Sen. Mary Jane Garcia Double Dips Reimbursements Campaign Funds Illegally Cover Legislative Session

State Senator Mary Jane Gacia
NewsNM: Swickard - interestingly the local daily news media in Senator Garcia's district normally speak out against breaking the rules except, it would seem, for politicians they endorse. So, why does Senator Garcia not have to follow the rules? Disclosure: I am friends with her opponent, Lee Cotter, but would not give him a pass on following the rules. From NM By Jim Scarantino - State Senator Mary Jane Garcia has paid herself thousands of dollars in cash from her campaign funds for expenses for attending legislative committee meetings while receiving payments from the State of New Mexico to cover those same expenses. The Dona Ana Democrat has also paid herself thousands of dollars for attending sessions of the Legislature even though state law explicitly prohibits the use of campaign funds for that purpose. She once claimed per diem for attending a committee meeting in Las Cruces on a day her campaign expense report has her staying at a motel in Santa Fe. This is New Mexico Watchdog’s second audit of legislators’ expenses in which we compare their campaign expenditure reports archived with the Secretary of State against the records of their per diem and mileage requests, maintained by the Legislative Council Services. In our first of these reports we showed how Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, Democrat of Albuquerque, had been improperly spending campaign funds on massages and spinal treatments and how he was charging the state for round trip mileage to Santa Fe in his personal car when in fact he had been a passenger on the Rail Runner using tickets purchased from his campaign funds. According to campaign expenditure reports we examined going back to late 2009, Sen. Garcia has been paying herself in cash either immediately before, the day of or after attending interim legislative committee meetings. Her campaign reports record these cash payments as “committee work expenses” and then identify the committee meetings she attended by name of the committee and the location where the committee meeting was held.Even though Garcia has given herself campaign cash to cover the expenses of attending committee meetings, she has also taken per diem reimbursement from the state for the same expenses, effectively getting reimbursed twice Read more

Presidential Debate Preview

Commentary by Jim Spence - Here’s a preview of tomorrow night's presidential debate:

Barack Obama: “We are going to continue to provide free health care, free food, free phones, free housing, free unemployment compensation, and many other free benefits to people who don't work. And in my second term, we are going to create jobs for the 23 million people who don’t have jobs.” (Cheers ring out in every crowded metro area in the nation)
Don’t expect a moderator to ask Obama this follow-up question: “Mr. President, if you continue provide all of those things why do the people even need jobs?”

Mitt Romney: “The examples of people in America who have lifted themselves up from poverty through hard work, ambition, perseverance, thrift, sacrifice, and patience are endless. They did it without cradle to grave handouts from the government. This is what made America great!” (Boos ring out in every metro area in the nation)
Don’t expect a moderator to resist the temptation to ask a follow up question of Romney that implies something like this: “Governor Romney, you are rich. Rich people must have cheated somebody to do so well for themselves. Why should the American people trust you or any other person who has achieved extraordinary success? Hell you are just a rich guy who has probably exploited single women, Hispanics, and African Americans every day of your selfish life!”

Don’t expect Barack Obama to be forthright in the way he portrays his views....perhaps as follows:
Barack Obama: “We need to figure out who has the most ambition, drive, energy, and most important of all.......the willingness to sacrifice for their future. And we need to stick it to them because they aren't doing their fair share. When I am re-elected I won't ask most Americans to pay more than a few nickels, if even that much, to support this massive government I have been building."
And don’t expect a moderator to ask Obama this follow up question: “But Mr. President! If government is as important as you say it is…..why won’t you ask every single American to help pay for it.”

Gov. meets with state leaders on economy

Gov. Susana Martinez
Gov. Susana Martinez is meeting with local business leaders Tuesday to discuss the state's lackluster economy and more importantly, how to attract more business to the state.

New Mexico is open for business, but given a recent mass exodus of local jobs it may be hard to tell.
"I've been looking for a job for a while, more than a year," said resident Jonathan Shields.
In the last couple of months, Schott Solar, Lovelace Hospital, HP and Cardinal Health all announced hundreds of layoffs.
Martinez said the only way to make New Mexico grow jobs is to change tax policies.
"We've started the work by investing in the construction and manufacturing sectors, by providing tax relief to small business owners ... And by attracting companies in that can create private sector jobs ... like Honeywell and AirUSA."
Martinez said maximizing the state's energy development and partnership with universities and the labs will also help the private sector grow. Martinez said it is an area that will help bring the state's economy back to life.
Albuquerque lost 4,000 jobs during the 2011 fiscal year alone and most of those job losses came from the government sector.

Macy's to hire over 2,000 workers in NM and AZ

Macy's says it plans to hire 80,000 workers for the holidays. 

Officials say 2,300 of those workers will be hired in New Mexico and Arizona. 

The department store chain, which also owns Bloomingdale’s, says the extra workers are needed for sales floors, store operations and call centers, as well as shipping centers for online orders. 

Macy's is just the latest retailer to hire more employees in anticipation of a strong holiday shopping season. 

Last month Toys R Us and Kohl's also announced they were adding more seasonal workers this year than last.

Tribal capital improvements approved

A state board has awarded about $13 million for capital improvement projects for 16 Indian tribes and pueblos in New Mexico.
The Department of Indian Affairs said 28 projects received funding from the Tribal Infrastructure Board. The largest amount was nearly $1.7 million for a wastewater collection system for Santa Clara Pueblo.
About $1.2 million was approved for infrastructure for Santa Ana Pueblo's Adobe Acres subdivision and $1.3 million for an enterprise zone for Zia Pueblo.
The board provided $600,000 for the Navajo Nation's White Rock Chapter for planning portions of the Eastern Navajo Water Pipeline and $417,678 for the Counselor Chapter for design and construction of a power line extension.
A 2010 state law earmarks 5 percent of New Mexico's severance tax bond financing for tribal infrastructure projects.


Gall: Gonzales calls transparency a core value

Javier Gonzales
Analysis and Commentary by Jim Spence - New Mexico State University regent member and Chairman of the Democratic Party Javier Gonzales just won the prize for most outrageous statement of the year. Here it is: "Transparency is a core value of New Mexico State and we remain committed to it."
Gonzales is best known not for being a big fan of transparency, but for a lack of enthusiasm for it. Here’s why.
Sound Stage 2 at Santa Fe Studios
While serving as a NMSU regent Gonzales acted as a paid “consultant” for Santa Fe Studios back in 2009. He engineered the funneling of millions of taxpayer dollars to that private enterprise. For several years media outlets from all around the state have had their questions regarding transparency of his Santa Fe Studios consulting deal go completely ignored.
Sound Stage 1 at Santa Fe Studios
Give Gonzales credit. While he continues to find it completely unnecessary to “transparently” disclose the fees he charged them, he did broker a incredible package worth more than $20 million in taxpayer goodies to the Hool brothers.
Location of NMSU Film Facilities
After years of stonewalling, to hear Gonzales nauseatingly extol the virtues of full disclosure while citing lack of transparency as a reason for Couture’s departure.....lowers the hypocrisy bar to bottom of the ocean floor.
The truth here is pretty simple. NMSU needed the film facilities that wound up in the hands of Santa Fe Studios. When Gonzales got caught putting his interests, and those of the Hool brothers at Santa Fe Studios, ahead of NMSU’s interests and was actually questioned by the media about his actions, Gonzales provided irrefutable proof that "transparency" is NOT a core value of his. He continues to refuse to reveal how much he received out of the $20 million in cash, land, and in-kind services the Hool brothers received from New Mexico taxpayers.



NMSU Board of Regents accepts Couture's resignation

Barbara Couture
It’s another change in leadership for New Mexico State University

The NMSU board of Regents held a public meeting Monday announcing a mutually agreed upon separation with Dr. Barbara Couture. Couture initiated the separation by requesting annual leave last week with an official resignation yesterday afternoon. 

 Couture is leaving NMSU to take a Senior Advisory position with The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities.

Dr. Couture stated, “I have great respect for this university and all of the people I have worked with at NMSU.  My experience here over the last three years has convinced me of the importance of affecting policy at the national level so that colleges and universities can do a better job of assisting students through scholarship and loan programs.  This will be the focus of my work as senior adviser for APLU. I thank the Regents, my staff, the faculty and the State of New Mexico for the opportunity to serve.”

NMSU Board of Regents
(Photo-Vanessa Dabovich)
Details of the resignation are considered a personnel issue and will not be discussed publicly. However, Regent Javier Gonzales hinted at possible reasons saying, “We've seen falling enrollment, decline in our research dollars, unreliable and inconsistent state funding, an athletic program that's in danger of finding itself with no conference to play in, a nursing school that just lost its accreditation and much more.

Regent President Mike Cheney says an interim president will be selected by October 15th.   Cheney says there are standards in mind for the next leader of NMSU.

"We're looking for leadership in terms of the ability to connect with donors, connect with our alumni, connect with students, faculty, staff all the stakeholders. We need someone strong to represent this university because it's a fantastic university with a story to tell.", Cheney said. 

Couture will be on administrative leave until December 31st and will be paid $450,000 per terms of mutual contract separation.

Reporting for News New Mexico- Vanessa Dabovich. 


Las Cruces tops list of places to retire

Las Cruces makes AARP's list of the 10 best places to retire on $100 a day. 
The sunny New Mexico city hits the list at No. 2, barely missing the top spot which was given to Spokane, WA
According to Beth Velasquez of AARP New Mexico, the tax value, property values and median home price of $148,000 all mean money stretches further, giving a person the opportunity to pay bills and still have plenty to play with. But it doesn't stop there, with good medical services, cultural amenities, a university and outdoor activities. 
The city received a high ranking for quality of life for those looking to retire comfortably on $100 a day, which works out to $36,500 a year.


Concerns over balloon fiesta landing sites

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is only a few days away, and where the balloons launch and land may be an issue this year. 
City council members met Monday night to talk about an ordinance that clears up what balloonists call an outdated zoning issue. Although areas like the airport, pueblos, Kirtland Air Force Base and a few other select areas are off limits, an obscure city ordinance states that, legally, balloons are only allowed to take off and land at Double Eagle Airport and Balloon Fiesta Park
Officials say it's hard to imagine any kind of enforcement during the fiesta. City Council is considering a proposed ordinance that would allow balloons to take off and land in all zoning areas, as long as pilots have the permission of property owners.


Sunland Inc. expands nut recall

A New Mexico company has expanded its recall of peanut butter and almond butter to include cashew butters, tahini and blanched and roasted peanut products. 
Sunland Inc. sells its nuts and nut butters to large groceries and other food distributors around the country. The company recalled products under multiple brand names after salmonella illnesses were linked Trader Joe's Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter, one of the brands manufactured by Sunland. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are now 30 illnesses in 19 states that can be traced to the Trader Joe's product.


One Election, Two Sets of Rules

Jim Spence (left)
Commentary by Jim Spence - Have you ever gotten the impression there seem to be two sets of rules of conduct and media coverage for presidential candidates? A couple of years ago Barack Obama poked fun at himself, which normally would be just fine. Unfortunately, Obama did it by suggesting he was so bad he should be in Special Olympics. Not exactly a compassionate way to characterize the disadvantaged. Media silence.
Obama's brother lives in the depths of poverty and recently experienced the utter despair of going begging for help with his child’s medical bills. There has been no financial help from his brother the U.S. president. Media silence. Still, we are told there is a “compassion gap” within the minds of voters mainly because Romney is "rich." Gee it makes you wonder how that gap gets created.
When he was community organizing in Chicago, Barack Obama spearheaded lawsuits that eventually forced banks to make sub prime loans to people unable to repay them. Obama now blames the same banks for making sub prime loans that were not repaid. Not a word about this in the media. Instead, since we had a financial crisis four years ago, Mitt Romney is given a hard time.....because he is "rich."
Barack Obama accused his predecessor of being immoral for running budget deficits that are a fraction of what he is running now. Silence.
This year Obama has given more than a billion U.S. taxpayer dollars to anti-American leaders who have terrorist backgrounds in Egypt. Silence.
The media used to cover anti-war protesters. People like Cindy Sheehan got air time whenever they referred to George W. Bush as a war criminal during his presidency. Today, Guantanamo Bay remains open, President Obama pursues many of the same Middle East policies as Bush, the body counts in Afghanistan continue to rise, and there is hardly a word about the flag draped caskets coming home every week. Apparently the dead bodies don't matter as much now that Obama is president. Silence.
Every time there is a shooting incident the media laments the dangers of guns. However, when the Obama Justice Department puts guns into the hands of people who run the Mexican drug cartels and the president cites "executive privilege" as the reason to halt the investigation into the matter, Fast and Furious is ignored by the media or cast as a political witch hunt conducted by partisan Republicans. Silence.
The narrative regarding the bad U.S. economy four years after George W. Bush left Washington is that “W” is responsible for all the problems because as President of the United States he had control of everything. And now that Barack Obama has presided over the most feeble recovery ever, he isn't responsible for anything because even though he is president, he doesn't control anything. Really?
The drumbeat of the media is clear. Everyone should think twice about voting for Mitt Romney because he was merely an effective governor and is now a businessman who was extremely successful at what he did. Did I mention we should all be suspicious of him because he is rich? Don't want to leave that out.