Friday, November 13, 2009

Cowboy Governor Bruce King dies at home

He served three terms as governor, now the Cowboy from Stanley has died -- he was 85.

Our blogging partner, Heath Haussamen has more details and reaction from around New Mexico on

And to see pictures of our last visit with Gov. King (in August) at the New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranches view this Flickr photo set.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brad Winter appointed Weh's Bernalillo County co-chair

Photos: MG Bralley

New Mexico businessman and gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh announced his Bernalillo County campaign team today.

From a news release

City Councilor Brad Winter, former Marine and executive director of the N.M. Parole Board Robert Martinez, and supporter Nancy Roehl have joined the Allen Weh 2010 team’s grassroots effort as Bernalillo County campaign co-chairs to mobilize New Mexico voters. Among other duties, the three co-chairs will organize volunteers in Bernalillo County and ensure that Weh’s many supporters in that county turn out to vote.

Winter has served on the Albuquerque City Council for 10 years and was Council president in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2008. Winter serves as Chief Operations Officer for Albuquerque Public Schools and is the longest-serving member of the current City Council.

“Allen’s background of service and success in the business world make him an ideal candidate for governor of New Mexico,” Winter said. “I’m confident Allen can win this race and turn our state around.”

Roehl, a mother of four, lives in Albuquerque. Like many New Mexicans, she was concerned about the direction of the state.

“I am very concerned about the ridiculous spending that’s going on in Santa Fe,” Roehl said. “That’s why I’m getting involved. I want to help Allen become governor of this state, because I believe he has the background and experience to make the tough decisions and get the job done.”

Martinez is a native New Mexican and serves as the President of the Fraternal Order of Police, Albuquerque Lodge No. 1. He served as a Marine in Vietnam and has held numerous high-ranking positions in public safety, including executive director of the N.M. Parole Board. Martinez spent 28 years in public service, filling leadership positions in the Department of Education, Office of Personnel Management and other federal posts.

Weh said he is proud to add Winter, Roehl and Martinez to his grassroots effort.

“With their backgrounds in education, family and public service, these three bring valuable experience to this campaign,” Weh said. “As we continue to expand our Coalition of the Willing, we’re recruiting New Mexicans from many backgrounds who are ready to make a difference in Santa Fe.”

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Education Secretary Garcia reacts to budget cuts

Immediately following Gov. Bill Richardson's news conference -- at noon in Santa Fe -- we spoke with Education Secretary Veronica Garcia about cuts to education programs and whether or not tapping the state's permanent fund is a good idea or not.

'Spinning the numbers on education cuts is a dangerous game'

AFT Lobbyist Tiffany Fiser
Tiffany Fiser with the American Federation of Teachers - New Mexico tells us that the governor's decision will make it even more difficult for educators to provide quality programs to children in the classroom.

"Lawmakers are cutting classroom support," Fiser said. "The bottom line is that the state equalization guarantee funds every aspect of our schools. This new round of cuts certainly was not the outcome we had hoped for because it again cuts the state equalization guarantee. We don't think education can withstand another hit without severely impacting the education we are providing to children."

While teachers won't be impacted by the governor's mandatory five day furloughs, they will likely face some layoffs across the state because of the cuts already made.

"Spinning the number on the education cuts is a dangerous game," Fiser said. "This cut reduces the state equalization guarantee again this year (for the fourth time), and will also affect the 2011 baseline for education spending."

Fiser wants to know why lawmakers and analysts aren't talking about the true nature of recurring cuts to education funding and one-time money being used to obfuscate those cuts.

"The one percent cuts they keep talking about misleading," Fiser said. "Teachers can do the math on these cuts, and many feel betrayed."

The teacher's union Fiser lobbies for suggests the only long-term responsible way to solve the state's budget crisis is to enact revenue enhancements, including sin taxes, rolling back tax cuts for the wealthiest New Mexican's and making big box corporations pay their fare share.

"Government has got to reign in wasteful tax spending," Fisher said. "The budget will never be balanced and they are going to bankrupt education and public service."

Exercising his veto pen

The Governor’s budget action, combined with his efforts to save $150 million by freezing capital outlay projects, will put the state on a responsible path toward balancing the current-year budget.

“Since the session ended, I have heard from hundreds to New Mexicans, including many legislators – who want me to exercise my veto pen to preserve those services,” Governor Richardson said. “I understand and share their concerns, particularly in light of the previous budget cuts.

“However, it would be fiscally irresponsible to simply veto this bill and wait for the Legislature to meet again in January – more than half-way through the fiscal year. “Instead, I am signing an Executive Order today that directs more responsible budget cuts across state government.”

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heather Wilson Appointed to National Academies Committee to examine global science strategies

Photo: MG Bralley
Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson may not be running for governor in New Mexico, but she's keeping busy.

From a news release

Wilson announced that she has been appointed to a National Research Council committee to conduct a 12 month study of Global Science and Technology Strategies and Their Effect on U.S. National Security. The study is being sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency and will examine science and technology strategies of countries including Brazil, Russia, India, China, Japan and Singapore and compare them to U.S. strategies.

Dr. Dan Mote, President of the University of Maryland, will chair the sixteen member committee that will meet several times over the next six months before writing a report with recommendations.

The National Research Council (NRC) functions under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The four organizations are collectively referred to as The National Academies. The National Academies is one of the most respected scientific and technical institutions in the country.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, the National Academies is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln that was originally granted in 1863. Publishing more than 200 reports and related publications each year, the institution is one of the largest providers of free scientific and technical information in the world.

The mission of the NRC is to improve government decision making and public policy, increase public education and understanding, and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health.

While in Congress, Wilson chaired the Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence and was awarded Distinguished Service Awards from both the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence when she left the Congress.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans' outreach impacted by state budget cuts

A delegation of New Mexicans places a memorial wreath to honor NM Soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider (below righ) at Arlington National Cemetery (above) last month -Photos by: Peter St. Cyr

New Mexico Secretary of Veterans' Services John Garcia, an Army veteran who served in Viet Nam himself, says he doesn't want across the board budget cuts to state agencies "laid on the back of my veterans."

We filmed this video with the Secretary on a recent "Boss Lift" trip to the nation's capitol, which was sponsored by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

Veterans "have served the country to defend the free-enterprise system," Garcia said.

He believes cutting back on outreach to homeless vets and reducing veteran business development is a disservice to the more than 200,000 veterans who live in the state.

Garcia told us that when he took over the department, which was elevated to a cabinet level post in February, 2004, and has 17 field offices, its budget was less than $2 million dollars. After administrative expenses, including salaries for 20 accredited and certified veteran service officer, there was only $200,000 left for veterans, or $1 per vet. That budget as quadrupled, but still only provides $4 per veteran.

"With the recent war in Iraq and Afghanistan I've got an influx of new veterans - a new generation of veterans - and it's tough to find them," Garcia said. "Veterans just don't walk into our office and say 'I want my benefits.' We've got to find them. I don't want them to wait thirty years, like I did and many Viet Nam Vets did. We have to be very proactive and do our outreach of services."

Garcia says after meeting with Governor Bill Richardson, shortly after the special session, that both men are disappointed that the agency was marked for cuts similar to other agencies.

"It' difficult when you're talking about a budget cut and my veterans are on the firing line between the legislative body and the executive," Garcia said.

Garcia says after all veterans "give us the freedoms we enjoy!

Statewide Veterans Day celebrations planned

A host of ceremonies are planned across New Mexico today.

A parade at Bullhead Memorial Park gets underway at 9:30 in Albuquerque. It will travel down San Pedro, up Gibson and end at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial. Ceremonies there begin at 11.

Another event is planned at the Veterans Memorial Park in Santa Fe on Pinetree Road. A parade in the capital city gets underway, at Bishops Lodge at 10am.

Keep in mind, City, County, State and Federal offices are closed for the holiday. So are most courts, banks and the post office.

Editor's note:

On Veterans Day 2009 we've decided to add the New Mexico Veterans websiteto our blog roll. Please check out Floyd Vasquez' posts regularly to see what's happening, for veterans across the state, and to see how you can volunteer to help or participate in important events benefiting our state's honored veterans.

UPDATE: 9:26

The chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico Javier Gonzales has issued a written statement honoring veterans.

New Mexicans have a proud history of serving their country as members of the United States’ Armed Forces. The Democratic Party of New Mexico remembers and honors all New Mexicans who have served, are serving or have paid the ultimate price to our great Nation.

To read the rest of Gonzales' comments read his blog post at the state party's blog here.

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Mayor-elect Berry on the job before sunrise

On a chilly Fall day, Mayor-elect Richard "RJ" Berry was pounding the pavement -- busy introducing himself to city employees -- during a whirlwind tour around Albuquerque.

The tour began just after 5:45am at the Solid Waste Department.

After telling sanitation drivers, many who are members of AFSCME Local 624, that he would work hard for them, Berry listened to driver's ideas for improving customer service.

One union member told Berry that he wanted to go back to shifts that start at 4am or 5am at the latest. He told Berry, who will be sworn in on December 1st, that he believes getting started early helps drivers avoid the morning traffic rush and prevents accidents.

Berry told the worker he hoped he'd share his ideas with his transition team.

Accompanied by four members of his transition team, Chief Administrative Officer appointee David Campbell, Sherman McCorkle, Public Safety Director appointee Darren White, and Sara Lister, Berry also visited Fire Station 15.

He told firefighting crews, who had brewed a fresh pot of coffee for the team, he was reviewing the city's budget and anticipated some tough financial scenarios, but that he assured them they would have the resources they need to perform their jobs.

Next, the tour headed to the Albuquerque Police Department's Northeast Command Station.

Before addressing police officers, who were there for briefing, patrolman Kyle Curtis was recognized as officer of the month. Not a bad light for the next mayor and his public safety director to see you in for the first time.

Later Berry headed to a breakfast at Weck's with law enforcement officers.

The morning also included a tour to an economic development office in the Barelas neighborhood in Albuquerque's South Valley -- before ending up for a transition briefing back downtown.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Heinrich won't predict Senate action on health care bill

U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich, who cast his vote for the new House health care reform bill, is back in New Mexico. During the lunch hour, on Monday, he met with doctors, nurses and medical providers at the University of New Mexico Medical school.

While, he won't predict what the U.S. Senate will do with the bill when it moves to the upper chamber, he told reporters that he won a office pool with his staffers -- accurately predicting the measure would get 220 votes on the House floor on Saturday.

Heinrich also talked about how hard it was to get to consensus, what impact the bill will have on Medicare Advantage, and how it may help small businesses and the self employed.

We have two other videos from the news conference that we will post later tonight - so look for the updates and join our video channel on YouTube.

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