Thursday, July 02, 2015

Lynne Russell Makes Headline News; Ex-CNN Anchor In Motel 6 Shoot Out; Pre-Fourth Fireworks Startle The Town, But We Look At The Bright Side 

Russell & Husband Chuck de Caro
Uh...we're a little concerned about the timing this week of that announcement by the Governor and tourism department about how much folks from all over the place like coming here and how we are setting records for tourist traffic. Could we walk that back?. . . Or maybe not.

We have a cop shot to death in Rio Rancho, a kid fatally gunned down at a skate park in the ABQ Heights and a fella who tried to stop criminals from breaking into cars murdered in the driveway of his home. But the topper came late Tuesday night when Lynne Russell, original anchor babe for CNN Headline News, told police she and her husband were accosted by a man at a west side Motel 6. Shots rang out like it was the night of the Fourth. The alleged assailant is said to have been fired at by Lynne's husband six times and died. The husband--an ex-CNN investigative reporter---took three bullets to the torso and survived.

But look, we're not giving up hope that ABQ tourism will not be harmed by the crime or that because of it businesses will get even more shy about relocating here. No sir. We're on the phone right now with the appropriate officials to make this Motel 6 a historically protected ABQ landmark. You heard it right. . .

We can just see the color brochures and Internet videos. "Tour the room where Lynne Russell and her hubby stayed! See the bullet holes! Buy a tee-shirt: "I took three bullets at the ABQ Motel 6 and lived!" Take a photo of the commemorative plaque: "We'll leave the light on for you but Motel 6 bears no responsibility for your safety."

Yep. Even Lynne, a Manzano High grad from back in the day, called it an old-style shoot-out. And you know the marketing value in that. Heck, let's think the OK corral in Tombstone. We can do it!

If all goes as planned we'll have the Guv, Mayor Berry and the tourism secretary holding the next news conference announcing record visitors to ABQ right there at the newly historic Motel 6. And they can bring in Lynne Russell for the event so they can thank her personally. Yeah, this could be the start of something big. . .


Enjoy the holiday weekend and if your plans include taking in a movie reviewer Eric Lucero has some picks for you:

Far From the Madding Crowd, (PG-13) ****Stars Out of Five, showing only at the UA High Ridge 8, is a well acted cinematic feast that is an outstanding re-interpretation of English Author Thomas Hardy’s Victorian Masterpiece. Great performances abound.

Love & Mercy, (PG-13)***1/2 Stars Out of Five, showing only at the UA High Ridge 8, is a moving tribute to Beach Boy’s singer & lyricist Brain Wilson’s life and legacy. The bio concentrates on his creative “Dark Side”.

Woman in Gold, (PG-13)***Stars Out of Five, showing only at Movies 8 & Movies West, has award winning British Dame Helen Mirren lending dignity and clarity to her portrayal of the indomitable Maris Altmann’s 60 year battle to recover a family heirloom.

I’ll See You in My Dreams, (PG-13)***Stars Out of Five, showing only at the UA High Ridge 8, teeters between ‘Harold & Maude’ and ‘On Golden Pond’, but it’s story is just as relevant today, especially for millennials.

Max, (PG) ***Stars Out of Five, is great family fare for dog lovers everywhere. Max is the star, but film pays rightful homage to military dog handlers and to the most famous dog and grand-daddy of all: Rin Tin Tin (1918-1939).

Terminator Genisys, (PG-13) ***Stars Out of Five, rightly stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the “I’ll be back” Terminator fully engaged in his element once again. He’s great! However, Director Cameron’s re-boot requires that you pay attention, least you become confused. He can’t help himself!

Happy Fourth of July, New Mexico!

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Like Father Like Son In ABQ City Council Race? Plus: Touting Tourism, And: Our New Project 

Two Hess Yntemas
Like father like son? That's the question for the two Hess Yntemas. The former city councilor is pictured with his son Hess "Hessito" Yntema as they kick off the younger Yntema's campaign for the ABQ SE Heights city council seat being vacated by retiring Councilor Rey Garduño. The elder Yntema once held the seat for two terms.

The senior Yntema can pass on to his son  lessons about both winning and losing. After his two terms on the council he lost a bid for the GOP nomination for a Public Regulation Commission seat. The former councilor, an attorney in private practice, has since registered as an independent, but Hessito describes himself as a "moderate "Republican" (if you find more than two of that rare breed in a New Mexico room at once, get a photo. It might be worth something on eBay).

It's not easy following in dad's political footsteps. Former Governor Bruce King's son, Gary, went on to become attorney general but came up short when he tried to fill dad's gubernatorial chair. Mike Runnels tried and failed to fill the southern congressional seat once held by his father Harold. While northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan did not succeed his father as speaker of the NM House, he did manage to win a seat in the US House.

No doubt the Yntemas hope to imitate the Lujans, but to do so they will have to get past Dem activist Pat Davis. He's the leading candidate in the liberal Dem district. The city election is this October.


The Governor released robust tourism numbers for the state this week. Although the full report was not attached she said NM visits are at an all time high. With low gasoline prices and recovering economies in our neighboring states, that's not hard to figure. Then there's that big increase in the state tourism advertising budget that we've been pounding the table for. To their credit, the administration and the Legislature did it and it appears to have worked. However, Jen Schroer, the CEO of the New Mexico Hospitality Association. worries that the rate of repeat visitors to NM is sliding.

The "New Mexico True" ad campaign is not everyone's cup of tea but even its harshest critics don't categorize it as a failure. We've learned over the years that much of marketing is about repetition. That's almost as important as the message. Speaking of which, this is the state guide to the many doings here during the Summer of '15.


As many of you know, this corner has been an ardent supporter of increased investment in very early childhood education--aged zero to five--as a means of pulling New Mexico out of the generational poverty that has historically afflicted the state. It's a big idea that would be financed by appropriating $100 million a year for 10 years from the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund. This investment in the state's people and future would require voter approval of a constitutional amendment.

Going forward, I am pleased to report that my involvement will be more formal as I provide PR consulting for this issue to CHI Saint Joseph's Children which has so effectively spearheaded the effort.

After a long career in journalism, public relations and blogging, I am especially looking forward to this project. It literally could change the lives of future generations here, and that's as meaningful as it gets. I look forward to working with president and CEO Allen Sanchez and his team at CHI St. Joseph's. They have worked tirelessly and selflessly to move this issue from the backburner to the fore and where it has become an essential element of the public policy debate. Success is in sight.

You'll still be able to get a regular political fix here at joemonahan.com and hear from me in the pages of the ABQ Free Press and other forums, but I wanted to let you know about the extra hat I will be wearing and how I am so pleased to be able to do so.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Monitoring The Monitor And APD: Councilors Left Out In Cold Get Suggestion, Plus: Quiet BernCo Commissioner Gets Noise Over Assistant 

Federal Monitor Ginger
Now that the often sleepy ABQ city council has been roused by Councilors Dan Lewis and Garduño more readers are also asking what exactly the city is going to be getting for the millions headed out the door in the name of police reform. Here's reader Alan Wagman with a suggestion for those councilors who feel they are being wrongfully denied a seat at the expensive police reform table:

City Council needs truly expert, professional assistance to properly evaluate APD and mayoral efforts and claims concerning APD reform. This especially would include evaluation of whether the triangle of the Dept. of Justice, Federal Monitor Ginger and APD is accomplishing anything. Ginger is collecting $4.5 million for four years (it could go much higher). Chief Eden created 3 APD top-level command positions a year ago, at a combined annual salary of over $300,000, claiming that the three commanders were needed to implement reforms. What reforms have we gotten for the more than $300,000 already spent? Surely, if the city can afford millions to deal with the damage done by an out of control police department, the city can afford to allow City Council a budget to hire professional staff to provide real insight into whether the city’s millions are being used productively or wasted.

The city council did not insist on a larger role in the settlement agreement reached between the city and Justice and it's coming back to haunt them. They must approve the millions in reforms but have little or no say over what's going on. That's nice for the Federal Monitor who simply has to deal with a sympathetic mayor and on occasion a federal judge. But--in the view of reader Wagman and others--it's not so nice for aggressive oversight of the mayor and the monitor. Maybe someone should start collecting resumes for the position of Monitor for the Council?


Low key Republican BernCo Commissionr Lonnie Talbert is expected to seek re-election to his ABQ NE Heights district next year. While Talbert--favored for his re-elect--has been relatively quiet, some noise has developed over his $54,000 a year commission assistant:

On a regular basis, Noelle Sauer gets to the office after 9 a.m., puts in a few hours and leaves. . . The week of October 20 through the 24 of 2014, Sauer put in an 18-and-a-half hours. She was paid for another 40 hours. The week of July 21 through the 25 last year, Sauer was in the office a little more than 11 hours and collected pay for 40 hours. Her boss, Commissioner Talbert, is confident Sauer works at least 40 hours a week. Talbert said she is not in the office form 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. because she is out in the district attending meetings and talking to constituents. “Those 40 hours in the system are simply for payroll…she’s not paid by the hour,” Talbert said. “She’s a salaried employee that gets paid the same no matter how many hours she works. . .Hey, trust me that I’m watching what she’s doing, I know what she’s doing.

One of our Alligators says since that report Sauer is now seen more frequently at the office. Still, Michael Wiener, who was ousted from the county commission when Talbert beat him in the 2012 Republican primary, could not resist taking a jab: "I would just point out that Lonnie campaigned an awful lot on honesty and integrity, needled Weiner who says he has no plans for a political comeback.

The Talbert district is solid R. The GOP primary is in June of next year.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Guv's Machine Appears Poised To Play Hardball With Council Candidate, Plus: Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling Hits Home For Dem Chair, And: How Much For Dems To Defend State Senate? 

It appears the Guv's political machine will play some hardball in that ABQ city council race featuring their arch-enemy Pat Davis. Hess "Hessito" Yntema, a Republican and son of Hess Yntema, a former two term city councilor from the SE Heights district, has joined the fray to succeed retiring Dem Councilor Garduño

Dem Davis, 37, runs the activist group ProgressNow NM and has been a major thorn in the side of the Martinez administration, repeatedly investigating and chiding the administration and often with effect. He is the odds-on favorite to take the seat in this most liberal of the nine council districts. It includes the neighborhoods around UNM. He has qualified for public financing and will receive about $40,000. Two other lesser known candidates are collecting petitions for the race but Davis and Yntema are the two players.

If Davis takes the seat he will have a forum to take on Republican Mayor Berry. Former city councilor and veteran political consultant Greg Payne says that's why the Guv's machine is surfacing:

They don't have a realistic chance of taking the seat but they're going to rough up Davis in the hope of making him less effective against Berry--when he gets on the council. This will make his road bumpier but it will be more like stepping over pebbles, not boulders.

Yntema is 28 and will have some residual name ID from his father who served from the district from 87-91 and 99-'03. Like his father, Yntema is an attorney. He worked for several months under the wing of the Republican Mayor at the city's legal department. He did not try to qualify for public financing so the money for any hits on Davis is expected to come from the Guv's apparatus as it has against her past political foes.


Despite the recent raise in pay for incoming councilors to $17,500 a year there's no rush to be a councilor. North Valley Dem Councilor Ike Benton is unopposed in the October election. Republican Councilor Trudy Jones in the NE Heights is also getting a free ride. Today is the deadline for council candidates in the four districts up for election to submit their required petition signatures. The final field in the two contested districts will then be set. The council races are officially nonpartisan. The council currently has 5 D's and 4 R's.


Haaland & daughter
The Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage across the nation was very personal for NM Dem Party Chair Debra Haaland and daughter Somáh:

As the mother of a lesbian daughter, I am thrilled to know that her future is free from barriers to marry whomever she wishes. Somáh came out to me as a senior in high school and since that time she has advocated for acceptance of this fundamental right. I share this victory with her. 

Polls show a majority of Republicans still oppose gay marriage as do many older Americans. Southern GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce, the sole member of the state's congressional delegation, summed up the opposing view:

I was deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court's activist decision which ignores the Constitution, the will of the people in the states, and our religious liberty. I respect every individual’s right to liberty. However, marriage has always been and will always be the union between one man and one woman. Moreover, every child deserves both a father and a mother. We are a nation of laws, not of men, and not of arbitrary rule. This ruling casts aside the Constitution, the voice of the people, longstanding precedent, and the natural law. The legal definition and regulation of marriage should continue to be left to the will of the people in the 50 states and their elected representatives.


The cost of the legislative races in NM next year is sure to set another record. Dem insiders say Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is busy these days trying to raise $5 million to defend the Dem Senate majority. All 42 Senate seats are up for election as are the 70 state House seats. Sanchez will look to big labor for much of the financing. Sanchez will argue that with a GOP state House the Senate has been key in stopping anti-labor legislation like right-to-work. However, he'll argue, if the Senate drifts more to the R's it could join with the GOP-controlled House to push through right-to-work and other bills opposed by labor.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Thoughts On the Week's Big Story And Of Governors And Walruses 

The big story this week was the US Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, although the high court's Friday ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide wasn't far behind.

We'll probably be referring to Obamacare in the years ahead like we do Medicare and Medicaid. The bureaucratic jargon aside, healthcare and health insurance is a very human story. This illustration from northern Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Lujan brings it home:

Behind all of these numbers are real people. My staff and I are all on the health care exchange, and for one of my staffers (the congressman's district director) it has made a world of difference.

The year she went on the ACA exchange she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer that required surgery and numerous scans. Through all of the procedures and doctor’s visits, not once did she have to worry that her diagnosis was going to mean bankruptcy or losing her house. She paid her deductible and her bills were paid within weeks; no procedure or test was ever denied, and therefore care was never delayed. And now, she won’t have to worry that in the future she could be at risk of being discriminated against for having a pre-existing condition. Those fears are a thing of the past.

Will a future president and congress repeal Obamacare? There were efforts to stop Social Security and Medicare but today no one wants to live without them. Basic health insurance for all Americans seems destined to join them. The bet in this corner is that in the years ahead Obamacare expands--not contracts.


ABQ reader Art Schreiber said he got a kick out of this column from Gail Collins of the NYT and he thought you might as well:

Is it my imagination, or are half the governors in the country running for president? On the Republican side they're piling up like ... those huge stacks of walruses we see off the coast of Alaska now that there's global warming. A stack of governors! Different from the walruses only in 1) lack of tusks, and 2) failure to believe that melting ice floes are a serious problem. . .

Good one, Art. And radio personality Larry Ahrens sends us into a summer weekend with this New Mexico rib tickler:

The one thing uniting all of us regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnicity is that we ALL believe that we are very good drivers.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Fight For A Seat At The Table: The Feds APD Monitor Vs. Two Councilors; Plus: Greener Economic Pastures Nearby Could Be Impacting Us 

Councilors Lewis & Garduno (Journal)
There was really no need for federal APD monitor James Ginger to stick his thumb in the eye of the city council this week but by doing so he may have inadvertently helped improve the outcome of the federally-mandated reforms of the troubled city police department. How so?

Well, two councilors who could not be further apart philosophically--Republican Dan Lewis and Democrat Rey Garduno--joined forces to defend the council's request that Ginger appear before them to answer questions. They even delayed payment to Ginger. That's apparently like taking steak away from a lion because Ginger was quick to publicly snap at the lawmakers. The problem is that Ginger has yet to convince observers that he brings the same passion to his job as as he does to receiving timely payments. The jury is still out on that one and the court appointed monitor might first want to concern himself with that perception before unloading on duly elected officials.

Berry & Ginger (Journal)
Having Lewis and Garduno (and on occasion other councilors) mixing it up over the reform process is restoring necessary tension between the mayor, council and the feds that has been sorely missing. The council, as we have noted over the years, has been like nine silent mice and has been sorely missed as the APD crisis was allowed to roll out of control. Finally, it appears the mute control is off.

Dr. Ginger and the Feds seem to think it is only the Mayor who has a seat at the table in the lengthy and very expensive process of getting APD back on the civilian leash. Maybe they are technically correct right but they are not only dealing with the law here. This is also politics. Elected representatives who are being asked to approve millions of dollars for reform can't simply be airbrushed out of the picture and treated as mere rubber stamps. They have a seat at the table--no matter what Dr. Ginger, US Attorney Martinez, Mayor Berry and federal Judge Brack may think.


One of the reasons--maybe a big one--as to why there has not been the outcry you might expect over New Mexico's questionable present and future economic prospects is that it is too easy to get out of here and start anew. And we mean easy.

CNBC just released its 2015 "America's Top States For Business" rankings and it shows how those nearby pastures are so much greener. Texas takes the number 2 slot, Utah is ranked 3rd and Colorado is 4th. All of them are at most only a few hours drive from our borders. Not that New Mexico didn't show potential. We ranked 24th overall (up from 34th last year) but came in very low on education (40th) and access to capital (42nd).

What we may be seeing in our depopulation and stagnant growth trend in our cities is a reversal of that old slogan "We'd rather fight than switch." In the case of getting on with their economic lives it appears relatively easy for New Mexicans to switch rather than fight.

By the way, Minnesota, described by CNBC as "a high-tax, high-wage, union-friendly state," took the #1 spot. Does that agenda in Santa Fe and in the elite business community of making us a right-to-work state and cutting corporate taxes seem even more off the mark?

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Group Wants Wide Open NM Primaries, Plus: We Have A Lot Of Would-Be Governors With Good Ideas; The Winner Of Our Governor For A Day Contest 

Former Dem NM State Rep. Bob Perls of Corrales has a new political project--working to let the state's many independent voters cast ballots in primary elections. He's heading up the group  New Mexico Open Primaries:

Joe, Dedicated to the proposition that you should not have to join a party to vote, we are getting the message out, raising money, enrolling volunteers and moving important political reforms forward. 42 percent of Americans are not registered with a major party and 22 percent of New Mexicans are registered as declined to state (DTS). Many more registered Democrats and Republicans are registered as such simply not to be excluded in the primary elections. Parties use tax dollars to run a private club’s election. This is wrong and the number of people not voting speaks to the deep frustration that exists in this state with politics as usual. NMOP is dedicated to moving New Mexico to an election system where no one is excluded from voting. By getting a full range of participation in the first round elections, all voices are heard which means candidates and elected officials have to listen to the right, left and center to get elected and stay in office.

Perls has his work cut out for him. The two last major elections around here--for ABQ mayor in '13 and Governor in '14 had record low turnout.


Expatriate New Mexican Chris Cervini checks in with reaction to our Monday blog on the explosion in New Mexicans eligible for the Medicaid program for low income households:

Joe, you are one of the few to draw a bright line between NM's slumping economy and the rise in Medicaid eligibility. I would argue there is one more sector to blame and that's the NM business cheerleaders. They howl and howl for their tax cuts as if that's the magic snake oil that will create jobs. Well, they've gotten their tax cuts and what's been the result? Crickets. Until we are willing to face the major underpinnings that hold NM's economy back (poverty, education, curbing violence), all the tax cuts in the world aren't going to cut it. Remember, NM has essentially paid (through tax incentives) companies to come here in the past and that hasn't worked out long term. Until policymakers and business cheerleaders start looking at economic development in a fundamentally different way, NM's economy will continue to plod along and sadly, the ranks of those in poverty will grow.


Congratulations, Kevin Bersell---you are Governor for a Day. Kevin of Santa Fe submitted the winning entry in our Tuesday contest and for his effort he has been awarded two tickets to this Friday's Vintage Albuquerque's Grand Tasting at the ABQ International Balloon Museum, a $170.00 value.

We asked for three ideas you would implement if you could be Governor for 24 hours. While not necessarily agreeing with Kevin's ideas, they were at the top of the creative list and here they are:

1. Free Energy - What do we have more of than anything else? Dirt and sunshine. If you employ more than 100 people in NM as Governor I'll give you an almost free lease on land to produce all the energy you need to run your business (you will have to provide the solar panels). The State Land office does this for oil, lets do it for solar too.

2. Free education. As Governor I'm going to offer free education in the following areas: computer programming, nursing, medicine and dentists. MDs and DDS's will have to train in ABQ but the rest can happen in the smaller universities and community colleges outside of the Duke City.

3. Legalize marijuana and support marijuana production - (No wait, don't leave... keep reading). New Mexico has the climate and culture to grow the best Marijuana in the world. Regardless of what you think of marijuana it will be legal soon. Let's get ahead of the curve and start building a marijuana industry that will generate billions of dollars in revenue and create agricultural jobs in our small communities. Let's not be last again.

Those were big ideas, another reason Kevin took the prize.

Every entry we received was thoughtful (no surprise there) including this one from Republican Brent Eastwood in DC:

Instead of trying in vain to recruit industries and companies to New Mexico, focus on recruiting new agencies, departments, bureaus and offices of the federal government to relocate to New Mexico.

--Establish a “Federal Government Center of Excellence” that would be responsible for this recruitment. The Center of Excellence would also provide management consulting services to the federal government in order to promote best practices in federal solutions. This would take advantage of New Mexico’s existing expertise in government and bureaucratic work. Again, stop promising the world in incentives for “chasing smoke stacks” and instead focus on recruiting out-of-state venture capital for New Mexico high-tech entrepreneurs

Thanks to all who sent in their ideas. We're going to run some in our ABQ Free Press column as well as right here on the blog. Truly, you would all make excellent governors for a day.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Your Chance To Be Governor For A Day And Earn A Handsome Reward, Plus: Ecstasy At Expo And The Boyd Case And The Legal Beagles 

We all know the problems, so what about the solutions? Well here's your chance to put in your two cents worth on what you would do about them if you were Governor for a day.

It's not only a chance to put your thinking cap on but the best entry is going to win one heck of a prize--two tickets valued at $170. 00 to this Friday's Vintage Albuquerque Grand Tasting at the ABQ International Balloon Museum. The tasting will feature only the best food and wine from the best restaurants in the metro (think Artichoke Cafe, Prairie Star and the rest of the best). The yearly event never disappoints.

Also, we will take the best reader answers for use in our bi-monthly column in the ABQ Free Press. As a possible future governor, you're worthy of some free press.

Email your three proposals to jmonahan@ix.netcom.com. They can be simple bullet points or a narrative of up to 75 words. We'll accept anonymous proposals but they won't be eligible for the Grand Tasting tickets. The deadline for submission is today--June 23 at 6 p.m.

Thanks to Vintage ABQ for making our contest possible and for again sponsoring the premier food and wine event of New Mexico. Funds raised each year are dedicated to supporting much-needed art education programs and outreach activities focused on K-12 students in the city and state. Even if you don't win our prize this is an event that will bring you and others much pleasure and satisfaction. Tickets available here.

Now please raise your right hand as we swear you in as Governor of New Mexico for 24 hours.

"I (your name) hereby pledge to offer three of my best ideas for improving New Mexico and further pledge to immediately implement them through emergency order upon assuming gubernatorial powers for a 24 hour period."

So move over, Susana. You get a day off. A deserving prize winner will be sure to keep your chair warm.


The head of NM Expo describes himself as "ecstatic" over the $2.5 million in capital outlay that the dilapidated fairgrounds will get as a result of the special legislative session, even though that is only a miserly slice of the over $11 million it first requested.

What we are witnessing is the management of a slow decline at the fairgrounds--not that it started entirely under those currently in charge. One can argue that the long-decaying Tingley Coliseum is a symbol of the state's inability to look forward but instead opt to to patch things up like hand-me-down clothes. The chief at NM Expo has reason to be "ecstatic" about having a pretty good job. Otherwise, these are some of the saddest days ever for the once-storied state fairgrounds.


Our Legal Beagles say the chances of ABQ police officers Keith Sandy and Dominque Perez standing trial on murder charges for the fatal shooting of homeless camper James Boyd has taken a big leap forward. That's as a result of the first major decision from  Randi McGinn, the special prosecutor in the case. Here's how one of the Beagles barks:

She did not go for a first-degree murder charge that the DA talked about, opting instead for murder in the second-degree. She is also including lesser charges like aggravated battery and involuntary manslaughter. This means at the preliminary hearing for the officers (scheduled in August) the judge may be more likely to find probable cause for some of the charges and order the officers to stand trial.

The Beagles also say the many lesser charges could also improve the chances of a conviction in the case but on charges that do not carry the most severe penalty.

The 2014 Boyd shooting--shown across the globe on police lapel camera video--shocked the city and led to street protests and calls for APD reform. McGinn was named special prosecutor for the case by BernCo DA Kari Brandenburg who said her office would have a conflict of interest prosecuting the cops.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

The Medicaid Explosion: What It Tells Us About Us, Plus: One More Take On Getting Early Prez Action Here 

It was another cold splash of water across the face of the state's body politic--skyrocketing eligibility for the Medicaid program signals that New Mexico is drifting deeper into welfare state territory. In a few years it's estimated that nearly 900,000 will be enrolled in the federal-state medical insurance program for low-income households. That's nearly half the state's entire population.

Low paying jobs--many of them part-time--are replacing high paying ones that continue to drift away (see Intel layoffs and continuing cuts in federal spending here). You can't afford much health insurance on $11 an hour.

Besides illuminating the depth of poverty in the state, the Medicaid explosion also again shines the spotlight on the state budget. Medicaid is paid largely by the Feds but the state's share will become much larger in the years ahead. Are we going to be able to grow our economy to generate the tax revenue to pay for it? Or without the rest of the budget getting hit? Given the secular economic stagnation that is now the new normal, that's highly unlikely. And even if we did, tax cutting fever continues in Santa Fe, threatening to move any new tax dollars out the door. Sharon Kayne of NM Voices for Children explains it this way:

The loss of  $200 million of corporate tax revenue due to the tax cuts passed in 2013 is significant. That tax cut cost us more than enough to cover the state’s future share of the Medicaid expansion. . . .The tax department told lawmakers that it would not result in lost revenue, due to the jobs it would create. Clearly, those jobs are not materializing. On the other hand, we knew the state would eventually need to pay a small portion of the Medicaid expansion. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has had a net positive impact on state revenues (due in large part to the tax on health insurance policies). What’s more, all of the federal money coming in via Medicaid has created economic stimulus. That can be seen in the fact that virtually all of the recent job creation has been in health care because so many people now have coverage.

Agreed, except that the "net positive impact on state revenues" appears about to disappear with the larger state Medicaid bill due.

Despite that looming Medicaid bill and continued decline in oil and gas revenue, state lawmakers during their recent special session passed yet another round of tax breaks that could cost over $10 million a year (no one seems to know for sure).

Medicaid expansion is creating health-care jobs and also promises to make for a healthier New Mexico. Medicaid is not the problem. The problem continues to be our inability to educate and prepare the citizenry for good paying jobs, attracting those good-paying jobs and keeping the good-paying jobs we have. Combine that with a nonstop tax-cutting policy that challenges rationality and you get a second-world state where people vote with their feet--and a Medicaid explosion to boot.


Let's kick the can one more time on whether NM Dems should try to get in on the early prez action by moving to a February caucus instead of a June primary. Bernalillo County Dem ward chair Don Schiff comes with the final take:

As a state central committee member and chair of the Bernalillo County Democratic Party Caucus Committee in 2008, I can tell you that over my dead body will the party ever run an election again. It just took too much work and money. The County Clerks are the professionals at running elections and we should simply let them do their jobs in the future.

I take issue with the contention that the caucus was an "unmitigated disaster," though. A lot of people were unhappy with the time it took to verify the results, but the delegate breakdown was known almost immediately. Most of the reporting problems had to do with the fact that then-Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colon had promised that every vote would be counted, and there were an extremely high number of provisional ballots which the party allowed to come from all over the state, not just within each county, as is the norm in regular elections. Even with an army of volunteers, it took a couple of weeks to accept or reject all the ballots, but I would like to point out that the canvas was completed on time according to Party rules.


In the blog Friday Analee Maestas was referenced as a former APS board member. She is a current board member. . .Summer arrived Sunday and with it the ideal time to explore New Mexico. Here are all the short videos produced for the NM True tourism campaign that might give you an idea or two for that summer break.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Defending De La Cruz; BernCo Commissioner In A Sizzling Summer, Plus: A Cause For Coss And Rejuvenating ABQ 

Nobody took more summer heat this past week than Dem BernCo Commissioner Art De La Cruz. His decision to again vote with the two GOP county commissioners to approve the controversial westside Santolina development project launched a sizzling debate, especially in De La Cruz's semi-rural South Valley district. He endured a public scorching that rivaled the 100 degree weather.

While Art may feel alone in his own backyard he does have his Dem defenders. Let's turn the podium over to one of them to see if we can bring Art's temperature down:

Joe, sometimes real leadership comes in doing what is right not what is popular. The westside has struggled for quality employment and planned development. Doing nothing and expecting things to change is folly. Do we know that Santolina will be successful in bringing new employment to the area> No. But we do know that doing nothing, as the opponents want, will just result in the westside stagnating and being red lined by lending institutions as it has in the past. I admire Commissioner De La Cruz for making a hard political decision and deciding to do what is right for the community. If Santolina fails it won't be for lack of effort from the commission and it deserves an opportunity to succeed. We need jobs and economic development in New Mexico and especially on the westside of Bernalillo County.

And how about the commission race next year to succeed De La Cruz who is term limited? Well, that could be a summer sizzler come Dem primary day next June. We blogged of the candidacy of progressive Dem Adrián Pedroza. Now a Valley Alligator reports:

There is another potential candidate not yet announced that is looking at the seat. It is none other than "Gomie" from the hit TV show filmed in Albuquerque and school board member Steven Michael Quezada. He clearly would be among the front-runners and be able to raise considerable funds. We're also hearing that APS board member Analee Maestas is getting ready to get into the race. Stay tuned.

Stay tuned? We're all ears on that one.


Th Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club reports:

At its June meeting, the  Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter elected former Santa Fe mayor David Coss as chapter chair.  During his 25-year career in natural-resources management and environmental protection, including at the Environment Department and state Land Office, Coss worked in water quality, watershed restoration and air quality. As a Santa Fe city councilor and mayor, he led successful efforts to adopt the city’s green building code. . .


The blight produced in ABQ by the Great Recession even found its way into the city's more affluent neighborhoods, including Four Hills and its shopping center at Tramway and Central. The mall has been in disrepair for years but is now seeing new life as developers bring in a movie theatre complex as well as a new grocery store. The Four Hills Country Club is also seeing a rebirth after nearly going out of existence.

A recent drive though the area shows homes behind the shopping center and near the country club remain in good shape. The affluence is not perhaps as great as it once was, given the quiet but persistent federal budget cuts that fuel so many high income ABQ households. The less wealthy neighborhoods around the area took an even bigger hit during the long downturn.

It will take a $5 million investment by the developers to restore the shopping center and that is well underway with the recent opening of the new Four Hills ICON Cinema. We sent local film reviewer Eric Lucero out for a look:

ICON Cinemas is just what the doctor ordered after a long decline that included the Four Hills Village Shopping Center. It was built in 1983 and two years ago purchased by the Daskalos Family. The old theatre complex was bought and re-developed by the Snell Family of Clovis. 

The Four Hills ICON Cinema sports ten new screens that offer clear and sharp images. Each auditorium has most seating devoted to oversized and almost fully reclining chairs that I found super-comfortable. The remaining seats offer the “VIB” experience--built-in, vibrating speakers that mimic the soundtracks. While watching “San Andreas” (*** Stars out of Five) while in a “VIB” padded chair, I felt that I was in an actual earthquake. I saw “Jurassic World” (***1/2 stars) in ‘VIB’ and 3D format. It was a real blast!

There is  “all-you-can-eat popcorn and soda re-fills.” All seating is reserved which means you can select your movie and seat ahead of time, arrive late and still be assured your seat is waiting. There is a video and games arcade off of the main lobby and the parking lot is secured and patrolled. The experience is designed to make you want to come back--and you will.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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