Friday, February 19, 2010

Domenici Jr accuses Weh of 'dishonesty'

Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Domenici Jr is accusing primary opponent Allen Weh of being "intellectually dishonest" after Weh distributed a news release to local bloggers - including ours -- using comments Domenici made about his chances of winning the general election this Fall.

“For him to have ripped out of context an innocent sentence was a half truth and reflects the same type of dishonesty we are trying to rid Santa Fe of,” Domenici said during a three-way call with Publisher Heath Haussamen and us.

"His excerpt from the 770KKOB interview ended with my statement about how hard it will be for Republicans to win without the best candidate. The rest of my statement concluded with, I'm saying I can win, and I'm concerned with the perception that I'm hearing (from Allen Weh) that says any of them (the Republicans running) can beat Denish. I don't agree with that," Domenici clarified.

Here’s the original transcript of what Weh provided:

Villanucci: Are you the best person to win the general?

Domenici: The general is going to be an extremely difficult election. The perception out there that somehow any of the five candidates can and should win the general, I disagree with strongly.

Villanucci: Who can’t win?

Domenici: I don’t know if I want to say particular names of who can’t win.

Villanucci: You obviously have a feeling on that. You said that not all of you can win, so somebody can’t, and you think you can. So, who can’t?

Domenici: Actually, I would even include myself in the group that

But a review of the full audio transcripts revealed the Domenici went on to say:

“Actually, I would even include myself in the group that can’t. I don’t think this is a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. It is going to be extremely tough. So I, that’s why I don’t want to go in the negative. I’m saying I can win and I’m concerned with the perception I’m hearing that says any of these five can win. I don’t agree with that.”

Domenici goes even further in a news release distributed after the telephone call, and claims it is Allen Weh who "cannot win."

"He has alienated too many Republicans and voters across the board,” Domenici said in the news release.

All four Republican candidates will try to pick up pre-primary convention delegates at nearly a dozen county meetings this weekend. Domenici said he'll attend at least two - in Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Updated: Domenici says general election will be "tough""


A second and more thorough review of Domenici's statement to a local talk show host reveals he actually thinks he can win, he simply says "it's not a sure thing."

I don’t think this is a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. It is going to be extremely tough. So I, that’s why I don’t want to go in the negative. I’m saying I can win and I’m concerned with the perception I’m hearing that says any of these five can win. I don’t agree with that.”

Political newcomer Pete Domenici Jr, who admitted to smoking marijuana and using cocaine in the 1970s and 1980's, also told 770KKOB radio talk show host Jim Villanucci on Tuesday that the 2010 general election is going to be "difficult" for any of the five Republican gubernatorial candidates to win.

In fact, Domenici, who considers himself a front runner in this June's primary, went further and said he might not be able to win the general election himself.

Today, Albuquerque Businessman Allen Weh, who is also running for Governor, sent us the audio and a news release stating that he is much more confident in the party's chances this Fall.

“In November, voters will be looking for a leader who can put New Mexicans back to work and get our economy moving in the right direction,” Weh said. “Unlike my opponent, I believe the next governor of New Mexico will be a Republican.”

The following is a transcript, provided by the Weh camp, from Wednesday’s radio interview:
Jim Villanucci: Are you the best person to win the general?

Pete Domenici Jr: The general is going to be an extremely difficult election. The perception out there that somehow any of the five candidates can and should win the general, I disagree with strongly.

Jim Villanucci: Who can't win?

Pete Domenici Jr: I don't know if I want to say particular names of who can't win.

Jim Villanucci: You obviously have a feeling on that. You said that not all of you can win, so somebody can't, and you think you can. So, who can't?

Pete Domenici Jr: Actually, I would even include myself in the group that can't.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

APS charter school audit reveals 'troubling' patterns

State Auditor Hector Balderas announced today that the 2009 Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) financial audit performed by Moss Adams contained 378 findings, the vast majority of which exhibit poor financial management and failure to adhere to internal controls in many of the District’s charter schools.

“In these difficult economic times, it’s imperative that school districts manage funds responsibly and I will continue to highlight areas of concern,” Balderas said. “My office will continue to partner with APS and the District’s charter schools to strengthen their fiscal accountability.”

Of the 378 findings, over 120 were identified in previous years but had not been corrected. Balderas called upon the governing bodies of APS and those charter schools identified by the audit to reduce risks to public school funds and work together to address the findings.

"The recent audits of the Jemez Mountain and Mora School Districts have highlighted that sound fiscal management of public school funds must be a priority,” Balderas stated. “It’s critical that the state’s largest school district correct these troubling trends in order to prevent fraud and the inappropriate use of public funds.”

Many of the District’s charter schools had the most findings, including Christine Duncan, The Learning Community, Academia de Lengua y Cultura, La Academia de Esperanza, La Resolana Leadership Academy, Corrales International and Albuquerque Talent Development. The findings included non-approved journal entries and overall issues relating to cash controls.

More specifically, for certain schools the findings cited no receipts completed for cash received; no evidence of payroll registers having authorization or review sign offs; invoices were not approved before they were paid , cell phones were paid for contractors without monitoring personal use; proper procurement procedures for competitive bidding on contracts were not followed; and there was no segregation of duties when preparing and depositing money.

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SIC increasing distribution to public schools

While lawmakers continue to debate how to reform the State Investment Council, the group's board has announced it will distribute $720 million to public schools and other permanent fund beneficiaries in fiscal year 2011 -- an $8 million increase over the current year.

After the 2008 market collapse and credit crisis, the state Land Grant Permanent Fund investment grew 21.2 percent in 2009 -- outperforming its policy index by 4.5 percent. That return ranked it in the top third amoung its peers. Investment returns were also in double digits for the Severance Tax Permanent Fund last year. It grew 19.8 percent -- outperforming its benchmark by 4.4 percent. It ranked in the 43rd percentile among its peers in the same time period.

"These distributions show the overall vitality of the Permanent Funds, which continue to experience long-term growth, despite the economic downturn," interim State Investment Officer Bob Jackson said in a news release. "This is the ultimate purpose of these trust dollars -- to produce steady earnings that benefit New Mexico residents today, as well as future generations."

Annual distributions are based on a 5-year rolling average of the state's permanent endowment and are established by the state's contitution.

Perfomance data and individual SIC manager performance for 2009 can be reviewed online.

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Americans oppose court's donation ruling

Americans are upset over the Supreme Court decision last month that threw out limits on corproate spending in political campaigns, and with Democrats in control, Congress is eager to figure out a way around the decision.

A new ABC News/Washington post poll shows 80 percent of Americans oppose the court's ruling, which lifts laws banning corporate campaign donations.

Another 72 percent, moreover, support the idea of a legislative workaround to try to reinstate the limits the court lifted.

The court, in a 5-4 ruling Jan. 21, said federal restrictions on corporate spending in elections constituted a violation of free speech. Critics called it wrong to equate corporate "speech" with individual speech and said the ruling would allow special-interest money to flood election campaigns. The ruling did not explicitly include spending by unions, which also was restricted in the law, but is expected to apply to them as well.

One proposal now being considered would require a company's C-E-O to appear in campaign ads -- like candidates -- saying they "approve this message."

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Holguin 'surprised and disappointed' by senate confirmation vote

A day after New Mexico senators rejected Neri Holguin’s nomination to the state Environmental Improvement Board she says she’s “surprised and disappointed” by the 17 to 25 vote — especially since she’s been sitting on the board since last July.

And, at least three senators say the vote appears to be, at some level, political payback for Holguin’s campaign work in 2008.

She successfully managed victories for Eric Griego and Tim Keller, who defeated sitting senators Shannon Robinson and James Taylor in a hotly contested primary race.

The New Mexico Independent reports that during the senate debate Albuquerque Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, scolded his colleagues for objecting to Holguin’s appointment.

“Suddenly to develop scruples is disingenuous and incredibly hypocritical,” he said about concerns over possible conflicts of interest.

Sen. Eric Griego also used the confirmation vote to express his support for webcasting saying, ”people need to know what happens up here. I’m learning a lot more about this body the more time I spend here.”

But, Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, told The Independent he was “afraid of politicizing this extremely important board.”

Despite not being confirmed Holguin said she “will continue to advocate for the responsible stewardship of our natural resources and the public health, safety and welfare of New Mexicans.”

Holguin is currently managing Democrat Ray Powell’s campaign for commissioner of public lands. She is also consulting for Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins 2010 campaign.

PNM offers New Mexico non-profits energy grants

New Mexico non-profits, who want to become more energy efficient, could soon be getting some help -- in the form of grants -- from PNM.

The nonprofit PNM Fund, a division of the PNM Resources Foundation, announced today that it will award $250,000 in Reduce Your Use Grants to nonprofits in its service territory to implement energy-saving measures that lower their electric bills and help the environment.

“With the demand for services supplied by so many nonprofits rising, and budgets tightening, the Reduce Your Use Grant represents a unique opportunity for a nonprofit to focus more of its money on what really matters: fulfilling its core mission,” said Diane Harrison Ogawa, executive director of the PNM Resources Foundation.

In prior years, funded projects included the replacement of inefficient appliances with Energy Star®-rated appliances, replacement of single-pane windows with double-pane windows, upgrades and updates to lighting systems, and installation of solar photovoltaic panels.

The PNM Fund, a division of the PNM Resources Foundation, has invested over $7 million to fund nonprofit projects that meet community needs. More than $780,000 is distributed annually through PNM Reduce Your Use Grants, PNM Classroom Innovation Grants, Matching Grants, Volunteer Grants and Volunteer Excellence Awards.

Applications must be submitted online by April 15. Recipients will be announced in May.

Nuclear power gets a boost from Obama

There hasn't been a nuclear power plan built in the country since the Three Mile Island meltdown in the 1970's, but today, in Maryland, the industry will get a boost from President Barack Obama.

While many in his party might not like it, Obama will announce a Federal loan guarantee today for two reactors which will be constructed by Georgia Power, a division of the Southern Company in Burke County, Georgia -- and that means a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants.

On the campaign trail, Obama hedged on nuclear power, but said it should be "in the mix" and raised questions about its safety.

Last month, Obama appointed U.S. Sen Pete Domenici to his "blue ribbon" commission to study America's nuclear future.

At the time, Domenici said nuclear energy "has to be a key component of a new American energy policy that moves toward renewable, non-carbon emitting energy sources."

In June 2008, we talked to James Conca, the director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center and Institute of Energy and the Environment, which is operated by NMSU, about energy alternative that will likely be needed by the middle of the century.

Conca has co-authored The Geopolitics of Energy: Achieving a Just and Sustainable Energy Distribution by 2040 with Judith Wright.

Conca and Wright suggest if alternatives are not brought online quickly, fossil fuel use will also increase and more than double Carbon Dioxide emissions with all it's unwanted health and enviromental side effects.

They say the solutions must be in place by 2010 to be effectively serving the world's expanding population in the next thirty years.

The book suggests by 2040 the world must have:

  • 3 Million Wind Turbines
  • Solar Arrays totaling 3 trillion kWhrs/year
  • 1,700 new nuclear reactors
  • Biofuels from algae, cellulosics and high-efficiency biomass
  • 3 trillion kWhrs/year from other alternatives including wave, tidal and bio gas.
The authors say the increasing efficiency and return from nuclear energy, the small footprint, the lack of Carbon Dioxide emission, the small amount of waste generated and the the ease of handling, has led to a resurgence of nuclear power worldwide.

Today appears to be a good start toward meeting those goals. In fact, just one plant, in Southern New Mexico could replace 52% of coal powered energy.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Three lawmakers endorse Powell for Land Office

Jeff Steinborn (left), Ray Powell, Nate Cote, Steve Fischmann at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Monday.

Democrat Ray Powell, a primary candidate for commissioner of public lands this year, picked up endorsements from three Doña Ana County lawmakers on Monday.

Sen. Steve Fischmann and representatives Jeff Steinborn and Nate Cote said they will back Powell “because of his commitment to reforming the State Land Office and re-establishing an and open and transparent administration.”

In 2009, all three lawmakers proposed legislation to reform the State Land Office after a land exchange on Las Cruces’ East Mesa.

“Ray Powell is the reform candidate,” Sen. Fischmann said. “He’s who I trust. It’s no question that we need him back at the Land Office.”

“The stakes are high. With Ray, he’ll bring much needed stability back to the Land Office,” Steinborn said. “He’s ethical, principled and knows how to work with communities to maximize the dollars returned to the land office and ultimately our schools.”

“When Ray Powell served as land commissioner, he was recognized for running one of the best land management agencies in the country,” Cote said. “Right now, the Land Office is in crisis, and we are desperately in need of leadership we can trust.”

Ray Powell, a veterinarian, who previously served as land commissioner from 1993-2002, is currently employed as a regional director for the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research Education and Conservation in the western United States, said “these legislators have been instrumental in exposing the behind-the-scene deals happening at the Land Office.”

“I’m eager to clean the place up. I look forward to working with these outstanding leaders to ensure real reform is enacted to protect our public lands and the significant revenues they generate for our public schools, universities, and hospitals,” Powell said after receiving the endorsements.

Powell face Santa Fe County Commissioners Harry Montoya and Mike Anaya, and PRC Commissioner Sandy Jones in the Democratic primary this June.

Earlier this month, Jones, who is currently a Public Regulation Commissioner, was endorsed by the New Mexico Professional Fire Fighters Union, New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 611, Iron Workers Local 490, Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 412 and Lordsburg Mayor Arthur Clark Smith.

Four Republicans are also running in the primary, including oilman Spirio Vassilopoulos, Jim Jackson, who took a leave of absence from the land office to campaign for the post; cattle rancher Matt Rush; and GOP activist Bob Cornelius.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Recovery Act - one year later

Last week, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was proposing to trim back a proposed jobs bill from $85 billion to $15 billion over 10 years, U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich was home – in his 1st Congressional District — touring a low-income housing construction site that will create or retain 100 jobs for some workers who have been collecting unemployment for months.

Heinrich’s visit to NewLife Homes, an affordable housing project, which will produce 48 units for individuals with mental and physical disabilities, some of whom are transitioning out of homelessness, highlighted how money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is being used in New Mexico. ARRA was signed one year ago this week — on February 17, 2009.

Heinrich told us that he supports a provision in the jobs bill that would offer tax credits to employers who hire workers who have been unemployed for at least 60 days. He says it could prompt businesses to move forward with hiring.

Business investment will improve economy

Heinrich’s Republican challenger, Jon Barela, is also talking about jobs.

He is an advocate for creating a better regulatory environment for industry and argues against tax increases.

“During these tough and uncertain economic times the last thing Congress needs to do is place more burden on individuals and small businesses,” Barela said. “Allowing individuals and small businesses to keep more of their money will allow them the opportunity to invest and spend and improve the current economic downturn.”

Barela contends that "increased taxes will compel small businesses to reduce their workforce when our nation is already experiencing high rates of unemployment.”

“Conversely, providing small businesses tax incentives will allow them to increase their workforce,” Barela said.

Jobs: Issue #1

With congressional mid-term elections this fall, deal making across party lines looks to be difficult on many issues, but it appears a jobs bill could be an exception, given the urgency of unemployment as a voter concern.

Heinrich said the final jobs bill should focus on “the most important priorities – creating good-paying jobs, helping the middle class and making targeted, responsible investments in our future.”

“It must demand transparency and accountability to guarantee all taxpayer money is used properly,” Heinrich said. “By focusing on job creation, energy independent and middle-class tax relief, we can reenergize our economy and make it work for everyone.”

Swinging a hammer again

Now, with the help of ARRA funds, Julian Gomez, a 36-year veteran of the construction industry, is wearing his hard hat again.

He was a victim of the current economic downturn when Gerald Martin Construction company was told the NewLife Homes project had been put on hold.

Now the general contractor is re-hiring, and Gomez told us that he is ready to swing his hammer again.

Now Gomez said he is hearing there is “a lot of working coming up,” and he hopes the worst is behind him.

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2010 voters likely to reject incumbents

Last week, Dr. Howard Dean visited students, faculty, and Democrat activists at a public event on the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque.

Reading polls and tracking public sentiment, Dean says it will be tough for the state's Democrats to keep its "all blue" congressional delegation in tact after the 2010 Election.

Incumbents in jeopardy

As Americans look ahead to the mid-term elections, they seem to be expressing the sentiment that anything new is preferable to anything old, -- such as an incumbent.

The real dynamic seems to be a revolt against insiders -- as voters say they would choose a challenger over an incumbent by a two-to-one margin (38 percent to 19 percent).

Americans dispense just about as much disdain for Republicans (42 percent favorable; 46 percent unfavorable) as Democrats (42 percent favorable; 48 percent unfavorable), according to a poll released nearly on February 5th.

On the other hand, the new kid on the block -- the Tea Party Movement -- fares better (35 percent favorable; 22 percent unfavorable), although more than four of 10 voters are unable to give an opinion or say they have never heard of the group.

It appears politicians of both parties had better take the Tea Party movement seriously, if for no other reason than voters see it as a legitimate phenomenon.

About half of voters (51 percent) think the Tea Party Movement is a “serious” group of people who believe government is too big and taxes are too high.

Still, one voter in five (20 percent) thinks Tea Partiers are on the “fringe” of politics with extreme right-wing views, while about a quarter (24 percent) is undecided.

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