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Late Debate

US Senate race finally gets a debate

Local NewsThursday, October 30, 2014 by Joey Peters

Five days before the general election, Republican Allen Weh finally got his wish to confront Democratic US Sen. Tom Udall in a debate. 

For weeks, Weh has been criticizing the favored incumbent Udall for his inability to meet in a rhetorical exchange of ideas. Thursday night's debate came at a time when many early votes have already been cast, making Weh's efforts to pull off an upset that much slimmer.

Moderator Sam Donaldson, sporting his trademark toupee and a still-brisk interviewing style, started the debate by citing Obama's unpopular approval rating.

"Gentlemen, let's begin with the elephant in the room everywhere in this election," Donaldson said. "And his name is Barack Obama, the president of the United States." 

Donaldson asked Weh whether he was running against Udall "and his own record" or Obama, "who is very unpopular." Weh took the chance to say both. Sort of.

"I'm running against Sen. Udall, who has sided with President Obama 94 percent of the time," he replied.

By this point, Weh had already stated once that Udall has voted with Obama 94 percent of the time. He would go on to state it one more time. This put Udall on the defensive, which he responded with planned senatorial grace.

"I first of all, Sam, want to make absolutely clear, I vote 100 percent of the time for New Mexico and I'm willing to talk to anybody about my votes and defend them," Udall said with a smile. "Secondly I will take on anybody if it comes to hurting New Mexico." 

Udall cited his differences with Obama on his criticisms of domestic spying, helping establish the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry at the VA for injured veterans and his opposition of the federal government "robbing" $26 million from state oil and gas revenue.

At one point, Donaldson asked Weh if there was anything redeemable about Obama.

"Well he does a pretty good job with the seeding of the NCAA basketball tournament," Weh responded.

When pressed again, Weh said Obama is "probably a pretty good father, I'll give him credit for that." 

All silliness aside, Weh took a moment to say that the Senate race really boils down to the candidates' differences.

"We're not here talking about personal characteristics," Weh said. "We're talking about beliefs and belief systems. Tom's philosophies are different than my philosophies. We recognize that."

So let's take a look at these differences.

On how to best fix New Mexico's faltering economy, Udall says he'll continue bringing federal funding to the state's national labs, military bases, White Sands Missile Range and WIPP and then "spin off jobs out of them" in the private sector. Weh says he'll support the labs and military bases but do a better job simply because he has a military background.

On fighting ISIS, Udall mentioned his vote to send arms to Syrian rebels but stated that he doesn't "believe we should get into another war in the middle east." Weh tiptoed around the edges. First he criticized the Obama administration for not taking the ISIS threat seriously enough earlier this year. Later, when pressed if he was in favor of sending American troops on the ground to fight ISIS, said he wouldn't without "a strategy." 

"I am going to be the last guy in the the Senate to commit troops in harms way, particularly without a strategy," Weh said.

Though recent polls show Weh narrowing the gap on Udall's lead, most political observers still have this race listed safely in the Democrat column.

Photo courtesy KNME.

UNM Professor Resigns Over Award to Martinez

Lawyer cites disrespect for clients, use of office for political gain

Local NewsThursday, October 30, 2014 by Justin Horwath

Citing "disrespect" to her clients and "an inappropriate use of his office for political gain," University of New Mexico School of Law Professor Maureen Sanders resigned over President Robert Frank's decision to give Republican Gov. Susana Martinez a Presidential Award of Distinction for her "critical contributions to the health and well-being of New Mexicans" a week before the Nov. 4 election.

"While I supported the Governor's decision to increase the availability of Medicaid benefits, the increased health risks resulting from the current Governor's other policies, especially those related to children and vulnerable adults, are real," Sanders wrote in a Oct. 29 letter to School of Law Dean David Herring, President Frank, the Board of Regents and the Law School Alumni Association.

Frank awarded Martinez the distinction, citing her decision to buck Republican Party convention on implementing major provisions of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, like expanding Medicaid and implementing a state-run health insurance exchange where consumers can shop for health care coverage.

Gov. Martinez has come under fire after her administration accused 15 behavioral health providers of "credible allegations of fraud," citing a secret audit by a Boston-based firm that estimated the caregivers overbilled the state up to $36 million for providing services to Medicaid patients. The providers—which treat patients suffering from diseases like depression and addiction—have never had a chance to respond to the allegations, and the state froze payments to them. It then gave Arizona companies millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to take over the New Mexico treatment centers, pending the results of a fraud investigation by Democratic Attorney General Gary King.

Sanders, a prominent civil rights attorney, penned the letter from her Albuquerque-based law firm's letterhead.



  10-29-14 UNM Herring Ltr by justinhorwath

Loose Methods

State Fair director admits to erasing his emails in lawsuit deposition

Local NewsThursday, October 30, 2014 by Joey Peters

This week SFR reports on the loose methods the governor's office uses to archive public records, based on material derived from its ongoing lawsuit against Gov. Susana Martinez. And it appears that's not the only place in state government with a habit of deleting correspondence.

Governor's office Records Custodian Pamela Cason says in a lawsuit deposition that she isn't sure how long staffers at her office are supposed to keep their e-mails on file for archival. She admits that she deletes e-mails on her public account that she views as "transitory." 

But messages provided by other state agencies and not retained by Cason indicate that lots of correspondence is going by the wayside, including messages from the governor's office to the chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee.

In SFR's story, New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Executive Director Susan Boe disputes that the messages between the state senator and the governor's office are exempt from state laws that require officials to keep records.

Other state agencies overseen by the governor seem to have similarly narrow definitions of what e-mails are considered "transitory" and therefore don't have to be retained or archived in the public domain.

Dan Mourning, general manager of Expo New Mexico, which runs the state fair, also recently said he deletes emails related to his public job. Mourning was himself deposed earlier this year in another public records lawsuit filed by former State Fair commissioner Charlotte Rode. Rode is suing over the agency’s alleged failure to give her public documents related to the award of a lucrative lease for Downs at Albuquerque racino.

Several emails leaked to the media in 2012 featured a lawyer for the Downs communicating with top state officials, including Mourning, about the racino deal before it had been officially awarded to the Downs. None of these were given to Rode in her public records requests with Expo about the Downs deal.

In the deposition, Mourning says he also deletes "transitory" emails from his personal and government accounts even though he's not certain whether the deleted messages contain information about the Downs deal.

"What does transitory mean?" Rode's attorney Nicholas Koluncich asked Mourning in the deposition, conducted earlier this summer.

"I mean, if it's just a communication between a department," Mourning responds. "In other words, 'Hey, I have got whatever going on here at—,' you know, 'We are going to bring X, Y, Z for the fair this year,' or, 'I have this entertainer that wants to book,' or something of that nature. Just general communication."

After Mourning says that he deleted "transitory" e-mails from his account in all the years he's worked at Expo, Koluncich asks him if any of those "could have related to the [racino request for proposal] or Charlotte Rode."

"Not to my knowledge," Mourning responds.

"Sitting here today, you say not to your knowledge, so do you know the content of those e-mails?" Koluncich asks.

"No, I do not," Mourning says.

"So, you couldn't say for certain that something wasn't about Charlotte Rode or the RFP?" Koluncich asks.

"No, sir," Mourning responds.

Expo New Mexico spokeswoman Erin Thompson asserts to SFR that Rode received all the documents she originally asked for "in hard copy." She adds that the agency is following proper records retention rules.

"We comply with state regulations as defined by the General Records Retention and Disposition Schedules, as well as the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act," Thompson writes to SFR.

Martinez Earns UNM Distinction

Governor gets award for contributions to the health and well-being of New Mexicans

Local NewsWednesday, October 29, 2014 by Justin Horwath

On the eve of the election, the University of New Mexico awarded Gov. Susana Martinez a distinction that puts her in the same category as a neurosurgeon. 

UNM President Robert Frank announced Tuesday that Gov. Martinez and Dr. Howard Yonas, Chair of UNM’s neurosurgery department, are recipients of the school’s Presidential Awards of Distinction for making “critical contributions to the health and well-being of New Mexicans.”

Frank says in his statement that Martinez won the award for bucking Republican Party convention in her decision to expand Medicaid during the implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.


Instead of letting the federal government implement New Mexico’s health care exchange—a marketplace for health-care plans—Martinez directed her administration to create its own exchange. At the time, several Republican governors had been rejecting the creation of the exchanges, allowing the federal government to create one for them. Some Republican governors had also been declining to expand Medicaid in their state through Obama’s Affordable Care Act.


A new data set published by the New York Times shows New Mexico to be one of the largest beneficiaries of the federal law, with the rate of those with health insurance coverage increasing by as much as 20 percent in some areas over the last year. In Santa Fe County, the rate of uninsured dropped to 10 percent over the year, from 19 percent in 2013, according to the data.


Martinez' record on expanding access to health coverage is taking a hit with her administration's shakeup of the state's behavioral health system. New Mexico In Depth has the latest on the health audit.


“She also reformed and expanded Medicaid, providing basic health care and preventive services to up to 205,000 more low-income New Mexicans,” says UNM’s release, noting she was the second Republican governor to make that decision, “a move that bucked the conventional thinking of many in her own political party.”



3 Questions

with Eric Schwartz

3 QuestionsTuesday, October 28, 2014 by Enrique Limón

Informed by his larger-than-life portraits of tattooed men and women, the Denver-based photographer embarked on Tattoo Nation, a cinematic journey exploring the depths of tattoo culture and the storied history of black and gray tattoos. He presents the film this Sunday afternoon at the NM History Museum auditorium.

Tattoo Nation Trailer from D & E Entertainment on Vimeo.


What inspired you to embark on this visual journey?

I just do things that interest me or intrigue me; things that I want to say through the use of photography. As I was working on this project, I realized that the people who are getting tattoos—and this started about eight years ago—I found them to be so opposite of the stereotype. These people were very thoughtful, the images really mean something to them and I just became very intrigued.

Were there any surprises along the way?

The main surprises were how much these people considered all the thought and the feeling that went into these tattoos. The imagery would have nothing to do with what I thought. One gal had this big back piece that was a tribute to her father that had committed suicide. It was her way of dealing with her father’s death.

What do you take away the most from the experience?

That it was the Chicanos who brought black and gray tattoos—an incredible method of illustrating—and that the motivation of why people are getting tattoos had changed. They influenced tattoos throughout the world with illustration and motivation. They were the Delta blues artists in relationship to rock ‘n’ roll.

BOO!

Get your All Hallows’ Eve on, Santa Fe!

PicksTuesday, October 28, 2014 by Enrique Limón

Like you, I waited till the last minute to procure a Halloween costume and faced slim pickin’ options like irregular pussycat or sexy George RR Martin. Luckily, SFR’s own goblin, Alex De Vore, has compiled a user-friendly, DIY cornucopia of options.

So you’ve got the garb down, next up is where to get your party on. Not to fret, random dude with a bow on his head and a sign that reads “From God to women,” we’ve got you covered! Check out any of these stops for a guaranteed good time. Oh, and hands off the full-size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups; those are mine.

Santa Fe Community College Halloween Festival

SFCC, 6401 Richards Ave., 428-1000

Bear witness as the campus comes alive with spooky decorations. Trick-or-treating, face painting and more family-friendly fun is expected.

Thursday, Oct. 30, 3-6 pm. Free


2nd Annual Los Alamos Beer Co-op Halloween Bash

Los Alamos Posse Lodge 650 North Mesa Road, 412-8326

Make way for barbecue and live music by The Nomads, a costume contest and oh yeah, the imminent possibility of a nuclear meltdown.

Friday, Oct. 31, 6 pm. $20; $35 couples


Dracula’s Ball

Mine Shaft Tavern

2846 New Mexico 14, Madrid 473-0743

The Santa Fe Revue provides the soundtrack to one of the more unique costume contests around. Plus, what’s creepier than trekking it out to Madrid?

Friday, Oct. 31, 8 pm. $10


Ghost Dance: Spirits & Angels

American Indian Photography Studio-Gallery

1036 Canyon Road, 819-1103

Mix it up as encaustic artist Angel Wynn presents her latest body of photographs that give the illusion of paranormal encounters. Trippy.

Friday, Oct. 31, 4-6 pm. Free


Halloween Party

Junction

530 S Guadalupe St., 988-7222

Trick-or-treating till 8 pm for the kiddos, and costume contest + jammin’ DJ for the adults to dance to till the wee hours. Is that candy corn in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Friday, Oct. 31, 4 pm-2 am. Free


Halloween With Chango!

Cowgirl

319 S Guadalupe St., 982-2565

Give it up, ladies. Few people out there are as sexy as lead singer Andy Primm. Much like Beyoncé, he wakes up like that.

Friday, Oct. 31, 8:30 pm, $5

For even more mischief, check out our Calendar.

2014 ENDORSEMENTS

Our top candidate picks and advice about the rest of the ballot

FeaturesTuesday, October 28, 2014 by SFR

Some journalists believe newspapers should stop making endorsements to avoid some perception of bias later down the road or for other reasons.

Candidate Chat

Hear directly from those seeking office via SFR’s video interview series

But we know you. We know there are dinners to make and hikes to take and errands to run and things to be done. You’re not paying attention to every candidate and issue. We are. Some of you have already phoned trying to get a sneak look at the slate. At last, here are our picks, in the order they will appear on the ballot. You’re welcome.

More than 102,000 people in Santa Fe County are registered to vote among the nearly 1.3 million who are eligible to cast ballots in the state. If you don’t vote, you can’t bitch. (Well, you can, but we don’t want to hear it.) Plus, deep down you really want to wear that little sticker on your sweater. SFR has a long tradition of endorsements based on the research and opinions of our top-secret editorial board. Don’t be scared. And don’t be tricked. Democracy is a treat.

OUR PICKS

US Senate

Our pick: Sen. Tom Udall might be part of the entrenched power in Washington that we all love to hate, but he represents Northern New Mexico values pretty well.

What it’s about: The US Senate is one place where, at least in theory, the voice of New Mexico gets equal weight as that of more populated states. That’s not a small thing for our large, rural province that has a major federal presence. Republican challenger Allen Weh is probably right that the US government is too unwieldy, but he refused to give us an interview during the primary and kept up the radio silence during this election season. It’s not very promising that someone who wants to speak for us in Washington can’t speak to us at home. Udall has backed efforts to curtail the influence of money in politics and cares about water and conservation issues. Plus, he supports a federal minimum wage increase that Weh staunchly opposes.

Why agree with us? Udall has proven his track record. Weh? Meh.


US Congress

Our pick: Ben Ray Luján has caught onto the smooth talk of Washington and the campaign trail, however, we also see resonating substance in his rhetoric and his record.

What it’s about: Bless his heart, Jefferson Byrd already tried and failed to unseat Luján. His participation in the cage fight we call democracy is admirable. While this Republican’s ideas lean toward the libertarian bent, we’re afraid Capitol Hill would chew him up and spit him out. Plus, his opinion about climate change and how it’s not our fault isn’t agreeable to our electorate, and we think it was really weird that he staged a walkout at a planned League of Women Voters event. Luján, on the other hand, has always made himself available to us and has a reputation for responding to constituents when they ask for help. The Democrat seems to do his homework on the issues, he supports a path to citizenship for immigrants and understands the importance of reform in energy and transportation policy.

Why agree with us? Three-term Luján is no longer wet behind the ears. Maybe he’s got a chance to leverage more influence now.


Governor & Lieutenant Governor

Our pick: Gary King’s dad was a well-liked governor, his mother was an advocate for kids, and his cousin was a good legislator. We expect King to use his public-service genes and his mental map of the Roundhouse to the advantage of all New Mexicans. Debra Haaland is a promising leader and a smart choice in a running mate.

What’s it about: We didn’t endorse King in the primary, and some of his actions as attorney general have been less than laudable. But it’s easy to pick him now for governor. Incumbent Republican Gov. Susana Martinez­—who as of last check had $2.7 million in her campaign bank account compared to King’s $124,000—has made no secret that she’s not a fan of our newspaper. That’s OK. We understand that when you question this administration, you pay a price. We still wanted to conduct an interview on camera to help voters get information and to influence our endorsement. Given the chance, we would have asked how she can brag about New Mexico’s economy and public education when her leadership has bottomed us out and/or failed to pull us up in these areas by nearly every indicator available. We’d also love a candid answer about why the governor who has uttered the word “transparency” perhaps more than any other governor in state history is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to fight lawsuits over her refusal to make public documents public. And how ‘bout those Arizona behavioral health providers who now say they need more money? Democrat King might not be a dynamo. But he’s gotta do better than that.

Why agree with us? Four more years is a long time.

Plane Crash Scenario:

If the governor of New Mexico dies, the power vested in her or him slides down to the lieutenant governor, so says the succession plan outlined in Article V of the state Constitution. The same thing happens when the governor leaves the state or is for any reason unable to perform his or her duties. If tragedy or travel befalls that person, the next in command is the secretary of state. Then what? First to the Senate president pro tem. Then, to the speaker of the House.


Secretary of State

Our pick: Maggie Toulouse Oliver is full of energy and great ideas about making elections more accessible to everyone. As Bernalillo County clerk she’s used budget savings for voter outreach and other innovations.

What it’s about: Incumbent Dianna Duran was the first Republican elected to this office since 1928. Her stances on county autonomy over ballot questions (she’s against it) and voter ID (she’s for it) alone lead us to lean heavily toward the Democratic challenger, who disagrees with her on each of those points. Plus, Duran, a former state legislator, also hired hyper-partisan Rod Adair as her elections bureau director for a few years and now as her campaign manager. Adair declined our invitation for the candidate to appear in short video interview. He didn’t want her to “have to endure that,” he said. Endure explaining your perspective to an audience who otherwise might not hear it? What a shame. Toulouse Oliver implemented election day “voting centers” in her county that we’d like to see go statewide. Given our crazy schedules and technology to keep up with who’s voted and who hasn’t, being able to pick your voting location on election day seems like a worthy plan.

Why agree with us? Maggie is not allied with Gov. Martinez. She’s busting her tail in what pundits say is a close race.


State Auditor

Our pick: We’re lucky to have Tim Keller serving in the state Senate for another two years if he isn’t elected auditor, but with his background and education in business and his familiarity with state government, he should fill this spot.

What it’s about: The pair of candidates are new to the job of auditor, as the winner will replace outgoing auditor Hector Balderas, running for state attorney general this time around.

Robert Aragon, cousin of ousted and imprisoned former Sen. Manny Aragon, served as a state legislator two decades ago, then ran for Congress as a Democrat and has now switched to the GOP. We would have liked to have heard his ideas about keeping it clean in this statewide office, but this appointee on the New Mexico Board of Finance didn’t participate in the League of Women Voters guidebook, and he declined our invitation to chat, too. It’s also not a good sign that he took money for his campaign treasury from embezzlers he defended as an attorney. Keller, one of the youngest candidates in this election, and who’s already been elected to his seat twice, rose to majority whip among Senate Democrats and seems largely respected on both sides of the aisle. He’s got some promising ideas about the procurement system and wants to take a hard look at education reforms and their costs and benefits.

Why agree with us? Keller, 36, is bucking the brain drain. He earned his MBA from Harvard and came home to New Mexico.


Treasurer

Our pick: Rick Lopez gets our lean in this toss-up of seemingly qualified candidates.

What it’s about: The state treasurer was just another boring pencil pusher until scandal rocked the office and landed several officials in prison. But now, the banker of the state and its chief investment officer is a bit more public. Republican Rick Lopez is an Eldorado resident, and even though his website describes his “pro-family values” that we’re not sure have much to do with the treasurer’s office, we believe his résumé of top state administrative posts proves he can handle this job. Democrat Tim Eichenberg also has a recent role in state government as senator representing an Albuquerque-area district and is a former director of the Property Tax Division, as well as serving a long-ago stint as Bernalillo County treasurer. The winner faces challenges including balancing the state’s unbalanced checkbook.

Why agree with us? Lopez has the chops to buckle down on an underappreciated job.


Attorney General

Our pick: Hector Balderas has demonstrated his tenacity as state auditor.

What it’s about: As the top law enforcement officer in the state, the attorney general is empowered to prosecute criminals and keep a check and balance on the gargantuan system of state government. Former Las Cruces deputy district attorney Susan Riedel is a strong candidate with good qualifications, and after one especially well-played forum, we were ready to give her this nod. But her affiliation with Gov. Martinez is too scary. It’s too tempting for the AG and the governor to team up on a bad agenda. Balderas, who had already served as a state legislator, came out swinging as auditor, even if some of his most high profile out-of-the-box audits such as the Downs deal and the New Mexico Finance Authority didn’t produce the dramatic results he hinted at. We also wish he would have taken a stronger stance on opening the behavioral health audit for public scrutiny. If he gets into this office, he’ll have that mess to sort through, too. Yet, as a Northern New Mexico son from Mora County who wants to stay close to home, his heart and his head seem like they’re in the right place.

Why agree with us? Hector says he will be a strong voice for open records. Can we get an amen?


Commissioner of Public Lands

Our pick: Ray Powell has a track record in this rather obscure and impactful position in state government.

What it’s about: The New Mexico land commissioner oversees more than 9 million acres of public land and 13 million acres of subsurface mineral rights and is tasked with stewardship that yields profit to pay for education, hospitals and other state beneficiaries. Powell, a Democrat who was also land commissioner from 1993 to 2002, has shepherded the state through a record-breaking period of revenue spurred by oil and gas development. He’s also reversed some heartbreaking decisions by the Republican who held the office after he termed out, including a land swap deal that would have impeded access to White Peak. He couldn’t turn back the clock on a land trade that the previous administration made to acquire the land that included the former Dixon apple orchard. The family that got hosed when floods destroyed the orchard went after a handcuffed Powell, we think, in misplaced anger. Well-financed Republican challenger Aubrey Dunn balked when we asked him to appear with Powell on camera. Yet, we’ve heard enough from him about Powell’s supposed “extreme environmentalism” and Dunn’s plans to prevent “federal land grabs” like national monument distinctions to disagree.

Why agree with us? A veterinarian who also worked for Dr. Jane Goodall, Ray Powell is in many ways the Mr. Rogers of state government.


New Mexico Court of the Appeals

Our pick: Miles Hanisee has already served for years on the Court of Appeals, and he’s articulate and level-headed.

What it’s about: Judges aren’t allowed to opine during campaigns, and prospective judges avoid it scrupulously, but what they can talk about is whether they see the judicial system as a part of the political circus that sometimes envelops the other two branches of government. Both candidates used public campaign financing, which keeps these races squeaky clean. While experienced appellate attorney and Democrat Kerry Keirnan would probably do a good job, Hanisee has already been doing a good job. An energetic 46-year-old, Hanisee could serve the court for a long time. A member of the GOP, one of Hanisee’s favorite opinions is where his panel ruled in favor of property tax exemption for conservation land along the Pecos River. What’s better, Hanisee is an advocate for removing the party line from the bench.

Why agree with us? The very tall Hanisee pays careful attention to his written opinions. We’re partial to that whole print thing.


New Mexico House District 43

Our pick: Stephanie Garcia Richard is aggressive and smart, and shows the kind of spark that the House is often missing.

What it’s about: Democrat Garcia Richard fought for the seat that was long held by Republican Jeanette Wallace, losing to her in 2010 before Wallace died the next year. Garcia Richard then ran against an appointed replacement to secure the spot in 2012. Another funky-shaped district, hers includes all of Los Alamos County and parts of three others, including the western edge of Santa Fe County. This seat is one that the GOP has openly targeted in its effort to claim majority control over the state House of Representatives. Republican Geoff Rogers might get hurt by a political action committee who published a mailer about Garcia Richard that contained an outright lie about her voting record and that caught press attention. Her service on the Legislature’s Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee is also useful since she’s the closest lawmaker to the lab.

Why agree with us? Even though this district is known for its lab-employed Los Alamos constituents, Garcia Richard says she likes to rub elbows with rural folks.


New Mexico House District 50

Our pick: Matthew McQueen is an attorney who will make a good addition to the lower chamber.

What it’s about: First, it’s downright annoying that Vickie Perea said she was too busy to spend a half hour with us to talk about this race. A Republican, Perea ran a close race in 2012 for a Senate seat, but lost with 47 percent of votes. (Before that, she ran for secretary of state and other offices.) Next, it’s downright political when the governor names someone from her political party to a district that more than leans the other way. Notwithstanding those two reasons, we probably would have picked Galisteo resident Matthew McQueen anyway. A conservation advocate, he seems like a genuine fellow who will work hard in the Roundhouse. This seat was long held by Democrat Rhonda King, of the King Dynasty (see governor). Then, it passed to Stephen Easely, who died in office.

Why agree with us? Restore this district to its Democratic tradition.


Election Intel:

Early voting

Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office
102 Grant Ave. 8 am to 5 pm, through Friday, Oct. 31, and 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, Nov. 1 

Alternate Sites
Noon to 8 pm through Friday, Oct. 31, and 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, Nov. 1

Santa Fe County Fair Building
3229 Rodeo Road

Eldorado Senior Center
16 Avenida Torreon

Old Edgewood Fire Station
25 E Frontage Road

Pojoaque County Satellite Office
5 W Gutierrez, Ste. 9, Pojoaque Pueblo Plaza

Election Day

Tuesday, Nov. 4
polling places are open from 7 am to 7 pm.

Not sure where you vote?
Call the county clerk at 986-6280 or check online at voterview.state.nm.us

Voters need stamina to get through the dense language on the back of the ballot. We can help.

BACK OF BALLOT

Judicial Retention

We rely on the Supreme Court’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, which this year has recommended retention for all the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges up for retention as well as all the District Court judges. Except if you’re a Rio Arriba County voter, all you have to remember is to vote “Do Not Retain” for Judge Sheri Raphaelson, whom the commission rated poorly. Get more info at nmjpec.com


Constitutional Amendments

One would allow school elections to be held at the same time as non-partisan elections, such as municipal elections. (Yes! This could increase voter turnout on important issues such as community-college bonds.)

Two would change the board of regents of Northern New Mexico College by filling one regent position with a student. (Yes! Students should get a voice at this table as they do at other state four-year schools.)

Three would allow the Legislature to set the date for filing declarations of candidacy for judicial retention elections. (Yes! This is cleanup language that puts dates in statute instead of the Constitution.)

Four would allow certain counties to become urban counties and to clarify the majority vote needed to adopt a county charter. (No. At present, this only affects Bernalillo County, and would allow it avoid the state Legislature on some decisions, acting more like a city.)

Five would preserve the land grant permanent funds by removing the restrictions on the type of investment that may be made and increasing the threshold amount for additional distributions. (Yes! Let the market help this fund grow and allow more investment in foreign companies.)


Advisory Question

Although it’s a non-binding poll, Santa Fe County wants your opinion on decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. The city of Santa Fe has already made this rule change. But voting yes for the advisory question can send a message to the state Legislature that New Mexicans want to see greater marijuana reform across the state.


Bonds

General obligation bonds are repaid through property taxes. The State Board of Finance says that if all these bonds are approved, residents with a property worth $100,000 will see tax increases of about $9.91 per year for the next 10 years.

A. $17 million for senior citizens facilities including about $1.3 million for 13 projects in Santa Fe County

B. $11 million for library acquisitions including $461,000 for Santa Fe County, $50,000 of which would go to the Santa Fe Community College. librarybondsforlibraries.nmla.org

C. $141 million for higher education institutions including $5 million for Highlands University and $2 million each for Northern New Mexico College and Santa Fe Community College. higheredbondc.com

Our pick

Vote yes. Books, colleges and the elderly are worth paying the small price. Plus, there are ripple effects to these investments such as job creation.

The Last Supper

Sunday dinner prix fixe thrills

Food WritingTuesday, October 28, 2014 by Julie Ann Grimm

Sunday dinner meant one thing at our house: roast beef. While my brother and I heard tales of long-ago families in our Midwestern tree who enjoyed golden heaps of fried chicken without fail for the post-church mealtime, the table we sat around featured carrots and potatoes that had cooked with an oven timer all morning under a slab of chuck roast.

I must admit that as a child, I scorned my mother’s efficient service too often. Now, I often wistfully stare at a warmed-up garden burger and think about her roast and what I would give to have it now. And, I still believe fried chicken is special and worthy of adoration.

When I made a plan to check the special prix fixe “Sunday Dinner” at Dinner For Two (106 N Guadalupe St., 820-2075), I didn’t expect this bit of memory lane. Yet, when I see buttermilk fried chicken on the menu, I have eyes for no other.

Chef Andrew Barnes and his parents who run the restaurant with him, don’t really need our help to pack the house for the $19.95 three-course fanfare—already a favorite among locals and a secret visitors love to discover. The hostess flares her eyebrows when we reveal that we don’t have a reservation. “Sunday is a busy night,” she says before happily squeezing us into a cute corner table in a jiffy. We were tickled to see mom and front-of-the-house manager Pam Barnes reset a table next to us with athletic precision and in record time. Andy, as always, was on the line.

Barnes—a Santa Fe High graduate who completed the Santa Fe Community College culinary program, then earned a degree from The Culinary Institute of America in New York—changes up the Sunday menu weekly, and the restaurant’s to-die-for standards are still available for an extra charge. In this category, one of the best steaks in the city is his filet mignon, served crusted with cocoa, garlic and coffee, then drizzled with pomegranate balsamic reduction (add $10).

Since I had the pleasure of trying that on another visit, I homed in on the chicken and its promised stuffing of green chile and cheddar cheese while my companion passed over two tempting veal dishes on the menu to settle on crab cakes served over a salad.

We first warm up with French onion soup, one of the Sunday dinner special’s two soup choices, agreeing that it has the appropriate degree of saltiness with the right amount of cheese oozing over an island of bread. The spicy fried onions sprouting from the top like palm trees take it to the next level.

When the glorious chicken appears, the thin and crispy batter is still sizzling and even my forensic examination leaves intact the mystery of how the stuffing took place. When I cut in, I exude, “There it is!” I doused the definitely real mashed potatoes with bacon gravy. (Yes, those two words roll off the tongue with glee.) Later, I dip the soft biscuit back into the gravy, no doubt a Sunday-approved combination.

On her plate, the crab cakes with plentiful vegetables are also tasty, even if the promised caprese salad doesn’t materialize due to a tomato shortage. The salad she gets, which has a harvest theme and comes with grilled Brussels sprouts, is a worthwhile substitute.

Lastly, we bask in the giant desserts that arrive right on time. Bread pudding with a generous dollop of creamy vanilla sauce competes with German chocolate cake and its coconut-pecan frosting fantasy. “You girls will never be hungry again,” Pam says as she sets them before us. I’m going to eat the leftovers as soon as I finish writing this.

The cake (pictured left) and the tableside Caesar, by the way, are made with eggs from the family’s farm in a lovely chain of events wherein food scraps from the restaurant make a bulk of the diet for the chickens, cared for by dad and bread baker Gregory Barnes.

This kind of treatment is a steal for 20 bucks. Plus, there’s a special wine by the bottle, in our case a Columbia Valley cabernet sauvignon for $25, making the whole meal a value worth repeating. Whatever Sunday dinner means to you, this family is ready to spread the table.

At a Glance
Hours:
Closed Monday and Tuesday;
4 pm to 9 pm every other night
Best best:
Better make a reservation for your
$19.95 three-course prix fixe Sunday dinner

Deleted

Records lawsuits linger for Gov.'s office

Local NewsTuesday, October 28, 2014 by Joey Peters

As Gov. Susana Martinez cruises toward what many predict will be her certain reelection, three separate lawsuits alleging that her office violated public records law remain unresolved.

Among them is a case SFR filed in September 2013, accusing her administration of withholding public documents and engaging in a campaign of retaliation against the newspaper’s critical coverage. A court-ordered mediation is set for Nov. 20 and a number of motions are pending before District Court Judge Jennifer Attrep.

Though the litigation will likely stretch far beyond Election Day, the cases are shedding light on the loose methods the governor’s office employs to handle public records.

One case in point is that of former New Mexico Finance Authority head Rick May, who sued the governor for failure to produce public records related to his firing after his comptroller faked an audit. Paul Kennedy, a former state Supreme Court justice now representing Martinez as a contract lawyer, argued that the governor’s records custodian, Pamela Cason, keeps minimal records when she gathers documents for a public document request.

May’s attorney wanted the custodian to hand over her file of a particular records request to reveal the sequence of events when the governor’s office conducts research for such requests.

“He thinks there’s a folder someplace that shows all this information. There’s not,” Kennedy said in court.

But Cason’s own statements in SFR’s case tell otherwise. When attorney Daniel Yohalem deposed her in August on behalf of the newspaper, Cason frequently talked about how she keeps a physical file for each records request.

“When we receive a request, we e-mail it out to the staff, and everybody in the office is included on that e-mail,” she explained. “They are then asked to respond. We have a three-day and a 15-day [response deadline], which I calendar because we don’t want to miss those deadlines. And as we get the documents in or responses that there are not any documents, then I keep them in a file.”

Cason also revealed that she deletes some of her own government emails because she views them as “transitory” and not public.

“I know personally, as many e-mails as I get on a daily basis, if I didn’t erase some emails, I would have thousands and thousands that would make no sense to keep,” Cason said.

As far as you know, they’re never supposed to erase it, are they?

State law’s definition of “transitory” e-mails is vague. It states that “non-records or transitory e-mails that do not provide evidence of official agency policies or business transactions may be deleted.”

Enrique Knell, a spokesman for Martinez, did not respond to SFR’s questions about what kind of system the governor’s office uses to retain staff email messages.

Cason also said in the deposition that she never received official training about how to interpret which documents are “transitory.” But she also said that the records archive office’s attorneys gave her a “very clear” rule. She defines “transitory” emails as “if they are not having a final decision being made.” One e-mail exchange her office didn’t provide (but that another state agency gave to SFR through a public records request) was between the governor’s Legislative Liaison Janel Anderson and state Sen. Mark Moores, R-Bernalillo.

The message was a letter from Anderson and Moores to the Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Linda Lopez, D-Bernalillo. The pair urged Lopez to prevent the left-leaning director of a political action committee from testifying against state Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera at her legislative confirmation hearing.

In her deposition, Cason said that “it is possible” that Anderson didn’t have the emails when she was asked for them in response to the records request.

The New Mexico Commission of Public Records, which gives state agencies guidance on public records retention, defines transitory messages as those that “may have an official context but may not be part of a business transaction.”

Even that definition is vague, says New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Executive Director Susan Boe. Regardless, she adds, the email exchanges between Anderson and Moores don’t seem transitory.

Linda Trujillo, the state records administrator for the public records commission, writes in a recent op-ed in the Santa Fe New Mexican, that “general correspondence” between public officials is supposed to be archived for one year after the end of the fiscal year in which they were created.

SFR requested the Anderson and Moores e-mails to the governor’s office just three months after they occurred.

“Do you know how long people are supposed to maintain e-mail on their account?” Yohalem asked Cason in the deposition.

“No,” she responded.

“As far as you know, they’re never supposed to erase it, are they?” he asked.

“I guess I don’t know how to answer that question,” Cason said.

UPDATE: Knell responded one day after SFR's print deadline by simply writing, "Retention is handled according to state regulations."

Pick the Best Answer

Rethinking parent choice for standardized tests

School ReformedTuesday, October 28, 2014 by Seth Biderman

There’s a lot of talk these days, in the world of public education, about “parent choice” and “parent empowerment.”

At the root of this talk is a hypothesis about school reform that goes like this: If you give parents the right to choose which schools their children attend—open the market, so to speak—then good schools will prosper and multiply, like so many McDonald’s restaurants; and bad schools will lose their students and funding, and close.

It’s a tidy hypothesis. Experimenting with it might help us find a wonderful way forward for schooling in America, or might lead to a national catastrophe. For now, all we know is that this new banner of “parent choice” means that many parents, especially parents like me with reliable cars and political savvy, have justification, even encouragement, to abandon the public school down the street and scour the town for a public school that will best match their kids’ needs.

You can’t blame a parent for exercising choice in this way—any of us would—but I do feel there’s a larger opportunity here, a possibility to take advantage of this “parent choice” trend to help our community rethink the way we are educating all kids. Because above and beyond choosing where we send our kids, there’s a host of other choices we can begin making about our schools.

One such choice is whether or not we choose to opt our children out of standardized testing. Tens of thousands of public school parents across the nation have come together to exercise their legal right to decline participation in the current standardized testing craze. Having taken and given my share of standardized tests as a student and teacher, I can vouch for the research that supports this opt-out movement. Standards themselves can be useful guides for teachers, but standardized tests, unlike assessments designed by classroom teachers who actually know the students, trigger fear and performance-anxiety among teachers and students alike, and end up more of a distraction than an aid to real learning.

"Standardized tests...end up more of a distraction than an aid to real learning."

I’ve yet to hear a good argument for not opting out of testing. I haven’t found a study proving that a battery of high-stakes tests is good for children or learning or that there aren’t other valid ways to collect data on what children know. And the argument that opting out “hurts” a school, because the state lowers the school’s grade or takes punitive actions as a result, is not an argument at all, but a manipulation. If I make the legal and moral decision to opt out of testing, I must hold myself accountable for how that decision affects the growth and well-being of my daughter. If the people in departments of education decide to impose punitive measures on schools, for whatever reason, then it’s those people—not me—who must be held accountable for how their decision affects the growth and well-being of schools.

For me, then, it’s a no-brainer to exercise my parent choice by opting out of standardized testing. But it’s also just a first step, a way for parents to feel our way into assuming greater choice in the way we do school. After all, opting out is a reactive decision—a rejection of what we don’t want—when what we need in public education are creative decisions—solutions that point to what we do want.

If we really are in an era of parent empowerment, let’s embrace it. Let’s choose how much time young people spend learning out of classrooms—in nature, in the workplace, on the playground. Let’s choose how much time young people are given the opportunity to engage in arts, music or physical education every day. Let’s choose how our teachers will be evaluated, how our schools will be graded—or if they are graded at all.

Opting out’s a good start, but opting in is what we need—parents, teachers, students and administrators willing to set aside unrealistic or harmful mandates from people who don’t know us or our children, willing to opt in to real research on learning and into our collective knowledge, wisdom and hopes about what learning and schools can be.

SFPS graduate Seth Biderman is a parent and a former public school teacher and administrator. He manages the Academy for the Love of Learning’s Institute for Teaching.

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