Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

12-2 A new slant on Gary Johnson

120211 Johnson

SANTA FE – A recent article in "Outside" magazine provides some new insights into what makes former Gov. Gary Johnson tick and what keeps his presidential campaign from ticking.
"Outside" is an international outdoors magazine headquartered in Santa Fe. It celebrates the sort of life that Gary Johnson lives. So who better to get an insight into Johnson and why he can't get anywhere on the national political scene than a contributing editor from "Outside" magazine?
Why is Johnson not succeeding in this political endeavor as he has in so many other facets of his life? The article didn't say this in so many words but it helped me remember a thought I had formed in my mind years ago and then forgotten.
Gary Johnson excels at individual endeavors. He is not a team sports kind of guy. And to be successful in politics, a candidate cannot go it alone. He needs to be one of the boys and acceptable to the party faithful.
Nick Heil, the interviewer for the magazine, notes that Johnson is a person who establishes outrageously ambitious athletic goals for himself and then sets out to methodically accomplish them. In the process he has become what Heil calls a world-class adventure athlete.
The character traits associated with his accomplishments – grit, strength, courage and tenacity – are what people would like to see in any leader. But, he says, Johnson doesn't make good use of that information.
Johnson doesn't talk about what makes him a world-class adventurer. He would prefer to sell his libertarian ideas, rather than toot his own horn some of the time.
Heil asked Johnson if he has considered hiring a media coach. Johnson answered that what people would hear would not be him. It would be someone's idea of who he should be.
Johnson wants to come across as a problem solver – someone who could turn a handyman business into a million-dollar operation. He admits he isn't good at the showy stuff but he is very good at doing what he sets out to do.
That is why Johnson is so frustrated about his inability to crack into the Republican field of candidates that get invitations to the numerous debates being held. Without those debates, he can't make any headway toward his goal.
When he ran for governor of New Mexico in 1994, Johnson was an unknown. But the state was small and so was the field of candidates. His opposition was Richard Cheney, a legislative leader; John Dendahl, a businessman and former Gov. Dave Cargo.
As it turned out, the odd man out of that field was Cargo. He was well known but GOP leaders knew "Lonesome Dave" wouldn't play ball with them. He was a loner, just like Johnson.
By investing $500,000 of his own money, Johnson won the primary election. His general election opponent was then-Gov. Bruce King, who was considerably weakened by having to run against both of his former lieutenant governors.
Johnson's Democratic opponent for reelection was Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez. Johnson isn't known as a great debater but he agreed to debate Chavez, a trial lawyer, throughout the state. Johnson did well enough to handily win reelection.
Johnson faces a much tougher situation now. If any other Republican candidate were to be included in the debates, it almost certainly would be Johnson. But he keeps barely losing out. One problem is that television networks usually leave his name off the ballot in their polling.
So the Republican Party isn't completely to blame. Party officials say over 20 candidates have filed for president, some of whom are former governors or members of Congress.
But Johnson is disillusioned. Some of the candidates included in the debates aren't polling any better than he is. He is talking about leaving the Republican Party and seeking the Libertarian nomination.
National Libertarian officials were very high on Johnson when he was governor back in 2000. But now, even that would be a fight.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

11-30 Highlights of NM's 100 years of statehood

113011 NM 100 years

SANTA FE – What were the most important events of New Mexico's first 100 years of statehood? Mine appear below. The state Department of Cultural Affairs has a list, available in poster form. The New Mexico Blue Book has a list available from the Secretary of State's Office.
1912 – Any such list must beginning with Jan. 6 when President William Howard Taft signed the statehood proclamation and Gov. William C. McDonald, a Democrat, is elected to office.
1916 – Pancho Villa's troops raid Columbus, NM. A massive Punative Expedition into Mexico, headed by Gen. Black Jack Pershing, ensued. It involved the first tactical use of air craft . A state park museum in Columbus tells a good story.
1926 – Route 66, the much celebrated "Mother Road," from Chicago to L.A., provides many with their first view of New Mexico and gave tourism a big boost..
1928 – Oil discovered near Hobbs. The Spanish had found insufficient gold, silver and copper to make New Mexico worth much to them but oil soon became New Mexico's biggest moneymaker.
1930 – Dr. Robert Goddard is convinced by Charles Lindbergh to move his rocket testing to the vast expanses of New Mexico. His many successful experiments earn him to title "father of rocketry."
1940 – Milton "Doc" Noss claims to have discovered a huge storehouse of gold at Victorio Peak, very near what is now Spaceport America. The Army later closed the area for Alamogordo Bombing Range. Noss never could retrieve the gold he claimed but stories have persisted of government excavation of the hill. It became a topic of the Watergate hearings.
1941 -- New Mexico National Guard activated and shipped to the Philippines.
1942 – 1800 New Mexico Guard troops were surrendered on Bataan Peninsula. Half died on Death March, Hell Ships and Japanese work camps.
1943 – Manhattan Project locates in Los Alamos on secret mission.
1944 – Navajo Code Talkers distinguish themselves ffor development of unbreakable code.
1945 – Over 100 Nazi scientists and engineers, along with V-2 rocket parts, shipped to Alamogordo Bombing Range, which became White Sands Missile Range. White Sands ranchers, removed from their property in 1942, will remain permanently disposed of their land. World's first nuclear device exploded at Trinity Site.
1946 – U.S. Rep. Georgia Lusk, D-Carlsbad, first woman elected to statewide office. Members of Congress ran at large.
1947 – Roswell Army Air Force Base issues news release claiming it captured a flying disk.
1950 – Smokey Bear rescued from forest fire in Lincoln County. Becomes national symbol.
1960 – Interstate highway system begins in New Mexico. Brings many more tourists.
1966 – New Mexico's fourth capital building dedicated. Nicknamed "The Roundhouse."
1973 – Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta inaugurated in a dirt parking lot. Has grown into the world's largest and most photographed bllooning event.
1974 – Very Large Array telescope system begun on St. Augustine Plains, near Socorro.
1988 – Waste Isolation Pilot Plant opened near Carlsbad to handle low-level transuranic waste. Safety record outstanding.
2005 – Spaceport America groundbreaking as a joint project of the state of New Mexico and Virgin Galactic The project fulfills longtime dreams of many in the Las Cruces business and educational community.
2010 – Susana Martinez elected New Mexico's first woman governor and the first female, Hispanic governor un the nation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

11-28 NM took 66 years to achieve statehood

112811 NM statehood

SANTA FE – On Aug. 28, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez kicked off our state's centennial celebration. The governor may have been a little early for our Jan. 6 birthday but despite being the Land of Manana, New Mexico seldom is late to start a celebration.
On Sept. 1 Gov. Martinez ordered that all state agencies promote the centennial. One of the first agency promotions we saw was some magnificently large posters documenting New Mexico's significant events from the time the United States occupied our territory in 1846 until today.
One three-foot by two-foot poster tells the story of New Mexico's long, 66-year effort to gain statehood. The other poster chronicles important New Mexico events from our state's past 100 years.
The posters have been produced by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs and are targeted primarily at schools libraries and museums. They also are available to the general public by contacting Sarah Ives at the Department of Cultural Affairs, 505-984-2012. You may email her at
The following are some of the important events leading up to statehood that are listed on the chart. (My comments are in parentheses.)
1846 – Mexican American War begins. US Army under Stephen Watts Kearny occupies New Mexico.
1847 – U.S. forces suppress the New Mexico Revolt of 1847. (This often is referred to as the Taos Revolt, in which Gov. Charles Bent was scalped, then killed. The lives of his family and Kit Carson's wife were spared.)
1848 – Mexican American War ends with the signing of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
1850 – In the Compromise of 1850. New Mexico becomes a territory of the U.S. including much of what is now Arizona and southern Colorado. Boundary conflict with Texas is settled and war averted. (Texas always wanted as much of New Mexico as it could get, preferably all the way to the Rio Grande. This agreement gave them about 600,000 acres along the border.
1854 – Gadsden Purchase from Mexico adds 45,000 square miles to New Mexico territory.
1862 – Civil War battles of Valverde, Glorietta Pass and Peralta are fought ending the invasion of New Mexico. The California Column of Union troops arrives in New Mexico.
1863 – U.S, Territory of Arizona is established.
1872 – New Mexico Territorial Legislature approves a constitution.
1875 – Act enabling New Mexico statehood fails in U.S. Congress.
1876 – Another enabling act for New Mexico statehood passes in Senate but dies in U.S. House.
1878 -- Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad tracks cross into New Mexico at Raton Pass.
1880 – Railroad reaches Santa Fe , ending commerce on the Santa Fe Trail.
1885 -- New Territorial Capitol Building is completed in Santa Fe.
1889 – Act enabling statehood for New Mexico (which called for a name change to the State of Montezuma) fails.
1890 – Proposed state constitution voted down by New Mexico voters by over 2-1.
1892 – Fire destroys Territorial Capitol Building. Archives Saved.
1895 – New Mexico statehood bill dies in U.S. Senate after passing House.
1901 – Statehood Convention passes resolutions critical of U.S. Congress for not granting New Mexico statehood. Former Gov. L. Bradford Prince delivers famous "Statehood for New Mexico" speech in which he says, "In no part of the nation has there ever been such a protracted struggle for self-government as in New Mexico."
1902 – Omnibus bill enabling Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona statehood passes U.S. House.
1903 – Omnibus bill dies in Senate after long filibuster led by Sen. Albert J. Beveridge.
1905 – Bill to admit Arizona and New Mexico as one state dies in Congressional conference committee.
1906 – Joint Arizona-New Mexico statehood bill (as one state to be called Arizona) passes Congress. People of New Mexico vote yes. Arizona votes no.
1910 – New Mexico constitution is written.
1911 – New Mexico voters approve constitution. Congress accepts.
1912 -- President Taft signs on Jan. 6.
(The New Mexico Blue Book contains a much longer history dating back to the Indian era. It is available from the Secretary of State's Office 505-827-3600.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

11-25 Redistricting

112511 AZ Redistricting

SANTA FE – Two months ago, I asked if there might be a way to take all politics out of redistricting. It stands to reason that with the stakes being so high for the two political parties, they will do anything possible to game the system.
New Mexico Democrats, of course, deny they did anything to help their party in the redistricting plans they passed and which Republicans now are challenging in court. New Mexico Republicans claim Democrats produced fewer competitive districts in which Republicans might have a chance to win and eventually gain a majority.
The courts will decide. But then courts aren't free of politics either. We have seen courts tilted in both directions that have been accused of deciding elections.
So how do we design a completely nonpartisan redistricting system? I described some state plans two months ago in which independents cast the deciding votes. I liked neighboring Arizona's system in which Republican and Democratic leaders choose two members apiece and those four choose an independent to be chairman.
But we have just learned that this method isn't working either. Why? Because the plan had too many competitive districts that Democrats might win. Wait a minute. In New Mexico, Republicans wanted more competitive districts.
It depends on who is in control. It is good for voters to be in competitive districts because their vote is more likely to count. But the party in control wants as few competitive districts as possible. It has nothing to do with what is best for voters.
But what could Arizona Republicans do about the independent who voted for more competitive districts? They didn't appoint the person so they couldn't remove her. But, wait a minute. Another part of Arizona law gives the governor power to remove a member of any state committee for gross misconduct. So that's what Gov. Jan Brewer did.
The Arizona Supreme Court said that wasn't good enough. Brewer at least needed to explain the actions that constituted gross misconduct. Brewer said whatever she said was gross misconduct was gross misconduct. The Supreme Court disagreed. She said the court needed to explain.
But Brewer isn't giving up. She is meeting with her top advisers to determine what she can do to the decisions of the independent redistricting committee. Evidently her options will not include explaining what sort of gross misconduct the independent redistricting chairman committed.
Gov. Brewer's defense reminds of former President Richard Nixon's Watergate defense that if the president did it, it was legal. Even Nixon's friends didn't buy that one.
A better explanation came from former New Mexico Senate President Pro Tem Les Houston. When told that what he was trying to do was unlawful, he replied that anything for which he could get 22 votes (in the 42-member body) was legal.
Houston was closer to correct. The Senate is a lawmaking body and therefore can make decisions that a chief executive of a state or nation cannot.
So would it be possible to give independent redistricting commissions powers that a governor cannot override? To be constitutional, the courts would need to be in on the final action. Could the burden of proof for overriding an independent redistricting commission decision in court require something stronger than a preponderance of evidence?
Could overturning a redistricting decision require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt?
Of course, New Mexico will never have such an independent redistricting process until voters have the ability to put items on the ballot. It is called an initiative and referendum process. Gather enough signatures from registered voters and an issue can be put on the ballot for a public referendum.
Republican legislators have tried in the past to convince the Legislature to put initiative and referendum on the ballot. But Democrats, who almost always have been in control since 1930, don't like seeing voters going over their heads.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

We'll be in PHX today through next friday. You can reach me by c omputer or cell: 505-699-9982.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

11-23 Hooray for Thanksgiving


SANTA FE – Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. One of the reasons is that Americans still remember why we celebrate it. Thanksgiving isn't just another holiday to which we give not one thought other than that it is a day off work.
Nearly all of us truly remember to give thanks and truly celebrate the holiday. Unlike Christmas, there is no stress around giving and receiving presents. The purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving is very simple and very easy to observe.
We're told that all cultures observe some sort of day to give thanks. It seems to be a basic human need to back away from trouble, stress and daily commotion and reflect on one's blessings no matter how meager they may be.
In this part of the country where we can boast a European presence that predates English settlements on the East Coast, we have some fun claiming that America's first Thanksgiving occurred near El Paso in 1598.
That's when Don Juan de Onate and his ,large group of settlers paused on their journey northward to feast and give thanks to God for getting them through the desert and providing them with a river crossing. But it will never replace the story about Squanto and the Pilgrims.
The observance of Thanksgiving is so comfortable. Family gathers, often from afar. Sometimes good friends without family are included. Generations of cooks gather in the kitchen to discuss and prepare old recipes.
The smell of turkey and the trimmings begins to fill the air. Old stories are told, getting better every year. And after dinner, generations of males step outsider to toss around a football. And sometimes grandpa is taken to the emergency room after aggravating that old shoulder injury.
Which brings us to those who can't take off for the holiday -- the nurses and emergency room workers, police and firefighters, airline employees and truckers and most of all, those who serve and protect us around the world. For some, this will be the first Thanksgiving away from home and loved ones. Some will be in National Guard units called to active duty stations far away. For them, the taste of turkey will have very special meaning.
Here are some more reasons Thanksgiving is special. It is a four-day weekend for most people. Who works on the Friday after Thanksgiving? Most employers don't even expect it. Employees trade it for a vacation day or for a non-observed holiday like President's Day.
Of course, mall employees work even harder than usual on the day after Thanksgiving because it is the beginning of the holiday season, the busiest shopping day of the year. It is called Black Friday because it is the day when many retailers say they finally get to quit using red ink on their bottom line.
Thanksgiving also is a day when it is acceptable to stuff oneself and grudgingly permissible to watch sports all day. Well, almost all day. Do we really have to turn off the Cowboy game during dinner?
Thanksgiving gives political columnists the opportunity to give thanks for another controversial governor about whom there always will be something to write. The holiday also gives the opportunity to talk about the politicians who have made our turkey lists this year.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Can occupiers survive without a song?

112111 Protest Songs

SANTA FE – My wife and I were watching the Country Music Awards last week when we realized that country music has gone the way of almost all other forms of music – single octave shouting, with the same words yelled over and over.
We wondered what students do on bus trips these days. They can't sing popular songs because there are few words and no melodies. Guess they just vegetate while listening to their smart phones play music.
That led to a discussion of what all the kids, camped out in parks these days do for songs. We remember the 60s and all the great songs of that protest movement, recorded by top stars on top labels. It was easy to sing those.
Can a movement survive without songs? Maybe it can. The tea partiers did a good job. We never went to a rally. Maybe they sang patriotic songs. But they were more organized and mature.
We didn't participate in the 1960s protests either. We were out of college, had jobs and I was in the New Mexico Air National Guard. But we certainly heard the music and could see how it would make a young person want to get up and march.
Maybe it will happen but there isn't much to work with. Television networks no longer carry musical and variety shows. Many bands or individuals have recorded protest music and many are available to play for the occupy gatherings.
But these groups don't record for big labels. They don't get much publicity and although their music carries strong messages, it isn't the sing-along sort of thing.
In the past week, I have become aware of groups promoting social issues that are teaching old protest songs to their members. Some are writing new lyrics to the old songs. And there are plenty of old songs.
How far back do protest songs and marching songs go? They are at least as old as our nation. Our revolutionary troops had many songs. Americans have always been musical. It drew notice from foreigners even in colonial days.
The most inspiring of all fight songs is "Battle Hymn of the Republic" from the Civil War period. It was the Union Army's marching song, penned by Julia Ward Howe to the tune of "John Brown's Body."
Howe improved on the words dramatically and produced a song that has endured for 150 years and should continue for much longer.
"Battle Hymn of the Republic" has become a standard in church hymnals and patriotic observances. Phrases from the lyrics have been lifted for speeches, sermons and book titles.
And with different words it is used for college fight songs, by athletic teams of all types worldwide and by labor movements as Solidarity Forever.
I recently saw a version written for a labor group that could become the anthem for the occupy movement simply because of the familiarity and stirring nature of the melody.
But musicians of the protest movement won't like it. This isn't 1960; it is 2011, they say. Musical tastes have changed.
They have, but it will take a toe-tapper to keep them going. There's no need to write a new melody. In the early days, the tunes of protest songs were taken from popular beer-drinking songs.
Of course, the marching songs of military troops had to be considerably sanitized before they could hit the pop charts. And, of course, our national anthem was once a British beer drinking song with very bawdy words.
Roswell historian Dave Clary helped me with the marching (or walking) songs from other wars we have fought. The anthem of the Texas war for independence was "Green Grow the Violets."
I seem to remember that song title is one of the theories about how the term "gringo" came about.
Clary has a feeling that the movement will never get anywhere as long as they call themselves "occupiers." He thinks "99ers" has a much better ring to it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

11-18 Lieutenant governors are a nuisance

111811 Lt Gov

SANTA FE – Here we go again. The lieutenant governor is getting in the governor's way. They are such a nuisance. Why do we even have them?
That, by the way, is a good question. Some states don't have lieutenant governors. And those states do just fine. New Mexico governors not only are saddled with lieutenant governors, the lieutenant governors get to be full time employees if they desire. And why wouldn't they want to be on the top floor of the Merry Roundhouse in the middle of all the action?
The problem is that they don't have anything to do except preside over the Senate when it is in session. And, oh yes, take over for the governor when he or she can't serve or is out of state. A century ago, when our constitution was written, governors didn't travel out of state often and when they did, they weren't as accessible as they are now.
Gov. Susana Martinez believes the travel provision now is archaic and should be repealed. In reality, that is the way it happens now. The governor's staff and cabinet secretaries handle the operation of state government anyway. When the governor is out of state, nothing changes. If something unusual occurs when the governor is out of state, a quick check with the governor is easy enough.
It isn't practical for the reins of government to be turned over to a separate elected official every time the governor sets foot outside the state. The lieutenant governor is not answerable to the governor. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is free to do whatever he desires and Gov. Martinez can't fire him for it.
The lieutenant governor is not part of the governor's team. They are in the middle of the action at the Roundhouse but they aren't part of it. If something unusual happens, lieutenant governors are as likely as not to find out in the morning paper.
So that is not who you want to take over government temporarily every week or so. The governor's team has to stay in control. The lieutenant governor cannot give orders to the governor's team or cabinet secretaries.
According to an Albuquerque Journal article, Gov. Martinez wants a constitutional amendment to retain her power when she leaves the state. That's fine but she will have to spend a great amount of political capital convincing the Legislature and then New Mexico voters to make the change.
It would be much cheaper politically to hammer out an agreement with Lt. Gov. John Sanchez as to what he will do when Gov. Martinez is out of state. Authorizing an acting governor to sign a certain bill or bills is a common courtesy.
The lieutenant governor sometime might arrange to be out of state at the same time as the governor, thereby making the secretary of state be acting governor for a day or so.
The chain continues down through the president pro tem of the Senate to the House speaker. Delegation that far down the line is not likely this term. Since both are Democrats, it could be risky. Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish signed a bill last year that she wanted but Gov. Richardson didn't.
The possibility also exists that Martinez's poor relationship with Lt. Gov. Sanchez may be the reason Martinez does not want to relinquish control. She denies it. The reason could be that Gov. Martinez simply doesn't want to tell anybody when she briefly leaves the state because she doesn't want the word leaking out and getting to the media.
Gov. Richardson occasionally did not have his staff notify Lt. Gov. Denish's staff when he was briefly going somewhere fun, such as sporting events. But the media always found out and Denish would read about it in the next morning's paper.
So as long as we are talking about taking away one of the lieutenant governor's last political powers, let's consider taking back the full-time employment option too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

11-16 Voter Fraud?

111611 suppression

SANTA FE – How much voter fraud do we have in New Mexico? Voter fraud stories are rampant. And fun to tell.
We hear of stuffed ballot boxes, boxes that disappear on their way to county clerks' offices, boxes that are found by county clerks just before tallies are finalized, fixed voting machines and dead men voting.
A favorite story told for years involves a statewide candidate in danger of losing an election, who calls a northern New Mexico county chairman and asks how many votes he has for him. And the chairman replies, "How many do you need?"
In Texas the favorite stories are about Lyndon Johnson. He won his first election by only a handful of votes, leading to the nickname Landside Lyndon.
Stories soon emerged that the night before the election Johnson was seen in the local cemetery copying names off gravestones. It became known as the night of the living dead.
The story was told that a young boy found wailing in the street the day after that election. He explained, "They told me my dead father came back to vote for Lyndon Johnson but he didn't come by to see me."
I recently read that the same story was told almost a century earlier following President Rutherford B. Hayes' suspicious victory over Democrat Samuel Tilden.
Later President Hayes played a role in trying to straighten out New Mexico political corruption. Upon learning of Gov. Samuel Axtell siding with the Santa Fe Ring in land and economic disputes, Hayes replaced Axtel with respected Gen. Lew Wallace.
Unfortunately Gov. Wallace was more interested in finishing his book, Ben Hur, so the trouble continued in Lincoln, Colfax and other counties.
Political corruption and voter fraud have been present since free elections began. Both parties have been guilty. Usually the party in power has been guiltier. That is likely why the focus has been on the Democratic Party for the past many years in New Mexico.
Control of the secretary of state's office by Democrats during the past 80 years didn't help reduce suspicions.
Last November's victory by Dianna Duran, a respected state senator and former Otero County clerk finally presented the opportunity for a close look at past practices.
Duran reported her concern to the 2011 Legislature that many people are illegally registered to vote and that some actually vote. That was followed by her request to the state police to look into 64,000 registrations in which there were inaccuracies.
She also told lawmakers in March that she had found 37 people who had obtained driver's licenses with foreign national credentials who had later registered to vote. She didn't know if any of those people had actually had voted.
This month we have gotten some updates. Two non-citizens have voluntarily reported to her office that they registered to vote. One said she had never voted.
The other said he has been voting regularly, thinking that would help him on his road to citizenship. He was surprised to learn he was breaking the law and seriously hurting his effort.
The following day Duran announced her office has found 641 deceased people on the state voter list. She didn't know if any of them voted. County clerks regularly check death notice s in the papers and delete those names from voter rolls.
Duran soon will be able to check voter rolls against lists of deaths from the Vital Records Office for an even better tally. She attributed the delay to lack of action by her predecessor and failure of the state's computer system to do the job it is supposed to do.
But even with those obstacles, it appears the secretary of state and county clerks are doing a bang up job of maintaining New Mexico's voter rolls containing over a million names.
And maybe we will find out that the unsuccessful efforts by the George W. Bush administration to dig up voter fraud mean there really isn't that much anymore.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

11-14 Have relaxed regs given economy a boost?

111411 dereg

SANTA FE – Does New Mexico have too many regulations? Gov. Susana Martinez thinks so. She campaigned for smaller government.
Eliminating regulations is one way of making government smaller. With fewer regulations, fewer inspectors are needed to monitor and enforce the regulations. And it is easier to conduct business with fewer rules to follow.
So Gov. Martinez appointed a Small Business Friendly Task Force The group has reported on ways to eliminate regulations and reduce waste. As one might guess, the Regulation and Licensing Department and the Construction Industries Division were two of the first targets.
Gov. Martinez has heard plenty from the construction business about the onerous regulations they face. Many of the regulations involve improving the environment, which was a major goal of former Gov. Bill Richardson.
Richardson wanted to be known as the greenest governor in the nation. That is a popular item in the national Democratic platform. Many also believe that production of alternative energy equipment is a way for the nation to regain some of its international trade leadership.
But Martinez thinks Richardson overreached considerably in his efforts. Her task force has recommended to her that New Mexico go no further than federal environmental requirements. New Mexico was quickly becoming the leader in that field.
The task force also recommended New Mexico withdraw from the Western Climate Initiative and become merely an observer. Martinez says she still wants green businesses to come to New Mexico.
Martinez and the task force encourage small businesses with complaints about state regulations to call the Office of Business Advocate, 505-827-2486, with any problems on interaction with government agencies. All complaints will be kept confidential.
Many findings of the Task Force seem to be common sense. Environmental interests likely are pushing for too much regulation. Martinez likely wants too little in terms of environmental controls.
The task force also had recommendations about middle management personnel in state agencies who have an anti-business attitude. Some of the staff shuffling in state agencies that we have seen in the past seven months may be a result of that finding.
The task force was established by Gov. Martinez on Jan. 1, her first day in office. It called for 90 days of study, followed by a report. That report was submitted on April 1.
The Small Business Friendly Task Force was neither small in size nor composed of representatives from small businesses. The Web site lists 29 members composed primarily of top management and lobbyists from New Mexico's largest businesses.
There isn't a mom and pop operation on the list. Representatives of environmental groups claim their meetings were closed to the public and that it was necessary to file public records requests to obtain any of the work products of the meetings. That information is now on the Web.
The governor's office and the Economic Development Department now have had the report for seven months. Little has been said publicly about any action on the report.
Possibly some legislative action will be required in January but these recommendations were intended mostly for executive action, which doesn't require changes in the law. Regulations fall within the purview of the executive branch of government.
So the question is, has there been a reduction in regulations as a result of the report and, if so, have we seen any improvements yet in our economy?
One might have expected to see a rise in housing starts but that may be hampered by the lending market being so stingy.
As long as interest rates remain as low as they are, banks say what they spend on due diligence and paperwork make the measly interest they make from a loan less than what they can get investing their money.
This summer, the Legislature and governor's office reported some fairly rosy revenue projections but by fall those projections were backed off considerably.
So the answer seems to be that it is too early to have seen any economic results from trimming back regulations.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Appreciate our Veterans

111111 Vets

SANTA FE -- Today is a very special day. Most importantly, it is a day to honor our veterans, living and dead, who fought that we might be free.
Secondly, it is a special day for those interested in numbers. Today, ceremonies are being conducted in many parts of the world to celebrate a treaty signed on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, of 1918.
It was billed as the war to end all wars. Unfortunately the claim was most naïve. The scores weren't settled on that war for another 27 years, in 1945. In reality, the fighting in outlying areas continued for some time past Nov. 11.
There are those who contend that the date and time were chosen by powerful Europeans because of the significance they attached to all those elevens. This year, the numbers are even more fascinating because it is the 11th year of a century and a millennium.
And just as with the treaty signing being moved up to coincide with a significant date, it is expected that many more babies will be born today to mothers anxious to have children on such an unusual date.
Expectant mothers aren't the only ones who will be taking advantage of the date. I'm guessing that if you look at the ads in today's paper, you will find some 11-11-11 specials on cars, restaurant meals and all sorts of shopping items.
And, to top it all off, you likely have heard many prophesies about world peace suddenly breaking out today. Ether that, or it will be the end of the world. Of course, we've become weary of end-of-the world prophesies in the past few years. They always seem to turn out the same.
Instead, veterans and their families will attend ceremonies at 11 a.m., maybe with a jet flyover. Other than hearing the noise, most people will give Veteran's Day little further thought. But there are some places in the world where the day still is very special indeed.
I will never tire of recalling my most memorable Veterans' Day. My wife and I were in Brussels, Belgium. We had never been there before and were anxious to see the sights. But we were told at the hotel desk that it was a very important national holiday and we were unlikely to find anything open.
We had encountered holiday celebrations in other countries and figured this was just one more that we would know or care little about. Imagine our surprise when the desk clerk explained they were celebrating the armistice that ended World War I, which had been very devastating to their country.
Of course, this was Nov. 11, Veterans' Day, as we would call it. We were in downtown Brussels and thought it would be interesting to see how Belgians celebrated the day. And we weren't disappointed.
Following our walking tour map we quickly found the famous Manekin Pis fountain, a 300-year old brass sculpture of a little boy doing what little boys do. The statue is dressed in many different costumes, depending on the time of year.
On Nov. 11, it was clad in an American Legion uniform and holding an American flag. We expressed our surprise and appreciation loudly enough that a local overheard us and explained how much the Belgians feel indebted to the United States for all we did for them during both the first and second world wars.
She said she hoped we could stay for the parade and ceremonies just down the street. We walked to the main thoroughfare, saw a large reviewing stand and more American flags lining the street than I have seen in any American city.
We didn't stay long because the speeches were in Dutch, French and German, the nation's three official languages. Belgians speak many other dialects, also, but enjoyed telling us, in perfect English, that English is their fourth language.

Monday, November 07, 2011

11-9 Statehood Celebrations Have Begun

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SANTA FE – Most New Mexicans likely are aware that New Mexico celebrates its 100th birthday on January 6. Few New Mexicans, at this point, seem aware that the centennial celebration already has started.
That's the way it usually happens. To avoid a one-day celebration, start early and keep it going for a year or more.
New Mexico is no exception. Gov. Susana Martinez kicked off the festivities in Las Cruces back on the 28th of August. That was followed by an executive order on September 1 directing all state agencies to promote the centennial.
Union Pacific is adding to the celebration by sending one of its vintage locomotives steaming through New Mexico Nov. 4 through Nov. 9 from Tucumcari to Lordsburg. We know that special ceremonies were planned in those communities and we've seen that Alamogordo also had a celebration last Sunday when the steam engine came through.
The train is scheduled to be in Lordsburg today, Nov. 9, before continuing on through Arizona, which is celebrating its centennial also. Arizona became a state Jan. 14, 1912.
Railroads reached New Mexico at Raton in 1878. By 1880, they had reached Santa Fe, ending commerce on the Santa Fe Trail.
Maybe I just missed it, but I have seen almost nothing about this in newspapers or on television. Of course, I'm stuck with living in northern New Mexico where I see Santa Fe and Albuquerque media, which thinks if it doesn't happen here it isn't happening.
And nothing much seems to be happening here yet. Albuquerque celebrated its 300th anniversary a few years ago with numerous activities and generous media coverage. Santa Fe celebrated its 400th anniversary last year, hoping to make as big a splash as Jamestown, Va. a few years earlier. Jamestown had fabulous coverage with large sections of major national magazines devoted to it.
Interestingly Jamestown didn't have anywhere authentic to celebrate since the location of Jamestown is a mystery, covered under many feet of water now. Santa Fe has its original plaza and Palace of the Governors but attracted no national attention.
Of course, any event has to attract its own publicity – unless it is a disaster. New Mexico didn't do well with Santa Fe's 400th or the state's 400th in 1998 to celebrate Onate's first encampment north of Espanola. The best publicity in the last 40 years went to the Pueblos'300th anniversary celebration of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.
It's not that New Mexico doesn't know how to attract attention. The 400th anniversary of Coronado's 1540-41 trek through New Mexico searching for our fabled Cities of Gold attracted a large national audience back in 1940. The University of New Mexico history department took charge of that effort and succeeded in getting a generous appropriation from the Legislature.
But the biggest New Mexico celebration ever took place in the summer of 1883, soon after railroads had spread through New Mexico. The railroad companies wanted easterners to learn about our unique cultures and scenic beauty. They slashed their rates, marketed to large clubs and gave free rides to travel writers.
There was no event to celebrate so the railroads created one. It was the Tertio-Millennial celebration of the first European exploration of the West. No one bothered arguing with the dates or the title.
The event was supposed to last three weeks. It went on all summer. There were trips to the pueblos, Indian dances every afternoon. And the oval we call Federal Place was created as a horse track. It was a public-private partnership that worked quite well.
Word is slowly filtering up from the South about events down there. A longhorn cattle drive from Hobbs to Carlsbad will be staged May 9-11, 2012. The Roswell Museum and Art Center will feature a year-long exhibit of accomplishments in the community. And Sierra County will feature tours of the Elephant Butte Dam Site all year long.
Throughout the next year, we'll be talking about New Mexico's difficult road to statehood and some major events of our past century.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Gov eliminating waste, fraud and abuse

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SANTA FE – "I will eliminate waste, fraud and abuse." It's the popular refrain heard from every politician running for office. Gov. Susana Martinez seems determined to actually do it.
She immediately took out after waste in state government. She declined to fill many political appointee positions from the Bill Richardson administration – even after Richardson already had cut over 100 of a reported 500 political appointees. Martinez's appointees are considerably below the level during Gary Johnson's fiscally prudent administration.
The governor also has continued the modified hiring freeze from the last two years of the Richardson administration. Vacant positions are not filled unless their need can be demonstrated.
Gov. Martinez has been similarly frugal with supplies, equipment and the state's motor pool. We don't know about her policy on saving paper clips but she did turn back to the general fund a considerable amount from her office at the end of the fiscal year.
Alleged fraudulent use of taxpayer money was a cornerstone of Martinez's campaign a year ago. Since taking office, she has made new appointments wherever she can to guard against future occurrences.
The governor has been after abuse also. Her current target is denial of flextime for state employees. Previously employees were allowed to work alternative schedules in which they arrived or left either early or late as long as they worked eight hours.
One benefit of the alternate schedules to Santa Feans has been that commuter traffic has been spread over two hours instead of having massive traffic jams at 8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. Gov. Martinez says she will allow cabinet secretaries to grant exceptions. Reportedly those have been rather stingy. Some employees say they will have to quit their jobs because of child care problems.
An Albuquerque television station reported on a cabinet secretary who said his first day on the job he heard a jangle of phones ringing throughout the office at 4:30 and learned that everyone had gone home at 4 p.m.
Obviously that is a problem in need of correction. But the solution may be overdone. A report last night on the TV news said a recent study has found that working women are more productive and happier when they can work alternative schedules.
The memorandum that went to employees rescinding flex time reportedly cited budgetary reasons. That is difficult to figure unless unsupervised employees are less productive causing a need to hire more employees.
More recently, I have heard the governor's office say it is a customer service problem because there are fewer staff to take care of people needing assistance. That appears to be an indication that there are some jobs that may not work with flextime.
Coverage during the noon hour also can be a problem. That is the only free time some people have. Phones that don't get answered until 1:15 are another evidence of poor customer service. It was a major concern of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca. He decreed a 55-minute lunch hour. Restaurants in the vicinity of the Capitol featured 55-minute lunch hour specials guaranteed to get state workers back to the office on time.
Gov. Apodaca made sure his edict was followed. He personally sat at his desk and called several agencies each day at 1 p.m. And he usually asked to speak to the boss to be sure someone was taking attendance.
So Gov. Martinez is making a better stab than any past governor at curbing waste, fraud and abuse. And I'll lay you odds she's not through. The word is that she is looking at telecommuting from Albuquerque offices. The Public Education Department already has closed its Albuquerque office. Maybe she'll look at teleconferencing to eliminate travel between Albuquerque and Santa for meetings.
One final note. State employees are good people. They don't want to see other employees abusing the system. What happens in state government happens in any bureaucracy.
Let's not get carried away.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

11-4 Congressional races pick up more candidates

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SANTA FE – U.S. House races are beginning to take shape. Senate races already are well set because they are statewide. Senate candidates don't have to worry about what redistricting might do to their campaign plans.
Heather Wilson and Martin Heinrich reported impressive third quarter fundraising totals. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez still can give Wilson a race in the GOP primary, with Greg Sowards lurking as a possible spoiler. State Auditor Hector Balderas still has a shot at Heinrich in the Democratic primary.
But it is the House where interest now is turning. The 1st Congressional District has a full-blown race on the Democratic side. Rep. Martin Heinrich is giving up the seat to run for the Senate post being vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman.
State Rep. Eric Griego got in first and has been raising money and picking up endorsements from progressive groups. Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez soon jumped in and has been doing well raising money among more moderate voters. County Commissioner Michelle Grisham joined them in mid-August. She too has posted strong fundraising totals. Her politics lie somewhere between Griego and Chavez.
Republican hopefuls in District 1 still haven't stirred up much interest. City Councilor Dan Lewis got in first, followed later by former Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. Neither one has caught fire. Their fundraising totals are meager. It appears obvious that GOP powers are not excited about either one.
They may be waiting to see whether Economic Development Department Secretary Jon Barela jumps in. Barela ran Heinrich a strong race for the seat a few years ago. Barela has a bit of a problem. He has a good job, which he says he likes very much. But it appears he won't be able to keep his job if he runs.
Even though it is customary to do both, Gov. Susana Martinez made a major issue out of Lt. Gov. John Sanchez running for the U.S. Senate. She contended there wasn't time to do both even though the lieutenant governor's post is a do-nothing job. She followed that up by saying if Barela runs, he must resign.
Could it be that Barela quietly has the support of GOP leaders and is staying on the state payroll as long as he can? It is a sure bet that party leaders eventually will back some candidate in a big way, just as they backed Martinez for governor last year.
The 2nd Congressional District remains quiet. Rep. Steve Pearce is in control despite many complaints from the environmental community. Democrats Evelyn Madrid Erhard and Frank McKinnon are staging longshot bids. Blogger Heath Haussamen reports that former state Rep. Jeff Steinborn, of Las Cruces, may jump in also.
Democratic candidates don't have much chance in the heavily Republican performing district. But there may be hope in the future. The district, especially in Dona Ana County, is growing and becoming more Democratic. Some possible future candidates think that with a little redistricting help they can be strong enough to win before this decade is over.
The 3rd Congressional District, in northern New Mexico, is much the opposite. It is almost impossible for a Republican to win. Incumbent Rep. Ben Ray Lujan took 57 percent of the vote last year despite a national Republican landslide.
But the GOP is trying again with an impressive candidate who should run a good race. Rick Newton, an international businessman, with roots in Taos and Albuquerque, will run a campaign based out of Taos.
According to his campaign brochure, Newton has been involved in high-profile, deep water recovery projects using special equipment he invented. Working for Booz, Allen & Hamilton, he prepared Soviet nuclear threat assessment and managed a nuclear weapons effects team.
Although he has worked out of Albuquerque most of the last 14 years, he has kept close to the Taos community and says he has planned to end up there ever since beginning his career in New Mexico in 1969.