Thursday, February 26, 2009

DC Musings

I stopped by the offices of our Senators and Representatives. Poor Tom Udall. He is stuck in temporary quarters in the basement of the Dirksen Office Building along with other new Senators until their offices can be ready upstairs. That could be six more months as other more senior Senators must make up their minds on which offices they want. It is kind of a dominos thing....Meanwhile, Udall's office looks like the seventh circle of hell and is almost that deep in the DC earth. There are not even any good directions to his place. He came out to a bunch of people lined up in a tiny corridor and all I could say was.... 'Lovely place you have here Tom." I thought a pair of eyeballs could never roll that far back in ones head. Actually, he was good natured about it...I think.

Ben Ray Lujan's Office in the Canon Building is nice and was full of folks. I saw him in the hallway and then met with his amicable staff.

Harry Teagues office is in the basement of the Longworth building. I have to say the staff there was less than amicable. To busy to be bothered I guess.

Martin Heinrich's office is very organized, polite and efficient. They are on the 5th floor of Longworth and they have nice quarters. Martin and I went to lunch and he talked about his life so far. I hope he keeps a diary. It would be great for his kids to read some day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Tonight Bobbi and I will watch the State of the Union Address for the first time in six years. I just couldn't bring my self to watch bush. Who needs nausea?

I am taking a few days off to mix business with pleasure in Washington, DC. It should be interesting to see how the atmosphere is there, after the change and a month of a new administration. I have to think it will be a lot better that it was last fall before the election. I will both be conducting some official business there but because we will join up with our kids, Justin and Noelle, we will pay our own way. I will be meeting with our new congressmen to brief them on some work we must do with Los Alamos National Labs, DOE and the Justice Department.

On Saturday we will go to Gettysburg National Park. It will be my fourth visit there and a chance to see the new visitors center. It is such a historic place to visit and meander around for a day. If you are interested in what happened there just read "Killer Angels".

We may get a chance to see Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a breakfast. I hope so. Will blog from the road.

Monday, February 23, 2009

GOP Push Poll

The GOP is out with a "push poll" that says most people don't want a domestic partners bill to pass in the New Mexico State Legislature. Prior to a dishonest 'push' claim, a plurality of voters said they supported a domestic partners bill. Then the GOP pollsters said that the Supreme Courts of some states have said their constitutions would equate a domestic partner bill with same sex marriage. New Mexico's Supreme Court has not ruled on that and it is probably true that our Constitution would not allow such a comparison. But the GOP, being the bigoted party that it is, and with the aide of the Catholic Church in New Mexico, just wants to make gays miserable and second class. Shame on them and double shame on the Archbishop. If the GOP wants folks to take this poll seriously, then they should release the questions they asked and the order in which they asked them.

Here are some arguments countering the GOPs contentions.

Marriage and Domestic Partnership: The Facts

1. Domestic Partnership does not automatically lead to marriage for

gay couples. In the overwhelming majority of states that have Domestic Partnerships or similar arrangements, same-sex couples are not allowed to marry. (Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington).

2. Domestic Partnership laws do not make courts require marriage.

It is true that courts in two states that had domestic partnership—California and Connecticut—did allow marriage. But those rulings were based on the state constitution, not the domestic partnership law.

Seven of the nine states that have Domestic Partnership have not allowed gay couples to marry. In two of those states (Washington and New Jersey), courts specifically decided their constitutions did not require

marriage. The first state court to allow gay marriage, Massachusetts, did not have a Domestic Partnership law.

3. Domestic Partnership laws are not marriage. Nor are they a requisite for marriage: most states that do have Domestic Partnership laws have not gotten to marriage, and states that don’t have Domestic Partnership laws have gotten marriage.

4. Domestic Partnership laws are about allowing couples who love each other to take care of each other. No matter how you feel about marriage, how can you be against that?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Playing Favorites

The one thing that frustrates me in my love hate relationship with the Albuquerque Journal is their playing of favorites. Today they got all over the Governor for the increases in the State budget over the last six years. Okay, there is nothing wrong in doing that story. But will we ever see an above the fold story on the stupendous increases in the City of Albuquerque budgets over the last seven years? Is it to hard to figure out why the Fire Fighters Union has endorsed Mayor Chavez before he has even announced? Will someone check out the increases in salary for Firemen and Policemen that Marty has handed out in bad economic times. No wonder there was a firefighter at my door yesterday trying to get me to give five bucks to the Mayor so he can get public financing for his campaign even though he hasn't announced yet.

One should remember that the City Council and the State Legislature also had a role in these budgets and that can be a matter of discussion too.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I am probably going to regret saying this, but I think the idea of a Department of Hispanic Affairs in state government is totally counterproductive. What is next? Where does this stop? Why on earth do we need it?

Look at our political landscape in New Mexico. A high percentage of power brokers are Hispanic. Our Governor, Congressman Lujan, numerous leaders in the Legislature, the Supreme Court and Appeals Court, Mayors, District and Metro Court Judges, City Councillors, County Commissioners, School Board members and other office holders are Hispanic. It is not like we have no political power.

Believe me, this is about one thing. It's purpose is to create a new State wide Cabinet level department that will hand out some jobs to the supporters or friends and family of the supporters of this ill advised legislation.

We are all New Mexicans and we don't need this kind of divisive government where professional victims will come to hang out.

Do we have some problems in the Latino community? Yes. But we also have great success just like other segments of our multicultural society. This bill would result in the building of walls instead of building communities.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Here is a little OP-ED I wrote that was published in the Albuquerque Journal today.

At the high water mark, the New Mexico State Land Office owned more than 13 million acres of surface and mineral rights in our Land of Enchantment. Over the years 4 million acres of the surface land was sold off for a pittance by corrupt State Land Commissioners and other special interests. This happened in the 1950’s and 1960’s with little public knowledge of the biggest heist in State History. The reason for that is while the New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Office is the most powerful constitutional office in the state, there is virtually no oversight on the actions of the commissioner. I know because I served in that office for two terms. I was astonished that no one was looking over my shoulder. Not the legislature, not the Attorney General, not the Auditor nor representatives of the beneficiaries of the Land Office which are mostly the educational institutions in the state. Of course the public was clueless.

I asked the Legislature to enact a law that provided for an Advisory board when I was in office. It worked for a while but has fallen by the wayside. That has happened I know because of the incredible sweetheart deals offered to developers by the land office over the last seven years. Welcome back to the 50’s.

Flash forward to the new century. It is nearly 2010 and time to change the way this office operates. This will take a Constitutional Amendment passed by the legislature and voted on by the public. I supported this issue in my race for Land Commissioner in 2006 and was promptly overwhelmed by campaign money pumped into my opponent’s campaign by the oil and gas, real estate, mining and livestock industry. They like things the way they are and my opponent warned them they would lose “their” land office if this amendment passed. I had always thought the land office was there for the educational beneficiaries and the people of the state. Silly me.

Now Representative Nathan Cote has introduced a constitutional amendment (HJR18) to take back the land office by creating an oversight commission to approve the Land Commissioner’s decisions. I feel this board should have veto power over any permanent disposition of State Land under the Commissioner’s control. That would include land sales and trades or any lease longer than five years. There would be no good reason for opposing this amendment except for those who think checks and balances are bad!

I also think the candidates for Land Commissioner in the future should not be allowed to accept campaign donations from any one who does business with the land office. Period. Perhaps this should be a publicly financed office like the Public Regulatory Commission.

This is simply good government and a concept whose time has come.

Jim Baca served as Land Commissioner in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

City Politics

There is ominous silence so far from all of the candidates who are running for Mayor about city finances. This includes the Mayor himself. Although Mayor Chavez recently admitted we were in a recession he has not come up with any real vision of where we go from here. All of the other candidates just say we need to change the way things are done at city hall. This is hardly dealing with reality.

Of course everyone says ethics and reform are necessary but the issue with the voters right now is whether they and their kids will have jobs. I have a feeling many older voters are staying in their jobs rather than retiring because they feel they may need to help their less secure offspring. If the truth be told, that lurks in my mind as well.

The news today that Eclipse Aviation has furloughed 800 workers is a bummer. I think they will be recalled but they are really at the mercy of the company's buyers and their ability to borrow money to seal the deal. They just wont be bringing in any money for a time and that is not good.

After watching last night's edition of Frontline on PBS, which dealt with the financial meltdown last fall, I headed to the alka seltzer packets I keep in my drawer. We live in interesting times.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Ugh #1. Every time I say to someone that I think the stock market is near bottom it loses another 3%. It is now at its lowest point in a decade. Where were you ten years ago? I was starting a job as Mayor of Albuquerque and was trying to handle a giant deficit left me by Marty Chavez. So the angst has not changed much. I have a feeling that Marty is feeling some of that angst now because of a much unreported meltdown in city revenues.

Ugh #2. Rebecca Vigil Giron, our former Secretary of State, will probably be next in line for a grand jury experience as a result of an audit let out by State Auditor Hector Balderas. Three million dollars she paid to a consultant as part of a six million dollar federal voter education grant can not be accounted for. I will tell you that if it weren't for the current economic crisis that this would be getting a lot more attention.

I would be upset that all of these Democrats, think State Treasurers, State Senators and lobbyists, might be making a bad name for Democrats in the next election, but then we know the one republican office holder, Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, has problems too. It is just that the US Attorney for some reason wont look at his pay for play with Dona Ana County developers.

I suspect though that all of this is submerged in the current fear of total global economic disaster.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I have been spending a lot of time in Santa Fe trying to pass some legislation. It is a difficult year. It is sad to see so many desperate people up there lobbying to save their state government funded programs. The truth of the matter is there is no money for anything and it might get worse next year. Everyone really does have to sacrifice. There is not much choice.

I see where former one term Republican Senator Harrison Schmitt takes the position that global climate change is not being cause by humans. I disagree with him but I am concerned that his charge that it is all being made up to get more government control of peoples lives will strengthen the right wing nuts in their blaming job losses on the issue. I always liked Schmitt. One time my son Justin and I went on a bus tour that he hosted to teach Geology to young people. He did a great job. I am sorry to see him get to this point. I firmly believe that we are conducting a giant experiment on the earth right now by ignoring climate change. If humans are not causing it, we win and the theory supporters look dumb. If humans are causing it and we do nothing then the experiment blows up in our face.I see my old childhood Catholic church is bringing back "indulgences". That is where you pay money to the church to get 'good time' in purgatory where you go to suffer for your sins after dying.. I wonder if pedophile priests can buy some.

Friday, February 13, 2009

GOP to America

The republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives just said f**k you to America. Not one of them voted for the stimulus package which would never be perfect enough for them. Their policies got us into this horrendous economic position and they dont feel they need to help in getting us out of it. So, they say F**K you America!

Yes, this is beneath me but I really feel like this is just what happened. Bi partisanship has been dead since New Gingrich and his ilk showed up in 94. How do they exert such control on their members? Fear? Drugs? Lots of money from rightwingers at election time?

Constitutional Amendment

House Joint Resolution 18 has been introduced into the Legislature by Representative Nate Cote. It would put an oversight commission over the operations of the State Land Office. It is about time. Currently, State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons should be thanking the heavens that no grand jury is looking into his dealings with real estate developers in Dona Ana County. His actions down there have created a firestorm of resentment for the State Land Office. No bid sweetheart deals for big contributors to his campaign has gone unnoticed by the US Attorney. I can't help but think it is because he was a republican.

HJR 18 should be considered and passed by the Legislature so the public can vote on it. It is a matter of checks and balances.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Busy Week

I am spending a good part of the week in Santa Fe working on legislation for my state office. We are attempting to pass a State Natural Resource Damage Act to supplement the Federal Act we work under. It will better help us protect ground water. Our job is to restore damaged ground water resources. It is a complex process but it can be very effective.

The law is being opposed by the New Mexico State Land Office. Go figure. I would think that the Land Commissioner would worry about his own problems with legislation. Numerous bills have been introduced to enact oversight on Commissioner Lyons because of his problems with lack of openness in dealing with other government agencies and many citizens. Theswe reform bills are really needed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I started my career as a reporter/photographer in broadcast journalism. I loved that job more than every other one I have ever had. We did a pretty good job back in the mid 60's to mid 70's before the so called "news consultants" came in to tell broadcasters that we needed to make our newscasts 'happier.' What you see today with the white toothed young reporters and anchors is the result. (My old colleague Dick Knipfing excluded) There is not much experience there because looks are everything. Most of their stories are straight off the wires or from the Associated Press. Here in Albuquerque the Journal is the biggest source of story ideas for these folks.

Now the Albuquerque Journal and publications like it around the country are in big trouble. It is not because they are doing a bad job, it is just because times are changing and advertising dollars are fleeing due to economic and technology reasons. These newspapers are in real danger of ceasing to exist. If they want to survive they will have to do things much differently even after the recession ends.

This is something worth reading out of the New York Times today. I am pretty sure everyone at the Journal, New Mexican, The Alibi and other publications have read it.

I have changed my reading habits lately. I had noticed I was not reading many books because even with my reading glasses I was straining to see the print. Once I started reading books on a Kindle about six weeks ago I have been averaging two a week. (I could increase the font size on the Kindle) I like it better than a book actually and will stick with it from now on. (Kindle edition books are cheaper too.) However, it would be hard for me to not have inky fingers every morning after coffee and the newspaper. It is just habit I guess but I may have to change along with the times. So will Newspaper publishing.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Endless Innuendo

Is the US Attorney actually ever going to finish his investigation of the Governor's Office and its alleged pay for play? Is the Governor even being investigated? Why does the US Attorney need to go back and ask for six years of emails and correspondence from the Governor's office? Does this mean they are starting over because they have nothing concrete?

These are all fair questions that should be answered by the US Attorney. No, that is not being naive on my part. This has just been going on too long with no word about grand jury progress or indictments. Does this all need to start all over again because the last grand jury ran out of time?

Would someone in the media do a story about how grand juries really work and how they are stacked against anyone who is accused?

Also, I see where another person who is suing the State for being fired is trying to tie it to this whole issue. Everyone is trying to ride this horse to the detriment of the taxpayer.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Child Abuse?

Senate Bill 379, if passed by the legislature, would bring sanity to the enforcement of laws regarding All Terrain Vehicles(ATVs). The bill would reform the current unwieldy board that deals with ATVs and would put enforcement and education under the Game and Fish Department. The board is dominated by sellers of ATVs who resist any common sense restraints on the use of these machines. That includes letting children drive them and subsequently slaughter themselves.

I think the bill should go further than its requirements that the department take care of law enforcement, education and training, information system development, trail building and the like.

I really feel that any parent who lets a child under 14 drive these vehicles should be found guilty of domestic violence or child abuse if the youngster is injured or killed on these dangerous machines. Everyday, emergency rooms around the country fill with maimed kids whose parents don't show the common sense of a bag of hammers. They allow their kids to climb on these ATVs to tear up fragile lands, vacant lots in cities, watersheds, riparian areas and trails. (This is bad enough when the adults who should know better do it.)

ATVs can be useful when used by ranchers and other people who need to get around our lands responsibly.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Everyone is holding up the extreme case of a UNM Vice President who is double dipping as a reason to stop retired public employees from returning to work for the government. Before I go any further I should state that I am a 'double dipper' too. I retired from State Government service with 20 years under my belt at the age of sixty. About 15 months later the Governor asked me to return to work for him as State Natural Resource Trustee. I have been holding this position for the last 18 months. My retirement will not increase because of this return to service and the Public Employees Retirement Associaiton, PERA, is still collecting as if it would. So this actually is increasing PERA's take. The state pays that amount.

If this Pogrom should succeed there will be at least two hundred less policemen working for the Albuquerque Police Department. They will simply move to other states. Other high skilled workers will also move on.

I would agree that upper limits for salaries of those returning would be in order. Someone who is making over $100K a year probably could afford a reduction in benefits or salary. But I don't believe the policy of banning this practice makes sense in the long run. Especially when it is mostly aimed at communities with over 55,000 residents as one bill proposes. Does that mean we all move to Los Lunas or Pena Blanca?

There are a lot of honest hard working people that are being maligned by some here. It is unfair to them.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Taxes! and the Seven Works of Mercy

The Albuquerque City Council approved tax breaks for General Mills to expand their plant. Cheerio!

The DC meat grinder did not approve of a tax break for Health Department nominee Senator Tom Daschle and he pulled back under pressure after overlooking 400K in revenue from being provided a car and driver. (What the hell kind of car was that?) Frankly, I was more concerned about speakers fees from the Health Care industry than his tax problems, but still he would have done an okay job in that Cabinet position. However, if you or I had overlooked that much in revenue I think we would have been in La Tuna for a while.

The Archbishop and Catholic Church, and other right wing church groups, guaranteed continuing health care woes for some people in New Mexico by pressuring lawmakers in Santa Fe to not pass a domestic partners bill. So much for health insurance for those partners. Wasn't one of the "Seven Works of Mercy" we good Catholics were supposed to do called "Visit the Sick"? That was what I was taught at Our Lady of Fatima School as a child. Well, I guess that was only for certain people. Pedophile clergy were provided with health care and counseling I am sure. Of course one of the other works of mercy was "Bury the Dead" and maybe this fills in the gaps for not helping the sick.

I can hardly stand this kind of hypocrisy any more.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Just Wondering

So, President Obama's Health Secretary Tom Daschle is still in the batters box after being investigated by a Federal Government Agency and being found guilty of not paying taxes. The same thing happened to the Treasury nominee. However, Governor Bill Richardson, who is being investigated by the Feds and hasn't been found guilty of anything was pulled from the lineup. How does this make sense?

Don't get me wrong here. I think they all should be confirmed and that Obama has made good choices, including Richardson. But they seem to be treated differently, don't they? The transition team has some explaining to do.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

War Stories

The Albuquerque Journal had a good war story on a mission my brother Tom and my friend Jack Swickard of Roswell flew in Viet Nam forty one years ago. It is a good read.