Thursday, October 12, 2017

Airbnb Tax Deal Stinks

The deal stinks and is just another way for government to enslave us through more taxes.

It's another example of government protecting businesses that are slow to change.


Am I the only one not cheering the news that Airbnb has agreed to collect the lodgers' tax and hospitality fees in Albuquerque and forward them to city government?

Some of the news reports about the deal, especially on the radio, seemed almost celebratory because the city will get more revenue. The Greater Albuquerque Inkeepers association seemed ecstatic about it. 

Sure, the city will get more money. But then, visitors will have to pay more for the homes or rooms they rent. Why is that a good thing?

And tell me why that every time a new idea or a new technology comes along that can give us more options, comfort and lower prices, government has to step in tax the crap out of it so that, in the end, things aren't much cheaper?

The hotel industry doesn't like Airbnb because it's taking customers away from them. So what. Who says that any industry is entitled to our business just because they've been around for a long time?

Airbnb reported in September that its bookings in Albuquerque increased by 77 percent in 2017 and that more than 64,000 people booked rooms in the city using its service between June and August. Those are 64,000 people who didn't go to a traditional hotel or motel, and the inkeepers are angry about the loss of business.

Note to the inkeepers: You're not entitled to our business!

Mayor Richard Berry touted the tax deal as something that will provide “clarity and fairness in the tourism and hospitality industry.” And the inkeepers had talked about leveling the playing field.

Why do we need fairness and why do we need a level paying field in business? So existing business that are slow to adapt to change and new technology can keep their business. In other words, we're protecting businesses that don't want to change. We're protecting losers.

Can you imagine if we had the “level the playing field” mentality in the early twentieth century when Henry Ford came out with his automobiles? The whip and buggy people, and their politician friends, would have demanded that horses be required to pull cars.

The taxi industry, which has been a true monopoly, is crumbling in the face of competition from Uber and Lyft. But rather than adapt and use the same technology that have made the Uber and Lyft successful, the taxi industry is desperately trying to save its obsolete business model through politics, regulations and lawsuits.

And why do we tax the crap out of tourists with lodgers taxes and hospitality fees? They don't use many city services. They're not out robbing people, burning houses down or visiting senior, community centers or swimming pools.

We tax them because they're easy targets. And that's actually sick. Yet no one challenges the practice and policy of ripping off tourists with punishing taxes.

And why does government have to tax every single transaction between people? Because government has an insatiable appetite for our money and views us cows to be milked for every cent we've got.

So I'm not cheering the Airbnb tax deal. It stinks and is just another way for government to enslave us through more taxes.

Guest Op-Ed-Bail reform: Overdue And More To Do

Before the reforms, dangerous defendants could buy their way out of jail by paying a bondsman.

Defendants, no matter how dangerous, who could post the bond would be released.


Reforms to New Mexico’s traditional money-based bail system will make our community safer by permitting judges to lock up defendants who are most likely to commit new crimes if released. And the reforms should not be blamed for the increase in crime reported in the press. They became effective just three months ago, on July 1.  

Leo M. Romero
 Before the reforms, dangerous defendants could buy their way out of jail by paying a bondsman. Some dangerous defendants were never released by a judge but by jail personnel if they could post the money bond set forth on a bond schedule posted at the jail.  Defendants who could not post the jail bond would see a judge who would set a money bond.  Defendants, no matter how dangerous, who could post the bond would be released. Those who could not, even if charged with minor offenses, remained in jail until their trials, sometimes months or even years later.

A federal judge, in rejecting a challenge to the reforms by bonding companies, described the pre-reform bail practice in New Mexico as having “drifted into unlawful reliance on a growing money-bond industry and practices of routinely requiring money bonds that did not require judicial determinations of individual risk or ability to pay.”

The Committee on Pretrial Release reviewed bail practices and recommended an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution to permit detention of the most dangerous defendants awaiting trial and revisions to the rules of criminal procedure that minimize reliance on money bonds for pretrial release.

The voter-approved constitutional amendment permits judges to detain dangerous defendants if they pose an unacceptable risk of committing additional crimes if released.  These defendants should be locked up pending trial, and the amendment now gives judges the authority to jail them without setting any bond that might be posted.

For defendants not subject to pretrial detention, the concept of bail, dating back to Medieval England, allows defendants to be released.  A defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and a person should not be punished unless found guilty after a trial. Jailing a person before trial based solely on a charge contradicts the presumption of innocence and punishes that person without determining guilt. 

Pretrial release conditions should minimize the risk that defendants may commit new crimes if released – risk of danger – or skip their trials – risk of flight.  These risks vary in degree depending on each individual.  Some defendants present unacceptable risks and should be detained. Others pose risks ranging from low to medium to high.

Except for those who should be detained, defendants should be released under conditions that reasonably ensure they will appear at trial and not commit new crimes.  The defendant has not been proven guilty, and release pending trial saves the cost of jail. Pretrial detention is justified only when no conditions will ensure the safety of the community.

The revised rules give judges the authority to revoke release if the defendant does not abide by the conditions of release or commits a new crime.

An Albuquerque Journal editorial said the new pretrial detention rules need time to show results. I agree. The reforms will require judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to adjust to changes from a system that relied on money bonds to a new system based on individualized assessments of risks. I am confident that the reforms will better protect our community from crime.  

Leo M. Romero, Former Dean and Emeritus Professor, UNM School of Law
Chair, NM Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Pretrial Release

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pat Davis' Flawed Crime-Fighting Plan

Proposed law would have the poor buying deluxe pizzas for the wealthy


Say you pay for a pizza, sit down to eat it and the owner comes by and takes a quarter of it away. Would you be happy?

Then imagine that after taking a quarter of your pizza, the owner makes you pay for a second pizza for the people at the table next to you because he thinks they're more important than you.

Would you pay for it?

I doubt it.

Well, thanks to Albuquerque City Councilor Patrick Davis, you, meaning city taxpayers, might be forced to buy that second pizza for somebody else. That so-called second pizza would come in the form of paying for extra police protection for some businesses that Davis thinks are more important than other businesses.

Pat Davis

Here's the background.

Davis has introduced a proposed ordinance that would allow some businesses to band together and work with the Albuquerque Police Department to create “Security Assistance Funding Zones” and crime-fighting plans for businesses in their neighborhoods.

Once those businesses put up $50,000 of their own money, the city would pitch in $50,000 of your money as a match. The businesses would be able to use the money to buy security cameras and hire private security guards to patrol their areas.

Davis says its a way to fight crime and take some of the pressure off a chronically undestaffed APD.

But there are so many problems with this proposal.

First, why should any of us have to pay extra for more police protection when we already pay taxes for police protection? It's not our fault that Mayor Richard Berry has decimated APD. And no group of businesses or neighborhoods should ever be allowed to buy extra police protection. The cops are supposed to serve all of us equally.

Second, not all businesses in town would qualify for the extra taxpayer money to buy enhanced police protection.


Because Davis' bill lists only certain, preferred types of businesses that would be able to buy more cops. Here are the types of businesses that his bill would give special preference, and your money, to:

“The Council must find that the area meets the following conditions: The area is a commercial or arts and cultural district with significant economic development, art or cultural impact, tourist-related facilities and attractions or tourist-related transportation systems, or is of other significant importance to the city. The area cannot be primarily residential in nature.”
Pat Davis wants us to buy deluxe pizzas for well-off business owners

In other words, you have to be part of the arts crowd to qualify for extra police protection and extra taxpayer money. If you're a dry cleaners, or auto repair shop, or nail salon at Zuni and Wyoming, you won't qualify for more police protection no matter how many times your place has been robbed or burglarized.

Third, even if you're one of Davis' chosen types of business, you might not be able to afford the extra money you'd have to put up to buy APD's help. In other words, this is a type of police protection welfare plan for businesses that already have money and are doing well. If you're just making it by, well, screw you. You don't get extra cops, security cameras or security guards. You just continue to get robbed and burglarized. 

The bottom line is that this is just a way for wealthier business people and neighborhoods to buy extra police protection.

And where will all that extra police help come from?

From neighborhoods and business areas that don't have much money. You got it, poor neighborhoods.

Cops and APD resources will be siphoned from poorer neighborhoods to wealthier ones.

If well-to-do business owners want to pay for their own private security guards, they should. But don't let them get more public police protection simply because they have more money and can buy it. Aren't we sick of wealthy people getting more than their fair share of public resources?

Davis told me that his bill is aimed at businesses in Nob Hill and the UNM area. He justified the potential public money giveaway to them by saying that those types of businesses pay a greater portion of gross receipts taxes than other businesses.

I'll have more on that in another post. But you can bet that the businesses at Coronado and Winrock malls, and the ABQ Uptown area pay more GRT than do the businesses in Nob Hill.

So what did I mean when I mentioned the pizza joint owner taking away a quarter of the pizza you paid for? 

The decreased police protection you've gotten from Berry's administration because of the way he has ruined APD. You're paying for a fully staffed police department – or an entire pizza – with your taxes, and you're getting far less than that.

If Davis' privileged and chosen business owners want a deluxe pizza with five or six toppings, let them pay for it out of their own pockets, and let them hire private security people.

And give me back the quarter of my plain cheese pizza you took away.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Analee Maestas Resigns From APS Board


Analee Maestas, who has been implicated in a $700,000 embezzlement scheme at the charter school she founded and ran, has resigned from the Albuquerque Public Schools board, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said Tuesday.

Balderas demanded on Sept. 25 that Maestas resign from the APS board, saying that the allegations against her made her unfit to be a school board member.

State Auditor Tim Keller revealed the allegations regarding Maestas and La Promesa Early Learning Center on Sept. 12. Nearly $500,000 was diverted from La Promesa into the private account of a school employee, according to Keller’s report. 

The employee who received the money was the school’s assistant business manager, Julieanne Maestas, Analee Maestas’ daughter. Analee Maestas was the school’s executive director at the time of the alleged misconduct. 

Here's the news release that Balderas' office issued on Tuesday:

"Today, Attorney General Hector Balderas announced that Analee Maestas resigned from her position with the Albuquerque Public School Board, effective immediately.

  “On September 28, 2017, I served a legal demand, asking Board Member Maestas to resign from her position in light of ongoing investigations related to fiscal mismanagement and because all public officials in the State of New Mexico have the duty to treat their position as a public trust,” said Attorney General Balderas. “I am pleased that that she responded to our legal demand by resigning and our office will continue to use our legal resources to protect the school children of New Mexico.”

Here's the release that Keller's office issued about Maestas' resignation:

 "Today, State Auditor Tim Keller responded to the resignation of Albuquerque School Board Member Analee Maestas stating:

“After these unfortunate events, Maestas’ resignation helps brings some accountability,” stated State Auditor Tim Keller. “By resigning, she is at least providing the district a chance to be represented by someone who is not connected to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have been going to our kids’ education. This is another step in the right direction to get La Promesa back on track and restore public confidence.”

"The issue was first brought to light in 2016 when the State Auditor released the results of an investigation indicating that Maestas had diverted La Promesa funds for personal use. Last month, State Auditor Tim Keller released an investigation that found hundreds of thousands of dollars were likely embezzled by Maestas’ daughter, a former Assistant Business Manager at the school."

And APS spokesperson Monica Armenta said the APS board has until Friday, Nov. 24, to appoint someone to fill the vacancy created by Maestas' resignation.

Here's the state law regarding school board vacancies:

22-5-9. Local school board vacancies.

A. A vacancy occurring in the membership of a local school board shall be filled at an open meeting, at which a quorum of the membership is present, by a majority vote of the remaining members appointing a qualified elector to fill the vacancy.

B. A qualified elector appointed to fill a vacancy occurring in the membership of a local school board shall hold that office until the next regular school district election when an election shall be held to fill the vacancy for the unexpired term.

C. If a qualified elector is not appointed to fill the vacancy within forty-five days from the date the vacancy occurred, the department shall appoint a qualified elector to fill the vacancy until the next regular school district election.

D. In the event vacancies occur in a majority of the full membership of a local school board, the department shall appoint qualified electors to fill the vacancies. Those persons appointed shall hold office until the next regular school district election when an election shall be held to fill the vacancies for the unexpired terms.

History: 1953 Comp., § 77-4-6, enacted by Laws 1967, ch. 16, § 32; 1979, ch. 335, § 4; 2015, ch. 145, § 97.

Some ABQ Businesses Are More Important Than Others

Albuquerque City Councilor Patrick Davis has introduced a bill that would allow some businesses to get tax money to buy extra police protection. 
The businesses would be able to get up to $50,000 in taxpayers' money to form Safety Assistance Security Zones. They'd have to match that $50,000 dollar-for-dollar and they'd be able to use the money to hire private security guards, install security cameras and so forth. The problem is that only certain types of businesses would qualify. And, aren't we already paying taxes to provide uniform police protection throughout the city?

Here are the types of businesses that would qualify for extra tax dollars for rime fighting:

"The area is a commercial or arts and cultural district with significant 20 economic development, art or cultural impact, tourist-related facilities 21 and attractions or tourist-related transportation systems, or is of other 22 significant importance to the city. The area cannot be primarily 23 residential in nature."
Bottom line: this is double taxation and the city picking winners and losers.

Dan Klein and I discuss the downfalls of this proposed ordinance in our latest podcast.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

ABQ Election Winners And Losers

 Twenty-two-year-old Gus Pedrotty makes a name for himself.  Ricardo Chaves got taken. Ken Sanchez survives ART. Wayne Johnson looked pathetic. So-called political expert gushes about pathetic 29 percent voter turnout.


Way to go Gus!

Yeah, there's going to be a runoff election on Nov. 14 between Tim Keller and Dan Lewis, but you already know that. And it doesn't take much so-called analysis from alleged experts to figure that Keller's going to be the next mayor.

So instead of projecting and pretending to be deeply insightful about something so obvious, I'll give you my take on last night's winners and losers.

And that biggest winner is Gus Pedrotty. The 22-year-old UNM graduate got 6.85 percent of the vote – OK, let's round it up to 7 percent. That's a hell of a showing for a kid who basically had no money, name recognition, campaign staff or money.

What Gus does have is energy, youth and passion and ideas His energy and passion are infectious, and at 22-years-old, he just turned himself into a somebody in this community. Now, that might not be saying much considering the pathetic state of this city, but being a somebody at 22 is a hell of an accomplishment.

And, get this: On election day, Gus got more votes that Wayne Johnson, the Republican Bernalillo County commissioner in the race who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Damn good job, Gus.

Here are some other winners:

- The city of Albuquerque and its sick economy. That's because the paid sick leave ordinance was defeated, and defeated by the narrowest of margins: 718 votes. The seven-page proposed law would have crippled small businesses, stifled entrepreneurship and turned the city into a lawsuit hellhole.
Since we're already an economic hellhole, we didn't need this strange law, which would have amounted to an ATM for lawyers.

- City Councilor Ken Sanchez. I thought Sanchez was toast based on his support of the hated Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. But Sanchez won the election outright with 51.82 percent of the vote.

- Bot Cornelius, the political “consultant” who took 81-year-old Ricardo Chaves' money. Chaves loaned his campaign $500,000 and spent about $300,000. Cornelius was paid $175,000 for his alleged consulting. And what did that $175,000 get Chaves? A massive 475 votes – you read right – or 0.49 percent of the total.

Good job, Bob.

- Tim Keller. The smiling auditor smiled his way through the campaign without ever furrowing a brow, not even when answering questions about Albuquerque massive crime increase. Some in the chattering classes figured that Keller would top out at around 25 or 30 percent. But, apparently people like his smile and he got basically 40 percent of the vote. And that's in an eight-person race. It was an impressive showing.


- Brian Colón and the people who contributed to his campaign. The lawyer and former chair of the state Democratic Party raised more than $825,000 for the campaign. And for that he got 16.38 percent of the vote. It looks like Colón's political career is over.

- Wayne Johnson. What the hell was wrong with him? He's a Republican and he spent the entire campaign attacking, well, another Republican, Dan Lewis. I'd like to find the genius who advised Johnson to rip a fellow Republican instead of a Democrat. The attacks on Lewis backfired and Johnson got a massive 9.63 percent of the vote.

Whatever it is that drove Johnson to attack Lewis, I don't know. But it made Johnson look sleazy and pathetic. And it's another example of how inept and stupid Republicans can be.

- Ricardo Chaves. As I said earlier, he spent around $300,000 and got 475 votes. You do the math.

- Dan Lewis. Even though he came in second with 23 percent of the vote and will be in the Nov. 14 runoff with Keller, I have to say he lost.


Because he was one of the first people to announce for mayor and he spent the entire campaign talking about crime. That should have been a winning strategy because 99 percent of city residents think crime is the most important issue. But Lewis couldn't connect with voters. Maybe it's because he's a Republican and because people are holding Mayor Richard Berry's failed eight years in office against all Who knows.

- Democracy and a political blogger. Blogger Joe Monahan gushed in his blog this morning about the high voter turnout. Really?

There were 96,971 votes cast for mayor, or about 29 percent of registered voters. Joe, 29 percent is pathetic! I'll say it again, a 29 percent voter turnout is pathetic.
It's even worse when you consider that the city is in the middle of an epic crime wave. We're being assaulted, robbed, burglarized and shot, and our cars are being stolen at record rates and numbers, and only 29 percent of the registered voters went to the polls. Anyone who raves about a 29 percent voter turnout is out of it.

  - The NAIOP and Chamber of Commerce crowd. These lovers of Mayor Berry's ART project were basically behind Johnson and Colón. And they lost.

- Public campaign financing. Keller boasted constantly about how he hated big money in politics and how he was the only publicly financed candidate. But the PAC, or Measure Finance Committee, formed on his behalf raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from big-money organizations. Talk about hypocrisy.But I guess progressive big money is more equal than conservative big money. Talk about hypocrisy. 

Here are the vote totals and the percentages:

Tim Keller                           38,156       39.35 percent
Dan Lewis                           22,238       22.93 percent
Brian Colón                        15,884        16.38 percent
Wayne Johnson                    9,342          9.63 percent
Gus Pedrotty                        6,638          6.85 percent
Michelle Garcia Holmes      3,748           3.87 percent
Susan Wheeler-Deichsel       490            0.51 percent
Ricardo Chaves                     475            0.49 percent

Sick leave ordinance:

For          45,333       49.61 percent
Against   46,051       50.39 percent

Monday, October 2, 2017

Still No ART Funding


The deadline for the federal government to fund Mayor Richard Berry's $126 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project has come and gone, and, guess what? The Federal Transit Administration still hasn't approved the project.

That means that the next mayor might have to fill a $69 million budget hole somewhere at City Hall.

The supposed deadline for the FTA to sign off on the project was midnight on Sept. 30, as the new federal fiscal year began on Oct. 1. That deadline was important because, according to President Trump's proposed FY 2018 budget, any FTA transit project not funded in FY 2017 won't  get any money in the current fiscal year.

Technically, ART wasn't funded by that deadline.

An FTA spokesperson told me that the ART project still hadn't been funded as of Monday afternoon (Oct. 2) but that the project was still under internal review by the agency. 

And Berry's spokesperson, Rhiannon Samuel, said in an email that city and FTA officials met last week and that everything is apparently fine.

"The City had its quarterly meeting last week and FTA is thrilled with progress on project," Samuel said. "The funding remains approved and the grant agreement is expected in the coming months."

I'm not sure what the approved funding she's talking about means. Because right now, there is no approved funding.

Sure, Congress did put $50 million in the FY 2017 budget for ART, but without a funding agreement from the FTA, meaning a contract, that money isn't available.
And besides, the city was hoping to get $69 million from the feds. So even if it somehow gets the money in the "coming months," the city will still be $19 million short of what it expected.

Here's ART's math: The project costs $126 million. Of that, the city had $57 million on hand in previous federal grants and revenue bond money. The rest - $69 million - was supposed to come from the FTA.

ART is now more than 80 percent complete, and so the city has to be getting money from somewhere to pay the contractors beyond the $57 million it had on hand. It is supposedly getting that money from a capital projects fund. But the city has never said exactly which projects are being robbed to pay for ART and which projects would have to be cut or canceled if the $69 million from the feds never shows up.  

As it stands now, ART hasn't been approved by the FTA. It looks like the new mayor will have a big financial problem to solve.

Airbnb Tax Deal Stinks

The deal stinks and is just another way for government to enslave us through more taxes. It's another example of government protecti...