Thursday, June 4, 2009

Southwest Border Security Task Force Meets at Sandia National Labs

One day before U.S. Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder unveil their 2009 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, at UNM, in Albuquerque, I sat down, at breakfast (in the downtown Hyatt) with U.S. Border Czar Alan Bersin and former C.I.A. and F.B.I. Director William Webster to discuss security, immigration, drug violence and bi national trade cooperation along the border with Mexico.

On Thursday, the men are hosting a border task force meeting at Sandia National Labs. Listen to their view on the crisis at the border here.

Bersin, was appointed to his post, in the Obama administration, by Napolitano on April 15th. He also served as the first unofficial Border Czar in 1995. A former San Diego school's superintendent and federal prosecutor, Bersin advocated for tougher immigration laws and was the public face of Operation Gatekeeper during the Clinton administration from 1995 to 1998. Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno picked Albuquerque’s John J. Kelly, also a federal prosecutor, to replace Bersin in 1998.

While she's in Albuquerque, Secretary Napolitano will also swear in new members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). Comprised of national security experts from state, local and tribal governments, first responder communities, academia and the private sector, HSAC provides advice and recommendations directly to Secretary Napolitano on homeland security issues.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Napolitano and Holder Will Outline U.S. Counternarcotics Strategy in Albuquerque on Friday.

From a News Release:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will travel to Tucson, Ariz., and Albuquerque, N.M., on June 4-5.

On Friday, Secretary Napolitano will be in Albuquerque where she will be joined by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske to unveil President Obama's 2009 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. Secretary Napolitano will also swear in new members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). Comprised of national security experts from state, local and tribal governments, first responder communities, academia and the private sector, HSAC provides advice and recommendations directly to Secretary Napolitano on homeland security issues.

Secretary Napolitano will be in Tucson on Thursday to announce Operation Stonegarden grant awards, which consist of $60 million to enhance law enforcement preparedness and operational readiness along the border through improved cooperation and coordination between federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement.


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Local Radio Groups Asks Heinrich for Support Defeating Performance Tax

I'm only a part-time blogger.

My bread and butter comes from my job as the Chief Political Reporter at 770KKOB Radio. It's part of the Citadel Broadcasting Group in Albuquerque.

Today, our General Manager sent this email out asking for support in the community to battle the "performance tax," which would negatively impact music radio stations across the country.

Senator Tom Udall, supported a similar measure when he was in the House of Representatives. Now he's on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has oversight on the issue. That Committee will review a companion resolution in the Senate.

Sen. Bingaman is on the record already and says he opposes the performance tax.

Already, two of New Mexico's new Representatives are offering to defeat the proposal. Now we just need one more congressional delegate and we'll have a clean sweep.

Please read Milt's letter and see if you have time to help, especially if you enjoy FREE, over the air, broadcast, MUSIC.

From General Manager Milt McConnell:

Greetings. I am writing today on a very important matter that is making the rounds of both the House and Senate in Washington , D.C. Some of you may already know about the Performance Tax that the record industry wants to impose on us. I can tell you first hand that it will be extremely detrimental to our livelihoods. First, it would (ironically) result in less new music being played on our FM radio stations. The measure would take 20% of our gross revenues and feed them to the foreign owned record labels. It would not only export $$$ from New Mexico, but I can assure you, that it would result in job losses in an industry that has already taken a beating from this economy.

I need you to do one simple thing. I urge you (and please feel free to send this to all of your friends and family network who care about FREE OVER THE AIR RADIO) to contact Congressman Martin Heinrich's office and ASK (URGE) him to sign onto H.Con. Res 49. This is a Congressional Resolution, that if we get the needed 218 votes, would effectively remove the opposing legislation (H.R. 848) from coming to a floor vote in the House of Representatives.
As of this writing, we are very near the number we need. Just today, both of our other two representatives, Congressman Harry Teague and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, signed onto Resolution 49. Also, you should know under the leadership of our Senior Senator Jeff Bingaman, he has signed onto the companion resolution in the Senate.

But this fight can be OVER by getting Congressman Heinrich to sign onto H. Con. Res 49. I know all of you have cell phones and friends with them. We have posted Congressman Heinrich's contact information on the 770 KKOB, 93.3 KKOB FM and 92.3 KRST websites.
For the past 80 years, the relationship between the music industry and radio has been mutually profitable for both industries. You know how much FREE PROMOTION we give for the FREE MUSIC we receive. And, you also might be aware that we already pay composers and songwriters for their work....a combined $2 MILLION dollars in our building alone in the last 5 years. The artists can trade on their name. Think about all of the CD giveaways, artist interviews....back stage meet and greets that we do.....not to mention the flyaways and other FREE promotion that we give artists.

Radio can't be held accountable for the fact that the record industry did not build the digital age into their business model. A direct tax on radio's already suffering profitability would force a wholesale rethinking of our station's formats, staffing and our ability to contribute to the communities we serve. And this DOES effect our News/Talk/Sports stations equally in the building. IF it were to pass, I can see many music stations opting for more spoken word format and fractionalize our News/Talk/Sports franchise which is so critical to our building. It is a disruption that SHOULD NEVER BE CONSIDERED, especially in this economic environment.

As you know I rarely send a group e-mail like this...but literally our future and our ability to broadcast is threatened.

Please take a moment and contact Congressman Heinrich's office and ask him to support New Mexico jobs and money staying in the state by signing onto H. Con. Res 49.

Thank You.

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Republican Weh "Encouraged" by Unscientific Poll

Republican Allen Weh, who we reported formed an exploratory committee on May 5th, is considering running for his party's nomination for governor next year, says he's encouraged by a "non scientific" poll conducted by blogger Heath Haussamen online.

That poll, which can be seeded by supporters voting multiple times, showed the Albuquerque businessman is the preferred GOP nominee for governor in 2010.

Haussamen reported, out of about 440 people who voted in the online poll at, 28 percent said they prefer Weh over any other potential candidate. Voters had seven options to choose from in the poll, which showed Weh in first place. The results were released Monday.

I guess polls like this work for American Idol. But, then again the real talent in this year's show Adam Lambert lost to what's that guy's name...someone from Arkansas I think.

Weh said that even though the online poll is unscientific, the results are encouraging.
I’m thankful people took the time to participate,” Weh said. “The results reveal that New Mexicans believe I’m the strongest candidate to take on Diane Denish in 2010. They’re tired of the corruption, and they’re tired of being ignored. It’s time to get state government back to business.

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Vice President Says American Recovery Act Creates Business Opportunities

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009 as the nation faced the greatest economic crisis in half a century. Just over 100 days in, over 150,000 jobs have been created or saved by the Recovery Act and over $126 billion has been obligated to stimulative programs and projects.

Yesterday, Tripp Jennings at the New Mexico Independent reported, in this story, that the Feds have already 41 contracts and more than $150 million dollars is flowing into the state already.

Tripp, who reviewed the federal procurement database, wrote:
The database gives a glimpse into how much money is flowing into the state three months after the federal stimulus act was signed into law in February.

Eventually money from the federal stimulus package will flow to hundreds of different organizations and firms across the state.

Tripp revealed who's getting the money so far:
By far the biggest winner in New Mexico’s stimulus jackpot is Washington Tru Solutions LLC, the operator of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad, New Mexico. The firm won a $121 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) contract in mid-April to help clean-up of the site.

But more money, up to $3 billion dollars is expected to impact the local economy. Additional money will be awarded from community grants.

Today, Vice President Joe Biden hosted a round table with business leaders from across the country highlighting how the Recovery Act is not just creating and saving jobs, but also creating new business opportunities just 100 day into the two-year program.

The Vice President says the Recovery Act is putting people to work.
Our business leaders here today are a testament to that. They are on the front lines of hiring folks for new jobs and preventing lay-offs. They have first-hand knowledge of how this economy – and our policies – are working. We’re looking to those in the business community to be creative, to be innovative and really take advantage of the new opportunities made possible by this Recovery Act.

Biden was joined by New York Governor David Paterson, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin and business leaders ranging from small business owners to CEOs.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said:
The Treasury Department is implementing Recovery Act provisions swiftly and efficiently, which is helping to stabilize the housing market, provide tax relief to working Americans, and give economic assistance to state and local governments. The Recovery Act, together with our efforts to stabilize the financial system, is starting to make a difference. The national economy is showing some initial signs of stability with confidence improving and credit starting to ease. We still have a long way to go towards rebuilding our economy and ensuring that Americans are back at work, but all Americans should know that this Administration is absolutely committed to getting us there.

Among the group of business leaders participating in today’s event was Christian Zimmerman, President of Pike Industries, Inc. Before Pike Industries won its first stimulus construction project this spring, Mr. Zimmerman was planning to lay off 100 employees, in addition to another 150 employees who he had been forced to cut since 2006 as a result of decreased construction in the economic downturn. But when Pike won a stimulus contract repaving Rt. 101 along New Hampshire’s seacoast this spring, not only was Mr. Zimmerman able to retain those 100 employees, he was able to hire 100 more.

“Enactment of the Recovery Act, followed by quick action by federal and state governments to get highway money out into the economy, came at a critical time for our industry. Our company not only avoided significant layoffs, but we have hired many new employees, engaged subcontractors, contracted for new equipment and we are purchasing various materials and services to support the stimulus projects we have been awarded. Clearly, the positive effects of the Recovery Act will be felt throughout our economy,” said Christian Zimmerman, President of Pike Industries, Inc.

In addition to the immediate direct benefits business owners like Mr. Zimmerman are seeing as a result of Recovery Act contracts, the law also includes a number of tax credits that are driving new product demand and indirectly benefiting companies across a variety of sectors. The Recovery Act includes over a dozen energy-efficiency and renewable energy tax credits that are creating new opportunities for companies like Standard Renewable Energy, a Houston-based company that helps homeowners, businesses and government entities reduce their energy consumption, and Crystal Window and Door Systems, Ltd., a manufacturer of energy-efficient window products.

"The Recovery Act provides innovative ways for businesses and consumers to save money while also investing in energy efficiency," said John Berger, Founder and CEO of Standard Renewable Energy, in Houston, Texas. "Because of the Recovery Act, our business is growing, not shrinking. We just opened a new office in Phoenix, and by year's end, our workforce will have grown over 70 percent."

“Because of the Recovery Act’s emphasis on Energy-star rated products and our ability to promote our products as energy efficient, our business has improved,” said Steve Chen, Executive Vice President of Crystal Window & Door Systems, Ltd. Flushing, New York. “The Recovery Act is not just an injection of cash into the economy; it goes a long way in educating the public and changing perceptions about Energy-star and greener products – how homeowners can invest in their homes, the environment and the economy at the same time.”

Home Buyers Get Tax Break

The Recovery Act also includes an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyer that has turned out to be a bright spot for the hard-hit housing industry. We just found out that includes mobile home purchases.

“The $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit is stimulating nearly 200,000 additional home sales across the nation and will result in over 73,000 new jobs. Last week at NAHB’s spring board meeting, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced new rules that will enable buyers to access the credit at closing, which will make it even more effective. While this is a good start, we still have a long way to go before returning to a healthy housing market,” said Joe Robson, President of the Robson Company in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders.

On a much larger scale, the billions of dollars allocated in the Recovery Act to develop and commercialize renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biomass have spurred companies like Braemar Energy Ventures to make new targeted venture capital investments in companies that are developing the technology that will serve as the foundation for our economic recovery.

"Many of the companies in which we invest can benefit enormously from support from our government provided by the ARRA to scale up and provide jobs in both new and emerging energy areas as well as newly skilled jobs in the existing energy sectors. The capital intensity of the global energy business is a major challenge for emerging companies with new technologies and therefore loan guarantees and grants can help bridge the gap to building the large scale facilities and factories needed in the early days to deploy their products and hire a skilled workforce," said Neil S. Suslak, Founding Partner of Braemar Energy Ventures.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

City Hall Defends Mayor's Fiscal Record After Romero Criticism

Albuquerque Mayoral Candidate Richard Romero is pounding incumbent Martin J. Chavez on the mayor's 2010 budget.

On Thursday morning, at Park Avenue and 14th Street (the site of a current city road improvement project), Romero told reporters Chavez has built a political machine that needs to be "dismantled" after three terms.

Romero says he wants the mayor to stop digging the city into a deeper financial hole. The former Senate Pro-tem was joined at his news conference by Lou Hoffman, who served as the city treasurer from 1987 to 2006.

Listen to the brief news conference here.

But, City Hall was quick to respond to the criticism.

The Mayor's long-time public information officer, Deborah James, defends Chavez' fiscal record. She says the current administration is acting prudently during tough economic times and living within their means. Listen to my one-on-one with James here.

James believes Romero and his team are out of touch and said she'd rather be critiqued by the nation's bond writers and reporting services; and, the mayor remains committed to no tax increases without voter approval.

Romero said cronyism on the 11th floor has left the city with a bloated bureaucracy and is causing the city irreparable harm. Romero says there's no need for three "deputy scapegoats."

Mr. Hoffman, a 19-year city hall veteran, added:
When the new city charter was established in 1974 there were only department heads. No Chief Administrative Officers [CAO's] and certainly no traffic czar.

Romero told reporter Marjorie Childress, at the New Mexico Independent, there is a lot of waste in city government, including two city council planners. Romero says the councilors are not allowed to use city hall planners because they are at war with each other. Romero continued by pledging to work closely with the city council if he's elected.

Romero also questioned Chavez' decision to not replace some 200 vacant jobs because of revenue shortfalls.
If they are not essential enough to fill, why were did they exist in the first place.
Hoffman told us Chavez' administration has diverted $50 million dollars from property taxes (three times in the past eight years) to basic operating services. Hoffman said the bond money should be used to repair and build streets. Hoffman estimates the total impact from the diversion could have funded more than a billion dollars worth of projects for generations to come. Hoffman believes Chavez' strategy has led to "a big capital infrastructure hit."

Hoffman also told reporters the $24 million debt service moved from the operating fund this year was likely used to cover the police and fire department pay raises, claiming it matched almost dollar for dollar.

Romero is calling for immediate action to bring "expenditures in line with revenues."


Romero's campaign says the growth of politically-appointed jobs under Chavez is unprecedented in Albuquerque's history. On Sunday, Romero told long-time KOB TV political reporter Stuart Dyson on his Sunday morning program, Eye on New Mexico, that he would cut political appointment jobs.

Hoffman says the mayor's office budget has grown 94% over the last five years while the city budget has only grown 35% and that includes $43 million from the 1/4 cent public safety tax.
That means the political infrastructure is growing three times the rate of city government itself and is harming basic operating services.

But James told us that it's "political whacky season," and that the two men (Romero and Hoffman) are flip flopping the numbers.

Chavez has qualified for the ballot, and public financing, but has not announced his campaign for an unprecedented fourth term. On Wednesday, Chavez received an endorsement from the local AFSCME union chapter.

For Pete's Sake!

At Thursday's news conference, Romero also questioned the Mayor's use of three APD police officers for his security detail, which led us to ask for his opinion on one of those officers flipping off free-lance photographer , blogger, and former APD officer, and APOA President, Mark Bralley at a recent news conference at Albuquerque High School.

Romero said it's inappropriate behavior and if he was mayor that officer would be fired. Listen to Romero's remarks on the "little birdie" incident here.

Bralley captured the officer throwing the finger on film, and has posted it on his blog, What's Wrong With This Picture. Bralley regularly contributes his photos to news outlets, like the Capital Report, and to our blog, What's the Word?

The mayor's office told us Bralley often gets to close when taking pictures and has "bumped" the mayor. We checked and there is no restraining order and there was no arrest for assault or battery.

It seems the Mayor may still be upset with Bralley, who helped defeat a "public safety" tax during a previous administration, or he may just not like some of the photos (like this one) that Bralley has snapped and posted on Ched MacQuigg's blog Diogenes' Six.

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Senate Majority Leader Sanchez Considers Run for Governor

On Sunday morning, NM Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez used his FaceBook page to formally tell his friends that he's decided to set up an exploratory committee and is still considering running for governor in 2010.

The 58-year old Sanchez wrote:
Michael S. Sanchez has formed an exploratory committee and is still contemplating a run for governor.
In April, at Fire Station #1 in downtown Albuquerque, during a bill signing with the Governor, Sanchez told me he would be considering the run, and told me he would likely adopt the new political campaign donation limits, which roll out 2011, for his run this year, but that would seriously put him at a disadvantage to fellow democrat, Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, who has already raised several million dollars.

Most candidates use the exploratory committee to determine if they can collect enough money to fund a primary campaign. Sanchez has been considering running for months.

Last fall, in August, Sanchez, a four-term state senator from Belen told the New Mexico Independent:
At this point, I’ve been approached and asked to consider it and I’m considering it. “I wouldn’t be considering it unless I thought I could do a good job,” Sanchez said. “I think I would make a good governor.
Actor Val Kilmer, has also expressed interest in the race, but after disparaging remarks he made about Viet Nam Veterans surfaced he's been downplaying his interest, while still making the political rounds.

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