Leaky dam key to city's water problems: But feds, wetlands won't allow quick fix

From KRQE-TV.com - A Las Vegas, N.M. dam that leaks millions of gallons of water every year needs to be fixed in order to solve the city’s escalating water woes. But even if city officials could come up with the millions it will take to permanently fix the problem, the federal government won’t let them make the repairs. That’s because Peterson Dam – one of the oldest operating dams in the state – has been leaking for more than two decades, said Ken Garcia, the city’s utility director. Those leaks, in turn, have created a wetlands area downstream and the federal government, which regulates wetlands, won’t let the city destroy them. And that is a huge problem because the city of Las Vegas now has only a two-month supply of water left. It is spending about $4 million on short-term fixes that should keep the taps flowing in the near future. So until the city figures out how to either preserve the wetlands or create a new wetlands in another area, nothing can be done to fix the leak. And that doesn’t sit well with either Mayor Ortiz or Gov. Susana Martinez. “We should not maintain a wetland that just happened to be created due to a leaky dam and then say, ‘People of Las Vegas you don’t have water and you’re not going to be allowed to fix that dam either,’ ” Martinez told News 13. “It makes no sense. We have to put the people of Las Vegas first.” Read more

Issa: Obama admin intimidating witnesses in ATF gun probe

From the Washington Times - The Obama administration sought to intimidate witnesses into not testifying to Congress on Tuesday about whether ATF knowingly allowed weapons, including assault rifles, to be “walked” into Mexico, the chairman of a House committee investigating the program said in an interview Monday. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, said at least two scheduled witnesses expected to be asked about a controversial weapons investigation known as “Fast and Furious”received warning letters from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to limit their testimony. Mr. Issa's committee is set to hear testimony from six current or former ATF employees, including agents and attaches assigned to the bureau’s offices in Mexico, about the operation — in which, federal agents say, they were told to stand down and watch as guns flowed from U.S. dealers in Arizona to violent criminals and drug cartels in Mexico. Read more
Last year I mismanaged my funds and this year my family and I cannot decide on a budget. Until we have come to a unified decision that fits all of our needs and interests, we will have to shut down our checkbook and will no longer be able to pay our taxes. I'm sure you'll understand. Thank you very much for setting an example we can all follow.

“You’re not in kindergarten anymore” — Tense moments in committee looking at recovering investment losses

From Capitol Report New Mexico - George Muñoz had had enough. After an attorney for the State Investement Council (SIC) challenged a lawyer who’s been a harsh critic of the council to accept an envelope filled with documents in the middle of the Investments and Pensions Oversight Committee meeting hearing Wednesday (July 27), Muñoz let loose: “We’re not going to create a pissing match here between who has the best lawyers,” the committee chairman said. “Everybody here has to remember who you work for. It’s the people of the state of New Mexico. Whether you like the guy or you don’t … we’re not in kindergarten anymore.” It was just one of a number of heated moments Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t a steel cage death match, but by the normal, slow-moving standards of the Roundhouse, the hearing it was nearly worthy of the WWE. Fireworks were already expected, given the fact that the committee had called the three main parties involved in the state’s efforts to recover some of the millions of dollars lost in alleged “pay to play” scandals in the SIC and the Educational Retirement Board (ERB). Read more

Rural area post offices in danger of closure

From KOB-TV and the Clovis News Journal - Due to financial struggles, the U.S. Postal Service has produced a list of about 3,700 post offices it will study for closure nationwide. This week, the US Postal Service announced 54 offices in New Mexico will be evaluated in a cost-cutting study. USPS spokesman Peter Hass said the 180-day process of considering closure would start once announcements were sent to customers of each post office. He didn’t know when that would be. Each post office is to be studied individually, and the process includes a 60-day public comment period. Hass said no post offices would close before December. The three major criteria USPS considered when choosing which locations to study for closure were the number of retail transactions per day, amount of revenue and proximity of the next-nearest post office, Hass said. If a post office is closed, he said, the community could get a “village post office.” In that arrangement, the Postal Service would contract with a small business or governmental body to offer its services. Hass said 35 percent of USPS revenue already comes from services received outside a regular post office — online or in a private store, for example. “Over the past four years, we’ve seen a 20 percent decline in mail volume,” Hass continued. The economic downturn has led to less advertising mail, and people have been communicating, paying bills and so forth electronically instead of sending first-class mail, he said. Hass said this situation means USPS has to be more efficient. Read more

Group says gas, oil industry receives $104 million in yearly subsidies

From the Alamogordo Daily News - By Milan Simonich, Texas-New Mexico Newspapers - New Mexico taxpayers contribute $104 million a year for corporations that are among the wealthiest in the country, according to the study, "Subsidy Gusher," by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Jill Lancelot, cofounder of the organization, said one purpose of the study is to pressure Congress to eliminate handouts for oil and gas companies. She said the industry turned a profit of $32 billion for the first quarter of this year for the top five oil and gas companies, but received public handouts even as America's crushing debt grew. In Texas, the industry directly employs 297,000 people and pays taxes of $7 billion to the state and local governments. Perhaps more significant in the context of the study, the tax rate on oil and gas companies is five times per job higher than any other industry in Texas, the spokeswoman said. This is because oil and gas bears a production tax not charged on other industries. New Mexico Oil & Gas Association calculated that oil and gas payments in taxes, royalties and other revenues totaled nearly $1.7 billion. The New Mexico state government's total budget for this year is about $5.4 billion. Lancelot said the nation's debt of $14 trillion and a record U.S. deficit of $1.6 trillion were all the more reason to eliminate the subsidies. "This industry should pay the cost of doing business," she said. "It is simply wrong to have wealthy corporations rake in more than $30 billion in just three months and not be willing to pay their fair share." Read more

Pavlich: Dept. of Justice Gave Drug Cartels Enough Weapons to Arm a Marine Regiment

Katie Pavlich
Townhall - The Department of Justice proposed a southwest border strategy in October 2009 to combat Mexican cartels, with final plans for the operation now known as Operation Fast and Furious coming in January 2010. The new “strategy” included multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, ICE, the IRS and the FBI. This operation entailed ATF agents watching straw purchasers buy hundreds of high-powered weapons and allowed them to go back or “walk” into Mexico, with a goal of “tracing” them back to cartel leaders. As Americans learned in the second hearing about this operation on June 15, guns were lost, not traced, and now a cover-up has begun.

Brian Terry
“The Acting Director of the ATF, in a transcribed interview with investigators, has said that the Justice Department is trying to push all of this away from its political appointees. That is not the response this committee, Congress and the public, should expect from the ‘most transparent administration in history,’” Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said during opening statements. “To date, President Obama has been keen to talk about who didn’t know about the program and who didn’t authorize it. These answers will not suffice. The American people have a right to know, once and for all, who did authorize it and who knew about it.”
A new report released by Issa’s office shows ATF agents working in Mexico were left in the dark about the details of Operation Fast and Furious. The report shows that in late 2009, ATF officials in Mexico began to see increasing amounts of guns traced to the Phoenix ATF Field Division office showing up at violent crime scenes.
Eric Holder
Former ATF Attaché to Mexico Darren Gil and ATF Acting Attaché to Mexico Carlos Canino expressed their concerns to officials in the Phoenix Field Office and in Washington D.C. but were ignored. The report shows ATF and DOJ “failed to share crucial details of the of Operation Fast and Furious with either their own employees stationed in Mexico or representatives of the Government of Mexico.” Specifically, personnel in Arizona denied ATF agents working in Mexico information directly related to their jobs and everyday operations. Read full column here: News New Mexico


ALEC Helped Draft Some Bills for NM Legislature

Veritas New Mexico - New Mexico lawmakers introduced several bills drafted by ALEC during the regular 2011 legislative session, Veritas NM found. The bills included proposed laws to limit lawsuits against hospitals, reduce regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and increase penalties for shoplifting. Corporations pay ALEC up to $25,000 apiece in annual membership fees and up to another $10,000 for their representatives to serve on issue-specific task forces. That buys them unfettered access to state legislators from across the U.S., according to critics like Center for Media and Democracy Director Lisa Graves. Lawmakers frequently introduce ALEC’s draft bills “without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills,” Graves said. Hundreds of the group’s bills have been passed into law by state legislatures across the U.S., Graves said. Read full story here: News New Mexico

Martinez: Repeal Of D.L. Law Is Bi-Partisan Compromise

Susana Martinez 
We received this piece Monday from the Republican Party of NM. It is regarding the driver's license issue. ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Democratic State Representative Bill O’Neill recently penned a self-serving opinion column in which he erroneously claimed Governor Susana Martinez was not working in a bi-partisan manner to repeal the law that gives driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. While it’s noteworthy that Democrat politicians who opposed repeal are now trying to find a way to hedge their bets (after hearing from their constituents, no doubt), O’Neill has his facts wrong. O’NEILL FICTION: Martinez did not exhibit bi-partisanship with her approach to the driver’s license issue in the January legislative session.
Bill O'Neil
FACT: The original bill was sponsored by Democrat-turned-Independent Andy Nunez. That bill was then amended as part of a floor substitute compromise the Governor directly negotiated with Democrat legislators. The bi-partisan compromise allowed legal foreign nationals to obtain driver’s licenses, among other changes, and cleared the house by a 42 to 28 vote. It was the Democratic state Senator Michael Sanchez who killed the compromise in an entirely partisan vote in the state Senate.
O’NEILL FICTION: O’Neill: “[The Governor must demonstrate a] willingness to address the public safety concerns about having unlicensed, uninsured motorists on our highways, which was the purpose of the 2003 law in the first place. ...These are legitimate public safety concerns and deserve serious debate and consideration.”
FACT: Giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants has done nothing to lower our uninsured motorist rate. In fact, New Mexico still has the highest second highest rate of uninsured motorists in the country. (Insurance Research Council)
“Representative O’Neill is in a swing district and trying to trick his constituents into believing that he supports doing away with this dangerous law. But voters won’t be fooled — you’re either FOR giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, or you’re AGAINST it,” said Bryan Watkins. “If Bill O’Neill wants to get out of the dog house with his constituents then he needs to only do one thing — join the 8 Democrats in the House and support Governor Martinez’s bi-partisan repeal bill.”


This Just in From NM Senate Democrats

Tim Jennings
Senate Democrats are baffled by Governor Martinez's recent attempt to cancel licenses of 10,000 foreign nationals holding New Mexico driver's licenses after rejecting a compromise bill that not only called for cancellation, but provided for even stricter requirements for obtaining driver's licenses for foreign nationals without social security numbers. The compromise bill that passed the Senate during the regular legislative session would have canceled all driver's licenses of foreign nationals without social security numbers and required them to re-apply with much stricter residency requirements, fingerprinting, and tougher penalties for violators.
Michael Sanchez
"During the regular session, the Governor made it very clear she was not willing to consider any part of the compromise," said Senator Timothy Z. Jennings (D-32-Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln, Otero). "Yet, four months later, she decides to implement a key component of the bill without any of the safeguards against fraud included in the compromise. If this issue truly is about public safety, then why didn't she support a proposal that actually would have taken steps to prevent and punish fraud and protect public safety?" asked Sen. Jennings.
Susana Martinez
"There were parts of the compromise that I wasn't happy with but I was willing to accept them in order to move forward on this issue. That is the whole point of compromise," said Senator Michael S. Sanchez (D-29-Valencia). "The Governor's refusal to negotiate with the legislature on this and other issues reminds me of the gridlock paralyzing Washington today," said Sen. Sanchez. "I encourage the Governor to rise above that mindset in Washington and focus on solving the problems we have in New Mexico, such as the economy."


Pearce: Cut, Cap, and Balance

Steve Pearce
Congressman Steve Pearce issed the following press release on the debt ceiling debate yesterday. - Washington, DC (July 26, 2011) As Congress continues debate over the debt limit, Rep. Steve Pearce today reiterated the cost of failing to address America’s debt problem. “In less than three years, our debt limit has increased by $3 trillion,” said Pearce. “Washington is recklessly spending money we don’t have, and Americans have had enough. The President has promised that his spending spree could create jobs and keep unemployment low, but New Mexicans are tired of broken promises. The future of our country—of our children and grandchildren—is at stake. Mr. President, if we don’t act now to solve our debt problem, then when?”
President Obama asked Congress to increase the debt limit without any debt reduction plan, a move opposed by 83% of those in Rep. Pearce’s district. According to the House Ways and Means Committee, “approximately 50 percent of small business income would be subjected to a tax increase” under the President’s plan.
Rep. Pearce has tirelessly sought feedback from constituents on the issue as he works in Washington. On Friday, he held a Facebook town hall, uploading video responses to his constituents’ questions. This week, he plans to hold a telephone town hall meeting. He has also interacted with constituents through surveys, newsletters, YouTube videos, email, and phone messages.
Pearce voted last week in support of “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” a plan which has passed the House with bipartisan support and includes long-term solutions to the nation’s debt crisis. He has also cosponsored legislation to prioritize Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security payments in the event the debt limit is reached.


Strike Looms at Santa Fe Hospital

Santa Fe New Mexican - Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center negotiators did not show up Tuesday for a scheduled 8 a.m. negotiation session with union representatives hoping to hammer out a new contract for the hospital's nurses and technical workers. The conflict between the hospital's management and negotiators for the local branch of the District 1199 National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees has played out in several other venues over the last week. Since May, the two entities have been trying to finalize a new contract for the approximately 400 nurses and 125 technical workers employed by the hospital. The existing contract was set to expire June 30, but in late June, both parties agreed to extend it for another month after the union gave a 10-day notice that it would strike if an agreement was not reached by the contract end date. The parties stopped meeting July 20 after the hospital alleged that union representatives had refused the services of a federal mediator — and union representatives said the hospital walked away from the bargaining table. The next day, the union filed its second 10-day strike notice. Read full story here: News New Mexico

"Balanced Approach" Must Score Well in Focus Groups

L.A. Times - Using political forensics, notice any clues, perhaps telltale code words that reveal to whom he was really addressing his Monday message? Clearly, it wasn't congressional Republicans -- or Democrats, for that matter.

The nation's top talker uttered 2,264* words in those remarks. He said "balanced approach" seven times, three times in a single paragraph. That's the giveaway. Obviously, David Plouffe and the incumbent's strategists have been polling phrases for use in this ongoing debt duel, which is more about 2012 now than 2011. "Balanced approach" is no sweet talk for old Bernie or tea sippers on the other side.
Obama is running for the center already, aiming for the independents who played such a crucial role in his victorious coalition in 2008. They were the first to start abandoning the good ship Obama back in 2009 when all the ex-state senator could do was talk about healthcare, when jobs and the economy were the peoples' priority.
Democrats lost the New Jersey and Virginia governor's offices largely as a result of that and Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts. And then came last November's midterms when voters chose the approach of that historic pack of House-bound Republicans. Read full column here: News New Mexico


Catastrophe is Looming - Somebody Tell the Markets!

We hear that the "markets" have to get over the "uncertainty" of a short term debt plan instead of one that moves beyond the "election." This is the latest cynical attempt to make the reality of the financial irresponsibilies of the White House go away until AFTER the next election. Let's look at the markets to see how stressed out they are compared to six weeks ago when the parties were not close to the latest deadline. The S & P 500 Index was at 1265.42 on June 15th. Yesterday the index finished at 1331.94.
Let's look at the treasury bond market and see how much interest rates on government bonds have changed over the last six weeks. On June 15th the ten year U.S. treasury note yield was 2.97%. Yesterday, after six weeks of news conferences with the president threatening default, economic catastrophe, and higher rates, the yield on the ten year treasury note yield was 2.95%.
Whatever is being said in Washington.......at least for now the markets are NOT listening.