John B. Strong: Damage From The Failed ART Project Goes Far Beyond Just Central Avenue

John B. Strong grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and moved to New Mexico in 1997. He started and Art Gallery in Santa Fe in 2000 that he now operates with his partner Carlos Acosta. John Strong has been investing in startups since 2004. He is a co-founder or board member at several different companies, mostly in technology, healthcare, and financial services. Mr. Strong was recently the Chairman of Scout Security, a company that was taken over from Kickstarter to an IPO and listing on the Sydney Stock Exchange. Mr. Strong describes himself as being “obsessed with entrepreneurship and small businesses.”

John B. Strong submitted the following guest column for publication:

“Most citizens of Albuquerque can at this point agree that the ART transportation project is a complete failure. It’s time now to assess what this really means for our city going forward, because it’s much more than just a failed capital works project. In addition to causing many business failures, job losses, and increases in both petty and violent crime along the Central Avenue corridor, it has caused a great deal of skepticism on the part of the electorate that our city leaders are capable of or deserving of our support in spending our money going forward. Let’s be clear, this is not just a onetime failure. So the real damage from a failed project of this type, where the citizens were deliberately not allowed a voice in this, is a complete loss of support for much needed capital projects going forward, because of a lack of trust in our elected officials.

I’ve had the good fortune to spend a lot of time in successful cities that have transformed blighted and struggling areas. Cities like Tulsa, OK, Oklahoma City, Denver, and Phoenix/ Scottsdale. One thing they all have in common is they jumpstarted urban renewal with a large capital project, like building the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, or the Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City, or the municipal railway running through downtown Denver, or the River Area in downtown Scottsdale. In Tulsa the BOK Center sparked hundreds of millions of dollars of redevelopment in adjoining neighborhoods.

In Oklahoma City, the Chesapeake Arena and adjoining Bricktown continue to expand into previously blighted areas filling them with prosperous businesses, housing, recreation, culture, and the safety people need to be confident enough to move into those areas. Same thing in Denver, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. In fact big capital works projects in Tulsa and Oklahoma City have been so successful that voters continue to approve new ones. Why? Because each and every time the city leaders ask the voters to give them money they return a great project to them, that has real impact. And that is where the real damage from the failed ART project comes in.

How likely is it that Albuquerque voters will get fully behind a new or larger capital project such as the redevelopment of the rail yards, or maybe a downtown arena and convention center? These are the types of large projects that are needed to jumpstart the big redevelopments of critical areas of the city, and to reclaim our eroded tax base.

Another thing to consider is that none of the cities mentioned here solved difficult crime problems by placing a police officer on every corner, which is little more than a bandaid, they did it by economic development in blighted areas, which is proven to crowd out crime. And that is the real damage caused by the failure of the ART project, that when we need a couple of over the top large transformational public projects, the public will not be able to trust our elected leaders to be good stewards of our money.”

Respectfully,

John B Strong

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The words of John Strong are so true when he writes “It’s much more than just a failed capital works project … it has caused a great deal of skepticism on the part of the electorate that our city leaders are capable of or deserving of our support in spending our money going forward.” As was noted, the ART bus project was never put to a public vote for approval. Instead, ART was crammed down taxpayer’s throats by former Mayor Richard Berry and the Albuquerque City Council and this is how elected officials lose credibility with the voters and voters start to rebel by voting against projects regardless of need or justification and object to tax increases of any kind.

In February of this year, voters overwhelmingly voted NO to the Albuquerque Public Schools’ two mill levy and one proposed bond questions. The initiative was voted down that would have raised real property taxes by around 5%. Had all three initiatives passed, they would have generated $900 million for APS over six years to help implement the school district’s capital improvement master plan. The first failed ballot initiative, for $190 million, was to repair and maintain 142 aging APS schools. The biggest factors that contributed to the defeat of the three initiatives were the very real public perception that the elected APS board and the APS administration is wasting taxpayer money and resources on projects and facilities not helping students. APS has now announced that it will be placing on the November, 2019 ballot for a renewal of the property tax levy for repairs to the school districts aging facilities which is desperately needed by the school district.

A gross receipts tax increase that was not put to a public vote was last year’s public safety gross receipts tax. In 2017, then candidate for Mayor Tim Keller made the promise during a debate and in order to get elected that he would not increase taxes without of public vote. Just a few weeks after Tim Keller was sworn in as Mayor, the Keller Administration announced a $40 million dollar deficit. Soon after the deficit was announced, the Albuquerque City Council enacted a $50 million dollar a year gross receipts tax increase. With just 4 months into office Mayor Keller broke his promise to put tax increases on the ballot and signed the tax increase without a public vote. The problem is that the $40 million dollar deficit never materialized. (See: https://www.petedinelli.com/2018/03/02/breaking-a-promise-on-public-vote-for-tax-increase/)

What needs to be remembered is that in the not too distant past, Albuquerque voters did in fact vote YES to impose two separate tax increases on themselves to improve things in Albuquerque.

In 2014, Albuquerque and Bernalillo County voters overwhelmingly voted to impose a one-eighth percent gross receipts tax to improve access to mental and behavioral health care services in the county. The one-eighth percent gross receipts tax voted by taxpayers for mental health is now being used for the purpose of providing more mental and behavioral health services for adults and children in the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County area, and to provide a safety net system that develops mental health care not otherwise funded in New Mexico.

During the 2015 municipal election, Albuquerque voters wisely approved with an overwhelming majority the voter petition drive initiative to increase the gross receipts tax that will raise $255 million dollars over 15 years for the BioPark. The BioPark, with its zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens, is the number one tourist attraction in the State of New Mexico and in need of $20 million in repairs and $40 million in upgrades. Voters are now seeing the benefits of both taxes beginning first with the opening of transitional services and counseling services and second the opening of the new, state of the art penguin exhibit at the BioPark.

When John Strong asks the question ‘How likely is it that Albuquerque voters will get fully behind a new or larger capital project such as the redevelopment of the rail yards, or maybe a downtown arena and convention center?” it is likely we will find out in just a few months when on the November ballot there will be 2 major initiatives of capital improvement spending, one for the Albuquerque Public School System and the other for City of Albuquerque projects. Because of the actions of the former Mayor and current Mayor Tim Keller, as well as the actions of the Albquerque city council, there is a real possibility that voters will once again rebel and vote NO.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/03/12/can-city-and-aps-win-tax-votes-in-november-and-more/

The Albuquerque City Council has approved the Keller Administration “2019 Decade Plan and General Obligation Bond Program”, which lists over $800 million worth of taxpayer-funded bond projects for the next 10 years. All the funding is not voted upon at once, but in increments every two years. The City Council will place $127 million of the projects on the November ballot for final voter approval.

Over $53 million in bonds will be on the November, 2019 ballot for spending on community facilities and includes:

• $13 million toward the historic Rail Yards property through 2029.
• $11 million for various projects at the Albuquerque Museum over the next decade.
• $7 million to a new APD southeast substation at Kathryn and San Mateo.
• $7 million for a year-round homeless facility.
• $5.5 million for the International District Library.
• $5 million in funding for Family & Community Services Section 8 Affordable Housing.
• $2.8 million for Community, Health, Social Services Centers.
• $2.5 million for a new exit off I-25 to Balloon Fiesta Park.

If both the APS extension of the property tax levy for school facility repairs maintenance and the City’s Capital Improvement bonds fail in November, you can probably attribute in part the losses to what John Strong called “the public not trusting our elected leaders to be good stewards of our money.” If both fail, it will be years before “over the top large transformational public projects” will be approved by voters. Such rejection could have been and can be avoided if the the former Mayor, the current Mayor and the Albuquerque City Council had more faith in voters and listen to the needs of their constituents.

You can review more blog articles on the ART Bus project at the following link:

Breaking A Promise On Public Vote For Tax Increase

Any Raid On BioPark Tax Funds Political Bad Faith, Betrays Voter’s Trust

Dinelli Blog Articles On ART Bus Project Listed

In His Own Words: Why Ben Ray Lujan Is Running To Be New Mexico’s Next U.S. Senator; Labels President Trump A Racist

Not very long ago, I asked New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan point blank why he is running for the United State Senate and giving up his very safe Second Congressional District in the United States Congress as well he leadership position under Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Following is the email response received from him:

“This is why I’m running for Senate:

I’m running so we can expand coverage for all Americans by moving to Medicare for All. I’m running to ensure we repeal the Hyde Amendment and that women have the right to choose, no matter what. I’m running to protect our public lands. And I’m running to fulfill our responsibility to combat climate change by enacting the Green New Deal.

I have had the privilege of representing New Mexico’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for the last decade, and it has been an honor to serve hardworking New Mexican families.

In the House, I helped lead the fight for the Affordable Care Act — the most progressive expansion of health care access this country has ever seen — which cut the number of uninsured individuals in New Mexico in half. But far too many people are still one illness away from financial instability.

I’ve introduced the only major health care legislation that explicitly repeals the Hyde Amendment banning doctors from having honest, medical conversations with their patients. But we’ve seen Senate Republicans block bills like mine and use their majority to pack the courts with conservative judges that don’t believe in a woman’s right to choose.

I have been a proud defender of our public lands, from pushing for a one-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling around Chaco Canyon to helping create Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. These lands are our birthright, but threats against them remain. President Trump has overseen the largest decrease in federally protected lands in history, selling access to these natural wonders to oil and gas companies that only care about their profits.

I signed onto the Green New Deal and introduced my own legislation to move the U.S. toward net zero emissions in the coming decades because climate change is already impacting our environment. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dubbed these efforts “dead on arrival.”

I’m proud of everything we have accomplished, but I want to do more for our families and for New Mexico. I hope I can continue to count on your support to tackle these issues and find solutions in the Senate.

Thank you,

Ben Ray Luján

THE CONGRESSMAN’ S REACTION TO TRUMP’S TWEETS AND COMMENTS

On July 14, 2019, during a FOX New interview with Chris Wallace, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján slammed President Donald Trump for a series of tweets he made, telling four Democratic representatives, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came, then come back and show us how it is done.” The four Democrats Trump was referencing were Lujan’s first term colleagues United States Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressle who are all women of color. The four are also among the most liberal members of the chamber and frequent critics of Trump and been nicknamed The Squad.

Luján reacted with genuine surprise when “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace read part of Trump’s Sunday morning tweet-storm to him at the end of the interview. Without hesitation, and with emotion, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan said:

“Chris, that’s the first I’m hearing of that. That’s a racist tweet! … Telling people to go back where they came from? These are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the most distinguished bodies in the U.S. House of Representatives. I think that’s wrong.”

Congressman Luján also connected the tweets with “the horrendous detention facilities that we have across the country,” referring to the detention facilities for asylum seekers, highlighted after a visit to a camp in Texas by Vice President Mike Pence.

https://nmpoliticalreport.com/2019/07/15/lujan-slams-trump-for-racist-tweets/

The July 14, 2019 interview was not the first time Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has said the truth that Trump is a racist. On January 14, 2019, at a town hall meeting in Santa Fe billed as a discussion on the Republican tax overhaul and its likely effects in New Mexico, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján condemned the president’s vulgar comments as racist and went further and actually saying Donald Trump is a racist.

On December 24, 2017, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump described Nigerians as people living in huts and that they would not want to return to them. He reportedly said 40,000 had come from Nigeria and would never “go back to their huts” once they had seen America. The New York Times also reported in December, 2017 that President Trump said in a meeting about immigration that Haitians “all have AIDS”. Asked during a question-and-answer session about the uproar over Trump’s derogatory descriptions of the African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador, and their citizens who immigrate to the United States his answer was unequivocal when he said:

“I think that President Donald Trump has clearly not just said racist things, but he is a racist.” The congressman went on to speak of Trump’s attack on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel of California, a person born and raised in Indiana, as well as the president’s ban on immigrants from certain predominantly Muslim nations:

“Those are all attacks based on race. [When Trump announced he was running for President] he went after Mexican immigrants in the most ugly way anybody could by calling them rapists and murderers and whatnot.”

https://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/new-mexico/2018/01/14/trump-racist-rep-lujan-says-town-hall-meeting/1032621001/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

During my 42 years of practicing law and as a public servant, including as a prosecutor and serving as a Judge, I have been appointed to positions working for 3 Governors, one United States Senator, one Congressman, 2 Attorney Generals, 2 District Attorneys, and one Albuquerque Mayor. Some were Republicans. All but one I have seen grow and mature and make a positive difference during their years of elective office. One was an embarrassment to the State of New Mexico.

Ben Ray Lujan is one elected official who I have never worked for during my entire 42-year public service career. I first met him when I was a finalist for Superintendent of Insurance and interviewed for the position when he was a Public Regulation Commissioner. Notwithstanding not getting the job, I have watched Ben Ray Luján mature, grow into the offices he has held and has served with distinction. He has indeed made a difference for New Mexico and has never been an embarrassment to the state.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has served as the U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district since 2009, and became the Assistant House Speaker in 2019, appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He was elected to be Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2014, and led the Democrats to win a majority in the US House in the 2018 elections. Luján previously served as a member of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission from 2005 to 2008.

Lujan is extremely well liked within the Democratic party and is running an effective state-wide campaign and raising the necessary money to run. All congressman usually have ambitions to become United States Senators, unless they rise to the top in a leadership position such as Lujan has done in the House of Representative. However, congressmen have to run every two years while a Senate seat is far more powerful and is for a six-year term. New Mexico has not sent an Hispanic to the United States Senate in decades and Lujan’s voice that has deep roots to New Mexico is desperately needed this day and age in Washington. Lujan is no fan of Trump, and his vote will be needed in the Senate if there is ever an impeachment trial in the Senate. With his election to the United States Senate, New Mexico will have a United States Senator who knows how Washington works and what Donald Trump truly is in the eyes of so many New Mexicans: a racist.

On April 6, 2019, I ran into Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, at the Bernalillo County Democratic Party Convention. He went to the convention all alone. He is 4th in line to the US Speaker of the House. I point this out because many of the elected officials I worked for in the past were always accompanied by an entourage. The one’s who did not need an entourage or a security detail were the humble ones not caught up and self-absorbed with themselves and self importance and easily approachable by the voters. Such conduct says a lot about a person’s character and self-confidence.

New Mexico needs Ben Ray Lujan in the United States Senate and he will make one fine New Mexico United States Senator.

For a related blog article see:

Trump Tells American “Squad” To “Go Back To The Countries You Came From”; It’s Now Racism Against Americans Of Color: Make America White Again (MAWA)

Keller, Benton, Davis and Jones Carry On With Berry Bad Legacy Of Supporting Development Community Over Neighborhoods And Support of ART

On July 12, 2019, a guest editorial column was publish by the Albuquerque Journal written by Dr. Joe L. Valles, President, Grande Heights Neighborhood Association. The column dealt with the city’s zoning comprehensive plan originally known as the ABC-Z plan , and also known as the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO).

Following is the guest editorial in full, with a link to the Albuquerque Journal followed by additional Commentary and Analysis:

“There’s widespread disappointment and frustration with the Planning Department’s ongoing actions regarding the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO). The IDO promise was “to ensure a high-quality built environment for nearby property owners and neighbors.” Without a vision for Albuquerque, however, unenforced and arbitrary rules in the IDO neither create new design nor ensure a high-quality built environment, and planners aren’t asking for it.

The apartment monstrosities built in the near North Valley – one right next to St. Therese Church – are resultant examples of what the IDO, under planners’ interpretation, wrongfully allows. Planners can’t explain away these IDO-based approvals. Instead, they’re soaked in language they created and inflexibly defend as they continue to promote the minimum standards for development. If the IDO correctly allowed these developments – and if the IDO can’t meaningfully protect sensitive lands, signature open spaces and valuable cultural assets – for those reasons alone the IDO is seriously flawed.

The Planning Department also has a problem with strict adherence to state statute; if not de-facto violations of the law, then due-process breaches and potential violations of the Open Meetings Act ignore its spirit. The Development Review Board (DRB) was granted gratuitous discretionary power by the IDO to hold hearings and grant variances without the requisite conformity to strict standards. The Land-Use Hearing Officer (LUHO) warned planners about potential problems in courts.

Obviously, the City Council heard, because just recently councilors unanimously passed R-19-150. This resolution sponsored by Councilor Trudy Jones allows the DRB to further circumvent strict state statute requirements. “To hold public hearings”‘ was changed to “hold meetings” and “variance” was replaced with “waiver.” These changes further diminish the process and discredit policy making. It’s policy change without public engagement favoring one sole stakeholder – the development community. If these are the kinds of “fixes” we’re going to get, then we’re stooping to a new low.

The IDO blatantly removes the public from the development review process, and it was the planners’ clear intent to do so. Telling are 2013-14 inter-office planning memos: “Keep neighborhoods under control … Rebalancing Neighborhood Association input into the process … need to either remove from (the) process or give them a charge … growth no matter what … eliminating sector plans …” The flaw is that against written promises, coupled with planners’ open advocacy on behalf of commercial development interests, they created an unbalanced domination by the one stakeholder. Rather than standing as honest brokers, planners continue in their staff reports and testimony to present the most favorable cases for certain developers or their agents with apparent imbedded undue influence within the city.

Although initially touted as a badly needed document to clean-up conflicting zoning regulations, planning staff now has identified over 500 “fixes” needed to amend the IDO. Astute neighborhood people have also identified numerous essential amendments. It’s what happens to a document that’s constructed “in a fairly strict timeline in order to complete this monumental project during the remainder of the Mayor’s term and we need to get this RFP out by early June in order to accomplish that.” Thus, in a special meeting, City Council passed the IDO on the eve of the mayoral election. The clear aim was to get Mayor (Richard) Berry to sign it before Mayor Keller took office. Six of 9 councilors, city planners and supporters of the IDO gave in to the development industry, wiped out publicly supported sector plans and left resident landowners hanging.

Property owners wanted to keep their sector plans – their sense of place. IDO form-based zones were created to set the forms of buildings and allow development to proceed more quickly without public hearings, something easier done in an urban environment like Downtown. The flaw? Without visionary planning you can’t reasonably attempt to create “downtown environments” citywide. After all, a key objective of this effort was “to develop zoning that protects neighborhoods while encouraging the revitalization of commercial areas.” Where are those neighborhood protections?”

You can review the guest editorial article at the below link:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1339342/homeowners-left-out-of-abqs-development-ordinance-fixes-ex-planning-department-is-cutting-neighborhoods-out-of-the-review-process.html

GENTRIFICATION MEANS DISPLACEMENT

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “gentrification” as:

“the process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area , such as an urban neighborhood, accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents. …”

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gentrification

“Gentrification” essentially involves a significant demographic shift of an increase in the number of affluent residents in a neighborhood and a decrease in the number of poorer residents. As summed-up by the Centers for Disease Control: “Gentrification is often defined as the transformation of neighborhoods from low value to high value.”

https://www.brownstoner.com/brooklyn-life/what-is-gentrification-definition-causes-effects/

Gentrification by another name means “displacement.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

To answer the last question posed by Dr. Joe L. Valles, “Where are those neighborhood protections?”, there simply are none, and do not expect any. IDO blatantly removes the public from the development review process. Elimination of neighborhood protections is what IDO was all about from the very beginning. What is interesting is that Dr. Joe L. Valles seems to avoid any and all discussion of the term “gentrification”, which is also what the new comprehensive plan was all about.

Mayor Tim Keller has been absolutely silent regarding passage R-19-150 sponsored by City Councilor Trudy Jones allowing the DRB to further circumvent strict state statute requirements. Why? As accurately pointed out by Dr. Valles in his letter, the fixes or “changes [to Integrated Development Ordinance ] further diminish the process and discredit policy making. It’s policy change without public engagement favoring one sole stakeholder – the development community.”

It should not come as any surprise to anyone that Mayor Tim Keller has remained silent. He refused to take any position on IDO when he was running for Mayor. Besides, Keller is known for his own self-promotion and ONE ABQ slogan. Zoning issues tend to be very boring and difficult to integrate into slogans, unless of course it’s your own historical neighborhood that is being affected by developers. Perhaps Keller should change his slogan “ONE ABQ” to “ONE ABQ, ONE DEVELOPMENT”.

ENACTMENT OF THE OF ABC-Z PLAN ALSO KNOWN AS INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT ORDINANCE (IDO).

Former Mayor Richard Berry who started the rewrite process during his second term said the adoption of comprehensive plan was a much-needed rewrite of a patchwork of decades-old development guidelines that held the city back from development and improvement. The rewrite of the comprehensive plan took a mere two years that started in 2015. Back in 2017, there were sixty (60) sector development plans which governed new development in specific neighborhoods. Forty (40) of the development plans had their own “distinct zoning guidelines” that were designed to protect many historical areas of the city.

On February 20, 2017 it was reported on the City web site that the re write of the comprehensive plan was an attempt to bring “clarity and predictability” to the development regulations and to attract more “private sector investment”. The city’s web site on the plan rewrite also claimed the key goals include “improve protection for the city’s established neighborhoods and respond to longstanding water and traffic challenges by promoting more sustainable development”. Economic development and job creation was argued as a benefit to rewriting the Comprehensive Plan.

Suzanne Lubar, the City Planning Department Director at the time, claimed that updating the comprehensive plan was necessary to keep up with growth trends because Bernalillo County’s population of 680,000 is expected to grow by 300,000 by 2040. City planners argued that with the rewrite of the comprehensive plan, it would be able to administer and enforce the city’s zoning system consistently.

(See Albuquerque Journal “City trying to weed out redundant regulations” at: https://www.abqjournal.com/953175/city-working-to-weed-out-redundant-regulations.html)

Under the enacted Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) the number of zones went from 250 to fewer than 20, which by any measure was dramatic. Using the words “promoting more sustainable development” means developers want to get their hands-on older neighborhoods and develop them as they see fit with little or no regulation at the best possible cost to make a profit.

https://publicpolicy.wharton.upenn.edu/live/news/1581-impacts-of-gentrification-a-policy-primer/for-students/blog/news.php

Critics of the plan said during the drafting of ABC-Z comprehensive plan that public discussion lacked representation from a number of minority voices and minority communities. The critics argued the final approved document would allow the continued location of polluting industries in predominantly minority neighborhoods. The accusation was made that the new comprehensive plan was racist. (See Albuquerque Free Press article “New ABQ Urban Plan Racist”, March 3, 2017.)

The enactment of the comprehensive plan was a major priority of former Republican Mayor Richard Berry before he left office. The development community pushed hard for its enactment before Berry left office and the City Council went along with it. IDO was enacted with the support of Democrats and Republicans on the City Council despite opposition from the neighborhood interests and associations.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the construction and development community, including the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP), pulled all stops to get the plan adopted before the October 3, 2017 municipal election, no doubt to support of Mayor Richard Berry. It is no secret that Berry, a construction contractor and developer himself, was the all-time darling of the construction and development community, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and organizations such as NAIOP because he did their political bidding.

One of the most nefarious votes by the Albuquerque City Council in late 2017 was the rush to vote for the final adoption of the ABC-Z or IDO comprehensive plan before the municipal election and the election of a new Mayor. Many neighborhood associations had requested the City Council to delay its enactment until after the 2017 Mayors race and the City Council ignored the request. Despite being encouraged to do so, not one single candidate running for Mayor in 2017 weighed in on opposing the IDO, including now Mayor Tim Keller. No doubt all the candidates wanted the issue to just go away. By not taking any position on IDO, they all refused to show any backbone against developers.

THEY CAN RUN BUT CANNOT HIDE FROM THEIR VOTING RECORD

The two City Council District’s the new Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) will have a major impact on are:

1) City Council District 2, represented by long time City Councilor Isaac Benton, a retired architect and

2) City Council District 6, represented by first term City Councilor Pat Davis.

Both Isaac Benton and Pat Davis are running for another term on the City Council.

Both Benton and Davis voted for the IDO and against the best interest of the neighborhoods they represent. Benton and Davis refused to intervene and make sure the IDO would not destroy the character of historical areas of the city in their districts.

As a retired architect, Benton knew what the full impact of IDO would be on neighborhoods but decided to supported the development community. Pat Davis on the other hand has not lived in the City long enough to understand city neighborhoods and their historical character. Pat Davis is basically inept and generally incompetent as you can get when it comes to zoning issues.

Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis and Trudy Jones could not careless about preserving historical neighborhoods or areas of the city including historic Route 66. All 3 voted repeatedly for and the disastrous ART Bus project that has destroyed the character of Route 66. All 3 refused to advocate to put the ART Bus project on the ballot for public approval.

The ART Bus project has been a total disaster resulting the destruction of the character of Route 66. ART construction had such a negative impact on Central that it resulted in several businesses going out of business. Many central businesses and Nob Hill businesses, no longer exist because of the ART Bus Project.

District 2 incumbent City Councilor Isaac Benton has 6 opponents seeking to replace him. The candidates are: Steve Baca (D), David B. Bearshire, Joseph Griego (D), Robert Raymond Blanquera Nelson (D), Zack Quintero, (D) and Connie Vigil, (R). 6 of 7 candidates in District 2 originally sought public financing and 4 have qualified: Benton, Griego, Nelson and Quintero. Anyone of these candidates would better represent District 2 than Benton.

District 6, incumbent City Councilor Pat Davis has one challenger and she is Gina Naomi Dennis (D) who is an attorney, neighborhood activists and who was a Bernie Sanders delegate in 2016 to the Democratic National Convention. Both Davis and Dennis qualified for public finance.

District 8 Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones is also running for another term on the city council. Trudy Jone’s support and action on IDO should come as no surprise. Trudy Jones is in the real estate industry and has always promoted the Republican agenda of opposing zoning regulations and has been supported by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and NAIOP repeatedly. Jones has qualified to be on the November ballot, but as usual will private finance her campaign. It is likely Trudy Jones will receive significant financial support from the development community.

District 8 City Councilor Trudy Jones has one challenger and she is S. Maureen Sakowin who has secured the necessary 500 nominating petition signatures to be on the ballot. Sakowin also qualified for public financing by securing the necessary 425 donations of $5 each from registered voters. Sakowin has already received approximately $45,000 in public finance and for that reason one elected to City Council she will not be indebted to the development community.

CONCLUSION

It is indeed a very, very sad commentary when residents like Dr. Joe L. Valles, President of the Grande Heights Neighborhood Association, are relegated to having write letters to the Albuquerque Journal hoping something will happen when the City Council has essentially forgotten that they represent neighborhoods and past IDO in the first place.

All the candidates running for City Council need to be asked what they feel about gentrification and what they will do to preserve and protect their neighborhoods under IDO and what changes they want to see in the comprehensive plan.

There is no doubt that IDO will have a long-term impact on the cities older neighborhoods and favors developers. The intent from day one of the ABC-Z comprehensive plan was the “gutting” of long-standing sector development plans by the development community to repeal those sector development plans designed to protect neighborhoods and their character.

Using words like “promoting more sustainable development” means private developers and development organizations wanting to get their hands-on older neighborhoods and develop them as they see fit with little regulation at the best possible cost to make a profit. The ABC-Z project rewrite was nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy especially with IDO blatantly removing the public from the development review process.

City Councilors Pat Davis, Isaac Benton and Trudy Jones need to be thanked for enacting the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) as well as the ART Bus project by denying them another term on the city council and voting them off the City Council.

As far as Mayor Tim Keller is concerned, he appears to be far more concerned about preserving the legacy of his predecessor and not preserving historical neighborhoods. Keller has not taken any real position on the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO), he has not vetoed R-19-150 sponsored by City Councilor Trudy Jones allowing the DRB to further circumvent strict state statute requirements. Mayor Tim Keller is now fully committed to completing the ART Bus project with completion of construction and the order of new buses to the point he can call it his own legacy project.

Mayor Tim Keller appointed David Campbell as the City’s Planning Director replacing Suzanne Lubar and Cambell essentially carried on the policies of the former Republican Mayor, especially when it came to being “pro development”. The Planning Department enforces the Integrated Sector Development Plan. Campbell has resigned as Albuquerque’s Planning Director and was appointed the new Rio Rancho City Manager. Working first for Mayor Louis Saavedra as City Attorney and then appointed Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) under Mayor Richard Berry, Campbell has extensive contacts and shares much of the pro development philosophy with the Economic Forum, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and NAIOP. Mayor Keller has yet to announce who his new Planning Director will be and the appointment is subject to city council approval. Keller’s appointment of a new Planning Director will reveal just how committed Mayor Tim Keller really is to historical neighborhoods and just how pro-development he is and the Mayor’s attitude towards neighborhood associations and the voices of varying communities.

Trump Tells American “Squad” To “Go Back To The Countries You Came From”; It’s Now Racism Against Americans Of Color: Make America White Again (MAWA)

The “squad” is the nickname that has been given to the four, young Democrat United States Representatives to Congress who are all women of color. All four were elected in November, 2018 to their first terms in congress. The “squad” are Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

BACKGROUND

In June, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi allowed a vote on a Senate-passed border spending bill without a series of amendments negotiated by progressives to protect migrants. The vote on the bill without any amendments by the House was done at the request and urging of the more moderate Democrat members of the House. Tensions and internal party fighting were made public during the debate over the border spending bill that passed. The four so called “squad” Democrats were the only 4 Democrats who voted against the Bill and they said they were being marginalized by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The discourse within the Democratic Caucus escalated when the Chief of Staff to Ocasio-Cortez compared moderate Democrats to segregationists. The tweet suggested that two moderate groups, the Blue Dogs and the New Democrats, be called New Southern Democrats, a group of Democrats who once supported segregation. Ocasio-Cortez’s Chief of Staff said “They certainly seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to downplay the conflict between the 4 members of congress and the much larger bloc of moderate Democrats and urged her members to stay out of the fray and said:

“We respect the value of every member of our caucus. The diversity of it all is a wonderful thing. Diversity is our strength. Unity is our power.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made it personal, suggesting in an interview that House Speaker Pelosi was deliberately targeting the four because of their race and said:

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood … But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

TRUMP’S ATTEMPT TO DISRUPT AND DIVIDE

Never missing an opportunity to disrupt and divide Democrats, President Donald Trump on Sunday, July 14, 2019 tweeted about the dust up between Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe … now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. … Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

In a follow-up tweet, President Trump suggested that the four Democrats should leave Washington:

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came … Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-four-liberal-congresswomen-should-go-back-to-the-crime-infested-places-from-which-they-came/2019/07/14/b8bf140e-a638-11e9-a3a6-ab670962db05_story.html?utm_term=.d9ec32491554

Democrat US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to Trump with her own tweet by saying:

“Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States. But given how you’ve destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet.”

All four women of the “squad” won election to Congress in 2018. Three of the 4 woman were in fact born and raised in the United States. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, was born in New York and is from the Bronx, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was born in Detroit, Mihigan. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.,was born in Mogadishu, Somalia where her family fled the country amid civil war when she was a child and she became a United States citizen as a teenager.

This is not the first time that Trump has assumed a person is not and American because of their last name and who was born and raised in the United States. In May 2016 during the presidential campaign, Trump suggested United States Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who oversaw the class action lawsuit against Trump University, was biased against Trump due to his “Mexican” heritage claiming American born Curiel was from Mexico.

To her credit and as a testament to her leadership, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had a very sharp response to Trump and went to the defense of the four congresswoman and tweeted:

“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America white again. Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”

In another tweet, Pelosi said:

“I reject @realDonaldTrump’s xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation. Rather than attack Members of Congress, he should work with us for humane immigration policy that reflects American values. Stop the raids – #FamiliesBelongToget”

Democratic lawmakers quickly united in defending the 4 congresswomen against Trump’s attack and universally condemning Trump’s tweets.

New Mexico Democrat Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, an assistant House speaker and the 4th ranking in House Leadership, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump’s tweet was “racist” and “wrong” and said:

“[Trump] Telling people to go back where they came from? These are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the most distinguished bodies in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Arizona Democrat Congressman Ruben Gallego was more personal responding to Trump by recounting how, despite being born in the United States, he was repeatedly told to “go back to Mexico” from childhood through adulthood, regardless of his service in the Marine Corps or how well he did in school:

“To people like Trump I will never be American enough … So if you wonder why I give no inch to these racists, now you know. Nothing will ever satisfy them, all we can do is stop them.”

Tennessee Democrat Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) tweeted:

“3 of 4 are American born and the other is a citizen. They are all ‘more’ American than 2 of Trumps wives (he seems partial to foreign women) and his grandparents.” Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump, was born in then Czechoslovakia, and the president’s wife, Melania, immigrated to the United States. Melania Trump immigrated from Slovenia in 1996 for a modeling career. Trump’s grandparents and his mother were born in Europe.

TRUMP’S “NO TOLERANCE POLICY” STILL STANDS AS BEST EXAMPLE OF HIS RACISM

On July 13, 2019 Vice President Mike Pence toured the overcrowded facility in McAllen, Texas and saw firsthand the abhorrent conditions the detained migrants are enduring in the United States. The images of around 384 men kept behind metal fences in the hot facility where they do not have any mats or pillows have been shown on news casts. The images reflect that even if the men wanted to sleep on the concrete floor it would be impossible for all of them to lie down at the same time.

The overwhelming stench in the facility has been reported as so bad that ICE agents and visitors have to wear face masks. ICE agents at the scene acknowledged that many of the men had not showered for 10 to 20 days because there were no actual showers at the facility until recently. It was reported that many of the men being held at the facility have been there for at least 32 days or more.

Before taking the tour, Vice President Pence claimed that reports of detainees being kept in filthy conditions were “slanderous.” After visiting the facility, he changed his tune and said he wasn’t shocked by the horrific scene and was quoted as saying:

“To be honest with you, I was not surprised by what we saw. … This crisis is real, the time for action is now. … The McAllen station, where our cells are overflowing … ought to be a very clear message to every American that the time for action is now and the time for Congress to act to end the flow of families that are coming north from Central America to our border is now”.

Pence did say the overcrowded facility in McAllen, Texas was not acceptable. Pence also said it was the fault of Democrats in Congress who have refused to provide additional funding for the border not at all accepting the fact it is a crisis created by President Trump.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/07/mike-pence-tours-overcrowded-detention-facility-migrants-texas.html

When a any person, a United States Citizens or not, is arrested and taken into custody, or for that matter convicted of any crime and sentenced to prison, by law they become wards of the government and they all must be properly housed, fed, protected from harm and medical care provided which is all paid for by the taxpayer. Over the years, millions have been paid out in civil rights lawsuits over prison overcrowding, poor conditions and correction officer mistreatment, including rapes and physical abuse. New Mexico and Bernalillo County have be subject to those very types of lawsuits costing taxpayers millions. It may be a crime to be here illegally, but once the migrants were taken into custody by ICE and placed in the McAllen, Texas facility, they became wards of the United State government entitled to safe and proper housing, to be fed, protected from harm and medical care.

What is happening at the border with the incarceration of those seeking asylum is nothing more than a “reincarnation” of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy he announced last year that arrested and prosecuted people coming into the United States illegally and forcibly separating children from their parents at the Mexican border. Cage like “chain link” enclosures and tents were erected to house the children.

Initially, President Trump dug in his heels over his controversial “zero-tolerance” policy. Mr. Trump pointed to Europe, which he said had become a “migrant camp,” and said that would not happen to the United States under his leadership. Speaking at the White House last year Trump said:

“The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. You look at what’s happening in Europe, and in other places, we cannot allow that to happen. Not on my watch.”

At last year’s Nevada GOP state party convention, Trump reiterated some of his most vile rhetoric about migrants and asylum seekers from Central and South America when he said:

“The word is ‘overrun.’ We will have millions and millions of people pouring through our country and all the problems that would cause with crime and schools. … If they see any weakness, they will come by the millions.”

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2018/06/23/in-rambling-speech-trump-renews-attacks-on-immigrants-they-will-come-by-the-millions/23466476/

Trump elaborated on his plans for cracking down on people fleeing their home countries to enter the United States relying on fear mongering about gang violence from groups like MS-13 when he said:

“These are sick evil people. … I called them animals and people said ‘that’s a terrible thing to say.’ Nancy Pelosi said that’s a terrible thing to say. She was defending MS-13.” Apparently in Trump’s sick and warped mind, over 2,500 children separated from their parents are sick and evil people who are all MS-13 gang members.

After immense bipartisan pressure and public outcry, Trump abruptly reversed himself and signed an executive order halting his disgraceful policy of separating children from their parents when they are detained illegally crossing the U.S. border. Just four days after reversing himself and issuing an executive order, Trump again took to bashing migrants seeking asylum with their children on twitter:

“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents. Cannot accept all of the people trying to break into our Country. Strong Borders, No Crime!”

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2018/06/24/trump-calls-for-deporting-illegal-immigrants-with-no-judges-or-court-cases/23466729/

Trump has never differentiated between people who entered the United States to seek asylum and illegal immigrants. U.S. immigration law provides certain rights for undocumented immigrants arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In most cases, they are allowed a full hearing before an immigration judge before being deported. The first conviction for entering the United States illegally is a misdemeanor and a second offense is a felony.

You can review a history of Trump’s racism in the postscript to this blog article.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

President Donald Trump is a racist pure, plain and simple, even against American born citizens and elected United Sates Representatives born and raised in the United States and elected by United States citizens. The Republicans in Congress even refuse to admit it in the hopes of clinging to power. Not a single Republican elected to congress has condemned the President’s obviously racists tweets against 4 of their colleagues in the United State Congress.

Trump’s biggest legacy as President of the United State will be his disgraceful “scar of racism” he likes to show off for all the world to see. Trump enjoys showing his racism to his most fervent defenders who no doubt have no problem with it. Trump also stands for what the Republican Party has become.

Trump needs to be dumped in the garbage of history as the United States first duly elected racist dictator, the sooner the better. At this point, it is not likely he will be removed from office by impeachment or resignation, unless of course former Special Counsel Robert Mueller says when he testifies before congress in a few weeks that Trump did in fact commit crimes, but he could not indict him as a sitting President. Mueller would also have to tell congress point blank that Trump needs to be impeached and removed from office. Otherwise, this country will have at least another year of Trump’s racist version of “Making America Great Again”.

It is suggested that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. , Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass produce certified copies of their birth certificates, roll them up and deliver them to the White House and tell Trump to file the documents where the sun don’t shine. In the meantime, all 4 of the Squad and all American citizens need to recognize our real enemy, the enemy of Democracy and what this country stands for sits in the Oval Office of the White House and not in the Speaker’s Chair in the United States Congress. Otherwise we can look forward to having another four more years of a racist President hell bent on “Making America White Again” (MAWA).

_________________________

POSTCRIPT:

TRUMP’S HISTORY OF RACISM

President Trump’s racism dates back to 1973 when his housing management company was the target of a Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division civil lawsuit over allegations that he and his father as real estate developers were keeping black and Puerto Rican people out of their apartments.

It was in 1989 that Donald Trump purchased newspaper ads calling for the death penalty for the “Central Park Five,” four black men and one Latino man accused of rape who were later exonerated by DNA evidence and released after being exonerated as not committing the crime. During the 2016 presidential election, Trump still insisted the “Central Park Five” were guilty.

For at least eight (8) years, Donald Trump was front an center of the “birther movement” and questioned former President Barack Obama’s American citizenship thereby questioning Obama’s legitimacy as President of the United States. In 2011, Trump called on President Obama to release his birth certificate and went as far as to offer to give $5 million to one of Obama’s charity of choice if he released his college records and passport.

In 2015 when Donald Trump announced his bid for the presidency, he said “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

During the Presidential election, Trump said “I will 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, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

In May 2016 during the presidential campaign, Trump suggested United States Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born and raised in the United States and who oversaw the class action lawsuit against Trump University, was biased against Trump due to his “Mexican” heritage claiming American born Curiel was from Mexico.

During a campaign stop, Trump looked over a crowd and ask out loud to the crowd of supporters “where’s my African American” as if to show he had support of African Americans.

On January 27, 2017, just seven days after being sworn in as President, January Donald Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries arguing it was needed to combat terrorism. The move sparked numerous protests and legal challenges.

In August 2017, after a 20-year-old white man drove his car into a crowd at a white nationalist rally in Charlotesville, Virginia, killing one anti-racist protester and injuring 19 others, President Trump said that there was “blame on both sides” regarding the deadly violence that was instigated by white supremacists.

President Trump during a ceremony in the White House to honor the World War II Navajo Code talkers, one from New Mexico, took the opportunity to call Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”.

During the football season, Trump proclaimed that professional football players, who were predominantly African American and who “took a knee” during the national anthem to protest the treatment of African Americans should be fired.

The New York Times reported in December, 2017 that President Trump said in a June meeting about immigration that Haitians “all have AIDS”, a statement denied by the White House.

On December 24, 2017, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump described Nigerians as people living in huts and that they would not want to return to them. He reportedly said 40,000 had come from Nigeria and would never “go back to their huts” once they had seen America.

New Mexico’s Job Growth Slowly Pulling Out Of Great Recession

In May, the national unemployment rate was 3.6% down from 3.8% in May 2018. On June 21, 2019 the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions reported that New Mexico’s adjusted unemployment rate was 5.0 percent in May, unchanged from the previous month and up from 4.8 percent in the same month the previous year. Notwithstanding the small increase in the unemployment rate, the state of New Mexico outpaced the national job growth rate.

NM Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill Mc Camley says the numbers are good for the Land of Enchantment by saying:

“Too often New Mexico is ranked 49th or 50th in the good things our country measures, but this growth, particularly in the private sector, shows New Mexico is headed in the right direction and open for business. … If you work hard and learn the right skills, you don’t have to give up your chile and move away for a job … You can earn a great salary here while staying in our friendly, beautiful communities.”

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/nm-job-growth-outpaces-national-rate/5402170/?fbclid=IwAR1kiR_qDymyYVKADlT0DlFFiSKtbdkrdKX4w0wih1yEeFHZ127MupICPkI

NEW MEXICO UNEMPLOYMENT RATES CONTINUE TO IMPROVE

On June 21, 2019 the Department of Workforce Solutions reported the total non-agricultural payroll employment in New Mexico increased by 15,900 jobs, or 1.9% between May 2018 and May 2019 with most gains from the private sector, which was up 2.3% or 15,300 jobs. Mining and construction, which includes the oil and gas industries, had the largest gains, adding 5,500 jobs, or 7.6%.

Other gains reported by the Department of Workforce Solutions in the private sector include:

Professional and Business Services Industry employment is up 3.5% or 3,700 jobs.
Education and Health Services Industry increased by 2.6% or 3,600 jobs.
The Leisure and Hospitality Industry added 3,500 jobs, or 3.5%.
Financial activities showed a gain of 600 jobs, or 1.8 percent.
Manufacturing Industry employment was up by 1.4% or 400 jobs.

Private sectors industry losing jobs included:

Trade, transportation, and utilities was down by 1.5% or 2,100 jobs
Employment in information sector was down 2.5% or 300 jobs.

In the local public or government sector, local government employment grew by a mere 0.8% or 800 jobs. All gains came from local government excluding education, with education up by 1.6%.
Federal government reported a gain of 500 jobs, or 1.7% while state government employment decreased by 700 jobs, or 1.3%.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1331476/nm-jobless-rate-5-in-may-unchanged-from-april.html

ECONOMIC BASE JOBS VERSUS SERVICE INDUSTRY JOBS

A service-based industry is one that offers its products, goods or services primarily within a particular region and does not supply markets outside the region nor increase the economic base of a region. In general, service base industries offer lower paying or minimum wage jobs not requiring much education or technical skills.

Economic base industries provide jobs requiring higher education and higher trained skills An economic base job is one created or needed by a business or industry that increases economic growth of a region by increasing exports of manufactured products, goods or services from the local economy or region to another region or economy thereby increasing the size of the local economy with profits and cash flow from outside the region.

The corner stone of the “economic base theory” is that an increase in economic growth of a region or economy is dependent on increase in exports, manufactured goods or services from one region or economy to another region or economy and supplying markets outside the local economy.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Without question the positive news coming out of the NM Department of Workforce Solutions when it comes to our reduction in its unemployment rates is news that has been a long time in coming.

Notwithstanding, New Mexico needs to pursue with a vengeance the real growth industry like heath care, 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 Albuquerque’s and New Mexico’s film industry which is developing, expanding and proving to be very successful in providing well-paying jobs.

With NBC Universal coming to Albuquerque and the purchase of Albuquerque Studios by Netflix, the film industry is clearly in the future of New Mexico and the best hope at this point in diversifying our economy. 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, jobs that will be provided by both NBC Universal and NETFLEX are a far cry from the hourly wage jobs provided by the “call centers” that the state has become accustomed to being announced.

The State needs to continue with efforts that will ensure that our education institutions such as the New Mexico Community College continue to offer a trained work force. Both the City and the State need to create more incentives to build and guarantee that the industry continues to prosper in New Mexico.

There is never any guarantee what government does to spur economic development, such as offering tax incentives or reducing corporate taxes, that will create “economic based jobs.” For that reason, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature must take bold and aggressive, calculated risks to attract and create high-paying jobs to keep our youth and talent from leaving. The State’s economic development efforts need to be coordinated with our vocational institutions to identify new industries that can be attracted to Albuquerque and ensure that both have the trained workforce to accommodate any new industry.

Until then, New Mexico appears to be finally pulling out of the great recession.

State Settles With Behavioral Health Care Providers Gutted By Former Republican Governor; One Act Of Kindness Reveals True Character Of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

“Behavioral health” can be defined as “the scientific study of the emotions, behaviors and biology relating to a person’s mental well-being, their ability to function in every day life and their concept of self. Behavioral health is the preferred term to “mental health.” A person struggling with his or her behavioral health may face stress, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, addiction, ADHD or learning disabilities, mood disorders, or other psychological concerns. Counselors, therapists, life coaches, psychologists, nurse practitioners or physicians can help manage behavioral health concerns with treatments such as therapy, counseling, or medication.”

Defining Behavioral Health

One of the cruelest things that former Republican Governor “She Who Shall Not Be Named” did was when she ordered an “audit” of mental health services by nonprofits in New Mexico based on questionable information. The audit eventually devastated New Mexico’s behavioral health system.

In June 2013, under the direction of the former Republican Governor, the Human Services Department (HSD) cut off Medicaid funding to 15 behavioral health nonprofits operating in New Mexico. In 2014, more than 160,000 New Mexicans received behavioral health services, with most of those services funded by Medicaid, according to the Human Services Department.

After the audits were completed, the former Republican Administration said that the outside audit showed more than $36 million in over billing, as well as mismanagement and possible fraud. Under the orders of the Republican Governor, Human Services Department agency brought in 5 Arizona providers to take over from New Mexico providers.

In early 2016, following exhaustive investigations, the Attorney General cleared all 15 of the healthcare providers of any wrongdoing and exonerated all of them of fraud. Even though the Attorney General found no fraud and actually cleared the nonprofits of fraud, the damage had been done to the nonprofits. With the Medicaid funding freeze, many of the nonprofits could not continue and just went out of business leaving many patients without a behavioral health service provider. Lawsuits against the state were initiated by many of the mental health care providers.

Three of the five Arizona providers brought in by the previous Republican Administration in 2013 to replace the New Mexico nonprofits pulled out of the state. New Mexico’s mental health system has yet to fully recover.

https://www.abqjournal.com/749923/third-arizona-behavioral-health-provider-to-pull-out-of-state.html

CASES BEING SETTLED

During a July 9, 2019 press conference, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that her Administration has settled several of the long-running lawsuits involving the states nonprofit behavioral health providers affected by a 2013 Medicaid funding freeze ordered by her Republican predecessor. The lawsuits as a carry-over from the former Republican Governor Administration have now cost the state millions of dollars in taxpayer money that could have been put to better use for essential services.

Negotiated settlement agreements have been reached with at least 3 of nonprofit behavioral health providers affected by a 2013 Medicaid funding freeze. The three providers the state settled with are: Valencia County Counseling Services, The Counseling Center and Hogares.

All 3 behavioral health providers were among 15 mental health nonprofits that had their Medicaid funding cut off by order of the former Republican Governor based on allegations of “potential” overbilling and fraud. The New Mexico Attorney General eventually cleared all 15 of the providers of any wrongdoing following investigations, but many were driven out of the behavioral health business.

Under the terms of the negotiated settlement agreements, the state will pay the Valencia County Counseling Services, The Counseling Center and Hogares nearly $2.7 million in dmages. The 3 providers have agreed to pay the state roughly $191,000. One of the providers will also be able to apply to the state for a reinstatement of its Medicaid provider number. Several of the other behavioral health nonprofits still have active claims under a consolidated lawsuit pending in the Santa Fe First Judicial District Court.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase had this to say about the settlements:

“We are encouraged by the progress made to resolve these cases, and we believe that these settlements are in the best interest of New Mexico and our behavioral health network.”

Notwithstanding the settlements announced, Governor Lujan Grisham said the damage to New Mexico’s mental health system caused by 2013 Medicaid funding freeze ordered by her predecessor affected numerous families and businesses and it will take years to recover from and she said:

“Quite frankly, it’s created such deep holes in the other health care delivery systems in Medicaid … that in fact it’s raised the cost in the private market for health care.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1338147/settlements-reached-with-three-mental-health-providers.html

GOVERNOR LUJAN GRISHAM’S COMMITMENT TO BEHAVIORAL HEATH CARE

During my early teenage, high school and college years, my family dealt with a member who suffered from very severe, chronic and self-destructive mental illness who never recovered from it until his passing. I will always remember how my father was treated by health care professionals and yes at times law enforcement. Throughout my life and public service career, I made sure I knew how elected officials dealt with behavioral health care issues. When I was a prosecutor, I understood the importance of drug treatment programs and behavioral health programs as an alternative to prosecution and incarceration and returning people to be productive citizens.

In politics, more can be learned about a politician and their character by observing them in private and especially how they treat other people. A little more than 5 years ago, I attended a small fund raiser for then Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. In attendance was a person who we both knew and dealt with in the past, who was a very vocal critic of both of us in the past, and who we both understood to have mental health issues. Michelle Lujan Grisham, not knowing that I was listening and watching her, had one of her aides approach her and ask her if she wanted the person removed before she started to speak. Her response was quick and sure and it told me more about her than I had ever known. She told her aide to talk to the person, make sure he did not need anything, and then after the event, make sure he got a ride home seeing as the person walked to the event and it would be dark when the event ended. This one act of understanding revealed the true character of an elected official.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The former New Mexico Republican Governor never understood the need for mental health services and it was an easy target for her conservative anti government philosophy to freeze Medicaid funding to bring 15 nonprofits to their knees and forcing them out of business. To the former prosecutor, the answer was always increasing penalties and incarceration. It has never been fully reported on how the 5 Arizona Heath Care providers were selected to replace the New Mexico nonprofits. It has also never been revealed to what extent the former Republican Governor was involved with the selection nor what orders her office gave in the selection of the out of state providers.

What is known is that legacy of Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named” is a legacy of shame when it comes to the destruction of New Mexico’s nonprofit mental health care system. Her political wrath and cost cutting measures affected thousands of New Mexico residents in need of mental and behavioral health care services and she simply did not give a damn.

After 8 very long years, New Mexico has a Governor that truly understands the need for effective and critical mental and behavioral health care services. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham served as Director of New Mexico’s Agency on Aging under Governors Bruce King, Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson. Governor Richardson elevated the position to the state cabinet. In 2004. Lujan Grisham was appointed as New Mexico Secretary of Health where she was a champion for mental health services.

It is now on to cleaning up the many other piles of Republican Elephant dung left by the previous Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named”.