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Municipal voting kicks off 2016 elections

Signpost Staff

While the presidential election is getting all the attention, the first New Mexico election this year is on March 1 for city, town, and village officials. Around the state that means seats on governing bodies and municipal judicial benches will be up for grabs, except in home-rule cities like Albuquerque where charters specify a different election date.

In Bernalillo that means the town council positions held by Marian Jaramillo and Ronnie Sisneros may be contested along with the Municipal Court judgeship held by Sharon Torres. All three were elected to four-year terms in 2012.

Candidates seeking election or re-election file day is on January 5. February 2 is the deadline to register to vote. Early in-person voting begins on February 10 and ends on February 26. Elections also are scheduled in Corrales, Cuba, Jemez Springs, Rio Rancho, and San Ysidro.


Kaktus Brewing Company proprietor Dana Koller sets up a frosty flight of beers at their Bernalillo location

Kaktus Brewing Company expands

—Tiffany Avery

Kaktus Brewing Company, with continued assistance of Sandoval Economic Alliance, has announced that they have completed their expansion at their Bernalillo location. New features to the Bernalillo location include a pizza oven to add to their existing food offerings, a covered patio featuring heaters, a fireplace, and fleece blankets that will be open year-round, along with two double-sized fermenters to increase beer production. Kaktus also plans to improve their game patio in the spring of 2016.

The Bernalillo location will provide beer production for the upcoming Nob Hill location, which is scheduled to have its Grand Opening on New Years Eve 2015. The new Nob Hill location is located at 2929 Monte Visa, NE and is twice as large as the Bernalillo location at 2,400 square feet.

Kaktus Brewing Company in Nob Hill will provide the same menu as the Bernalillo location. “Not only does the roof top patio and lively atmosphere set us aside in Nob Hill, but our A+ customer service and European-style brews is going to knock the socks off of Nob Hill residents and supporters,” Dana Koller, President of Kaktus Brewing said.

The brewery has had great success in Bernalillo since opening in September 2013. Kaktus was recently rated #2 out of 42 restaurants in Bernalillo on Trip Advisor. It is highly rated among Yelp, Facebook, and other social media users.

Asked how Kaktus Brewing Company will compete, Koller says, “It’s nice being ahead of where the industry is going. There is less pressure to compete.” More information can be found at www.kaktusbrewery.com.


Editorial:

Fixing New Mexico’s public infrastructure spending

—Think New Mexico

Public infrastructure projects—like roads, dams, water systems, courthouses, and university buildings—are essential to New Mexico’s economy and quality of life. Yet New Mexico’s latest infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state poor grades in categories ranging from drinking water and flood control systems to roads and bridges. New Mexico drivers pay $752 million dollars—$526 per driver—each year in unnecessary repair costs due to driving on roads in poor condition.

A major cause of this crisis is New Mexico’s dysfunctional system of funding public infrastructure, a system that Governing magazine has called “unique” and repeatedly ranked as the second worst in the nation. New Mexico State Senator Pete Campos has written that the system is “archaic, parochial, and highly political.”

That system began in 1977 with passage of the first “Christmas Tree Bill.” This capital outlay bill funds infrastructure using money from bonds issued against the state’s severance taxes on oil, gas, and minerals. However, those projects are selected using a political formula: the dollars are divided up among the governor and 112 legislators, each of whom individually select projects to fund in their districts (the bill is known as the “Christmas Tree Bill” because it contains “presents” for every district and lawmaker).

This process has resulted in a number of serious problems, which are detailed in Think New Mexico’s report. First, the bill itself tends to be highly politicized. Six times in the past two decades, Christmas Tree (or capital outlay) bills have failed to pass during the regular legislative sessions as a result of fights between Democrats and Republicans or the legislature and governor over what to include (one news article described the 2015 battle as “a cloud of partisan bickering and finger-pointing”), requiring the legislature to reconvene in expensive special sessions to approve hundreds of millions of dollars for critical infrastructure needs.

In addition, because the Christmas Tree Bills divide an average of three hundred million dollars among an average of 1,500 individual projects, large urgent projects tend to be neglected. Instead, dollars flow to small items like football helmets, sculpture gardens, and band uniforms (many of which do not last as long as the ten-year bonds that pay for them, meaning the state is paying interest on them long after they have been discarded).

When big projects do receive funding, it is often only a tiny fraction of what is needed. This has resulted in major projects like courthouses and dams being delayed for years or never completed due to insufficient funds—while the dollars that have been allocated to them sit idle. In June of 2015, the Legislative Finance Committee calculated that $311.6 million dollars for 1,337 projects from the 2011-2014 Christmas Tree Bills is currently sitting around unused.

Perhaps most troubling of all is that the process favors lobbyists for special interests over the public. While passing a bill requires a lobbyist to persuade dozens of legislators on multiple committees in both chambers, as well as the full House and Senate, obtaining capital dollars for a client often means only having to persuade a single legislator. Because the projects are not chosen in transparent, open meetings, the        public’s voice is limited.

In 2015, Think New Mexico launched a new initiative focused on replacing the dysfunctional Christmas Tree Bill with a transparent, merit-based system for funding the state’s public infrastructure. In designing our proposed reform, we looked to models both inside and outside the state’s borders. For example, New Mexico’s neighboring states of Oklahoma and Utah are among 19 states that have established independent commissions to analyze statewide infrastructure needs and direct the dollars to priority projects.

Similarly, New Mexico itself has created an independent council to prioritize and fund public school infrastructure projects, and this process has successfully improved the condition of the state’s schools. In the past few years, the legislature and governor have established similar structures for funding some water infrastructure, tribal infrastructure, and colonias infrastructure.

Think New Mexico recommends that the legislature and governor enact legislation to create an independent Capital Outlay Planning Board. The board would include experts appointed by both the legislative and executive branches. It would combine all the infrastructure plans created by state agencies and local governments into a single comprehensive plan. Projects in the plan would be prioritized using objective criteria, and then the top priorities would go to the legislature annually for funding. Based on Oklahoma’s system, we recommend that both the legislature and governor have the power to remove projects from the list—but not to add any new ones.

During the upcoming legislative session, Think New Mexico will be advocating for a bill to enact these reforms, which will benefit all New Mexicans by improving our essential infrastructure, creating new jobs, and making the state more economically competitive.

Think New Mexico’s legislative successes are due in large part to the grassroots advocacy of our supporters. During the 2010 legislative session, Think New Mexico supporters sent over 15,000 messages to their legislators and the governor urging them not to reimpose a regressive food tax, and, as a result, the governor line-item vetoed it and kept food tax-free for New Mexico families. If you would like to assist Think New Mexico in our efforts to reform public infrastructure spending, call or write your state legislators and urge them to support a transparent, merit-based system for funding urgent infrastructure priorities.

“Think New Mexico is a results-oriented think tank whose mission is to improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans, especially those who lack a strong voice in the political process. We fulfill this mission by educating the public, the media, and policymakers about some of the most serious challenges facing New Mexico and by developing and advocating for effective, comprehensive, sustainable solutions.

“Our approach is to perform and publish sound, nonpartisan, independent research. Unlike many think tanks, Think New Mexico does not subscribe to any particular ideology. Instead, because New Mexico is at or near the bottom of so many national rankings, our focus is on promoting workable solutions.”

ThinkNewMexico.org.

 
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