Thursday, July 30, 2009

How would you save the budget?

I admit I'm no budget guru here, but, I wonder how much it would help the state's finances if Val Kilmer were to pay his back taxes? (For the record, the taxes he allegedly owes are federal, but there are many others who haven't paid state taxes...)

Or, if the Capitol hallways weren't receiving all new carpeting right now? (Looks nice, by the way.)

Or, if the state actually had a true hiring freeze in place?

Do you have ideas on where the state can save? Want to report wasteful spending? Send them to me for a possible future story.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mary Herrera raising money to run again for SOS

It's early, but not that early for next year's elections. I just got this invite to a tea party fund raiser for Mary Herrera's re-election campaign. Looks like the tea party is the traditional kind, with finger sandwiches and scones and the like -- not the kind of tea parties we've seen lately. . .

But wait, there's more. Shopping! The girls-only trip won't help the New Mexico economy much, however. It's in El Paso.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Too hot for a hiring freeze

Despite the hiring freeze in place since last November, the state continues to hire both classified and exempt employees, as I noted in a story this morning.

The number of hires -- 41 exempts and 317 classified positions -- are only through some time in June, however, so the actual figure is probably higher. One exempt hire I confirmed since the story ran is of Paul Ritzma as a deputy chief of staff for the governor. He replaces Bruce Perlman.

Ritzma, who prior to this was the general counsel at the Human Services Department, irked some lawmakers and open government advocates during this year's session when he floated changes to a bill relating to the state's Inspection of Public Records Act. In short, the changes (read the second half of this story) would have dramatically increased the number of exemptions to state public records law.

I've used that same law just now in requesting an updated list of new hires and will let you know what I find out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On the trail of stimulus money

There are a few handy websites out there to help you answer the question of where your stimulus money is going. U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has another one, his office announced today.

The site, which focuses on CD 3, has a map so you can see exactly where the stimulus projects are. What I've found so far is that the sites start out strong, but aren't kept up to date. We'll keep tabs on this one.

In the meantime, former Gov. Toney Anaya said in this story I wrote that he had hoped New Mexico's share of cash would come sooner. Of the $3 billion the state is on track to recieve, just $125 million has actually flowed into state coffers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Susana Martinez running for governor?

That's the scoop from reporter Heath Haussamen.

Martinez hasn't said pubilcly that she's in, but Heath has several sources with knowledge of her plans to announce on Friday.

The entrance of Martinez, the district attorney in Dona Ana County, changes the race in several ways, adding another woman and another Republican to the mix.

Any one else who is serious about running has to announce pretty quick here, if they want time to fundraise, build their campaigns and travel around the state before the race. I'm partly kidding of course, but given the way the 2010 gubernatorial race is shaking out, I bet we're going to see the big name candidates emerge before the monsoons come.

Monday, July 13, 2009

New ad takes aim at Denish

If there was any doubt about who the state GOP will most target in the 2010 gubernatorial race, that question was answered with the debut of a new anti-Diane Denish TV ad. Denish is seen as the Democratic frontrunner, so it makes sense. Another thought does raises questions, though, and that's the idea that the TV ad war has now essentially started more than a year before the general election. I'd have to look, but that might be unprecedented in New Mexico.

Update, 10:54 a.m.
When asked whether it plans to respond, Denish's campaign says it doesn't comment on media strategy.

"But one thing is clear - New Mexicans aren't going to be fooled by a dishonest, negative attack ad," Ted Martinez, chairman of the Committee to elect Denish said in a statement. "They know Diane Denish has a long record of fighting for government ethics in New Mexico."

The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, called the ad a "scam."

Here's an e-mail from the party's executive director, Josh Geise.

"For those of you who may be covering the ad the NM GOP released attacking Diane Denish - It's a scam. They have not purchased any air-time on network TV and have only placed a $4,000 buy on cable. It amounts to a video press release at best. Desperate people do desperate things."

I have a call in to the Republican Party for details on when the ad airs, etc.

Update, 1:00 p.m.

Denish says the ad won't go unchallenged. Here's a bit on an e-mail she sent to supporters:

"It started as a pretty standard Sunday night around the Denish household. I was getting a little laundry done.

But the Republicans had other plans for this weekend - namely, starting the earliest and most negative TV campaign in New Mexico history. Their latest attack ad is up, and boy is it slimy.

I can't let this attack go unchallenged. And I won't. But I need your help to fight back.
Republicans are scared by my strong standing in the polls and our sound policies for New Mexico. This ad shows how far they are they are willing to go and that we are going to have to fight to set the record straight and win in 2010."

See the ad below.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Denish outlines ethics plan

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish outlined her ethics plan this afternoon outside the state Supreme Court.

The list is long.

Denish, a second-term lieutenant governor who is running for the state’s top post in 2010, wants an ethics commission on which neither elected officials, lobbyists or family members of lobbyists could serve. No officers of political parties, either.

A Democrat, Denish wants an online ‘sunshine portal’ that would host a state checkbook ledger of sorts, a capital outlay tracker, a comprehensive list of open meetings, a salary of state employee salaries and a contractor database.

In addition, Denish is pitching increased transparency in political campaigns and from lobbyists. Under her plan, all statewide candidates would file reports every three months. Eventually, all candidates would be required to file campaign finance reports every 30 days.

Denish said she was there "to continue the fight to make sure New Mexicans have a government that is transparent."

She hadn't spoken to Gov. Bill Richardson about the proposals, she said. She hopes she can get them on the call for the 2010 30-day session.

Denish said she has been working on the proposals for months, including as she toured around the state and found that current scandals have shaken people's faith in government.

She twice made it clear that she had no connection to the current scandals. She also pointed out her work to reform the state's housing authorities.

"Regardless of what we are proposing today, my office and I are not part of anything that has to do with any of the current allegations," she said.

"Again, whatever may be said by the opposition party in their quest to find qualified candidates for some of their offices, let me just say this, I have not been part of any of this, my office has not been part of any of this, regardless of what they may want to say or allege."

Even before Denish's press conference started, Republicans had taken aim.

"For years, the people of New Mexico have been waiting for Diane Denish to take a more active and visible lead on the issue of corruption," GOP chairman Harvey Yates said in a statement. "Cosmetic changes to the laws under the guise of corruption reform will not do. What is most important in the battle against corruption is for leaders to stand up against the fountains of corruption in the state."

Ethics is the topic for 2010 gubernatorial race

If there was any doubt in your mind about what the hot topic of the 2010 gubernatorial race will be, guess no more. It's ethics.

Yep, the need for good, honest, transparent government will be key as the state prepares for leadership after Gov. Bill Richardson.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish later today will outline her platform. Already, Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, a candidate for lieutenant governor, has put his plan out there. And you know the Republicans have plenty to say about the current corruption scandals.

We'll take a listen for new proposals -- and old ones, given that so many have been introduced but haven't passed in recent legislative sessions. . .

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

SOS website, take four

After all the stories recently on the malfunctioning Secretary of State's website, including the one I wrote today, expect lawmakers to start asking even more questions about the site, the money that's been spent and what the real problem is.

One legislator said SOS Mary Herrera can expect serious scrutiny at an upcoming interim meeting at the Capitol. Stay tuned, because this story isn't over.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Steve Pearce to run again for CD2

Saying U.S. Rep. Harry Teague "won't fight for jobs for NM families," and criticizing Teague for his vote on the cap and trade bill, former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce today said he'll run again for the seat he previously held.

In a statement, Pearce laid out his reasons for going for the post, taking aim at Teague, who has been heavily targeted by Republicans.

Here's some of Pearce's statement:

"For the past half year, I have stood by and hoped for the best for our state and country. I had hoped Harry Teague would look out for the hard working people of New Mexico.

Sadly while I hoped for the best, Harry Teague embraced a reckless set of policies that directly jeopardize our economy and threatens future generations.

He went to Washington and quickly voted for massive amounts of wasteful spending, loading up on pork barrel projects and radically increasing the size of government.

Now Harry Teague chose to vote for the job-killing cap and trade bill. If this bill becomes law, it will devastate jobs in New Mexico and further cripple the American economy. "

The move means the Republican gubernatorial primary won't be as large as it could have been, and will likely mean a CD2 race with a lot of national party involvement.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Key parts of SOS site still not working

Secretary of State Mary Herrera predicted yesterday that all of her office's website would be up and running by last night. Well, she was almost right.

Key parts still don't work, including the ability to file a report online, to search previously filed reports, or to look up lobbyists on the site. The UCC filings part appears to work, although one source is raising questions about whether the new system is more secure than the old one, for techie reasons I can't pretend to understand...

Sorry to sound like a broken record, but this is a basic government service that should be fixed, and many people are upset.

Maybe next week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Parts of SOS web site are back

That's good news, unless you need to send a UCC filing, file a campaign finance report, search a past report or find lobbyist information, as those sections of the site still don't work.

You can, however, read about SOS Mary Herrera's latest awards and her appointment as president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, and see a photo of school kids visiting her office.