Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No Pet Projects: New Measured Finance Committee Formed to Defeat ABQ City Bond for Sportsplex

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A new Measured Finance Committee was formed today to defeat City Tax Bond 12 in Albuquerque’s upcoming October 4, 2011 City Election. No Pet Projects-Vote No on Tax Bond 12 MFC opposes the $50 million dollar Gross Receipts Tax Bond that would dedicate $25 million dollars to the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange and $25 million dollars to a sportsplex as part of Mayor R. J. Berry’s “ABQ: The Plan” initiative.

“We oppose Gross Receipts Tax Bond 12 because it wrongly ties the critical city need of rehabilitating the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange to a sportplex, a pet project we cannot afford,” says No Pet Projects Chairman, Don Wencewicz, an Albuquerque resident who lives in the far Northeast Heights. “My concern is that $25 million dollars is not enough to jumpstart the Paseo interchange project and dedicating $25 million dollars to a sportsplex is wasteful spending, especially in our unstable economy.”

No Pet Projects issued a statement explaining that Rebuilding the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interstate has long been recognized as our city’s top transportation need. It is estimated 170,000 drivers travel it daily. Estimated costs for rehabilitating the entire interchange are high. In 2009 the price tag was near $360 million dollars with phase 1 flyovers costing between $75 million to $90 million dollars.

“Traffic congestion is a growing concern for the Westside. My concern is that we are losing the focus of getting the Paseo and I-25 interchange accomplished. This interchange has been discussed for many years and we don’t want to lose sight of what the priorities are in Albuquerque,” said Rene Horvath, a Taylor Ranch neighborhood leader.

In August, City Councilors Lewis, Winter, Jones, Harris and Cook voted against an amendment to cut the $25 million for the sportsplex and appropriate $50 million for the Paseo del Norte and I-25 interchange. Last year the city appropriated $20 million for Paseo and I-25, but the money was eventually used for other projects because the city could not secure county, state or federal dollars for the first phase.

“This bond is not about Paseo or critical city needs, it’s about a sportsplex. Mayor Berry and Councilor Winter have hogtied their $25 million pet project to the Paseo del Norte interchange improvements in order to get their pet project passed. I don’t support that,” said Downtown resident and neighborhood advocate Clark Hardgrave.

No Pet Projects MFC is a group of concerned citizens, taxpayers, public employees and neighborhood residents concerned about spending and taxing priorities in Albuquerque. To find out more about No Pet Projects MFC go to www.VoteNOonBond12.com.

September 21, 2011 at 08:30 PM in 2011 Albuquerque Municipal Election, City of Albuquerque, Taxes | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sterling Fluharty: Redistricting or Revolution in Albuquerque?

SterlingFluharty This is the first of a series of guest posts on redistricting issues by Sterling Fluharty, who lives in Albuquerque and is the owner of Southwest Political Services, which specializes in campaigns, polling, redistricting, lobbying, coalition building and publishing.

The Republicans of Albuquerque continue to amaze me. Yesterday in state district court they won the right to proceed with the October 4th municipal election and then to redistrict the City afterward. This ruling plays right into their goal of consolidating power on the City Council. Even more impressively, though, they got Democrats and the ACLU to support this plan, without ever disclosing their actual strategy.

All but one of the Democrats on the City Council bought the City's argument last December that redistricting was being rushed with estimated data. They agreed with the City that it would be wiser to postpone redistricting until after the election, when it could be given the attention it deserved. Most or all of those incumbents believed that a delay in redistricting would help keep Democrats on the City Council for at least another four years, assuming they were reelected.

After the failed attempt in October 2007 to recall Councilor Don Harris, Democrats on the City Council gained the impression that Councilors could not be easily removed. Without death, disability, recall, resignation, removal, or a move out of his district, there was no compelling reason for Harris to give up his seat on the Council. What they didn't anticipate was the situation where the district leaves the Councilor, rather than the other way around.

The ACLU has been an unwitting accomplice as well. With their fight for equal representation, the ACLU has given the Mayor the perfect argument for changing the composition of the Council. The City has committed that "as soon as a redistricting plan is approved by the Mayor and is published for five days, it will go into effect." In other words, one or more members of the Council will be redistricted out of their district in just a few months.

The ACLU says it is pleased that West Side residents will finally be represented on the City Council. But as soon as the City's redistricting is completed, the Mayor will exercise his duty, as outlined in Article IV, Section 9 of the City Charter, to fill any vacancies caused by "termination of residency in the district represented." Ironically, these appointments will provide the equal protection sought by the ACLU, while further delaying the right of West Side residents to be represented by someone of their own choosing.

The Mayor will tell us that both the U.S. Constitution and the City Charter require him to make these appointments to the City Council. He will select one or more individuals who can work effectively with his administration and the five Republicans who currently serve on the City Council. And thus Republicans will create a supermajority on the City Council that will prevail until the municipal elections of October 2013.

There may not be much chance that this Republican plan could still be thwarted in court. The plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit are currently considering an appeal, but their arguments for an injunction against the election were not compelling enough for the previous judge. Almost all of the case law on redistricting talks about the effect that new district boundaries will have on future elections, not the immediate impact they can have on voters who lose their councilor and suddenly need a representative who lives within the new boundaries.

Coming Up
I have a couple predictions. Both Democrats and West Side residents will have plenty to say about this Republican plan during the public comment period at Albuquerque's 2010 Redistricting Committee meeting this Wednesday, July 20, at 6:00 PM in the City Council Chambers. And the Democrats serving on the committee will have to wrestle with the decision of whether to recommend a redistricting plan that will serve Republicans for two years before it can help more Democrats get elected to the City Council.

Things might get really interesting if Democrats and West Side residents decide to join forces. Perhaps with enough pressure the Mayor could be persuaded to appoint one or more Democrats to the City Council after redistricting creates vacancies. If he appoints more Republicans, imagine the recall elections that Democrats and West Side residents could spearhead in 2012. Or maybe the anger against Republicans will spill over into congressional and legislative races that November.

Get Involved
Regardless of what happens, I am hoping for increased civic engagement. During the committee's meetings last November and December, I was the only person who spoke during the public comment period. The judge just gave the City extra time for redistricting so that it could adequately collect and respond to public input. Let's make sure our voices are heard this time and that justice prevails.

This is a guest blog by Sterling Fluharty. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

July 19, 2011 at 09:01 AM in 2011 Albuquerque Municipal Election, City of Albuquerque, Guest Blogger, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, June 27, 2011

US Supreme Court Upholds Public Campaign Financing, Strikes Down One Element

The U.S. Supreme Court today reaffirmed the constitutionality of public financing of campaigns in the case Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett (also known as McComish v. Bennett), while striking down one mechanism used in these types of programs by a 5-4 vote, saying it violated the First Amendment. The foundation of public campaign finance systems remains strong -- and it is more important than ever that we preserve and extend those reforms -- campaign finance group Common Cause said in its response to the ruling.

The case has been closely watched by public financing advocates who feared the high court would use the case to rule broadly on the constitutionality of programs that provide public money to candidates. Of late, the court has issued sweeping rulings striking down campaign finance restrictions as violations of free speech -- for instance, in the notorious Citizen's United ruling -- and which give massive power to corporations to affect elections. Instead, the court issued a relatively narrow ruling striking down only one provision in the Arizona law that provided additional funds to publicly funded candidates running against opponents who outspend them outside the system.

Impact on New Mexico Law
Common Cause noted that New Mexico boasts three public campaign financing systems -- two municipal systems, one in Albuquerque and another in Santa Fe, and a state system for Public Regulation Commission candidates and appellate judges.

“This ruling maintains the constitutionality of public financing as a method for curtailing the unfair influence of wealthy interests over our democracy,” Steven Robert Allen, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said. “It’s true that Arizona Free Enterprise affects one element of public campaign financing as it exists in New Mexico, but the core of the systems have been upheld.”

In all three New Mexico systems, candidates who wish to use public financing must prove support for their candidacy by collecting $5 contributions from voters in their districts. If the candidates reach a certain threshold, they receive a block grant to run their campaigns. In all three systems, the amount of this initial grant is set at a level sufficient to allow candidates to get their message out and to run a basic campaign. This part of public campaign financing remains untouched by the Arizona Free Enterprise decision, Common Cause explained.

However, these programs also allow for the distribution of additional “matching” funds to publicly financed candidates if a privately financed candidate outspends them. This is the concept that has been struck down in the Arizona Free Enterprise case.

“Even with this decision, publicly financed candidates in New Mexico will still receive generous grants to run their campaigns,” said Allen. “The question is whether we need to replace the matching fund provision that was struck down by the court with an alternative.”

Pending Fair Elections Now Act Addresses Issue
In that regard, public financing advocates anticipated this ruling as far back as two years ago, according to Common Cause. In the interest of addressing the majority’s anticipated objections, the Fair Elections Now Act was developed and is now pending in Congress. Common Cause explained that this act was written to meet the criteria laid out by the high court today. As with the New Mexico programs, it allows participating candidates to obtain public funds by voluntarily agreeing to limit their acceptance of large, private donations. Yet unlike New Mexico’s programs, the Fair Elections Now Act also allows candidates to accept small donations of $100 or less which are then matched on a five to one basis.

Federal Complaint Filed Against Albuquerque Law
Last week, the conservative political action committee New Mexico Turn Around filed suit in federal court against City Clerk Amy Bailey to block the provision in Albuquerque’s public-financing system that provides matching funds to participating candidates who are outspent by privately funded opponents. The suit alleges that the matching funds provision violates the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

The PAC stated it wants to spend money opposing City Council candidate Rey Garduño -- an incumbent who has qualified for public financing -- but will not do so because the matching funds he would get would allegedly "neutralize" the PAC’s spending. New Mexico Turn Around noted in the complaint that it might want to get involved in other council races, too where public financing is in place for candidates.

Councilor Garduño, a Democrat who represents District 6 in the Southeast Heights, qualified for approximately $29,000 in public campaign money this year. He'd also be eligible for matching funds beyond that if any opposing candidates or privately funded groups spent more than that amount in total.

Of Critical Importance
As Common Cause's response emphasizes, whatever course is taken, it’s critically important that we change the way we pay for our politics in this country by moving to a publicly-financed, small-donor system that gives the public a voice back in government. Obviously, for American democracy to survive and flourish, wealthy corporate interests can’t be granted greater influence over the political process than ordinary American voters.

It’s up to lawmakers in New Mexico to ensure our elections are of, by and for the people -- not bought and paid for by special interests. Fair Elections laws prevent wealthy interests from exerting an unfair influence over policy-making at the local, state and federal level. Such programs allow ordinary citizens to have a voice in the political process, ensuring that elected officials pay attention to the people who elected them, not just the special interests that bankrolled their campaigns.

“We need to protect and expand public financing in New Mexico,” says Allen. “The future of our democracy depends on it.”

Note: For background, click to see our previous posts that relate to New Mexico Turn Around, the PAC that filed suit to stop the matching-fund provision:

June 27, 2011 at 12:25 PM in 2011 Albuquerque Municipal Election, Corporatism, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Legal Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ABQ City Councilor Rey Garduño Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign

ReyGardunoA120 From City Councilor Rey Garduño:

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be seeking another term as District 6 Albuquerque City Councilor! For the second time, we’ll be running publicly financed. The Clean Elections process begins on May 1st and we need your help to ensure that we qualify for public financing.

What you can do? Come door-knocking with us to gather the $5 qualifying contributions and petitions. It’s simple and easy, just ask folks to sign the qualifying form and contribute $5 to democracy. This will qualify me to run as a clean candidate for City Council District 6 this fall, and not have to take campaign contributions from special interests. All we need is 300 $5 contributions and 600 petition signatures.

Please join us on Sunday, May 1st from 10 AM-1 PM at my home, 414 Vassar NE. If you can’t join us on Sunday, come another day! The calendar is below.

Campaign Kick-off: Sunday, May 1st from 10 AM-1 PM

Door-knocking:

Monday, May 2nd from 5:30 PM-8:30PM

Tuesday, May 3rd from 5:30 PM-8:30 PM

Wednesday, May 4th from 5:30 PM-8:30 PM

Thursday, May 5th from 5:30 PM-8:30 PM

Saturday, May 7th from 11 AM-3 PM

May 8th-15th: Sunday from 12 PM-2 PM

Monday-Thursday 5:30 PM-8:30 PM

Saturday from 11 AM-3 PM

414 Vassar NE: Central & Girard, South on Girard to Campus, West on Campus to Vassar [into UNM campus], the first house on the right is 414 Vassar.

Please email us at [email protected] to confirm your attendance. Thank you in advance for your dedication to democracy, to this community and my campaign!

Visit my campaign website and Facebook page.

Photo by M.E. Broderick.

April 26, 2011 at 01:51 PM in 2011 Albuquerque Municipal Election, Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

5/1: Campaign Kickoff for Bill Talman's Campaign for ABQ City Council

BillTallman120 Many of you know or have met Bill Tallman at numerous political events and activities including the DFA-DFNM Meetup, state and county Democratic Party meetings and campaign fundraisers, as well as volunteering for various candidates. Now Bill has decided to take the plunge himself and is running for the office of Albuquerque City Councilor. He needs our support!

Please join hosts Sam Bregman, Ana Canales, Senator Tim Eichenberg, Karen Giannini, Cheryl Harris, Assessor Karen Montoya and Sandra P. Richardson as they help Bill Talman kick off his 2011 campaign for the District 4 seat on the Albuquerque City Council. The event takes place on Sunday, May 1st, from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the home of Bill and Becky Tallman, 5909 Canyon Pointe Ct. NE in Albuquerque.

Contribution levels: Host, $100; Supporter, $50; Guest, $25. Please RSVP to: [email protected] or call 710-0792.

April 26, 2011 at 11:07 AM in 2011 Albuquerque Municipal Election, Events | Permalink | Comments (2)