Archive for April, 2012
Editor’s note: We received this while we were preparing the first of our articles on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which included a discussion of legislation affecting women in Wisconsin. From the standpoint of timing, we considered it a significant coincidence.
Albuquerque, NM, April 5, 2012: Local Pre-Law Student and, Model Teddie Rivers, and the Women’s Resource Center join the Unite Against The War on Women campaign. They are organizing on campus to gather support for The National Women’s March on April 28th 2012 at the Round House in Santa Fe, N.M.
Unite Against the War on Women is an effort to educate local citizens, as well as our Local, State, and Government leaders on the astonishing legislation and rhetoric taking place in our House of Representatives, the media, and many of the States across our country attacking women’s rights, from healthcare access and reproductive rights, to voting rights and human rights.
Ms. Rivers and other National Women’s March coordinators will be tabling events on the UNM Campus on Thursday, April 19; Tuesday, April 24; and Thursday, April 26 from 11AM – 1PM to answer questions and educate the public about the April 28th March.
Local coordinators will be meeting at the Rail Runner Station in downtown Albuquerque at 8:15AM on April 28th before march and commuting to Santa Fe via the Rail Runner, and are asking as many people possible attending the march to board the train to Santa Fe.
Rally will be held on April 28, 2012 from 10AM – 2PM at The Round House in Santa Fe, N.M. The rally is expected to draw a crowd of 2,000 New Mexican women declaring: “Enough is Enough.
Unite Against the War on Women Mission Statement:
Help defend women’s right and pursuit of equality. Join Americans all across the United States on April 28th, 2012, as we come together as one to tell members of Congress in Washington DC and legislators in all 50 states. “Enough is enough!”
All Americans have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, including contraception, without interference from government, business or religious institutions.
Everyone is invited to join, plan, and rally as we unite to demand that every person be granted equal opportunities, equal right, and equal representation.
UNM Campus Organizer
Editor’s note: In our previous ALEC And Us article, we called upon New Mexico legislators in general and our own District legislators – Sue Wilson-Beffort and Jim Smith – to disclose and clarify the nature and extent of their involvement, if any, with the American Legislative Exchange Council. We followed up with an e-mail to Ms. Wilson-Beffort and Mr. Smith on Friday. We have not yet received a response, but let’s remember it’s the weekend and the e-mail went out on Friday. We hope to hear from them soon.
by John Weckerle
The New York Times has run an article expanding on the activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), including its lobbying, and also its status as a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization. An NPR article also casts doubt upon the organization’s charity status. Both articles note that a watchdog agency, Common Cause, has filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that ALEC has abused its tax-exempt status. The NPR article provides some analysis indicating that precedent suggests ALEC may be on the wrong side of the law in this regard.
The Times article characterizes ALEC as a “stealth business lobbyist.” Of particular interest to us in this regard is whether the group’s activities in New Mexico may have violated New Mexico laws governing lobbying. A quick look over the list of registered lobbyists in New Mexico does not reveal any indication that ALEC has any registered lobbyists. It is unclear which legislators may have received input from ALEC’s members, whether those members were registered as lobbyists in the state, and to what extent individual New Mexico legislators may have received campaign contributions from ALEC members. While we have not completed a detailed analysis of information available through FollowTheMoney.org, a preliminary review suggests connections among the various ALEC members.
by John Weckerle
We recently published an article on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, in part a response to a Sandia Tea Party article on the subject. We urged our readers – and everybody else, although we’re not sure how they’d know we were urging without reading – to refrain from speculating on the degree to which race was a factor in the tragedy until the facts are in. We repeat that request, and want our readers to understand that our interest in mentioning the case is associated with Florida’s now-infamous “Stand Your Ground” law. It is not the merits of this law, but its origins that interest us today. Multiple sources have linked the law to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a consortium of conservative state legislators and corporate interests. Put simply, this “consortium” drafts legislation for enactment at the State level, and its members then bring that legislation forward in their individual State legislative bodies. The range of legislative subjects is incredibly broad, and the legislation typically focuses on advancing conservative approaches but especially corporate interests.
In response to the Martin/Zimmerman tragedy, a number of corporate/nonprofit entities – Kraft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Intuit, and the Gates Foundation – were reported to have pulled out of the organization. You might, and should, question why they were there in the first place. We question whether some of them left at all: as of 7:30 MDT today, the organization’s web site continues to list Derek Crawford of Kraft Foods as one of its Private Enterprise Board members. With the recent announcement that ALEC is discontinuing its efforts associated with gun laws and other “non economic” causes came a few articles (a random one here) reporting that ALEC will no longer promote “social policy,” we saw a few articles suggesting that ALEC was doing the National Rifle Association’s bidding. On the other hand, a few news outlets did some reporting casting some doubt with respect to the question as to who was errand boy to whom (one here). Leaving aside that question, we’ll simply note that ALEC, an organization of which we’ve been aware for years, found itself back in the slightly dim area next to the spotlight. The entire ALEC issue had received less attention than one might have expected – but then again, those corporate sponsors do buy television, radio, and TV time.
As a result of the attention, ALEC issued a statement that they were discontinuing their “non-economic” efforts. We move on to another subject associated with ALEC, albeit one that has received even less attention in the popular press, that is certainly economic in nature: the recent and relatively quiet repeal of a law in Wisconsin requiring equal pay for women. As our readers know, we do tend to want to go for “mainstream” news sources where we can, but these seem so far down on the search indices on this subject that we have our choice of linking to a Huffington Post article or Monday’s Daily Show coverage – and while we are providing a link to the latter, and we think it’s worth watching, we’d like some of our more family-oriented readers to know that there’s a bit of raunch toward the end of the latter story. Of these two sources, only the Daily Show short brings forward the role of Wisconsin legislator ALEC member Glenn Grothman – and again, since some of our readers are perhaps not interested in some of the imagery that might be found in that video, we’ll summarize to the extent that Mr. Grothman is on record as saying that making money is perhaps more important to men than women because young men may want to be breadwinners some day (New York Daily News article here). We invite our readers to weigh in on that position… According to the Daily News article, other pieces of legislation of interest to women included one “barring abortion coverage through health insurance exchanges” and another “mandating doctors to consult privately with women seeking abortions.”
With all the renewed attention on ALEC, we started wondering just who in the New Mexico legislature might be involved – because, quite frankly, having New Mexico laws written by a consortium of business interests and predominantly out-of-state legislators does not sit any better with us than it probably does with most New Mexicans. The ALEC site doesn’t list all the members, but we found the following list in a Sourcewatch article:
House of Representatives
- Rep. Paul Bandy (R-3), ALEC State Chairman and Guest at the December 2010 International Relations Task Force meeting
- Rep. Jimmie Hall (R-28) and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Alternate
- Rep. William Gray (R-54), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Alternate
- Rep. Nathaniel Quentin Gentry (R-30), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Alternate
- Rep. Rick L. Little (R-53), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
- Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (R-8), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Rep. Dennis Roch (R-67), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Rep. Paul Bandy (R-3), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Rep. Nora Espinoza (R-59), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member
- Rep. Larry A. Larranaga (R-27), ALEC International Relations Task Force Member
- Rep. William R. Rehm (R-31), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member
- Rep. Anna M. Crook (R-64), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Rep. James R.J. Strickler (R-2), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Rep. Thomas A. Anderson (R-29), ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force Member
- Rep. Dennis J. Kintigh (R-57), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Member
- Sen. Sander Rue (R-23),Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Sen. George K. Munoz (D-4), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
- Sen. William E. Sharer (R-1), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
- Sen. Mark L. Boitano (R-18), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Sen. Vernon Asbill (R-34), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Sen. Sue Beffort (R-19), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member
- Sen. William H. Payne (R-20), ALEC State Chairman and International Relations Task Force and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Sen. Rod Adair (R-33), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Member
- Former Sen. Kent L. Cravens (R-21) (resigned September 2011 to become lobbyist for [[New Mexico Oil and Gas Association), former ALEC State Chairman, and Public Safety and Elections Task Force member
Now, that’s 21 legislators, not counting former Senator Kent Cravens, who apparently experienced the ALEC version of the Rapture – all but one of them Republicans. What we found most interesting was that our locality is quite well represented among the ALEC ranks. Senator Sue Wilson-Beffort, of Senate District 19 is prominently listed, as are ALEC State Chairman Senator William Payne of District 20, Senator Mark Boitano of Albuquerque’s District 18, Senator Sander Rue of “just across the river” District 23, and Senator Rod Adair of District 33, just to our south. On the House side we have Jimmie Hall, Nathaniel Quentin, Larry Larranaga, and Bill Rehm of Albuquerque; Thomas Anderson of western Bernalillo County; District 8’s Alonzo Baldonado; and another neighbor to the south, Dennis Kintigh.
We are asking our readers to alert these people to the existence of this article, and we are inviting them to provide us with a disclosure of their involvement with ALEC and a list of bills that they have introduced or supported that are or were supported by ALEC or based on its model bills. We are also, quite bluntly, asking that every New Mexico legislator with any ties to ALEC sever them immediately and henceforth serve their State’s interests and not those of other entities. We especially direct this request to our own Senator, Sue Wilson-Beffort -and to be fair, to our Representative Jim Smith, whose name we are very glad not to see on the list. We suggest that all our readers contact their Senators and Representatives, and demand to know whether they are a part of the ALEC network or supporting its initiatives. Let’s keep the running of New Mexico to those who live here.
A few related links:
- Source Watch – American Legislative Exchange Council
- NPR – Who Writes Our Laws?
- WCVB TV Boston – NRA, ALEC Team Up For Causes Beyond Gun Laws
- WFIE TV – ALEC Stops Pushing “Stand Your Ground” Laws
- Crooks and Liars: Gates Foundation Announces It Will Withdraw Funding From ALEC
- Sarah Kennedy: Our Resident Smart Aleck Talks About ALEC
Update: Upon further examination, we find there are a few small green beans on the bush bean plants.
by John Weckerle
With the hoop house repair nearly complete (all that remains is to reattach the door and the bird netting), we find ourselves eagerly awaiting some warmer weather for planting, even if it’s just cool weather crops. To get a head start on the growing season, we bought a couple of inexpensive shop lights for starting plants. Shown here are several varieties of bush beans (Maxibel, Contender, and Blue Lake), mustard and collard greens, broccoli, and oregano. The white window box in the back contains basil, dill, and cilantro. Not yet under the lights because they haven’t sprouted yet are this year’s tomatoes. As we mentioned previously, we’re going with Romas plus four heirloom varieties. A total of 18 starter pots have been primed with three seeds each, and we hope to see sprouting within a week or two.
The beans have done very well – they’re already beginning to flower – but the greens are having a tough time. For some reason, they have been repeatedly attacked by aphids. We’ve knocked these back a couple of times, but they showed up again recently. We’ll keep fighting them but we’re looking forward to hardening the plants off and getting them in the ground.
Last year’s kale has already started putting out leaves (one plant actually stayed active all winter, and we’re nearly ready for kale and white bean stew). The carrots we didn’t harvest in the fall have also started sending up greens, and early taste tests have been positive. On the herb front, the tarragon and parsley have begun leafing out, and the sage stayed awake through the winter. Additions to the herb bed this year will include basil, dill, cilantro, chives, and maybe a few others. We’ll take another run at rosemary, although we don’t think we’ll put it in the herb bed given that it does tend to get pretty big and makes a nice stand-alone shrub.
by John Weckerle
We find ourselves, as always, in bewildered awe at the jaw-dropping oddness we see out the in the flatter parts of the political bell curve. We refer once again to a Sandia Tea Party article, this one titled “A Slap in The Face By FLOTUS” (this refers to the First Lady of the United States, currently Michelle Obama. We’re getting just a bit tired of the constant appending of “OTUS” onto just about everything; then again, we got sick of the “you-name-it-gate” thing a long time ago). In this missive, the Sandia Tea Party leadership makes mention (of course, with no links) to an article which was first purported to have a photograph of Ms. Obama holding hands with Bernadine Dohrn, wife of Bill Ayers. Readers may recall mention of Mr. Ayers – a leader (along with Ms. Dohrn) of the Weather Underground Organization, or Weathermen, an extreme radical left organization of the 1960s and 1970s – during the 2008 Presidential campaign. Mr. Obama was, at that time purported to be “palling around with terrorists.” The photograph in question (but not provided) is supposedly evidence linking the Obamas to Ms. Dohrn and Mr. Ayers.
The Sandia Tea Party leadership corrects itself (after, apparently, having been corrected by somebody else), stating: “I have been corrected. The hand clutch is with Terresa Heinz Kerry.” Now, at that point, most people would have at least gotten suspicious and done a little research into what they were writing about – or at least changed the title, given that Ms. Obama had apparently not held hands with Ms. Dohrn. Instead, the Sandia Tea Party provides a link to a Freedomworks article (surprised?) titled “Charles Manson and Three Degrees of Separation” by Jack Lloyd Rowlinson. This is, according to the Sandia Tea Party, “an excellent account by Jack Lloyd Rowlinson, of politicians and their pussy-footing around with folks longing to overthrow our form of government using the most violent methods possible … warping our young people’s minds in progressive colleges and slaying our first level protectors at every opportunity.” Leaving aside the rather hyperbolic/paranoid tone of this particular piece of prose, the Freedomworks article demonstrates nothing described in the Sandia Tea Party article. It is a rather rambling discussion of Charles Manson’s purported pre-murder relationships and a short history of the Weather Underground’s activities, followed by an assertion that the Obamas maintain a relationship with Mr. Ayres and Ms. Dohrn “to this day.”
Now, we’re not going to waste a single word defending Mr. Ayers or Ms. Dohrn and their past activities. Not one. What are going to do is point out that the supposed relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers was subjected to rather intense scrutiny back in 2008, and the entire “controversy” was shown to be politically generated bunk. We refer not to the partisan blogsphere of which the author of the Sandia Tea Party is so clearly fond, but to articles by the master debunkers at Snopes.com (here) and the renowned Factcheck.org (here).
Now, we know that the falsehood factories may have lost a little of their production capacity in recent months, but this particular product didn’t gain much all that much traction the first time around and recycling it seems a bit odd, especially given that the recycling’s being done by FreedomWorks. We’re a little surprised to see FreedomWorks – with money from Koch Industries and other major corporate sponsors – wasting its resources on rehashing old and discredited attacks. With their resources, shouldn’t they be able to do better?
Unfortunately, we’re far less surprised to see the Sandia Tea Party picking this sort of thing up and passing it along.
by John Weckerle
Checking in on our friends at Mountainair Announcements, we find that the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department has vacancies for three positions: two in Albuquerque and one in Santa Fe. For more information, including position descriptions, instructions for applying, and contacts, see the Mountainair Announcements article.
by John Weckerle
The East Mountain Interagency Fire Protection Association has issued an advisory on how to assist fire protection agencies in preventing wildfire during red flag warnings.
How do we know when a red flag warning is in effect? Well, there are a number of ways, but we’ve set up a customized weather page at www.weather.gov. To get started, input your city and state in the “Local Forecast by City, State” box near the top left. When the new page opens, you can use the map to zero in on your location. We used the satellite view to pinpoint New Mexico Central headquarters. Then just bookmark the page and you’re set. You can access location-specific weather advisories, forecasts, hourly weather graphs, and much more.
by John Weckerle
We have, perhaps typically, kept silent on the issue of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman debacle. Looking over an April 10 article on the Sandia Tea Party site, however, we find ourselves in a rare state of agreement with a single point in the article, that the media – and, quite frankly, the blogsphere – have behaved digracefully in the coverage of this tragedy to date. In a rush to sensationalize the situation and exploit societal tensions, the media, as well as the multitude of pundicrats who are even less accountable than the “professional” journalists, portrayed the issue in such a manner as to incite anger and divisiveness. That people from all parts of the political spectrum reacted strongly is no surprise, although we should continue to hope that people on all sides of the issues will eventually adopt a reasonably skeptical attitude toward early media and blog coverage of – well – just about anything.
Now, we’ve listened to the uncut version of Mr. Zimmerman’s 911 call, and we’ve reviewed the list of prior 911 calls made by Mr. Zimmerman. What we do know is this: that Mr. Martin was walking around in a neighborhood in the rain, and that was considered “suspicious” by Mr. Zimmerman. At least to us, Mr. Zimmerman’s voice seemed very nervous on the call. The Sandia Tea Party’s official internet spokesman is correct that NBC edited the 911 tape in a way that might increase a listener’s perception of George Zimmerman as a racist – although he does fail to mention that Fox News and the New York Times, among many, had reported that an NBC producer had been fired over the incident three days before the Sandia Tea Party article was posted. From the 911 recording, we know that the dispatcher indicated that Mr. Zimmerman should not follow Mr. Martin, that Mr. Zimmerman agreed, and that Mr. Zimmerman then followed Mr. Martin. A confrontation of some sort ensured, and Mr. Martin lost his life. What we do not know, after trying to filter the facts out of the coverage, is why this happened. We have often made the case here that the best judgment comes of examination of facts, and given that actually very few of those have been, and continue to be, available to any of us, it remains premature to speculate on the degree to which race and racial issues contributed to the horrible events that led to the end of Mr. Martin’s life at the age of seventeen. We encourage our readers, and pretty much everybody else, to reserve judgment until such time as a reasonable set of facts is available.
What we would like our readers – and, again, pretty much everybody else – to consider is this: how have we, as a nation and a society, come to such a pass that the simple act of walking around in the rain (a long-time pastime of your editor’s, by the way) is “suspicious behavior?” What has brought us to the point where one person has the right to demand, perhaps even forcefully, an accounting from another citizen as to the nature of his business as he walks down the street? At what point did we become so suspicious of each other, so angry at each other, that such an event should come to pass? And let us not forget that a young man’s life is cut off, and a family is mourning, for reasons we cannot yet fathom. All we can be sure of is this: those reasons will never, ever be good.
Lest our readers think that we agree entirely with the Sandia Tea Party spokesman, we will point out that there is much in the article with which we disagree. Providing a litany of horrible crimes perpetrated by African American criminals as an unnecessary demonstration of media bias toward African Americans is nothing short of contemptible given the situation. These horrific cases have nothing in common with the Martin/Zimmerman case – but the fact that the Sandia Tea Party chooses to sign on to such a comparison speaks volumes regarding the character and biases of the organization, its members, and those who attend its events for the purpose of political expediency.
We’re getting tired of the nastiness. It’s time for those of us who are willing to work together to stop giving the fringe – on either side of the carpet – center stage. “Liberal” and “conservative” are not endpoints on a line; they are points on a continuum, and we think they are points that have more in common than many people realize, regardless of the irreconcilable differences that the people at the extreme ends of the bell curve may have with one another. As a nation, we’re not accomplishing much by yelling at each other. There will always be those among us who insist on the yelling, but as for the rest of us, we could do better with a serious talk here and there. Perhaps if we talked more and shouted less, we’d get closer to living in a nation in which we can all walk down the street, wearing whatever clothes we see fit, in whatever weather we see fit, and not be viewed with fear or suspicion. We’re a long way from that now, for a very complex set of reasons, but if we try, we can get there some day. Rather than focusing on our differences, and listening to those who seek to gain by driving us apart, perhaps we should consider working to come together and move forward.
by John Weckerle
The Bernalillo County Fire Marshal will hold a public meeting next Thursday, April 19, to discuss proposed changes and amendments to the Bernalillo County Fire Code. The meeting will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Bernalillo County Fire Department Administrative Offices at 6840 Second Street NW in Albuquerque.
Received from Karen Takai, Sandia Ranger District
TIJERAS, NM – March 30, 2012 – Due to the high demand, the Sandia Ranger District will be offering a one-time random drawing system, as we have over the last few years, to be used for issuing firewood cutting permits in the Sandia Mountains. Individuals will have an opportunity to submit their name and phone number by visiting, calling or faxing the information to the Sandia Ranger District
ON May 1, 2012 from 7:30am – 4:00pm.
(Before or after this date will not be excepted).
The Sandia Ranger District office address is 11776 Hwy 337, Tijeras, NM.
Phone: 505-281-3304 ext 0
Sandia Fuelwood Drawing Basic Information
- Submit your information, Name & Phone Number, on May 1, 2012 from 7:30am-4:00pm at the Sandia RD office.
- You Can: Call, Fax or Stop In with the information (see above for contact numbers)
- By entering the Fuelwood Drawing there is no guarantee to be drawn.
- Only 1 entry per household.
- If drawn: 2 cord limit @ $10/cord.
- Permit is activated on the day you are called. You have 14 days to remove the wood. NO EXTENSIONS
- Fuelwood will be green, cut down in very long pieces, but not bucked up.
- If individuals who applied during the initial drawing fail to respond when contacted additional names will be drawn. We recommend you use a phone number that you can be reached at all times.
- You will NOT be called again.
For more information contact the Sandia Ranger District 505-281-3304.
by John Weckerle
The recent storm that graciously dropped 8 to 10 inches of snow and a bit of rain apparently dropped something else – the hoop house at Bed 5, again. We followed some of the recommendations of Senior Structural Engineering Correspondent Wilson and reinforced the uprights, revised the hoop/end frame attachment scheme, and were confident that we could get the cool weather vegetables in. Unfortunately, both we and our subject matter expert failed to realize that the strain would now be transferred to the corners of the bed, which were unfortunately not up to the task. Are we doomed?
Well, possibly, but not with respect to the garden. At the recommendation of Senior Disaster Recovery Correspondent Wilson (we all wear multiple hats around here), we’ve purchased two large L-brackets for each end of the board, and we’ll put it back together using those and some lag screws. We’ll also drive some rebar into the ground in front of and behind the horizontal board to help minimize any flexing that may result from wind load on the front. We hope to get this done soon, as the various bush beans we started under lights are beginning to flower.
At this point, it seems almost pointless to cover the structure with plastic for the Spring season, so we’ll start out with cool weather plantings – collard and mustard greens, various bush beans, kale, spinach, snow peas, and broccoli to start. In the meantime, we’ll get our tomatoes a-sprouting. We’ve decided to go with Romas for sauce and several heirloom varieties this year: Mortgage Lifter, Black Krim, Black Cherry, and Brandywine. We’ll have the structure ready to receive plastic in advance of the fall season, into which we hope to extend our growing efforts long enough to reap a few tomatoes – and then of course it’ll be time for cool-weather crops again.
by John Weckerle
Checking in on our friends at Mountainair Announcements, we find that the Second Judicial District Court Pro Bono Committee will be holding a “Law-La-Palooza” Free Legal Fair on Thursday, April 12 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center at 9800 4th Street NW in Albuquerque. Assistance will be provided on a first come, first-served basis, and interpreters and bilingual attorneys will be available. For more information and a copy of the event flyer, see the Mountainair Announcements article.
by John Weckerle
KUNM has reported that Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) executives were awarded a total of $2.26 million in incentive fees last year, with nearly half going to the company’s president and CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn, whose base salary is $575,000 (see the article, PNM Executives Paid Millions in Incentive Pay in 2011). Lest we react hastily, PNM has an explanation. According to the article: “PNM says the incentive payments are due to increases in the the company’s business performance and came from shareholders, not rates paid by customers.” We tend to be just a wee bit skeptical of this statement. Shareholders are not a source of revenue, and we find the prospect of all the shareholders sending a “Congratulations on a Great Job” card with a check in it to be a relatively unlikely scenario.
As reported in the Santa Fe New Mexican, rates, executive pay, and profits have risen dramatically since 2009. With respect to incentive fees earned by Ms. Vincent-Collawn, the article states: “Vincent-Collawn also received $1.2 million in compensation, all of it from the shareholders’ earnings. Bermudez said that’s written in her contract. “She has target points to receive that compensation. If the company does better financially, she is compensated. If she doesn’t perform, she loses the compensation.”
Now, we’re not against people being compensated for their successes or their investments. However, let us again point out that these incentives – and the shareholder earnings from which they are being taken – come from somewhere. A big chunk of somewhere exists in the form of rates paid by customers, and those customers are having a tough time. According to the article, New Mexico lost 45,000 jobs from 2007 to 2011, and average income has declined. Three consecutive rate hikes have pushed the cost of electricity up 41% over the past three years. We understand that PNM was in bad shape financially when the increases began, but it’s clear that, given the increase in profits and executive compensation, either the utility’s recovery is complete or ratepayers’ money is going to the wrong places. Regardless, it’s time for the Public Regulatory Commission to take a good, hard look at the rates and how they are being used, and make sure that future adjustments, up or down, are based on a thorough examination of the company’s finances.
by John Weckerle
As reported by Elaine Baumgartel at KUNM.org, a report by the State Integrity Investigation (SII, a joint project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International) – assigns New Mexico a grade of D- and a rank of 39th among all states on the state’s Corruption Risk Report Card.
The study evaluated 14 categories associated with government integrity and accountability. New Mexico’s highest grade – B-minus – was awarded in the Internal Auditing and Redistricting categories, and the State received grades of F in State Insurance Commissions, Lobbying Disclosure, and Ethics Enforcement Agencies. There’s a little something for everybody: State employees will be delighted to know that their pension fund is well managed (grade of D); open government advocates will appreciate the grade of D+ in Public Access to Information; voters should be gratified by the grades of D in Executive Accountability and Legislative Accountability; and big-money campaign donors should be positively aglow over the D- in Political Financing.
To be fair, not all of New Mexico’s low grades are entirely the result of misconduct or skulduggery, and not all the news is quite as bad as it sounds. The SII article on the issue, New Mexico: The Story Behind the Score, credits the Martinez administration for some advances in open government while noting that state laws on access to information are not uniformly obeyed by various State agencies. The use of executive privilege in denying access to information remains a concern. Staffing levels at the state auditor’s office – 25 employees compared to 69 at the Livestock Board and 75 at the Commission for the Blind – remain inadequate, and the PRC is described as “dysfunctional.” As for legislative ethics, the article states: “The state House and Senate each have ethics committees that are effectively dormant; they have not met, reviewed complaints or administered sanctions in recent memory.”
While the grades are fairly dismal, it should be noted that the article does make it clear that improvements have been seen in some areas. Here’s hoping that future report cards will give New Mexico at least a grade that would allow it admission to one of the State universities.
by John Weckerle
We turn our attention today to a couple of articles from different sources regarding the upcoming Congressional elections here in New Mexico. One of these is a Sandia Tea Party article titled “Progressives Spreading Bull Butter Again — Why Not, It’s What They Do Well” by Edgewood Town Councilor and Sandia Tea Party official internet spokesman Chuck Ring, excoriating Eric Griego, (seeking election in the Democratic primary for Congressional District 1), for not affording the “organization” the “courtesy” of responding to an invitation to a “candidates forum” to be held by this august organization. The second is an article titled “Dems Skip Tea Party Candidate Forum” in the East Mountain Telegraph. Both articles note that Democratic candidates did not attend events hosted by the Sandia Tea Party.