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Friday, February 27, 2015

A Pause For A Look At New Mexico's Big Picture 

Here's my latest column for the ABQ Free Press on newsstands now. . .

If the biz community wants to make history they could support dropping various tax incentives and in exchange lower the job-inhibiting gross receipts tax. They could support the formation of a state bank to get money flowing in this capital-starved economy in which bankers shiver at the thought of loan risk. They could support the constitutional amendment to fund very early childhood programs from the state's vast Permanent Fund to begin resolving the state's social conditions crisis.

You see, many business people don't want to move here (particularly the ABQ metro) because the place is riddled with crime, poor schools and social pathologies that are portrayed as fictional on TV shows like  "Better Call Saul" and "Breaking Bad" but are far too real. You can't sell New Mexico by telling business people they will want to live in gated communities and send their kids--and those of their employees--to private schools.

Right-to-work and failing third graders are simply not serious solutions to resolve what's facing us. They are wedge issues designed to advance a political agenda--not a true reform agenda that would pull New Mexico up and begin the very demanding task of competing with the quality of life and business conditions found in states only a couple hundred miles away.

The business community--or at least its leadership--is locked in a paradigm of the past; cut taxes, give companies cash to come here and do right-to-work. Those measures are the cherry on the dessert. But what's missing here is the dessert--a secure and safe quality of live, a lower poverty rate so new residents don't feel like their stranded in a third-world outpost and a state that cares enough about its sliding standing that it begins investing in the population that is disenfranchised.

But who really wants to confront the still deepening crisis the state faces? Confronting it means taking ownership. From the Governor to the Legislature to the congressional delegation to the mainstream media, there is little discussion of how systemic, how deep and how long it is going to take New Mexico to recover not only from the recession but from decades of neglect of its social problems that are killing business.

We simply don't see the political will or the will among the populace to make the leap. It is much easier to move on, which so many do. NM now regularly ranks among the top states residents are leaving. As we've noted with shock and chagrin, this once booming Sunbelt state has actually lost population.

New Mexico has not been dealt a strong hand for this new century. Declining federal spending and what appears to be the end of the energy bull market are going to continue to keep up the pressure. This is an historic shift that has laid bare the "other economy" in which hundreds of thousands toil for low wages or withdraw from the workforce and become wards of the government. Its always been there but the federal cash and energy boom lessened its effect and visibility. Now the seismic shift has exacerbated the low-income trend and there's no hiding it.

We face a state with a lesser educated populace and an increasingly older one. Nearly ten years ago, in 2006, former GOP Governor Garrey Carruthers, now president of New Mexico State University, wrote:

Over the next 15 years, vast numbers of white workers will reach retirement age in New Mexico, while the state's Native-American and, even more so, its Hispanic population will expand dramatically. As a result, by the year 2020, 47 percent of New Mexico's working-age adults (people 25 to 64 years old) will be Latino. ... The gaps in education between New Mexico's white population and its Hispanic and Native-American populations are great enough to turn these demographic shifts into a real statewide decline.

"A statewide decline." And that's precisely what's happened (not to imply that Carruthers endorses any of our views).

This is not your granddad's boom and bust cycle. It's obvious now after so many years of downturn that short-term economic development is not in the cards for New Mexico.

Decades of sweeping problems under the rug mean we will have to spend that much more on early childhood education, workforce development, homelessness, crime prevention and substance abuse--if we care to do so.

None of this is music to the ears of fiscal conservatives. Unfortunately, the band in New Mexico has begun packing up. If we want to keep the music playing, we're going to have to pay the piper.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Camera Shy: City Of ABQ And Hanna Too, Plus: PARCC Protests, Susana A Cheesehead? Sanchez Orders Embalming Fluid For RTW And A Trifecta Update 

Here's another one from the bizarro world of the city of  ABQ and its police department. Officer Jeremy Dear was busted for not turning on his lapel camera when he shot and killed 19 year old Mary Hawkes last year. So what happens at his public personnel hearing Wednesday where Dear was asking to be reinstated? Well, the hearing officer told the media they could not use their cameras to videotape the proceedings. Say what? The hearing was called off when journalists stood their ground. Such is the upside down logic that has infuriated the critics of APD and Mayor Berry. (A 15 minute video of the hearing is here).

And then there's those very public protests by Santa Fe students over PARCC testing. The coverage has flooded the airwaves, but when asked to go on camera Public Education Secretary Hana Skandera suddenly gets camera shy.

The state's electronic media has for years been browbeaten into submission by the Guv's political machine as Martinez and Mayor Berry conduct photo-op governance. Will the spell be broken in this second term?

On that PARCC testing, a parent of an APS student writes:

My son was told that APS is weighing cutting electives and the number of classes high schools students take down to six instead of seven. The reasoning behind it is to save on teacher pay. Teachers are telling students that much of the APS budget shortfall is due to PAARC or as it is now referred to as CRAAP. While former APS Superintendent Winston Brooks had personal issues that ultimately caused him to lose his job, unlike current Superintendent Brad Winter, he at least fought for the district. Gov. Martinez has succeeded in siphoning away more and more money each year from districts and forcing them to spend money whose sole purpose is to enhance her VP chances with Jeb Bush.

Well, Martinez might want to spread her love around when it comes to the GOP prez candidates. Right now the polls have Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker leading the pack in Iowa. Does that mean Susana is about to become a cheesehead?

More national coverage of the APD crisis with Government Executive magazine asking if it is is costing the city economically. ABQ economic consultant Mark Lautman thinks so:

Economic development has become as much about growing, attracting and retaining talent as it is about growing, retaining and attracting employers. Communities vying for new job creation projects are increasingly having to prove to senior management and their site selection consultants that they can grow, attract and retain talent faster and better than the other places they are competing with. Recent national publicity about Albuquerque’s police problems last year surely hurt the city’s quality profile for recruiting companies—and talent. Those problems need to get fixed—and I hope they do.

WIND WIN

We all know how the crash in oil prices is slamming the state budget, which makes this all the more timely:

More than $4.4 million was generated from taxes on wind production across Wyoming in the last fiscal year, according to the state Department of Revenue. . .


Another reason for us to have this.

EMBALM THAT THING

What was Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez doing on the phone with Berardinelli Funeral Home following last night's House passage of the right-to-work (RTW) bill? Why, he was ordering up embalming fluid which he will use generously when the bill comes over to him.

RTW passed the House on vote of 37 to 30 with three reps not voting. The R's included in RTW a fifty cent increase in the state minimum wage that had raised objections from SE GOP conservatives. They were brought around by inclusion of a weird amendment regarding the wage.

Sanchez has named Senators Wirth, Padilla and Stewart as the Senate's official delegation to the RTW funeral which will be held in a committee room to be determined.

TRIFECTA WATCH

This one flew right under our radar. A state Senate committee has dealt what appears to be a death blow to Gov. Martinez's third grade retention bill. It easily passed the GOP House but Senate Public Affairs has already voted to block the measure.

Third grade retention is one of three bills we collectively refer to as the Guv's trifecta of wedge issues this legislative session. The other two being right-to-work and repealing driver's licenses for undocumented workers.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Angry Anchor Makes Newsroom Splash; Joles-Dyson Clash Gets Top Billing In La Politica, Plus: Lujan Grisham And the Childhood Amendment; She Says She's For It 

Joles
Dyson
Too bad KOB-TV didn't have the cameras rolling when anchorman Tom Joles and veteran reporter Stuart Dyson blew up at one another in the newsroom this week. The station's news broadcasts have been in third (or even fourth) place so long, the fracas might have juiced the ratings. Well, at least it was a welcome relief from the doldrums in Santa Fe. . .

One outlet reported that the KOB news director told staffers after the outburst that Joles--a 25 year veteran of the anchor desk--was having trouble "fitting in" at a modern newsroom. Well, given the state of TV news, that's like saying Tom would be out of place in an insane asylum. . .

The face-off was apparently sparked when Joles dressed down newbie reporter Stephanie Claytor. That--reported fight reporter Dennis Dormzalski--prompted Dyson to offer his support to the cub which prompted Joles to chew out Dyson. The two got into a good old fashioned newsroom screaming match replete with F-bombs but, Dennis sadly reported, in the end no fists flew. It reminded one of two aging dinosaurs--Dyson over 60 and Joles fast approaching it--arguing thunderously as the hatchlings gasped in amazement.

Joles, who station management says is off the air for a "cool down period," may have had reason for leaning on the cub. The back story is the turmoil in that newsroom. For example, the station recently had to run a correction relating to an uncomplicated story out of the NM attorney general's office. Insiders say Joles was none too happy about it, but when you are the highest paid anchor in the ABQ market, sometimes you got to swallow hard.

In any event, the bookies are giving Dyson the edge over Joles in any rematch. Even though he's older he has more combat experience and gets more sleep because he covers the Legislature. But Tom may decide some things--like trying to make sense out of TV news--just aren't worth fighting for. We're sure Dick Knipfing can tell him where he can get a good buy on a rocking chair and Brian Williams can show him some nice lunch spots in NYC. . .

Things like the Dyson-Joles bout used to happen with regularity at the Roundhouse. But now that Guv Martinez Chief of Staff Keith Gardner is minding his manners and not pinning anyone against the Roundhouse walls (we miss you, Keith) our only hope is that House Republicans Nate Gentry and Dennis Roch decide to get physical. (And that hope may not be that far fetched, given their infighting over a right-to-work bill).

As for the betting in Santa Fe, those who pretend to know are doubling down on the '15 trifecta. That would be death for right-to-work, third grade retention and repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. We are in about our fifth rematch between the Governor and state Senate on two of the three. Right-to-work is the newcomer, but already looking as battered as a '57 Chevy up on cinder blocks in an Española driveway.

MORE AMENDMENT NEWS

Put ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham down in favor of the constitutional amendment to use a portion of the state's $14 billion Permanent Fund to finance very early childhood programs. Her office says:

Yes, she supports the constitutional amendment. (ABQ Dem) Sen. Michael Padilla has the current version in this year's legislative session.

The amendment, which would require the approval of both chambers of the Legislature to get placed before the voters, was killed last year in the Senate Finance Committee. The proposal was approved in the state House when Dems had control.

We blogged Tuesday that the amendment is dead now that the GOP controls the state House, but with Senators Udall and Heinrich and US Reps Lujan and Grisham all now publicly supporting the amendment, perhaps there could be some movement?

AMEND THAT

Attorney Steve Suttle's argument here Tuesday that the state Constitution is too easy to amend drew a number of reactions. One reader points out that while most constitutional amendments require a simple majority of both houses of the Legislature and then voter approval, that is not the case for all amendments:

Article XIX, Section 1 states: "No amendment shall restrict the rights created by Sections One and Three of Article VII hereof, on elective franchise, and Sections Eight and Ten of Article XII hereof, on education, unless it be proposed by vote of three-fourths of the members elected to each house and be ratified by a vote of the people of this state in an election at which at least three-fourths of the electors voting on the amendment vote in favor of that amendment."

 The people of New Mexico do not simply vote Yes on every proposed amendment to the state's Constitution that comes before them, and getting a proposed amendment to the people is a rare thing. This study shows the numbers through the 2012 general election:

Mr. Suttle's parade of horribles -- "constitutional amendments to ban abortion, prohibit same-sex marriage, or to authorize state-sponsored prayer in schools" -- would perhaps be of concern to some if it were not for the fact that all three are patently unconstitutional, and have been so declared by the US Supreme Court. If the Legislature were to put those proposals on the ballot (very unlikely), and were the people of the state to approve them (also very unlikely), the Federal courts would take about 10 seconds to invalidate them.

Not to say that Mr. Suttle's overall point, that the state Constitution should not be amended lightly, is invalid. The numbers show, however, that the Legislature and the people of the state take this responsibility seriously.

Thanks for that. We ran into the higher requirement to approve certain constitutional amendments last November when a proposal to change the date for school board elections failed to pass because it did not garner 75% of the vote as required. 58% of the voters supported the amendment.

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First Take On Dem State Chair Race, Tracking Congress Support For Early Childhood And The Bear Again Mauls The Four Corners  

We've got the first take from the Alligators on that three way race for chairman of the NM Democratic Party. The contenders are '14 Dem lieutenant governor nominee Deb Haaland, Santa Fe County Dem Party Chair Richard Ellenberg and Chaves County Dem Party Chair Fred Moran. And the front runner is:

I would rate it about 55% for Deb Haaland, 30% for Ellenberg and 15% for Moran. Moran has very little name recognition in the central and northern areas. Ellenberg will do well in the north, and will get a decent amount of support from Bernalillo County, mostly because he’s been a fixture on the scene for so long. But Haaland is more widely known across the state than either of the other two.  

Democratic party State Central Committee members will meet in April to select a chair for the next two years. Sam Bregman is the outgoing chairman.

TRACKING THAT AMENDMENT

Northern Dem US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is on the record in favor of that constitutional amendment that would ask voters to allow the state's big Permanent Fund (over $14 billion) to be tapped to finance very early childhood education (ages 0 to 5). We pointed out Monday that both of the state's US Senators now support the amendment.

ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has not taken a position and we haven't seen anything from southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce.

In a recent speech Rep Ben Ray Lujan declared:

With our children ranking near the top of every bad list, we must do something to break this cycle. The Land Grant Permanent Fund was created to invest in New Mexico, to help create wealth, to pave the way for positive education. What better place than in our children’s future to invest?

The amendment is opposed by state House Republicans and as long as they control that chamber the amendment is stalled. It requires approval from the House and Senate, but would not need the signature of the governor but would instead go directly to the voters.

MAKE IT TOUGHER

Reader and attorney Steve Suttle says amending the state Constitution is too easy. He writes:

(ABQ Dem state) Sen. Ortiz y Pino’s proposal to use the amendment process to legalize marijuana is a dangerous path. Constitutions are intended to be charters and the amendment process is not a proper way to frame ordinary legislation. This is especially true when the bare-faced motive is to bypass a governor who would surely veto such a measure. 

What is really needed in New Mexico is a constitutional amendment making it more difficult to amend the constitution. At present, a simple majority of the Legislature and a simple majority of the voters can approve any amendment. By contrast, a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress is required to refer a proposed Federal constitutional amendment to the state legislatures or to individual state conventions where three-fourths of them must concur. The Framers deliberately made this a cumbersome process. Amending the state constitution should likewise be more difficult than it currently is.

“Progressive” Democrats would be well advised to consider the specter of a future Republican-controlled Legislature using this vehicle to refer constitutional amendments to ban abortion, prohibit same-sex marriage, or to authorize state-sponsored prayer in schools. One need only look to the recent history of the abuse of the initiative and referendum process in Oklahoma to see how well founded these concerns are.

SANCHEZ VS. SANCHEZ
Runnels

At a memorial service Monday at the Roundhouse Rotunda for the late Lieutenant Governor Mike Runnels former NM House Speaker Raymond Sanchez had the honor of introducing current Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez. Said Raymond:

He (John Sanchez) rose to power after kicking my butt.

It was in 2000 when Republican John Sanchez ousted Raymond from his ABQ North Valley House seat and thus the speakership of the state House. After 15 years it appears the pair have buried the hatchet but we still wouldn't look for Raymond to endorse John for Governor in 2018.

ZIMMERMAN VS. MARTINEZ

That didn't take long. Former Dem State Rep. Rudy Martinez, ousted from his Las Cruces area seat in an upset in November by Republican John Zimmerman, is already out on the campaign trail trying to unseat Zimmerman in 2016. Maybe that's why Zimmerman was cozying up to Dem Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith at the Rio Chama. He needs some goodies to keep Rudy at bay.

BEAR MAULING

The great energy Bear is back and again mauling the Four Corners:

Local contractors in the oil and gas industry are facing severe cuts in the wake of fallen oil prices. One industry leader in the San Juan Basin, WPX Energy, has asked its contractors for a 20 percent price cut on goods and services. . . One of WPX's vendors is Farmington's Calder Services Inc. Shannon Calder Monk said. . . the cuts would be damaging to her family business. "I understand their point of view but I am not making a 20 percent profit," Monk said. "Did (WPX) take a 20 percent cut? I just don't have it to cut it."

If you represent the Farmington area in the Legislature, are you pounding the table for more capital outlay projects for the region? You ought to be.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Out Of The Wilderness? Udall, Grisham Speeches Have Sharper Edge, Plus: ABQ Is More Than APD And Session Reaches Halfway Mark 

Grisham & Udall
Maybe NM Dems are hitting bottom. When you hear ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham urge the Legislature to declare a "war on poverty" ala Lyndon Johnson and Sen. Tom Udall joining Sen. Heinrich in supporting a constitutional amendment to tap the state's vast Permanent Fund for very early childhood, something is up.

Grisham has never been a fave of the party's liberal wing and she still has not given the nod to that amendment--which is turning into a litmus test of sorts for for the party's progressives--but her speech to the Legislature signaled that Dems may finally be realizing that unless they shake something up, they are going to cede even more ground to the R's.

In Grisham's case, she needs to curry favor with base Democratic voters who will be showing up in the far away 2018 Dem Guv primary--if she chooses to go that route. Whatever the case, we think Dem attorney general and possible Guv contender Hector Balderas is paying close attention.

For Udall, safely re-elected in '14 to a second six year term, pressure has been growing. The dead-end NM economy has meant even more poverty--especially among children--and the shocking depopulation of the state that is occurring under his watch--screamed out for attention from a senator considered a leading liberal light. His shout-out before the Legislature was acknowledgement of that.

Are the Udall and Grisham speeches precursors to a change in the political narrative from wedge issues like repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants to the more fundamental issues facing the state? We'll see. . .

HALFWAY POINT

Halfway through the 60 day legislative session now. It appears it's going to be another minimalist gathering, with approval of an essentially flat $6.2 billion state budget and the state Senate again looking like a graveyard for the Governor's perennial wedge issues (with the addition this year of right-to-work). Martinez is going to need a hat trick if she is going to get a headline grabber at the end of this gathering

ALL THE OTHERS

With the ABQ police department being roiled like never before in the national media, the city's image has taken a severe hit. But what about the 5,000 or so city employees who labor outside of APD?

Since the recession/stagnation took hold here in 2010 they have seen pay cuts, been subjected to furloughs and seen vacant positions go unfilled. Most of them earn a middle-class salary and are not getting rich. If the national spotlight shined on them, they would come out looking pretty darn good. For example. . .

City bus drivers zip along, providing competent, courteous service. The ABQ fire department has a new chief and a commitment to modern firefighting. It makes for a safer city.

The ABQ Sunport, as we've mentioned before, is simply one of the best in the USA. Excellent customer service combine with a great terminal to create a friendly experience. Don't blame them that the recession has made getting a flight trickier.

The Animal Welfare Department never has a slow day, yet it routinely goes about the business of attending to the needs of thousands of abandoned pets, providing a service near and dear to the hearts of city residents.

The ABQ Museum is about to unveil a $4 million update to its permanent exhibit explaining the intriguing history of ABQ, with all the 21st century technology that entails.

While money has become tighter, major city street repairs seem to be getting done. The recent paving of the intersection of University and Central, where cars were subjected to severe wash boarding, is a prime example.

The Solid Waste Department is another agency that has a solid record of delivering on its promises. Over the decades garbage collection in ABQ has been modernized, sanitized and made more user-friendly.

There are many other departments and employees who go about their business, competently and diligently. We see it in our everyday lives as we take advantage of a well-conceived park system, well-maintained libraries and a zoo that has built a strong following.

We've hit the wall economically in recent years but the legacy of past leaders and citizens of building a strong, modern government lives on. To preserve and enhance it, today's city leaders need to act with more urgency to put APD back on the path of progress.

MAIL IT IN

Rick Lass writes of reader Jim McClure's suggestion that we do away with low voter turnout school board elections and have the mayor appoint the board members:

I just don't think it is workable. Very few school board district boundaries would coincide with municipality boundaries, for one. Plus, I still like the idea of electing governing bodies. One idea would be to include school board members on general election ballots--when people are already going to the polls. Of course, naysayers will worry about "too long" ballots. There is a bill introduced this year to move them to the fall of odd-number years, but I don't see how that would help. My suggestion would be that school elections be conducted by mail. Naysayers will be concerned about fraud and ID, etc. But really, it is no different than the absentee ballot system allowed for all other elections, and works very well.

Good idea, Rick. Moving the school board elections to November and/or a mail-in ballot would seem the logical way to raise interest.

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

While the Democrats in Santa Fe play defense, the Governor's political machine continues its march in key swing districts.

Here's a slick flyer mailed out for ABQ GOP State Rep. Conrad James, whose election to his swing seat last year was key to the GOP's historic takeover of the House.

As blogged earlier in the week, Dem state Sen. John Sapien was targeted by the Guv's political arm recently, with canvassers going door-to-door to pressure him on the controversial right-to-work bill.

Democrats have done little since getting waxed at the polls in November. They have no infrastructure compared to the Governor's. For them 2016 seems a far away event, but for Martinez and company it's an advancing target. It's that attitude that has reshaped the state's political landscape.

Given the districts, a GOP takeover of the state Senate in '16 seems highly unlikely. But if Dems continue their laid back ways, who knows?

TIRED OF HILLARY?

A pundit with time on his hands comes with a list of 11 Democrats who could "help themselves" by challenging Hillary Clinton for the '16 presidential nomination. On the list is none other than former NM Guv Bill Richardson who once ran for the top job:

The former New Mexico governor "is Hispanic, the Clintons already hate him because he went with Obama in 2008, and he likes the limelight," says the Republican strategist. "What does he have to lose?"

Well, he does have a lot of leftover bumper stickers.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Double Whammy For Right-To-Work; Stalls In GOP House And Top Senate Dems Throw A Boulder In Its Path, Plus: More Thin Blue Line And Some Media Notes 

Sens. Papen & Smith
Advocates for the hot button issue of right-to-work (RTW) suffered a double whammy at the Roundhouse Wednesday.

First, a strategic error by the House Republican leadership delayed sending the bill to the Senate for at least another week, and in the Senate two of its most powerful and respected Democrats threw a procedural boulder in its path.

We reported this week that House Majority Leader Nate Gentry's decision to slap an increase in the minimum wage onto RTW was getting stern push back from other GOP members who want nothing to do with it. Gentry's maneuver was meant to cause discomfort among Dems who voted against RTW, but it his backside that is now burning.

The discontent is such that a scheduled House vote on RTW Wednesday was cancelled as Gentry tried to put the pieces back together. But his strategic blunder came at a critical time and further slowed momentum for RTW which would ban compulsory union dues.

Meanwhile, in the Senate two of the chamber's titans--Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith and President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen--said they would have nothing to with a GOP plot to bypass the Senate committee system and "blast" RTW onto the Senate floor. Veteran Capitol reporter Steve Terrell opined that if that proves to be the case, blasting RTW looks nearly impossible:

To "blast" the bill, the move would have to get the votes of all 17 Republicans plus at least four Democrats. (That would make a 21-21 tie, which Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, a Republican, assumedly would break the tie in favor of the blast.) Without Smith and Papen, that number will be hard, if not impossible, to reach.

It was a good day for the unions and the Democrats but you have to remember that their previous compromises with the Martinez administration cost them control of the state House. If that hadn't happened, there would never be this heated discussion over RTW.

SIDEBAR

It is Leader Gentry's fingerprints all over the RTW mishap, not those of House Speaker Don Tripp. Santa Fe has been abuzz about any possible power struggle between the two. If there is one going on, this blunder plays into the hands of the Speaker. It won't be Tripp who gets blamed by the GOP base for losing the RTW battle. . .

State Rep. Dennis Roch, who ran against Gentry for majority leader, is the House sponsor of RTW. He was none too pleased with Gentry's minimum wage rider. Stay tuned.

Conservative Dem Senators Smith and Papen may not be for blasting RTW, but they gave every indication that if the bill somehow made it to the Senate floor without bypassing the committee system, they would vote for it.

The battle is not over and Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is going to need eyes in the back of his head for the remainder of the 60 day session.

STILL DREARY

The headlines keep coming, demonstrating how deep the economic slowdown has become in the ABQ metro. Look at this:

Findthehome.com ranks Albuquerque at 19th for the poorest cities in the country. The ranking is based on how many households earn less than $25,000 a year. It looked at 33 of the largest cities in the country. Twenty-six percent of Albuquerque households fall in that bracket.

THIN BLUE LINE (PT. 2)

A reader blogged in here this week with a photo of an APD cruiser sporting a thin blue  license plate and reported that they're on a number of cruisers. He wondered if that was a statement of sympathy for fellow officers or an "us vs. them" attitude when it comes to APD which is the subject of a Justice Department civil rights probe. This reader says the license plates are innocent--not nefarious:

I worked for APD and know multiple patrol officers and detectives with these plates. Please let your readers know, these plates are being displayed because of the amount of officers still at home recovering from being shot. The only us versus them happening with the officers displaying these plates is officers versus administration. If you think your readers are fed up with the lack of leadership within APD and the city, ask your nearest on-the-job cop off the record what they think of how the bosses behave. They'll give you an earful and it will make your head spin. That is, if they can stop long enough between calls for service to talk.

That's a point not often made--many APD officers are as fed up with the APD command and the city's political leadership as are the chief critics.

MEDIA NOTES

Veteran NM journalist Peter St. Cyr is now producing the daily news round-up The Morning Word--for the Santa Fe Reporter. . . Longtime reporter Mark Bentley is blogging the legislative session here. . . Former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca continues his long-running blog here. He announced there that he is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

V.B. Price, writing about ABQ since the 50's, continues to write at the New Mexico Mercury, and in quite an eloquent way. . . Longtime ABQ Journal political editor John Robertson has been a fixture at legislative sessions since the 70's but he is missing this year. He is battling lung cancer. He blogs here. We wish him (and Mayor Baca) well.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Right-To-Work Goes Door-To-Door, Plus: Who Is On Senate Retirement List? Questions Raised Over APD Thin Blue License Plates And More On Failing Third Graders 

Sen. Sapien
Once again our Alligators, politicos and readers give us the real story of legislative session '16. Reports reach us that right-to-work advocates have been spotted going door-to-door in the Sandoval County district of Dem State Senator John Sapien, a sure sign that Campaign '16 is underway. Sapien is in a swing district and subject to pressure from both sides. It's assumed the Guv's political machine is behind the effort. Who else?. . .

And what about the union machine, you ask? Well, it dumped $2 million in here in an unsuccessful effort to keep the state House from going R last year but we're not hearing of it spending on right-to-work. . .

We reported to you how House Majority Leader Nate Gentry got cute with right-to-work and tied it to a fifty-cent increase in the state minimum wage to $8 an hour. That was an effort to make it a more difficult "no" vote for the D's. But was Nate too clever?

Roundhouse wall-leaners report that some House Republicans are balking at any increase in the minimum wage--right-to-work or no right-to-work. It will be interesting to see what kind of bill the House sends over to the Senate: Will it be one with or without that Gentry minimum wage rider?. . .

Whatever the case, a right-to-work bill will make it to the Senate. Then it's back to the most critical question. Will there be a move to bypass the Senate committee system and blast right-to-work onto the floor so conservative Dems like Sapien will really feel the heat and perhaps vote with the R's?

Powerful Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith is a key player in this. If he approves a "blast" or looks the other way, what does that mean for him and his committee? Maybe the full Senate starts bypassing him and blasts away in future sessions?. . .

Speaking of '16, the list of state Senators most likely to retire doesn't seem very long yet. 90 year old Dem John Pinto is on top of it. Sen Carroll Leavell is another seen as ready to depart. Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen will be 84 in '16 but shows no signs of slowing down. And she has become a strong voice in the important behavioral health battle.

ANOTHER ONE

Santa Fe Dem County Chair Richard Ellenberg says he has thrown his hat into the ring to become the next chairman of the state party. He joins Deb Haaland and Chaves County Dem Chairman Fred Moran. Dems will pick their new chair in April.

ECON BEAT

When it comes to jobs in the ABQ metro it appears more of the same is in store, and for a good, long time:

Provo-Orem, Utah, with 3 percent unemployment, tops a list of the top 10 labor markets in the U.S., while Albuquerque trails at a distant 130th place, according to a report in Forbes. . . Albuquerque trailed in total-industry job growth rates, both pre-and-post-recession, and was also found lagging in projected growth rates for 2014 to 2020.

THE THIN BLUE LINE

This is interesting stuff (what isn't around here?) A reader sends this pic of a "thin blue line" license plate that is popping up on ABQ police squad cars. He writes:

Some argue the symbol simply shows support for fallen officers. Others view it as a continued "us versus them" demonstration by a police department that's adamant that no one will tell it what to do. As a reminder, crossing "the thin blue line" is what got APD officer Sam Costales in trouble when he testified that fellow officers were lying. 

Given the history of what the thin blue line means in Albuquerque, do these license plates have any business being on taxpayer-funded police vehicles? Is there an APD policy when it comes to placing political or social statements on police vehicles? 

THIRD GRADE DEBATE

Reader Nicole Lourdes has thoughts on the controversial bill to fail third graders, if they are not testing well in reading skills:

A child's competencies and maturity is not based entirely on reading skills. He/she may be a slow reader or have a reading disability but may excel in math or music or science. He/she may have the maturity to catch up easily or social skills that render him/her a natural leader. It is cruel and shortsighted to punish and stigmatize a child who may need extra help with reading. It does not take a genius to anticipate that the children who will be hurt most will be those who live in poverty. If the Governor was not Hispanic one would think that she is driven by racist ideology. Along with the bill she's pushing to repeal driver's licenses for illegal aliens, I'm beginning to think that she needs to seek some therapy for issues of self-hatred.

The third grade retention bill has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

PEARCE IMPERSONATOR?

Who was that guy calling himself southern GOP NM Congressman Steve Pearce and addressing the NM legislative session Tuesday?

(Pearce) directed cautionary remarks toward House Republicans. “You could easily overreach. You could easily take too much for granted in your new role.”
. . . Pearce said many voters are angry at both Republican and Democratic leaders and feel a sense of helplessness over the state of global and domestic affairs. He said such voter dissatisfaction can have a pendulum effect in terms of political parties being voted in and out of power, which in turn can destabilize the nation. “The voters are very volatile right now, and what you don’t need is a lot of ideological three-point shots. . . What you want are some common-sense things that will improve the job situation.”

No "ideological three-point shots?" That from the king of the ideological three-pointer? Hey, Steve, welcome to our world. If that's really you.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oil Bear Turns From Cub Into Grizzly; How Long Will It Prowl? Plus: Hanna Is Finally Official, New Candidate For NM Dem Chair And A Question Du Jour 

The oil bear has trained from a cub into a Grizzly. We get this picture from a reader who was driving through SE NM and writes:

Joe, this is just across the state line from SE NM in the Permian Basin. Rigs are stacked up and crews have gone from 80 to 100 hour weeks to 25 to 40 hour weeks--if they haven't been laid off completely.

Energy taxes account for 20% of the state's general fund revenue. A downturn in the oil price for a year will sting mightily but not bite. The fear is if it stays down for over two years or more, then you are talking about deep cuts to education and social services. It could even raise a prospect as taboo as cannibalism--raising taxes to raise revenue.

HANNA'S IN

She's gone from lady in waiting to "Madame Secretary." Senate Democrats finally relented Monday. After making her wait for over four years the Senate confirmed Hanna Skandera as the Secretary of the Public Education Department.

It was a 22-19 vote in favor, with five Dems joining the 17 R's to give Skandera the official title. The Dems could have put on a full-court press to stop her again but after four years of holding her hostage, compounded with the drubbing the Dems took at the November polls, it was time to move on.

Helping them do that in a big way was ABQ Dem state Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto who said he could not vote on the Skandera nomination in the Senate Rules Committee because he is an attorney handling a case for a charter school that presents a conflict of interest. That announcement--which raised eyebrows-- paved the way for Dem Senator Clemente Sanchez to join with committee R's and vote to advance the nomination to the Senate floor on a 5 to 4 vote.

Clemente Sanchez, however, was not one of those who voted for Skandera in the full Senate. Those Dems were: Phil Griego, Benny Shendo, Pete Campos, Mary Kay Papen and John Arthur Smith.

HANNA FALLOUT

Some Skandera critics complained that Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez could have turned the heat up to stop the nomination, but this was a case of knowing when to fold them. The Senate by keeping Hanna on ice for four years had made its point. Besides, Sanchez faces major pressures ahead on right-to-work and third grade retention. He'll need all his firepower to keep his Dem troops in line. But, as we said, not all agreed. Direct from the middle of the action in the heart of the Roundhouse, the analysis you will get only here. The source is high and must remain anonymous:

We should have laid down a lot more sweat and blood on Skandera. We went out with a whimper and could have won that with effort. There was none and no effort to reliably count. Leadership didn't want to know the count and leadership probably didn't want to know the deals cut for the defections. Dems needed a win and have forgotten how. 

Skandera winning the controversial title will mean little. She will remain controversial and have the full backing of the Governor and the full enmity of most of the state's teachers. But she does get new business cards.

NEW YORKER REACT

That lengthy report from the New Yorker on the troubles of APD drew responses to the magazine from readers, including this one from Lou Columbo, a senior analyst with the ABQ City Council in the 1990's:

At the height of the shootings during my tenure, Jim Baca, who had just been elected mayor, appointed a police chief, Jerry Galvin, from outside the department. Baca told Galvin to back reforms and reduce the violence and the killings. They changed the cadet training program. Nonlethal equipment and additional special negotiators were deployed to help defuse conflict situations. Direction from the top, in combination with practical operating procedures, drove the number of shootings down. The mayor is responsible for reviewing the point of engagement between the police and the suspect, and making nonlethal police responses a priority. Mayor Berry must now act to initiate change.

Columbo now lives in St. Louis where he is presumably enjoying his New Mexico retirement benefits.

MORAN RUNNING

Chaves County Democratic Party Chairman Fred Moran has joined the race for state party chairman. He made the announcement Monday night to state central committee members who will meet in April to replace outgoing chairman Sam Bregman.

Deb Haaland, the 2014 Dem lietuenat governor candidate, is the other announced contender in the chair race. We'll have more on the contest in the days ahead.

QUESTION DU JOUR

Reader Stanley Fitch has a question:

Joe, please imagine that on a trip out-of-state you briefly encounter a wealthy investor who says that he (or she) is searching for a location in the American Southwest to build a $1 billion manufacturing plant that would employ hundreds if not thousands of people. You are a person who deeply loves New Mexico and who desperately wants to improve situations back home. What appeal would you make during your 2-minute "elevator speech" as to why New Mexico is a better state for manufacturing investments than Texas, Arizona, Colorado, or Utah? Your spiel to the suitor must take into account the current political and regulatory environment and New Mexico's natural resource limitations.

Thanks, Stanley. The floor is now open for 2 minute spiels.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Is It Right-To-Die Time For Right-To-Work? And Driver's License Repeal Again Entangles Los Alamos State Rep 

The biz community is calling the right-to-work bill "historic" but it's actually history repeating.

It passed the Legislature twice in the early 80's only to be vetoed by the Governor. That was the heyday of right-to-work when the workforce was more heavily unionized and it was thought passing right-to-work might lure jobs. Not today. Total union membership--including public and private sectors--has tumbled below 6 percent.

One of the political problems: The pro right to-work argument seems to be losing momentum, as sloppy homework by proponents is being aggressively knocked down by opponents. In addition, Dem interest groups have turned out good crowds for the hearings and aggressively pushed back in the media.

This is do or die time for Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez who must show he can hold the fort when it really counts. So far, he appears to be faring well with his colleagues, with even the Martinez Democrats in the Senate holding off.

Sanchez's trifecta would be death for right-to-work, repeal of driver's licenses and third grade retention. Those are the Governor's wedge issues and the ones she is pinning her hopes on to further her national ambitions.

SNIPERS SPOTTED

Garcia Richard
Some Dems are sniping at Los Alamos area state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard after she joined the R's last week in voting to repeal driver's licenses for undocumented workers, a perennial issue that seems to be Richard's brier patch.

In 2013, she got into it with Gov. Martinez over a procedural vote that the Governor claimed was a vote to kill the repeal. After that hit Richard said she would no longer be held hostage by Martinez and would only vote for repeal if Martinez crafted a compromise. In the 2014 session the repeal stalled in committee.

It was expected the Guv's political machine would hammer Richard over the issue in the '14 election in her Republican leaning district, but the machine could not come up with a suitable candidate. Richard cruised past her opponent 57% to 43%. She is now serving her second term.

The snipers say Richard should have voted against the repeal given that Dem interest groups backed her campaign.

Richard was one of two Dems--the other being Deming conservative Donna Irwin--who voted with the R's to repeal the licences and send the bill to the Senate on a 39 to 29 vote. That's actually fewer Dems supporting the repeal than in the past and is making repeal opponents optimistic that they can hold the Senate.

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