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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

NM Insurance Superintendent Morris J. Chavez Resigns, Cites Online Criticism

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) announced that Insurance Superintendent Morris J. “Mo” Chavez tendered his resignation today, Tuesday, May 4. Members of the Commission indicated they would accept the resignation, which is effective at the close of business today.

Chavez, who served as superintendent since October 2007, said he reached his decision after deliberating with his family, according to the PRC. His letter did not cite specific reasons for resigning. Members of the Commission thanked Chavez for his service to the state.

“We appreciate the work he’s done here on behalf of the state,” Commission Chairman David W. King said in a statement released by the PRC. “We wish him well in his future endeavors.”

According to an AP article, Chavez said that he and his family have been the targets of "sad and derogatory" online comments in the wake of a contentious health insurance case his office recently settled. "I didn't realize that people could be so mean-spirited when they don't understand my job or the job I have to do according to the law," Chavez told the AP.

"There's only so much under the law that we can do in terms of disapproving rates, and we follow the law," Chavez continued. "There's got to be an individual to blame, and right now I'm that individual, unfortunately, when it's the system that's at fault, no one person."

The Insurance Division was recently involved in a controversy over the approval of rate hikes for Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico. You can read about that here (with links to additional posts).

The PRC moved quickly to appoint an interim replacement, elevating Deputy Superintendent Thomas Rushton to the post.

May 4, 2010 at 04:40 PM in Government, Healthcare, Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Must Read: New Mexico Watchdog Exposed as Right-Wing Hack Operation

Tracy Dingamann has a must-read piece today on Clearly New Mexico about the growing -- and troubling -- phenomenon of allegedly investigative (or "scoop") journalists generously funded by right-wing, "free market" money. Dingmann discusses the findings of journalist Laura McGann, who wrote a Washington Monthly piece entitled, “Partisan Hacks: Conservatives Have Discovered the Virtues of Investigative Journalism. But Can Their Reporting Survive Their Politics?” McGann is an assistant editor at the prestigious Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University and former editor of the nonprofit news site the Washington Independent,

Images-1 One of the "journalists" studied by McGann is none other than Jim Scarantino, who operates the New Mexico Watchdog website and is more than willing to brag about his journalistic skills. Partisan advocate? No way, claims Jim. But what McGann finds out about Scarantino's site and others like it isn't pretty.

McGann also lays out serious problems with The Franklin Center, which funds Scarantino's efforts and similar "Watchdog" sites around the country. The rumor is that Scarantino gets $75,000 a year to make The Franklin Center happy. The Center is run by a Republican political consultant with no journalism background, so you can imagine what that means. Bottom line: McGann concludes that "ideologically motivated, willfully misleading muckraking may be a well-worn strategy among partisan operatives. But it isn’t journalism."

Please go read the entire post on Clearly New Mexico. Knowledge is power!

May 4, 2010 at 03:11 PM in Journalism, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (9)

Democrat Brian Colón Announces Education and Job Training Plan to Celebrate National Teacher Day

Colon at a recent campaign event

Democrat Brian Colón's campaign for lieutenant governor is on a roll this week. First they released Colón's first ad, which will be running on both network and cable TV. Last night, the campaign went over the 600-donor mark on ActBlue and met a $5,000 matching fund challenge. Today, the campaign released Brian's plan for education.

Colón's Education and Training Plan outlines a four-point plan to provide the needed resources for New Mexico classrooms and lays out a plan of support for the many New Mexicans who are struggling to learn new skills in an ever changing economy. The plan highlights Colón's ideas to:

  • Put Our Schools and Children First. Brian is committed to ensuring our schools retain the most competent and qualified professionals. New Mexico educators, their teams, and our school facilities should be of the highest caliber.
  • Hold Schools, Teachers, Parents, and Students Accountable for Performance. Additional funding, alone, will not help our schools get better. We must hold our schools accountable for increased performance, strengthen the effectiveness of our teachers, and provide avenues for parents and the community to get involved in our children's education.
  • Give More New Mexicans an Opportunity for Good Paying Jobs. Every New Mexico child should have a high school diploma, but we also have an obligation to make sure these high school graduates have the skills they need to get good-paying jobs. We need to create options for those New Mexicans who choose not to attend a four-year college to be successful in the workplace.
  • Put a Priority on Training for the Jobs of Tomorrow. Despite the economic downturn, many jobs in the renewable or "green" industries are available now or could be brought to New Mexico, but we lack the trained workers to fill the positions. Brian knows that now is the time to invest in our people so they are prepared for these jobs.

"Today is National Teachers' Day," said Colón in a written statement, "and my plan has had input from educators who understand exactly where the needs and weaknesses of our system are. Good education is the gateway to an improved economy in New Mexico, and any solutions for the economy or other social problems that do not include preparing our children and retraining adults for the jobs that are available today, will not lead to real change."

"Funding our educational system is a good investment, but we also need to make all of the various pieces of the system and those that have a stake in its success work together to gain better results," Colón continued. "That is what my plan is about."

Brian Colón's "Education and Training Plan" can be found here.

May 4, 2010 at 01:49 PM in 2010 NM Lt. Governor Race, Brian Colon, Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

5/6: Mixer with Judge Shannon Bacon in Albuquerque

From the Committee to Elect Shannon Bacon:

Appointed District Judge
and Candidate in June 1st Primary Election
THURSDAY, MAY 6, 2010, 5:30-7:30 PM
Sapien Law Firm, 1100 Second Street, NW
(Corner of Granite and Second St., downtown)
Erika Anderson ~ Ana Canales
Angela Chavez ~ Nancy Denker
Katy Duhigg ~ Terri Holland
Quiana Salazar King ~ Julianna D. Koob
Kooch Jacobus ~ Nili Lange
Idalia Lechuga-Tena ~ Treasurer James B. Lewis
Rep. Antonio Maestes ~ Brian Nichols
Candelaria Patterson ~ DeAnza Valencia Sapien
Co. Comm. Maggie Hart Stebbins ~ Laura Vega

RSVP to ~ 505.920.6002. Committee to elect Shannon Bacon, Paul Melendres, Treasurer.

May 4, 2010 at 01:29 PM in 2010 Judicial Races, Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Governor Bill Richardson: 3,000+ Full-Time Jobs Funded With Recovery Act Dollars in First Quarter

Governor Bill Richardson today announced that more than 3,000 full-time jobs in New Mexico have been funded with federal stimulus dollars in the first quarter of 2010.

"The Recovery Act is putting thousands of New Mexicans to work throughout rural and urban areas of the state," Governor Richardson said in a statement released today. "Times are tough and stimulus funds have created good, local jobs in our schools, home building industry, law enforcement, road and clean water projects at time when we need them the most."

New Mexico's quarterly reports, jobs summaries and spending reports are available here. The reports show 3,009 full-time jobs were funded with Recovery Act dollars from January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2010. Of those, 2,271 jobs were in public education.

"Month after month, stimulus dollars continue to flow throughout New Mexico's economy," said former Governor Toney Anaya, executive director of the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment. "We continue to lead an aggressive effort with state agencies to make sure Recovery Act projects are funded quickly and that benefits are flowing to New Mexicans."

Since February of last year, 11,899 people have received full or part-time work as a result of Recovery Act spending that flows through state government. In addition more jobs have been funded based on dollars that flow directly from the federal government to cities, towns, tribes or others that receive stimulus funds.

New Mexico is expected to receive more than $3.6 billion in Recovery Act funds over time, plus hundreds of millions in tax credits and additional bonding authority.

May 4, 2010 at 12:05 PM in Gov. Bill Richardson, Jobs, NM Office of Recovery and Reinvestment, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Linda Vanzi Receives Prominent Endorsements in NM Court of Appeals Race

Lindavanzi Citing her competence and commitment to the law, the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association (APOA) has endorsed Judge Linda Vanzi for the New Mexico Court of Appeals. Vanzi is running to keep her position on the Court of Appeals. She faces opposition in the Democratic Primary on June 1st.

The APOA represents over 900 Albuquerque Police Officers from the Albuquerque Police Department and Aviation Police. The APOA is the largest police association in the State of New Mexico. They rarely endorse in Judge’s races.

“We need leadership and guidance that we can be proud of,” said Daniel J Champine, Chairman of the APOA Political Action Committee, in a statement released today. “The APOA feels that Judge Vanzi best represents what is best for our community.”

In response to the endorsement Judge Vanzi said, “I am honored by the vote of confidence by the APOA. It’s vital that we maintain a sense of integrity and ethical responsibility in the courts.”

Vanzi was also endorsed by Council 18 of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Iron Workers Local Union No. 495, Office & Professional Employees Intl Union, Local 25, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 492, Communications Workers of America, Local 7076, New Mexico Professional Firefighters Association, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1564, the Victory Fund, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 953, New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council.

Judge Linda Vanzi was selected by the judicial nominating commission, and appointed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals by Governor Bill Richardson in 2008. By State law, Judges must stand for election in one partisan contest after appointment. Judge Vanzi has also been awarded the Judge of the Year award by the Albuquerque Bar Association and the Trial Judge of Year award by the American Board of Trial Advocates.

For more information on the campaign to keep Judge Linda Vanzi, contact Sandra Wechsler @ (505) 231-5866 or visit

May 4, 2010 at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tonight: DFA-DFNM Meetup with NM House Reps and Candidates

The monthly DFA-DFNM Meetup is tonight, Tuesday, May 4, at 7:00, at the First Unitarian Church Social Hall on the SW corner of Carlisle and Comanche in Albuquerque. You can RSVP and/or join the group here:

This month's Meetup will concentrate on some important State House races. Whether we live in these legislative districts or not, it's very important that we support these Dem candidates so they keep or win seats their seats in this important election cycle.

Our guests include State Rep. Eleanor Chavez (District 13), one of our most progressive members of the legislature. Rep. Chavez is being challenged in the Democratic primary and will discuss her campaign, as well as her courageous stance on the Arizona immigrant law. We'll also be hearing from State Rep. Ben Rodefer (District 23), another strong advocate for progressive values and one of the good guys serving in the Legislature that Republicans are working hard to beat. And two young Dems who are challenging House seats now held by Republicans will also join us: Joel Davis, who is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert in District 44, and Alex Russell, who is taking on incumbent Republican Rep. Thomas A. Anderson in District 29.

Hope you join us! This is a great opportunity to hear directly from the candidates, ask them questions and learn about the importance of legislative races this year.

May 4, 2010 at 08:35 AM in 2010 NM Legislature Races, DFA, DFNM - Albq, MeetUp | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 03, 2010

5/7: Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce to Feature Talks on Sustainable Economic Development

From the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce:
Two talks on sustainable economic development will be presented on Friday, May 7, from noon to 1 PM at La Fuente Restaurant, 1710 South Espina in Las Cruces. The First Friday series is sponsored by the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce.

Hien Nguyen will be presenting a talk entitled, “Evaluating an Express Commuter Bus Line between Neighborhoods in Doña Ana County and New Mexico State University Campuses,” in which she has analyzed interest among NMSU faculty, staff, and students the possibility of operating commuter buses that travel from particular neighborhoods to main and community college campuses. In her project, Hien has identified which neighborhoods had the greatest concentrations of potential riders.

“Cultural Entrepreneurship as a Sustainable Economic Development Vehicle: A Resilience Alliance Approach," will be presented by Abby Train. Abby will talk about arts-based development in southern New Mexico.

Both presenters are candidates for the Doctorate in Economic Development at New Mexico State University.

Reservations are necessary for the May 7 presentation, and interested people are urged to register early, because space is limited. For $8, a buffet lunch will be provided by La Fuente. To reserve a place, call Connie Falk at 527-1534 or email her at

May 3, 2010 at 03:15 PM in Energy, Environment, Events, Green Economy, Las Cruces | Permalink | Comments (2)

Glenn Ellington & Lori Millet: Republicans Running as Dems in NM District Court Primaries?

We've noticed that a couple of District Court candidates who have Republican backgrounds are running as Democrats in June 1 primary races here in New Mexico. I don't know if they are ashamed of their real party affiliation, or if they just want to try to get into office by pretending to be Democratic candidates in strongly Democratic districts. At any rate, it seems odd that the two candidates -- T. Glenn Ellington and Lori Millet -- weren't registered as Democrats until 2008, for starters. And yet they are running against Judge David K. Thomson and Judge Shannon Bacon -- both strong Democrats -- in the primary.

Glenn Ellington vs. Judge David K. Thomson
Take the case of T. Glenn Ellington. Ellington is the former Chair of the Republican Party of Rio Arriba County. He served as NM Taxation and Revenue Secretary for Republican Governor Gary Johnson, a strong conservative. He even served in the past as a District Court Judge in Santa Fe and a Court of Appeals Judge by appointment of none other than Gov. Johnson. Suddenly, however, he switched political parties in 2008. Why? The most likely reason is that he wants to be a more viable candidate for a judicial post in a Democratic district.

Ellington is running in the Democratic primary for District Judge in the 1st District, Division 7, in Northern New Mexico, against the incumbent, Judge David K. Thomson. Ellington notes his previous appointments on his campaign website, but doesn't mention they were made by a Republican governor. Just an error of omission, I'm sure.

When the appointment to the District 1 judgeship was in play in February of this year, to fill a vacancy due to the retirement of Judge Daniel Sanchez, Ellington sought the nomination. Gov. Bill Richardson, however, appointed Judge Thomson.

Judge David K. Thomson was an excellent choice for the job. As the Santa Fe New Mexican reported when he was appointed:

For the past four years, Thomson has been Attorney General Gary King's deputy overseeing the Civil Law Division, the Environmental Division, the Consumer Protection Division and others. He also has served as acting director of the AG's Litigation Division.

He's known as "the tobacco guy" because he has been responsible for enforcement of state laws regulating tobacco sales and distribution.

"And I still maintain my own civil caseload," he said in a telephone interview. One recent case with which he's been involved is the White Peak land exchange. The attorney general this month convinced the state Supreme Court to temporarily halt ongoing a controversial land swap — instigated by the State Land Office — of state trust land for private land around White Peak in northeastern New Mexico.

It should be noted that Ellington also served as lead attorney in the fight against the Santa Fe Living Wage. I'm not kidding.

Union organizers Carol Oppenheimer, of AFM Local 1000, and Morty Simon, of IBEW Local 611, had this to say about the race:

“[W]e support David Thomson for District Judge and oppose Glen Ellington. Glen was the chair of the Rio Arriba County Republican party and then became a Democrat at some point so he could run in this primary.

In addition, Ellington was the lead counsel in the lawsuit brought by the individual businesses and the Chamber of Commerce, Restaurant Association, etc. opposing the Santa Fe living wage. Many people do not know of his very aggressive legal fight against the living wage in Santa Fe. Please help us spread the word.”

Lori Millet vs. Judge Shannon Bacon
Another allegedly Democratic primary candidate for a judicial position, Lori Millet, also has dubious connections to the Democratic Party. Millet is running as a primary challenger to Judge Shannon Bacon, who was recently appointed by Governor Bill Richardson to fill a District Judge vacancy in the 2nd District, Division 23, in Bernalillo County, and is running to keep it.

Judge Bacon has an impeccable background including wide-ranging legal experience and a strong record of service to the community. She also has the endorsements of stellar Democrats like State Senators Eric Griego and Tim Keller, and State Representatives Gail Chasey, Moe Maestas, Al Park and Danice Picraux. Other notable supporters include The Honorable A. Joseph Alarid (Ret.), The Honorable Wendy York (Ret.), Jaime Tamez, Executive Director of Cuidando los Ninos, Paul Bardacke, Esq. and AFSCME.

On the other hand -- like Ellington -- Millet didn't register as a Democrat until September of 2008. It just so happens that her campaign slogan, "compassionate justice," mimics the Republican slogan "compassionate conservatism." You remember George Bush, the compassionate conservative, don't you?

The "compassionate conservative" ploy first emerged in the 1980s, when Republicans were attempting to sugar coat their extremist bent with a phrase that sounds harmless and more like the so-called country club Republicanism that reigned in earlier eras. I think it's telling that Millet is using a variation of this theme, don't you?

What We Can Do
Unfortunately, this could be the beginning of a disturbing trend that has Republicans changing parties to get into judgeships that Democrats would otherwise fill, no doubt helping to advance the cause of civil rights, civil liberties and progressive values. We have to stop it right now by making sure the real Democrats win in these two judicial races.

Ordinary voters often don't pay much attention to down-ballot contests like judicial races. We have to make sure our friends, families and co-workers know who the real Democrats are in these Democratic primaries. To learn more, make a campaign contribution or volunteer, visit the campaign website of Judge David K. Thomson and Judge Shannon Bacon. There's not time to waste. There's less than a month before the June 1 primary.

May 3, 2010 at 12:37 PM in 2010 Judicial Races, Democratic Party, Justice, Republican Party | Permalink | Comments (8)

5/5 Santa Fe: Campaign to Legalize Democracy Community Forum on Corporate Power

On Wednesday, May 5, , the Santa Fe Alliance and New Energy Economy will co-host a community forum with guest speaker and organizer Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap of the Campaign to Legalize Democracy and Move to Amend. The event will be at the Unitarian Church, 107 West Barcelona Road in Santa Fe from 6:00 to 8:30 PM.

In January this year the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending on elections. A new national coalition of diverse public interest, community and business organizations responded with a bold call to overrule the decision and amend the Constitution to restore the power of people over corporations. Sopoci-Belknap, a Santa Fe native and a lead organizer for the Campaign to Legalize Democracy coalition, will help local residents learn how they can work to abolish "Corporate Personhood" and reestablish a government of, by, and for the people, according to a statement released by the group.

“Corporate Personhood” commonly refers to court-created precedent that gives corporations constitutional rights intended solely for human beings. Corporate personhood is not an inconsequential legal technicality. The Supreme Court ruled that a corporation was a “legal person” with 14th Amendment protections before they granted full personhood to African-Americans, immigrants, Native Americans, or women.

“We are inspired by historic social movements that recognized the necessity of altering fundamental power relationships,” said Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, the Executive Director of Democracy Unlimited and a local elected official in her northern California community. “America has progressed through ordinary people joining together—from the Revolutionaries to Abolitionists, Suffragists, Trade Unionists and Civil Rights activists through to today.

"The movement we are launching is a long-term effort to make the U.S. Constitution more democratic,” stated Sopoci-Belknap. “We are a diverse coalition with deep roots in communities nationwide. We recognize that amending the Constitution to restore the power of the people over corporations will not be easy, but we know correcting the Supreme Court is imperative to the progress of our nation.”

The forum will focus on how Santa Fe and northern New Mexico can join the national movement against Corporate Personhood. Sopoci-Belknap will provide information about the issue and facilitate a participatory strategy discussion about local action in Santa Fe/northern New Mexico and in communities across the United States to win the amendment campaign through grassroots mobilization.

More than 77,000 people have signed an online petition supporting a constitutional amendment at Move to Amend is a project of The Campaign to Legalize Democracy.

If you have questions about the event, please email

May 3, 2010 at 09:44 AM in Civil Liberties, Corporatism, Events, Santa Fe Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

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