Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Mexico - The Not-Too-Exciting Martinez Government

MeanMesa has watched, fascinated, as the new Governor has completed the slow migration from her old role as a failed Democratic candidate to her new one as a well heeled Republican "up and comer."  Once lubricated with immense, admittedly checkered campaign financing, Susana managed to either ride the wave of tea bags or, from an alternate point of view, at least be dragged behind the truck.

Now, of course, she faces the historical curse of Republican campaign victors  everywhere, the apparently incomprehensible task of actually governing.  The "modern question" of the day naturally settles on estimating what the "new girl" will throw together for a new clutch of department secretaries.  The first, unsettling  clues are already at hand.

Governor-elect Susana Martinez (image source)

Of course, ex-Democrat Susana finds herself deeply committed to boosting her resume as a prosecutor as she finds herself facing a rather bleak void in popular name recognition.  After all, the guy she replaces was, during his public service career, not only a governor but also a UN Ambassador, a "go-to" guy for problem dictators, Energy Secretary and Democratic Convention Chairman.

For Martinez, the "prosecutor" persona, when it is the sole identity remaining after the campaign's talking points fade into yesterday's news, will simply have to do.  However, the prospects of good outcomes from effective state government are organically dissimilar to clever presentations in court.

The State of the State

MeanMesa has watched with dismal fascination as the photos of Martinez's nominees have appeared on our favorite "faux news" affiliate (Channel 13, Albuquerque).  Instead of exciting, innovative new faces which might promise refreshed approaches to our New Mexican problems (i.e., a "dancing" deficit which routinely varies from $400 Mn to $700 Mn depending on the news channel source), MeanMesa suspects we should anticipate a very amateurish, one dimensional approach.

Overly negative?   Probably not.  The Republican Great Recession has decimated most of the State's traditional reserves such as pension plans and Legislative "rainy day funds."  The state coffers are so low already that much governmental  innovation now seems firmly beyond the pale of likely possibilities. 

As Martinez turns to her newly embraced Republican play book, the usual reactionary priorities will surface soon enough.  Budget cutting -- especially for  policies which might help politically weaker New Mexicans -- will be one of her first moves.  Redirecting all possible profits to her supporters will follow closely behind the new misery.

Starving the developing film industry and "not moving" the crime lab (discussed below) will be examples of this treatment.   For example, the rate of return on investment in the film industry tax subsidy has always been impressive, but Martinez's problem with the program isn't one concerned with how much additional money the plan injects into the state's economy but rather, who gets it.

The Martinez Nominees

We were all familiar enough with some of the other, more visible characters in the Martinez campaign.  Folks such as the Half-Ex-Governess and Political Wanna-Be, Ms. Palin or the tragically soiled Heather "Halliburton" Wilson, her transition officer.  But so far as most of the nominees, the same question surfaces across the state's coffee tables, "Who, exactly, are these people?"
A quick glance at this collection of desolate, resigned Catholic eyes suggests that a certain, difficult discussion was held just before their announcement as nominees.  Ex-Democrat prosecutor Martinez apparently laid down the law in no uncertain terms -- first to her candidate vetting staff and then later to the, uh, nominees themselves.

Prosecutor Martinez correctly concluded that the re-election problem of the Democrats centered on the relentlessly publicised budgetary peccadilloes of the departing administration.  Thanks to the somewhat less than totally innocent, selective auditing habits of the Richardsonians, every suspicious appointee from  the Demming Dog Catcher to Logan Librarian seemed to have been able to surreptitiously wind up with a six digit personal bank account.

The new "Prosecutora" will have none of this on her watch.  After all, with the state budget in free fall, the most material corruption must be reserved for Susana's best friends in Texas.  It will be a bleak winter indeed for any of the still ambitious, crooked, "little people" who might have quietly survived the "sacred cleansing fire" of Ms. Martinez's very recently adopted political purity campaign.

If there emerges a common thread among all the forlorn new administrators in Susana's nominees, it is one of a suffocatingly over-controlled collection of parochial "pay backs."  As for the citizens of the state, we should probably expect more large scale looting, fewer small scale diversions and very, very few risky new ideas.

The descent to something similar to New Mexico's conditions in the  culture of the 1600's is in full swing.  "Winner take all."

Her well lubricated campaign made a heady brew of state administrators flying to meetings in publicly owned airplanes, insinuating that honest state government travel should be by rusty pick up truck with a lunch packed in a bag.  Of course, her small minded Democratic opponents seemed anxious to "walk into the props" on every possible occasion to grant traction to such claims.

Moving the Crime Lab

Worse, as her first order of business, she finds herself riding a very "embarrassing horse" in the scrap about moving the primitive NM-CSI lab from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.  Driving a stake through the already feeble heart of her new image as an "all-business" sort of gal, she has welded herself to the very shaky, furtively darting, paranoid eyes of none other than Darren White.

The budget issue in the matter lands squarely on the fact that the Albuquerque Police Department has found a "life-long-friend" in the financial sponsorship of the crime lab.  The long suffering Albuquerque Public Safety office has generously volunteered to staff and operate the lab at an extensive expense which can only be mitigated by massive subsidies from the state government. 

A very reasonable plan, that is, an "ox to be gored," initiated by those responsible would move the lab -- and its operating costs -- to the control of the state, eliminating the costly "middle men" in the city police force.  In an equally embarrassing effort to fire up the local "hill billies," Mr. White has dramatically bemoaned the damage which will inevitably be done to his "secret evidence" files, claiming that they will be selectively damaged during the one hour journey to the capitol.

MeanMesa has been here before.  Still reeling from duty as jury foreman on a couple of fatally flawed prosecutions derived from Mr. White's department, we dared write the man a letter with a few suggestions.  Aside from never receiving a reply, MeanMesa watched the local police department's  train wreck continue to careen into Mad Hatter Chaos since then (May, 2010).  Anyone interested can read the entire MeanMesa letter here:

Exposing Darren White as a presumptive White Knight of law and order to too much local television is probably only the first of Susana's meat handed political fumbles.  Even so, just as long as the local cowboy voters remain unwilling to look at the cost of this most recent "flag flying" gambit, the dismal record of failed prosecutions due -- not to her resistance to lab  moving plans -- but to bumbled local police reports will, most likely, not be a real political problem until we are even poorer than we are now.

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