Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Credit Crisis? Not Around Here, But Economy Looms Over Jobs, Plus: A Bunch Of Fun Campaign Action From Your First of October Blog 

After listening to hyperbolic TV talking heads Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico could hardly be faulted if they thought of heading to the craps tables at Sandia to try to cover their stock losses and finding additional succor by loudly playing "Can't Buy me Love" on their iPods. But the reality of the situation, according to a top NM finance man, is hardly that stark.

"If there's one message I would like to get out to New Mexicans is that we have money to lend; we are open for business and want to do business," declared Jerry Walker a former legislator and now the President and CEO of the Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico.

"We don't have rotten paper on our balance sheets. And the energy industry is doing well. But small banks have been tarred along with the ones that are really in trouble," explained Walker who calls Farmington home.

There has been some downside action in the stock of First State Bancorp because of Fannie Mae stock it owned and had to write down, but no signs of any cracks in the finances of that or other local banks. Knock on wood.

Walker's palliative is a welcome fear antidote. But if there is a major economic slowdown even small banks could take a hit if their real estate and other loans get into trouble. But for now, Walker insists, the spigot is turned on in New Mexico. If you have decent credit you can get a loan for whatever constitutes your personal American Dream.

Getting a loan in NM may not be the big problem in this economic environment but keeping your job could be. At ABQ's City Hall, where they are counting on growth of only two percent this fiscal year, tax collection projections are already running short. Mayor Chavez ordered a hiring freeze for vacant positions last year when the economy slowed. You have to wonder now much more water he can get out of that rock if a major recession takes hold. He has not cut services, and delivering those services with fewer employees who are eligible for overtime have to be taking their toll.

Fifty-three percent of the city budget goes to public safety. If things get rough, Chavez's instinct may be to promise no layoffs at the police and fire departments. But he may want to hold his fire. If there is going to be economic hell to pay, the public may want the 11th Floor to start trimming the fat even in those popular, but perhaps over-budgeted agencies. Critics will charge that Chavez gave the city too many big budgets during the good times, but we didn't see the city council or public objecting. Chavez plans to seek a third term next year. So far, no heavyweight foes have surfaced. Could rough economic waters change that?

In Santa Fe, Governor Big Bill is yet to take serious the suggestion from Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair John Arthur Smith, known by the Guv as "Dr. No," that the state start cutting back nonessential spending. This as the projected energy surplus disappears in the face of declining oil and natural gas prices. But if prices don't rebound soon, a day of reckoning will come. The state has ample reserves to cushion an initial decline, but if it gets deep, cherished state government jobs, for the first time in memory, could be eyed for possible layoffs or a hiring freeze. Don't say we didn't tell you.


This ad from Dem congressional hopeful Martin Heinrich against Republican rival and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White drew real blood. It hits White for losing a confidence vote from state police when he headed up the state department of public safety. It drew enough blood for White to come with a response spot Tuesday featuring the parents of slain sheriff's deputy James McGrane. They repudiate Heinrich for questioning White's competence as a lawman. McGrane was killed while making a traffic stop in March 2006. The White ad is posted here. Does the ad exploit the murder of a lawman for political purposes? The parents did agree to appear, but this powerful ad is sure to raise the issue.


Insiders say they are hearing the ABQ Journal's first poll of the election season will hit the streets this Sunday. That would mean polling this week. We do know the paper will do only two surveys. If Dem Heinrich is tied or ahead of Republican White in the ABQ House race in this first poll, it would be the first time that a Dem polled ahead this early in the cycle. Heinrich in recent months has come with two polls showing him leading, the most recent last Friday. If the Journal poll does not agree, White's camp will get a boost.


It was a nasty primary fight, that showdown for the northern Dem congressional nomination between Ben Ray Lujan, Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott and an assortment of other contenders. But Wiviott and Lujan appear to be healing their wounds. Don spent in the area of $1.5 million on the nomination fight. He came in second but lost handily to Lujan. Wiviott will be co-hosting a Santa Fe fund-raising reception to benefit Lujan Thursday night. Don's spouse, Kelly, nominated by the Alligators for NM wife of the year for letting Don dip so deeply into the family fortune, will also be on hand. Click on the image for more.


A Bingaman insider moved to strike down the notion blogged here Tuesday that US Rep and Dem Senate nominee Tom Udall consulted with Bingaman before voting against the $700 billion bailout. Meantime, Bingaman told radio reporters he would have voted for the bailout if he were a House member. But would he have voted for it if he was a House member up for re-election in just a month? If Udall did ask Bingaman for political advice, it's hard to imagine Jeff telling him to vote for the controversial measure. Bingaman hasn't won five Senate terms with a broken hearing aid.

Udall needed an issue to show independents and conservative Dems that he could break from the liberal leadership of his party. He got it in the bailout package. Can Udall (and Pearce) now vote for a different bailout package? It could pose a risk, but much will depend on how united the Congress is in their new approach.


Now we take you to the far end of the campaign trail, to Taos County, where the New Mexican political music tradition makes its way into yet another century. Take it away......


Elisa Montoya of NM is serving as National Director of Latino Outreach for the Obama campaign. Elisa is a '93 St. Michaels's High grad from Santa Fe, and a grad of USC Law School. She worked on Capitol Hill for Senate Majority Leader Reid and for Colorado Senator Ken Salazar. Stephanie Valencia of Las Cruces is Obama's National Deputy Latino Vote Director. Before coming to the campaign, she was press secretary to Sen. Salazar.

We haven't heard how that $10,000 a person dinner held by former NM Attorney General Paul Bardacke with Caroline Kennedy as the guest went. The daughter of JFK kept her Santa Fe visit for Obama low-key, but did meet with about 175 at a City Different restaurant. That seemed to keep happy those who were complaining that they could not afford to see her.

Just looked at the recent post about State Sen. Lee Rawson again. I called him the minority leader, but he is the minority whip. That's on top of screwing up the registration numbers in his district. That was a rough blogging streak...

Reader Matt Hemmendinger asked that we plug his Obama event. Here it is: "Art for Change will be held at 8:00 pm at the Orpheum Art Space, 500 2nd St. SW, in downtown Albuquerque. People attending the event are asked to donate $10 to the Campaign for Change and the event is open to the public"...And a Republican reader wanted us to point to this McCain page where there is a form to fill out to become a NM Election Day volunteer.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Help us cover Campaign '08. E-mail your news and comments.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign