The saga that humbled state senator Daniel Ivey-Soto this week is the kind of political theater that hypnotizes the chattering political class. A mixture of sexual harassment allegations and an unsuccessful coup against Sen. President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, with whom he has clashed, led Ivey-Soto to resign Thursday as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee before his colleagues could remove him. It was a very public drama that generated blaring headlines and gossipy conversations. Beyond all the hot takes and salacious titillation, however, it’s important that we not forget the institutional weakness that got us to this point. Skepticism has always swirled around lawmakers’ claim that they can police themselves.
New Mexico in Depth highlighted the work of our fellows earlier this week, but there was a lot more going on in 2017. Here are just a few highlights. Criminal Justice:
Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’. After a 2016 drug sting, agents from the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced they had arrested over 100 of the ‘worst of the worst’ offenders in ABQ. Our story about one of those defendants, Yusef Casanova, explored that claim and found the sting captured a disproportionate number of black people and the ‘worst of the worst’ label is problematic.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez continues to say we need to tighten our belts rather than raise taxes in order to solve our current fiscal crisis. “She will not raise taxes,” Chris Sanchez, the governor’s spokesperson, told New Mexico In Depth this week. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, however, told the Santa Fe New Mexican this weekend the state can’t endure any more cuts and he is joined by lawmakers who favor raising new tax revenue to balance the budget and replenish the state’s reserve fund. On its face the two positions set up a battle over whether to cut expenses or to raise revenue. But it’s not so simple.
Want to empower yourself with mad analytical skills to become a better citizen and government watchdog? Are you a reporter and looking for helpful tools to interrogate New Mexico’s unwieldy campaign finance system? Join us for two seminars July 21 in Las Cruces and July 23 in Albuquerque featuring NMID’s Sandra Fish and Foundation for Open Government (FOG) Executive Director Susan Boe.
The University of New Mexico (UNM) Board of Regents staged a takeover of the university’s Health Science Center (HSC) and UNM hospital Monday. The action effectively means the Health Sciences Center and UNM Hospital lose a layer of governance. Before Monday’s changes, a Board of Directors whose membership included two community members and the UNM Board of Regents governed the Health Sciences Center. The Board of Directors — whose membership included five regents and two community members — was eliminated. In the past it had shown a certain amount of independence because a community member could raise alarm to force a controversial idea into the open.
In New Mexico money from taxes on gasoline and diesel (along with a few other things) goes into a road fund that pays for road maintenance. But the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993. And that means less money for road maintenance because of inflation, and because many people are driving more fuel-efficient cars or simply driving less.
AG Hector Balderas has charged former state Sen. Phil Griego with fraud, bribery, solicitation, tampering with records and “violating the ethical principles of public service.” He’s also charged with defrauding other brokers out of what should have been their share of a commission. A judge will decide if there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
What could New Mexico politicians learn from MBA students at UNM’s Anderson School of Management? New Mexico in Focus visited a graduate-level business ethics class where some students are working on a project to design a good-government training for elected officials.
In the end, said Susan Boe, the executive director for the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, it comes down to economics. People may care about transparency and ethics, but their pocketbooks come first.
Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, are the 26th and 27th lawmakers to respond to NMID’s request for information. Other legislative leaders who have made their allocations public are House Speaker Don Tripp and House Minority Leader Brian Egolf.