Incumbents lack confidence in Becenti-Aguilar, who wants chairmanship
Becenti-Aguilar has thinnest resume of PRC holdovers
The state Public Regulation Commission's first meeting of the year was ugly, unproductive and unbecoming of five elected officials each making $90,000 a year.
Bickering, selfishness and self-aggrandizement marred the day.
Members argued for 12 minutes over a point in Robert's Rules of Order. It might have been funny if it were not so stupid.
More laughable was Commissioner Theresa Becenti-Aguilar's behind-the-scenes campaign to win the chairmanship of the five-member panel.
After her power play failed, Becenti-Aguilar was so sore that she mindlessly complained about the PRC legal department's performance, as if it had anything to do with the 3-2 commission decision to delay the chairmanship election until Tuesday.
The two Republicans on the PRC, Patrick Lyons and Ben Hall, made it clear in interviews afterward that they do not believe Becenti-Aguilar has the skills or knowledge to chair the panel.
Lyons, the sitting chairman, said he alone is qualified to run the meetings efficiently and legally, and to advocate for the PRC's budget before the Legislature.
Hall said he can do the chairman's job every bit as well as Lyons. Plus, Hall said he was uncomfortable with the idea of Lyons remaining as chairman for a third consecutive year.
A newly elected commissioner, Democrat Karen L. Montoya of Albuquerque, pledged her vote to fellow Democrat Becenti-Aguilar before the last meeting.
Now the question is whether Becenti-Aguilar can pick up the vote of the other newcomer, Valerie Espinoza, D-Santa Fe.
Espinoza balked at electing Becenti-Aguilar last week, even after Montoya tried to co-opt her.
Montoya opened the meeting by nominating Becenti-Aguilar for chairwoman and Espinoza for vice chairwoman. But instead of going along with the movement that would have given her a taste of power, Espinoza joined the two Republican commissioners in voting to delay the election.
"I'm very independent," Espinoza said afterward.
Public regulation commissioners are supposed to be just that. The pressures of deciding utility rates can be enormous. A tough-minded lone wolf can keep the powerful electric and water companies at bay until a case is made for a rate increase.
Jason Marks, who left office at the end of 2012, set a high standard for PRC members. Marks, right, was a cool customer, intelligent, a total professional. His departure from the PRC, mandated by term limits, was a loss for the public.
This was especially obvious after the chaotic, caustic, comical first meeting of the newly configured PRC.
Espinoza caused her share of trouble by calling for regular closed meetings. She later said she did not understand the term "executive session" -- this after eight years as the Santa Fe County clerk.
As for Montoya, the other freshman, she ought to ask herself exactly what Becenti-Aguilar has accomplished at the PRC and why she should be chairwoman. Montoya would have to dig deep for any answers.
Becenti-Aguilar's resume is the thinnest of the three incumbent commissioners. She may believe in herself, but Hall and Lyons do not have confidence in her.