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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

THAT ONE, TOO?

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

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

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

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

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

THE NEW GUY

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

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

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

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

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Monday, April 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEAL OR NO DEAL?

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

KARI AND THE COPS

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, April 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEAR OR ANGER?

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

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

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

THE POLITICS

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

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Also on the BernCo beat today. . .

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

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

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

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

THE MAGIC NUMBER


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

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

NOT RENEWED

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

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

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

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

EL PASO CITY

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

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

They call it "Sun City."

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JESSICA'S CHOICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

PARTING COMPANY

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

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

THE BOTTOM LINES

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

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EARLY MONEY

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

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

BERRY PATCH

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

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

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

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

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

THE APD NIGHTMARE

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOT REACHING?

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Susana Softens On Special Session; Signs Of Deal Making, Plus: All 4 ABQ Councilors Up For Re-election Will Run; What It Means, And: How Susana Went Sour On Candy 

Feeling the heat from her business supporters, Gov. Martinez appears to be softening her hard-line stance on calling a special session of the Legislature to take up the $264 million pork bill that died in the closing moments of the recent session. That makes a special more likely but still in limbo.

While Martinez has not personally picked up the phone to talk directly to the Democratic senators she must have a deal with before calling a special, there has now been some Fourth Floor outreach:

We have certainly been in conversations with representatives and senators from both sides of the aisle. We want to be able to come to a consensus and some agreement before we even decide whether or not we want to have a special session because it costs $50,000 a day to have the special session and we don't want to go in there and not have these conversations and then end up with nothing, or something worse, so we are talking with leadership.

Martinez said she has not spoken directly with arch-rival and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez but she said her staff has tried to connect. She also said her staff has talked with powerful Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith. She said:

We have had that conversation, my staff has.

That's a start and a switch from the dig-in-the-heels attitude that Martinez has sported when dealing with the senate. Business leaders and groups across the state are urging a special which would free money for construction projects that could potentially employ thousands in a state starved for jobs.

And something else is playing out. Lt. Governor John Sanchez recently noted that the Legislature could call itself into an extraordinary session to deal with the capital outlay bill. Even though that has been done only once in state history and is very unlikely now, one state senator told us he thought that it was Sanchez's way of applying some pressure on Martinez to craft a deal. Sanchez is widely expend to seek the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination.

THEY'RE ALL IN

Winter & Benton
ABQ City Hall observers were surprised to hear that all four incumbent city councilors up for re-election this October will seek another four year term. For several months insider speculation had Republicans Brad Winter and Trudy Jones possibly stepping aside from the nine member panel. We went as far as to blog that the duo was not expected to return.

Winter is the council's longest serving member, having come aboard in 1999. Jones was first elected in 2007 and will be seeking a third, four year term. Both will be favored for re-election. The Jones far NE Heights seat is heavy Republican. Winter's NE Heights seat is a bit more Dem and might be able to be put in play but it would take a strong contender. Neither Jones or Winter have announced opponents yet.

Winter will retire this year as interim superintendent of APS. Jones is in real estate. Both are conservative Republicans and government minimalists. The main impact of their decision to seek re-election is on the composition of the council. It is currently 5 Dems and 4 Republicans. It takes 6 votes to override a mayoral veto. Incumbent Dem councilors Ike Benton and Rey Garduno will also seek re-election and will be favored to win.

With the council likely to remain split 5 to 4 Republican Mayor Berry will continue to  avoid the veto threat. If Winter and Jones are re-elected and either tires of the post, Berry would name a replacement.

Not that the Dems have been champing at the bit to override anything. During the Berry years the council has largely adopted the role of quiescent bystander as the APD crisis unfolded and the city economy tanked. Berry escaping any rigorous criticism from the council was one ingredient in his easy re-election win in October of 2013. His term expires in Dec. 2017. He says he will not seek a third term.

GUV SOURS CANDY

Rep. Ezzell
Things soured but then turned a bit sweet for Roswell GOP State Representative Candy Spence Ezzell during the recent session. Gov. Martinez raised eyebrows when in mid-March she vetoed Ezzell's bill that would have made more strict the drug testing requirements the state follows for race horses. The bill had passed the Senate and House unanimously.

Martinez said in her veto message that the measure was unnecessary. But that wasn't the end. Dem State Senator Mary Kay Papen sponsored an identical measure. It passed both chambers with little opposition and was then signed by the Guv. However, the Papen bill was amended in the House Judiciary Committee to suit the Governor.

So why did Susana take the candy jar away from Candy by not getting the Ezzell bill amended before it was sent up to her?  Well, maybe the feisty and independent Ezzell wasn't hewing to the Guv's line in the House GOP caucus?  Whatever the case, Ezzell's name is on the legislation along with that of Mary Kay's and the new drug testing requirements are on the books.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Clips: Brandenburg Disqualified But Point Stands And Biz Leader Exports Herself 

Kari Brandenburg made her point and that point still stands in the wake of a district court decision to disqualify the Bernalillo County district attorney from prosecuting two APD officers on murder charges. Now it will be up to a special prosecutor appointed by the DA to make the case. Brandenburg's office was disqualified because she was being investigated by APD. It seems imperative that the special prosecutor be someone who is far away from APD and city and state politics.

Brandenburg's decision to charge the officers--after years of neglect of dozens of fatal APD shootings by authorities at all levels--sent a signal that the zone of tolerance was closed. That message will stand no matter the outcome of the case against the two officers or who prosecutes them. . .

No sooner had state officials started boasting over New Mexico's spurt in jobs related to exports than one of the state's leading business figures announced she was exporting herself out of her, joining the exodus of those seeking greener job pastures. Beverlee McClure, head of the NM Association of Commerce and Industry, landed a college president's job in Alamosa, Colorado. Wonder if she'll be accepting New Mexico resumes?. . .

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Need A Job? Try The City; Over 800 Vacancies Go Unfilled in Tight Economy, Plus: Bonding With Berry And Benton  

In a city where good paying jobs can be as hard to come by as a green chile cheeseburger in Minneapolis, why does the city of ABQ have over 800 jobs that have not been filled?:

The city has 813 open positions, including some with the solid waste and transit departments. The vacancies make up more than 10 percent of the city's entire staff. Employees have been working additional hours to make up the extra work. Rob Perry, Albuquerque's chief administrative officer, said the vacancies are not necessarily a hiring issue, but a retention problem. Employees are finding better-paying opportunities elsewhere.

Come on, Rob. Folks are lined up end-to-end at these local job fairs and/or leaving the state and we can't find any employees for these city slots? Assume those over 800 jobs paid about $40,000 a year. That's a payroll of over $3 million stimulating the economy.

Whether this austerity is intentional or not, it's also a problem in Santa Fe where the Legislative Finance Committee has repeatedly pointed out state government employment levels are 10 percent below the number authorized.

Meanwhile, the ABQ city council has okayed a $45 million bond issue in addition to the $115 bond package voters will be asked to approve in October. That's not a bad way to stimulate the economy but is using $13 million of the $45 million to speed up bus service (rapid transit) on Central Avenue really necessary? If there is one route where there are few complaints about service, it is Central.

The nine councilors could provide an immediate shot to the economy by going into their neighborhoods and letting constituents know that over 800 jobs are open at the city. Maybe they could pass out Rob Perry's phone number while they're at it?

BERRY, BENTON & BONDING

Councilor Ike Benton says he has "mixed feelings" about using gross receipts revenue to finance the annual debt service on that $45 billion bond package, instead of leaving that money in the $500 million general budget and available for financing the city's day-to-day needs. Mayor Berry points out that in the past perhaps too much bond money has been diverted from the general fund and now is the time to make up for it. Both have a point. . .

The aging city in the years ahead will need more and more infrastructure funds for roads, parks and maintenance of all sorts. But already the CAO is complaining that we aren't paying enough from the general budget to attract workers to run the city thus the over 800 vacancies.

What Benton, Berry and Perry are confronting is a city that has lost its economic momentum with population and job growth slowing to a crawl. If more people were buying homes we would generate more property taxes to finance bigger bond issues for construction projects and also generate more gross receipts taxes for the general fund from shopping and other economic activity. People buy homes when they get good jobs. (Duh.)

Those over 800 vacant city jobs (as well as the state vacancies) provide the kind of salaries that can make homeowners out of employees. So what's the hold-up in the city, Mayor? And what about the state vacancies, Susana and Lt Governor Sanchez?

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF

Memo for Ray Smith, chairman of ABQ Economic Development and president of Klinger Construction. No, not everybody supports calling the Legislature back into session to pass yet another tax package. He says:

Why would anybody not want to have a special session? Everybody is in agreement that we need capital outlay and the tax package. 

No, Ray, hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans believe we have done enough in the tax incentive arena--far too much. Why can't you let all of us support a special session for the $264 capital outlay bill that will be good for your company and its employees instead of engaging in this partisan posturing and throwing an unneeded monkey wrench into the deal? Ray, you and your comfortable neighbors need more tax breaks like Bill Gates needs more Microsoft stock.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Former ABQ city councilor and state legislator Greg Payne has completed a political trifecta. He started out as a Republican, switched to independent and now says disappointment with the GOP regimes in Santa Fe and ABQ has led him to register as a Democrat. Payne has been an election analyst for the blog for a number of years. He is set to graduate from the UNM School of Law in December.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Airbrushing History: The Emails Of Hillary And Susana, APD NCIC Access Scandal Brings Back Memories And Keller Launches "Hope" PAC 

History is simply airbrushed away in today's around-the-clock political cycle. Look at this one from the NM GOP:

The state's GOP arm sent out a fundraising letter that warned supporters Hillary Clinton will seek the nomination. The letter says Clinton used her personal email account to hide information and alleges that she put the nation's national security at risk. In anticipation of her announcement, Republican Party of New Mexico said it was building up its "Hillary Clinton Truth Fund to tell the whole story."

Whoa. . . Wasn't it none other than Governor Martinez and her administration who were busted  in her first term for going off the grid and conducting state business via private email accounts? And wasn't that e-mail at the center of what became known as the down and dirty Downs deal--the lease deal for the Downs Racetrack and Casino that the administration pushed through? And in the wake of that scandal wasn't it Martinez who was forced to issue an order that private emails would no longer be acceptable for state business?

How soon they forget. Or choose to forget. . .

And then there's this one--an APD officer busted for illegally accessing the NCIC database

When Albuquerque police officer Regina Sanchez admitted to investigators from the newly retooled citizen police watchdog agency that she had accessed the National Crime Information Centers (NCIC) database for personal purposes late last year, she was admitting to a federal crime. Sanchez used the database, which is available only to law enforcement officers, to pull the address and other personal information of the boyfriend of a 30-year-old Albuquerque woman named Tammy Martinez on Nov. 24, 2014, according to documents. . . Sanchez passed the information to Joshua Martinez, who at the time was Tammy Martinez’s estranged husband. Sanchez is the girlfriend of Joshua Martinez’s brother.

Yeah, that brings back memories, doesn't it? Like from 2010 when the Martinez Guv campaign was suspected of running license plate checks on political foes via NCIC out of Martinez's then-district attorney's office.

We never did hear anything out of the new Dona Ana County District Attorney on that. Maybe he's happy just to collect a check. Meantime, back in ABQ there is no law enforcement agency willing to say if it is going to hold officer Sanchez accountable for the NCIC violation. And we're supposed to be getting "cultural change" at APD?

IN YEARS AHEAD. . .

Unless something surfaces in the second term history is likely to record that Gov. Martinez was given a pass on the Downs deal, the behavioral health deal, the possible NCIC checks and various campaign finance issues. That several of our links on some of these matters today are to a Santa Fe weekly newspaper and not to the mainstream media tells the tale. Maybe after the pay-to-play scandals under Gov. Richardson, the body politic did not have the stomach for more. Whatever the reason, Susana's baggage is bursting at the seams as she waltzes across the national stage. It's not a load that her potential rivals there will be as willing to ignore as her home state has.

She will also be known in the years ahead as Governor Gridlock whether she likes it or not. There she was again Tuesday telling yet another business group that the legislative breakdown over the $264 capital outlay bill was entirely the fault of the Senate Dems.

And maybe the Guv's mind is wandering to thoughts of national politics because at that same biz meeting this happened:

One bill she favored would have outlawed fees assessed to workers who choose not to join a labor union. Martinez incorrectly said the bill also would have prohibited compulsory union membership. Mandatory membership in labor unions already is illegal under federal law.

Hey, Keith, or someone up there on the Fourth Floor, can you dust off those old briefing books?

HOPE FOR NM

That's the name of the new political action committee launched by Dem State Auditor Tim Keller. And with it perhaps his hopes for the future. Keller is among the short list of possibles for the 2018 Dem Guv run as well as among those keeping an eye on developments in the 2017 ABQ mayoral race. Says Keller:

. . . It takes us all working together to truly make the big changes we need in New Mexico. . . That's why "Hope for New Mexico" will be very active throughout this next election cycle working to support candidates up and down the ballot. . . Your contribution. . . will help us get a running start on supporting candidates who will join in our fight for good government. No race is too big or too small to deserve our attention, and we need leaders at all levels of government who will work towards greater transparency and accountability.

Obviously, Keller is working to pick up some IOU's in the '16 cycle. We assume that Attorney General Hector Balderas is watching all of this closely. Right, Hector? As for Keller, insiders say he's gotten off to a quick start but they are closely watching how he handles a possible ABQ City Hall corruption scandal over the use of Taser lapel cameras videos. That deal is on his desk. Does it get off the desk or go into the bottom drawer?

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