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Local Government Notable News Tax and Budget Taxes Top Issues Videos

Rio Grande Foundation hits KOAT TV to discuss City Council grant to Planned Parenthood

Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing recently sat down with KOAT Channel 7 to discuss the recent “no-strings-attached” made by Albuquerque’s City Council to Planned Parenthood.” Whatever one’s views on abortion, it is hugely problematic that City Council has “donated” $250,000 to an activist political organization that actively involves itself in political campaigns.

Story linked above.

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Local Government Notable News Top Issues Videos

Talking Homelessness with Pastor Mark Green of Roswell’s Harvest Ministries

Dealing with the homeless situation is challenging. It is a problem in Albuquerque as well as numerous other major American cities. Paul recently sat down with Pastor Mark Green who runs a homeless relief ministry in Roswell. He has a worked with the homeless for years and has some interesting ideas on how to help them and keep them out of public spaces and from taking grocery carts. Even the Department of Corrections could play a role.

Check out this short conversation:

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Economy Energy and Environment Local Government Notable News Tax and Budget Top Issues

RGF calls out “fee” hikes at CABQ, elsewhere

We all know prices are skyrocketing as inflation takes hold of the United States economy. We also know that the State of New Mexico and City of Albuquerque have massively increased spending in their latest budgets (well beyond the rate of inflation).

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that government, especially the City, is interested in keeping overall costs and fees down for those paying the bills. RGF’s Paul Gessing spoke to KOAT Channel 7 to discuss the increased costs on your water, trash, and power bills.

 

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Economy Energy and Environment Local Government Notable News Tax and Budget Taxes Top Issues

A new day means new tax cuts for ABQ City Council

A slightly shortened version of this opinion piece was published in the Albuquerque Journal on March 20, 2022. A chart illustrating Albuquerque’s spending is found below the text.

Elections have consequences. After four years of “progressive” leadership by Mayor Keller and a left leaning city council, the election of November 2020 saw a more center-right Council. While much attention was given to the fact that Tim Keller was reelected by a wide margin despite the City’s spiraling crime problem, Albuquerque voters didn’t actually vote for the status quo.

Now, we are starting to see a shift toward a more moderate approach to the issues from City Council. Better legislative proposals are in the pipeline, but with a 5-4 majority and a hostile mayor, getting these ideas past the finish line will be a challenge requiring grassroots support.

A starting point is reducing gross receipts taxes. Back in 2018, shortly after taking office, Mayor Keller and the new “progressive” council majority raised the (regressive) GRT by 3/8th of a cent. This was a major tax increase considering that the City’s overall GRT “take” before the tax hike was 2.375%. That made Keller’s tax hike a nearly 9% increase in Albuquerque’s rate.

And, not surprisingly, that tax increased led to rapid spending growth in the City’s budget. Even when the annual budget freeze in the 2021 budget due to COVID 19 is included, the City’s budget is up 27 percent under Mayor Keller.

Unfortunately, when the City Council met recently to discuss Councilor Lewis’ plan to cut just 1/8th of a cent off the GRT (not the full amount added in 2018), Keller’s Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta claimed “this is the worst time possible” to cut taxes.

Considering that, among numerous other wasteful spending programs, the City has just undertaken a $3 million plan to make City buses “free” to riders (that’s on top of millions in annual transit subsidies), it would seem the City could do something to help residents who continue to be pummeled by rising inflation. Unfortunately, it seems that Mayor Keller and his Administration remain opposed to this reasonable tax reduction.

There are other exciting efforts underway to move Albuquerque in a more pro-freedom direction. The big question is whether Keller will stand in the way of everything or if he’ll choose his battles. For example, Councilor Bassan has proposed ending the City’s plastic bag ban which recently passed City Council.

The unnecessary and environmentally irrelevant ban on plastic bags makes daily life more difficult for thousands of Albuquerque residents. Those bags are often reused and can be recycled. They are hardly the environmental problem their opponents claim. According to Our World in Data, the entire continent of North America generates less than 1 percent of the “mismanaged plastic” on the planet.

If Keller and City Council really want to address the City’s serious litter problem, the legions of transients begging on street corners, camping throughout town, and leaving trash behind wherever they go would be a better place to start.

While a number of other important issues are being discussed at City Council that, if adopted, will move our City in a positive direction, no effort highlights the ideological shift better than the effort to restore market forces in public construction projects. Immediately after the 2020 election, a bill was rammed through Council by liberals and the trade unions to mandate that public construction projects use union labor.

Estimates are that such unfair laws called “Project Labor Agreements” boost taxpayer costs by 14 percent. A bill is now working its way through the current Council to repeal that law and instead allow all workers and contractors regardless of union membership to bid for city construction projects.

Albuquerque is a great and beautiful city, but its management has left a lot to be desired in recent years. The current City Council is standing up to big government and special interests. They deserve your support.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility

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Education Local Government Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

What RGF’s president told the APS School board about new COVID restrictions

As has been widely reported in the media, Albuquerque Public Schools on Wednesday, introduced a whole host of restrictions on various activities at their schools.

Here’s a list of the new rules:

  • Wearing properly fitted masks outdoors as well as indoors
  • Students facing one way in classrooms and the cafeteria
  • Keeping students in cohorts
  • No spectators at school events, including athletics, through Feb. 2
  • Prohibiting large group gatherings, including assemblies
  • Staggering transition times and recesses
  • Closing drinking fountains (though students can still fill water bottles)
  • Restricting locker use.

Needless to say, not only is the RGF not a fan of several of these measures (masking outdoors?) but at the VERY least we believe that the new APS Board should be making these policies, NOT the superintendent  or any unelected bureaucrat.

So, here are RGF president’s Paul Gessing’s comments:

I was very happy to see the changes made to the board in the last election and I hope you will act quickly to wrest control over the District away from the bureaucrats.

 

I am the parent of three children who, up until the end of the abbreviated 2019-2020 school year, attended Chaparral Elementary on Albuquerque’s west side. We pulled our children out of APS for the 2020-2021 “virtual” school year and home schooled them because we knew that they would receive a vastly inferior education. Numerous studies have proven us correct.

 

Now our three kids go to a charter school OR Catholic school because APS has been completely inept in managing COVID and balancing the learning and socialization needs of children with a virus that has minimal impacts on children and has for the past two years.

 

The new COVID protocols at APS, adopted (so far as I can tell) without a vote of the Board, are unfair, unnecessary, and unscientific. I urge the board to take a public vote to overturn them and I urge ALL board members to vote to do so. Furthermore, in addition to overturning the new, unnecessary protocols, I urge the NEW APS board to eliminate the unnecessary mask mandate on children in the classroom.

 

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Local Government Notable News Top Issues

Rio Grande Foundation appeals free speech case to the US Supreme Court

The Arizona-based Goldwater Institute recently filed briefs asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Rio Grande Foundation’s lawsuit against a Santa Fe ordinance that forces nonprofits to surrender their donors’ privacy rights whenever they support or oppose a ballot initiative. The case is just the latest in a series of cases in which donors to think tanks and nonprofits have been targeted by anti-privacy mandates nationwide.

The lawsuit began in 2017 when the Rio Grande Foundation announced its opposition to a proposal to impose a sales tax on sugared soft drinks in Santa Fe. The Foundation posted a video to its Facebook page—a video it didn’t make—that urged voters to oppose the initiative. That triggered a city ordinance that requires nonprofits that spend more than $250 supporting or opposing initiatives to turn over the names, addresses, and employment information of any donor who gave even a penny for that purpose. Even though the Foundation had not spent any money on the video, city bureaucrats decided that the video must have cost that much, and therefore that it qualified as an “in-kind donation.” It concluded that the Foundation was required to put its donors’ confidential information on a publicly accessible government list.

Goldwater took up Rio Grande’s case, filing suit to argue that stripping the Foundation’s supporters of their privacy in this way was likely to scare away donors—something lawyers call a “chilling effect” on free speech rights. And we proved at trial that when other, similar organizations, have been forced to turn over their private information, their employees and supporters have suffered intimidation and harassment. That’s not news—as the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta made clear, the risk of retaliation when people have their private information made public is a real one—and it does cause people to refrain from exercising their First Amendment rights.

But the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals threw the case out earlier this year, in a bizarre holding that said people cannot bring a “chilling effect” lawsuit unless they themselves choose not to exercise their freedom of speech. In other words, the court said that because the Rio Grande Foundation intends to speak out in the future, it’s not allowed to argue that the Santa Fe ordinance will likely scare donors into silence.

That makes no sense, because, as the Tenth Circuit itself has said in other cases, the fact that someone is willing to keep speaking despite risk of punishment doesn’t deprive that person of the right to challenge the constitutionality of punishment. For example, in a 2019 case—also from New Mexico—federal courts ruled that a professor who was retaliated against for speaking out about improprieties at her school could still sue even though she “show[ed] extraordinary persistence” and refused to be silenced.

Yet in Rio Grande’s case, the court created a new rule holding that “an element of a chilled speech injury is an actual intention not to speak,” meaning that only a person who is afraid to speak, but not afraid to sue, is allowed to bring a First Amendment lawsuit. That’s illogical—and likely to slam the courthouse doors to many people and organizations who should be allowed to defend their constitutional rights.

We urge the Supreme Court to take up this case and vindicate Rio Grande’s freedom of speech.

You can read our petition here and learn more about the case here.

Here’s the video that started it all.

 

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Economy Local Government Notable News Tax and Budget Top Issues Videos

RGF offers thoughts on United’s future stadium ambitions

While RGF is pleased by Albuquerque voters’ overwhelming rejection of the proposal to build a taxpayer-financed soccer stadium near downtown, we recognized all along that the Team was not going to give up their quest for a new stadium.

Channel 7 KOAT laid out some ideas including potential stadium locations on tribal lands. RGF expects that, given the massive surpluses available to the Legislature and Gov. Lujan Grisham, we could see significant state dollars used to fund a stadium even if Albuquerque voters have rejected the concept.

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Economy Education Local Government Notable News Top Issues

A good night for reform-minded leadership nationwide/in New Mexico

If you’d like to listen to Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing discuss the 2021 election results (and numerous other issues later on), check out his recent interview with Jim Williams of KLYT 88.3FM on ABQ Connect. Paul is a regular guest on Jim’s show, but he has regular guests on a variety of local issues of interest.

In terms of local election results, it was obviously disappointing to see Mayor Keller who has done such a poor job managing public safety and the homelessness problem win so handily in Albuquerque. But, the taxpayer-financed United Stadium supported by Keller (and opposed by the Rio Grande Foundation) lost 2-1.

In terms of City Council, the West Side saw the ouster of two incumbents in favor of former Councilor Dan Lewis and newcomer Louis Sanchez.

Two other races are heading to a runoff with the requisite early voting and an “election day” of December 7. Those races include conservative leaning candidates Lori Robertson (District 7 in the mid-northeast heights) and Rene Grout (District 9 in the northeast/southeast heights).

APS school board also saw seats shift from union-backed candidates to more reform-minded candidates including Courtney Jackson, Crystal Tapia-Romero, and Danielle Gonzales .

Unfortunately the reform wave did not reach Las Cruces city council and the Foundation’s own Patrick Brenner lost in his bid for school board in Rio Rancho.

Nationally-speaking, Virginia’s governor’s race was won by Republican Glenn Youngkin in large part because of his pro-education reform, anti-CRT stances.

In New Jersey in what could have been an unprecedented upset, the Republican fell just-short.

Overall, it was a good night for conservatives and those that believe parents, not the unions and bureaucrats should control education.

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Economy Local Government Notable News Tax and Budget Taxes Top Issues Videos

On KOAT Channel 7 RGF Reacts to poll showing United Stadium lacks support

Early voting at the county clerks’ offices is taking place now. A new poll says that overwhelming majorities of Albuquerque voters are against the use of taxpayer dollars to finance the stadium.

While gratified by this news, we recognize that polls are often inaccurate and that the only poll that REALLY matters is the actual election. So, with this stadium and numerous other important issues on the ballot, be sure to GO VOTE (and bring a friend or family member)!

Check out the discussion Gessing recently had with KOAT Channel 7 here.

 

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Education Local Government Notable News Open Government Top Issues Videos

Talking APS property tax with KOAT Channel 7

As discussed in a recent blog post here there is an Albuquerque Public Schools property tax issue on voters’ ballots this November. As seen below the ballot language certainly seems to indicate a property tax increase, but in this story for which RGF talked to KOAT Channel 7, APS claims it is NOT a tax hike.

We looked extensively on the APS website and found nothing, nor does the full ballot text on our sample ballot (find yours here) have any clues.