All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:
You’ve heard about the groundwater contamination at Kirtland Air Force Base, where jet fuel leaked for decades into Albuquerque’s aquifer. Now, there’s another problem at an Air Force base—this time at Cannon Air Force Base in eastern New Mexico.
Campaign ads often use hyperbole to sway voters, but in recent weeks one Albuquerque mayoral candidate appears to have included misleading statements in his campaign material. Albuquerque City Councilor and mayoral candidate Dan Lewis has not held back on dark, ominous TV ads that say his opponent State Auditor Tim Keller will be soft on criminals. Lewis has cited an Albuquerque Journal editorial endorsing him for mayor in campaign materials, but he also claimed the paper criticized one of Keller’s votes while the Democrat was a State Senator. What Lewis cites is actually an opinion article written by a prominent Keller critic who helped fund other anti-Keller ads. Earlier this month, Lewis’ campaign announced the release of a TV ad attacking Keller for two of his votes in the state senate.
A new Santolina backed political committee popped up an electronic billboard and sent out mailers on Albuquerque’s west side late last week to support the re-election bid of City Councilor Ken Sanchez. Energize Albuquerque filed a campaign report showing a $20,000 contribution from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, the company seeking to create a massive master planned community in far west Bernalillo County that would be called Santolina. Over the past two weeks, another committee backed in part by Santolina developer Jeff Garrett, called Make Albuquerque Safe, blanketed the city with negative ads against mayoral candidate Tim Keller. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Both Energize Albuquerque and Make Albuquerque Safe are helmed by Denise Romero, Chairperson, and Donna Taylor, Treasurer.
Albuquerque campaign finance reports released Friday shed some light on negative political ads aimed at New Mexico State Auditor and mayoral candidate Tim Keller. Shortly after early polls showed Keller leading the mayoral race, television and radio ads popped up accusing Keller of siding with sexual predators. According to finance reports from Make Albuquerque Safe, Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, LLC and Veteto Properties, LLC were the only two donors and each donated $30,000. Measure finance committees, or MFCs, are the Albuquerque equivalent of political action committees in state or federal races. WALH is most well known as the company behind the proposed Santolina development, west of Albuquerque.
Recently we relaunched our weekly environment wrap-up as an email you can receive once a week. To subscribe, click here. What follows is only an abbreviated version of yesterday’s email. In 2004, Congress gave New Mexico 10 years to decide how to spend federal money on water projects in southwestern New Mexico. The state could pursue efficiency and restoration projects or build a diversion on the Gila River.
As we have seen in the current presidential race and in recent local elections, big money still dominates the way we fund campaigns at all levels. From the Koch brothers spending millions in the Republican presidential primary to the Santolina developers spending tens of thousands in the recent Bernalillo County Commission Democratic primary, powerful wealthy individuals and organizations seek to influence elections by spending big money in campaigns. But we have a chance to reduce that influence in next year’s mayoral race. On an 8-1 vote, the Albuquerque City Council recently passed legislation to make the City’s public financing program workable again. Our thanks go to City Councilors Don Harris and Pat Davis* for reaching across the aisle to fix the current system, which was originally approved by about 69 percent of the voters in 2005.
A former Bernalillo County commission candidate is accusing a political action committee that advertised against him of not disclosing the bulk of its funding in time to meet state guidelines. Adrián Pedroza, a community organizer who in June lost a Democratic primary bid for an open county commission seat, filed a campaign ethics complaint against New Mexico for New Mexicans PAC last week. The complaint, filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, alleges that the PAC violated state law by not properly disclosing nearly $35,000 of its funding until one month after the June 7 primary election. That money, the vast majority of which came from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, encompassed more than half of the PAC’s $64,500 in donations during the election cycle. “It’s really about maintaining the integrity of the election and voters knowing whose contribution went to what and for what reasons,” Pedroza’s campaign manager Neri Holguin said in an interview.
The developer of the controversial Santolina development in western Bernalillo County poured nearly $36,500 in June in successful efforts to defeat vocal opponent Adrian Pedroza in the District 2 commission race. New Mexicans for New Mexico, a political action committee, raised nearly $64,500 from April through the end of June. More than half of that came in the days leading up to the June 7 primary from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings LLC, the Arizona-based developer of Santolina, according to afinal report filed Thursday. Breaking Bad actor and Albuquerque Public Schools board member Steven Michael Quezadawon the three-way Democratic primary on June 7. New Mexicans for New Mexico bought billboards, hired canvassers, sent mailers and used robocalls to support Quezada and Robert Chavez as well as criticize Adrian Pedroza, who opposes the development.
It’s just one sentence – 19 words – but its disappearance from a proposed 100-year plan to manage the Albuquerque Metro area’s water supply has critics saying its omission could dramatically draw down the aquifer in future years. The critics also charge it’s part of a plan by water insiders and consultants to flip Bernalillo County’s water strategy without any real public input and that it will work to the benefit of the proposed Santolina master-planned community on Albuquerque’s far West Side. This piece originally appeared in ABQ Free Press. The change is to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s Water Resources Management Strategy, which was last updated in 2007. The current version of the strategy’s Policy B says, “The Authority shall limit the use of ground water except to meet peak demands or during times of drought.”
But that sentence is missing from the water authority’s proposed revised strategy, which could be approved by the utility’s board of directors later this summer.
A hard-fought, close three-way race that will determine the ideological balance of the Bernalillo County Commission ended with a winner late Tuesday—Steven Michael Quezada. Quezada, a member of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and an actor best known for his supporting role in “Breaking Bad,” now goes into the fall general election race a clear favorite over Republican Patricia Paiz. Quezada said he isn’t ruling Paiz’s challenge out, despite his district’s Democratic leanings. “We still got to move forward,” he said. “We still got to fight.”
Quezada narrowly edged out opponents Adrián Pedroza and Robert Chavez by winning just over 35 percent of the vote for the district, which covers Albuquerque’s South Valley and Southwest Mesa.