Friday, November 14, 2008

Political Endings: Eclipse Heads For Ash Heap; The Political Fallout, Plus: Death Comes To La Politica Legend Emilio Naranjo 

Eclipse is Crashing
The impending collapse of Eclipse Aviation and the likely loss of well over a thousand jobs (the AP says 1,400; the ABQ Journal says 1,100) on top of the at least 500 laid off last August is a wake-up call to the New Mexican business and political community--if they choose to hear it. Millions in public money and tax incentives were given to the start-up, even thought its originator, Vern Raburn, was super-wealthy as one of the first stockholders of Microsoft. As one e-mailer, a small business owner, put it: "As with so many other business projects that promised to boost the fledgling ABQ economy, the local Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Chavez, the ABQ City Council, Governor Bill, Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici got stars in their eyes. Even the press chimed in, putting out a "special section" reveling in the certification of Eclipse's light jet and giving continuous glamorous coverage, even as the end neared."

Yet, the weird denial continued even as shocked employees gathered at the Eclipse parking lot on ABQ's West side. Listen to this from the Journal coverage: "Failure to make payroll and refund deposits points to "a company having a difficult time," said the director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico....These folks have overcome some major hurdles that have been quite an accomplishment," she said. "Then, you hit an economy like this one. Even the mighty can fall."

"The mighty!?" Earth to the local economists: Eclipse has been on the ropes for years, yet our political and economic establishment kept pumping it up. And now, with employees being offered help from food banks, the unseemly joy-jumping continues. Workers can't even apply for jobless benefits because the company says while it can't pay them right now, they are still employees! How poorly have these hard-working men and women been served by their business and political leaders? You tell us.

That lack of scrutiny on all levels--city, state and media--a lone Web site bravely and consistently predicted the Eclipse demise from the beginning--reveals the institutional weaknesses that have kept the economy here "chugging along" but susceptible to painful setbacks. Being starstruck is fine for Saturday night at the multiplex, but in the real world it has a price. Now the price will be paid by the up to 1,400 Eclipse employees (plus the 500 laid off in August) impacted by this avoidable failure of public policy.


From KRQE TV Friday afternoon: Eclipse Aviation has acquired short term financing to pay their company's payroll, according a recorded phone message. The message states that the company will deposit all past due payroll owed to employees no later than Tuesday Nov. 18, 2008.


Even the billionaires, or perhaps semi-billionaires after the recent stock market action, are taking a breather. The news that the Maloof family of New Mexico, now of LA and Vegas, were putting several homes up for sale in southern Cal raised some eyebrows. One of our Sunny Southern Cal Alligators checks in from Beach Boys land:

The Maloofs are actually NOT going anywhere. They are staying in Los Angeles (with frequent trips to Vegas) but they want to "scale down," if you can imagine that. Hard times have even hit the Maloofs. They want to buy smaller living quarters and not have those huge palaces they now have. What's this country coming to ?


The last of the patrons is gone. Emilio Naranjo, 92, died Thursday and with him a legend that grew more powerful that it ever was in real life. Still, Naranjo, the chairman of the Rio Arriba County Democratic Party starting in the early 50's, had a political reign that lasted until his defeat in a state Senate primary in 1996. He was the lifeblood of the party in the county that delivered big and important Dem majorities.

We were surprised to hear Senator Ted Kennedy remark on visit to NM this year that in 1960 Emilio had actually first supported Lyndon Johnson for the Dem prez nomination and had to be persuaded by the Kennedys to back Jack. He eventually did and with fervor. That bond between the Kennedys and the Spanish North lasts to this day.

Naranjo was an historical figure in that he built a bridge for Spanish speaking New Mexicans to deal with the new Anglo economy. Until the 30's, when the Great Depression forced Spanish Northerners to integrate economically, there was not much need for an Emilio Naranjo. His instinctive understanding of political power made him a politico to be contended with in the boom years of the 50's and 60's and 70's when job opportunities exploded at all levels of government. Naranjo's ability to get you a job (and that of his relatives and friends) or a government check were the root of his power. Times change and while the government remains an important source of Norteno jobs, there are other options--including education.

Naranjo was a masterful political figure but the limits of his politics are evident. His home county is among the worst in the nation for its rate of deadly drug addiction and jobs are still too hard to come by.

Emilio Naranjo made much of his time, but that time is now a relic of history.


Alligators tracking the travails of State Senator Cynthia Nava who has made noise about going for a Senate leadership are hot on the trail of the latest developments. Nava is superintendent of the troubled Gadsden School District in Dona Ana County. How she is handling the financial crisis there is being carefully eyed. Looks as if she has come with a temporary solution to the cash deficit, but is the Senator gaining or losing political points for her performance?


The day draws near.

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