Saturday, August 8, 2009

Former ABQ Mayor Saavadra Remembered

Saavadra, a former city commissioner, served as Mayor from 1989 to 1993, died on Friday at the age of 76.

[Photo Credit: MG Bralley]

The city's first Hispanic Mayor Louis Saavadra has died. First elected in a runoff election against West Side Councilor Pat Baca in 1989, Saavadera served one term before retiring to gardening and a quiet life in the North Valley.

Saavadra died on Friday morning from a brain tumor and short illness according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Political Analyst and Blogger Joe Monahan says Saavadra, will forever be remembered for being one of the more interesting characters in the city's history and for his ability to manage during difficult economic times in the early 1990s.

Saavadra listens to his fellow City Commissioner Harry Kinney, who preceded him as the first Mayor under the new Mayor-Council form of city government.

[Photo Credit: MG Bralley]

Saavadra first served on the city commission in the 1960's before working as the President of TVI, which has since become the Central New Mexico Community College, CNM.

Monahan said he remembers Saavadra being a "stealth Mayor" who hid out on the 11th floor, but that his leadership helped the city through the last economic turndown:
Today's leaders can look back at how Mayor Saavadra handled those quite difficult times in the early 90's and pair some of the more frivolous expenses out of government and do what has to be done. I think his legacy will be his ability to manage the city during perilous economic times.
David Campbell, who served as city attorney in Saavedra's administration, told the ABQ Journal:
When he came into the mayor's office in 1989, city finances were in a deep hole, and he worked very quietly but thoroughly and left four years later with city finances in very strong shape.
Saavedra will also be recognized for successfully implementing many quality of life projects, this following voters approval of a tax that was intended to pay for such initiatives as the biological park, museums and aquarium.

Cambell said the Saavadra administration should "also be remembered for such things as expanding the open space program and for recycling projects

Saavadra beat Pat Baca in a runoff election after defeating incumbent Mayor Ken Schultz. Current Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli also ran in the general election.

Monahan says he knew instantly that there would be little communication with the Saavadra administration when Saavadra put the press release box on the 1st floor at City Hall.

Dr. Mark Unverzagt, who was Saavadra's physician and had known him for years, told the ABQ Journal that he had great admiration and respect he had for the former mayor:
I think (he was) one of the most decent, honorable people I've ever known with a wonderful sense of humor, really erudite and witty and clever and just fun to be with.
Unverzagt said in the face of his illness Saavadra showed extraordinary courage:
It was not an easy diagnosis to have, and he was enormously courageous, graceful — again just sort of reflecting, I think, who he was as a person.
Saavedra, a native of the Socorro County mining town of Tokay, held a master's degree in educational administration from Eastern New Mexico. Memorial services are pending.

For more, read Mark Bralley's take on the Albuquerque Police Officer's Association and their legal effort to recall Saavadra on his Blue Flyer blog here.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Richardson Says Take Politics Out of Education

Governor Bill Richardson wants New Mexican's to reserve judgment on his administration's education legacy until 2011. That's when he hopes to report a successful turnaround in the state's high dropout rate.

On Wednesday he and New Mexico Education Secretary Veronica C. Garcia introduced the next generation of Making Schools Work education reform initiatives called, Graduate New Mexico! It’s Everybody’s Business.

The governor says he recognizes the state has a huge problem with dropout rates, but he's rolling out a series of new initiatives that could improve those numbers.

The program announced at Rio Grande High School, and outlined in detail in the ABQ Journal and the New Mexico Independent, combined with other new education reforms, are designed to bring some 10,000 dropouts back to school to earn their diplomas, address the achievement gap, and improve graduation rates in New Mexico.

But republicans say they don't want to wait. They want to know why the governor has waited until the last year and half of his administration to deal with the problem.

Richardson told Associated Press Reporter Heather Clark that he believes criticism of his administration's education record is politically motivated.

Despite the state's 54% dropout rate and being ranked 47th in the national education standings, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson says he won't give back his Education Governor of the Year award from the NEA he received in July. (See our NEA Award report here).

Richardson says his education record is strong and he proudly accepts the award.

Instead, Richardson said he'll focus his priorities on new education reforms designed to bring 10,000 students back to the classroom, or to a new online learning center, to earn their high school diplomas by 2011.

In San Diego last month, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who presented the award to Governor Richardson, commented on why Richardson was only the second governor to receive the group's honor:
Governor Richardson speaks up on issues that affect children, and he follows up the talk with action. Realizing the impact early childhood education has on long-term success, he extended kindergarten programs to full-day classes. Despite criticism, he advocated for and passed a law to provide free preK for 4-year-olds.
In addition to his early childhood education efforts, the award recognized Governor Richardson for fighting to put physical education back into elementary schools and taking junk foods out, increasing teacher pay and restoring collective bargaining rights for educators.

During his acceptance speech in San Diego, Richardson told the NEA Union assembly that education has been his administration's top priority since he was first elected in 2002.
From increasing teacher pay, to ensure that we recruit and retain the best and brightest, to better preparing our kids by implementing a statewide preK program, I’m proud of the reforms we’ve made.
Richardson told the crowd (listen here) that he believes his education reforms will be a part of his eight-year gubernatorial legacy.

The governor, who only has 18 months left in his administration, got a warm reception when he said (listen here) that it's time to completely change the "No Child Left Behind," program. Richardson also said state's can't afford to stop spending money on educational reforms (listen here), because education, he believes, is the key to the nation's economic future (listen here).

Announcing the Graduate New Mexico! It’s Everybody’s Business initiative, Richardson told students, teachers, school board members and business leaders that:
To sustain New Mexico’s growing economy and workforce, all New Mexican’s must at the very least graduate from high school. We must accept that in the 21st century, to secure a job that will support a family and provide a decent quality of life, a high school diploma is a must.
Education Secretary Garcia said incremental gains are good, but not good enough:
We must take bold steps in our reform effort.
The total investment in new education reform is $8.9 million dollars from federal stimulus money.

Bookmark and Share

Richardson Talks to Local Reporters About North Korea

After appearing on a slew of network news shows, Governor Bill Richardson talked to local reporters about the release of two American Journalists from North Korea.

Here's the audio from the news conference this morning after he rolled out new education initiatives. Richardson, who has had a long term relationship with North Korean officials, including Kim Jong-il, said that while he was involved with the U.S. State Department that former President Bill Clinton was the perfect envoy for this rescue mission.

Gov. Bill Richardson says both the United States and North Korea can cite victory from the high-level talks that sprang two American journalists from jail in the reclusive communist country.

Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador the U.N., said Wednesday that "it's equal right now" in terms of public relations one-upmanship between Washington and Pyongyang as a result of former President Bill Clinton's successful mission.

He said on CBS's "The Early Show," that North Korea "used the two journalists as bargaining chips. ... They've played this game before." Richardson said Washington won their release and perhaps an easing of tensions and North Korea's Kim Jong Il "gets a former president on his soil" at a time of turmoil in relations between the two countries.

For Pete's Sake:

Originally, reporters were told that Richardson was on a tight schedule, and that he would not talk to reporter's following the news conference. As the chief's top executive that's to be expected. Instead we were told that Veronica Garcia, and other's VIP's who attended could answer our questions.

I have to tip my hat to Richardson. He stayed for about five minutes and took every question from the local reporters who attended the event.

Handlers (we call them gatekeepers) and other's often get in between the governor and the local press. But, it's been my experience that he takes the time to make sure we get every one of our questions answered. In April, for example, he told his driver's to shut his SUV's engine off so it would not mess up my audio recording.

The thing that handlers don't always know is that many of us in the press, myself included, have known Richardson since the early 80's and have longer relationships with him than they do.

I first met Richardson when he ran against incumbent Manuel Lujan. I walked with him and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil door to door during a photo op. He's always taken the time to speak with us. And that's why we can bring you great audio to listen to on this blog and on the air at 770KKOB and other great stations in past, like KZIA 1580 AM, where I worked with Joe Monahan and Mike Santullo when I was just a kid. Ah the memories.

Bookmark and Share

Richardson Files PRC Brief In Support of Solar Co's

Just one day before the Alliance for Climate Protection will officially open its Repower New Mexico state-wide office in Albuquerque, Governor Bill Richardson has directed the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to file a legal brief in support of small New Mexico solar energy developers.

The brief, filed with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, provides a detailed analysis that concludes that small New Mexico solar energy developers should not be regulated in the same manner as large-scale investor owned utilities like Public Service Company of New Mexico.

EMNR Brief 30Jul09

Cabinet Secretary Joanna Prukop filed the brief on July 30, 2009. The brief also concludes that it would be an incredible barrier to the growth of distributed solar and other renewable energy resources in New Mexico if third party developers are subject to the complexity and cost of Public Regulation Commission regulation.

Governor Richardson said third party energy developers can serve an important role in the development of renewable energy generation in New Mexico:
Supporting small New Mexico solar energy developers in their quest of distributed generation of renewable energy will advance New Mexico as a national leader in renewable energy technology, manufacturing, and generation.
Third party developers build and operate renewable energy generating equipment (typically solar photovoltaic, or “PV”) on premises belonging to a utility customer. The energy developer finances the cost of the generating equipment and is able to take advantage of financial incentives under federal and state laws. The energy developer then sells the electricity generated from the equipment to the customer who owns or occupies the premises.

This arrangement is beneficial for certain homeowners and small businesses who, even with net metering and state and federal incentives, cannot afford to install renewable energy generating equipment on their property. It is even more beneficial to organizations that do not qualify for state and federal incentives, such as governmental entities, schools, churches and other non-profit organizations.

Joanna Prukop, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department said the state strongly believes that the law as written does not burden third party energy developers with the regulatory framework necessary to oversee large utilities that are granted service monopolies and guaranteed rates of return on their investment:
Unlike the utilities, these New Mexico renewable energy developers work within the framework of market forces and competition, and could move this state toward the next level of energy self-sufficiency.
Barbara Wold, at Democracy for New Mexico writes:
Through its Repower New Mexico campaign, the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, is educating New Mexicans about how shifting to a clean energy economy helps solve the climate crisis and address other pressing national problems facing our country today.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Freshman Senator Supports Community Policing

Pot lucks and root beer floats marked National Night Out across America and that included the new International Zone.

Back in March, after Mayor Martin Chavez signed City Councilor Ray Garduno's legislation renaming the war zone the International, Senator Keller said:
Our desire for a new identity truly has come from the ground up. My constituents find the current label incorrect, offensive and unfairly damaging to businesses and property value. It’s time we shed new light on our diverse community.

The International District’s modern history includes large scale community policing efforts driven by community members who decided to proactively help police make our community safer.

Keller said many areas in the district have been drastically improved because of community policing efforts:
In the 80s, 90s and today National Night has been symbolic show of community unity in the face of crime and meaningful working session for leaders to organize citizen policing efforts with law enforcement.
National Night Out is a community-police partnership held the first Tuesday of every August since 1984 sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch in the United States and Canada. It aims to increase awareness about police programs in communities, such as drug prevention, town watch, and other anti-crime efforts. Texas has the option to use the alternate date of Tuesday, October 6, 2009, to escape hot weather. Initially communities held lights-on vigils. Now, many communities hold block parties, festivals, and other events to help bring neighbors together.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 3, 2009

Colon Set to Resign Democratic Party Chairmanship

Updated: Wednesday 8/5/09 2:30 pm

Brian Colon and Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish share a minute July 25th
at a Bernalillo County Democrat Pancake Breakfast. (Photo Credit: Mary Ellen Broderick)

Word came this weekend that 39-year-old New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colón, who led the party to sweeping election victories in 2008, will resign his position by the end of this week clearing the way for him to run for Lieutenant Governor. The announcement could come as early as Wednesday during a regularly scheduled telephone conference call with all 33 county chairs. Update: Colon's announcement will be made on Saturday August 8th.

The scramble to fill his state leadership post began last week, soon after Barbara Wold at Democracy for New Mexico reported that Colón had all but made up his mind to enter the 2010 race.

First Vice Chair Annadelle Sanchez will become the interim chair and will call for a special election within 60 days as required by state party rules. Sanchez, who has been involved in politics since she was 5 years old, has worked 36 years for National Education Association of New Mexico as the director of Political Affairs.

While it's still unclear where the state central committee will meet to select Colón's replacement several names are already floating to the surface.

Sandoval County Chair David Montoya, who was encouraged to run for the county position by Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, has emerged as one of the front runners, along with Javier Gonzales.

Montoya could prove valuable to Denish (a Democrat with long ties to Southern New Mexico), he is also longtime supporter of House Speaker Ben Lujan, and was a big fundraiser for freshman U.S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan, Jr. We've learned Speaker Lujan has already begun making phone calls urging committee members to support Montoya.

Update: This morning we learned that Gonzales, a New Mexico State University Regent, is also seriously considering jumping into the chairman's race. As a Former Santa Fe County commissioner, Javier M. Gonzales was elected the youngest President of the National Association of Counties and was the first Hispanic to serve in that organization's 66-year history.

Both Montoya and Gonzales have worked for the state's senior U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, so it is likely Bingaman will stay out of the fray.

Two other names have been mentioned as possible successors to Colón, including Martin Suazo, a popular Las Vegas, New Mexico democrat, and Victor Raigoza.

Suazo is the San Miguel County Chairman and First Vice Chairman of the 3rd Congressional District another Northern New Mexico Hispanic would also be able to help both gubernatorial and lieutenant governor nominees.

Raigoza, who currently services the party as the 1st vice chair in Bernalillo County is a rising star, but sources in the Party say they don't believe he has the name recognition needed across the state yet. As an investment advisor at Edwards Jones, Raigoza has proven his ability to raise money for the party, but must still overcome his narrow loss to Republican John Ryan in District 10 state senate seat last year.

Robert Aragon, who was recently removed from his position as a ward chair after backing Republican Congressional Candidate Jon Barela will not be running. Instead, a source tells us Aragon, who retained his position on the state central committee, has a coalition of centrist/conservative democrats, which includes ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez supporters, who will throw their support behind Montoya.

Governor Bill Richardson will retain his role as the titular head of the state's Democratic Party through December 2010, but Denish, who has been building a broad based level of support across the state with community activists, will have a voice in selecting the new chair as she raises money and prepares to run for a new office on the 4th floor of the Round House in Santa Fe. Denish will clearly want a person in the chairmanship that can build coalitions and raise money for her statewide campaign. But Richardson, always a power player in selecting leaders for state party positions, may be tempted to influence the state central committee.

Colón, who was re-elected to a second term as chairman this past April, will enter a crowded field for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. State Senators Linda Lopez and Gerald Ortiz y Pinó have already begun campaiging along with Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano. State Senator Tim Eichenberg and Mid Region Council of Government Executive Direct Lawrence Rael are still considering running for the office. Rael has even started raising money and was on Denish's short list of candidates to be Lieutenant Governor when Governor Richardson appeared to be headed to the U.S. Commerce Department. Last week, former naval officer Matthew Padilla announced he was planning to seek the post. Candidates will have to get 20% of the vote at a pre-primary nominating convention to be put on the ballot.

As Colón prepares for his new journey the question about State Auditor Hector Baledera’s plans for 2010 seem to becoming clearer. The word is he'll announce his own relection plans for State Auditor before Colón announces his plans.

Update: 12:14pm - As expected, Balderas announced his intentions to seek re-election this morning. Democracy for New Mexico has the story.

Bookmark and Share