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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hope And Hell In New Orleans: NM Sheriff Blogs In, Plus: More Hurricane Fall Out, And: Mayoral Maneuvers; Stand By For News 

The massive political fallout from the calamity of Hurricane Katrina will continue for months, but for a group of New Mexicans camped in tents near the Mississippi River in New Orleans politics is a world away. The stark reality of death and untold human misery is front and center. I know many of you would like to be there to help. I know this because of the record amount of e-mail I have received. But we are well-represented. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, along with 35 of our deputies, scour the flood soaked streets of the Crescent City each day, desperately trying to persuade the last citizens to depart, to literally run for their lives. The air boats are steered by fisherman coated in body armor to fend off snipers. The drama can't be overstated. Late last night Sheriff White blogged in on an unreliable cell phone from a city he described as "so dark, it's disorienting."

HELL AND HOPE

"Joe, as a human being it hurts, it really hurts, but we have a job to do. Today we came across a floating body that was clearly a homicide victim. Normally, you would throw up the crime scene tape and call CSI. But we just float by seeking those who still live. Bodies are everywhere, but also thousands of survivors. We are saving hundreds. The reward is the thanks and the hugs the men get. But it is grim, very grim. I have never seen anything like it, no one has. Why do some people shoot at the boats? Who the hell knows? We have two deputies on each one for protection. We arrested guys rescuing people from homes and then going back and looting those same houses. The New Orleans police are saying 15,000 to 25,000 are dead. They only have one radio channel. There is no 911 service.

The cops are upset with those who walked away, but those still working are incredible. They're living in the precinct houses and only have the clothes on their back. Our people and the others here are going to get an express check-in from God for the work they have done," blogged an emotional and bone-weary sheriff as he and his men readied themselves for another night in sleeping bags. All the men volunteered. You can help too.

HURRICANE FALL OUT


Back on the political front, Alligators were pointing out this press release from Senator Domenici as evidence of his continued tension with Big Bill after last month's battle over Cannon Air Force Base. The release, they point out, contains lavish praise for ABQ Mayor Marty for taking in New Orleans evacuees, but none for Big Bill who also played a major role. The slap at Big Bill, if that's what it was, came at the expense of GOP mayoral contender Brad Winter who is trying to take Marty down. But when you have a big fish to fry, you fry it.

And then there's the talk of the placement of the evacuees. Many will go to Roswell, Farmington and Clovis, all cities that are weak spots for the Guv. "Why is Santa Fe not helping?" E-mails one northern Gator. Let's just call this one interesting.

MAYORAL MANEUVERS


Rejoining the mayoral campaign trail, we find the Winter campaign, according to insiders, putting up about $8,000 for a cable TV buy, his first of the campaign. It touts him as the "independent Republican candidate." We are also receiving word that he will get help from the national GOP for a mailer. The question remains whether Winter will have the big money for a positive TV buy that does not involve the ethics charges he levels against Chavez in his first spot. "The commercial is well-produced and hits Marty effectively. The trouble is the "independent Republican" line. Does that go away? I think so, or else a lot of Dems, conservative Republicans and independents are going to turn away," analyzed one mayoral watcher.

ECLIPSE UPDATE

Officials at the state investment council were holding their breath over that report that an Eclipse jet landed on its belly after landing gear apparently failed. After all, the state investment in the start-up company is over $20 million. Maybe they are relaxing a bit after this statement from Eclipse: "We have determined that no aircraft mechanical or electrical problems contributed to this event." In other words, it was pilot error, according to Eclipse. Still, the risk of this investment is evident to anyone with experience on Wall Street. This could be a real high flier or a crash landing. Don't say we didn't tell you.

E-mail me your news and comments at the top right of this page and help keep the political news flowing.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Three Bucks A Gallon And Headed North; NM Senators Under Gun On Gas Prices, Plus: Udall On New Orleans; Why Is He Alone? And: Planes In The News 

New Mexico's two U.S. Senators will try to get ahead of the curve today by holding a hearing in D.C. as national outrage mounts over the skyrocketing cost of gasoline, now well over three bucks a gallon and climbing. The outrage is more palpable because of the "energy bill" that Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman crafted and sold as an eventual solution to the nation's energy woes. The problem is the fine print, and people are not reading it. The senators said the bill would do nothing to bring down high gas prices in the short run, but that's what many folks think an energy bill should do, thus the heat is on the duo. They went as far as appearing with the Prez in Albuquerque to watch him sign the measure. But that's now history as the disaster in New Orleans combines with out of control pump prices to deliver a perfect storm to Washington lawmakers who are being told by those suffering at the pumps just what an energy bill should be.

Politically, Dem Senator Bingaman was set to score points for his re-elect next year by working with Republican Domenici to get an energy bill, but with national energy policy in tatters that plan appears to be for naught, at least if gas prices stay anywhere near today's levels.

TELL IT LIKE IT IS
Sen. Goldwater
The problem with our politicians today is that they are seemingly unable to say how they really feel on even the most profound events. Remember Barry Goldwater? He told it like he saw it, and whether you agreed with it or not, it was refreshing and pure. New Mexico's Tom Udall was the only member of our state's Congressional delegation to lay it on the line when it mattered as he came out swinging on the feds late response to the Gulf Coast disaster. Said Udall: "We have a moral obligation to conduct a full review of what happened." The cynics will say Udall could take that stand because of his liberal district, but from this corner future generations (and hopefully this one) will judge politicians on whether they stood up on New Orleans, not whether they were liberal or conservative. The rest of the state's delegation was pretty mousy on the calamity, even as President Bush admitted the government response was "unacceptable."

Some politicos who refused to go with Udall felt it would be deemed "fingerpointing." Folks, asking what contributed to people dying in the streets of a major American city is called accountability, not fingerpointing. It would have been great to see a joint statement from our D.C. delegation saying: "We know our government did not perform as required. We are united in making sure it does in the future. Meanwhile, we are determined to save New Orleans and the Gulf Coast." But Barry Goldwater is long gone and many of today's so-called "leaders" are actually re-elect machines fearful to risk anything, even in the face of human catastrophe. Is this a function of today's over-consulted, big money, little ideas political campaigns? We're just asking.

THE PLANE GAME
Eclipse Jet
Big Bill fell into some some good PR as he sent the state's brand new and hyper-controversial jet on its first mission to flood-drenched Louisiana. Critics will be after him throughout next years campaign for spending $5.5 million for the Cessna, but right now the mercy mission makes the jet purchase look, well, not so bad. But get ready for the R's to unload on the Guv when he begins using the jet for less critical travel. Their next line of attack? Soaring jet fuel costs and how that will make the jet even more expensive than officials projected...And critics of the big investment in start-up Eclipse Aviation were given some fresh ammo over the weekend when during a test flight the landing gear on an Eclipse jet apparently failed to function and the plane skidded to a stop on its belly. The naysayers point out that investing in any kind of airline is highly risky. They wonder if the latest $15 million of state cash given Eclipse is too much. If Eclipse's problems grow beyond a bad landing, Big Bill and others will be on the hook for an explanation.

MAYORAL TV

Yes, those were TV spots for R Brad Winter's ABQ mayoral candidacy on the ABQ cable channels over the weekend. He's calling himself the "independent Republican" candidate. Hey, aren't ABQ elections supposed to be "non-partisan?" More on the mayoral derby tomorrow. Until then, thanks for your company.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Friday, September 02, 2005

Shocking Images Of Death, Terror And Anarchy In Our Beloved America; Politicians Disgraced By New Orleans Disaster; Tragedy Shakes Faith; A Blog Extra 

Politics can be fun and entertaining. And it can also be deadly serious. The horrific images flashed across the world from New Orleans have politicians everywhere on the defensive. How could the emergency response system fail so miserably? How could officials be so disconnected with reality? Video showed scenes of human tragedy so revealing that one either turned their head away or burst into tears. Yet in Washington and elsewhere officials struggled to paint a different reality. Has "spin" become the end game, even trumping human life?

Impressions of a government gone haywire are indelibly etched in the collective consciousness: A befuddled and seemingly detached President, a Homeland Security Director reciting a litany of help "on its way" while TV scenes showed a city descending into hell; military leaders so wrapped up in bureaucracy they could not establish command and control. And the impotence of the world's greatest democracy succinctly captured on price boards showing gasoline rocketing past three dollars a gallon.

Yes, we have lived through times like this before. President Carter lost control of events in the late 70's. President Johnson was swallowed whole by the Vietnam War. Now, yet another president is mired in an impossible war, confronted with energy prices that threaten the stability of the economy and political system and a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions that demands a level of leadership that we have yet to see emerge from either Democrats or Republicans and that will make 9/11 look like child's play.

THE BOTTOM LINES

This wonderful, grand experiment known as America is bigger than any of its present day guardians. As long as people yearn for freedom it will be here in one form or another. But our political system is once again clogged, infected if you will, and in need of flushing. The symptoms, as listed above, are the no-way-out Iraq war, a new energy crisis and the mismanagement of the catastrophe in the Southland.

This is not a plea "to throw the bums out"--although that may be the reasonable response of the voters if present trends continue--it is a plea, a hope perhaps, that these challenges motivate a new generation of leadership to come forward. It is they who will need to flush out our stagnant and bloated political system so sadly on display in this somber summer of 2005.

WHERE TO GIVE

Here is a link to the American Red Cross to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Give Me Land, Lots Of Land! Former Land Boss Eyes 06' Run; Is He A "Lyons Tamer?" Plus: More Great Wage Debate Ahead Of Labor Day 

Ray Powell
There's bad news looming for GOP State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons and possible Dem land commission hopeful and ABQ City Councilor Martin Heinrich. Friends of former Land Commissioner Ray Powell tell "NM Politics with Joe Monahan" that Powell is seriously eying another run for his old office and is a likely go.

"Ray recently resigned his position as executive director of the Valles Caldera Trust. It was a prelude to him launching his campaign," said one top level Dem in touch with the Powell camp.

Powell is no stranger to the campaign trail having won the office twice and serving ten years. He was appointed to the job when Jim Baca won an appointment to the Clinton administration. He then easily won the office on his own in 94' and 98'. The son of old time Democratic powerbroker and Dem party chair Ray Powell, Sr., the younger Powell earned generally high marks during his long tenure, keeping things a bit to the left of center, but not alienating (at least not constantly) ranchers and the energy industry who have key stakes in Land Commission operations.

But big oil is in bliss with Commissioner Lyons, who became only the second R to take the office in 20 years when in 02' he bested Dem Art Trujillo who was mired in controversy. Recent fundraisers featuring big oil have helped push Lyons' fundraising totals into the hundreds of thousands. It will be money he'll need if Powell gets in the race. Party registration makes the Dem candidate the odds-on favorite to take this down ballot race.

ABQ Dem SE Heights Councilor Heinrich, rich with liberal environmental credentials, has been planning a run, but a primary challenge with Powell would be formidable and observers say if Powell gets in Martin could quickly reassess.

GIVE ME LAND, LOTS OF LAND
Commissioner Lyons
Powell wasn't too happy in his latest job which he resigned this summer. He cited the ability of the Valles board to set policy. As executive director he missed having more to say about one of the world's most splendid pieces of land which Congress set aside for protection. (More on the management controversy here). The land commissioner administers over 13 million acres of public land and, as Powell well knows, gets a major hand in policy. His election would also be welcome by Big Bill, who has found former State Senator Lyons a tough foe who has battled the Guv over oil and gas drilling on southern NM's Otero Mesa and is credited by top R's with being one of the few state officials not intimidated by the Guv.

Like his father before him, Powell made an ill-fated run for governor. He withdrew in the face of Big Bill's overwhelming lead in 2002. Friends say the experience left him somewhat bitter, even though most politicos had given him little chance of success.

But that's not the case this time. The ABQ North Valley resident can readily argue that he has appeal to Dems across the state, just the ticket for the nomination and quite possibly, the ouster of the well-respected and hard charging Patrick Lyons.

GREAT WAGE DEBATE II


Speaking of Martin Heinrich, he's back blogging in response to restaurant owner Jerry Wright's plea here yesterday for ABQ voters to reject an increase in the city's minimum wage to $7.50 an hour which they will decide October 4. Wright was especially bothered by a provision of the measure that would allow access to businesses to "educate" workers about the wage law. Henrich's retort:

"The education provision only applies to non-work areas where the public already has access; places like sidewalks and parking lots. The only employers who have anything to fear from this are the ones that will try to skirt the law. 99.9% of local employers are honest and ethical. Those businesses won't even know that provision is there. As for employers paying their servers $2.13 an hour, its simply long overdue that that was raised." Argues Heinrich.

LABOR DAY ALREADY?

We can look for a bunch of candidate announcements for 06' and a stepping up of the race for ABQ mayor when we return next week. Let's make it Tuesday so we can all have a nice holiday weekend. See you then!

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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