Thursday, December 30, 2010

Get up early Friday if you want to know about Billy the Kid

Gov. Bill Richardson at 5:10 a.m. Mountain Time Friday will announce his decision on the Billy the Kid pardon. He'll do so on ABC's Good Morning America, his office announced. That's one way to get national attention, I suppose...while the rest of us locals sleep in.

Happy 2011!

So many of you have said this year that it was hard to read this blog against a black background. So it's about time I changed, it right?

(Not that it matters to the good folks at the PRC, who say they still can't read my blog at work.)

Thanks to all my readers this year for the mountain of tips and inside info. You kept it interesting in a year that was already fascinating on the political beat. See you in 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Richardson done with pardons, except possibly Billy the Kid

Gov. Bill Richardson is done with pardons and commutations, his office just said in a news release -- with the exception of the case of Billy the Kid, which he still is considering.

According to records, he has pardoned 19 people so far. More information in the New Mexican Thursday.

As for those who recently have recently asked for executive clemency, Richardson said "I believe that requests of this nature must be fully vetted and investigated by the appropriate agencies to ensure that I do the right thing for those who request clemency as well as the citizens of New Mexico. While appreciate the urgency from those who have made last-minute requests for pardons, I do not have adequate time to thoroughly review them before leaving office."

A look at key players in the Martinez administration

I've got the first of several stories in today's paper about the key players behind Gov.-elect Susana Martinez. Check it out and stay tuned for the others.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fierro seeks clemency from governor

Carlos Fierro is seeking clemency from Gov. Bill Richardson. If you've been following the issue, we're still not sure who else is asking for clemency, however. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Journalists waiting on pardon application info

We've heard a lot about Billy the Kid's potential pardon from Gov. Bill Richardson. But we haven't heard yet on who else he might pardon, despite recent requests. I wrote about the issue in today's paper.

The Governor's Office is still working on the requests, and has until Dec. 29 to produce the records of who has applied for a pardon or to have their sentence commuted. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Martinez choses Hanna Skandera for education secretary

I couldn't go to the announcement today, but just got this from Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida who worked with Gov.-elect Susana Martinez' choice for education secretary, Hanna Skandera ...

“Hanna is a passionate, effective advocate for improving student achievement. Her vast academic, government and professional experience in education makes her an incredible asset to New Mexico as they work to improve student outcomes,” Bush said.

Skandera led school reforms in Florida and at one point worked in Dallas. More info from the Martinez camp on why they chose her, when I get it.

According to the group of which she once was the CEO , Skandera "was Deputy Chief of Staff to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. While working in Washington for Secretary Spellings, Skandera focused on a range of issues related to K through 12 and postsecondary education. She previously served as Deputy Commissioner of Education in Florida."


In her statement, Martinez stated, “Hanna is a proven reformer who has successfully implemented education innovations and achievement-based reforms for two of our nation’s governors. She shares my belief that we must focus on implementing reforms that improve student achievement here in New Mexico, rather than simply throwing more money at a failed system.”

Martinez' office also said "Skandera has also served as an undersecretary of education for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and most recently as the deputy chief of staff and senior policy advisor in the U.S. Department of Education. Her career as an educator began during college, where she worked with Catholic Charities to develop peer education programs and life skills curricula that were used throughout the U.S. She is a graduate of Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business and earned her Master of Public Policy from Pepperdine University, where she graduated first in her class."

Martinez to announce education secretary today

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez will announce who her choice for education secretary is today at 2:30 in Albuquerque. While much attention has been paid to budget officials, this could be among the toughest jobs in state government, given the state of our public schools . . .

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sunshine portal is up and running!

Check it out:

The Department of Information Technology says this is a beta version, and it's accepting feedback about the site, which puts so much information online, it's hard to fathom.

When the site is fully operational, you will be able to see which vendors are doing the most business with the state, get copies of State Land Office contracts and see how much the state brings in and how it spends its revenue. In addition, you'll be able to check out state investments, capital projects and more.

Already, though, I have got to say that in less than ten seconds I was able to click on an agency and pull up a complete list of employees and salaries -- sooooooo much easier than how we do things now. And, there's a master calendar for all the upcoming state government meetings, which is also handy.

The group that built the site, RealTimeSites, is accepting feedback for 30 days, so check it out and see what parts are easy to use and what sections need improving.

The site comes after Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, last year sponsored the measure to put the information online before July of next year. In a world that's really known for bureaucracy, this effort has been amazingly fast.

OK, I'm off to browse some more. This is a really great tool for anyone who wants to know more about state government.

A look at Richardson's discretionary stimulus spending

Former Gov. Toney Anaya, who heads up the state's Office of Recovery and Reinvestment, has said that the spending of the state's share of stimulus money will be transparent. In covering the stimulus as part of my beat, I've found that generally to be the case so far, although it took a while to get used to how the state presents the information on its website. And, it still takes some knowledge of state government speak to wade through the reports.

Anyway, when Gov. Bill Richardson announced yesterday that he was spending the last of his discretionary stimulus pot, (and not on a horse ranch) I looked back and what else he had used the $58 million in discretionary funds for. Here's a complete list, from the recovery office.

New Mexico Corrections Department. Help balance the state budget as the state continues to feel the impact of the recession. This move will help avoid cuts to important state services. $20,000,000

Help stave off additional state-employee furloughs and layoffs, $3.1 million

Graduate New Mexico! Initiative $8,312,877

Purchase land on the College of Santa Fe Campus $4,000,000

Expand Cerrillos Hills State Park and establish wild horse refuge $3,000,000

Assist teachers with health insurance premiums, professional development $2,500,000

Fund child care assistance and services $2,000,000

General Assistance Program for struggling New Mexicans $2,000,000

New construction and renovation at Los Luceros $1,750,000

Fund the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment $1,150,000

Fund new Rio Rancho fire station $1,000,000

Food purchase and transportation to address food insecurity, including matching funds for farmers' markets purchases by
SNAP recipients $1,000,000

Fund interactive whiteboards in New Mexico classrooms $1,000,000

Fund dam and structural repairs at six acequias, or community irrigation systems $823,500

Fund State Police vehicles and fuel $750,000

Fund early childhood programs $734,000

City of Albuquerque Fire Department Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus $685,000

Fund Sunday Rail Runner service $643,500

Fund school breakfast and GRADS program $460,000

Cover budget shortfall to avoid furloughs in New Mexico courts $450,000

Department of Cultural Affairs furlough prevention $352,200

Fund Center for Education and Studies of Diverse Populations $350,000

Treatment services for veterans suffering from PTSD $350,000

Animal protection training for law enforcement $350,000

Construct wetlands treatment cell at Zuni Pueblo $300,000

Bernalillo County water project $300,000

Human Services Department furlough prevention $295,300

Fund juvenile justice community programs $250,000

Promote tourism opportunities in New Mexico through increased branding, advertising, and promotion $250,000

Fund Child Crisis Center of Southern New Mexico $250,000

Cover budget shortfall in the Pre-Kindergarten Program $237,123

Alleviate Developmental Disabilities Planning Council budget shortfall $209,800

Provide landscaping, furnishings, and equipment needs at New Mexico State University's Native American Student Center

Address budget shortfall to alleviate case backlog at the Public Defender Department $200,000

Fund Santa Fe International Folk Art Market $200,000

Support domestic violence programs $200,000

International Relations Institute at New Mexico State University $200,000

New Mexico Land Grant Council funding $200,000

Energy efficiency upgrades to higher education institution campuses $200,000

Wild horse herd management on the Jicarilla Apache Nation $100,000

New Mexico Highlands University - New Mexico Cultural Programs and Materials $100,000

Gadsden Independent School District STEM Program $100,000

Completion of heating and cooling system at New Mexico School for the Deaf $100,000

Health Careers Pathway Program at Raton High School $75,000

Promote Tour of the Gila bike race in Silver City $50,000

Children of incarcerated parents $50,000

Fund budget shortfall at Lensic Performing Arts Center and free admissions for children $50,000

Regulation and Licensing Department furlough prevention $15,700

Adult Parole Board furlough prevention $8,000

Office of Natural Resources Trustee furlough prevention $7,100

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New sunshine portal to launch sooner than expected

Good news in the good government category: the state's sunshine portal will be unveiled Thursday at a press conference in Albuquerque.

The site promises a ton of public information in one spot, including the yearly budgets for each state agency, with a categorized monthly expenditure list, a monthly summary of the State Investment Council's investments, info on all state employees, positions and titles and revenue the state is receiving, broken out by category. In addition, it will have a regular update of the state's check ledger.

If it works as promised, this will be a super handy tool for anyone who wants quick access to accurate information about how taxpayer money is being spent.

Sen. Sander Rue, who sponsored the bill to create the website, called it a one-stop shop.
"With the click of a mouse, the public can more actively participate in its state government. This one-stop shop website allows members of the public to more readily and easily become engaged in how government runs with our tax dollars," he said in a statement.

So far, it sounds like the site will quickly become a favorite for those following state government.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

ERB releases new proposals

If you are following the debate over how to keep the ERB solvent, check out the new proposal the ERB has put forth. It's posted here under "preliminary solvency proposal."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ERB vote on pension changes postponed

The ERB just announced it has postponed by a week the decision on proposed changes to its pension plan, including making teachers work longer.

The meeting will be Dec 17 instead of the 10th. It will be held at CNM's Smith Brasher Hall in Albuquerque. (The board will still meet the 10th, just not on this topic.)

The move comes after criticism by teachers, who want more time to give input on the changes.

UPDATE, 2:36 p.m.

To clarify: the board is taking public comment on this issue Friday the 10th, but not voting.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are state pension plans better than the private sector?

After I wrote this story in today's paper about the status of the state's pension plans, a couple of readers pointed out it might be interesting to compare those plans to private companies.

So send me info on where you work and what your benefits are. How much do you chip in and what about your employer? How many years do you have to work before you can retire and how many employees are at your company? I hope to use the info in an upcoming story.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Martinez names team to review aviation safety

Gov.-elect Susana Martinez has just named six men to review the safety of the state's airplane fleet. The members of the group "reflect the Governor-elect’s belief that any aircraft flying over New Mexico should be maintained safely and operated properly. Due to the fact that questions have been raised about the safe operation of state aircraft, the Governor-elect has asked a group of experts to review the matter and provide a preliminary assessment of the maintenance condition and operational safety of state government aircraft."

The team is

Mike Rice is a retired brigadier general from the New Mexico Air National Guard and Arkansas Air National Guard. Rice currently works as an aviation consultant, and served as the director of aviation for the City of Albuquerque and director of the aviation division for the New Mexico Department of Transportation.


Mike Arias has is a retired chief master sergeant with the Air National Guard and worked in aviation quality assurance for 15 years.


Terry O’Brien has been involved in aviation since 1972. O’Brien currently owns and operates A&P Services LLC, an aircraft maintenance company in Edgewood. He served as the director of maintenance for a FAR Part 141 flight school in Georgia, and mechanic for a FAR Part 135 repair station and a 135 charter company in Albuquerque.


Richard L. Perry is a retired colonel with the U.S. Air Force, and has a broad background in aviation operations and maintenance. Perry served as the director of engineering and system safety at the U.S. Air Force Safety Center and ran the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airworthiness Assurance NDI Validation Center before starting his own consulting company providing aviation safety management and forensic engineering services. He holds an airline transport pilot certificate and served as chief pilot for an FAA certificated flight school.


Steve is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, and currently the director of the Configurable Space Microsystems Innovation and Applications Center (COSMIAC) at the University of New Mexico, as well as the owner of a small airborne surveillance and imaging-related company. Suddarth has developed several airborne imaging systems for the U.S. military.


Ed Whitworth retired from the New Mexico Air National Guard as the 150th Logistics Group Commander. Whitworth is an aircraft maintenance officer and aircraft chief of maintenance for A7D and F16 aircraft.

The questions about the safety that Martinez is referring to were raised in this Larry Barker report.