Shadow of Governor’s Pizza Party Looms As New Mexico’s Legislative Session Begins
Most of us can relate. At the end of a long week it’s nice to settle in with an adult beverage, and perhaps a couple slices of pizza. Problem is, after a few too many adult beverages, it happens — the dreaded drunk dial. Typically, ex-lovers are the recipients of these ill-advised phone calls, but on occasion, 911 operators receive them, too. Though, rarely are these types of calls to 911 placed by a U.S. governor.
Incredibly, this seems to be what happened in Santa Fe. In case you were the latest victim of an alien abduction and missed this bit of news here on Earth, it all began on December 12, 2015. Around 1:30 a.m. that Sunday, Santa Fe police responded to complaints of a loud party in Gov. Martinez’s room at the upscale Eldorado Hotel & Spa.
In audio recordings (hear them for yourself at the bottom of this page), Martinez can be heard speaking rudely to an emergency dispatcher, demanding to know who made the complaint. Martinez can also be heard speaking to Santa Fe police Sgt. Anthony Tapia, telling him in the same discourteous manner, “We are eating pizz-zah and drinking Cokes.” Her behavior drew criticism from many who believed she’d abused her power and that she was drunk at the time. Martinez later apologized, admitting she was out of line for speaking to dispatchers the way she did, but she said it was “absolutely not” an abuse of her power. She also denied being intoxicated. However, just a few days later, more audio surfaced featuring a conversation between Sgt. Tapia and a hotel security guard where the two men agree Martinez was “inebriated.”
For many of us in New Mexico, one consequence of this mess is the pronunciation of “pizz-zah” has forever changed. However, once the laughter stops, we are left to face the reality that Gov. Martinez’s facade of a warm, caring woman has cracked a little more, once again revealing her petty, vindictive personality. This comes at a time when New Mexico faces many serious issues — problems that will require strong leadership to overcome.
Just a week before Gov. Martinez’s late night pizza party, the website 24/7 Wall Street ranked New Mexico as the worst-run state in the country. The reasons? New Mexico has one of the highest crime rates in the nation, the second highest poverty rate, and the second highest unemployment rate. In an unrelated report by Education Week, New Mexico was rated one of the worst states in the nation for preparing students for college and careers. At number 49, only Nevada and Mississippi ranked lower. Taxpayers in Albuquerque have paid two superintendents of Albuquerque Public Schools to go away, at a time when Martinez is embroiled in an APS whistleblower lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges Martinez and Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera colluded to appoint Jason Martinez (no relation to the governor) to the APS deputy superintendent position. Jason Martinez, it turns out, never submitted to a background check and was actually set to go on trial in Colorado for charges of sexually assaulting children.
As the 2016 legislative session begins next week, there are several important issues on the agenda that will demand the governor’s attention. One particularly time-sensitive issue is finding a way for New Mexico to comply with the federal Real ID Act. If a resolution is not found during this legislative session, New Mexicans could be prevented from boarding commercial planes and entering federal facilities.
Currently, New Mexico law allows drivers to obtain a New Mexico license without providing proof of U.S. citizenship. Gov. Martinez’s camp has claimed she has “worked every year to resolve this issue.” However, her attempts at resolution have consisted only of attempting to repeal the law. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Colorado have already solved the same problem in their state by issuing two types of driver’s licenses. Without proof of citizenship, drivers receive a license which clearly indicates it is not Real ID compliant. Conversely, drivers who do provide proof of citizenship get a license emblazoned with the coveted Real ID gold star. A seemingly simple solution.
There are likely simple solutions to many of New Mexico’s problems that could be found if Gov. Martinez and the state’s lawmakers would be willing to make some compromises. In fact, many could probably be solved in just one evening, perhaps over some pizza and Cokes.
Hear all of the audio recordings of Governor Martinez’s “Pizz-zah and Cokes” party yourself thanks to the good people at NM Political Report.