request for discovery, these guys are out on the streets. If prosecutors had what we needed, they could move forward with the cases and have a better chance of locking the bad guys up. 

Also, getting cops to show up to testify for DWI and misdemeanor cases in Metro Court,  for grand juries and at preliminary hearings and trials is very challenging. Cases are dismissed all the time because of "No Shows." Some of this may be due to APD's low officer numbers, but a lot of it is simply a lack of organization and not caring.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We rechecked with our Senior Alligator who told us here last week that ABQ Cultural Services Department director Betty Rivera was headed for the exits at the behest of the city's Chief Administrative Officer. That has yet to happen but our Gator says hold on and watch for this to play out.

We'll give it a bit more time, but in the event this was bad info, we'll have to take the unprecedented step of administering to a Senior Alligator ten lashes with a wet noodle-- the customary punishment for errors. And you thought you're job was tough. . .

By the way, in case you forgot, a Senior Alligator is someone with at least 20 consecutive years experience in La Politica has reached the age of 45 and preferably has run for political office and lost. Applications for Senior Alligator status are taken only twice a year--on Good Friday at a Mora County penitente morada and on New Year's Eve in the back room of ABQ's El Modelo restaurant.

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Monday, August 03, 2015

All Crime All The Time Prompts Citizen Petition As Mayor Deflects, Plus: The UNM Contract Debacle And More Spacing Out for Spaceport 

Mayor Berry
Its been all crime all the time in the Duke City this Summer of '15. Another fatal police shooting and another murder rolled into the weekend headlines, preceded by a spate of sensational carjackings, a murderous teen mobbing and even more casualties from the killing fields of ABQ.

We opined in a recent column that the crime wave seems to have taken on the characteristics of a wildfire and Mayor Berry and his administration have lost control of events. One of our readers--Milton Bluehouse--was prompted to start circulating a petition demand that the Mayor get a handle on what's happening. Not surprisingly, he and APD offer soothing bromides, denying there is even a problem:

After a 30-minute high speed chase, leading to an eight-hour SWAT standoff, the petition was created. “The constant sound of sirens, created this sense of anxiety and fear that we needed to do something to address crime,” said Milton Bluehouse. . “It’s an ongoing conversation that I’ve had with my neighbors and I just thought, hey we need to create a petition in order to draw attention to crime in our communities."

. . . (APD spokesman) Tanner Tixier said crime is not up. . . APD points out most of this summer’s crimes have been committed by the same small group of people. “We have to keep catching them again and that’s got to stop,” said Tixier.  The Mayor said he agrees “Over 90% of the murders we’ve had this year have been committed by repeat offenders. “We need to give the judges the tools that they need to keep folks we should be afraid of in jail."

Reader Ron Kathman responds:

How about the deliberate and premeditated apathy on the part of our city's political and business leaders? They seem to think that if they pretend that crime is not a problem here, then crime will not be a problem here.

So the Mayor says he is pretty much helpless to stop the crime outbreak unless the state Constitution is changed to make it harder for repeat offenders to get bail.

That sounds like an odd message to send to the criminals who seem to have caught on that it's open season for them in a city that has a severely understaffed APD, near historically low response times, sapped morale, botched training and a DOJ court order handing over its head. But let's just hold up a copy of the Constitution and bellow to the criminals: "You guys are really gonna get it now!"  Thanks, Mayor. Everyone feels so much safer now.

NO STEPPING STONE

Mayor Gonzales
Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, often mentioned for higher political office, is finding out that being His Honor is not an easy way to get there.

In ABQ, Mayor Berry hungrily eyes the '18 Guv race, but political pros point out his ongoing problems with law and order in the city make him easy prey for an effective negative TV ad campaign.

Folks around the state don't cotton to "big city" mayors and their big city problems. We can't recall anyone gong directly from mayor to major statewide office. Maybe Gonzales or Berry will break that trend but there is plenty of reason to be doubtful.

THE UNM DEBACLE

The issue is how much politicization the public will tolerate at UNM, and as we know from Big Bill's term and now Susana's, the answer is more than you would expect. But the hiring of Marc Saavedra, son of former Dem State Rep. Kiki Saavedra, crossed the line and his contract as a consultant for the UNM Health Sciences Center will be canceled. Outrage followed Saavedra's hiring because of his three DWI convictions. He was formerly the top lobbyist for UNM but was let go after his last DWI.

It is quite the sight to see powerful administrators like UNM President Bob Frank (who with perks pulls down about half a million a year) and Health Sciences Director Dr. Paul Roth (who pulls down $650,000 a year) squirm in the limelight over this. Their huge budgets from Santa Fe make them especially vulnerable to political maneuvers. The only way they can stop it is by publicly standing up to the politicos and fighting it out in the Legislature. But the Saavedra debacle--which they had to see coming--shows the UNM temperament is to go along to get along--often meekly. You understand the reasoning but  it's embarrassing to watch.

SPACING OUT

The critics call the stalled-out NM Spaceport, financed with taxpayer approval to the tune of about $220 million, a boondoggle. Well, what about the accident disabled WIPP? It makes the Spaceport look like a bargain:

Federal officials said that the March 2016 target to resume operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad. . . must be pushed back due to “unanticipated issues.” “Over the past several months a number of additional activities have been identified that need to be added to the project schedule, including safety related activities that are required to be completed. . .” the Department of Energy said. The department said it expects a new resumption of operations date and new cleanup cost estimate – currently at $500 million – to be announced in the fall.

That's half a billion and we're just getting started. Is it possible WIPP will not re-open for many years and remain a cash guzzling hole in the ground? Yes.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

JThe politicos would take credit if they could, but the reason behind the best economic news we've had around these parts lately is beyond their control.

It's the end of the drought--at least for now- as seen in living color in this pic sent in by friends in Edgewood who are enjoying one of their most intense rainy seasons in decades. Is that really NM?

On the east side of the state--where extreme conditions have prevailed--the drought is also over. A rancher describes the cattle grazing there as "fat and sassy.". . .


Those Republicans in control of the state House for the first time in over 60 years have been feeling their oats. And they like the feeling, so they are out on the campaign trail this summer raising money for the battle next year to keep the chamber under their wing.

NM House Speaker Don Tripp was feted at an ABQ fund-raiser Thursday night, with proceeds going to the Speaker's PAC. Among those co-hosting was former NM GOP Chairman and oilman Harvey Yates, 2010 GOP Guv hopeful Doug Turner, as well as members of the Bursum banking and ranch family in the Socorro area, the region represented by Tripp in the House. . .

Santa Feans have named their favorite New Mexican restaurant so if you're headed there this summer, heads up:

As the Shed’s accomplished little sister, La Choza also excels at chile-smothered fare such as cheese enchiladas, chile rellenos and burritos. Tender posole (made with pork) and beans accompany many dishes, and there’s plenty of chile on the plate to sop up with an extra side of sopaipillas.

We think they got it right. We had the carne adovada burrito at La Choza this week and the red chile was better than ever. . .

We get this in the email:

Joe, this is Mitch from your old KUNM-FM radio days. I am not retired and started a blog on some issues. I hope you enjoy it.

We're not retired either, Mitch. Maybe fat and sassy but definitely not retired.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

About That New ABQ Crime Paradigm: The Readers Take The Floor With Comment, Concern And Insight; Holster Up Your Smith And Wesson And Come On In 

Sure, we know that the important political news is how Sen. Martin Heinrich has landed the sixth spot on "The Hill's 50 Most Beautiful List" but we'll save that for another time. (By the way, the hard news about Heinrich from our Potomac Alligators is that Steve Haro, Heinrich's longtime chief of staff, is soon departing for a slot at the Dept. of Commerce.) In any event--beauty contests notwithstanding--today we stay on the more serious side of the aisle and run a wide range of reader reaction we received to our Wednesday blog on ABQ's disturbing new crime paradigm. Vox Populi, take it away. . .

Dennis Gabaldon writes:

Joe, Hooray! Your article is spot on and hits the nail on the head. Finally a voice telling it like it is, and pointing the finger at Mayor Berry, Chief Administrative Officer Perry, the APD brass and the media. The Journal and the TV stations have been giving a pass to this administration and also to the Martinez administration, and where has it got us? No jobs, no teachers, violent crime, and all are brightest young people fleeing to Denver and Phoenix. Lower the corporate taxes and watch our infrastructure crumble, then try to make up for it with higher gross receipts tax. The Democrats are just as guilty, for sitting on their hands and not having the guts to stand up to all this travesty. We need all the media to open up their eyes, and follow your lead. Great Work!

James Jimenez writes:

All I can say is thanks for being a voice of clarity on our leadership failures.

Anonymous writes:

Very well done piece. I actually just bought a Smith & Wesson.

John Ingram writes:

Joe: We share your outrage. We attended an "Oasis" class last week wherein a former UNM professor of Greek Classical History spent an hour and a half taking about the final decades of the Roman Empire, entitled "We had to destroy the Empire to save it." His lecture caused us to reflect on the state ABQ is now in, a state of decline which you so accurately describe in your blog today.

Gina St Jean-Bracamonte writes on our Facebook:

Well said, Joe. The ABQ fire department dispatcher response to the shooting of a teenager ("I'm not going to deal with this" click) highlights the apathy and non-compassion that seemingly prevails in our city. Change on ALL levels has to occur.

Thanks, Gina. That chilling story of the 911 dispatcher hanging up on the caller who was seeking help for her dying 17 year old friend made the NBC Nightly News and other national media. The dispatcher has since resigned.

Also from Facebook, Andy Weiman writes:

We had many of these same issues in the first term of Mayor Berry. Why did the public re-elect him?

Joe Craig writes:

"One man with courage is a majority." Thomas Jefferson. Thank you, Joe Monahan.

Thanks for that, Joe, but there's more than one. Read on. . . .

VOX POPULI CONTINUES

Melissa Ariel Romero shared our post on Facebook and writes:

This is an important read for everyone who calls or has called Albuquerque home. . . Albuquerque has been in a state of decline and decay for years, and I am not the only one who left, in whole or in part, because of crime and the wholesale lack of accountability of our law enforcement and leadership, who accept this status quo as inevitable and unavoidable, or even celebrate the glamorization of this trend on national television, despite the very real victims involved. Until there is real and genuine turnaround, the brain drain and value drain from New Mexico will continue unabated, and ridding ourselves of the tyranny of low standards would be a good start.

Anonymous writes:

A recent front page of the Journal contains a graphic example of the disconnect between aspirations and reality in our struggling city and state. A columnist reports on the results of a query he put to readers about "how to put Albuquerque on the map." At his invitation readers suggested ideas from a Sandia Skywalk  to a Venice, Italy themed canal system off of the Rio Grande, to a water slide from the Sandias to the river, among others. All were well intentioned ideas but surrounding them on the front page were the other headlines: "Murder suspects grandma goes to jail," "Suspect in carjacking makes major criminal leap," "Wrong man arrested in student's death," and the lead story, "NM's drug deaths highest ever." Seems we are already "on the map" but for all the wrong reasons. None of Dan Herrera's correspondents suggested ideas to alleviate these unfortunate signs of the local state of affairs.

Keith Miller writes:

Simply, the people that are "ruining or running" the state are like professors at schools of "higher" education. They are vested, they get their salary, their retirements, they hang out with their cronies, pass around what little comes in and tell us we should be happy for their patronage and expertise. People are SICK of the BS and it is getting ready to hit the fan.

Melissa Williams posts:

Albuquerque needs help. The news broadcasts are so terrifying. . . Something has to be done to clean up the crime and image of this beautiful city. . . The criminal activity is frightening and it's frightening that that is all the news stations emphasize. People are leaving here in record numbers. Hello Mayor! Hello City Council! Hello Governor! Help this city pick and clean itself up. Where is law enforcement?

E.g. Boston writes;

Well said, Joe. After being a neighborhood association vice-president for about 9 years, I had observed much of what you have observed. Time for everyone to demand better of our influential citizens, politicians, and law enforcement departments. We need to take back our city!

Liz Bustamante writes:

You nailed it again, Mr. Monahan. 

Thanks Liz and to all who took time to comment. This is it. . .

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ABQ's New Crime Paradigm: City Soaked In Violence Prompts Run On Guns; Analysis, Commentary And Some Outrage 

(Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
The very fabric of Albuquerque seems to be unraveling as a crime wave soaks the city provoking the kind of primal fear you would expect roaming the streets of Sarajevo--not New Mexico's largest city.

The shocking news that citizens are flocking to gun stores to buy arms to protect themselves against an ever bolder class of local criminal reveals for all to see the breathtaking and systemic failure in leadership that has engulfed ABQ and threatens its future as a livable environment.

Like a wildfire, crime is now leaping boundaries that previously served as barriers. The cold-blooded killing of a 60 year old in his driveway by a mob of teens near the normally placid Lomas and Tramway neighborhood was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. It followed closely a series of other alarming crimes and gave us the run on guns and reawakened our instinct for vigilante justice. So how did we get here?

It's about accountability. There is none. It's about apathy. There's too much.

Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry have lost control of events. They have stubbornly refused to implement the sweeping personnel and policy changes so desperately needed at APD to halt the decline in police response times and the collapse in the number of officers patrolling the streets. The criminals get the message. You get a Smith and Wesson for your bedside.

The city council has awakened from a deep slumber but is still napping. There is no passion or fire for the fight that is now so necessary if ABQ is to be rescued from the death spiral it is enduring.

In many ways we have become a community in retreat. In the face of the chaos two city council seats in the October city election go unopposed. The speculation about who might be the next leader of the city barely rises to a murmur. The historic crash in turnout in the 2013 city election now seems more predictive of the future and not a fluke.

Local journalism is failing. How in the name of Billy the Kid can you do a news story about citizens arming themselves out of fear and not interview the mayor, the police chief and the business leadership and ask them what they are doing about it? How? Why do we get sensational TV reports about "Boomerang Thugs" that fault the judiciary but exonerate the leadership of this city, state and APD whose duty it is to keep us safe? Why?

The business community continues to play ostrich and refuses to acknowledge that ABQ's reputation for violence and now racial division is killing us economically. We are the only Sunbelt city not thriving, yet even when the crime extends to the city's most affluent and heavily gated zip codes, the rationalization goes on. "Well, it's not as bad as Detroit or Baltimore." Does the Anglo business community that is Mayor Berry's political base still not see that by turning their heads away from confronting him that they are enabling the city's decline and the decline of their own economic fortunes?

Albuquerque is a city that has learned to live with lower expectations economically and in other ways in exchange for the unique way of life offered here. But that bargain does not include feeling terrified in your home no matter your neighborhood.

I'm older now and sometimes the outrage turns to sadness, even nostalgia. What would leaders like former Mayor Kinney have done? Or Senator Pete Domenici who led the city for a time in the 60's? Did the economic collapse and federal cuts make today's Albuquerque of callousness and indifference inevitable? Or does a passionate, competent leadership make all the difference to a city's fate? We still believe the latter. Albuquerque sorely misses the political ethic of the past. It yearns for leaders who will begin patching the fabric of a city so torn apart. And it waits.

This column is also running in the current edition of the ABQ Free Press on newsstands now. 

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Some Sorely Needed Drama For La Politica As Keller Vs. The Machine Continues, Plus: The Dems New ED And Guv Urged To Change On Early Childhood  

Keller & Balderas
New Mexico politics is getting some sorely needed drama back in the picture. The only question for the past five years has been who will the Guv's political machine attempt to crush or intimidate today and who would be the next Dem to fold in the face of the onslaught. Now that Dem State Auditor Tim Keller has stuck his neck out and ordered a probe of possible preferential treatment of a taxpayer by Martinez's secretary of taxation and revenue political junkies have something to watch.

The mini-drama is enough to get both the R's and Dems back from vacation as they send out zingers to their loyalists (the R's here and Dems here). Even political junkies of the Republican persuasion have to take some joy in Keller's battle. They get just as bored as the Dems.

In the latest chapter, Keller is front-paged by the Machine for being mentioned in a California lawsuit dealing with his former job as a consultant. There's not much "there" there but the light jab was the only counter punch they could dig up and you go with what you got.

Everyone knows the next story line: What does Attorney General Hector Balderas do with Keller's charges of preferential treatment allegedly given by a Martinez cabinet secretary?  The latest development on that has a Martinez political operative taking to social media asking the question. Will the operatives be sorting through any dirty linen in Hector's hamper as they are with Keller--just in case?  Duh.

For those of you gaming this as a prelude to a possible Keller-Balderas face-off for the '18 Dem Guv nomination, you are way too early. Okay, we have to say that for the record but
around here it's really never too early. So. . . .

Hector had $260,000 in cash on hand in his April finance report. Keller had $35,000. Balderas has scheduled a Sept. 16 fund-raiser, with tickets topping out at $1,000 a shot and bottoming at $250. Checks go to "Balderas for New Mexicio." That name keeps his options open, doesn't it? As for Keller's fund-raising, he's not pressured--not when you're getting media coverage of late that would cost a half million or so.

WHAT ABOUT '16?

Okay, we hear you. Never mind the '18 cycle. What about '16 which is right in front of us?  Here's some news about the new executive director of the NM Dems as they prepare for Campaign '16:

Joe Kabourek, an attorney and top-level staffer from Colorado has been called on to lead the Dem’s into the crucial 2016 election cycle. . .Kabourek, 30, comes to New Mexico from Denver where he worked on multiple federal, state and local campaigns, as well as being a licensed attorney in Colorado. 

The way it works these days is Kabourek gets to come down here and if the R's can't find any weird stuff he has tweeted he gets to stay. And to make him feel right at home, here's an Alligator strike upon his entry into La Politica:

The Democratic Party has done a horrible job turning out its base. In 2008, 464,458 people voted for the Obama-Biden ticket. Democrats were only able to get 219,262 people to vote for King-Haaland ticket. Hispanics were 41% of voters in 2008 and only 33% in 2014. The drop off in Hispanic voters is killing the party and one of the main reasons why the state House flipped. It is obvious that party leadership does not understand this. If they did, they would not have hired an out-of-state white male with very limited political experience to run the party.

Don't fret, Joe. The Keller-Machine contest has made the Gators even hungrier.

WISEPIES WORRIES

TV news picked up on our Monday blog courtesy of the Alligators who broke the news of the tax troubles of WisePies pizza, the start-up that has promised to pay UNM $5 million over ten years for the naming rights for the famous Pit. UNM Prez Bob Frank said he is not concerned at all about the ability of WisePies to pay all that cash. But then Bob was last seen strolling near the UNM duck pond singing, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

OTHER VOICES

Newsman Milan Simonich comments on the state's 49th ranking in child well-being in the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation study. It found that 31 percent of the state's children live in poverty, up two points from last year:

Gov. Martinez has a rare opportunity to help reverse New Mexico’s. . . high poverty and low academic achievement. . . Martinez has opposed using a portion of the state’s land grant endowment to expand early childhood education. The endowment is worth about $15 billion. . . Many people want to use a portion of the endowment to get kids off to a fast and productive start by expanding early childhood education. In New Mexico, a state with just 2 million residents, this would be easier to achieve than in most places.  New Mexico, though, won’t have much of a future unless it moves decisively to turn around poverty rates. Expanding early childhood education--generally defined as prenatal to age 5--would be the surest way to produce more high school and college graduates, build wealth and reduce prison populations. . . Martinez, 56, is the politician who’s key to getting the initiative on the statewide ballot next year. If she changed her position, enough Republicans in the state House would follow minority Democrats and vote to put the proposal before voters. 

The proposed constitutional amendment needs approval of both the House and Senate in order to be sent to the voters. The Guv would not be able to veto the measure, but as Simonich points out, it would very likely take a change in her position to get the House--now controlled by the R's--to support the amendment.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

WisePies Pizza And UNM Easy Prey For An Alligator Strike, Plus: Machine In The Shop? Guv Misfires In Hit On Keller, And: More From The "No BS" Economists 

(click to enlarge)
There's s a lot of easy prey for the Alligators of La Politica out there. And you can reliably count on the UNM Athletic Department to feed the frenzied critters. Take the recent announcement that the department had "record fundraising" for the 2014-15 fiscal year of nearly $15 million. Really? Here's the Gator strike:

UNM said nearly half that total was money pledged by WisePies pizza and U. S. Bank. Actually, both companies have only made a very small payment on that pledge. WisePies has paid less than 2 percent of the $5 million in renaming rights for the Pit but had it renamed with signage as well given a suite and parking passes which cost some $35,000 a year. Since the pledge, WisePies had at least five tax liens, four of which were listed in recent legal ads. Joe what are the odds that UNM actually sees that $5 million that they are acting like is already money in the bank?

Four of the tax lien notices are on the graphic we posted with this report. WisePies also had a tax lien notice back in December and at the time said it did not mean it could not keep its $5 million UNM commitment. But now there's more liens.

The odds that UNM will see the $5 million over the ten years that it's due but is already counting as a done deal? Well, let's put it this way: Before it's all over Dion's may be able to pick up those WisePies naming rights for a dime on the dollar.

MACHINE SHOP

Love it or hate it, you gotta give the Guv's political Machine credit. It has altered the political landscape here, but now they are playing defense for the first time. And doing it sloppily. The Guv herself was busted for getting her facts wrong as she pushed back against State Auditor Tim Keller's investigation of possible preferential treatment of a taxpayer at the taxation and revenue department. Martinez said:

“The auditor right now is merely holding press conference after press conference,” she said. The governor added that the auditor “hasn’t even interviewed folks who work at Tax and Rev.” Actually, Keller has held only one news conference. . .And, according to the State Auditor’s Office, the outside forensic audit firm that was hired to look into the accusations against Padilla interviewed several employees of the tax department. Keller’s office has said there are several hours of recorded interviews with these employees, which have been turned over to the attorney general.

Did someone shred the Guv's briefing book? Or is the Machine in the shop for repairs or on summer vacation?

CARVING OUT COVER

Susana & Demesia
So putting aside the harsh campaign-style rhetoric (as Keller calls it) where does the Fourth and Fifth Floors really stand on the controversy embroiling Tax and Rev chief Demesia Padilla? They are carving out cover. That's where they stand:

When asked if she still had confidence in Padilla, who has served as tax secretary since the beginning of Martinez’s first term in 2011, the governor said, “Of course.”
“I have seen nothing that has taken place where any evidence or facts would ever cause me to this point to lack confidence in that department,” Martinez said.

"To this point" is the operative phrase, but if you didn't know that your Alligator credentials would be revoked.

And as we keep the chess pieces moving they all point in the direction of Attorney General Hector Balderas who now decides future action on the Keller investigation. Will he or won't he?

Hey, we might not have Donald Trump around here for entrainment but Keller, The Machine and Balderas aren't exactly summer rerun material.

NO BS BIZ COVERAGE

We forgot to add to our list of "No BS Economists" the folks at the Brookings Institution. Their take on the ABQ economy gets routinely ignored by the cheerleaders but they've been nailing it throughout the Great Stagnation. Their take:

Mixed signals blurred the story in Albuquerque at the start of the year. Job growth accelerated, and employment expanded by a strong 0.6 percent during the first quarter. Output, however, contracted by the same amount. Albuquerque was the only major Mountain metro area to follow the national economy into negative territory on this measure. The unemployment rate decreased for the sixth straight quarter, falling 0.1 percentage points in the three months through March. At 5.8 percent, the metro area’s unemployment rate remained the region’s second-highest. Home prices increased by 1.3 percent in the first quarter; over the year, they rose by 3.4 percent—a below-average increase both regionally and nationally.

Our other "No BS Economists" are Dr. Chris Erickson at NMSU and ABQ's Dr. Kelly O'Donnell as we continue to bring you the real story on the state and city economy that you won't get anywhere else. Not that being on that list is going to have them winning any popularity contests.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Ugly Rhetoric In Santa Fe, Those Government Jobs And A Letter From Springer 

State Auditor Tim Keller continues to get under the skin of the Guv's political machine as he reports on his investigation of possible preferential treatment of a former client of the taxation and revenue secretary. The ugly rhetoric raining down on Keller prompts NM columnist Ned Cantwell to write:

That rush to judgment mentality, the hate and vilify your opponent mindset, is exactly the reason so many younger citizens find the political system a joke and therefore refuse to identify with either party. They don’t take politicians seriously. . .And if Martinez prefers knife throwing to diplomacy, she is doing the state a significant injustice. A common thread of commentary concludes New Mexico is losing steam. People want to leave. Companies don’t want to invest. Raising capital is difficult. Last on every list. Etcetera. I wonder why?

Keller's findings of possible wrongdoing are on the desk of Attorney General Balderas and await action. Balderas is watching closely the abuse Keller is taking. And the Machine knows it.

THOSE GOVT JOBS

Oh, no! Not more government jobs. Someone call the "diversification cops" because what job growth we're seeing is a result of tax dollars at work:

Employment growth in education and health services outperformed all other industries in New Mexico in June. Not only that, but the industry also added more jobs than it has since January 1991 — 7,700 jobs. Growth in the industry made up about 45 percent of the sum of all year-over-year job gains in June and education and health services' gains have not fallen below 4,000 jobs in the past 10 months.

Much of the growth in health care employment can be traced to expansion of the Medicaid program for low-income New Mexicans. Education funding is the largest component of the state budget and also subsidized by federal spending.

DATELINE SPRINGER

Colfax County Commissioner Landon Newton, a resident of Springer, writes:

I take issue with your comment this week that the rural towns are being hammered hardest by poverty and if you'd like to see an example just drive around Springer or Raton.

Our town, Springer, is a clean well kept town. The town employees work hard to keep the town in great condition. Our local leaders are working toward growing economic development in Springer. The Chamber of Commerce is active and promotes our town. The same goes for Raton and our other communities in Colfax County. Are there things that need improvement; do we have some vacant buildings and homes? Yes, of course we do. However, we are definitely not what I would consider a depression town of the 1930's.

Colfax County has some of the most beautiful scenery in the state of NM. There are many things to do in the county. Philmont Scout Ranch employees over 1200 seasonal employees every summer. 

Finally, come up to Springer for the Colfax County Fair and Rodeo on August 8th. We will treat you to an old fashion parade, home cooked BBQ and a great Rodeo.

We just might take you up on that Fair and Rodeo invite, Landon. The scenery is spectacular and the people friendly.

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

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dubious Distinction: Duke City #19 On List Of Top 20 Cities People are Ditching; El Paso #1, Plus: The Spaceport Pause, Udall Blistered On Chemical Bill And Our Bottom Lines 

(click to enlarge)
They're outta here. You're probably aware that more folks are leaving Albuquerque than moving in but this map from Bloomberg puts the problem in stark perspective. ABQ ranks #19 among the top 20 cities in the USA that folks are ditching. The info is based on 2013 numbers but we're not seeing signs of any explosive group. Stagnant or slow-population growth could be a long-term trend.

The reason why more people are leaving here than moving in seems pretty obvious--jobs, jobs, jobs. And some may be leaving because of crime, crime, crime.

Remember, this is not only the ABQ city limits being ranked, but the four county metro area of Bernalillo, Valencia, Sandoval and Torrance counties.

We have seen no statements from Mayor Berry or Gov. Martinez about the fleeing folks. Has anyone asked them?

And how about El Paso ranking #1 among the top 20 cities losing residents? Again, the prime reason is jobs. We've done extensive reporting on the Las Cruces recession. But the "R" word rarely makes it into the mainstream media in Cruces or ABQ. Seems folks just don't want to deal much with the fact that folks are hoofing it out.

DE LA CRUZ BLOGS IN

We ran into Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz the other day and he strenuously disagreed with us about future population growth. He said he has watched the area grow for 40 years and growth will soon resume. He said that's why he supports the controversial Santolina Development that projects tens of thousands of new residents for the West Side area in the decades ahead.

Mesa del Sol was another land development projected to have tens of thousands of residents but the crash took care of that. And economist Dr. Kelly O'Donnell has come with an erudite analysis of why she believes Santolina's projections are off base:

I have reviewed the economic and fiscal impact analyses submitted with the Santolina Level A Master Plan, and find that although both analyses are methodologically sound, they each contain unrealistic assumptions about the population and economies of the middle Rio Grande Valley and consequently overestimate the project’s net benefits. When these assumptions are replaced by more accurate ones, estimated net benefits decrease by 56 percent, the jobs to housing ratio falls from 2:1 to .6:1.

Good stuff, Kelly. We're going to add her to our list of "no bullshit economists" which includes Dr. Chris Erickson at NMSU.

No crystal ball is perfect and maybe Commissioner Art will be shown to be right 25 years from now. If we're still around we'll buy him an adult beverage of his choice.

THE SPACEPORT PAUSE

There's nearly a zero chance that Virgin Galactic will launch flights into space from the NM Spaceport next July but the head of the Spaceport put that out as a possibility when lawmakers pestered her over the operating expenses for the facility near T or C.

Predictions of Virgin taking tourists into space have been going on for 11 years. Industry insiders say last year's fatal test flight crash has made the future of manned spaceflight  in NM unknowable. The Legislature has been subsidizing the $225 million state-owned Spaceport to the tune of over $2 million a year, and if they want to keep the place going they're going to have to keep it up into the unknowable future.

BLISTERING TOM

Sens. Udall & Vitter
Sen. Tom Udall has a reputation as a leading environmentalist but he continues to get blistered by both the right and left for championing a chemical safety bill, even as he announces that over half the Senate is now supporting the measure. Here's the latest Udall thumping from the right from the American Spectator:

Here’s the ugly. The American Chemistry Council, Dow, Dupont, BASF, 3M, Honeywell and Koch Industries spent $62.9 million in 2014 lobbying members of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and lobbying disclosure forms filed in Congress. While the disclosure forms don’t link the lobbyists to specific bills, a study by the Environmental Working Group found that most of the forms referred to TSCA. . . Senator Tom Udall, in Congress since 1999, has been largely ignored by the industry—until the 2014 election, when he turned up in the top 20 recipients of American Chemistry Council money, according to opensecrets.org. The Chemistry Council also ran television ads supporting Udall’s successful race against Republican challenger Allen Weh. It appears they’re getting a decent return on their investment.

Udall's office defends the measure:

This bill was written by Sen. Udall and Sen. Vitter in one of the most open and inclusive processes for a major piece of legislation to ensure all sides got a chance to be heard -- environmental advocates, industry, public health NGOs and others all were involved,” she said. ACC had no more input than environmental groups, and as a result of the input from many stakeholders, the bill has moved further toward what environmental groups and others said they wanted to see.

THE BOTTOM LINES

A proposed gross receipts tax hike of one-eighth of 1 percent to finance improvements to the ABQ BioPark will be on the October city election ballot thanks to a petition drive that gathered the required 14,000 signatures of registered voters. The city clerk's office says it has verified the signatures. The petition drive was managed by Steve Cabiedes of S C Consulting. He says it was hit or miss during the months-long drive but a push at the end put the BioPark foundation over the top. Cabiedes has been doing petitions for decades.

Cabiedes had better luck on this deal than when he last made the news. That was in 2012 when he managed the campaign of the primary foe of ABQ Dem SE Heights State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton. It got so heated that Cabiedes was attacked in mailers by Dem interest groups for having worked in the past for GOP candidates. Cabiedes is a longtime contributor to our election night coverage for KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Confederate Flag And Berry's Future And Busting Bussey; Cabinet Secretary Scored Over Dental School Comments  

We kick off the Wednesday blog from downtown. . . .

Mayor Berry's eagerness to engage protesters upset that a confederate flag is displayed in ABQ's Old Town is in sharp contrast to his willingness to engage with other activists, particularly those bird dogging APD. One of the Alligators says it's a sure sign that Berry is eyeing a political life beyond city hall:

Berry must be getting ready to run for something otherwise he wouldn't be making such a big deal out of meeting with folks on the Confederate flag issue. He has hid under a rock the last 5 years and you had to pry him out to get him to meet with the public. How long did it take for him to meet with victims from the police shootings? Nine months? Now he puts out a statement the day after a "protest" and actively engages the Old Town Confederate flag issue. Something is up because his far Northeast Heights political base could care less about this issue.

What's up is that Berry is eyeing a Guv run in '18. That may sound surreal to those who are fully aware of the heavy baggage this mayor carries but it's what you get when you have a city council, a Democratic Party and a newspaper that has given him a pass. Possible Republican foes of Berry for the GOP Guv nomination might want to think about that?

BUSTING BUSSEY

Secretary for Workforce Solutions Celine Bussey brought the Alligators out of the pond when on the Tuesday blog she supported building a dental school at UNM. Here's one of the critters (a Republican) who calls himself "C.U. Laytor Gator" (no kidding):

First, as a Gator who remembers previous dental school debates, it would be wise to do a cost benefit study before breaking open the coffers for a somewhat specific field of advanced medical training like dentistry. The state has, in the past, found it much more cost effective to pay neighboring state tuition to get New Mexicans trained up as dentists. Before this administration goes down that path, it ought to do an updated analysis. My hunch is that, even with some folks going out of state for dental school and then not returning, it was much less expensive than the dis economy of scale involved in creating our own dental school.

Those in favor of the dental school say cost is not the issue but the opportunity it provides to New Mexicans to enter the profession and to staff the state with dentists who are committed to staying here. Would it be cost effective to send New Mexicans who want to be doctors or lawyers to out-of-state schools? Probably but we don't because the point isn't the subsidy it takes for the education but the beneficial impact to the state's long-term future.

When you stick your neck out in La Politica you can be sure it will get snapped at. Here's a Senior Alligator strike on Bussey:

Secretary Bussey cannot even run the Workforce Solutions Department, making people wait on hold up to 45 to 60 minutes. The fact that the Workforce Solutions secretary is talking about the need for a dental school is backwards. I agree 100% with you about the need for a dental school but I would suggest that it is a conversation that the regents at UNM should have. The workforce solutions secretary should spend her time seeing if she and her department could not do a better job putting people back to work and administering the programs that fall under her domain.


Another of Gov. Martinez's cabinet secretaries--Monique Jacobson of Children Youth and Families is taking hits. They come from ABQ Dem State Sen Michael Padilla. That story is here.

VIDEO MYSTERY

A reader who is a friend of the family who lost their son in a fatal shooting in March at the Los Altos Skate Park in ABQ's NE Heights says he expects more transparency in the case if APD is truly undergoing reform:

APD was quick to put on a PR show to portray Jaquise Lewis, a 17 year old African-American, as a perpetrator who was gunned down in "self-defense." APD released to the media several highly selective screen shots from a video taken that night as part of that effort.

Jaquise's mother has repeatedly called on APD to release the full video because she believes it shows Jaquise did not start the fight that occurred that night, that he did not have a gun, and was shot in the back twice in an act of premeditated murder.

While willing to release selective screen shots from a video that is almost three minutes long, APD refuses to release the full video. After repeatedly asking for the video's release Jaquise's mother was forced to file a public records lawsuit against APD in order to get the video released. She has stated publicly that she will drop the public records lawsuit if APD will release the full, unedited video. APD says they won't release the video because there's an on-going investigation. 

That development certainly raises the curiosity quotient about just what went down at that skate park.

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