Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama Visits Rio Rancho for Credit Card Town Hall.

President Barack Obama, who flew into Kirtland Air Force Base late last night, after a commencement speech at Arizona State University, is working his way to Rio Rancho High School's basketball gym where he'll host an hour-long Town Hall meeting around 10:15 this morning. About 2000 people have already packed the gym

We learned that Albuquerque's Chris Lardner will introduce the President. She and her husband, Scott, sent an email message to Obama complaining that as soon as they put their daughter's tuition on their credit card the company increased their interest rates to nearly 30% from 9.24%.

Lardner just told the crowd she expects to be treated fairly, and raising her interest rate to 30% was "ludicrous and wrong." She's hoping Obama and congress makes unethical tactics illegal.

Obama is expected to address the increase in consumer complaints against credit card companies. He's already asked congress to send him a Consumer Credit Card Bill of Rights measure that he can sign by Memorial Day.

Last week, the U.S. House of representatives passed a version. This week the Senate is debating the proposal.

Congress has been swamped by consumer complaints about excess fees, suddent interest rape increases, and hard to read contracts .

Lawmakers, like New Mexico Congressman Harry Teague say the time has come to provide tighter guidelines, and consumer protection in the form of a Credit Card Holder's Bill of Rights. Some groups are demanding a freeze on interest rates hikes.

One in five Americas are paying more than 20% interest on an average balance of $7,000 dollars.

The Senate's version does not have a interest rate cap, but would prohibit credit cards from increasing rates unless a customer falls 60 days behind in their payments. It also requires credit card companies to provide a billing statement at least 21 days before a payment is due.
Congress also wants to make it more difficult for the banks to provide cards to those under age 21.

The crowd here is chanting, "Obama, Obama," but he's running already twenty minutes late.

On a trip to Espanola last year, Obama stopped at the Range Cafe in Bernalillo and was more than 90 minutes late.

We just learned that CBS News is reporting the motorcade made a wrong turn and actually had to make a U-turn.

We've spent a day trying to determine how Rio Rancho was selected as the site for the town hall. Some political insiders have speculated that it was just part of a two-day western swing, others say it was a political calculation to boost Governor Bill Richardson's lagging approval ratings and to build a bigger democratic base in Rio Rancho.

One person told us it's because New Mexico has been so proactive in tightening guidelines on predatory lending.

Multiple Democratic officials have been spotted in the crowd including Lt. Governor Diane Denish, Secretary of State Mary Herrera, State Auditor Hector Balderas, and State Treasurer James Lewis. County democrats are also sitting in a special VIP section.

It's 10:30 and Obama has just begun speaking. He say's "it's always nice to get out of Washington for awhile."

Obama is introducing Bill Richardson, whom he calls one of the finest governors in the nation.

New Mexico's congressional delegation stayed in Washington. They are not attending the meeting.

Photo Credit: MG Bralley

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


About three dozen prominent Hispanic New Mexicans want President Barack Obama to consider Santa Fe Native and NM Supreme Court Justice Edward Chavez for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, Justice David Souter announced he plans to retire at the end of the current court's term.

A UNM Law School graduate, Chavez has said court's "Cannot ration justice."

Chavez has been an advocate for government transparency and accountability.

In January, Chavez delivered this biennial State of the Judiciary to lawmakers.

He told lawmakers:
The budgetary challenges we face will foster a coalescence of the three branches of government around our shared mission to establish justice.
Michael Coleman with the Albuquerque Journal reports the letter to Obama was signed by Former New Mexico Governor Jerry Apodaca, State Senator Linda Lopez, Representatives Antonio Maestas and Eliseo Lee Alcon and UNM Law Professor Antonette Sedillo Lopez.

Hipanics, who make up 15% of the country's population, have urged Obama to pick a Hispanic for the court. Only about 4% of federal judges are Hispanic.

Other Hispanics mentioned as leading candidates for the court appointment include 54-year-old Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since 1998.

In addition to Sotomayor, several other Hispanic jurists have been mentioned including Maria Rivera, who serves on the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; Vanessa Ruiz, from the D.C. Court of Appeals; Martha Vasquez, from the US District Court in New Mexico; and Kim McLane Wardlaw, who serves on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Chavez earned his undergraduate degree at Eastern New Mexico in 1978 and his law degree at UNM in 1981. Chavez later worked at the law school as an adjunct professor.

In his January 29th State of the Judicary Report, “Scarcity Clarifies our Mission to Establish Justice” Chavez spoke about access to the courts and speedy trials:
The human consequences of court delays should excite caution against rationing justice....It remains our solemn responsbility to accelerate the progress of a justic system that must be accessible, fair, impartial efficient and most importantly accountable to the people of New Mexico.
Chavez also outlined his view on the role of government.

Our Founding Fathers built afoundation for government by separating the legislative, executive, and judicial functions,and detailing their respective powers in the body of the Constitution. But after they penned those words, the Founding Fathers realized that they had left no written guarantees for the rights of private citizens. They had assumed that everyone who exercised the awesome powers of government would also recognize their responsibility.

Chavez' court bio says he was in private practice for 22 years and served on several community boards, including President of the Legal Aid Society in New Mexico and Chairman of UNM's Mental Health Center.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NM Supreme Court Considers Constitutionality of State's Death Penalty!

Today in Santa Fe, the New Mexico Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against the state's death penalty, despite the fact that Governor Bill Richardson signed a death penalty repeal measure in March.

Currently two men, Timothy Allen and Robert Fry are on death row in New Mexico. Several others could face trials and death penalty hearings because their crimes were committed before the repeal becomes law in July.

The governor has said he would not commute the sentences of the state's two death row inmates and at least two district attorneys have delayed trails against defendants whom they plan to seek the death penalty, including accused sheriff's deputy killer Michael Paul Astorga and 44-year-old William Watson, who's accused in a murder for hire case.

Both sides will have only 30 minutes to argue their complex interlocutory arguments in front of the Supreme Court justices.

Astorga's defense attorney Gary Mitchell, who we interviewed here, last November, is using the Capital Jury Project report, as the center piece of his argument against the death penalty.

He tells us the report unequivocally shows certain jurors make up their minds to sentence a suspect to death even before the suspect's guilt is determined.

Before today's hearing, Mitchell told us:
In death penalty cases it is extremely difficult if not impossible to obtain the type of jury that the U.S. Supreme Court ordered in Furman vs Georiga (1972).
Mitchell added:
It's virtually impossible to get beyond the arbriarty and capricious nature that we find in death cases. It isn't anything bad to say about people. It's such an emotional issue. We have yet to devise a system in this country, so we can have a death penalty, and at the same time avoid people's emotions and feelings and the arbitrary and capricious nature of it.

Mitchell believes state legislators, pursuant to the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, are the primary arbiter of whether or not the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, and when the repealed capital punishment it should apply to everyone even if there crime occurred before the law takes affect.

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg told us she disagrees. Brandenburg says legislators replaced the death penalty with life sentences without the possibility of parole, but that Astoraga would not face that because his crime occurred three years ago. She's concerned the Astorga could get the old life sentence which is only 30 years.

In a telephone interview Brandenburg said:
We were the first jurisdiction to cross examine the sociologists who completed the Capital Jury Projected. We poked a lot of holes in the findings because they don't relate to New Mexico's different cultural values and orientation.
Brandenburg told 770KKOB:
If you're attacking jurors in a death penalty case you're really attacking the jury system as a whole.
It's unclear how long it will take for the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutional questions. Brandenburg says if they make a quick decision Astorga could face trial this year.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Governor Opens Schott Solar - A Green Economy Initiative.

Updated 6:11pm (5/11/2009)

On Monday, a little more than a year after breaking ground at Mesa Del Sol, Schott Solar Manufacturing celebrated the company's grand opening. The state-of-the-art facility represents an initial investment of over $100 million in the Albuquerque area and the creation of 300 new jobs, growing to 350 by year’s end and to eventually as many as 1,500.

Governor Bill Richardson was there with a shovel to break ground and returned this morning for the opening of the company's flagship manufacturing site in the United States.
When I became Governor, I pledged that my administration would focus on developing new economic opportunities and aggressively recruiting high-tech, high-wage jobs to New Mexico.
Green collar jobs was just a buzz-word last year during the ground breaking ceremony, but has become a priority for the governor and the state's all blue congressional delegation.

Freshman congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM1) also attended Schott's opening.
Today is symbolic of New Mexico’s growing appetite for innovative economic development. I welcome SCHOTT Solar to the First Congressional District. Its presence illustrates the potential we have to create clean energy jobs right here in Albuquerque and to lead the way nationally in alternative energy.

Watch Heinrich in his YouTube Channel video here.

The Schott opening follows a weekend environmental town hall meeting at UNM where about 100 conservationists, government officials and concerned citizens gathered at Central New Mexico Community College’s Smith-Brasher to discuss clean energy and the economy. Matt Reichbach at NMI has the details on the clean energy town hall meeting here.

At the opening this morning Governor Richardson added:
This SCHOTT Solar facility is one of our biggest successes. It is one of the most significant economic development projects in recent state history and is a tremendous boost to our fast-growing clean energy industry.
The governor has been talking about investing in companies that create green collar jobs for a couple of years. In March, Marjorie Childress with NMI reported that solar energy and green collar jobs were the big winners in the 2009 legislature. Read her report here.

More from a Schott company news release:

The new 200,000 square foot manufacturing plant will be one of SCHOTT Solar’s largest operations in the United States and will be the world’s first facility to produce both utility-scale solar photovoltaic modules and receiver tubes for concentrated solar plants.

SCHOTT is one of the largest solar equipment manufacturers in the world and operates in 41 countries with 16,800 employees worldwide. The company has been in operation for more than 120 years.

“Today is an extremely proud day for SCHOTT,” Dr. Udo Ungeheuer, Chairman of SCHOTT’s Board of Management, said. “With the inauguration of this facility, SCHOTT Solar is further demonstrating the company’s position as a global player in solar technology and our ongoing commitment to developing the North American market through strategic investment.”

Anticipating the need to increase production of its solar power technologies as the market for renewable energy in the United States grows; SCHOTT’s new site is designed to support expansion of both its photovoltaic module and solar receiver lines. Long term plans call for the building to expand to 800,000 square feet with employment reaching 1,500 at full production, representing a total investment of $500 million.

"This inauguration represents the cornerstone of the Governor's green economy initiative,” said Fred Mondragon, Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department. “The fact that Schott Solar, a world leader in solar photovoltaics, has chosen to locate in New Mexico speaks volumes about our commitment to renewable energy and the future."

Bookmark and Share