Saturday, April 25, 2009

Democrats Re-elect Entire Slate of State Officers

DPNM Chairman Brian Colon

On Saturday, members of the state's Democratic Party Central Steering Committee met at the Kiva Auditorium. By 3pm, they had re-elected each of the party's leaders, including Chairman Brian Colon.

"I'm humbled and honored," said Colón who was nominated for a second term by State Auditor Hector Balderas. Watch Colón's emotional acceptance speech here.

"It's a great day for the Democratic party. They elected the entire slate of statewide officers. They gave them another term. That means they like the direction of the party, they like the direction the country is going to move in under President Obama."

Colón told me the party's leaders will be focused on the 2010 election, and stressed they want a Democrat to win back the one state office held by a Republican. Land Commisioner Pat Lyons, is term-limited and can't run for re-election.

"We know it's a very important office and we want to make sure a Democratic is in it and make sure we protect New Mexico's lands and provide education opportunities our children deserve.

Former Land Commissioner Ray has already confirmed he'll seek the office next year. Powell, who had the post in the early '90s, lost his bid to regain the office in the 2006 Democratic Primary to former Land Commissioner Jim Baca.

Listen to Colón's remarks here:

The elephant in the room, and there have been a lot of elephants and in Albuquerque this week (read about them here and here), was the resolution on Marriage Equality that gay activists have wanted to include in the party's platform.

"It passed," said Democracy for New Mexico blogger Barbara Wold with a big smile on her face. "There was a movement to vote on it on its own, but that was overthrown; so we were happy with that. There was a language change and now it's called Marriage Equality. That's what we wanted. It won by a huge amount to keep it in with the packet and to have everything together."

Southern New Mexico's Al Kissling, who has a background as a minister and who ran for the congressional seat Harry Teague now holds, wanted to keep the resolution out of the platform, but Democrats voted 309-35 to keep it.

"In this case my fellow Democrats support me and respect my relationship with Mary Ellen [Broderick] of twenty years, and respect us as human beings," said Wold.

Wold told me she doesn't think the stronger resolution language will undermine their efforts in Santa Fe, but wouldn't make any predictions on what legislators will do during a special session or during the 2010 legislature.

Wold says Marriage Equality isn't a religious issue, but Kissling says, "the state shouldn’t push a religious rite.”

She attributes the bigotry in New Mexico to the Catholic Church and tradition.

"There's some perception that this will take away from heterosexual marriages. I don't see it that way," said Wold. "It's not about a sacred sacrament. It's about the license and the piece of paper."

"It gives us some legal rights that other people have in their relationships. Hopefully, at some point in the future, we hope to get the same rights on the Federal level," said Wold.

Listen to our interview here:

[For more on the days events and to look at the specifics of the resolution, read Barbara Wold's blog post here]

Colón told us the Democrats sent a message that everyone should be treated equally and fairly.”

Colón said it's time to rethink whether or not government should even be involved in talking about about marriage. That should be a religious institution he said.

"At the end of the day, we need to understand what's religion, and we need to understand what's a governmental entity," Colón told me. "We've blurred that line, when it comes to marriage, because of our history. But, not all of our history is good."

Later, we asked Colón to talk about what NM's Washington delegation should do after this morning's ABQ JOURNAL story on the New Mexico National Guard's Flying Taco's losing their mission after the F-22 Raptors are mothballed.

Colón, along with NM Secretary of State Mary Herrera, will oversee next year's state wide election. We asked him if he's concerned about the legislature failing to fund money for ES&S voting machine upkeep and ballot printing.

"My goal is to make sure every vote counts in New Mexico," said Colón. "And whatever it takes to make that happen is what we should be doing."

He thinks the legislature may have rejected the funding measure as a way to negotiate a better maintenance contract with Herrera and county clerks.

For Pete's Sake:

Tonight, we learned, Senator Linda Lopez announced that she'll enter the 2010 Race for Lieutenant Governor. She told us while viewing John Walsh's America's Most Wanted with family members of the West Mesa Murder victims.

UPDATE: 10 pm

Santa Fe New Mexican Reporter Steve Terrell was also in ABQ to cover today's committee meeting. He posted this report on his blog Roundhouse Roundup.

Colon Photo: MG Bralley

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Governor Urges Congress To Fund National Guard on Border.

On Thursday, Governor Bill Richardson joined several other border state governors urging congressional leaders to fully fund the National Guard's Counter-Drug Program in the upcoming Supplemental Budget Act and the Department of Defense’s FY10 budget.

The requested funding would increase New Mexico’s budget for the mission by about $5 million and allow for the deployment of 100 additional Guard personnel.

Richardson said:
The support our National Guard offers federal authorities along the border is critical to stemming the flow of drugs in and weapons out. As the violence associated with drug and weapons trafficking continues to intensify, it is clear that we need additional manpower.

Last May, we interviewed Lt. Governor Diane Denish after she toured the border in a Guard helicopter. Listen to our interview with her here.

Over the last year, New Mexico Guard personnel have assisted in the confiscation of more than 24,000 lbs. of marijuana and confiscation of 251 marijuana plants; more than 98 lbs. of methamphetamine and 41 lbs. of cocaine, the seizure of 150 weapons, the seizure of 69 vehicles, and the seizure of more than $740,000 in illegally transported U.S. currency.

Another critical aspect of the Counter-Drug Program is the “Stay on Track” anti-drug education program offered by the National Guard in nine middle schools across New Mexico . The requested funding would allow the Guard to expand the successful program to middle schools in the border towns of Deming, Lordsburg, Santa Teresa and Silver City.

In addition to assisting in searches of vehicles detained by federal officers, the 109 New Mexico National Guard Counter-Drug personnel conduct air surveillance operations with three helicopters, provide the eyes to monitor remote border cameras and assist in monitoring bypass routes around main highway Customs and Border Patrol checkpoints.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Millions Spent Subsidizing Commerical Flights in New Mexico. reporter Brian Faler revealed in this morning report that taxpayers spend up to $3600 subsidizing New Mexico Airline passengers who make short 150 mile flights between Albuquerque and Alamogordo.

Faler calculates that’s enough for a family of four to fly roundtrip from Albuquerque to Paris.

The US. Government spends millions keeping planes in the air on unprofitable routes.

The Bloomberg story says so far officials in Washington, looking to cut $100 million in government spending, by order of President Obama, in the next 90 days, have not targeted the Essential Air Service Program.

Lawmakers regularly defeat such proposals according to the Bloomberg story:

The Essential Air Service program’s popularity in Congress illustrates the difficulty Obama will face in trying to fulfill his pledge to search “line by line” for budget savings and trim a projected $1.85 trillion deficit: Almost every line in the budget is protected by guardian angels on Capitol Hill.

Obama’s fiscal 2010 spending outline, in fact, would add $55 million to air-service subsidies, an increase of more than 40 percent.

Aviation industry consultant Patrick Murphy told Bloomberg:

Let’s say you cut Alamogordo; you’ve immediately alienated two senators from New Mexico. In Washington terms, that’s probably not worth it.

Photo: MG Bralley
New Mexico Democrats Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall were among 22 senators who signed an April 9 letter warning White House budget director Peter Orszag against air-service cutbacks.

New Mexico Airlines, operated by Pacific Wings, has 12 weekly flights to Alamogordo. Some flights reportedly only have one passenger.

Click here to read the full report.

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Zanetti Posts A Video "Missive" on "Pay to Play!"

On the same morning that Thom Cole at the ABQ Journal is "Up Front" with a story on how third-party marketer Marc Correra earned more than $11 million dollars in fees for helping secure state investments for a Chicago based financial firm, likely Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Zanetti has posted his fifth You Tube channel video. A missive on "pay to play" schemes.

Zanetti says the staggering $5.7 Billon loss in NM State Pemanent Funds has got his attention. He says, "discerning how it happened may be the bigger story."

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Albuquerque Mayor Offers Councilors Compromise

Mayor Martin Chavez, who will likely face voters and stand for re-election this Fall, appears to be trying to mend frayed relations with Albuquerque City Councilors. They reacted bitterly when Chavez stated he would rigorously recognize a city charter mandated deadline for council action on his proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP).

On Monday, he sent a letter to City Council President Isaac Benton outlining two compromises he's willing to consider.

Marjorie Childress wrote about the turf war between the Mayor and councilors in this piece posted on the New Mexico Independent last week.

You can read Mayor Chavez' letter to Benton here.

Mayors Compromise 42009

City Attorney Bob White told Childress last week that because the City Council approved the CIP about 90 days after it was introduced on January 5th the Mayor’s original proposal would automatically take effect.

But today, Chavez writes that taxpayers don't want to see lawsuits start flying and that in the "spirit of compromise" he's willing to append a floor amendment agreeable to councilors. It does not include the $6.48 million Tingley Beach swimming lagoon Chavez had originally requested.

Less than a week after the turf battle erupted it appears the mayor is willing to give councilors some wiggle room because he wants every penny of CIP money spent believing it will stimulate the local economy.

Alternatively, Chavez proposes a second compromise with Benton: An entirely new CIP amendment reflected in documents we did not receive.


KOB TV reported on Monday night that it appears the Mayor and Council are still destined for a court battle.

Photo credit: MG Bralley . Read Bralley's new blog post on lobbying and the tax exempt status of local non-profit groups here.

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