Kudos to Diane Denish on Transparency

Lt. Governor Diane Denish is running for the state’s top office in 2010. She will be a formidable candidate, there is no doubt about it. Her biggest hurdle is most likely to be the time she has spent closely associated with current Gov. Bill Richardson. And, while it is true that they did not run as a ticket, there is no doubt that voters and the public will wonder why she didn’t do more to stop corruption and ethics violations that have run rampant in Santa Fe.

That said, Denish is due some credit for her recent public pledge to make transparency a centerpiece of her campaign. According to this story in Forbes, Denish has proposed creating a Web-based “sunshine portal” that would allow New Mexicans to track state expenditures, check on scheduled meetings, learn more about high-level state employees and their salaries, check out laws and regulations and offer opinions.

While I’m not sure what to make of one of her other proposals, that being for a powerful statewide ethics commission that “could investigate ethics complaints, launch its own probes, impose fines, refer cases for criminal prosecution, and establish a code of ethics and training for state workers and appointees,” the sunshine portal really is newsworthy and I think the Rio Grande Foundation can take some credit for this. In fact, we introduced Denish (and many other legislators in Santa Fe) this session to Robert Wood of the Texas Comptroller’s office. Texas’s comptroller Susan Combs has been a national leader in promoting government transparency and would be a great model for Denish and/or others who want to improve government transparency to follow.

The Rio Grande Foundation actually maintains a “Sunshine Page.” We call it Sunshine Review. Check out various transparency-related legislation here.

Fiscal Restraint Remains Popular (at least among voters and those trying to get elected)

It is gratifying to see politicians continuing to embrace fiscal responsibility when they run for office, even while the politicians that occupy office behave in just the opposite fashion. One exhibit of this is Albuquerque Mayoral candidate Richard Romero’s article in today’s Albuquerque Journal. In the article he touts his fiscal responsibility with nuggets like: “All current operational budgets should be based on realistic revenue estimates and not influenced by an incumbent’s wish list of high-profile projects that we can’t afford,” and “Future operating costs should not exceed gross receipts tax revenues.” These are sentiments with which I think we can all agree and I hope that no matter who is elected to City Council and as Mayor, I hope they stick with them. All too often, candidates campaign on fiscal restraint only to govern as big-spenders.
I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of Richard Romero’s fiscal track record and whether his statements should be taken as indicators that he will not push the taxpayer-financed streetcar and arena projects, but it is gratifying to see that fiscal restraint is going to be front and center in the 2009 Albuquerque Mayor’s Race.

Defending the Tea Parties

Since April 15 and the outpouring of taxpayer anger that manifested itself in the form of the tea party movement, a great deal has been made about what they mean. I discussed this issue with a couple of liberal skeptics on the Venus Transit Authority radio show on KRSN AM 1490 which is based in Los Alamos. Listen to the discussion below.

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