Friday, July 24, 2009

Census Data Shows Hispanic, Black Voter Turnout Increased in 2008

The U.S. Census Department released a set of tables today showing voter registration and voter turnout rates in 2008. What the figures show is that Hispanic citizens increased voter turnout by 2 million voters, and Black citizens increased voter turnout by 2 million voters, in comparison with 2006, while voter turnout for non-Hispanic white voters remained the same. In spite of these gains Hispanics and Asians have a long way to go to catch up to black and other non-Hispanic citizen groups.

For the population as a whole, the Census Department reports that out of the total citizen population over 18, nearly two out of three (63.6%) voted.

Among non-Hispanic white citizens over 18, fully 66.1% voted.

Among Hispanic citizens over 18, only 49.9% voted.

Among Black citizens over 18, fully 64.7% voted.

Among Asian citizens over 18, only 47.6% voted.

Out of these groups--Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and Asians--clearly the Asians are participating the least, followed by Hispanics. If Hispanic citizens had voted in 2008 at the same rate as the national average (63.6%) they would have added 2.5 million more votes to the total of 131.1 million votes, about 2 percent, clearly enough to influence a close national election.

If we take as our starting point those citizens who have actually registered to vote (not just those eligible to register by age), and ask what proportion of these actually voted, the results are as follows:

For the nation as a whole, 89.6% of registered voters actually voted in 2008

Among non-Hispanic whites, 90% of registered voters actually voted in 2008.

Among Hispanics, 84% of registered voters actually voted in 2008

Among Blacks, fully 93% of registered voters actually voted.

Among Asians, 86% of registered voters actually voted.

If Hispanics already registered to vote had voted at the same rate as the rest of the country (89.6%), this would have added 650,000 more votes to the national totals. Clearly, voter registration is where the major problem lies in accounting for the deficit in voting among Hispanics.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Beat:

More than 180 persons have been killed by gunfire so far in Juárez in July. Here are the latest.

Three men were assassinated yesterday afternoon in different sections of the city. At about 5 p.m. 4 armed men arrived in a recent-model pickup at a brick residence. One man rang the doorbell, and when Agustín Carrillo, 55, opened the door, he was shot four times. The gunman got back into the pickup, which sped off. At about 8 p.m. witnesses near Coyoacan and Brasil heard gunfire and arrived to find Alfredo Flores, 37, dead on the street. Half an hour later Héctor Baca álvarez, 23, was shot dead in a parking lot as he and his wife were going to the movies at the shopping center at Juárez Porvenir and Fco. Villarreal. The assassins were driving a green Nissan Sentra.

Carlos Esparza Gómez, 38, an escort for the owner of Casa Hernández (a wood and wood products company) was found dead at 6 this morning in his pickup a pistol nearby. Night watchmen said that he had arrived at the company late last night, highly upset, and asked for a pistol because his life was in danger. This morning the watchmen were surprised to see the pickup still parked there and when they looked, they saw him slumped at the steering wheel with blood oozing out of his neck. Possible suicide.

Also this morning a man was shot dead at the corner of Tercera and Jordania, in Col Ampliacion Aeropuerto.

This afternoon 5 persons were shot inside a residence between Barcelona and España. Only one person, a woman, survived the attack. She is in serious condition.

Compiled from today's Diario.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tourist Maps of Homicides, Anyone?

Diario has an excellent story by Sandra Rodríguez Nieto yesterday, about a new trend in Juarez: homicide tourism.

"It is the morbid that brings them here," said a police agent, as he was assisting in the removal of the dead body of Juan Lorenzo Gutiérrez, 30, killed by gunmen when he came out of his home to answer a doorbell at 11:30 a.m. Police are used to seeing curious onlookers at crime scenes.

Each time there is a homicide, day or night, dozens of people gather at the scene, sometimes for hours, gawking and exchanging information about the incident. "For many," Rodriguez says, "including dozens of children, this is a new form of entertainment."

Irma, 25 years old, came from Torreon on vacation to Juarez, and, yesterday, on the streets of Col. Salvárcar, she came across a crime scene for the first time in her life. She stayed for half an hour under the hot sun. She wanted to see the body. "I've never seen a murdered person," she said. Irma's mother, Delia, said "we were on the way to do an errand, but we saw the ambulance and came here, to see what happened."

From Rodriguez's report: Among the curious surrounding the crime scene were family members of the victim. They embraced each other and cried. Among them was the grandmother of the victim. "I always say don't come because here there's nothing but kill and kill. Yesterday they killed another two in Zaragoza, " she said, into her cell phone. In the heat of the sun another woman of advanced age with an umbrella suddenly said, "I'll see this on the two o'clock news," and left.

Elva Estrada, a housewife of 40, said she felt an old wound when she saw the police cordon and the crowd. Last year, she said, in different incidents, three of her brothers were murdered. "I thought it might be someone else in my family. I have a nephew who is good friends with the man they just killed here."

The Beat Goes On

Diario reports that yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) a man in a Ford Ranger pickup was executed by men following him in their own vehicle. They shot various times and, when the pickup stopped, they shot him in the head. Another man was killed at 5:30 in Col. Francisco Villa, just outside a bakery store, as he was driving in a van and was shot multiple times. He died on the way to the hospital.

This afternoon (Wednesday) a man about 30 years old was killed as he was eating in Denny's, on Paseo de la Victoria, near the U.S. Consulate. The killing was apparently captured by video.

Los Linces and Linces Boyz

General Raúl David Guillén Altuza, chief of staff of the 5th Military Zone headquartered in Chihuahua, yesterday confirmed the existence of "Los Linces," a relatively new group of assassins working for La Linea, a component part of the Juárez cartel. Ricardo Espinoza, writing for Norte, reports this morning that the general indicated some of the members of Los Linces are ex-military, but not all of them.

Little is known about Los Linces other than that. Francisco Gomez, writing in Mexico City's El Universal on July 20, asserts that the group is composed of "no more than 80 men. They were recruited in various parts of the country." He asserts that the group enjoys "the protection of federal, state and municipal police," and that their only reason for being is to act as a hit squad for La Linea in Chihuahua and Cd. J
uárez. The report quotes a man who admitted to authorities he was a chauffeur for some of them. "..They operate in groups of four and five...always with chauffers." According to documents reviewed by Gomez, the assassination list attributed to them is long, and includes "state government officials, mayors, former mayors, state and municipal police, rival retail drug pushers or pushers who haven't paid their debts, members of the Sinaloa cartel, now known as Gente Nueva, thieves, or even drivers who have given them trouble in traffic." Among the victims were Pedro Aragonez, director of Forensic Services, Leonel Carrillo Marquez, comander of the Ministerial Police, Jose Torres Duran, a police agent killed in a WalMart, and the decapitation of four men. According to the Prosecutor for Investigating Organized Crime, Los Linces are also associated with the attempted assassination of Governor Jose Reyes Baeza, last February 22, when a commando attacked the convoy of vehicles carrying the governor.

Coincidence? A popular group of musicians from Tijuana, known as the Linces Boyz, specializes in singing narco-corridos. Something of an outlaw group, they apparently have not cut a CD, but they have been recorded at various venues and placed on YouTube singing such songs as "Spent Cartridge," "Black Commando," "El Muletas," ("Crutches," referring to a man who inflicted injuries crippling his victims), and "Don't Upset the Wasps." (no alboroten las avispas) They can be heard on myspace here. Life imitating art? In Cd. Juarez and Tijuana, in the past year or so this type of music has become less popular than before, perhaps because the negative side of narco-trafficking has become more real in the daily lives of just about everyone. There is another group of Norte
ño musicians known as Los Linces, in Mexico, who have been around a long time and another, also of old-timers, in Argentina. "Lince" in spanish means lynx, or wildcat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mayor Believes Some Victims are Recent Retail Traffickers

Francisco Luján writes this morning in Norte that Juarez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz, interviewed yesterday about the new wave of killings in Juarez, indicated he believes many of the victims are gang members recently recruited to sell drugs at retail prices in Juarez. Rival gangs are trying to corner the market of retail drug sales in various parts of the city, recruiting 17-24 year old men to participate. When rival gangs disputing the same territory find out, they order them killed.

The Beat Goes On: 17 Murdered in Juarez This Past Weekend, More This Week

Seventeen persons were executed in Juarez over the weekend. On Friday five men were executed at the Amsterdam Bar on Ave. de las Americas, one man in Col. Raul Garcia, another in Col. Corregidora, a woman in Praderas, two in Infonavit Fidel Velazquez, two in The Best Gym del Sur, and another in Col Villas de Salvárcar. On Saturday three men were executed, one of them during what appears to have been an armed confrontation with soldiers, and on Sunday only one dead body was found.

Then, on Monday morning at about 2:45 a.m. three more were killed as they left the Onix Bar on Triunfo de la Republica. Six 9 mm spent shells were found nearby. On Monday afternoon a man was gunned down on the street in front of his residence as he tried to flee from a group of assassings, in Col. Lucio Blanco. That same afternoon the body of a man was found on a path near the treatment plant behind Plaza Sendero. His body had apparently been deposited there several hours earlier. Later Monday afternoon, at about 7 p.m. two men were gunned down in front of a church in Col. Morelos, in front of dozens of witnesses. Both were about thirty years old. One was wearing an orange shirt an khaki pants, the other a blue striped shirt an blue denim pants. At about 9:30 in Col. Quintas del Real witnesses saw a white Nissan vehicle throw out the body of a dead man at an intersection.

This morning (Tuesday) Juan Lorenzo Gutiérrez Grajeda was gunned down in his carport in Col Salvárcar. At about the same time the body of a dead man, with signs of a violent death, was discovered wrapped up in a bedspread in a property known as "Rancho Nuevo" in Valle de Juarez. Also this morning, at about 9 a.m. the bodies of three men were found in the Acequia Madre ditch near the Bermudez Industrial Park. One of the victims had been decapitated. As of this afternoon the head had not been found.

Compiled from stories in Diario and Norte, Monday and Tuesday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Magistrate Courthouse Inaugurated

On Friday three supreme court justices--Patricio Serna, Petra Maes, and Richard Bosson--and other dignitaries participated in inauguration ceremonies for the new Dona Ana County Magistrate Courthouse. The public was invited to tour the new building, which is state-of-the art technology and architecture, with room to grow. Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson, who worked for several years trying to secure funding for the building, presented a summary of the lengthy bureaucratic, legislative, and political history of the origins and funding of building, including the delays in completion of the project. The building is located on Calle de Alegre, just East of South Main

The magnificence of the new building, which is a genuine source of pride for the community, is in stark contrast with the old magistrate facility, which was dilapidated, crowded, unsafe, and insecure, and which had a tendency to lose its air conditioning capacity during the summer time, resulting in what some people described as unpleasant odors.

Current Magistrate Judges include Oscar Frietze, Presiding Judge; Richard Silva, Olivia Nevarez Garcia, Kent Wingenroth, and Joseph Guillory. With the completion of the Las Cruces Magistrate Courthouse, there are now adequate facilities for magistrate court in Hatch, Las Cruces, and Anthony. Judge Frietze presides over the Hatch court when it is in session, and Judge Garcia splits her time between the Anthony Court and the Las Cruces Court.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Susana Martinez Announces Run For Governor

At a jam-packed gathering at political hangout Roberto's restaurant this evening, Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez announced she will run for Governor in next year's election. In her brief remarks to the crowd she stressed her background as a law enforcement official, vowing to end "pay-to-play" in New Mexico. That line drew the heaviest applause. She also stressed the need to improve education in New Mexico and not just talk about it, and emphasized the need to protect our borders with Mexico while at the same time encouraging the pursuit of business opportunities on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The crowd was visibly enthusiastic, and, ethnically, it represented a reasonably accurate cross-section of the county, which is about 65% Hispanic. Republicans in New Mexico are highly under-represented by Hispanics, who comprise 45% of the state's population. Martinez has been a popular district attorney, running without opposition in last year's election, and winning with 61% of the vote in 2004 against Democrat Greg Valdez, who was the incumbent district attorney when she beat him decisively in 1996. Democrats win routinely in Dona Ana County by large margins, and outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-1. Thus, Martinez's sustained popularity as a Hispanic Republican in a large county (population 203,000) that is strongly Democratic suggests a high potential for her as a statewide candidate.

Paso del Norte International Airport? What's in a Name?

The Sun News this morning carries an article by Steve Ramirez to the effect that the City of El Paso is thinking about changing the name El Paso International Airport to El Paso-Las Cruces International Airport. This made me wonder why they would not also want to include Cd. Juarez in the name and call it the El Paso-Juarez-Las Cruces International Airport, or, better yet, the Paso del Norte International Airport?

The logic for doing so is powerful. The El Paso International Airport had a total passenger count in 2008 of 3,302,764, making it easily the largest airport in the region. The Abraham Gonzalez International Airport in Cd. Juarez in 2008 had a total passenger count of 903,129, only 27% as many passengers as El Paso, even though Cd. Juarez has a population twice as large as Metropolitan El Paso. This suggests strongly that many Juarenses use the El Paso International airport frequently, probably more so than residents of Dona Ana County, given the population disparities (Dona Ana County only has about 203,000 population, compared to about 1.5 million in Juarez). Income differentials also account for some of the variance. With wage rates at the about eight times lower in Cd. Juarez, far fewer people there can afford to fly.

Naming it the Paso del Norte International Airport would also reflect the historical name of the region, while including Cd. Juarez and Dona Ana County, which have been part of the Paso del Norte region at least since Onate crossed over the Rio Grande/Bravo in 1598.

By point of comparison, the Albuquerque International Airport carried 6,467,263 passengers in 2008, far more than the combined totals of El Paso and Juarez which, including Dona Ana County have a population of nearly 2.5 million. The Albuquerque metropolitan area has a population of almost 1 million, if you include Santa Fe, Sandoval, Torrance, Bernalillo, and Valencia counties. Although Santa Fe is not often included in the Albuquerque metro population stats, it deserves to be there since for flying purposes, since it is the aiport used by Santa Fe. The relatively large passenger load in Albuquerque is also due to some extent to higher income levels there.

Other comparisons: Mexico City, with a population of over 20 million, has an international airport with traffic of 26.4 million passengers in 2008, about the same as Dallas-Ft. Worth (26.7 million), but short of the 43.1 million passengers in Atlanta's Hartfield-Jackson International airport, the busiest airport in the world.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Beat Goes On: Wednesday-Thursday

Diario Reports: On Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Ramon Rayon and Clifton, col. Pradera del Sur, two young men, between 20-25 years old, were driving a white 1997 Honda Accord when they were intercepted by two vehicles, a Chevrolet Trail Blazer and a Chevrolet Cheyenne pickup. The Honda was about to escape when one of the vehicles rammed into it, injuring the assassins, who nevertheless shot at the men in the Honda, killing them. The killers got into the Trail Blazer and fled the scene. The body of one of the victims was laying on the street.

About an hour later in Barrio Alto a man was shot on the street by drive-by killers who shot him to death. The victim was wearing a green polo shirt, denim pants, and white athletic shoes.

Thursday evening in col. Cuesta two young men inside a body shop were gunned down by assailants.

Hérika Martínez Prado reports in Norte today that, according to the state prosecutor's office, as of 4:00 p.m. on Thursday there have been 1051 murders in Juárez this year. Add those reported above to the list.

Rosales Case Closer to Resolution: Joint Operation Chihuahua

On Saturday April 11 and then April 14 (see below) I reported the death of Javier Eduardo Rosales Rosales, 21, covered in stories in Norte.

According to friends he was kidnapped by persons dressed in military clothing. He was found with contusions on his left and right cheeks, nose, both feet, and a scrape on the right side of his abdomen, suggesting he was tortured.

This morning Diario reports the deputy prosecutor of the state of Chihuahua, Alejandro Pariente Núñez, has turned the case over to the General Prosecutor for Military Justice (a federal entity of the Armed Forces), inasmuch as the state has found sufficient evidence to suggest that soldiers were responsible for this homicide, as well as the beating of a U.S. citizen, Sergio Fernandez, who was kidnapped, detained, tortured, and abandoned on a bare hilltop with Rosales.

Witnesses testified that a group of soldiers, driving a vehicle marked 2321370 which was assigned to a group of Red Berets, under the command of Captain Molina, kidnapped the men on the morning of Tuesday, April 7. After two days of torture the men were left abandoned on a hilltop named "El Aguila." Sergio Fernandez walked home on his own and revealed to his mother that his friend Javier died while trying to walk with him.

The Rosales family, unable to find the body after a search, on Thursday April 9 asked for help from the state prosecutor's office and the state office of the federal prosecutor (PGR). They were unable to file a complaint about the disappearance of the men or about the physical abuse. The family renewed the search on Friday morning and found it at about noon. At about 1:40 the Rosales home was surrounded by about 50 municipal, state, federal, and military officers. The state forensic service later revealed they found contusions on his left cheekbone, right cheek, and nose. In addition he had injuries to his right abdomen and both feet. "He was severely beaten," the forensic report concluded. A day later the ministry of defense agreed to collaborate in the investigation.

Rosales' mother, asked by Diario about the investigation, said, "They (the soldiers) are the law in Juárez and I never thought this would be investigated. It would just be another murder. Now I have a little more confidence in the investigators because I can see they did their job."

Many citizens of Juárez will be following this story to see what military justice will do.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Recent Violence: The Body Count Passes 1000 in Juarez

This morning (Wednesday) at about 7:45 a.m. the body of a woman, between the ages of 25-30, was found, face down, with two gunshot wounds to the right side of her head. She was wearing a blue blouse, blue denim pants, white shoes, and she was holding a cell phone. Col. Ampliacion Plutarco Elias Calles.

At about the same time in the Col. El Granjero a man about 25 years old was found dead at an intersection with at least one gunshot wound. He was wearing a red t-shirt, dark pants, brown shoes, and a red and white baseball cap.

Namiquipa: At 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning Héctor Ariel Meixueiro Muñoz, mayor of Namiquipa, a small town a little north of Chihuahua, was murdered by a group of assasins who intercepted the gray Ford Explorer he was traveling in on his way to work. An ambush was set up on a bridge about two km from town, but Mr. Meixueiro was able to elude this trap, by crossing desert terrain off the highway to a dirt road 150 yards away. After chasing him down the killers attacked a second time, and killed him. Full story reported by Luis Carlos Ortega is here.

The mayor had quit his job twice before, after threats of death and after he was the victim of an attempted murder a year ago, which resulted in the death of the municipal treasurer of Namiquipa, Ismael Rivera Chavez. After this incident the mayor fled to the United States for a while before returning home. His name was mentioned on a "narcoblanket" hung over the railroad bridge in Juarez on Monday night, along with the name of the state prosecutor, as responsible for helping to capture 25 accused kidnappers operating in the northeast part of the state.

Bloody Afternoon in Juarez: Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) at 3:17 p.m. a dead man was found in the trunk of a car abandoned in Col. Monumental. Police had been called to investigate strong odors emanating from the car, a Ford Focus with Texas license plates. The man's hands were tied behind his back and there were visible signs of torture. Then at 4:53 p.m. a man in downtown Juarez was hit by gunfire and died on his way to the General Hospital. At 5:36 an armed group of men entered an auto body shop in Col. Fronteriza Alta, and killed the owner, a 24-year old man, Gerardo Moraza Martinez. Then at 6:04 three persons in a gray Ford Explorer were executed by gunfire at an intersection in Col. Barrio Alto, by men driving an unidentified car. A few minutes later, at 6:15, a man in a gray pickup with Oregon plates was killed in Col. Hidalgo. The driver, his son, was injured seriously. The man's name was Ernesto Montanez, the editor of a magazine, Enfoque del Sol published in Chihuahua. At 6:30 another dead body was found in col. Bosques de Salvarcar, shot to death by men in another car. The victim was wearing denim pants, a white polo shirt, and white running shoes. A little later, in col. Praderas del Sur, three men were standing in a park when they were shot by gunfire from a passing car. Two were killed and the other wounded.

Other Murders on Tuesday: The first man executed after daylight on Tuesday in Juarez was Jaime Hernández Muñoz, 29. His body was found with multiple gunshot wounds, mainly to the head, at 8:00 a.m. at Fco. Hernández and Hermanos Soler, in Municipio Libre. Three nine mm. shells were found near the body. An unidentified body was found shot to death in col. Fidel Velázquez, with few other details released. At 1:00 p.m. a man in col. Praderas de la Sierra was murdered with gunshot wounds to the jaw, the right elbow, left side of the chest, as well as signs of blows to the body. Half an hour later two men were found murdered by gunfire in col. Enríquez Guzmán.

The first person executed on Tuesday was a 17 year old woman, Laura Paula Ceniceros, col. Barrio Alto, who died of gunshot wounds, 9 mm, at 12:06 a.m. She was the 42nd woman murdered this year.

Monday: Thirteen persons were murdered on Monday, including an architect student at UACJ. At 8:30 p.m. on Monday evening Jose Alfredo Olivar Varin, 26, and Ismael Lopez Andrade, 17, were killed at an intersection, while aboard a white Ford Freestyle, 2002 model, with Texas license plates. 70 spent cartridges of 7.2 x 39 mm caliber were found nearby. Both men suffered multiple gunshot wounds. An hour later Cesar Omar Zuniga Garcia, 25, and an unidentified man bout the same age were killed at an intersection while riding in a black Chevrolet Tahoe. 21 spent cartridges of 7.62 x 39 mm caliber were found at the scene and both men suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Twenty five men were murdered over the weekend in Juarez.

The death toll so far this year has surpassed 1000. Hérika Martínez Prado in Norte this morning reports that as of noon yesterday there have been 1035 homicides in Cd. Juarez so far this year. Last time I reported the deadly statistics, on June 2, Martinez had reported 655 homicides to June 1.

Compiled from stories in Norte and Diario de Juarez on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Who Is Getting Killed In Juarez? The Mayor Speaks

According to a story in Diario today, Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz yesterday indicated that in comparison with last year, when many of the homicides in Juarez were of men involved at the middle levels of organized crime, and were shot with assault rifles, this year the trend is toward young men between the ages of 17 and 21 who have just begun to traffic in retail sales of drugs. The weapon of choice in these cases are handguns.

Juarez: Complaints About Extortion of Bar Owners by Federal Police

In the early Spring of 2009, after more than 7000 army troops took over municipal police functions in Juarez, there was a surge of complaints about abusive treatment. There was, however, no official mechanism to register and investigate such complaints, and citizens wishing to do so were frustrated by the absence of any authority that could deal with these. This in itself became an issue, resolved when Joint Operation Chihuahua created an office called the Program for the Resolution of Complaints About Joint Operation Chihuahua (Programa para la Atencion de Quejas y Denuncias del Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua).

A story by Hérika Martínez Prado this morning in Norte suggests that this office may be doing its part to deter abusive behavior.

Javier Gonzalez Mocken, in charge of the office, told reporters that in the past two weeks 13 complaints have been registered of cases in which federal agents are alleged to have extorted money from bar owners. In some cases federal agents, under the guise of searching for drugs, simply enter bars, ask for liquor licenses and other documents, and, it is alleged, demand cash payments. In other cases federal agents are alleged to have entered bars to search for drugs, planted drugs which are then "discovered," and then seek a cash settlement from the owner. Gonzalez said several agents accused of such crimes have been identified and are under investigation. Apparently many bar owners have joined an Alliance of Merchants of Wine and Liquor, and have used this organization to pressure for stronger protection against such abuse.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Susana Martinez Will Announce Run for Governor

Heath Haussamen has just broken the story that Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez will announce she is running for Governor of New Mexico at Roberto's restaurant in Las Cruces at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. Roberto's is a longstanding poltical hangout for local, statewide, and national candidates. Haussamen called me this afternoon to comment about it, and included some of my comments his blog. The only other announced Republican running for Governor is Greg Zanetti, a financial advisor who rose within the ranks of the New Mexico National Guard to become a Brigadier General and Deputy Commander of the prison at Guantanamo, Cuba. Among Democrats Diane Denish, Lt. Governor for the past few years, appears to have all but locked up the nomination for Governor.

Although Dona Ana County is heavily Democratic, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by a margin of 63-37, almost two-to-one out of nearly 110,000 registered voters, Martinez has won several elections, often by huge margins, for District Attorney under the Republican flag, in a county that rarely elects Republicans to any office. Thus, she has proven she can attract Democrats in a county with well over 200,000 residents.

The question is whether Republicans, who are highly under-represented among Hispanics, will find Martinez' moderately conservative message appealing enough to put her on the ballot. Last year, Heather Wilson, a Congresswoman and moderate Republican from Albuquerque, was unable to win a primary election for U.S. Senate against highly conservative Congressman Steve Pearce, who went on to lose the general election by a wide margin to Tom Udall. Pearce has recently announced his intention to run again for the Second Congressional seat he vacated and is currently held by Congressman Harry Teague.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Auto Theft In Juarez is Up in June: Look at the Stats!

Auto theft in Cd. Juárez was up 11% in June compared with May, but auto theft accomplished through violence was up 30%, according to Isaías Flores, coordinator of the Special Unit for Car Theft Investigation, as reported in Norte de Cd. Juárez this morning by Hérika Martínez Prado .

In May 944 persons reported a vehicle stolen in
Juárez, 116 of these accompanied by violence. In June the total number reported rose to 1064, with 167 cases involving violence. In December 2008 there were 293 violent cases, so although violence is down compared to that, it is rising again.

Should the vehicle theft rate continue to at the same pace there will be approximately 12,000 reported stolen vehicles in Juárez in 2009. That would put the rate per 100,000 at about 800 (assuming a population in Juarez of about 1.5 million), far less than the 1290 per 100,000 rate in 2007 in Washington, D.C. (the worst in the U.S.), and only slightly higher than the rate of 751 in San Diego or 731 in Albuquerque in 2008, but far greater than the rate of 360 per 100,000 in Denver (Population 2.3 million) in 2008. In the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area in 2008 there were about 8500 car thefts (out of 12740 in the entire state, which has a population of almost 5 million). This placed the Denver-Aurora area 75th out of 362 MSA areas. In Washington D.C. in 2007 there were 7600 car thefts, out of a population of 588,292. El Paso, Cd. Juarez's twin city, about half the size of Juarez, reported only 2705 auto thefts in 2008, down from 2949 in 2007, for a rate of about 398 per hundred thousand population.

Juarenses Feel Security is Worse Than a Year Ago

A survey commissioned by Diario de Juarez shows that two out of three Juarenses (66.2%) feel the security situation in Juarez today is "worse" or "much worse" than it was a year ago. Moreover, most persons suveyed assert they, or a family member, have been the victim of a crime in the past year, most frequently (23%) a burglary. Nearly one in 5 (18.2%) have been, or have a familiy member who has been, the victim of a car theft, and 1.9% said they or a family member had been the victim of a kidnapping. Well over half of those surveyed (58%) said they believed the security situation will either remain the same or get worse. Three out of four said they had changed their daily habits to increase their protection against crime. Out of these about 7.5% indicate they have curtailed their visits to bars and restaurants.

The state attorney general's office indicates the overall crime rate in June was 20% higher than it was in May. Joint Operation Chihuahua, a federal, state, and local program to curtail crime in Juarez and the state of Chihuahua, has been in effect for nearly 18 months now, and since February of this year, over eight thousand army troops have been assigned to assist in law enforcement efforts in Cd. Juarez.

The sample size was extensive, with 1400 persons interviewed, allowing for a margin of error of only 2.61%.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Respected Civic Leader in Vado Dies

Roosevelt A. Boyer, President of the Vado Mutual Domestic Water Association and Vice President of the newly-authorized Lower Rio Grande Public Water Works Authority, died on Monday of complications stemming from a long battle with cancer. Mr. Boyer was born on July 2, 1934, and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1952. He was a descendant of Francis Boyer, who in 1920 led a group of black families from Blackdom, a settlement he founded near Roswell, New Mexico, to the Mesilla Valley, where he founded the community of Vado.

Mr. Boyer traveled to Santa Fe this Spring with other board members of the Berino, Vado, San Miguel, Mesquite, and Desert Sands mutual domestic water associations to lobby for the passage of HB 185, which created the Lower Rio Grande Water Works Authority which will merge the five associations into one. He led a long and active life of civic and spiritual engagement.

Viewing will be Thursday, July 10, from 5-7 p.m. at Getz Funeral Home. Memorial services will be held at the Bethel Second Baptist Church at 405 E. Hadley, Las Cruces, at 10 a.m. on Friday July 11.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Is Richardson America’s Greatest Education Governor? Let’s Look at the Record of Academic Achievement

Yesterday Governor Richardson accepted the "America's Greatest Education Governor Award" from the National Educational Association, a lobby group for teachers. Among the reasons given for extending the award was his "fighting to put physical education back into elementary schools, and taking junk foods out, increasing teacher pay and restoring collective bargaining rights for educators." But these accomplishments, after all, have nothing to do with academic achievement and a lot more to do with issues the NEA is interested in. So we should also ask: did the Richardson administration, in addition to the benefits cited above, improve the academic record of students in New Mexico, which, for most parents, with all due respect for reducing junk food and restoring collective bargaining rights, is the bottom line? In other words, how do Johnny and Maria rank in reading and math? Let's find out.

Bottom Line: New Mexico students did not improve their academic performance during the Richardson administration. The evidence suggests a very slight decline. The prestigious American Legislative Exchange Council, using many factors of evaluation, ranked New Mexico 48th in the nation in 2007, the same as it gave New Mexico in 2002, after ranking New Mexico 49th during most years of Richardson's administration. During the late 1990s New Mexico routinely scored in the low 40s, so the last few years represent a definite decline. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this year gives New Mexico an "F" in its report card for overall academic achievement, and an "F" for the academic achievement of low income and minority students, and an "F" for the return on investment per dollar spent. Why these scores were given will be evident below.

Sources: In looking at the record I went to three major sources. First, I consulted the American Legislative Exchange Council, which issues a Report Card on American Education; second, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Education Progress, an outstanding source for data; third, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Education Report Card. Readers who wish to review my work are invited to visit these sources by clicking on these sites.

Math: In 2003, the year Richardson became governor, New Mexico lagged 9 points behind the nation in fourth grade math and 7 points behind in eighth grade math scores, about the same as the lag in the 1990s (all data on math and reading can be checked on the NAEP site, above). Five years into the Richardson administration, in 2007, things were worse. The gap between New Mexico and the rest of the country had grown to 11 points in math scores for fourth grade, and 17 points in eighth grade math scores. Only one state was below New Mexico in fourth grade math, and two in eighth grade math.

Reading: In 2003 the reading gap between New Mexico and the rest of the country was 11 points in the fourth grade and 9 points in the eighth grade. In 2007 the fourth grade reading gap remained at 11 points and had grown to 10 points for eighth grade. This placed New Mexico 49th out of 51 (the data includes the District of Columbia) in fourth grade reading, and 50th in eighth grade reading five years after Richardson was elected governor.

Hispanics: Given that Richardson is Hispanic, one might expect the gap in scores between Hispanic and white non-Hispanic students in the state would have been addressed and closed. But the evidence does not support this expectation. Fourth grade math scores of Hispanic students remained exactly 20 points behind white non-Hispanic math scores between 2003 and 2007. There was a barely discernible improvement in the gap in eighth grade math scores, from a lag of 28 points in 2003 to a lag of 25 points in 2007. The lag between Hispanic and white non-Hispanic reading scores likewise remained virtually identical, moving from 20 points in 2003 to 21 points in 2007 in fourth grade reading, and from 25 points in 2003 to 24 points in 2007 in eighth grade reading. Hispanic students in New Mexico remained behind Hispanic students in other states, in math, by about 4 points throughout the Richardson administration, and in reading by 1-2 points. This is a switch from the mid-1990s when New Mexico Hispanics were ahead of Hispanics in the rest of the country. Bottom line: The gap between white-non Hispanic students and Hispanic students in New Mexico remained the same, with scores of both groups below national averages, during the Richardson administration.

Non-Hispanics: White non-Hispanic math scores among fourth grade New Mexicans trailed national white non-Hispanic students by 6 points both in 2003 and in 2007, and by 5 points in eighth grade math scores in both 2003 and 2007. So white non-Hispanic students in New Mexico did not improve relative to the white non-Hispanics in the rest of the country.

Black student performance in New Mexico was about the same as Hispanic student performance during the Richardson administration, jumping four points ahead of Hispanics in 8th grade math from 2003-2007, remaining 1-2 points behind Hispanics in fourth grade math between 2003 and 2007, and remaining between 2 and 5 points ahead of Hispanics in reading scores between 2003-2007.

Lack of Resources? Frequently teachers associations such as the NEA equate performance of students with expenditures of money on schools. But a lack of money and other resources cannot be the cause of New Mexico's educational failure. New Mexico ranks 31 in expenditures per pupil, 30th in pupil-teacher ratio (better than the national average), and 37th in average instructional salaries, even though we are a poor state, but 48th in educational achievement. Arizona is 50th in expenditures per pupil (New Mexico spends $2080 more per pupil than Arizona), and 50th in student-teacher ratio ( 9 students more per classroom than New Mexico) but Arizona ranks 33rd in academic excellence, fully 15 positions higher in rankings than New Mexico. The case of Washington D.C. is even more dramatic: it ranks 3rd in per capita expenditures (it spends $5520 more per pupil than New Mexico), and first in teachers salaries (teachers receive $19,558 more than New Mexican teachers, on average), yet it is dead last--51--in educational achievement. Money spent on students, while important, is not a determining factor.

The Good News: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's report card, while failing New Mexico in academic achievement and return on investment, does give a glimmer of good news. Basically, the educational system is honest enough to earn a "B" grade in "truth in advertising about student proficiency," and a "B" in "data quality." These are not trivial accomplishments, since a major first step in addressing systemic failure is to measure just how bad it is. So this is a good sign. And perhaps a key to understanding New Mexico's failures in spite of a relative abundance of resources, lies in the "C" grade given by the Chamber for New Mexico's "rigor of standards" category. You are unlikely to improve unless standards are high and expectations are high. A little public help from a governor would go a long ways toward sending the message to students, teachers, and administrators that they will be held accountable to higher standards than is now the case.

Other States Have Improved: It is not impossible to improve educational outcomes, and several states have proved this during the years Richardson was governor of New Mexico. Texas, for example, moved from a ranking of 43rd to 29th between 2002 and 2008. During the same time period New Jersey moved from 26th to 9th. Pennsylvania jumped from 41 in 2001 to 17th in 2008. South Dakota moved from 35th in 1999 to 5th in 2008. And Virginia moved from 27th in 2001 to 11th in 2008. Why did one of these governors not receive the award this year?

Why the Award? Given this record of failure in New Mexico education, why would the NEA give the governor it's award? The answer, of course, lies in the politics of education. The NEA is one of the most powerful trade unions in the country, interested far more in its political clout nation-wide and in the welfare of teachers who deduct part of their salary for the organization than in the educational achievements of students. Richardson, an accomplished fund-raiser, has undoubtedly done favors over the years to the institution, and they are undoubtedly repaying him, during a moment when his reputation could use some propping up. In this sense the award can be likened to the award given for School Board of the Year (see story on Dec. 14) by the New Mexico School Boards Association to the Gadsden Independent School District, one of the worst-performing districts in the state, just at a moment when Superintendent of GISD Cynthia Nava--also State Senator Cynthia Nava, Chair, Education Committee--was discovered to be $4 million in the hole with no explanation (except for politics) as to how the district could go for four years without a single, required, annual audit.

But these awards, however much they might enhance the reputation of the recipients, do not change the sobering realities of math and reading scores in New Mexico or the GISD, nor will they make Johnny and Maria one bit more competitive in the globalized economy of tomorrow. New Mexico schools still rank at the bottom of the barrel of academic achievement.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Anthony Should Consider Citizen's Advisory Group for Incorporation Issues

A group of citizens (who apparently have not identified themselves) has asked the county clerk for petitions to initiate proceedings to propose incorporation of Anthony, New Mexico. This is bound to be a controversial issue, given that some interests will push for incorporation because they stand to benefit financially, while others may oppose it for self-interested reasons. Many citizens may be unclear as to just what implications incorporation will have in their lives.

One way of reducing the confusion and sorting through issues would be for citizens of Anthony to follow the Albuquerque South Valley model and form a citizen's advisory group to meet regularly and with transparency to deal with the multiple issues surrounding incorporation. It might, for example, be useful to include local legislators and Commissioner Dolores Saldaña-Caviness in such a group, along with other blue-ribbon citizens of prominence in the South Mesilla Valley, such as housing specialists, business leaders, and so on--people who have earned the trust and respect of the community. What is important is that the incorporation process be seen as engaging a broad spectrum of interests, not just the self-interest of one or two actors, and that the challenges of incorporation be dealt with openly and transparently.

The South Valley model: In the South Valley of Albuquerque an advisory group has been meeting for two years to study the implications of incorporation. They even got residents of the area to vote on a name to be given to the proposed incorporated area, and they picked "The Valle de Atrisco," which would link them historically to the land grant given out by King Charles II of Spain in 1692 to Don Fernando Duran y Chavez, a soldier who had fought with colonists during the Pueblo Revolt.

The Atrisco Land Grant has had a troubled history in recent decades. Heirs created the Westland Development Company, which then sold 57,000 acres in 2006 without consulting the heirs, and in ways that appeared to reflect an unfair distribution of shares of the 7000 heirs. The sale to SunCal is still in some dispute. SunCal, a land development firm from California, spent a good deal of money this year lobbying unsuccessfully to receive TIDDs funds from the legislature.

While legal battles are likely to continue, Rep. Miguel Garcia has taken the lead in studying a proposal to incorporate part of the land grant. The area chosen would have up to 50,000 residents, making Valle de Atrisco the 5th largest city in New Mexico. The creation of the advisory group has created a transparent way of dealing with the issue of incorporation in a way that has avoided hopelessly politicizing it within the larger battles among land grant heirs and with respect to SunCal. Residents of Anthony should consider forming such a group.