Thursday, July 31, 2014

Susana Crowns "Millionaire Gary King" As State Awaits Word On How He'll FInance Run, Plus: Grumbling Dems Vent, And: Indian Gambling Flatlines  

This one gave us a chuckle. It's Dem Guv nominee Gary King getting nuked by Governor Martinez in one of her latest mailers. She slams King for supporting salaries for legislators back in the 80's as well as for supporting a long ago tax hike. "Millionaire Gary King raises our taxes and voters to line his own pockets,"shouts the hit piece."

It's the first we've seen Martinez go after King for hailing from a wealthy land-owning ranching family. But it probably crosses her mind quite often.

As insiders have often observed here, a key question in this gubernatorial campaign is how King will finance his final months. He is not going to be able to raise anywhere near the $4 million Martinez has in her war chest, but if he was able and willing to write a personal check for $2 million or so would it radically change the complexion of the contest?  We'll only know if it happens.

Meanwhile, enjoy your crown, Gary. IF you need some ideas on what to do if you were to become "Your Majesty," take a look at our recent blog titled: "King For A Day."


King's grandparents came from Texas to the Stanley/Estancia Valley area in 1917. They traded a Model T for an unproven homestead. They bought up neighboring properties as others moved out because of the bad economy. It was mix of dryland farms and rangeland. Overt the years, King's father Bruce and his brothers continued to purchase more land. The size of the family's current land holdings has not been published.


We continue to field email from disgruntled Dems about the state of affairs. One reader writes:

Joe, in your Wednesday blog you mentioned a demoralized Democratic base, and how DC pollsters have advised New Mexico's Democrats to play nice with Susana Martinez because she is supposedly popular. Popular with who? The people leaving New Mexico in droves just to have a career? The parents of public school students whose kids are being subjected to an endless battery of worthless tests rather than being educated? The women who see how Martinez publicly attacked the victim after her chief of staff physically attacked a young women trying to do her job? There is something deeply wrong that New Mexico Democrats have to turn to DC beltway types in order to know what to think.

It is certainly no wonder that the base is fed up. Where are the Democrats, like the late Speaker Ben Lujan, who had instincts for what the people need and the guts to act on those instincts?


And an Alligator of the Dem variety weighs in on what he calls the "Marijuana Movida." That one is where the Republican controlled ABQ city government raises the bar on the group that is petitioning to get a marijuana decriminalization measure on the November ballot: 

Joe, Democrats are being outsmarted because they think they are far more intelligent than the Republicans. There is an unwarranted arrogance found with many people working on campaigns for Democrats.

The city intentionally kept quiet after the people collecting the marijuana petition signatures said they needed 11,000. They let the supporters think it was 11,000 until it was too late. Remember when the city clerk kept a a proposed abortion ban  off of last year's mayor election ballot by taking so long to verify petition signatures? That insured that pro-choice voters would not overwhelm Mayor Berry at the polls. And she moved the polling location out of UNM and moved multiple polling locations inside churches. And she left a system in place that outsmarted Democrats after she was gone. Who is stupid now?

It is thought that putting a decriminalizing measure on the November ballot might attract more Democratic voters to the polls--voters who would be much more likely to vote for King over Martinez.


New Mexico Indian gambling casinos are now cannibalizing each others customers as the long bull market in gaming has come to an end:

Indian tribal gaming revenues have leveled off in recent years and face an uncertain future, Congress was told. . . Indian gaming revenues have plateaued at around $26 billion to $28 billion annually, Kevin Washburn, Interior Department assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, told a U.S. Senate panel.

“In fact, gaming revenues have been pretty flat since 2007,” Washburn said. “The days of tremendous growth are probably behind us for Indian gaming.” He said that means tribes “are going to have to learn to live with existing amounts of revenue” since they far outstrip the resources the government is able to offer them.

For the quarter ending Dec. 31 NM Indian gaming tribes had a "net win" of $182 million. In the fourth quarter of 2012 it was also $182 million.  Net win is the amount wagered on slots minus the amount paid out in cash and non-cash prizes won on the gaming machines. It is not the net profit of the casinos.

In an effort to expand revenues Pojoaque Pueblo has been arguing with the state over its gambling compact. They want to lower the legal gambling age to 18 and allow booze to be served while customers play the slots.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Heinrich Wades Into Guv's Race; Blasts Susana's Economy, Plus: Readers Ponder The Soul Of ABQ 

Sen. Heinrich
NM Democratic freshman Senator Martin Heinrich has mostly steered clear of confronting Governor Martinez but that changed this week as Heinrich aimed both barrels at the Guv in this fund-raising pitch for Dem Guv nominee Gary King:

. . . A common question I get asked is: “Are you happy with the job Governor Martinez is doing?” And I’m going to be honest – I am not happy at all. In fact, I’ve come to conclude that the Martinez Administration is anti-economic growth. Time and again, she’s turned her back on opportunities to capitalize on our state’s private sector potential. . . 

She’s actively fought against the development of renewable energy transmission. She’s spurned the Spaceport. And at the height of our state’s recession, she decimated the policies that helped attract film production to our beautiful state. This is not what a governor should be doing, which is why I am supporting Gary King for governor and I hope you will as well.

Heinrich is not up for re-election until 2018 and his firepower against the administration will be welcomed by a demoralized Democratic base waiting for someone--anyone--to make a case against her.

Dem Sen. Udall--seeking re-election--is steering clear of her because. . . .

In the background is that advice from the DC pollsters who have the ears of top Dems and who are telling them that attacking Susana is dangerous because she is popular. But the critics lash back that the same pollsters are supposed to come up with ways to effectively put her on the spot. And the critics ask what exactly is popular? The Guv's popularity peaked at 68% after her 2012 national GOP convention speech and is now at best in  in the low 50's---and perhaps lower. We still await definitive, independent scientific polling--not the befuddling robo call Rasmussen survye or the methodology challenged CBS News-New York Times Internet polling.

Heinrich's re-election may be a long way off, but perhaps he senses that the GOP machine that has run riot over the Dems will soon have him in its sights if there is no push back.  If Martinez is reelected in 2014, her term would end in 2018. Interesting timing there for Sen Heinrich. . . .


In our July 22 blog we wrote that ABQ lost part of its soul when three teens savagely murdered two homeless men--one of a string of many crimes that they apparently perpetrated against the homeless. ABQ author V.B. Price commented:

I’m not one who thinks Albuquerque has lost its soul. . .because of this. Nor can I say that the whole city is apathetic or in a state of psychotic denial just because its leadership is, particularly the mayor and the business elite who see no poverty, no violence, no homelessness and destitution, take no responsibility, and refuse to hear about or discuss the darker side of life in our city. To pin that on everyone is implying that we are only our leadership and that the rest of us are a mob of zombies. We’re a city of great heart, great soul, deep abiding religious conscience and spirituality, and, as some have pointed out, horrible denial. That is not unique to us in this country or this world. . . 

Price's point that the whole city is not responsible is well taken and we did not issue a blanket indictment, but we think retired APD Seargent Dan Klein fills in the gap that is missing in Price's critique:

Just like in the past when sensational murders have occurred you hear from people all over the city, outraged. But unless it directly effects those in power in Tanoan and High Desert and Four Hills, the outrage fades very quickly and will be forgotten even sooner. That is the apathy we have lived with in Albuquerque for years. Only when it effects the rich and powerful does any meaningful change occur.

The rich and powerful in this town need to start caring about the poor and demand their governor, mayor and legislature make serious changes like you recommend. The course we have followed since I have been here hasn't worked, time to try something new. Tap the $14 billion state Permanent Fund for child education. That's a good place to start.

Another reader writes:

. . .There is little prospect for meaningful, productive work for young men in this state who do not have college degrees. (Let's leave aside young women, for the moment.) The three children accused of this heinous crime, had, for the most part, divorced themselves from the educational system, with apparently no backlash from parents or truant officers. What future did they see for themselves? It's all part of the cannibalistic, cancerous, nihilistic philosophy that "certain people" don't matter that is rampant in our body politic. This is not going to get any better and will almost certainly get worse.

Well, we're pleased to see there's no apathy in the ranks of our readers. . .

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On The Economy Beat: An Interest In Keeping It Down? Plus: New Chamber Chair Steers A Bit Different, And: First US Senate Poll Doesn't Surprise  

Adelmo "Del" Archuleta
Now here's a scary thought. Is it possible the ABQ governing and political classes may actually not want economic development? From Governing:

A poor economy and all the problems that come with it actually benefit some people, giving powerful players less incentive to improve the status quo for the rest. Jane Jacobs...noted in The Economy of Cities, “Economic development, whenever and wherever it occurs, is profoundly subversive of the status quo.” And it isn’t hard to figure out that even in cities and states with serious problems, many people inside the system are benefiting from the status quo. They have political power, an inside track on government contracts, a nice gig at a civic organization or nonprofit, and so on. All of these people, who are disproportionately in the power broker class of most places, potentially stand to lose if economic decline is reversed. That’s not to say they are evil, but they all have an interest to protect.

We'd like to think the new chairman of the ABQ Chamber of Commerce--businessman Adelmo "Del" Archuleta--does not fear losing if economic opportunity expands here. In an interview he summarizes the major challenge for ABQ as education. He points out how much we lag and how that is scaring companies away from here and also putting a crimp in the size of the skilled labor force.

He’d like to see schools add “resource centers” to provide students with social support and help combat truancy. The issue “dearest to my heart is doing everything we can to close the achievement gap in our schools,” he said. Archuleta expects that during his term the chamber will maintain its stance on other educational issues. . .  supporting New Mexico Common Core standards, merit pay for teachers and implementation of the state’s teacher evaluation program.

That's pretty refreshing in that we didn't get the tired bromides about needing to cut taxes and regulations even more and how that will be the panacea for getting us out of this recession. Not that the chamber's education agenda gets at the root issue--which is getting results by investing in very early childhood education and breaking the generational cycle of educational dysfunction.

Archuleta also seems aware that the violent reputation of ABQ is another business killer. He says he has formed a task force to address what he calls the "APD dilemma."

Arhculeta, a native New Mexican, a son of a teacher and a husband to one, is president of Molzen-Corbin and has been around a long time. In the past he has also served as the chamber's chair, but those were much more placid times. That Archuleta is emphasizing the social conditions crisis here--if only around the edges--signals that he gets it. Now he needs to drag to the table his colleagues in the upper echelons of the city business community.


This week the state is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in 1964. Perhaps Mr. Archuleta and his colleagues can ponder what ABQ will be celebrating in 2064 that took place in 2014? (Las Cruces in that far away year could very well be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the private osteopathic medical school that was announced this year.)

The fiscal austerity that dominates in Santa Fe and ABQ prevents more public investment in people and programs that might in the years ahead get the state out of the bottom of the barrel--or at least make the stay in that portion of the barrel more tolerable. And it would be good for business.

It's risky, of course. What isn't? Remember the incentives and subsides given to Eclipse Aviation, Hewlett Packard and Intel? They didn't quite work out as planned, did they?  Until Santa Fe understands that it has to be as flexible investing in human capital as it is in corporations, we will be at a standstill. . .


Weh & Udall
Unlike the Rasmussen poll that showed the race for Governor all tied up, the firm's survey of the US Senate contest will not stir any controversy. It was expected:

Tom Udall is comfortably ahead of his Republican challenger. . . A new Rasmussen Reports survey finds Udall with 54% support versus Republican Allen Weh’s 33%. Three percent (3%) like some other candidate in the race, and 10% are undecided. The survey of 860 Likely Voters in New Mexico was conducted on July 21-22, 2014 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points.

Meanwhile, TV news reports that an on line poll sponsored by CBS News and the New York Times shows Gov. Martinez beating Gary King 48 to 40 percent. The online poll showed Udall beating Weh 51 to 44 percent. The Rasmussen survey released last week had Martinez and King tied at 43 percent each.


Would this increase Dem turnout if it managed to get on the November ballot? If it were outright legalization it would. From ProgressNowNM:

The campaign to put reduced marijuana penalties on the ballot in Albuquerque submitted more than 16,000 signatures to the city clerk .  The city clerk must verify 11,203 of those names as city voters in order to send the measure to the city council where councilors will be asked to let voters decide the issue during the November election.


We noted on the Monday blog that Las Cruces area Dem State Rep. Phil Archuleta had encountered heat for taking legislative per diem during the last legislative session, even though he could not attend the session because he was ill. Arhculeta's campaign points out that he returned the money.

He did so after criticism like this and don't think the GOP won't be hammering him for it come October. In fact, look for the R's--hoping to seize control of the House--to make the overall ethics of the Dems in the legislature one of their big themes.. . .

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Monday, July 28, 2014

100 Days Left In Campaign '14; Pros Weigh Turnout, King's Next Move And More: Plus: The Wheelchair Campaign: Can Rep. Archuleta Ride His To Roundhouse?  

(click to enlarge)
Today marks the 100 days to go mark before the November 4 election (or 99 when this is posted) but neither side seems particularly energized. Still, our analysts do not expect voter turnout to be especially low. Most are calling for a turnout of about 600,000 of the 1.273 million registered voters. In 2010, the last non-presidential general election, 607,000 New Mexicans cast ballots. . .

One reason for the forecast for a somewhat normal turnout is the June 3 Democratic primary. It began with Dem fears that turnout would collapse, but over 130,000 D's cast ballots, surpassing even optimistic turnout predictions. . .

The economic backdrop continues to be awful for Gov. Martinez but the Democrats still seem asleep at the switch, failing to pin the tail on the donkey--or in this case the Republican elephant. Forbes Magazine now forecasts that ABQ will be dead last among 200 USA metros in creating jobs through 2016. Job growth of 0.2 percent annual is forecast--or basically no growth (see the attached chart).

So where is the opposition party's response?

Meanwhile, Martinez works furiously to steer the conversation away from jobs and the economy and onto education and, of course, her all-time favorite--her futile efforts at repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants (Hey, it fires ups the base). . .

The number one comment you hear from the political pros about Gary King is: "When is he going to write the check and get on the air and stay there?" They seem to think that time is running out for King to raise the necessary money to compete against Susana's over $4 million war chest. . .

King comes from a wealthy ranching family and has already loaned his campaign $500,000. But several of the pros say in the aftermath of that Rasmussen poll that rightly or wrongly shows the Guv
race to be a dead heat (43 to 43), now would be an ideal time for King to announce that he's putting up $1 million and getting on the air.  They argue that would attract more private funds--not deter them--and energize the race. Of course, it's easy to spend someone else's money. . .

If it turns out Martinez has a glass jaw she will fall mostly on her own accord in September and October, but if the support is firmer, King will be scored for wasting the summer months and not softening her up. That will be especially true if he should lose by only a couple of points. . . .


Rep. Archuleta
When Dona Ana County State Rep. Phil Archuleta had to have his leg amputated there were some Dems who wanted him replaced on the ballot. That's because his re-election is key as the R's try to take over the state House. Archuleta faces former state Rep. Andy Nunez--a Dem turned R--and it looks like a competitive race.

But Archuleta is trying to turn his disability into a plus, openly campaigning from his wheelchair as we see in this pic. He is joining others who are disabled and celebrating the 24th Anniversary of ADA.

It's a pretty clever move. Now, can he effectively explain why he collected his legislative per diem this past session even though medical issues prevented him from attending the session? (Archuleta points out he returned the money.)

Sidebar: Over in Texas the GOP Guv nominee is campaigning openly from a wheelchair and seems poised for a victory. We can't recall any prominent NM politicians who were confined to a wheelchair. If he can get past Nunez, Rep. Archuleta might be the first. . .


About that speculation on what would happen if on Election Night we find that the state House was evenly divided between the R's and the Dems. Could the Dems hold the speakership by getting the R's to support one of their more conservative members? A Senior Alligator of the Republican variety--(an endangered species but still among us) says don't bet on it:

No Republican would be able to support a Dem for speaker because the Tea Party Republicans would make sure that Republicans would be defeated in the next primary election. Getting so close to taking over and then giving the gavel to a Dem would be a bitter pill for Republican activists to swallow--and they would not swallow. . . 


Reader Helen Laura Lopez writes:

Joe, There is lots of writing about the two recent horrific crimes in ABQ--the vicious beating and killing of two homeless Native Americans by three teenagers and the brutal slow killing earlier this year of 9 year old Omaree Varela, whose suffering was ignored by officials. But there is little talk about the horrific hate crime committed last week by a mother against her 17 year old lesbian daughter in Las Cruces. Perhaps it is too unseemly to talk about in polite company, unlike murder. The teenager told her mother she was lesbian, her mother beat her, threatened to sexually penetrate her with a plunger and made her perform sexual acts on herself for some distorted reason of demonstrating lesbian sex. A lot of young GLBT youth experience similar abuse never reported. It should be reported openly and examined closely, as any other hate crime and child abuse.

And you have done so here, Helen.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

King Gets A Break: Rasmussen Poll Says Guv Race A Dead Heat; GOP Scorns Survey, But Window Opens For King To Change Perception Of Contest 

King & Haaland
Perception often drives reality so a Rasmussen poll--scorned mightily by the GOP but showing the 2014 race for Governor in a dead heat--gives Dem Guv nominee Gary King his first real chance to argue that he can win the race--a notion constantly belittled by the conventional wisdom.

The survey--the first independent one since the June 3 primary--has Gov. Martinez and King tied at 43% and 7% of voters undecided. Rasmussen says "some other candidate" is the choice of 7% of likely voters, even though there is no other candidate on the ballot.

The R's say Rasmussen polled too many young voters and not enough older ones. They point out that King leads by 30% among young voters--an unlikely scenario.

The GOP anxiety over the poll was somewhat amusing as Rasmussen is often cited as a "Republican-leaning" pollster. But there was no anxiety in the King camp--only glee.

What this shows is that New Mexicans are ready for a Governor that will stand up for our kids, teachers, families and our state. . .

So what does it mean on the street? Back to that perception vs. reality matter and the comments of veteran Dem consultant Mark Fleisher:

The poll is the first really good news for Gary. Whether it is accurate or not, it is the first independent poll of the race and will cause the Democratic base to take a second look at the contest. It will help him with fund-raising. The best thing that could happen is that the poll becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and causes Dem voters to start stampeding toward King. Then the perception would indeed become the reality.

But King will need more than a poll. He needs money and messaging. He had only $116,000 in his bank account at last count compared to over $4 million for Susana. And how long will this window of opportunity stay open? How fast can he act? Will he seize the moment or revert to Carpe Mañana? Stay tuned.


The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday of this week just as the horrendous news broke that three teenagers had bludgeoned to death two homeless men on ABQ's westside. Did that bleak news influence the Rasmussen survey? Something to ponder. . .

Since the June primary these are the polls: Martinez's camp released a poll showing her beating King 54% to 38%, the state GOP had a poll showing her winning 53% to 40% and a King internal poll showed her winning 45% to 39%.


Reader Harold Gerhenson writes:

While we're talking about the lack of leadership in New Mexico and real demands for change, take a look at the pablum in the New Mexico Voices for Children press releases and blog posts on the release of the devastating Kids Count figures. They point the finger at "the recession" when they should be calling out State Senator John Arthur Smith--chairman of the Senate Finance Committee--who for years has blocked access to the state Permanent Fund for early childhood programs. They should also be naming Governor Martinez's destructive policies so that everyone understands that these statistics are not just bad luck but part of the Governor's plan. When our advocates won't take a stand, we're really in trouble.

NM was ranked 49th in the USA in child well-being in the latest Kids Count survey. That's up from 50th in the previous annual survey. 

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

ABQ Right-Wing Radio Takes Major Hit; KKOB Falls From Ratings Throne, Plus: Weh Looks To Colorado For A Udall In Trouble, And: Colbert Takes On Pearce 

Right-wing talk radio just isn't what it used to be in the Duke City. For the first time in years KKOB-AM has fallen off the ratings throne. The station has lost the crown to top 40 station KKSS-FM. The latest Nielsen Audio ratings have 50,000 watt KKOB--home to national talkers Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage--plunging to a 5.1 percent share of the audience aged 12 and over. KKSS garners a 5.5 share to take the top spot. And country KRST-FM is nipping at KKOB's heels, coming with a 5.0 share.

Since KKOB was purchased by Cumulus Media the station has undergone severe budget cuts and lost top local talker Jim Villanucci to Oregon. In addition to the cutbacks and more competition from the digital world, the station faces an ABQ metro area where Anglo males--the backbone of conservative radio--appear to make up a smaller percentage of the population.

And the format has grown increasingly hostile. At least that's the judgment of Scott Stiegler, KKOB's own afternoon talk host. Upon learning of the ratings news we tuned in and heard him chastising his own audience for being intolerant and asking for callers to be "more civil" when assessing viewpoints other than their own.

KKOB once routinely garnered audience shares of 10 percent or more. That was when mass media still had a mass. Niche programming has taken over and KKOB is a prominent example. . .


Republican Allen Weh has yet to get in play his race against Dem US Senator Tom Udall, but he might look north to Colorado for some inspiration. Up there, Tom Udall's cousin--Dem Senator Mark Udall--is running into re-election trouble. The Daily Kos reports:

PPP weighs in and finds both Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper have identical 44-43 leads over their Republican foes, Rep. Cory Gardner and former Rep. Bob Beauprez respectively. They've found Udall in a dogfight for months but they have usually shown Hickenlooper in better shape.. . .Udall looks like he's in really bad shape, with a 36/47 approval compared to Gardner's 34/39 favorable rating. The undecideds don't look incredibly promising for either Democrat, with self described Obama and Romney voters being represented in roughly equal numbers.

New Mexico's Udall is campaigning pretty much furiously at this point, issuing constant news releases and dashing around the state to make sure he is not seen as a creature of the anything but beloved bunch on Capitol Hill. And he comes with a mild surprise by touching the state's #1 problem--the jobs depression:

Udall visited with workers in Questa and has been leading efforts to get Trade Adjustment Assistance and other help to enable the community rebuild its economy after the mine closes. In his speech, Udall said he is working to do all he can to support new jobs in New Mexico. As part of that effort, he urged the Senate to pass the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would protect American jobs and eliminate tax loopholes for corporations that move jobs overseas.

“The mine will close in Questa. We can’t change that. We can’t bring it back. Some folks say it feels like a death. And I’m sure it does – it has been the lifeblood of the community for so many years and for generations of families,” Udall said.

300 workers are being laid off by Chevron Mining which is closing its molybdenum mine for good. It is devastating news for Questa--population, 1700.


Udall's visit there was a mild surprise because the state's top politicians have shied away from getting directly involved in the jobs crisis. For example, there has been no gubernatorial visit to Questa in the wake of the mass layoffs. Martinez has come back on the air after a several week hiatus with a new TV ad, but it focuses on education not the economy and jobs. The ad says New Mexico is now the top state when it comes to improving graduation rates. Martinez says to the camera: “There’s more to do but let’s focus on moving forward, not turning back.”

Dem Gary King has not yet restarted his TV ads.


Udall has come with his first TV ads of the campaign. They center on the help he says he has provided to veterans. That makes sense since his opponent is a decorated combat veteran.


Besides Udall, southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce is the other member of the state's congressional delegation facing a re-election challenge that insiders are keeping an eye on. He hit a pothole this week when he got a load of ridicule from the Colbert Report after a weekend trip he made to Guatemala and Honduras to assess the refugee crisis. The political comedy show swiped at Pearce for--among other things--staying closeted in his hotel with other members of the visiting delegation. Said Colbert:

Congressman Pearce found no evidence of danger anywhere he looked which turns out was mainly around the hotel lobby as Pearce said he and the rest of the delegation did not venture from their hotel very often because of the danger..

The line drew raucous applause and laughter, again reminding Pearce that stepping out on the national stage is a whole lot different than interviewing with the Deming Headlight. . . .


Reader Paul Donisthorpe reacts to the ruthless murders of two homeless men on ABQ's westside by three teenagers and which has dominated the news this week:

Recent events sadly remind me of events in my hometown of Farmington in the mid-70's where three Anglo teens murdered and mutilated three Navajo men. This was chronicled professionally in a book by Rodney Barker entitled "The ‎Broken Circle."

I agree that our state's financial resources need to be better used and better spent to make lives here better now and in the future. But I also tend to agree with my 91 year old father in law who says "‎ ... people are just no damn good!"

ABQ State Senator Bill O’Neill says he will again introduce a bill in the legislature "that protects homeless individuals from being targeted for harm."

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Let's Talk About This Town: 2014 As A Seminal Year For ABQ; Appalling Murders Of Homeless Spark Reader Outrage, Commentary And Solutions  

2014 will go down in ABQ history as a seminal year--the year when the full force of the social conditions crisis haunting this place hit like a jackhammer. It began with the shocking fatal police shooting of homeless James Boyd and the subsequent federal intervention in APD by the US Justice Department. It then transitioned to the appalling murder of 9 year old Omaree Varela and now to the horrific slaughter of two homeless men with cinder blocks as they lay on mattresses at a vacant lot near a busy Central Avenue intersection.

All of these gut-wrenching events catapulted ABQ into the world news headlines. They were that disquieting. In short, we have become a very different city than what many of you grew up in or came to know after moving here.

Our Tueday blog explored these themes and more as we attempt to move the discussion from denial to doing. The readers respond.

From ABQ, Michael writes:

Apathy is thy middle name when it comes to New Mexico and Albuquerque. Simply put, our city and our state are both devoid of leadership. Leadership takes courage, and the willingness to fight for a better future. Can you point to anyone in government or the business community that demonstrates those qualities? I can't. It also requires a media willing to challenge the power brokers. To hold their feet to the fire and hold a mirror up to those in power so they can see where they have gone wrong. But that too is gone. How can we expect the average New Mexican to create a better life in this kind of climate? You can't. No wonder so few people view casting a ballot as a way to make a difference. It is hard to get motivated with such an absence of leadership.

You are right that the state Permanent Fund should be tapped for early childhood. So much of our tax dollars, especially in education which represents half of our spending, are now handed over to out of state companies. Once those dollars leave our state they are gone for good. Instead of building an economic infrastructure for generations to come, we are left with boarded up neighborhoods, towns, and cities. 

Retired ABQ newsman Rodger Beimer writes:

I wonder if State Sen. John Arthur Smith--"Dr. NO"--and his buddies at the state legislature are paying attention? They’ve got the financial authority to start making changes--how long will it take? Our social services and educational institutions are filling the roles of foster parents in many cases so let’s recognize that and fund them appropriately. It’s the least we can do as a society. And t’s not just an Albuquerque issue. How many reports of incidents in rural and small town New Mexico occur every day, going unreported in the media because there isn’t any media to report? When does the rainy day come that forces release of Permanent Funds to better our state? Or are those funds so permanent that all that can be done is look at the bank balances and say, “Good job, we’ve got lots of money in there.” Isn’t it raining now?

Reader Robert Palacioz writes:

Joe, A great big "Brazo" for having the intestinal fortitude to speak the truth! Remember, this does not fall on deaf ears but is slowly sinking into the people who are apathetic and in denial. There are no quick solutions....but the early childhood programs coupled with families being given the "tools" to remedy their dysfunction can and will happen. When our beloved New Mexico hits rock bottom the only way is up! Money comes and goes but the children will always be with us....they are our responsibility.


W. Peifer of ABQ writes:

Helluva good job Tuesday! Not the usual fare, by a long shot, but a really great commentary. Well done!

Reader Liz Bustamante writes:

Great work, Mr. Monahan--I wish you were not the only one out there afflicting the comfortable, though.

Reader Phil Parker writes from Mexico:

Hey Joe. Very nicely written piece . My wife and I had our first baby last year and we moved to a beach town in Mexico. A lot of our friends and family said we shouldn't come here because it's dangerous. It is not more dangerous than Albuquerque, where cops kill and their politicians bosses shrug it off. Those kids' mugshots look terrifying—there's your soulless faces of the city. Also, we have better medical care here and we pay the doctor directly. It's lovely here. I still read your blog. Keep up the great work.

Richard Randals writes:

Why is it some think ABQ’s problem is a state problem? You guys are big boys take care of it and stop blaming the state. Albuquerque has gotten themselves in this position, why should the state pull your bodies to safety, you did it, not us. As for early childhood programs, the parents of these children don’t want to learn, that’s why they dropped out of school and chose to have sex instead and continue on the 4th. 5th., or sixth generation of welfare. How do you teach those who do not care and never have? Throw money at it, that’s the fix? parents. .  have not been held responsible for their actions and do not want to learn. Can’t read, can’t add, can’t write, it’s ok you can drop out and we will take care of you. That social promotion really worked, right? It’s too late New Mexico. It just makes me want to throw-up, how about you?

Reader Louis J Lafrado, Ph.D writes:

Joe, I just finished reading the post on the murder of two homeless men in Albuquerque. The three youth are indeed sociopaths. But in this political climate there has been little more than a peep from the politicians. Is this the level we have fallen? Where the act of three miscreants can go without response from either gubernatorial candidate? A tepid response from the city’s ineffectual mayor is the best, we in the metropolitan area, can hope?

Where is the outrage? Where are the parents? The wanton disregard for human life is rotting this metro area and this state from within. It was after all just the deaths of two homeless men for whom a city cannot develop sufficient passion to scold let alone castigate three misfits. Three children who are also lost to society now.

Thank you for raising your voice over the din of silence and ignorance.


ABQ attorney Miguel Suazo writes:

Joe, The heinous beatings of our most unfortunate are clearly the product of extensive self-neglect by the New Mexico community on multiple fronts. Poverty, children having children, lack of opportunity, few examples of success for our least fortunate, poor long-term planning and failure to compete with our surrounding states on business development incentives are just some of the causes. Most importantly, I feel that we have failed to pick-up each other. I think that your Tuesday posting helps invigorate an important debate about the NM that is and the NM that we have dreamt of for decades.

. . . The most striking thing I saw from the many talented people with whom I spent my early adult years was that they were reared by families and communities with a sense of what is possible and a yearning to strive. As a mass group many New Mexicans lack that. Yet, there are plenty of examples of home-grown success—but we need to teach people to search for those influences or else they become more apt to gain fulfillment by indulging their most primal and evil inklings, as did these 3 youths. 

I think that tapping the Permanent Fund is necessary. If it’s there for a rainy day, guess what, it’s raining and it has been for a long time. . . We need to think about how we can spend that money on ourselves in a way that will yield a return on that spending. You have to spend money to make money. You have to take risk to get reward. Early childhood education is just the tip of that iceberg. 

Amanda Bergamo writes:

Joe, I just have to say, Why are we as a culture (in NM) so afraid to hold people accountable for their own choices that create outcomes such as death and catastrophes? Bad behavior is not OK! Just finished reading your post from today and had to get that out!

Reader Chris writes:

You have written many excellent pieces, but none of them tops Tuesday's. It is excellent. You not only have exposed the soul of ABQ but suggest some possible (and realistic) solutions.

Unfortunately, we lack the leadership that is up to the task--including not only the city administration, but also the NGOs and the middle and upper class citizenry which has the economic and political resources to make a difference. Our local media could be of great positive influence but instead focuses on scandals, crimes (real and alleged), fires and other sensationalist tabloid features. Moreover, we have a corrupt "law enforcement" system that would rather play army against the "civilian" citizenry and engage in publicity stunts than "protect and serve" the citizenry.

I am a 13th generation New Mexican and a fourth generation Albuquerquean, but my family and I are seriously considering leaving. Two of our doctors have announced they are leaving this city because of the rampant anger, conflict, meanness and corruption so noticeable here. Too bad it has come to this in the Duke City.

Thanks for the comments. Apathy was crushed here today. . .

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A City's Soul Dies Along With The Murdered Homeless; Acceptance By Some; Demand For Solutions By Others 

ABQ Journal
Two ABQ homeless men have their faces smashed in with cinder blocks wielded by three sociopathic teenagers. They die horrible deaths and with them dies another part of the city's soul. What's left of it.

This new strain of mindless violence that has emerged--epitomized by the epidemic of child abuse and the parental murder of 9 year old Omaree Varela, these diabolical slayings of the homeless and the out of control police shootings--are the direct result of ABQ and New Mexico's unofficial slogan:

"Look The Other Way."


We'd like to predict this latest abomination which has the city unwillingly vaulted into the worldwide headlines will be the turning point, but it won't. We have family dysfunction so widespread here and so ignored by policy makers that it is likely to get worse--much worse--before it gets better. . .

Affluent ABQ has put a moat around itself. The BMW's can be safely parked behind the gates of Tanoan or in the driveways of High Desert.

The social conditions crisis so in evidence in so much of the city--the SE Heights war zone, miles of Central Avenue, the decaying Downtown and most of all in the beastly crimes that sear the conscience---can be kept at bay only when you reside in a dense cocoon of denial.

But it's getting harder to hide.

A friend tells of being panhandled at the Starbucks in wealthy Corrales. We see the homeless now in middle class neighborhoods like Juan Tabo and Comanche, too, not just the back alleys of downtown. And we see them brutally murdered or run over by drunken drivers as public life here becomes even more drenched in rage and hostility.


It has always been a shoot-em-up town, but not an evil one. A fella would get drunk on Saturday night and shoot someone at the bar. Happened all the time. Then came the shocking 1996 Hollywood Video murders. They were the first wake-up call that the strain of crime here was becoming more virulent. Flash forward 20 years and mix in a Great Recession with a willful neglect by what passes for leadership around here and here you are. . .

The economic and quality of life solution for many has been to vote with their feet. The migration out of the state is witness to that. The small, mainly upper income voting class that cast ballots in the 2013 ABQ mayoral election simply wants "to keep a lid on things." That means keep the crime out of their area and if need be unquestioningly pay off millions in APD shooting lawsuits. As for the underlying causes for what we have become or any serious effort at a remedy, ABQ has two middle names: "apathy" and "denial."


It's going to take more table pounding to force collective action to address what is shaping up to be a dreadful NM future. Reader Stephen Spitz comes with the latest on using a portion of the state's immense Land Grant Permanent Fund to get at the innards of the dysfunction afflicting children here--before they are beaten up by relatives or use cinder blocks as murder weapons:

According to an editorial in the ABQ Journal, Minnesota found that by “putting money into early childhood programs like pre-K, nurse visits and prenatal care, we can produce a return of between 10 percent and 18 percent.”  How? Educational and health outcomes were improved and poverty was reduced. The “problem (according to the editorial) is that New Mexico, unlike Minnesota, isn’t rich in big local companies with the resources needed to duplicate the program.”

That’s true, but New Mexico does have a mammoth funding source that is the envy of the nation: namely the 3rd largest Permanent Fund in the US, worth $13.98 billion as of April 30. In June, $71 million flowed into the Fund from oil and gas fees for an annual contribution rate in excess of $800 million--which  now exceeds all annual distributions. This net-positive contribution rate is expected to continue well into the future. Last year none of the fund was spent on the early childhood programs that the editorial indicates produces returns of 10 to 18%. But surely, as the editorial concludes, it should be: “If the money could be found, [the early childhood programs] certainly would be worth trying here, even on a small scale.” The solution is staring us in the face. 

New Mexico is a poor state. But one of the reasons it remains poor is that we have been unwilling to spend the money we do have to generate substantial societal and economic benefits now and for the future. By investing in early childhood programs, New Mexico stands only to gain. The risk lies not in early childhood programs which all agree are “worth trying here” but in the failure to act.

Unfortunately, the consequence of that "failure to act" were on full display at Central Avenue and 60th street.  That's where three maniacal teenagers left two men to die on bloodied mattresses with chips of cinder block embedded in their faces. And as this city and state again looked the other way. . . 

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Monday, July 21, 2014

What If It's A Tie? Battle For State House Control Raises The Question, And: Healing The APD Wounds 

Now that it's clear that the battle for control of the NM House will be nationalized--labor unions in one corner and GOP groups in another--an intriguing question arises. What if the House currently divided 37 to 33 in favor of the Dems ends in a 35 to 35 tie on Election Night? What then?

You would have a coalition speaker, Roundhouse observers opine.  One outcome would have a handful of conservative Democrats--or even just one--bolting to the Republicans and backing the GOP choice for speaker. But another scenario would have the Dems offering up their own speaker, luring the R's into supporting that pick and being rewarded for doing so with committee chairmanships.

A conservative coalition now governs the state Senate and in the early 80's there was the "Cowboy Coalition" in the House when conservative Dems shared power with the R's. Back then a conservative Dem speaker was selected. . .

But it's a long way from a tie ball game. Dems appear better positioned than earlier this year. That's because of the national labor money coming in. Dems had feared a "nobody cares" attitude would take hold and the House would be allowed to fall easily into R hands for the first time in over 60 years.

With Democrats pledging a major fight, they improve their odds of keeping control. However, as one Alligator put it: "That the Dems have to fight to keep control of the House in a state where they are the  majority party speaks volumes about the condition of the party...."

And look at the money being spent on the key House races that will determine control of the 70 member chamber. From Cruces:

Joanne Ferrary, Democratic candidate for House District 37, announced raising over $70,000 for her second run against the incumbent Terry McMillian. After narrowly losing to McMillian by just 8 votes two years ago, Ferrary is back on the campaign trail. . .

That race will easily top six figures for each of the candidates--and that's for an unpaid job.


Anguished parents who have had children slain by APD since 2010 have been in the forefront of the movement to change the culture of the department. Mayor Berry, who has been criticized for being aloof to the pain and suffering of the police shooting victims, recently met with ABQ Forward--a coalition of community groups seeking reform. The group reports:

The mayor invited APD Forward to take part in his community collaborative process to reform APD. The first meeting for this series of community discussions will take place in August. All in all, it was a cordial and productive meeting. It ended with the mayor offering an apology to Steve Torres, Ken Ellis and Mike Gomez, who have all lost sons to officer-involved shootings.

The apology is obviously in order as the millions of dollars in lawsuit judgments against the city continue to mount. The US Department of Justice is negotiating a consent decree with ABQ that will call for specific reforms at APD.


Our reminisce about former NM Gov. Toney Anaya on the Thursday blog drew this from reader Hal Hensley in San Antonio, TX:

Joe, Another interesting “what-if” is whether or not the use of  “The Chinese Ship Jumping Scandal” in the 1974 attorney general campaign might have ended Toney’s career in elected office before it started. As a part of Frederick B. “Ted” Howden’s campaign during the Democratic primary, there was strong support by many to use this against Toney. Given his small margin of victory, despite support from most of the powers that were, it could very well have made a difference. In Ted’s usual understated style, however, he simply said we were not going to use it and we weren’t going to talk about it any more; end of story. I was sad to see New Mexico lost Ted earlier this month. He was one of the most decent individuals and candidates for whom I have ever worked.

Anaya beat Howden by only about 2,500 votes in that '74 primary duel.


The NM congressional delegation wants to protect funding for the troubled WIPP site, but if they are not vigorous in pursuing accountability, their Capitol Hill colleagues could balk. The news:

Just five days after an underground truck fire closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the Energy Department awarded the contractor that operates the nuclear repository $1.9 million for “excellent” performance during the past year. One radiation leak and two sharply worded accident investigation reports later slamming the same contractor for long-running safety and maintenance problems, that award now looks to some like insult atop injury. How could there have been such a disconnect between the Department of Energy’s own assessment of its contractor’s performance and what independent investigators would find soon after? 

Much like APD, DOE and WIPP need a major cultural change and it will take leadership to get it.


This is always a quaint part of La Politica:

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — A county magistrate race that ended in a tie has finally come to a head, or rather, heads. Kenneth Howard Jr. made the lucky call in a coin toss in a Gallup courtroom, winning a four-year term as McKinley County magistrate judge. . .A recount of the June 3 Democratic primary found Howard and Robert Baca each received exactly 2,879 votes. State law mandates a tie must be decided by lot. A Democratic Party official tossed a 50-cent piece, and Howard got to make the call as the candidate who was lower on the ballot. Since there's no opponent on the general election ballot, Howard gets the job. . . 

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Clippings From Our Newsroom Floor 

"The clouds swallowed the sunset." That's how one news report described this week's epic thunderstorm in the ABQ metro. It delivered the most one day rainfall since 1933. That torrential downpour was one of many storms that have been welcomed in our water parched neighborhoods.

Through it all flooding has been kept to a minimum, and unlike past years we rarely see dramatic TV footage of people who have fallen into arroyos. City voters have time and again approved flood control bonds by landslide margins and supported flood safety measures. As we saw this week, it pays off. What would similar investments do that were aimed at reversing the state's abysmal rankings in a myriad of social conditions?. . .


Former Guv Bill Richardson's rocky relationship with the Clintons is well-known. Here he is talking with talk host Larry King about the Dem chase for the '16 prez nomination:

I wanna see who the candidates are, I think there should be open competition, I know Hillary Clinton is a formidable candidate. It’s not that I won’t ever be there but right now, I’m not one of those hundred of democrats flocking and saying the race is over.

And about his breach with Bill Clinton when he endorsed Obama over Hillary in 2008:

He’s still mad at me. . . so far he hasn’t forgiven me, I’ll be honest. I still have a lot of affection for him. I served under him, he was good to me. I was good to him You know, sometimes you have these breaches and sometimes it takes time to heal. This one has been unusually long but if he wishes to keep it separate and a breach then so be it. I’m not uncomfortable. I’m not begging. I’m fine. I’m happy.

Meanwhile, Richardson's sucessor is on the summer campaign trail. Maybe the heat got to her because she seems a bit annoyed in this interview with the Taos News:

While Martinez visited Northern New Mexico, Democratic Party nominee for governor Gary King attended a conference in Albuquerque on child welfare and well-being — both areas in which the state has ranked poorly in recent years. “I don’t need to go and pretend I care about kids,” Martinez replied when asked by a reporter why she did not attend the 2014 Kids Count Conference, which a spokesperson for the governor described as being aligned with a "far-left" group. “I don’t wait for a campaign to worry about kids. I’ve been doing that for 25 years,” referring to her work as a prosecutor. “That’s nothing but a little show.”

New national child well-being rankings are expected to be released soon. Word has it that NM has improved a notch from its most recent ranking of 50th in the USA.

For Gary King the summer is all about turning around the perceptions that he has little hope of victory.  Martinez insiders are rejoicing over the news that top political odds maker Nate Silver at  FiveThirtyEight pegs King's chances of taking her out at a mere 12.5 percent. But King begs to differ. He said in a campaign email this week:

Despite having over a million dollars of negative ads spent against me - our latest poll shows this is still a statistical dead heat - and only a 6% difference between Martinez and me.

King's Poll was conducted July 7-10 by Lake Research and showed Martinez at 45%, King at 39% and 15% undecided. Is Martinez really under the all-important 50% mark? If King could get that confirmed by an independent poll he could be off to the races but there are no such polls. A survey conducted for the Martinez campaign shows her at 54% and one conducted for the state GOP had her at 53%. Here is the King polling memo. The margin of error is pegged at + or - 4 percent.


Allen Weh is digging deep into his own pockets to try to keep pace with the fundraising totals of Dem US Senator Tom Udall but Udall's cash on hand total beats Weh's five to one:

Udall has stockpiled more than $3 million for his re-election bid. . . Weh is dipping into personal money to jump start his campaign for the general election. Weh, a former state GOP chairman, has lent his campaign more than a half million dollars in the past three months, allowing him to raise more money than Udall during that time, according to a Federal Election Commission finance report. . . Udall reported $3.4 million in his campaign account at the end of last month. Weh had a balance of $627,806.

The only federal race that has even an inkling of drama is that featuring southern congressional district Rep. Pearce and Dem Rocky Lara. Reps Lujan and Lujan Grisham are safe. The money totals for those campaigns are found at the above link.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Former Gov. Toney Anaya Splashes Into The Headlines; We Remember Him And The Pivotal Years Of '74, '82 And '86 

Toney Anaya (Bralley)
We note with irony the news that former NM Democratic Governor Toney Anaya has settled fraud charges brought against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Back in the mid-70's when Anaya was attorney general it was he who brought a multitude of charges against various politicos dealing with corruption and other wrongdoing. He parlayed that performance into the Governor's chair in 1982. Now it is Toney who is a prize on the wall of federal investigators.

Anaya first waded into ethical controversy long before he had transformed himself into the crusading post-Watergate attorney general. It was in the 60'swhen he was on the DC staff of Dem US Senator Joe Montoya. The late political columnist Fred McCaffrey recalled the episode:

At the time time Chinese seamen were jumping ship in U.S. ports, after their homeland was taken over by the Communists. Senator Montoya was among the handful of members in the upper chamber who introduced private bills to speed the sailors' acquisition of U.S. citizenship. 

Anaya, then a Montoya aide, told a reporter that it was actually he who put he bills for that purpose into the Senatorial hopper. There was nothing wrong with that at the time--except for the persistent rumors, which went unproved, that money was being paid for the introduction of the bills.

The night he was elected attorney general in 1974 Anaya appeared at the victory party with Jerry Apodaca who led the ticket and was elected Governor. In our report for the UNM Daily Lobo we quoted Anaya--who was strenuously opposed by the ABQ Journal--as telling the crowd: "There are a few choice words that I think we would reserve for other times Jerry, that we may want to share with the news media but I think I'll hold those off to later."

In yet another great irony, it would be the Journal who lionized Anaya for battling political corruption and helped make possible his ensuing governorship.

Anaya left the Governor's office at the end of 1986 as probably the most unpopular governor in state history. The intervening years have done little to polish his image. But he did get a boost when Gov. Richardson put him in charge of the federal stimulus monies for the state following the Great Recession. It was hundreds of millions of dollars and Anaya by all accounts ably administered the funds. It might have been a career capper, if not for the SEC fraud charges.


Joe Monahan
The greatest plot twist in Anaya's career in La Politica came only last year when it was disclosed that former Republican US Senator Pete Domenici had fathered an illegitimate child in the mid-70's and kept it secret for decades.

In 1978, Anaya was the Democratic US Senate nominee and a real threat to Domenici who was seeking a second term and had not yet acquired his legendary status. The story is one of the great "what ifs" in state political history.

What if it had been disclosed during the campaign that Domenici had fathered an out of wedlock child with a twentysomething lobbyist who also happened to have been the daughter of fellow Republican US Senator Paul Laxalt? Given the tenor of those times there is little doubt that Domenici would have been forced to resign or suffer defeat at the polls. For all we know Toney Anaya would be holding that Senate seat to this day.

The law in 1986 limited Anaya to one term, but he went out with a bang that would forever define him as one of our most controversial governors. He decided at Thanksgiving time of that year to commute the sentences of all the prisoners on death row. I was at that news conference at the Guv's office when the announcement came. National media flew in for the occasion. I can still remember my lead for CBS Radio News: "Governor Toney Anaya today set off a political firestorm. . . " It was one for the books.

And in still another note of historical irony, decades later New Mexico's legislature would repeal the death penalty, proving Anaya to be ahead of his time.

Toney Anaya grew up dirt poor in Moriarty, NM planting in him a burning ambition. He streaked across La Politica like a comet that burned only briefly but oh so memorably.

The years were '74, '82 and '86. I was there. . . And that's how I remember it.

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