Friday, October 31, 2008

Tomorrow's Post: Jose Z. Garcia Comments on the Meaning of these Elections to the South Valley

On Sunday, November 2, Jose Z. Garcia will comment about the meaning of the 2008 elections to the South Valley. Will he endorse candidates? Will he talk about the Guv? Will he talk about the campaign? Log in on Sunday, or subscribe to the email version, and find out!

Teague, Denish, in Anthony on Saturday

U.S. Congressional candidate Harry Teague will speak at the Anthony Water and Sanitation District, 155 North fourth St., in Anthony on Saturday, November 1, at 9:00 a.m.. He will be accompanied by Lt. Governor Diane Denish.

Denish and Teague have known each other since childhood, and went to schools together. There has been some speculation that, should Barack Obama become President, and should Governor Richardson be offered a job in Washington, Diane Denish would automatically become the Governor of New Mexico. This would probably materialize by mid-January, 2009.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Judge Wingenroth Unclear About Metro Court

In a forum in Anthony last night, Judge Kent Wingenroth was unable to answer the question, "what is a Metro court?" except to say that it represented a "metrolizing" of the county. Perhaps because he is unclear about what a Metro court is, he was also unable to answer a direct question as to whether he is in favor of a Metro court for Dona Ana county or not. At one point he said he was an "advocate" of the magistrate court system, but at another point he suggested a Metro court would be "OK."

A Metro court, according to New Mexico statutes, is an option counties may choose when they reach a population of 200,000. This entails merging county and municipal courts into one court system and under existing statutes this would also require that judges in Metro court be attorneys and that the court become a court of record. The only county with a Metro court in New Mexico is Bernalillo county, which has had a Metro court for nearly 30 years. It is anticipated that in the 2010 census Dona Ana county will record a population surpassing 200,000. The League of Women Voters has been quietly advocating for a Metro Court for some time.

Subscription Feature Added

Beginning today readers can subscribe to La Politica and have updates emailed directly to the email address of their choice. This should make it more efficient for you to read posts as they come out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Goddard Won't Name Names in Anthony

Rep. Joseph Cervantes asked Sid Goddard last night to name names after Goddard, a candidate for County Clerk, asserted that he had proof that two county commissioners had voted twice "a few years ago." "Voting twice is a fourth degree felony," said Cervantes, suggesting that it would be entirely appropriate for him to name the persons who had voted twice. Goddard refused to do so, asserting that the commissioners in question had voted twice before he (Goddard) had become county chairman of the Republican Party and that the statute of limitations had expired. Cervantes, who headed the House Judiciary Committee until two years ago, indicated that he had held hearings about voter irregularities precisely because there were persistent rumors about voter fraud, but very little evidence to confirm it. In spite of repeated requests for those with specific information to step forward there were none. This encounter took place last night at the candidates' forum at the Women's Intercultural Center in Anthony.

Earlier, Goddard and Ellins responded to questions from a moderator about their qualifications to be county clerk. Goddard stressed his experience in the merchant marines and as a manager at a Toyota plant, while Ellins stressed his legal background and his experience in the last two years as director of the Bureau of Elections in Dona Ana County.

Jim Schoonover, the incumbent county treasurer running for re-election, was absent from the debate, as was George Murphy, running for Magistrate Judge. David Gutierrez was present and defended his terms in office as treasurer. Judge Kent Wingenroth stressed his willingness to work with the public, especially with young people.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Teague, Tinsley Mano a Mano in Mesquite: Sparks Fly

Harry Teague and Ed Tinsley went mano a mano against each other at the Firehouse in Mesquite on Tuesday evening, with a couple of tense moments as members of the audience argued with one another over a comment from a woman in the audience about "No Child Left Behind" directed at Harry Teague.

The fireworks at the firehouse started near the end of the debate when a woman in the audience propped her child ( maybe 7 or 8 years old) up on a chair and attacked Teague for asserting, moments before, that the No Child Left Behind Act was a failure. "If it weren't for No Child Left Behind my child, who has special needs, would never have gotten the care he needs," (or words to that effect) she shouted. At that point members of the audience, joined by Arturo Uribe (whose organizations sponsored the event) asked if she had a question to ask. She then turned on him, angrily, and, pointing to the McCain T-Shirt she had on, said that just because she was wearing "this t-shirt" didn't mean she should not be allowed to speak. Some members of the audience kept asking if she had a question and for a moment lines were clearly drawn as Teague and Tinsley supporters waited to see what would happen next.

At that point Teague stood up and asked members of the audience for a show of hands about the success of the No Child Left Behind Act, and about ten arms went up. The next speaker, a resident of Mesquite, gesturing at the woman with the child, asserted that he had taken care of a special needs person for 18 years without any help from the No Child Left Behind Act.

Moments earlier sparks flew when Teague, criticized by Tinsley for some of his attacks on the Republican candidate, shot back that he, Tinsley, had attacked him insinuating that his lack of formal education disqualified him from being a Congressman.

For most of the debate the discourse was civil as candidates fielded questions about gun control, immigration policy, environmental policy, health care, taxation policy, and other issues. Teague defended his position on gun control, the subject of a negative ad against him, by saying he had spoken sarcastically years ago when he said he was "not a gun fan," adding on that occasion that he "only" owned 7 or 8 guns. On the subject of immigration, Tinsley reiterated his position that he was against granting citizenship for unauthorized workers, but was in favor of permits to legalize the temporary entry of workers in certain areas such as farm work. Teague, on the other hand, reiterated his position that workers who come to the U.S. should have access to citizenship provided they pay fines they might owe for violating migration law and comply with regulations for attaining citizenship.

Both candidates admitted they knew little about the environmental issues surrounding the chemical plant in Mesquite or the land-fill situation in Sunland Park. Both of these issues have caused widespread concern in the South Valley. Teague said his philosophy in dealing with environmental problems was to bring "all of the parties" to the table to work toward a common solution; Tinsley vowed to learn about the problems and to offer "transparency" in solving them.

Both candidates had their share of vocal advocates at the debate, waving placards in the air and applauding strategically. It was clear that Teague supporters outnumbered Tinsley supporters, perhaps not surprising, given the relative strength of Democrats in the South Valley.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Teague, Tinsley, debate at forum in Mesquite tomorrow evening

Reminder: The final debate between Congressional candidates Harry Teague and Ed Tinsley will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, October 28, at 6 p.m. sharp at the Firehouse in Mesquite (No. 1 Firehouse Road). The debate is sponsored by the Mesquite Community Action Committee and Southern New Mexico PACE, and will be moderated by yours truly, Jose Z. Garcia. The schedule for the candidates is tight, so you should try to get there at least a few minutes before 6 p.m. so we can start on time.

The format will be as follows: I will ask questions of the candidates, who will be given two minutes to answer, and then two minutes will be given to the other candidate to reply and then one minute for rebuttal. After four rounds of questioning the audience will have an opportunity to ask questions.

This is the first opportunity since the primary for voters in the South Valley to see both candidates at once. One of them will represent your interests in Washington D.C. beginning in January.

For more information call 575 233 3084

Is Your Vote in New Mexico Still Important?

Yesterday afternoon, preparing for a TV appearance about the elections in New Mexico last night on KVIA (7) El Paso, I figured I'd better understand the math behind the recent appearances in New Mexico of Joe Biden, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain. So I went to the David Leip electoral college map at: and and
All were showing the most likely scenario on election day to be 306 electoral votes for Obama, with Ohio almost too close to call. We always knew Ohio would be a battlground state and both sides would fight tooth and nail for it. And no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio. So let's take Ohio's 20 electoral votes off the table for a moment and assume the Rs will win it in the end. This leaves the map with 286 electoral votes for Obama, exactly 16 more than needed to win. This, in fact, has been perhaps the most steady electoral map of the past three weeks. Now: how can McCain pick off 16 electoral votes?

The most likely target to start off with is Virginia, 13 electoral votes, which has not voted for a Democrat since 1964, but which has been trending toward Obama in recent weeks. YET: in the past 5 days new polling shows Obama's lead narrowing down to below the margin of error in Virginia. So it may seem doable to the Republicans. Expect some action in the last week in Virginia.

So let's assume McCain spends time, money, and energy in Virginia and is able to win it. Now: where do you find 3 more electoral votes? A jim dandy might be New Mexico! 5 electoral votes! Voted for Bush in 2004! Lost to Gore by 366 votes in 2000! But New Mexico is trending to Obama, to the tune of 5-7 points. Yes, but the last public polls available were two weeks ago: where is NM today in this shifting arena? My guess? Both camps polled and found the lead in NM has narrowed to within the margin of error. If the Leip-RealClear-Pollster maps are correct, and Virginia can be brought in, New Mexico could make the difference between winning and losing the whole ball game!

Does this math help explain the sudden onrush of top candidates to New Mexico?

Yes, it does. But that is not the end of the story. In order for this scenario to develop, McCain needs to win in Nevada (nudging toward Obama with a 3 point lead), North Dakota (normally Republican, but nudging toward Obama), Missouri (often Republican but Obama has a 2 point lead), Florida (not yet in the bag for McCain) and Indiana (too close to call). Now we are talking about a lot of "ifs" strung together, but these states are normally with the Republicans: IF McCain can take all of these (and don't forget Ohio, which we conceded too readily to McCain a couple of paragraphs ago!) New Mexico is in play.

Bottom line: because of all these problems McCain is having in normally Republican states, Obama is highly likely to win the election, most likely with far more than 306 electoral votes. But because shifts in voter preferences in most states are not likely to be dramatic between one election and another, the most conservative scenario for both the Obama and McCain camps would have these states trending back to the more normal R column. Thus, in both camps, look to Virginia and New Mexico and send the troops down there with ten days to go.

Valle del Sur: Su Voto Importa! Salganse a votar! This may be, statistically, the most important vote you will ever cast!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

How many were in the Crowd?

According to yours truly (see below) there were between 700 and 800 people at the Sunland Park rally where Hillary Clinton spoke for Obama. Rene Romo of the Albuquerque Journal, and Darren Meritz writing for the Las Cruces Sun News, each estimated the same crowd at 2600 people. Meanwhile, Michael Coleman and Colleen Heild of the Albuquerque Journal, estimated the crowd in Mesilla at "about" 3000," while Ashley Meeks of the Sun News refrained from an estimate, simply referring to it as a crowd of "thousands." Finally, the Albuquerque rally was estimated by the Albuquerque Journal at "1000-1500 people."

What gives? Why the discrepancies? How are crowds estimated, anyway?

First, estimating crowds is not easy, unless you have an overhead photograph and have the time to split it into grids, counting bodies in each grid. Most of the time this ain't gonna happen. Second, is a strong tendency for people to exaggerate the number of people in a crowd. For example, I asked a political figure who was at the Mesilla rally for his estimate of the crowd a full hour before Clinton's appearance, and he said there were "at least 3500 people there." At that moment my own count was more like 400-500, with people still trickling in. Third, a ground level you only have an oblique angle with which to estimate the size of the real estate you are trying to cover. This can make it difficult to estimate the density of the crowd over the entire spread of bodies you are trying to count up. What you are trying to do here is to count up, say to 100 people and put an imaginary boundary around these and then try to fill in the rest of the crowd with multiples of this imaginary space.

There are other techniques to estimate a crowd, but these have problems too. You can go by the number of tickets distributed or collected. Problem is, this often puts you at the mercy of those distributing or collecting tickets, and most of the time they have a vested interest in exaggerating the size of the crowd.

This latter approach is what seems to have accounted for the Journal estimates of the crowds in Albuquerque and Mesilla. They apparently asked Republican Party officials how many tickets had been distributed, and found out they distributed about 3000 tickets for the Albuquerque rally and the Mesilla rally and then did rough calculations based on their eyeballing each crowd. The coincidence of the number 2600 in the case of the Sunland Park estimates suggests they both came from a single source rather than an independent eyeballing estimate. It is extremely unlikely that they each calculated that exact amount independently. They might, for example, have asked Luis Avila, field coordinator for Obama in the South Valley, how many people he had prepared for, or asked someone else, say, a secret service agent, for an estimate, and then used that.

I remember a gubernatorial campaign rally I attended in Chihuahua in the mid-1990s. I was with a large contingent of news media people and was offered a ride on the media bus supplied by the PRI, the ruling party of Mexico at that time, struggling to win this governor's election, which was drawing national attention. With a nice vantage point on the speaker's podium, I estimated the crowd at between 5000 and 7000, and, to check out my own possible inadequacies as a crowd-counter, I asked some of the reporters for their take on the crowd size. Most agreed with me, some elevated my estimate up to about 10,000. The PRI media spokesperson heard us talking about this and insisted there were 17,000 people at the rally. She had been told by superiors this was the magic number. Most of the reporters duly wrote down that figure, except for me and another guy, and since I wasn't actually writing about the rally, I didn't think any more about it. It was over 100 degrees on that July afternoon in Chihuahua, and we were happy to drive back to PRI headquarters in the PRI air conditioned bus. The media spokesperson had a nice cold soft drink she handed to each of the reporters getting on the bus, until she got to her holdout reporter, who had told her he would report a crowd size of 10,000. "No coke for you until you give me 15,000," she said jokingly. The next day all but one news source reported a crowd of 17,000. Her candidate still lost the election.

Bottom line: estimating crowds is difficult and there is a strong human tendency to exaggerate the size of a crowd. You should be very skeptical about any estimate of a crowd's size unless you know that the methodology used to calculate was pretty exact. As for me, I will stick to my eyeball estimate of 700-800 persons being in attendance at the Sunland Park rally.

McCain Campaigns in Albuquerque, Mesilla

Presidential candidate John McCain campaigned at the Albuquerque state fair grounds on Saturday morning before heading to Las Cruces, where he campaigned at a rally in Mesilla Plaza in the afternoon. According to the Albuquerque Journal McCain "sounded a national security theme" while in Albuquerque, and emphasized his understanding of Western states in Mesilla, where he was introduced by outgoing popular Senator Pete Domenici. In an interview to Jeff Jones of the Albuquerque Journal McCain acknowledged Obama's lead in the polls, but said, "pundits have written us off four or five times in the past and we've always come back." He also sounded a negative note about Obama's strong lead over McCain in fund-raising. "History shows us that, when there's virtually explosions of money in political campaigns, sooner or later, there's a scandal."

Ashley Meeks, writing in the Las Cruces Sun News, quotes McCain in Mesilla: "I know land. I know water. I know Native American issues. I know public lands. I know how we have to support our labs...I know how Western states are growing." He went on to say, according to Meeks, that he had "just learned from a newspaper today that Senator Obama's inaugural address is already written." Harking back to the famous Chicago Tribune headline incorrectly declaring Thomas Dewey the victor the day after the 1948 presidential election won by Harry Truman, Meeks quotes him as saying, "I want him to save that mansuscript and donate it to the Smithsonian...There's ten days left in this election."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Will There be a High Turnout in the Valley?

Many observers have noted that the South Valley has not been as politically active as usual this campaign season. Clearly, one of the reasons is that none of the local elected officials on the ballot this year has opposition. This includes Dolores Caviness Saldana, county commissioner; Mary Helen Garcia, state representative; Joseph Cervantes, state representative; Cynthia Nava, state senator; and Mary Kay Papen, state senator. Normally they would be busy putting up signs, and asking their supporters to vote. Another reason is that there has been no coordinated campaign effort between Democrats (the dominant party in the South Valley) and candidates at the top of the ticket. The Udall, Teague, and Obama campaigns at least up to now have been stand-alone operations. And finally, the Obama campaign, apparently at the national level, had an inflexible policy toward yard signs during most of the campaign, such that persons were expected to pay for yard signs. In the South Valley, where per capita incomes in some communities are one third the national, people gather their cues about whom to vote for by looking at the volume and location of signs. But they do not expect to pay for the signs.

Net result has been a relatively inactive campaign season, or at least one that has seemed so on the surface (there may have been more going on behind the scenes with phone calls, canvassing, etc.) This could be especially important in the Teague-Tinsley race, which is apparently very close. A high turnout in the South Valley would probably help Teague out the most, since most citizens are Democrats. But it could also make a difference in the total margin of victory of Obama in New Mexico. Apparently the McCain people thought it was important enough to warrant a visit by McCain himself to Mesilla.

HIllary Clinton Speaks for Obama in Sunland Park

It was a warm, cloudless Saturday afternoon and, just as pleasant, the price of gas was $2.67.9 at some stations. Thus, the mood of the crowd at Elena Memorial Park in Sunland Park, which I estimate at 600-700, was mellow but enthusiastic as it received Hillary Clinton, campaigning for Obama on a regional stop which included Canutillo, Texas, and El Paso.

Cautiously optimistic, "but not yet confident," Clinton exhorted the crowd to work for Obama during the last 10 days of the campaign. She stressed that Obama would lower taxes on working families, "rather than extend tax cuts to the rich," and provided a litany of reasons the vast majority of voters should choose Obama over McCain, including a stronger concern for education, jobs, health care, and a stronger foreign policy. "Fool me once, and it's your fault; fool me twice, and it's my fault," she said, arguing that McCain would represent a continuation of the the major policies of the Bush administration. Urging her supporters to join Obama she said, "Senator Obama and I may have started out this campaign on different paths, but today we are on exactly the same journey..."

This was the most effective speech given to date in the South Valley on behalf of Obama. Whether it will be enough to raise the turnout in the South Valley above the level of four years ago remains to be seen.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Local Candidates Forum in Anthony Announced: County Clerk, Treasurer, and Magistrate Judge

On Wednesday, October 29, at 6 p.m. there will be a local candidate's forum at the Women's Intercultural Center in Anthony, New Mexico. Yours truly, Jose Z. Garcia, will moderate a question and answer period for candidates for County Clerk, Magistrate Judge, and County Treasurer. The forum is sponsored by Moving Anthony Forward, the Montana Vista Coalition, and Southern New Mexico PACE.

Candidates who have been invited include: Kent Wingenroth and George P. Murphy, Democrat and Republican, respectively, candidates for magistrate judge; Lynn Ellins and Sid Goddard, candidates for County Clerk; and David Gutierrez and Jim Schoonover, candidates for County Treasurer. Aside from the Presidential, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House races, these are the only local races affecting the South Valley in which there is opposition. That is, there was no Republican opposition to the candidacy of Sen. Cynthia Nava, State Representative Joseph Cervantes, or County Commissioner Dolores Saldana-Caviness. Likewise, no Democrat opposed Susana Martinez for District Attorney.

Valley Lifestyle: In Mesquite they Vote in Limousines

If you see limousines driving around the South Valley for the next 11 days, the odds are it is either another presidential surrogate or candidate coming to woo the voters, or else the Mesquite Community Action Committee in action: the Voters in Progress (VIP) program.

It is becoming a tradition in Mesquite for some voters to ride to the polls in limousines provided by the Mesquite Community Action Committee (MCAC). This year, as in 2004 and 2006, MCAC will offer any registered voter from San Miguel to Anthony a free ride to Anthony to vote early and on election day to the regular polls for those who have not yet voted. Just call Martie Olivas at 575 642 2107 or Arturo Uribe at 575 233 3084 to make arrangements.

Why Limousines? Is this a trend or fad, like Croc shoes or shaved heads or pierced eyebrows?

Not really, says Arturo Uribe, executive director of the MCAC. "Its cheaper and much easier to get people into a 10 passenger limo than a 10 passenger van. You've got to pay extra for weekend rates with the van. A limo is by the hour."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hillary Clinton Venue Confirmed for Sunland

Senator Hillary Clinton is scheduled to speak in Sunland Park at a rally beginning at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, at Elena Memorial Plaza, at 101 Meadow Vista. The rally is open to the public and tickets are not required. The gates will open at 1 p.m.

Comments Section Enabled: Feel Free to Comment

I stopped being a teenager a considerable amount of time ago, and, yes, I am somewhat less than lightning fast about the technical side of the blog world. So please be patient with me as I learn some of the considerable options I have for improving this blog. I have enabled the comment section, so please feel free to comment on my entries.

McCain, Hillary Clinton, to Campaign in South Valley?

John McCain will campaign in Mesilla at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, and is rumored to be adding a stop in Mesquite. If so, it would be the first time this election a presidential candidate has campaigned in the South Valley. We will update this announcement shortly.

Hillary Clinton, a surrogate for presidential candidate Barack Obama, will be in El Paso on Saturday and will attend a fund-raiser for U.S. Congressman Silvestre Reyes at the El Paso Country Club. She is also scheduled to be in Canutillo, Texas, for an event at Salones La Mision Party Hall, 700 Anthony Street. At some point, she is scheduled to appear in Sunland Park, New Mexico, but the time and place have not been announced by the Obama campaign. We will update as information is released.

Teague, Tinsley to Appear at Forum in Mesquite

Next Tuesday, October 28, at 6 p.m., Harry Teague and Ed Tinsley, candidates for the U.S. Congressional seat currently occupied by Steve Pearce, will face each other in a forum at the Firehouse in Mesquite (No. 1 Firehouse Rd). The forum is sponsored by the Mesquite Community Action Committee and Southern New Mexico PACE. It will be moderated by yours truly, Jose Z. Garcia, in a format in which the moderator will begin by asking questions of each candidate, to be followed by questions from the audience. This will be the first and probably only opportunity voters will have to be able to see both candidates in a single setting. Last spring the three Democratic candidates for Congress appeared at a forum in Anthony, New Mexico. According to recent polls (see and navigate to the Congressional section of the site) the race between the two is very close.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ethics Reform: The Time is Now

In the past week three widely reported stories have reminded us of how far we still have to go to reverse the "pay to play" mentality in New Mexico that was so vividly recounted in the trials and conviction of former State Treasurers Michael Montoya and Robert Vigil. The first case this week was about former State Senator Manny Aragon, who pleaded guilty in federal court to various charges in connection with a scheme to defraud taxpayers of over $4 million dollars through phony vouchers in the building of the lavish Metro Court in Albuquerque a few years ago.

The second story was the hiring of Brian Schmidley, the son of UNM president David Schmidley. It had all of the markings of a typical case of nepotism, New Mexico style: a son whose qualifications were easily questioned in comparison with those who competed against him; a skirting of the nepotism laws through hair-splitting legalistic-sounding distinctions; and an effort to justify the hiring after getting caught. It seems doubtful to me Mr. Schmidley will actually take the job under these conditions, since his appearance would serve as a constant reminder of some of the darker tendencies at UNM in the past few years.

The third story, breaking just this morning, is about $1.4 million in taxpayer money going to a firm that paid $85,000 to PACs that would help Richardson promote his national agenda. The payments, according to the Albuquerque Journal, were made suspiciously close to the New Mexico Finance Authority's decision to grant CDR (the firm making the donations to the PACs)an agreement to help with bond issues related to the GRIP program. No contracts were signed and the agreement was rushed through by the NM Finance Authority, which is controlled largely by cabinet secretaries and other officials appointed by the Governor or highly subject to the Governor's influence.

These are not the only recent cases of questionable use of taxpayer funds. Just last year county officials in Sandoval county were accused to paying over $1 million in a no-bid contract won by a person with questionable credentials for a wireless internet network that was never built. Then there was the $17,000 bilingual education party held in Las Vegas, New Mexico and the $71,000 pork barrel funding Rep. Richard Vigil got for his wife, Roberta, the head of the West Las Vegas School District's bilingual education program, without consulting with school officials about other priorities, at a moment the School District was in financial trouble. Then there were the cases of NMSU paying out $220,000 out of its budget for former NMSU Provost Bill Flores to be deputy secretary of the Department of Education, a governor's appointment normally paying less than $100,000 out of the Governor's (not NMSU's) budget. A couple of years earlier there were reports the governor had put heat on the NMSU student regent to vote to hire Flores as President of NMSU. She refused to play ball and he wasn't hired. Then there was the case of State Land Office rushing through a sweetheart deal for Philip Philippou, a developer in Dona Ana County who had spent about $26,000 in campaign contributions to Lyons, for providing the county with a master plan for a 4200-acre parcel of land. Then there was the case of NMSU President Michael Martin receiving an anonymous gift of about $7000 per month, laundered through the NMSU Foundation toward the purchase of an expensive house, despite the fact that NMSU has a nicely appointed house that is rent-free for the NMSU president. Then there was the Housing Authority scandal, which began in 2006 and is still not over. Here the Speaker of the House was accused of protecting his friend, Smiley Gallegos, a low-income housing patron, who, among other things provided a Metro Court Judge in Albuquerque a rent-free house intended for low income families, stuck taxpayers with the bill from failed questionable ventures, and, somehow, escaped accountability. That scandal precipitated an unsuccessful challenge to the Speaker from Majority Leader Ken Martinez. These are only some of the corruption scandals of the past two years.

While not all of these actions may have been illegal, some of them clearly were, and they certainly do not reflect the kind of judgment New Mexicans have a right to expect from government officials. Instead, they reflect an anything-goes attitude that, largely unpunished, has grown worse and worse in recent years. The state senate, in particular, has failed to pass an ethics reform bill and, just this morning, the Albuquerque Journal reported Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez and Senate Minority Leader Stewart Ingle both are refusing to acknowledge the need for reform.

Fortunately, the South Valley has elected legislators who have not automatically caved in on ethics reform. Rep. Joseph Cervantes was punished by Speaker Lujan when he backed Ken Martinez' bid to become Speaker, largely in response to the feeling it was time for a change in attitude toward ethics. Sen. Mary Kay Papen, as Chair of the Oversight Committee of the Senate Finance Authority, will be in a position to ask pointed questions about the GRIP scandal that broke this morning. She is not known for caving in to political pressure from above, nor is Rep. Mary Helen Garcia.

Bottom line: it is time for a serious approach to what appears to be a crime wave in high places. Citizens should keep informed and demand serious reform.

Nepotism at UNM?

The Albuquerque Journal reported this week that UNM has hired Brian Schmidley, the son of UNM President David Schmidley, to be "associate director of sustainability," a position worth $94,000 per year, passing over a number of highly qualified applicants. Schmidley has served as marketing director at Centex Homes for the past year and a half.

The job of "associate director of sustainability" apparenly is to plan for UNM to reduce greenhouse emissions.

The appointment has been criticized not only for nepotism, but also as part of a pattern of cronyism at UNM. Schmidley himself has been criticized for his lack of experience in the reduction of greenhouse emissions. Moreover, UNM faculty members have complained for many years they are underpaid in comparison with similar universities, making it difficult to retain top faculty.

FBI and US Attorney's Office Investigate GRIP Dealings

The Albuquerque Journal this morning, in a story written by Mike Gallagher and Colleen Heild, reported the FBI and US Attorney's office in Albuquerque are investigating how a financial services firm from Beverly Hills known as CDR got hired for $1.4 million to work on a $1.6 billion bond issue for the Rail Runner commuter train (Belen-Santa Fe) and other highway projects.

According to the Journal, David Rubin, owner of CDR, made $85,000 in campaign contributions to political action committees "close to Gov. Bill Richardson." Rubin made one contribution of $10,000 to the Democratic Governor's Association (Richardson was about to become chair of this organization) four days after CDR was hired as a special adviser on the bond deal, and another contribution of $75,000 to Richardson's Si Se Puede!Boston2004 Political Action Committee (funds were used to pay for Richardson's attendance at the Democratic National Convention in 2004) just before the Finance Authority Staff recommended CDR should get a no-bid deal to manage an escrow account. The Journal reports there do not appear to be any contracts issued for the work of CDR.

The New Mexico Finance Authority, which is composed mainly of cabinet secretaries and other gubernatorial appointees, authorized the work done by CDR, apparently on the basis of a memorandum written by a CDR official to the NM Finance Authority.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Biden, Governor Bill in the South Valley

Hoping to energize the base, Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden was in Mesilla this afternoon. Governor Richardson came into town this afternoon as well, and will campaign through tomorrow in the region for Obama and local Democratic candidates. He will appear in Sunland Park tomorrow With just two weeks to go, and with early voting in full swing, Dona Ana County is now a target for the Obama campaign, which hopes to improve on the 2200 vote majority it gave John Kerry four years ago. Many have reported an apparent lack of enthusiasm in the county for the elections, and these visits, and perhaps more in the future, are designed to improve the turnout in the county in favor of Obama, who remains ahead of McCain in recent polls of the state.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Other South Valley: Aragon Pleads Guilty

In the other South Valley: Former state senator Manny Aragon pleaded guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, of taking over $600,000 in public money in a corruption scandal associated with the building of the Metro Court in Albuquerque a few years ago. According to an Associate Press story this morning, the plea agreement will put Aragon behind bars for five and a half years. Several other persons had already pleaded guilty of charges stemming from the same case. Aragon, 61, a powerhouse in the South Valley of Albuquerque, was elected President Pro Tem of the New Mexico Senate and served in that capacity twice, for several years, before becoming President of Highlands University.

The South Valley With Two Weekends to Go

Many people I know have commented on the lack of enthusiasm in the South Valley this election. You see very few signs. Political events are not well attended. There appears to be little discussion about the election or its stakes for the Valley.

With just two weekends to go, we will see if any of the campaigns can generate enthusiasm down here. Will Joe Biden's appearance of Friday in Mesilla light up the campaign? Will Governor Bill Richardson's appearances ignite a groundswell of support? Most important, will the turnout rate for the election be high?

Would anybody like to comment on why it appears there isn't much interest in the elections here this year?

Obama Takes Commanding Lead

The map below tells it all. In the past two weeks Obama has surged (remember that word? It used to be a Republican word just weeks ago!) into the lead, right behind the largest calamity to befall the American economy in eight decades.

One way of predicting the outcome of a presidential election is to take the following formula: EB = NAR + (5*GDP)-25. That is, you can predict the winner (EB, electoral barometer) by taking the net National Approval Rating of the President (NAR) and add to it five times the growth rate of the economy (5*GDP) in the second quarter, and, if the party in power has occupied the White House 8 years or more, you subtract 25. The Gallup poll shows President Bush in early October to have a 25% approval rating, one of the lowest ever recorded for a president. The net, then, is -50 (75% disapprove). The economy in the second quarter grew at 3.3%, so five times this is 16.5. So up to here we are -50 + 16.5= -33.5. Subtract 25 from this, since Bush has been president 8 years and you get a whopping -58.5. This is the worst showing for an incumbent in more than half a century.

alt="Go to" width="150" height="211" / />

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Victor Montoya Comments on Crime in the Valle de Sur

This past weekend a 31-year ol man was killed in La Mesa. The suspected murderer was 18 years old, a local man. About a month ago gang members staged three drive-by shootings in one night in Anthony. All were in their late teens or early twenties. Crime is very much with us in the valley and is a major concern for most citizens.

Last year we rallied against it. The first meeting, set up by Commissioner Saldana, had to turn away many people who wanted to attend, for lack of space. The next meeting was at St. Anthony Hall, with about 200 people. As time went on, however, after many meetings, politicians began to blame politicians, the shefiff blamed the judges, and the finger pointing got so bad the enthusiasm about the issue faded.

Sheriff deputies argue there are no strong juvenile laws in New Mexico. when juveniles commit crimes they must meet a point system before an officer will arrest them. The officer must call a juvenile probation officer outside the county (usually in Albuquerque) to see if the suspect meets the point system. If not, they are released to parental custody. Gangs from outside the area know about these lenient laws, so they begin recruiting members here, as early as the third grade.

Another problem is the problem of curfews. Given the high crime in Anthony, many have called for a curfew to be enacted and enforced. However, the New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled these curfews violate young peoples' rights. Can something be done about this?

A year ago we asked for tougher laws for graffiti after a youth was shot in the face for defacing another gang's graffiti. We pushed for parents to be held responsible for their children's actions and for strengthening juvenile and graffiti laws. As of today there has been nothing done about it.

It is time to set the bickering and stonewalling aside. We ask law enforcement officials, politicians, and government officials to help us acquire the tools we need to stem the tide of this deadly violence. Let us work together to send the young people of the valley to college and not to prison. Let's work to find solutions, and stop finger pointing

PBS Program to Include Obama Campaign in the South Valley

On Friday, October 3, KCOS TV and KRWG TV will air a program about the Western Battleground states in this election cycle. Part of the program was filmed in the South Valley of Dona Ana County, with interviews with local community leaders and information about the Obaba-McCain race as it was playing out here a couple of weeks ago. On KCOS the program will air at 7:30 pm and on KRWG at 8:00 pm.