A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 21, 2009
Bill Richardson always insists that being governor of New Mexico is "the best job in the world."
And I think there's one part of the job that Richardson enjoys the most.
Being Santa Claus.
That was evident this week when he slid down the proverbial chimney to the Santa Fe Public Schools and put $200,000 under the metaphorical Christmas tree to keep Alvord Elementary School open for the next two years. Before Richardson met with school board President Angelica Ruiz on Wednesday with the promise of the state funds, a majority of the board favored closing Alvord as part of a plan to cut $4.5 million from the school district's budget. Those favoring the closing argued that the small school is a drain on the school system.
As reported by my colleague John Sena, Richardson didn't speak at the special school board meeting Wednesday. But he did talk to one appreciative audience.
According to Richardson spokeswoman Alire Ray-Garcia, when the governor and his entourage were driving away from the public schools administration building after the meeting with Ruiz, he saw a group of kids walking toward the building. He assumed — correctly it turned out — that they were Alvord students headed toward the meeting.
He ordered his state police driver to stop his SUV, then rolled down his window.
"I think I just saved your school," the governor shouted out the window.
Ray-Garcia said the students were excited and cheered Richardson.
Ho, ho, ho! It's good to be the Santa.
Faces in the crowd: Last week's speech at Rio Rancho High School by President Barack Obama drew a large array of Democratic bigwigs — the governor and other state officers, legislators and mayors. They sat together in a roped-off VIP section to the right of the president's podium.
But there were a couple of well-known Democratic politicos at the speech who weren't in the VIP section.
One was Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott, who last year was the main primary-election opponent of freshman U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján. Wiviott, who spent more than $1 million of his own money on the congressional race, said after the speech that he doesn't intend to run for another office any time soon. Instead, Wiviott said, he's concentrating on making it easier for small businesses to get credit at small banks.
The other prominent Democrat I ran into outside the bounds of the VIP section was state Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. — who is under indictment for alleged election-related embezzlement charges. He's accused of lying about $2,500 in public campaign funds he initially reported paying to a band at a campaign rally — which never took place.
Asked about his case, Block said, "It'll have to play out in court," adding that he thinks it's a shame that "something so petty" is taking up so much time and energy.
But, he said, Obama's speech on credit-card reform was "great."
Investment task force: Gary King is one of 30 or more state attorneys general making up a national task force to investigate politically connected investment advisers who help decide where to invest public money from permanent and pension funds.
According to an article in Stateline.org — a Web site specializing in state government-related news — the task force was sparked by the New York investigation of state investments, which involves charges of political favoritism and abuse — and some of the same cast of characters involved in New Mexico investments.
"New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, following a recent teleconference call with 100 representatives of 35 state attorneys general's offices, said he would form the task force 'so states can share vital information to prosecute wrongdoing and facilitate nationwide reform.' "
The article, written by Stephen C. Fehr, goes on to say, "The task force comes as New York, California, Connecticut and New Mexico officials are investigating possible pension fund abuse and political favoritism. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission also is examining pension transactions in New York, California and New Mexico."
King spokesman Phil Sisneros said Wednesday that his boss is one of those AGs, but the office doesn't know yet what the level of participation will be. "The question is how much this is affecting New Mexico," he said.
Call the doctor: Adam Kokesh, the former Marine and anti-war activist who is considering challenging U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján next year, got a boost last week from one of his heroes — U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, the former Republican presidential contender.
"Sending Adam Kokesh to Congress would be a tremendous victory for the Freedom Movement and if we come together and stand behind him, he has a real chance to win," Paul said in a statement released by Kokesh's campaign. "We have a chance to help a real patriot and lover of liberty join me in Washington."
Kokesh said in a recent interview that he's not sure whether he'll run as an independent or in a party primary.