Thursday, October 21, 2010

Congressional District One debate on public broadcast stations

On Friday night Republican challenger Jon Barela and Democratic incumbent Martin Heinrich squared off in a debate moderated by Sam Donaldson, hosted in the studios of KNME, and organized by the non-partisan policy organization New Mexico First, in partnership with the state's public broadcasters. Unlike debates where time limits impose constraints on participants this forum gave candidates a chance to espouse their views on various topics.
The first question the candidates faced was “What in the way of policy and legislation would you support to provide jobs?” Both candidates agreed that the focus should be on job creation by helping small businesses, yet their definition of small business and approach in helping them differed markedly.

The question went to Heinrich first which responded by noting that when he was elected to office the U.S. was experiencing a job loss of almost 800,000 per month, which has now been arrested and for the past nine months there has been private sector job growth. He mentioned the Small Business Job Act of 2010, recently signed by President Obama, which provided $1 billion through 2,000 loans to small businesses from the Small Business Administration in the first week of its implementation and potentially would provide up to $300 billion.

Barela said that the stimulus packages had not created jobs and had been a failure, they had only added to the national debt. As a small business person he said he sees health care reform, cap and trade regulation, and letting the Bush tax cuts expire as job killing measures. Private businesses are the ones that will lead us out of this recession not the government, Barela said.

Heinrich answering Barela said, “I think there is a difference between being a small business person and being a wealthy investor in a string of failed businesses.” The Small Business Job Act of 2010 did not add to the deficit it was paid for by closing a tax loophole that encouraged American corporations to export jobs overseas.

The candidates disagreed on what to do with the Bush tax cuts. Barela said he supported extending the tax cuts for all Americans and Heinrich prefers to extend them for those with an income of $250,000 or less while phasing them out for millionaires and billionaires.

On immigration reform and the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act also known as DREAM Act, they agreed on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Heinrich supports the DREAM Act, while Barela opposes it in its current form.

Throughout the rest of the debate Barela continued to reiterate his points of less government intervention (except when asked about smart grid development), less government regulation, the need to rein in entitlement programs, and lower taxes. He also kept trying to associate Heinrich with House speaker Nancy Pelosi without offering any concrete examples of what he would do.

Heinrich addressed the questions with facts about what he had done or what still remains to be done.

In my opinion this debate goes to Heinrich for giving specific answers to questions that the audience had formulated over several hours of work. Barela mostly recited typical GOP talking points.

Heinrich had the best quote of the debate. “I don’t think we can wag our finger on one side and have our hand out on the other,” referring to Barela’s company”>Cerelink which on its website boasts a multiyear agreement with Dreamworks Animation SKG, which uses publicly financed supercomputers and the 25% film tax credit offered by the State of New Mexico most likely also influenced Dreamworks’ decision to bring the work here.

You can watch the entire debate for yourself at KNME’s website”>here.

New Mexico youth speak to the gubernatorial candidates

What to do if you are interested in politics but are too young to vote?
Speak Your Vote NM a new website created by KUNM’s Youth Radio Project, provides an opportunity for young people to post their concerns about the future of our state to the two gubernatorial candidates.

From the site:
” Speak Your Vote was created so that young people (between the ages of 13 and 30) can express their opinions to the 2010 gubernatorial candidates Diane Denish (Democrat) and Susana Martinez (Republican).
This site was made possible by the KUNM Youth Radio Project, which historically has led efforts to get young people’s voices heard. Operating from a platform of social justice, the KUNM Youth Radio Project has worked to provide multi-culturalism, an inter-generational environment, and a deeper and broader understanding of the issues in New Mexico.”

Perusing the posts reveals that youth, contrary to popular belief, are quite aware of the issues affecting our state.

Their concerns are the same as those of adults: public education, economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, healthcare, and immigration.

Diane Denish did send a statement acknowledging the site and the importance of youth involvement in the political process. Not surprisingly Susana Martinez did not.

From Denish’s statement posted on the site
” As your next Governor, I commit to continue to involve young people in the workings of state government. I am proud of the fact that shortly after I was elected Lieutenant Governor, I pushed to establish the New Mexico Youth Alliance. Because of the advocacy of Youth Alliance members, we have expanded the number of school based health centers in our state and expanded the suicide hot line.”

”I hope to see many of you at UNM next Monday, October 19th. I will be on campus to take part in an early vote rally. This rally will take place at from 11:00 to 2:00 on the east side of the Student Union Building. At noon, I will be joined by Congressman Martin Heinrich and Brian Hardgrove of Public Enemy.”

Young people speak and Martinez cannot be bothered to acknowledge them. Looking at the funding of her campaign it is becoming more and more obvious that she was hand-picked by the far right to further their agenda.

As I recently heard someone say “If you have money and contribute to a candidate you may give $5,000- or even $10,000-, which is supporting. $500,000- from a single family that is an investment”

The later in reference to the funds contributed to Martinez by Texas developer Robert Perry, of swift boat fame, and his wife.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stimulus funds for education

I attended a Legislative Education Study Committee public meetings today.
One of the presenters was discussing how the approximately $64 million of federal stimulus for education could be spent.

At the end of the presentation, a committee members wanted to know where those funds came from, given the huge deficit, and how they would be paid for.

Other presentations occured, questions were asked and sometimes answered. Shortly before adjourning the committe for the day Rep. Rick Miera made a great point "We get federal funds for Los Alamos and Sandia and everybody applauds it, we get funds for education and people want to know how they will be paid for."

Well said Representative Miera.

Here is a piece I wrote on education for NM FBIHOP

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Susana Martinez lacks leadership skills

Even during the primaries before she became the GOP nominee for governor, I was not impressed by Martinez. As time goes on, I'm truly starting to wonder about her, below is a piece I wrote for New Mexico FBIHOP in which I questioned her leadership skills, after she announced her "bold" plan for education reform in New Mexico.

Today on twitter "Proud to announce support of educators from NM", I went to her website to see who had endorsed her. All individual names numbering about 70.

So her tweet was truthful, yet seems desperate. Her Democatic opponent Lt. Governor Diane Denish, has been endorsed by both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and by the National Education Association (NEA).

I don't know what the New Mexico membership in the 2 groups is, but Albuquerque Public Schools alone has 14,000 employees. 70 individuals represent .5% of that.

While she may not have sent that tweet herself, presumably she hired the person that controls the account. One of the signs of a good manager is hiring people that have the knowledge to do the job well. Yet once again Susana fails.

The devil is in the details Susana

Susana Martinez, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, unveiled her education plan Wednesday and it doesn't look good. There are several flaws with the plan as presented. Most importantly it shows Martinez’s ignorance, both in educational practice and in understanding how education is funded.

In what is becoming customary fashion for her campaign, the plan also fails to provide details of how the changes would be implemented and/or funded.

Many of her proposed solutions are neither “bold” nor new such as teacher merit pay, additional training for teachers, teacher developed curriculum, after hours tutoring, summer school, and reading proficiency by the end of third grade. She does seem to have a knack for appropriating other’s ideas and presenting them as her own.

Those that are somewhat novel and not already being considered by the Public Education Department (PED) apparently for good reasons are:

“Increasing testing to three times per year” – This would take additional days away from teaching/learning, and result in additional costs for schools.

“New Mexico should provide tax credits to individuals and corporations who contribute to non-profit organizations that provide scholarships…” – This is a thinly disguised voucher program, it would result in a dollar for dollar tax revenue loss to the state’s general fund, of which roughly 45% goes to finance K-12 public schools.

Matt wrote about the voucher issue yesterday.

At the news conference announcing her latest “bold” plan Martinez said: “I would not take any money from the schools. I would not take any tax dollars from the schools to place it into private schools”. Actually she would, since the school funding formula is based on number of students.

With all of her proposed scholarship ideas Martinez demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the function of public schools, or existing and proposed educational practice.

At her press conference during the question and answer session a reporter asked Martinez directly if she had worked with teachers or the teachers union in developing her plan. Martinez replied that she had not.

Maybe she should try talking to them.

Educational practice is a complex field, I do not understand many of the details, nor would I expect Martinez to. But as someone aspiring to become chief executive of our state, one can expect at least a grasp of what is currently in place and certainly the financial implications of any proposed policies.

Disclosure: I sit on the Governing Council of an Albuquerque charter school, so education is a subject dear to me. And for those that may not know, charter schools are public schools.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

California Proposition 8 ruled unconstitutional

Congratulations to my gay and lesbian friends, in this step towards gaining their full human rights!

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made his ruling public this afternoon, one of the main points from his 136 page ruling was:

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples,"

The proponents will pursue their appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued the following statement after the ruling:

“Judge Walker had the great responsibility of deciding whether Proposition 8 violates the Constitution of the United States. He heard in-depth arguments from both sides on fundamental questions of due process, equal protection and freedom from discrimination. There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, and I am glad that all viewpoints were respected throughout the proceedings. We should also recognize that there will continue to be different points of view in the wake of this decision.

“For the hundreds of thousands of Californians in gay and lesbian households who are managing their day-to-day lives, this decision affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves. At the same time, it provides an opportunity for all Californians to consider our history of leading the way to the future, and our growing reputation of treating all people and their relationships with equal respect and dignity.

“Today's decision is by no means California's first milestone, nor our last, on America's road to equality and freedom for all people.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

The lunatics are in our midst

The full moon was yesterday but even in its waning lunatics are still out there. KOB, the local NBC affiliate, this afternoon released the results of a poll it commissioned for the New Mexico CD-1 race.

“…Eyewitness News 4’s exclusive Survey USA poll on the congressional race in New Mexico’s first district is a real shocker. It shows Republican challenger Jon Barela with a lead over incumbent Democratic congressman Martin Heinrich, 51% to 45% - with only 4% of the voters undecided...”

No, that is not the lunacy I’m referring to, but rather Jon Barela’s statement:

“…This far-left drift in Mr. Heinrich’s voting record-- 97% of the time with Nancy Pelosi—has led to higher taxes, a higher deficit, and certainly higher unemployment…”

Far-left drift? If Mr. Barela considers Representative’s Heinrich voting record to be far-left I presume he considers the GOP a liberal party. While the statements about higher taxes and a higher deficit are partially true, I would be very curious to know how any of legislation passed, since Congressman Heinrich took office, increased unemployment.

One more thing, why does keep referring to Mr. Heinrich instead of Congressman or Representative?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

True constituent representation or GOP retread

This morning NPR broadcast a short piece about New Mexico's southern race for House of Representatives. They followed both Democratic Rep. Harry Teague (NM-2) and his challenger Republican Steve Pearce.

Pearce who gave up his House seat in 2008 to mount his unsuccessful Senate run, he lost to now Senator Tom Udall by 23 points, offered standard GOP rhetoric.
People have had it with President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their liberal allies in Congress.

Rep. Teague when asked by NPR why he had not voted with Speaker Pelosi when his votes where needed, replied:

“It is a matter of communication. I have told the Speaker that if bills came up that would not best serve the constituents of my district, I could not vote for them”

Pearce's website again offers the standard GOP rhetoric instead of details and clearly reflects his ultra right beliefs.

One thing to be said for Republicans, they get their marching orders from up high and don't deviate from the script.

Will the voters of NM-2 re-elect someone that truly cares for them, listens to them, and votes to best represent them; or will they choose a GOP retread lacking original ideas?

Those nasty details are still missing

I posted this earlier in the month at New Mexico FBIHOP.

Yesterday Barb over at DFNM wrote about both candidate’s responses to the latest Legislative Finance Committee (LFC). LFC now predicts a $200 million shortfall for the budget year that started July 1.

Diane Denish referred to her earlier detailed government reform plan which would save an estimated $450 million over 5 years. Susana Martinez has yet to come forth with any specifics.

New Mexicans deserve specifics from their candidates

The campaign of gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez released her plan for jobs and economic recovery today. The plan is titled “Eliminating Waste."
As I wrote in an earlier piece, she is following the national GOP strategy of trying to make the election a referendum on the Bill Richardson administration, while providing very little in the form of new or detailed ideas.
The introduction to her plan reads:
“The Richardson-Denish Administration has grown state government over 50% during their time in office. There are now 24.5 state employees for every 1,000 New Mexicans, which far exceeds the national average of 14.3 per 1,000. What we are left with is a bloated, inefficient government staffed by political appointees interested in securing personal advantage. To grow our economy, we must reign in wasteful spending, streamline state government and reform the way we do business in New Mexico and protect taxpayers.”

The statement is correct in identifying New Mexico as having a higher number of state employees per capita than many others, but somewhat disingenuous in comparing it to the national average rather than using other similarly rural and low population states as comparison.

The specifics of the plan are unfortunately very generic.

Reduce Or Eliminate Many Exempt Positions In State Government.
Greater reliance on merit, qualification and experience as factors in the hiring of state government positions.
Create An On-Line Check Book.
To ensure voters can access state spending records in real-time and easily search the database, we must create a real-time, on-line and searchable checkbook that empowers New Mexicans to see how their tax dollars are being spent.

Reform The Capital Outlay Program To Ensure Greater Planning, Efficiency, Coordination And Prioritization.
Today’s capital outlay program is plagued by waste and inefficiency, used to further expand government and reward political insiders.

NOTE: If Directed By Better Priorities, The Capital Outlay Program Can Grow Our Economy And Create Jobs. During times of economic stress, capital outlay money can be utilized to create economic activity and jobs.
We need to set better priorities at the executive level to direct the use of the people’s money. ”

Re-evaluating and eliminating some exempt positions is also part of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish’s plan to reduce state government spending.

The difference between Martinez’s “Online Check Book” and the "Sunshine Portal Transparency Act" passed by the legislature and signed into law by Denish earlier this year is not given.

How she would reform the Capital Outlay program is again anyone’s guess, Denish outlined her proposal back in March.

The Martinez campaign tries to exploit the anti-incumbency fervor of mid-term elections, without providing details on what the “bold change” would look like. Bumper sticker slogans without much substance are all New Mexicans have seen so far from Susana Martinez.

In contrast Denish provided an economic plan in late March that would save state government $450 million over the next five years, that outlined specific steps and estimated savings, and continues to release detailed proposals to address the many problems of concern to New Mexicans.

A call left with staff at Martinez’s Albuquerque campaign HQ this morning, contrary to assurances that it would be returned shortly has not yet been returned.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Police brutality acquitted in California

As I write this it is just about midnight, in the background I am listening to a web feed of the Alameda County PD, Fire, and Sheriff Department's radio traffic. Listening for news of the protests after the jury verdict of the Oscar Grant case.

Oscar Grant was a 22 year-old African American man, who was shot and killed on New Year’s Day 2009 as he was laying face down on a subway platform in Oakland, CA.

The killer of Oscar Grant, former BART police officer Johannes Merle, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by the jury.

I am sure the mainstream media will have plenty of coverage of the "rioters", and indeed the destruction of property and looting of stores is somewhat puzzling to me, but that would be another piece.

Emotions were running high in the streets and on Twitter; I also saw some calls for reason, such as these:

“Pray for Oakland. Pray for Oscar Grant's family. Violence is not justice. We're better and stronger than what they expect #OGTrial

This is only the beginning. Anticipate the worst. Lets hope for peaceful/proper resolution. Violence is not the solution. #Oakland #OGtrial”

It will be interesting to see the reports in the media, but for me more interesting will be the amount and duration of coverage. He was just a kid, not a celebrity.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday America

From the framing of the Declaration of Independence to achieving most of what it espoused was a long and hard road. In the midst of today’s recession we must be vigilant and speak-up against simplistic slogans and solutions, which will do nothing to improve our economy but only further divide people and increase the gap between haves and have-nots.

The framers wrote:
“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed… ”
It took almost 200 years of struggle to achieve equality for most, yet a large number of citizens are still discriminated against because of sexual orientation, institutionalized racism persists, and the “American Dream” becomes elusive for an ever-growing proportion of our population.

An article by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the income gap between the very rich and everyone else has more than tripled in the last three decades.
“…The gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest fifths of the country more than tripled between 1979 and 2007 (the period for which these data are available), according to data the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued last week. Taken together with prior research, the new data suggest greater income concentration at the top of the income scale than at any time since 1928…”
Income inequality has been promoted going back to Ronald Reagan, aided by the neo-liberal policies of Bill Clinton, and further abetted by the George W. Bush tax cuts.
Union busting, trickle-down economics, deregulation, and plain greed at the top, are doing its best to turn our country into a third world economy.

We pride ourselves on being the land of opportunity, the place where everyone has the chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they want to. This narrative ignores all those that go barefoot.

A recipe for job growth is offered by Andy Grove, co-founder and senior adviser to Intel, in a long but worth reading
article for Bloomberg news:
“…As time passed, wages and health-care costs rose in the U.S., and China opened up. American companies discovered they could have their manufacturing and even their engineering done cheaper overseas. When they did so, margins improved. Management was happy, and so were stockholders. Growth continued, even more profitably. But the job machine began sputtering…”
While his article deals specifically with Silicon Valley and other high-tech industry, his prescription could be applied to all of the once flourishing American manufacturing sectors. He goes on to say:
“…You could say, as many do, that shipping jobs overseas is no big deal because the high-value work -- and much of the profits -- remain in the U.S. That may well be so. But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work -- and masses of unemployed? …”
As we celebrate our country’s birthday, let’s also pause a moment and reflect on where we are going, and what we need to address to truly offer economic opportunity for all.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Did I forget this blog

Not really. Over the past few months I have realized a few things about blogging, reporting, and myself as a writer.

Generating regular content requires a kind of discipline that I do not yet have. I admire those that have something to say on a daily basis.

When writing I tend to get lost in details, that is, trying to give extensive background info so the reader can have a context. Writing about politics this attitude, aside from being non-productive, is also somewhat arrogant; those that are interested enough to read my posts will know enough to understand the context. 

Prior to blogging, the only things I wrote for public consumption have been high level project plans, position papers, occasional product/option comparisons, or outlines for presentations that I gave. All of this writing often contained large amounts of detail, and did not necessarily need to be compelling reading; those reading it had to, ditto for those attending my presentations.

Matt Reichbach of New Mexico FBIHOP has been a great help in correcting my punctuation, occasionally rephrasing some of what I wrote, or general suggestions for my posts on his blog.

Going forward, most of my posts relating to policy or politics will be at NM FBIHOP, I may cross-post some here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

AmericaSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy June 26

AmericaSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy

Town meetings to address the long term Federal budget deficit will happen on June 26 at the Albuquerque Convention Center, simultaneously with over 20 other cities throughout the country.

The purpose of these forums is for Americans to voice what they think the best solutions are to reduce the Federal deficit.

"AmericaSpeaks will present the priorities that emerge from the national discussion to Congress and President Obama, as well as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the Bi-Partisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force. In the weeks and months following the event, we will work with participants, as well as our local and national partners, to continue to educate the public about the challenges facing the nation and to raise awareness about the national priorities that were produced through the discussions."

A number of local organizations have been engaged to participate, such as the conservative Rio Grande Foundation on one end of the spectrum and the progressive Center for Civic Policy on the other.

As of last Friday only about half of the total possible number of participants had been reached in Albuquerque. The intent of these forums is to reflect the demographics of where they are being held. In Albuquerque Latinos and indigenous people are not yet represented proportionally.

You can read more about the process and sign up to participate USA Budget

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Albuquerque Journal drives me nuts

Last Monday I wrote about the Albuquerque City Council meeting in which they approved the 2011 budget for NM FBIHOP
The Albuquerque Journal reported it as well.

This morning under the headline "...Council Budget Outstrips Growth Elsewhere..." there is this
“...The City Council's budget has grown about six times as fast as the rest of Albuquerque's operational spending since 2005, partly because of clashes over land-use planning with former Mayor Martin Chávez.
Now that there's a new mayor and the expectation of better relations, council spending is due to slow some next year. Still, its proposed $3.4 million budget for next year is 78 percent higher than its 2005 budget, while the rest of City Hall's basic operations have risen only 13 percent...”
Full article (subscription required)

While the article does explain the reasons for the council's budget growth, the headline and the beginning of the article make it seem like the budget has grown disproportionally.

Is that the best the writer could come up with after a week of comparing budgets? Why use a 5 year figure?

Oh Journal, you may be the paper of record, unfortunately the best use for you is in the outhouse...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A New Mexico Independent voice needs your help

As for many other nonprofits the economic woes have affected The New Mexico Independent
Earlier this year, while covering the New Mexico Legislative session they started a grassroots fundraiser.

Today the doyenne of New Mexico's political bloggers, Barbara Wold, joined the call to help them with a post on her own blog Democracy for New Mexico

Read the post to see why it matters, then Donate as you can.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Albuquerque City Council fails to override Mayor's anti-immigrant policy

At its regularly scheduled meeting this evening the Albuquerque City Council considered a resolution (R-10-89) to rescind the new policy announced by Mayor R.J. Berry last week.
The new policy requires that the immigration status of all people arrested be checked by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A related resolution (R-10-88) which calls for the City of Albuquerque to refrain from conducting business with Arizona as long as AZ SB1070 remains in effect was also heard. Both resolutions were sponsored by councilor Rey Garduño and City Council president Ken Sanchez.

The council chamber was packed for the event, a far larger number of people than usual signed up to address the Council. The majority was in favor of both resolutions; a small number supported the Mayor's new policy.
Of the 33 speakers in favor several were members of organizations active in the immigrant and people of color communities, New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Enlace Comunitario, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, League of United Latin American Citizens, and Southwest Organizing Project.
Other notable speakers in support were Democratic State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas who has previously called for a boycott of Arizona and Nancy Denker Chair of the Democratic Party of NM Platform & Resolutions Committee.
Recurring themes from supporters were that community policing is based on trust between Police and the community and that the new policy would lead to increased racial profiling. The potential negative economic impact to the city was also brought up, by small business owners and members of LULAC which is scheduled to have a convention here later this year expecting 25,000 participants.

Councilors Isaac Benton, Rey Garduño, Debbie O'Malley, and Ken Sanchez spoke in favor of the Arizona boycott; Michael D. Cook and Trudy Jones spoke against R-10-88 failed on a 4/5 vote. Councilors Michael Cook, Don Harris, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis, and Brad Winter voting no.

During the debate on R-10-89, councilors Debbie O'Malley, Rey Garduño, and Ken Sanchez extensively questioned Public Safety Director Darren White. It too failed on a 4/5 vote; again councilors Michael Cook, Don Harris, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis, and Brad Winter voting no.

Albuquerque, a city proud of its diversity just became a less pleasant city to live in.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez's credibility takes another hit

Three County Sheriffs released public records, maintained by New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts, showing Susana Martinez's soft stance on felony DWI offenders (4th or higher offense).
Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera, and Rio Arriba County Sheriff Joe Mascarenas participated in the press conference held in Albuquerque this morning.

The video is courtesy of Democracy for New Mexico which wrote an extensive article about it County Sheriffs Release Documents Showing More Than 1000 DWI Plea Bargains by DA Susana Martinez

According to the record there were more than 1000 plea bargains for felony DWI offenders in the 3rd Judicial District (Doña Ana County).
On her campaign website on the issue of crime regarding DWI she says the following

I will also look to strengthen our DWI laws to reduce drunk driving and ensure that repeat drunk drivers are where they belong – behind bars

Hmm - how about enforcing existing laws, and maintaining previous campaign promises.

Yesterday refusal to talk to the press, last week's proposal for an already existing "Transparency Portal".
None of this speaks well for Martinez on honesty, ethics, or transparency that New Mexico needs.
The Sheriff's posse is not impressed with Susana Martinez's record, neither am I.

Sarah Palin and Susana Martinez snubbing the press.

Former Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was in Albuquerque yesterday to endorse Republican Gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez. At the conclusion of the event neither took questions from the press. Paling did answer one question about the AZ anti-immigrant bill SB1070. A short YouTube video, that has since been removed, showed Martinez being hustled past reporters to an elevator without answering any questions. As the elevator is about to close one could hear a reporter exclaim in frustration "Crap!"

Sunday morning the Albuquerque Journal released a poll showing Martinez virtually tied with Allen Weh for the Republican primary. During her speech Palin did mention the poll; why did Martinez not want to talk to the press?
Every marketing executive wants to control the message, so it is understandable that Martinez's campaign staff wants to do the same.
Maybe it was just a reaction to last Thursday's gaffe by Martinez, while on 770 KKOB talk radio, where she called for the creation of an online checkbook so that citizens can see how their government spends taxpayer money.
A laudable proposal except that Lt. Governor Diane Denish, during the 2010 Regular Legislative Session, working with legislators on both sides of the isle fought for passage of SB 195 the "Sunshine Portal Transparency Act". Denish signed it into law on March 5.
This gaffe generated a limited amount of coverage for Martinez, but any coverage in the media helps with name recognition. Controlling your message is important, as is getting it out to the public. Any quote from yesterday's event would have been news, resulting in earned media.

Palin's appearance and endorsement of Martinez will play well with the Tea Party crowd which appears to constitute the Republican base these days. It could also have the effect of energizing the Democrats.
Time will tell. Refusing to talk to the press, however, is not a proven way of getting out your message.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Respectful, policy-focused CD1 race?

Earlier in the week in an interview with Jon Barela, the Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich, stated
"...I’m going to try to do my best to remain respectful and focus on the issues,”
Then yesterday in a press release announcing his advancement to "Young Guns" by the National Republican Campaign Committee, he seems to have forgotten that.

The “Young Gun” status is the highest level in the NRCC program which gives fundraising and infrastructure support to candidates in districts held by Democrats.

Here is part of the press release, which can be found on Jon Barela's website.
"...“During this campaign, Mr. Heinrich will have to stand before the voters and try to justify why taxes have been increased by over $670 billion during his time in Congress, while unemployment continues to climb over 9 percent in Albuquerque,” continued Barela. “Whether it’s raising taxes, cutting Medicare, increasing insurance premiums, or voting for the massive increases to our national debt, Mr. Heinrich has proven that his loyalties to his party bosses and far-left special interests are stronger than his loyalties to New Mexico’s families..."

It seems that Mr. Barela has well mastered the "lockstep" characteristic of his party, spewing falsehood and fear. Did he forget which administration's policies necessitated the bailouts? The $670 Billion "tax increases" fails to mention that much of that is just sunsetting of Bush taxcuts.
Could it be that Rep. Heinrich voted the way he did, because these new policies actually make sense for the people of New Mexico and the country as a whole?

Rep. Heinrich has reached out to the people of New Mexico in many ways; Congress on the corner, last summer's Health care reform forum, Job fairs. Those are just the most visible ones, his loyalty to New Mexicans cannot be questioned.

Respectful issue based race? Not so much, if the above is a portent of things to come. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How progressives contributed to the growth of the Tea Party.

The Tea Parties are not truly a grassroots movement, but rather people exploited by right wing organizations.
Progressives must shoulder some of the blame for the growth of the Tea Party movement.
Discussing my earlier post about the Tea Party with a friend, she pointed out that many of the people joining this movement are the ones that have been ignored by both parties, and now see a chance of being heard.

In New Mexico both political parties tend to concentrate their voter contact effort for State or Federal office in the metro areas of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces. That is where the most votes are, and those citizens in rural areas are often ignored. While individual candidates and some NGOs will engage them, contact and depth of it is limited.
Many of the statewide or national campaign managers concentrate volunteer efforts in the above urban areas; it is just another number problem, after all they are the experts.

While the rural character is not common to all States there are always ignored areas, usually where the less affluent in our society live.
Elitism and classism enter the picture; we are the experts and the smart ones.
The seeming American political apathy discussed by academics, politicians and others is to a great extend due to being ignored over the years.
It can be very difficult to stay engaged when no one is paying attention, the above creates an exclusionary system that disempowers people and the outcome is that people turn away.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Deterioration of discourse, the Tea Party.

Debate on and passage of the Healthcare Reform Bill last weekend brought out the worst in some people.
The Tea Party demonstrators in D.C. being urged to "punish" Democrats in November by Republican congressmen that spoke to them.
This in itself would not have been unusual; the GOP has been pandering to the Tea Party extremists to varying extent since the election of Barack Obama. What was unusual was how this incitement deteriorated into uncivil action; Rep. Emanuel Cleaver being spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni--er.' And Rep. Barney Frank was called a "fa--ot," as he was walking down the halls of congress.

During the late evening debate on the House floor Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer screamed "baby killer" or "it's a baby killer" at Rep. Bart Stupak, as the later was voicing his opposition to an anti-abortion amendment.
After the late night passage of the bill things got worse. Death threats against President Obama on twitter, death threats left on voice mail for Democratic members of congress that voted for the bill.

There is a very widely held sentiment that “special rights” are given to African-Americans, or women, or members of the LGBT community, or liberals, or ethnic groups, or whatever that “regular Americans” can’t get or don’t qualify for.
Writing off these concerns as simply racism or ignorance is the easy way out - I'm guilty of it myself in the past- The fear of being left out or left behind is so deeply ingrained in Americans that they usually don’t recognize it as racism or anything untoward and often justify their concerns by laying on economic and security arguments.
Defaulting to a racism argument is almost always counter-productive and fuels the right side’s sense of indignation and victimhood.

The shows of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are loaded with themes that tap the fears of many Americans that things are changing too fast and that they are being left out or left behind.
The RNC is well aware of this, and has made it part of their national fundraising plan. See pages 29 through 30 of the document embedded below.

We must decry overt racism, as well as denounce institutionalized racism; at the same time we must realize that there are other things driving the deterioration of political discourse.

RNC 2010 Finance Meeting Feb 18, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Open Government - Why transparency matters.

Whether local, state, or federal; government transparency enables good citizenship and government accountability.
We cannot hold our public officials accountable without knowing what they are doing; knowledge will always trump ignorance.

How much of the daily news are stories and opinions by people with little knowledge, much less expertise in the area they write about? How much are outright fabrication, misdirection, or PR releases?

We all have seen headlines like this: "Senator Joe announced today that 300 new jobs will be created thanks to passage of Bill 23"
Have you ever seen this headline? "Senator Joe announced today that Bill 23 will allow XYZ Corporation to take advantage of cheap local labor and not have to comply with environmental laws"

While government transparency will not generate the second headline, it will allow anyone to see what Bill 23 actually contains. Often officials are afraid that things "may be misconstrued", great opportunity for them to meet with their constituents and explain in plain English what their action does.

Without having to jump through the hoops of requesting public documents or FOIA requests, journalists can write the whole story and citizens can hold their elected officials accountable.

Government secrecy allows waste, abuse, and fraud to flourish.
Transparency is a critical component needed for civic engagement in a Democracy.

#opengov #publicequalsonline

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Situation...

It is about 11 PM, I walk into the living room and through the drawn curtains I can see the flashing of emergency lights.

The doorbell rings, my dog barks. Holding Emmo by his collar I open the door to see a police officer standing there, "...good evening sir, we have an armed situation next door; please, stay inside and away from that side of the house. We will let you know when all is settled..."

I go back into my office. About 25 minutes later I hear a muffled "bang", Emmo growls; it was not a gun shot.

Another 15 minutes pass then the doorbell rings again. A different officer is at the door "...sir all is safe now, thank you for your cooperation..." He remarks on Emmo's coat coloring, he used to be on the K9 squad. We talk dogs and about the K9 officers we both know. I ask him what happened. "...a guy barricaded himself inside the house with a gun and threatened suicide, his family called 911..."
The police shot a flash grenade through the window, busted down the front door, and arrested the man.

The following morning I see my neighbor in his front yard, he apologizes for the disturbance the night before. I asked if everyone is alright, "...oh yes we are OK, my brother in-law has problems. We'll need to replace the window, the door, and the carpet..." I did not pry into the nature of those problems.

It took them a week to have everything replaced or repaired.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Roundhouse from the Gallery

I wrote this piece as a Guest Blog for Democracy for New Mexico - you can view the original Here

Having had the luxury of spending a lot of time at the Roundhouse this regular session, I decided to share some of my observations. This is not about policy issues; it has been quite a while since I spent so much time there. Some things have changed, but much remains the same.

Texting, tweeting, and emailing are now the norm in committees, walking around, and on the floor.

The lobbyist’s call script has not changed, in the early days of the session, “... just returning your call, things are moving along, I have a meeting scheduled with X, will give you a call later....”

As the session progresses the message changes somewhat, either to premature victory for a bill that made it out of its first committee or hopeful disappointment “... we still have a chance....”

This being a short session dedicated to fiscal matters and the governor’s call, it is amazing how many bills have been introduced with no chance of ever coming to the floor for a vote and, in fact, many never make it on the schedule for their first committee hearing.

The fate of bills is often decided in committees. While this is the only time where the general public (more often paid lobbyists or speakers brought in by lobbyists) can speak for or against a bill, it is obvious that the outcome was often decided beforehand; in those cases voting is just a formality to table or move the bill on.

Tracking a bill can be interesting. The fact that it is on a calendar does not mean that it will actually be heard that day and time. Legislative time does not conform to what one is used to; overheard in a committee room from a staffer, “... oh, we’ve never convened on time, the schedule just gives everyone something they can feel good about....”

I believe that most legislators act in accord with their individual beliefs and what they think is best for their constituency. They do work hard, spending time away from home and family. Whom they consider their constituency and what they produce would be another post.

Having a part-time citizen legislature is interesting in itself; without full-time staff the legislators tend to rely on volunteers in their offices, and on various “experts” to justify/push their bills. Many of the bills are written by lobbyists, one or multiple legislators just put their name on it, and then have expert witnesses on hand when presenting in committee or on the floor.

Some legislators have a good grasp or even expertise in certain fields due to their full time jobs or because they have made it their business to become educated on the issue(s); others truly represent the average citizen with little knowledge of existing statutes or understanding of the impact that their proposed legislation would have. This understanding or lack thereof becomes apparent in floor debates, and at times leads to some unintended levity. This may be one of the reasons why there is so much opposition to webcasting and archiving all floor and committee work.

Floor debates can be fascinating and frustrating as well. One may wonder why 20 senators stand up in opposition or support of a bill unless you know that they are playing to an audience. The audience may be obvious and acknowledged openly after the vote, as is the case with many memorials; or not as obvious as when, after the speech, the legislator looks into the gallery and receives a nod from a lobbyist or when a large contingent of people that were sitting together leaves the gallery after the vote.

Personally, what I find most frustrating are the “gotcha” questions. Some lawmakers seem to specialize in them. They do not serve a true discovery process, but rather to either make a show of their own knowledge or create plausible deniability for their vote. Poorly prepared sponsors, circular arguments, and long-winded speeches to nowhere are next on my list of peeves.

Spending some time at the Roundhouse observing its workings, except for the backroom deals, can be fascinating or bore you out of your skull depending on your level of interest in sausage making.

I’ll close with a snippet overheard in the House Judiciary Committee:

“... based on New Mexico’s history there is no legislative intent....”

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Comment on Why Progressive Activism Matters Now - a DFNM post

You can read the post Here

As liberals we have too long ignored the Tea Party as phony grassroots of fringe bigots and haters. Meanwhile the GOP is trying to embrace them, granted self-servingly. From your report and from twitter updates last night, none of the candidates have an understanding of public policy, and of course they were pandering to an audience.

I attended the OFA (Organizing For America) 2010 Strategy session last week, while their strategy appears sound overall for GOTV (Get Out The Vote). The part that appears missing, to me, is reaching out to the existing community organizations that manage to keep their members engaged over time. Collaborate or somehow learn from them what it takes to not just get people's attention but maintaining it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

New Mexico 2010 Regular Legislative Session - A Memorial



WHEREAS, the legislature as a whole has failed the citizens of New Mexico by trying to maintain the status quo and existing power structures.
WHEREAS, a minority of legislators dared speak truth to power, attempted to introduce fairness in the tax structure, provide transparency in the state’s business, took a longterm view on many issues, and tried to enhance the rights of all its citizens.

WHEREAS, The New Mexico Independent provided live blogging coverage of the session Here
and Democracy for New Mexico provided analysis and Op-Eds Here

WHEREAS, you can find the contact information for legislators Here
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that you shall contact those legislators that tried and thank them for their efforts whether they were successful or thwarted by the existing power structure.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


In this short journey of yours towards death, remember not to leave behind:
imploring mouths, hands open to the sky, eyes starring to your soul, trembling hearts between the absurd pains of the incommunicable truth.

Drink a last glass of wine and go ahead, there where young flowers are born, and tired beings die….. defeated by time.