Posts Tagged ‘Bill Richardson’

Get Our Deposit Back

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

On October 17, the legislature will go into Special Session to deal with the escalating budget crisis that will likely get worse before it gets better. There are legislators that would like to cut expenses. There are legislators that would like to increase taxes. And, there is an executive who is offended that some legislators refuse to live in a fantasy world:

Gov. Bill Richardson might have a new nickname for two of his frequent adversaries in the New Mexico Legislature.

Speaking to reporters Monday after a news conference in Santa Fe, Richardson voiced frustration with Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming.

“I don’t want this gloom and doom that is coming from certain quarters,” Richardson said.

New Mexicans would be wise to listen to the prognostications of these two gentleman. They know of what they speak. One idea that might be worth exploring during this session comes from a 73 year old who bought into the space dream:

When a private spaceship soared over California to claim a $10 million prize, daredevil venture capitalist Alan Walton was 68 and thought he’d soon be on a rocket ride of his own.

Walton plunked down $200,000 to be among the first space tourists to make a suborbital thrill-ride high above the Earth aboard a Virgin Galactic spaceship.

Now he intends to ask for his deposit back if there’s no fixed launch date by his 74th birthday next April.

New Mexicans have put more than a $100 million into Governor Richardson’s space odyssey, and now that its time to pay our other bills. Maybe it’s about time to ask for our deposit back. After all, it’s not like this has come even close to delivering what was promised.

When Virgin officials and the state of New Mexico came together to announce a partnership to turn the commercial space industry into a reality, they estimated commercial flights beginning in 2007 in California and moving to Spaceport America as soon as the New Mexico facility was ready in 2008.

Reminder folks: we’re two months away from 2010! Unlike federally backed NASA, the state of New Mexico can’t actually print its own money to explore the final frontier. We have to live in reality.

Besides, think about it. Do you really want the state government of New Mexico to be directly involved in something as complicated as space launches. Remember, this is the entity that can’t figure out how to do something as simple as answering the phone:

New Mexico has extended call-center hours, upgraded the phone system and added 15 workers. Even so, “We still are receiving reports of people’s inability to get through,” said Carrie Moritomo, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

Of course, they could hire more people, but part of that budget is probably tied up in supporting the Space Authority. So before we start raising taxes, how about we revisit every last one of Governor Richardson’s “great” initiatives of the last seven years, and start asking for our deposits back. And, while we’re at it. Maybe we can eliminate some of those high-paying, low-performing jobs the Governor was so fond of creating:

Five years ago, just eight of Gov. Bill Richardson’s political appointees made more than $100,000 a year. Today, more than 100 earn at least that much.

Hey, it’s just a thought.

About Time Someone Started Paying Attention

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

The budget situation in New Mexico gets bleaker by the minute:

Legislators expect the current revenue shortfall to grow – perhaps to $550 million or more – because of continued weakening of tax collections during the recession.

To prepare for that possibility, lawmakers are pushing for larger spending cuts than Richardson has proposed in his plan to balance the budget.

“We’re in deep, deep, deep trouble, and there absolutely is not going to be an easy answer,” Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Deming Democrat and vice chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, told his colleagues Monday as they reviewed options for balancing the budget.

Lawmakers see spending cuts as a permanent fix to the state’s budget woes. Reducing the budgets of agencies and programs realigns state expenditures more closely with projected revenues in coming years.

If you’re looking for someone to blame for our economic woes, look no further than the spending spree the Governor and his administration took us on during his years at the helm. A $100 million here, $400 million there, and next thing you know we’ve got big problems. Why this is coming as a surprise to anyone is beyond me.

Now consider that in addition to spending like there’s no tomorrow, Governor Richardson and his appointees have thrown caution to the wind and disregarded any and all safeguards intended to protect taxpayers from fraud and abuse:

Today State Auditor Hector Balderas released a report saying nearly 90 state agencies have failed to submit compliance audits as required by law. The total amount of dollars that hasn’t been audited according to a list I received is $1,177,233,118.00.

That’s right, over $1 Billion (that’s Billion with a “B”) spent without an audit. In light of the number of criminal indictments that have occurred in recent years when audits have been conducted, this is a very unsettling fact.

And, you wonder how we got into this mess?

A World Turned Upside Down

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. It is a day that should always serve as a reminder of two irrefutable facts:

  1. There are people in this world that hate America and the freedom it represents, and would do anything to destroy us.
  2. There are unsung heroes that everyday put their lives on the line to safeguard our communities.

Let me first acknowledge that second point by thanking the firefighters and police officers that step up everyday when no one is looking to protect and to serve. Thanks for what you do.

As to the first point, I can’t help but be concerned about the direction our country is heading. On 9/11, the terrorists failed to destroy America, but since that time, a greater and greater number of those elected to lead our country have made, and are making, decisions that might well accomplish what the terrorists failed to do those eight years ago.

On a state level, we’ve seen indictment after indictment against our elected officials. Yet, rather than outrage, the citizens of the state seem willing to accept this as just the way things are. Even the recent fleeing from the scene of an accident by the Governor and his staff is just seen as just another news story:

The state’s boating law says the operator of a vessel has 48 hours to provide information about an accident, and Condit complied with that, according to Jodi McGinnis Porter, spokeswoman for the energy and minerals agency.

Porter said Fay, the boat’s owner, stayed at the scene and provided information to investigators, while Richardson, Condit, Miller and the state police officers left. They were not required to remain there, she said.

What’s been largely missing from this discussion is not what is legal, but what is ethical. Legally, the perpetrators of the accident may not have been required to remain at the scene of the accident, but ethically, they should have remained.

Think about it.

There are only two reasons that the Governor and his staff fled. First, there was alcohol involved, and it would have been determined that a crime had been committed. Or second, they wanted to avoid the unfolding public relations nightmare that would have been made worse by having their pictures taken at the scene of the accident. I’m reasonably confident that if cell phone records were checked, one of the individuals in the party will be shown to have called for advice on whether or not they “had” to remain at the scene of the accident.

There is always a lot of gratuitous talk about the need to legislate ethics in this state. But, this is just another example of why you can’t legislate ethics. Unethical people will act in their own self-interests, and the shrewdly unethical will do it in within the letter of the law. You probably also noticed that not one Democrat running to lead our state in 2010 condemned the blatantly unethical act committed by Governor Richardson and his staff.

Speaking of speaking out, Representative Joe Wilson is in trouble for breaking with decorum by shouting out that the President of the United States was lying to the American people while giving his healthcare address. Yet, there was much truth to Representative Wilson’s accusations:

A GAO report finds that illegal immigrants constitute more than one-third of all Medicaid-funded pregnancies in California. Elsewhere in the country, the GAO found: “From 1992 to 1995 in Texas, the number of Medicaid-funded births to undocumented alien mothers more than doubled, while the total number of births remained fairly stable.” People respond to economic incentives. Even when the people and the incentives are illegal.

Missouri attorney general Chris Koster has estimated that one in ten Medicaid claims is fraudulent. How much of that fraud diverts money to illegal immigrants? Nobody knows for sure and don’t ask the state bureaucrats for help in finding out: When the federal government passed new rules demanding better documentation of legal residency for Medicaid recipients, the states resisted. In California, officials representing the state’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, wanted to use such lamentably inadequate documentation as insurance records and school report cards in place of passports and birth certificates. We are entitled to question their motives, and their prudence.

So, Representative Wilson could use a visit from Miss Manners. But he is telling the truth, and President Obama is not.

Of course, President Obama’s dishonesty on this topic is not limited to the question of whether or not illegal immigrants will benefit from the healthcare changes being proposed. There were numerous inaccuracies his speech. For example, take this:

OBAMA: “Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.”

THE FACTS: That’s correct, as far as it goes. But neither can the plan guarantee that people can keep their current coverage. Employers sponsor coverage for most families, and they’d be free to change their health plans in ways that workers may not like, or drop insurance altogether. The Congressional Budget Office analyzed the health care bill written by House Democrats and said that by 2016 some 3 million people who now have employer-based care would lose it because their employers would decide to stop offering it.

In the past Obama repeatedly said, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.” Now he’s stopping short of that unconditional guarantee by saying nothing in the plan “requires” any change.

Considering how much effort goes into writing a presidential speech, these careful manipulations of the English language cannot be considered accidental. Again, we deal with a question of ethics. Is it ethical to put something forward as factually truthful that is actually intended to deceive?

Of course, these unethical manipulations of language are not limited to our elected officials. They are also being used by “community organizations” to confuse the issues. Consider this taken directly from the ACORN site:

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now does not apply for nor does it receive any federal grants.

ACORN has had contracts with other nonprofit organizations to perform work on projects which received federal grant support.

In illegal circles, what ACORN is describing is called money laundering. Organized crime has been doing this for years. In the case of organized crime, dollars from an illegal activity, take prostitution as an example, are flowed through a third party entity before making its way to a “legitimate” business. In this way, the business has deniability about the illegal source of the funds. Much the same way as ACORN has deniability about the federal source of its funding.

As long as we’re on the topic of federal funding, ACORN and prostitution, you might want to consider this:

Two staff members of the Baltimore office of ACORN were fired Thursday after they were captured on hidden camera appearing to give advice on evading tax laws to a man and woman posing as a pimp and a prostitute.

The video depicts a man and a scantily dressed female partner visiting the Charles Village office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, where they appear to ask two employees about how to shield their work from state and federal tax requirements. The supposed pimp also appears to ask the employees how to conceal underage girls from El Salvador brought into the country illegally to work for him.

“If they don’t have Social Security numbers, you don’t have to worry about them,” the employee says.

If you haven’t seen the videos, I strongly urge you to watch them. It’s like watching an SNL skit from when SNL was actually funny.



Of course, the only problem is that this isn’t a comedy skit. It’s actually real. Now, factor in the economy, our increasingly uncompetitive educational system, the ever-growing size of government, and the you’ll see why I’m so concerned that America may be doing to herself what the terrorists failed to do on 9/11.

Congratulations Governor Bill Richardson!

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Congratulations Governor Richardson! Your success in avoiding being indicted is undoubtedly the most impressive accomplishment of your two terms as Governor of the Land of Enchantment. In case anyone questions just how impressive an accomplishment this is compared to everything you’ve done as Governor, I’m providing this link for your use:

Governor Bill Richardson’s Greatest Accomplishments

North Koreans Come to the Rescue

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

You’ve got to love the timing of the thing. Conspiracy theorists could have a field day. Former Democratic Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron is indicted on 50-counts for laundering millions of dollars, and Governor Bill Richardson holds “productive talks” with the North Koreans.

I can’t help, but feel the need to take a trip down memory lane back to April 30, 2007:

Oh, and it looks like the newly elected Democratic Party Chairman, Brian Colon, is already going to have his hands full trying to keep some folks from getting back into office:
Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron wants to be lieutenant governor.

You might be thinking that she’s looking to get on a ticket in 2010. Vigil-Giron, however, is thinking about next year.

She told me that during the Democrats’ convention in Las Cruces today.

Rebecca Vigil-Giron back in office. It’s like a dream come true for Republicans. Remember, this is the lady whose fiscal mismanagement of the Secretary of State’s office was so severe that it resulted in a Richardson job offer being revoked put on hold:

Richardson said he wasn’t aware the shortfall was that big.

“I was not aware of the size of the deficit,” he said. “I was aware there was some expenses that hadn’t been paid but when I learned that was $3 million, I think it’s important we get all the facts and we make sure a proper audit is done.”

The governor’s announcement [regarding Rebecca Vigil-Giron’s appointment being put on hold] followed Sen. Shannon Robinson, an Albuquerque Democrat, yanking his sponsorship of an administration bill this week that would create the Media Arts and Entertainment Department, of which the film museum would be a part. Robinson was the only Senate sponsor.

House Republicans tried but failed to stop a similar bill in that chamber.

Even with his call for an audit, the governor defended Vigil-Giron.

He said she “has served the state, she’s been an elected official, she’s contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

Of course, you’ve got to love the Governor’s logic in that last paragraph, “[Vigil-Giron] contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

Hmm, I wonder… let’s try that a few different ways…

“Manny Aragon contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

“Robert Vigil contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

Michael Montoya contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

That about sums up the problem with New Mexico politics. Now, I’m sure that the timing of the Governor’s meeting with the North Koreans was just a fortunate coincidence.

Another Year of Dismal Education Results

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

The test scores are in and once again the vast majority of New Mexico schools are failing to make the grade. In fact, in what is quickly becoming an annual tradition more schools failed this year than last year:

Schools repeatedly failing to meet adequate yearly progress could face sanctions, including restructuring. Results released Monday are preliminary and school districts have several weeks to appeal their designations.

The results show that for the 2008-09 school year:

  • 69.3 percent of New Mexico’s schools were labeled as failing to meet AYP, up from 67.7 percent the previous year.
  • 124 out of 147 middle schools failed to make AYP, meaning a failure rate of 84.4 percent.
  • Of the state’s 157 high schools, 129, or 82.2 percent, failed to make AYP.
  • The results are based on standardized tests taken by about 162,000 students in third through eighth grades and in 11th grade.
  • Schools are judged in 37 categories, including whether English language learners, students with disabilities and different ethnic groups are meeting standards. If a school misses even one of the 37 standards, it is labeled as failing to meet AYP.

Now in all fairness, when it comes to numbers, there are many different ways to look at them (e.g. investment houses which report record earnings in a declining economy after taking taxpayer dollars to avoid failure and the “paying it back”, but I digress.). Another part of this annual tradition involves educator Scot Key’s post after post after post after post analysis of the numbers. Expect more posts Scot – someone for whom I sincerely have the utmost respect even if he is to the left of the left – on the topic.

However, I’m a simpler kind of guy, and I prefer executive level summaries. I also prefer to take numbers and reports at face value intertiwned with a little old-fashioned common sense. The way I see it no matter how the folks in charge try to spin it, our education system in New Mexico is failing our students at an alarming rate:

Roughly half the students who should have graduated with the class of 2008 failed to do so, prompting a call to action by the state’s education secretary.

“It is alarming,” Education Secretary Veronica Garcia said during a news conference Monday at which the state unveiled its four-year graduation rate, along with results of the latest round of tests required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

New Mexico’s cohort graduation rate for the class of 2008 is 54 percent compared to the national average of 70 percent, according to the Public Education Department.

The cohort rate tracked individual students from the ninth grade through the summer after their senior year in 2008 to show how many graduated.

For Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, the 2008 graduation rate was 46.2 percent, according to the state report.

Of course, we can all take comfort in the fact that the recipient of this year’s America’s Greatest Education Governor Award has a plan:

Gov. Bill Richardson, who has made education reform a priority during his 6 1/2 years in office, plans to unveil another batch of reforms as early as this week.

“We will push very hard so that the main legislative agenda item in January and in my remainder of the term will be education, to finish what I believe is a good start and good progress,” Richardson told the Journal last week. “We recognize that we still have a ways to go.”

Hmm, let’s see if we can follow the logic here. The Governor has made education reform a priority for 6 1/2 years, and each year we fail to make any progress. Heck, we actually lose ground year after year. I don’t know about you, but as the parent of school age children, I don’t think I have the stomach for any more of Governor Richardson’s style reforms.

Democrats to Blame

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Going into last year’s legislative session all anyone could talk about was the budget shortfall. The spending party that has been the cornerstone of the Richardson Administration was over – sort of. What do I mean?

Well, during the 2009 legislative session the people in charge (read: Democrats) didn’t really slice the budget the way it required in light of decrease oil and gas revenue and declining tax revenue. Instead, they just kind of froze spending – again, sort of.

Consider that the vast majority of New Mexicans are cutting our annual spending, and you’d think that state government would try and do the same. But no, they want to get creative:

State government spending has grown by about 40 percent during the past six years. Smith and other lawmakers might focus on alternatives to new revenues to pay for the state’s nearly $5.5 billion annual budget, such as shifting money from stalled infrastructure projects, shortening the government’s workweek or furloughing state employees, should a special legislative session be called this fall by Gov. Bill Richardson to address budget problems.

Here’s an idea. Instead of looking at sources of new revenue (read: taxing struggling families) or looking at creative ways to shuffle funds and pretend we’re not in a zero sum game, how about you just cut all the recently added programs and return them back to 2002 levels?

Think about it. We significantly increased our investment in education and have seen continued declines in student performance. We’ve increased our investment in economic development and seen increased job losses. We’ve funded pet projects like spaceports and trains to benefit a select few without any significant benefit for the majority of the population.

When are we going to finally acknowledge that the government is really good at making grand promises, but comes up awfully short on delivering on results? The spend, spend, spend experiment of the Richardson Administration and a rubber stamp legislature has been a horrible failure. But, here’s the absurdity of New Mexico politics:

If taxes were to be raised, Democrats, who control the executive branch and both houses of the Legislature, could face the lion’s share of the blame, Sanderoff said.

Really? The Democrats “could face the lion’s share of the blame.” You think? Only in New Mexico could those in charge of everything only potentially face the blame. How about we stop the spin here? The Democrats should face the lion’s share of the blame.

  • They should be held accountable for out of control spending with nothing to show for it.
  • They should be held accountable for every and any tax increase .
  • They should be held accountable for an education system that costs more and more and delivers less and less.
  • They should be held accountable for the institutionalization of corruption.

Unless we start holding them accountable, we will go from bad to worse.

Education Declines and Teacher’s Union Gives Award

Monday, July 13th, 2009

I didn’t write about this last week, but I should have. The absurdity of the teacher’s union giving Governor Richardson America’s Greatest Education Governor Award is just shocking. It shows a complete disregard for student achievement as a measure of success:

New Mexico students did not improve their academic performance during the Richardson administration. The evidence suggests a very slight decline. The prestigious American Legislative Exchange Council, using many factors of evaluation, ranked New Mexico 48th in the nation in 2007, the same ranking it gave New Mexico in 2002. It ranked New Mexico 49th during most years of Richardson’s administration.

During the late 1990s New Mexico routinely scored in the low 40s, so the last few years represent a definite decline. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this year gave New Mexico an “F” in its report card for overall academic achievement, an “F” for the academic achievement of low income and minority students and an “F” for the return on investment per dollar spent.

I highly recommend reading the entire commentary written by Jose Z. Garcia.

Journal Looks at Insider Contract Overruns

Monday, July 6th, 2009

How many more pay-to-play scandals can one state take? That’s got to be the question on everyone’s mind. Just when we thought the dust was beginning to settle, it looks like the Albuquerque Journal is on the trail of yet another eyebrow raising contract given to a Governor Richardson insider:

The University of New Mexico is paying more than double the initial estimate to a politically connected firm it hired three years ago to provide security services for its main and south campuses.

In a memo recommending approval of the contract for Santa Fe Protective Services, UNM regents were informed the cost for the four-year contract was “estimated at approximately $500,000 a year.”

But UNM paid the company more than $1 million for the 2007 calendar year and more than $1.1 million for 2008. The university is on pace to spend even more this year, having already paid the company more than $800,000.

It’s the fact that the payment is more than double the contract that makes this worthy of a second look. Security services at UNM is not something new, so there should be a track record of expenses for securing those services. Expect to see a follow-up story that examines these new expenditures to those in year’s past.

And, in case you’re thinking there’s nothing here but smoke, you might want to take a second look at the way the story ends:

About seven months after regents voted to award UNM’s security contract to Santa Fe Protective Services, the company switched part of its insurance business to Daniels Insurance Company.

Jamie Koch of Santa Fe is president of Daniels Insurance and at the time was president of the regents. Daniels Insurance became the company’s broker for auto liability and workers compensation and employers’ liability.

Koch said the awarding of the UNM contract and the company’s decision to go with Daniels Insurance were unrelated. He said he doesn’t feel there is a conflict because the regents’ vote on the security contract took place months before Daniels Insurance was providing insurance to the company.

Oh, he waited a few months before “earning” their business. My bad. This is obviously all on the up and up.

Governor’s Transparency Policy

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Wow! Everyone’s on record of late claiming complete ignorance regarding fees paid to third-party marketers. Then, this comes to light.

The bottom line is this: In the wake of a corruption scandal at the state Treasurer’s Office in 2005, a policy was drafted that called for public disclosure of fees paid to so-called third-party marketers on government investment deals.

A document that became known as the “Governor’s Transparency Policy” — put together for Gov. Bill Richardson — recommended disclosure of all the fees.

That didn’t happen. The policy was never adopted, not even by the State Investment Council, which Richardson chairs and controls.

I believe that’s what they call a smoking gun.