Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Budget A Dawn Of A New Day

Many years ago, former Illinois United States Senator Everett Dirksen was famously quoted as saying:

“A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money”.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has submitted her very first budget for consideration by the New Mexico Legislature which starts on January 15, 2019 and it is “real money” by anyone’s standards.

The budget signals a bright new day for New Mexico and an end to the last 8 years of overcast.

The proposed total budget for New Mexico is $7.1 billion.

The $7.1 billion budget increases state spending by $806 million.

You can review the entire 115 page “EXECUTIVE BUDGET RECOMMENDATION Fiscal Year 2020 July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020” at the below link:

http://www.nmdfa.state.nm.us/uploads/files/SBD/FY%2020/Executive%20Budget%20Recommendation%20FY2020%20FINAL.pdf

The $806 million increase is a 12.7% increase over current levels.

The additional $806 million in new spending comes from the dramatic increase in oil and gas revenues in southern New Mexico and the Permian basin drilling.

Under Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s proposed budget state spending will hit an all-time high.

The Lujan-Grisham 2019-2020 proposed budget includes increasing spending levels in the following areas:

Public schools: $3.2 billion, a 18% increase.
Higher education: $830.2 million, a 3.3% increase.
Medicaid: $1.01 billion a 6.7% increase.
Courts, district attorneys and public defenders: $306.3 million, a 3.5% increase.
Prisons: $321.4 million a 5.2 percent increase.

The overall spending increases included in Lujan Grisham’s budget are larger than the cumulative state spending growth during the 8 years that former Governor Susana Martinez was in office.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1266876/lujan-grisham-unveils-7-1-billion-spending-plan.html

The biggest reason for the sharp contrast between the Republican Governor Martinez budgets and the Democrat Governor Lujan-Grisham budget is that New Mexico had two economic downturns during Martinez’s tenure that mandated spending cuts, reduced take-home pay for state employees and budget-balancing maneuvers.

New Mexico’s revenue flow has increased because of the dramatic spike in oil and gas production.

Notwithstanding the tremendous spike in new monies available, the Lujan-Grisham proposed budget calls for $1.8 billion, or 25% of state spending, to be set aside in cash reserves in case the projected revenues from oil and gas production for the coming fiscal year don’t materialize.

DISTRICT COURT RULING

Education is the number one priority for Governor Lujan Grisham and the legislature that starts January 15, 2019 because of a District Court ruling that New Mexico was failing to meet its constitutional requirement to provide sufficient schooling to all students.

On July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education.

The court ruled many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.

As a matter of law, Judge Singleton wrote the “lack of funds is not a defense to providing constitutional rights.”

In her blistering written opinion, Judge Singleton wrote:

“[The evidence presented at trial] proves that the vast majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career. … Indeed, overall New Mexico children rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement. … The at-risk students are still not attaining proficiency at the rate of non-at-risk students … and the programs being lauded by [the Public Education Department] are not changing this picture.”

According to the judge’s ruling, in New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners.

Judge Singleton addressing proficiency rates for Native American students said that in the past 3 years, those students’ reading proficiency was at 17.6% and their math proficiency was at 10.4%.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1200069/questions-surround-ruling-on-nm-education-funding.html

The Court found that New Mexico does not have enough teachers and that New Mexico teachers are among the lowest paid in the country.

Governor Lujan Grisham has already announced her administration will not appeal the District Court ruling.

CHILDREN’S PUBLIC EDUCATION MADE A PRIORITY IN RESPONSE TO DISTRICT COURT RULING

True to her campaign promises, there is a dramatic increase in spending for New Mexico’s public-school system and children.

More than 50% of the proposed $806 million budget increase will go to the public education system.

Lujan Grisham’s budget plan calls for a more than a $500 million increase in public school spending.

The budget contains a sharp and dramatic increase in funding for pre-kindergarten programs.

$60 million in new appropriations is being proposed for pre-kindergarten programs serving 3 and 4 year-old children statewide.

The goal is to increase pre-kindergarten enrollment from 42% to 80% over the next five years.

The submitted budget includes funding in the amount of $119.9 million for the “K-5 Plus formula factor” which will allow for and require all eligible schools to add 25 days to the school year.

An additional amount of $18.7 million is included to fund the “Extended Learning Time Formula” factor in order to add 3 school days to all schools for a total of 183 days.

The new budget for education needs provides for:

$6 million in funding to support competency-based science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) standards in classrooms across New Mexico $5 million for career technical and vocational education and apprenticeships programs build-up; $1 million for after school and summer enrichment programs
$6 million for an attendance success initiative
$1.5 million for college preparation, career readiness, and dropout prevention
$2 million for a community school rollout
$2 million in funding is proposed for the Higher Education Department to develop centers of excellence in the areas of bioscience, cybersecurity, agriculture and sustainable and renewable energy.
$25 million in funding to reinstate the College Affordability Act

State teachers and principals will get a 6% salary increase next year under the budget.

Lujan-Grisham under her budget proposes to increase New Mexico starting teacher pay from $36,000 to $41,000 per year.

Higher pay levels are also being proposed for more experienced educators.

Teacher minimum salary levels for the three-tier licensure program will be raised to $41,000, $50,000, and $60,000 for Tiers I, II, and III, respectively.

The proposed budget raises the minimum salaries for principals to $60,000.

Additionally, to help the lowest-paid educational personnel, the proposed budget includes funding for the implementation of a $12 per hour minimum wage

The state’s funding formula for public schools will also be adjusted so more money would flow to districts with large populations of Native American, disabled and low-income students, along with English-language learners.

PROTECTING CHILDREN

Albuquerque and New Mexico for the last 4 years have been shocked and haunted with the news of the tragic and brutal killing of children by their own parents.

Media reports all too often have included reports where those children had fallen through the cracks of law enforcement and the New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department.

Lujan Grisham’s recommendation calls for an additional $36.5 million for the chronically understaffed Children, Youth and Families Department.

Under the budget, 102 new social workers are to be hired by the agency’s child’s Protective Services Division.

HEALTH CARE SERVICES

The Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s proposed budget includes significant investments in health services for New Mexicans, with the largest components being Medicaid enrollment growth, Developmental Disabilities Waiver, and funds to address the behavioral healthcare system.

The Governors proposed budget includes a total increase of $25.7 million for the New Mexico Department of Health.

The $25.7 million increase includes increased funding of $6.3 million for early intervention services in the Family Infant Toddler Program.

$7 million in funding is earmarked to get more families on the Developmental Disabilities Waiver and enrolled in the program.

The $25.7 million increase also includes $1.5 million for the supportive services waiver and $500,000 for receivership funding to assist struggling health care providers and increases funding for staff to ensure health facilities are properly surveyed.

$27 million is proposed for Centennial Care enrollment and utilization growth.

The proposed budget includes $8.1 million to cover the projected base enrollment shortfall in FY 2019.

The enrollment growth is expected to be an additional 28,000 New Mexicans eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled.

One of the cruelest things that Governor Martinez did as Governor was ordering an “audit” of mental health services alleging fraud by nonprofits in New Mexico which devastated New Mexico’s behavioral health system.

In early 2016, at least 13 of the 15 nonprofits that were shut down were exonerated of fraud by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas the damage had been done to the nonprofits and many just went out of business.

Three of the five Arizona providers brought in by Governor Susana Martinez’s administration in 2013 to replace the New Mexico nonprofits pulled up stakes in the state and the mental health system as yet to fully recover.

$300,000 is being proposed in HSD’s Behavioral Health Services Division base for Enhanced Care Coordination with 16 group health homes across the state with the funding for the accreditation of the group health homes to comply with Medicaid.

$300,000 is included for the Corrections Department for the increase in the behavioral health contract for inmate healthcare for a total contract amount of $2.6 million.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOB CREATION

According to the Governor’s executive budget summary, “in order to tackle high poverty rates, spur robust job creation, and put an end to the brain drain” the proposed budget includes significant investments in the areas of employer recruitment and retention with emphasis on the following expanding sectors:

1. The Film and television industry
2. Intelligent manufacturing
3. Sustainable and green energy
4. Cybersecurity aerospace
5. Sustainable and value-added agriculture bioscience
6. Tourism in relation to our outdoor economy

$11 million for New Mexico’s Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) is being proposed.

A particular emphasis will be placed on creating job opportunities in rural areas of New Mexico.

Funding in the amount of $75 million is included in the capital budget for “Local Economic Development Act” projects for the recruitment and retention of economic base jobs and an economic development “closing fund” that is intended to help lure out-of-state businesses to New Mexico.

An additional $6 million in funding is included for tourism marketing with an emphasis on promoting the outdoor economy to compliment a new outdoor recreation office to be established within the Economic Development Department.

The states advertising and marketing budget will go from $11 million to $17 million and no doubt will increase tourism that will stimulate local economies.

Other programs funded include:

$1.3 million for “Main Street” project programs
$140,000 for trade offices
$500,000 for the Office of Science and Technology with an additional $300,000 for the Science and Technology Research Collaborative,
$230,000 to support business incubators in rural areas and small towns, and funds to reduce the vacancy rate in the Economic Development Department specifically to improve services in rural areas.

ELIMINATING FILM INDUSTRY CREDIT CAP

Governor Lujan Grisham wants the legislature to eliminate the cap on film tax credits to unleash and support the burgeoning film industry in New Mexico.

Under the proposed budget 2019-2020 budget, $300 million in one-time funding is being proposed to pay off a backlog in state film subsidies.

In 2017, there were 74 different film production projects that claimed every cent of the $50 million in incentives.

According to a 2017 report from the New Mexico Film Office, the state spent the entire $50 million allotted for film tax credits annually in 2014.

Between 2010 and 2014 the film industry spent an estimated $513.9 million purchasing goods and services from local businesses
Sources:

https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2017/03/31/why-martinez-vetoed-film-credit-bill.html

https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2017/03/31/why-martinez-vetoed-film-credit-bill.html

Between 2014 and 2017, the amount of direct, in-state production spending increased from $162 million to $506 million.

New Mexico has received more than $234 million in direct spending into the economy from film projects in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

In the fiscal year 2017, there was nearly $506 million in direct spending into the New Mexico economy.

https://www.kob.com/politics-news/vote-4-nm-tax-incentives-for-the-film-industry/5128621/

CAPITAL OUTLAY PROJECTS

New Mexico’s infrastructure needs continue to outweigh available funding.

However, this year New Mexico is projecting a large surplus of $1.1 billion that could be used for one time capital outlay projects.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s priorities for capital outlay funding are focused on improving infrastructure at state facilities and supporting economic development in New Mexico
by focusing on roads, bridges and rail, and improving access to broadband.

State agencies submitted a total of $543.4 million in requests, requests for senior citizen facilities totaled $28.7 million, and higher education institutions, special and tribal schools totaled $125.6 million, for a grand total of $697.7 million to address statewide needs.

The state also has severance tax bonding capacity available totaling $236.9 million to address infrastructure and capital projects throughout the state.

The largest single category of use for senior Severance Tax Bonding capacity by the Legislature is for local capita projects, followed by higher education institutions, and last state agencies.

Funding has been included for solar charging stations throughout the state and the purchase of electric vehicles.

As part of their overall purchases of state vehicles, the Governor Lujan Grisham has instructed Executive Agencies to prioritize electric vehicle purchase.

Governor Lujan Grisham continues to be a leading advocate for senior citizens in the state.

This year’s capital budget recommendation includes funding for senior facilities, meals equipment, and emergency repairs at senior facilities statewide.

STATE PENSION PLANS

Over the last year, it has been reported that the state’s two major pension funds Educational Retirement Board (ERB) and the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) are in serious financial trouble because of long term liabilities of benefits to paid retirees that will exceed by the billions that are available.

Both retirement systems have asked for a one-time infusion of funds, but the New Mexico legislature has resisted it as not being a truly viable solution to the problem.

In 2013, the New Mexico legislature tackled pension reform but the changes made have not been enough to make the pensions fully solvent.

PERA pays pensions to more than 40,000 retirees and also has a public employee plan for about 49,000 active members.

A shrinking government workforce as a result of government cuts and a sluggish economy has dragged down New Mexico’s largest pension program.

It is estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 state government employee vacancies and eliminated positions have 0ccured over the last 8 years.

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/lawmakers-tie-pension-shortfall-to-fewer-state-employees/article_d23fe441-eb6a-5aff-ad32-3c776b042553.html

Despite changes enacted in 2013, PERA’s estimated unfunded liability which is the gap between future retirement benefits owed and expected future assets on hand, has increased over the past four years to $4.8 billion from $4.6 billion.

Decreases in the ERB’s expected investment returns and inflation calculations have caused the system’s unfunded liability to rise to $7.4 billion, an increase of more than $1 billion since 2014 and its funded ratio to drop to 61.5 percent.

The ERB pension fund is not expected to reach 100 percent funded status for 84 years or until the year 2100.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1075327/viability-of-state-pension-funds-questioned-%C2%AD-again.html

The Lujan Grisham budget seeks to shore up New Mexico’s two major pension funds by increasing how much the state pays into workers’ retirement accounts with an approximate amount of $13.7 million.

The budget plan does not call for any additional lump sum payment into either the Educational Retirement Board or the Public Employees Retirement Association.

OTHER MAJOR BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

Under the Governor’s proposed budget, all state employees will receive salary increase under the proposed budget.

The Recommendation includes tiered salary increases of 4%, 3%, and 2% for those making less than $25,000, $25,000 to $50,000, and over $50,000, respectively

A $12 minimum wage for all state employees and public-school workers and salary increases for all state workers.

In the November, 2018 general election, New Mexico voters overwhelmingly approved a new independent ethics commission.

The Governors submitted budget in November earmarks $500,000 for the new Ethics Commission and the 2019 legislature must pass enabling legislation for the money to be appropriated.

TACKLING THE TAX CODE

Both New Mexico Senate and House legislative leadership have said for some time there is a need to overhauling New Mexico’s tax code.

With the election of a new Democrat Governor, it makes it more likely that it will happen in one form or another during the upcoming legislative session or even the next.

Lujan Grisham’s budget plan calls for several tax-related changes including tax collection on internet sales, imposing the state gross receipts tax on not-for-profit hospital services and imposing a state tax on electronic cigarettes.

Lujan-Grisham is also proposing reinstating an expired solar tax credit and expanding an existing tax break for working families.

If all the tax code charges are enacted, they would represent a net tax increase of $35 million in the coming year.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Now the hard part begins to get the proposed budget passed by the New Mexico legislature convening on January 15, 2019.

Democrat and Republican fiscal conservatives are already complaining about the budget increases.

Democrat State Senator John Arthur Smith, the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said much of Governor Lujan Grisham’s budget recommendation are in line with a separate Legislative Finance Committee plan that will be announced before the start of a 60-day session on January 15, 2019.

However, Senator Smith still voiced concern about the possibility of a state revenue slowdown and the fiscal impact of the proposed $12 minimum wage for all state employees and public-school workers that the Governor wants by saying:

“I’m concerned their cost estimates on that are a little weak.”

House Republican Minority Whip Rod Montoya had this to say:

“What we don’t want to do is go beyond what’s responsible. … Somebody has to urge a little bit of caution.”

Commenting on the increase spending, Governor Lujan Grisham had this to say:

“For the first time in many years, our revenue projections are showing significant growth and an unprecedented amount of new money is available to invest back in our state.

Notwithstanding the 12.7 % increase in spending, Governor Michelle Lujan Gresham’s proposed first budget is fiscally prudent and responsible because it calls for $1.8 billion, or 25% of state spending, to be set aside in cash reserves in case the projected revenue from oil and gas production for the coming fiscal year don’t materialize.

Governor Michelle Lujan’s proposed budget signals a dramatic departure from the previous 8 years of downsizing government by Governor Martinez in order to avoid any and all tax increases at all cost which has resulted in a major impact on essential services.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham can take pride in the balance budget she has submitted.

The budget is indeed a reflection of someone who understands how government works.

More importantly, the proposed budget is a reflection of someone who understands the needs of the people of New Mexico and who is fully committed to getting things done.

Its a new day in New Mexico and today the sun is shining again.

The state’s fiscal year begins July 1, 2019.

POSTSCRIPT UPDATE

On January 14, 2019, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee released its budget plan.

The budget plan would increase year-over-year state spending by $670.8 million, or by 10.6%, as opposed to the Governor’s $806 million, or 12.7% increase.

The committees budget would earmark more than three-fifths of the additional spending toward public schools statewide.

There are two major differences with the Legislative Finance Committee budget plan and the budget plan released by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The legislative budget does not appropriate an estimated $300 million to pay off a backlog in state film subsidies, an action that Lujan Grisham has proposed, and does not with eliminate the an annual cap on film subsidy spending as the Governor has proposed.

In addition, the Democratic Governor Lujan Grisham has proposed earmarking $75 million for a state “closing fund” that’s intended to spur economic development by luring out-of-state companies to New Mexico and the Legislative Finance Committee budget plan only includes $4 million for the program.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1268316/nm-legislative-panel-rolls-out-7-billion-spending-package.html

Trump’s Greatest Lie and Greatest Boast Of All Time

In early December during a televised Oval Office meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and US Senator Chuck Schumer about the shutdown, Trump said, “I’ll tell you what, I am proud to shutdown the government for border security, Chuck. So, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”

Schumer has seized on that declaration by Trump saying “The President made clear he wants a shutdown.”

On Friday, January 11, 2019, the Federal Government shutdown officially entered its third week, making it the longest shutdown in government history.

800,000 federal workers have now been furloughed or are working without pay, and all have missed paychecks for the first time on Friday.

Local and national news media outlets have taken to do stories about federal government workers getting paychecks that show hours worked but a ZERO amount for pay.

SHIFTING BLAME

Trump has sought to shift blame to Democrats for the shutdown and it may be working.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted from January 1 to January 7, 2019 asking who is to blame for the shutdown.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-shutdown-poll/a-growing-number-of-americans-blame-trump-for-shutdown-reuters-ipsos-poll-idUSKCN1P223U

The national opinion poll found that 51% of adults polled believe Trump “deserves most of the blame” for the shutdown.

41% of the public supports building additional border fencing, down 12 points from a similar poll that ran in the first week of 2015, as opposition doubled among Democrats.

A surprising 32% blame congressional Democrats for the shutdown and only 7% blame congressional Republicans, despite the fact the Republicans refuse to bring to a Senate vote funding to reopen the government with no money for the border wall.

In the Reuters/Ipsos poll 35% of those poll support a congressional spending bill that includes funding for the wall and 25% support Trump’s decision to keep the government closed until Congress approves funding for the wall.

77% of Republicans said in the the Reuters/Ipsos poll that they want additional border fencing, and 54% said they support Trump shutting down the government until Congress approves funding for the wall.

In yet another public poll released by HuffPost-YouGov shows 51% of American adults blame Trump for the shutdown, 41% blame Democrats and 35% blame congressional Republicans.

https://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/athena/files/2019/01/08/5c3502e5e4b0f5aba7d901c5.pdf

United State Senator and Republican Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not call for any votes on funding the government unless he is sure that Trump will sign it.

McConnell was burned before by Trump when a deal was struck supposedly with Trump before and he changed his mind when right wing political talk show hosts on the FOX network warned and blasted Trump for agreeing to the funding to reopen the government without funding for the Trump wall.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could bring a “clean” funding bill to the floor, free the Republican caucus to support it and secure enough votes to override a presidential veto.

McConnell did it once when Trump gave his blessings.

Before the holidays McConnell allowed a vote to keep the government running until February 8 to avoid a shutdown and buy more time to negotiate Trump’s demand for border wall.

The funding and the legislation passed easily with bipartisan support.

But then Trump bowed to pressure from his base, House Republicans dared not challenge him, and the parts of the government that had not yet been funded were shut down.

On January 9, 2019, President Trump stormed out of a White House meeting with congressional leaders within 15 minutes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would not fund a border wall even if he agreed to reopen the government.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/09/us/politics/government-shutdown-trump-senate.html?fbclid=IwAR0Ryc3AmQIyw5re4zf2Lj3R7ecsZZG6LjbxlMO26chNEdmjCBNfEHgwakA

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The greatest lie of all time by Trump has got to be when he said:

“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.”

The greatest boast of all time by Trump was when he said:

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?” Trump said at a rally in Sioux Center, Iowa as the audience laughed. “It’s, like, incredible.”

It is truly incredible that two national polls have found that only 51% of the American people believe that Trump deserves most of the blame for the shutdown and you would think it would be at least 75% to 80% given his promise that Mexico would pay for the wall and now he wants taxpayers to pay for it.

What is equally shocking is that the two national polls blame Democrats for the shutdown, 32% and 42%, and the same two polls blame Republicans only 7% or 35%.

A reporter asked Trump the question: “Mr. President, do you relate to the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills?”

Trump responded with yet another lie:

“I can relate … And I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. And they’ll make adjustments.”

Trump’s response is clearly one by someone who is absolutely delusional and totally out of touch with the American people.

Trump is a self-proclaimed billionaire living rent-free in the White House, is shuttled back and forth to his Florida country club at taxpayer expense at thousands a trip, yet he lies when he says he can relate to the plight of people living paycheck to paycheck.

800,000 public servants are now having their pay withheld and experiencing extreme anxiety and being forced into debt and perhaps foreclosures on their homes all because of a “Trumped up crisis” on our southern border that does not exist.

The “adjustments” our federal employees are making are seeking loans, dipping into retirement funds, filing for unemployment, finding part time jobs or other employment, with some reports of people setting up “go fund me” accounts.

PLEASE BOB MUELLER, RELEASE YOUR REPORT!

Bust That Damn ABQ “Plastic Straw And Polystyrene Plate And Cup” Cartel And Ignore The Violent Crime Wave

Democrat Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Diane Gibson, and Cynthia Borrego have introduced an ordinance called “the Albuquerque Clean & Green Retail Ordinance”.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1265484/abq-councilors-want-to-restrict-plastic-bags-straws.html

Sponsoring city councilors point to an “online” petition signed by a mere 750 people and public comments from a dozen or so people who spoke at the December 17, 2018 city council meeting as a “ground swell” of support for the ordinance.

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2019/01/08/000134277-Percent-of-ABQ-Residents-Sign-Petition-to-Ban-Plastic-Bags-and-Straws

According to the ordinance, it is intended to:

“protect and enhance the city’s unique and precious environment, wildlife and beauty through the reduction of single use non-compostable or non-recyclable bags, straws and containers and to encourage the use of reusable or sustainable options.”

The city ordinance would prohibit retailers from providing customers single-use plastic bags or foam containers for their purchases.

The ordinance if passed would prevent businesses from distributing single-use straws unless they are paper or biodegradable.

The proposed city ordinance would require businesses that give out “plastic straws” to have them available upon request in order “to provide accessibility options for persons with disabilities and medical requirements.”

The city council ordinance will make it illegal to distribute single use paper bags “and any single use carry out containers” such as used in restaurants, unless they meet the city’s recycling standards.

The ordinance will require businesses to issue notices to customers that the containers are recyclable.

The ordinance recommends that businesses encourage customers to bring their own reusable shopping bags.

Language in the city council’s proposed ordinance acknowledges that compliant bags or containers may be more expensive and therefore allows retailer businesses to charge customers up to 10 cents for each one they distribute.

Albuquerque City Councilor Cynthia Borrego, one of the ordinance sponsors, had this to say:

“Numerous major American companies including Starbucks, Hyatt, and McDonald’s have already announced plans to end such uses of single-use plastics and we want to support and encourage other businesses to do same”.

Democrat Mayor Tim Keller on January 8, 2019, signaled his support of the ordinance with the following tweet:

“Thanks to @PatDavisNM, @IkeBenton, @_Diane_Gibson, & @Cynthia4Council for introducing the bill to get rid of unnecessary plastic in our city! Looking forward to working together to make Albuquerque more sustainable. #OneAlbuquerque — Mayor Tim Keller (@MayorKeller) January 8, 2019”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/lawmakers-propose-plastic-bag-straw-ban-for-albuquerque/5202486/

The proposed ordinance also would require a study in fiscal year 2022 to determine the impact of the legislation.

Violations of the ordinance would be criminal and classified as a misdemeanor.

A NATIONAL TREND

The Albuquerque City Council ordinance is a reflection of United States major cities to limit the use of single use plastic straws and containers to protect the environment.

Seattle, Washington became the first major United States city to ban plastic straws while the state of California bans restaurants from automatically giving customers plastic straws.

New York City’s controversial citywide ban on “polystyrene” containers began January 1, 2019 and the ban targets single use foam takeout containers, cups, plates, bowls and trays.

New York City now joins cities including San Francisco, Minneapolis, Oakland, Portland and Seattle in banning polystyrene foam containers.

https://www.timeout.com/newyork/news/nycs-styrofoam-ban-goes-into-effect-on-january-1

In 2014, Santa Fe became the first city in New Mexico to restrict the use of plastic bags, but the big difference is Santa Fe City councilors did not impose a ban but passed a resolution “encouraging” businesses not to provide plastic straws.

THE USUAL OPPOSING SUSPECTS

Not surprising, restaurant and food industry organizations, and business organization, including the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, are lining up to oppose the Albuquerque city ordnance.

The private sector is calling the ordinance as an “unnecessary, over regulation of businesses that would will hurt consumers in Albuquerque.”

According to New Mexico Restaurant Association CEO Carol Wight, similar laws around the country have strained the available supply of biodegradable takeout containers by saying “What they’re asking for is not always available.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

With four city councilors sponsoring the proposed “Clean & Green Retail Ordinance” it means only one more vote is needed to make it city law with Mayor Tim Keller already signaling his support that he will sign it upon passage.

Alas, 2019 is an election year and City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton are running to be elected again to the city council.

City Councilor Pat Davis courageously proclaimed “[With this ordinance] … you have the ability to charge for … [the more expensive packaging], and you can blame it on us [the city council!]”.

Let’s hope voters in his City Council District do just that come the Tuesday, October 8, 2019, municipal election day and blame him for the ordinance as well as the disaterouse ART Bus project that so many of his constituents opposed as he refused to put it to a public vote.

To Benton, Davis and Gibson, there is nothing like an environmental issue such as the banning of plastic straws and polystyrene plates and cups to ingratiate yourselves to the progressive base and Democrats in your district after supporting the disastrous ART Bus project that has destroyed Route 66.

Making a violation of the ordinance a misdemeanor crime is heavy handed and raises the prospect that our short handed police department will be chasing after “plastic straw and polystyrene cup and plate dealers” and providers.

Protecting the environment is a noble cause, but the city is facing far more serious problems that the city council and the mayor should be debating and finding solutions to especially when it comes to the city’s crime wave and its children.

The city council debating the banning of plastic straws and polystyrene cups and containers comes across as a city council who are either out of touch with what is important or just plain callous to what is truly important and what is going on in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque’s crime rates are going down, but the city is still way to violent.

In 2017, the city broke the all-time homicide rate of 70 with 72 murders.

In 2018, under Keller’s first year in office, there were 67 murders.

Two police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours in December, 2018.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/12/28/abqs-crime-rates-going-down-but-abq-still-a-violent-city/

Albuquerque’s kids are being killed, and you hear absolutely no expression of distress, anger or outrage from the Albuquerque City Council which makes things very surreal for many.

During the last 4 weeks, the city has seen a one-year old baby left to drown by his parents in a bathtub with the baby buried in a backyard, two teenage boys, ages 14 and 15, involved with a drug deal gone bad, beaten to death and buried in a shallow grave, and young juvenile girl who was killed by her 15 year old cousin who left her body in an arroyo, yet you hear absolutely nothing and no comment from City Councilors Benton, Davis, Gibson, and Borrego, nor anything from the other 5 city councillors on the crimes.

Mayor Keller and Chief Geier went out of their way to do a press conference to address the 4 murders.

Mayor Tim Keller had this to say:

“Our community has been shaken by the recent deaths of these children and teenagers. These tragedies have ripped through our city, hitting home just how vulnerable young people can be. At one year old, Anastazia Zuber was only just beginning her life. Our community also lost a young girl to violence at the hands of a family member. And the deaths of teenagers Ahmed Lateef and Collin Romero showed us the depths of the challenges that young people today are facing. It is simply wrong and we cannot allow it to become normal. . .In 2019, we are continuing to invest in public safety and create opportunities for kids, especially those at risk. We are joining with neighborhoods, churches and community organizations to work hand-in-hand to address these challenges, and pushing for more diversion and prevention programs in our city”

Police Chief Mike Geier had this to say:

“As first-responders, our officers are profoundly impacted any time they investigate the death of a child, no matter the circumstance. We have been challenged as a community with the deaths of several children in the past few weeks. As we grieve these losses, we want the community, and especially the families of these children, to know that officers are committed to pursuing justice on their behalf. … I ask the people of Albuquerque to join with us and redouble our efforts to protect children and support them when they need it most.”

It is idealistic and commendable that the Albuquerque City Council want to protect us from ourselves and our environment from our use of plastic straws and polystyrene cups and plates.

Some form of the ordinance probably does need to be enacted, but with input from affected businesses.

The ordinance should not provide for criminal penalties with civil citations and fines being in order.

With that said, the City Council need to spare us from feel good legislation such the “Albuquerque Clean & Green Retail Ordinance” and concentrate more on protecting our kids first and reducing our violent crime rates.

Frankly, the city can wait a while to be saved from the ABQ “Plastic Straw And Polystyrene Plate And Cup” Cartel as we deal with far more urgent problems.

Film Industry Biggest Hope To Diversify New Mexico Economy

During her January 1, 2019 inaugural address, Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham called for abolishing the annual $50 million cap on film rebate spending cap for the New Mexico film incentives.

On the campaign trail, Michelle Lujan Grisham said she favored raising or eliminating the annual $50 million cap, but it was not until her inaugural address that she said to eliminate it.

Her Republican opponent was not in favor of abolishing the cap but said “perhaps” he favored raising it.

Lujan Grisham said in her inaugural address that New Mexico’s film industry can be the most lucrative state media business in the entire country.

Lujan Grisham specifically referred to Netflix’s recent agreement to purchase Albuquerque Studios for more than $30 million when she said:

“With Netflix in Albuquerque and moviemakers in California recognizing our world-class crew base and brilliantly talented homegrown writers, performers and filmmakers, we will take off the shackles and let it rip – and in the process we will put New Mexicans to work.”

In addition to eliminating the annual limit, Governor Lujan Grisham said she favors paying off the estimated backlog of $250 million of submitted claims that have yet to be paid out because of the cap.

During her inaugural address Governor Lujan-Grisham said:

“We will send a clear signal that we are open for business and will double film and television production in coming years.”

Secretary-designate Olivia Jackson-Padilla of the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) Department said lifting the cap could lead to between $100 million and $150 million in film credits requested annually.

$100 to $150 million in film credits would translate into at least $400 million, or more, of annual in-state spending by film or TV productions.

Currently, New Mexico offers a 25% tax rebate to film companies for direct in state expenditures.

Long-running television programs are eligible for an additional 5% up to a 30% total in all.

In 2002, the New Mexico state film tax incentives were put in place and the spending on film incentives was unlimited.

New Mexico was among the first states to enact a film incentive program.

In 2011, Republican Governor Susana Martinez, after her first legislative session after being elected, signed legislation that established the $50 million annual cap.

Governor Susana Martinez placed the annual cap on the incentives when many at the time advocated a much higher cap or no cap at all.

Martinez at the time argued that there was a need for a cap to ensure budget stability.

The state has hit the cap every year since it was put in place by Martinez in 2011 but she refused to increase the cap for 6 years.

At the time of creation of the $50 million cap, film and production industry executives said the annual cap was insufficient to the point it prompted productions to go elsewhere.

Under the current $50 million cap system, qualifying expenditures in excess of the annual limit are placed on hold to be distributed in future years after further review.

Attempts by the New Mexico legislature to eliminate the cap repeatedly failed with former Governor Martinez defending the cap as necessary.

In 2017, Martinez vetoed a bill that would have extended tax credits to smaller film productions in the state.

Notwithstanding the $50 million cap, New Mexico has become a top destination for film and television productions.

CALL TO ABOLISH CAP HAS LEGISLATURE SUPPORT

With the election of Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, some Democrat House and Senate leadership are saying they support doing away with the $50 million annual limit on film rebate spending.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1263995/plan-to-kill-film-rebate-cap-renews-debate.html

According to New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, taking action on the film incentive cap will be a priority in the 60-day legislative session, which starts on January 15, 2019.

Representative Egolf said other options being studied includes the possibility of leaving the annual spending cap in place for movies but eliminating it for television productions.

Critics of the film incentive program described it as “corporate welfare” for the film industry arguing the money would be better spent on other programs.

House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, who opposes eliminating the cap, said the film subsidy impact should be closely scrutinized before doing away with the spending cap, despite the projected $1.5 billion in additional revenues from oil and gas production.

ECONOMIC IMPACT OF FILM INDUSTRY

A 2014 state funded study concluded that movie and TV show film production generates an estimated 43 cents in tax revenue for every incentive dollar spent by the state.

The same study also found that 15,848 full-time jobs were created by the film industry during a four-year period.

In 2017, 74 different film production projects claimed every cent of the $50 million in incentives.

According to a 2017 report from the New Mexico Film Office, the state spent the entire $50 million allotted for film tax credits annually in 2014.

Between 2010 and 2014 the film industry spent an estimated $513.9 million purchasing goods and services from local businesses

Sources:

https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2017/03/31/why-martinez-vetoed-film-credit-bill.html

https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2017/03/31/why-martinez-vetoed-film-credit-bill.html

Between 2014 and 2017, the amount of direct, in-state production spending increased from $162 million to $506 million.

New Mexico has received more than $234 million in direct spending into the economy from film projects in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

In the fiscal year 2017, there was nearly $506 million in direct spending into the New Mexico economy.

https://www.kob.com/politics-news/vote-4-nm-tax-incentives-for-the-film-industry/5128621/

NETFLEX PURCHASE OF ABQ STUDIOS MAKES NEW MEXICO MAJOR CONTENDER

The New Mexico film industry has been growing steadily for more than 17 years.

Albuquerque has regularly been ranked in the top 10 of the trade magazine Moviemaker’s best places to be a filmmaker.

In 2006, Albuquerque studios was a $74 million, 50-acre project featuring eight sound stages, production officers and support space.

On July 24, 2006, the groundbreaking of Albuquerque Studios occurred and once completed, it was and still is a state-of-the-art movie-making facility.

Albuquerque Studios is an enormous complex that includes 9 sound stages, a backlot and management offices.

Notwithstanding the sophistication of the facility, Albuquerque Studios for the last 17 years has been a rental house to production companies.

Albuquerque Studios has also been for sale for a number of years.

The fact that Netflex is purchasing the Albuquerque Studios ensures the Albuquerque and New Mexico will be a real contender in the film industry nationally and globally.

The purchase deal also calls for $1 billion worth of production spent over 10 years which will have a dramatic effect on the City and State economies.

The State contributed $10 million of Local Economic Development Act funds for the Netflex purchase.

Albuquerque contributed another $4.5 million of Local Economic Development Funds for the Netflex purchase.

Albuquerque beat out other places such as Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, New York, Georgia and Los Angeles to secure the Netflex hub.

It is impressive that Albuquerque beat out other places such as New York and Los Angeles given the film industries dominant presence in both of those states.

The Albuquerque site will be Netflix’s very first hub purchased in the United States.

New Mexico’s other 4 production studios are I-25 Studios, Garson Studios, Santa Fe Studios and Las Cruces Studios as other productions seek studio space for their projects.

The Netflix purchase will no doubt benefits all the other major studios in the State that will likely be asked to provide additional overflow work.

The jobs that will be created by Netflex run the gamut of film and TV production work, most of which is project-based contract labor.

It is estimated that at least 1,000 well-paying jobs per year will be created.

Many of the jobs are expected to pay $70,000 or more a year.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Governor Michelle Lujan’s called to abolish the annual $50 million cap on film rebate spending cap for the New Mexico film incentives should be heard loud and clear by the New Mexico legislature and they should make it a reality.

The one industry that represents the future of New Mexico and a major hope for expanding New Mexico’s economy is the film industry.

Simply put, the film industry creates jobs for New Mexicans.

The New Mexico film industry expands each year in large part because of the tax credits.

Increasing the cap or eliminating the tax subsidies cap for film and television production will most assuredly help the industry expand even further.

With the incentive subsidies, the State economy will continue to benefit from continued millions in direct spending that will improve the economy.

Jobs will also be created in ancillary or supportive industries such as food catering, cleaning and maintenance and security.

Experience has already shown that placing the cap on subsidies stymied the growth of the industry with projects going elsewhere.

With the Nextflex purchase, the State now has a major production and distribution company hub that will produce projects on a consistent time line for at least 10 years and probably more.

Last year alone, the film and TV production industry brought in over $180 million of direct spending to the city and state.

Far more important, the $70,000 a year jobs that will be provided are a far cry from the hourly wage jobs provided by the “call centers” that the state and city have become accustomed to being announced.

The City and the State need to continue with efforts that will insure that our education institutions such as the New Mexico Community College continue to offer a trained work force for the film industry.

Both the City and the State need to create more incentives to build and guarantee that the industry continues to prosper in New Mexico.

The film industry with the purchase of Albuquerque Studios by Netflix is clearly in the future of Albuquerque and New Mexico and the best hope at this point in diversifying our economy and wean the state off of federal government reliance.

Albuquerque and New Mexico need to pursue with a vengeance the real growth industries like healthcare, transportation and manufacturing, and the film industry to diversify our economy.

Public-private partnerships in the growth industries where ever possible should be encouraged and developed.

Special emphasis and support should be given to the film industry which is developing, expanding and proving to be very successful in providing well-paying jobs.

Investing In Ourselves To Achieve Economic Development

DA Raul Torrez Needs To Learn A Few Lessons About Pre Trial Publicity

Defendant Jessica Kelly has plead “no contest” to the charges of child abuse resulting in death, aggravated assault, conspiracy and three tampering with evidence charges for the August 24, 2016 brutal murder of 9-year-old Victoria Martins.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1265428/jessica-kelley-pleads-no-contest-to-child-abuse-in-martens-case.html

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/jessica-kelley-pleads-no-contest-to-child-abuse-in-victoria-martens-case/1690355059

On August 24, 2016, the dead body of ten-year-old Victoria Martens was found in a west side apartment building.

After responding to a 911 emergency call regarding a domestic dispute, APD police officers discovered the 10-year-old child’s dismembered remains partially wrapped in a burning blanket.

The child’s body had been dismembered and then burned in the apartment bathtub in an apparent attempt to dispose of her body.

Initially, Jessica Kelly and Michelle Martens, Victoria’s mother, and Michell’s boyfriend Fabian Gonzales, were arrested and charged for the rape, murder and dismemberment of 10-year-old Victoria.

JESSICA KELLY’S PLEA AGREEMENT

Under the plea agreement, Kelly could be sentenced up to 50 years in prison for the crimes she plead no contest to, but with good behavior and with credit for the two years she has been in jail pending trial, she could cut her time in prison down to 20 to 23 years total.

Kelly has two prior felony convictions meaning she will be sentenced as a habitual offender, which will add 20 years in prison to her sentence.

The plea agreement is essentially the identical agreement to one Judge Charles Brown rejected on September 14, 2018, except for the fact that it is a “no contest plea” as opposed to a “guilty plea”.

On September 14, 2018 Judge Charles Brown rejected the original “guilty plea” of Jessica Kelly, saying he was not presented with enough evidence that Kelley committed the crimes she was admitting to under the plea.

During the September 14, 2018 “guilty plea” hearing, Jessica Kelley testified that an unidentified man had showed up to the apartment on the day of the killing, she had no indication the man intended to hurt anyone and thought the man might have been Victoria’s father or a “friend of the family … He did not look like a bad person, he was dressed well and he walked in like he knew the home.”

In rejecting Jessica Kelly’s guilty plea agreement, Judge Brown said:

“There is no indication [nor evidence] she knew or should have known that the person intended to commit intentional murder. … You’re asking [or suggesting] … Ms. Kelley is somehow a mind reader … . ”

With the January 7, 2019 “no contest” plea, the judge could run the sentences concurrent or consecutive on each count plead to and the habitual offender charge which would increase the actual jail time served.

A “pre-sentence report” will now be prepared and Jessica Kelly will be sentenced at a later date by Judge Charles Brown.

Kelly also must cooperate and testify against Fabian Gonzalez and the unidentified indicted “John Doe” mystery defendant if ever that person is in fact apprehended.

“NO CONTEST PLEA” VERSUS “GUILTY PLEA”

A “no contest plea” is where the defendant does not dispute and acknowledges the facts and evidence outlined by the state to be presented at trial and that there is sufficient evidence to convict.

A “guilty” plea requires a defendant to recite facts of the crime and admit to the guilt of committing the crime with the necessary intent.

A “no contest” plea is not a “guilty plea” but under the law it is a conviction of a crime.

The three major benefits to Jessica Kelly with the “no contest plea” are:

1. The trial is avoided.
2. The disturbing facts and evidence of the brutal killing will not be aired in public.
3. The plea cannot be used against her in civil court like a “guilty” plea can.

The downside of the “no contest” plea for Jessica Kelly is that she has agreed to cooperate and testify against Fabian Gonzales, meaning she will be subject to cross examination by the defense and if she commits perjury she could be charged with further crimes.

MICHELLE MARTINS PLEA AGREEMENT

On June 29, 2018 District Attorney Raul Torrez announced a plea agreement where Michelle Martens, Victoria’s mother, plead guilty to child abuse of her daughter Victoria Martens.

Torrez also announced several charges against Fabian Gonzales were dismissed.

The plea agreement negotiated was to one count of child abuse, recklessly caused, resulting in the death of a child under 12.

The plea agreement guaranteed a 12 to 15-year prison sentence and dropped the most egregious charges of murder and rape.

With the plea deal, Michelle Martens faces a possible sentence of 12-15 years, and with good time she could be out of jail within 6 to 7 years.

A BOTCHED INVESTIGATION

Originally Jessica Kelly had been charged along with Michelle Martens, Victoria’s mother, and Fabian Gonzales, the boyfriend of Michelle Martens, for the rape, murder and dismemberment of 10-year-old Victoria.

On June 29, 2018 District Attorney Raul Torrez announced the negotiated plea agreement where Michelle Martens plead guilty to child abuse of her daughter Victoria Martens.

Torrez also announced several charges against Fabian Gonzales were dismissed.

District Attorney Raul Torrez said that much of the initial facts of the case were “simply not true”.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1191031/michelle-martens-pleads-guilty-to-child-abuse-faces-12-to-15-years.html

The initial APD police investigation and reports alleged that it was Jessica Kelley that stabbed 9-year-old Victoria Martens and that Fabian Gonzales strangled her while Michelle Martens watched the murder.

During his press conference, Torrez stated that his office’s investigation found Michelle Martens falsely admitted to committing the crimes when forensic evidence revealed she and her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales were not even in the apartment at the time of the murder and did not participate in the murder.

Cell phone data proved that Michelle Martens and Fabian Gonzales were not home at the time of Victoria’s murder.

During the June 29, 2018 press conference, Torrez made the stunning announcement that DNA and forensic evidence test results revealed a fourth and unidentified individual.

District Attorney’s office has said an unidentified man was retaliating against Fabian Gonzales when he went to Martens’ apartment and killed Victoria Martens.

According to reports, the unidentified man’s partial DNA sample was left on the little girl’s body and he has been indicted as a “John Doe” in order to toll the statute of limitations until the person is found and arrested for prosecution.

Part of the pretrial publicity that inflamed matters was the accusations that Victoria Martens had been raped, sexually assaulted and that the child had a communicable disease, all accusations that were proven false by further forensic investigation, the DNA evidence and the autopsy of the child.

Mark Earnest, Jessica Kelley’s defense attorney, announced that over the past two months experts determined that contrary to the findings in the initial autopsy report, there was no evidence that Victoria was raped the night she was killed and said:

“In totality … three experts [who have] … over 100 years [of experience] … determined that no sexual assault took place. Despite that, early on, the autopsy report in this case indicated that there was sexual assault.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

During his January 7, 2019 press conference to outline and answer questions regarding the Jessica Kelly’s “no contest” plea agreement, District Attorney Raul Torrez said the case illustrated that all the major players in the criminal justice system “can do a much better job” and said:

“We do our very best to be professionals. … To examine the evidence, to look at every angle of the case, to work with law enforcement partners, our partners at the Office of the Medical Investigator and to examine specific cases, but also to learn important lessons for the future.”

Torrez made no mention of what lessons he himself has learned.

One important lesson for the future that District Attorney Raul Torrez should have learned is that he needs to stop it with his propensity to seek media coverage and to discuss pending cases with the news media.

Another lesson Torrez should have learned is that with his media attention seeking ways in pending cases and what he says, he could be easily making himself a witness in a case where a defendant seeks sanctions for unethical conduct.

Raul Torrez has held a press conference after press conference in this case, including private meeting with the Journal Editors and reporters at the Journal Center, he has had more than three front page Journal stories on the case and was interviewed by Chanel 4 on the “Eye on Albuquerque” Sunday program on plea agreements he has negotiated in the case.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/07/09/da-torrez-political-damage-control-mission-accomplished/

District Attorney Raul Torrez in his various media interviews has shared extensive details of the case and prosecution strategy on the pending criminal prosecution against two other defendants, two identified and one yet to be found.

During a January 4, 2019 pretrial motion hearing, District Judge Charles Brown determined District Attorney Raúl Torrez had been “reckless” in his December 10, 2018 statement he made to the media about defendant Jessica Kelley’s absence of cooperation before her no contest plea.

Confidential sources have said that Raul Torrez resisted being called as a witness at the January 4, 2019 hearing before Judge Brown, which was the reason for his public information officer testifying instead.

Further, confidential sources are saying the defense counsel for Fabian Gonzalez intend to call Raul Torrez to the stand to testify regarding his public statements.

On January 4, 2018, District Judge Brown said that Torrez should not have issued the December 10, 2018 statement at all.

Judge Brown admonished Raul Torrez for the statement by stating from the bench in open court:

“I don’t know if it was [intentionally done] to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, or if the goal was to shift the light away from the District Attorney’s Office or to move light to the Albuquerque Police Department … I find it to be woefully inaccurate in its ambiguity. It could be interpreted in many ways – all of them positive to the District Attorney’s office, some to the detriment of others. The District Attorney also has an obligation to protect the due process right of the defendant. … [The District Attorney] … represents the state, which is everyone including the defendant and the defendant’s families … The District Attorney’s obligation is to the system.”

Notwithstanding the harsh words, Judge Charles Brown opted not to sanction Torrez at the time and deferred the imposition of sanctions to a later date.

The fact that the Jessica Kelly plea agreement has now been approved by Judge Brown probably renders moot the need to impose sanctions and fines.

No one can fault District Attorney Raul Torrez for wanting to do what he can to secure a conviction in the case, but it must be done in a court of law and not in the court of public opinion and the media.

What is very problematic is that District Attorney Raul Torrez never has had a problem with holding press conferences and being interviewed by reporters.

Torrez sharing details and prosecution strategy in the case that were later reported upon by the media may have resulted in a “clear and present danger of prejudicing the proceeding” which would be an ethical violation of the code of professional conduct for lawyers.

The New Mexico Code of Professional Responsibility has a very specific rule that governs attorneys conduct and pretrial publicity, Rule 16-306 Trial Publicity, that Torrez and his entire office of attorneys need to read and understand it fully.

The extended media interviews that Torrez has done on the case no doubt ingratiated Torrez with the media but Torrez did not help his cause in seeking justice for 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

The publicity Raul Torrez generated himself in the case may have tainted the jury pool, but we will never know.

Another problem posed is that Torrez discussed with the media in his many interview’s conclusions based on the evidence that should be decided by a jury, not the prosecutor in the case.

Despite the plea agreements, District Court Judge Charles Brown could just as easily refer Raul Torrez to the New Mexico Disciplinary Board for violations of the Code of Professional Conduct relating to pretrial publicity.

Raul Torrez needs to take to heart the words of Judge Brown when he said:

“[DA Torrez] … represents the state, which is everyone including the defendant and the defendant’s families … The District Attorney’s obligation is to the system”.

Judge Brown essentially told District Attorney Raul Torrez his obligation is not just to inform the media that results in generating intense media coverage.

Judge Brown made it clear to Torrez that his ethical obligation is to the entire criminal justice system and not just to the media and his own political image and future.

Another obligation of any prosecutor is to have faith in the jury system and do the best you can to prove your case with the evidence you have in a court of law and if there is not enough evidence then the investigating agency needs to be held accountable.

It is likely that Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez will seek to be elected to a second term in 2020.

In 2020, voters will decide if Torrez has in fact secured justice for 9 year old Victoria Martens especially against the child’s mother Michelle Martens who may serve as little as 6 years.

“BURQUE’S” Two Amigos Keller and Torrez Struggle With Crime

On Monday, January 7, 2019 Joe Monahan on his blog “New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan” posted an article on Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County District Attorney and the affects Albuquerque Crime rates are having on their careers.

As usual, Joe Monahan makes insightful political observations that goes beyond reporting facts and ties a few things together.

Following is Joe Monahan’s article followed by the link to the full blog and followed by further commentary and analysis:

“Monday, January 07, 2019

Fortysomething Angst: Crime Wave Testing Mettle Of Mayor Keller And DA Torrez; Murder And Drugs Continue Their Relentless March Into New Year: Keller Struggles With APD; Torrez Shifts Blame And Gets Taken Down

“The ABQ metros two young political hotshots continue to get tripped up by the ongoing ABQ crime wave, a reminder that advancing in statewide politics from the big city looks easy but really isn’t.

First, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller, 41, fresh off a high in announcing a decline in a number of crime categories, including auto theft, is now haunted by yet another misstep by his APD that has prompted yet another internal affairs investigation. This one is over the drowning death of a one year old baby girl whose parents are now charged with child abuse resulting in death:

. . .Family asked police to check on the baby on Dec. 18 and an officer did a welfare check on the baby at a Northeast Albuquerque apartment, but Romero told the officer the baby was with her sister, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday. At that point, the baby was still missing, and it’s unclear why police did not seek the public’s help in finding the family sooner. “That’s under internal affairs investigation, that’s what we’re looking into,” a police spokesman said.

The problem is that back in May the same APD failed to fully investigate the abuse of a 7 year old girl whose drug-addled parents turned her into a child prostitute. The girl’s blood-stained underwear was collected by an APS teacher but APD rejected it as evidence and had it thrown away. A shocked city saw Keller order an internal affairs investigation and be forced to make a public mea culpa over his initial support of his department’s actions.

But here we are again. And that raises the question of whether Keller and his police chief Michael Geier have command and control over the department, which operates under the purview of the Department of Justice because of its checkered past.

It also again raises the question of APD’s culture and whether Keller and Geier are making enough progress with needed reforms. It also raises the more disturbing question of whether Keller and/or Geier have become part of the defensive/rogue culture that got the city in such a law enforcement mess in the first place.

And all of that raises questions about Keller’s decision early in his term to reject choosing a new police chief from out of state to reform the rotted culture. Is it now time? Or is the Mayor going to continue to absorb the slings and arrows from an agency that seems largely unresponsive (or impervious) to his will for major reform?

Meantime, Dr. James Ginger, the highly compensated overseer of the DOJ decree governing APD, pronounces himself pleased as punch because, in part, unlike the Mayor Berry administration at least Keller and the chief talk with him. But that’s not reform, Doc. That’s ego stroking. And pretty darn expensive stroking at that.

UNRELENTING MACABRE VIOLENCE

The late ’18 and early 2019 city violence has been unrelenting. We don’t know if the parents of that one year old boy left to drown and then callously buried in a backyard forever to be forgotten were doped up, but isn’t that usually the case in these twisted sagas?

And then there’s the two teenaged boys–14 and 15–who were slain and buried in shallow graves near Rio Rancho over an apparent drug deal gone awry. The crime began in the ABQ foothills then went to the West Mesa where the boys were beaten to death, with the horror inexplicably being shown on Snapchat.

Then there was the killing of a young girl on the west side last week identified only as a “juvenile” whose 15 year old cousin went berserk, killed her and left the body in an arroyo. Drugs? No word yet.

The cops can’t necessarily stop deranged cousins, but it’s highly important to note that in the span of a couple of weeks we have a one year old dead and the parents charged; two teens in the grave because of drug abuse and a little girl aged unknown murdered and lying in an arroyo.

Those are the children of this city and state and this is not new. It is a continuation of the wickedness that began creeping up on us with the economic decline and increase in drug usage and trafficking.

ABQ has made some progress in reducing auto and property crime, but the fact remains that violence continues at historic and unacceptable levels–and it is the city’s youth who seem to be in its crosshairs.

Keller doesn’t try to spin that. But after 13 months in office difficult and potentially painful decisions about this city’s policing and its rampant drug dealing have yet to be made. Hiring more cops is not the sole solution, if the culture is not revamped. That’s like putting more salt in an already over salted sauce. The more the decisions are delayed by the 11th Floor the more pain it will bring to victims and to the future of the city.

The mayor has hired several old hands as consultants but we need fresh perspectives–from out of this region and state.

TORREZ TAKE DOWN

Now over to Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez, 42, whose political future appears to be getting swallowed up by perhaps the most horrific child murder in city history–the 2016 killing and dismemberment of 10 year old Victoria Martens.

Democrat Torrez has worked furiously during his tenure to shift blame for the crime wave to the judges. But his blame shifting has caught up with him in the Martens slaying which threatens to go unpunished under his watch and has the DA facing possible court sanctions over his public statements regarding the case. As is his custom, those statements worked to blame others for shortcomings in the case. (Has a DA ever been sanctioned here?)

This week Jessica Kelly’s trial for Victoria’s murder begins but Torrez has already alarmed the public by saying there could be “an unidentified” man who may have committed the killing and is still on the loose. And the DA has now had to drop the rape charges against her. And Kelley is being prosecuted against that backdrop? Truly this is bizarro world.

Late Monday morning Kelly copped a plea, perhaps lessening a bit of the political pressure on the DA:

One day before the first trial in the Victoria Martens case was scheduled to begin, the defendant, 34-year-old Jessica Kelley pleaded no contest to child abuse recklessly caused, resulting in death, tampering with evidence and aggravated assault.

There is already talk that Torrez could face a Dem primary challenge in 2020 when he is up for re-election. The sanctions threat and the bungling of the Victoria Martens case make him all the more vulnerable–even if he plans on running against the judges for the rest of his career.

They often say the 40’s are the “worry free years,” usually blessed with good health and career climbing. But for fortysomethings Tim Keller and Raul Torrez they are years when their mettle is being tested like never before. For them their 40’s is when your hair starts to turn gray.”

Following is the link to Joe Monahans blog:

http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Mayor Tim Keller (41) and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez (42) have so much in common other than their age to the point they should be referred to as “BURQUE’S TWO AMIGOS”.

Both Keller and Torrez thus far have high positive name identity and strong support within the progressive wing of the Democratic party who got them elected to the positions they now hold.

Both Keller and Torrez were able to raise significant amounts of money to get elected, Torrez $500,000 and Keller $1.3 million with help from measured finance committees.

In 2016, Raul Torrez campaigned on a platform of reducing crime arguing that crime rates were too high, our criminal justice system was broken and that he was the guy to fix it.

Torrez during his first year in office blamed judges for our high crime rates because of reduced sentences given to violent criminals and dismissal of cases until it was revealed that his office voluntarily dismissed cases at much higher rates than the courts.

Notwithstanding, thus far Torrez is perceived by the public as doing a very good job and likely will get elected again in 2020 if he runs because of the extensive media coverage he gets, unless of course the news coverage becomes negative as with what is happening in the Victoria Martens murder case prosecution.

In 2017, the State Auditor Tim Keller campaigned for Mayor on a platform of reducing crime, police reform and community-based policing.

Keller has taken public relations to all new levels, but he has not shaken the perception that the city is way too violent, that he has not done enough with the city’s struggling economy and APD.

With Keller replacing the Chief and the command staff, APD is now fully his and yet APD still is plagued with problems involving high profile cases.

It has been reported that Albuquerque crime rates for the first time in nine years are now on the decline and both Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez are taking credit for it.

According to political insiders and observers, both men have a burning ambition for higher office that motivates them and a lot of what they do in their jobs.

Both have mentioned they are interested in higher office, including United States Congress, United States Senate or Governor.

Now that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Congresswoman Debra Haaland have been elected and Senator Tom Udall is saying it is a sure bet he will be running for US Senate for another term, both Keller and Torrez’s options have now been reduced to running for another term, if they want it.

One thing both men have in common is that their leadership is clearly being tested and both will be defined by how much progress they make in reducing crime over the next few years.

Both Keller and Torrez in all probability will be facing each other for higher office one day, unless of course they stumble tremendously and are voted out of office after serving only one term.