Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Got A Government Job? Keep it; Private Sector Running In Place--At Best, Plus: UNM Turmoil Moves To Web, And: Vietnam, Kilmer & The Blog 

If you've got a government job, keep it, because the private sector around here is running in place. Not that anyone is down in the dumps about Intel's announcement that it will put in $2.5 billion in upgrades at its Rio Rancho plant over 18 months. Trouble is, while those improvements mean a nice pop in temporary construction employment--up to 1,500 jobs--there will be no additional permanent staff hired at Intel. The semiconductor plant has been shrinking before our eyes the past two years. Intel now employs just 3,300 full-time permanent workers down from a peak of about 5,200 and headed toward the 3,000 mark in the wake of another round of recently announced layoffs. That's a 40 percent reduction in the permanent work force. Many of the temp jobs are highly skilled and may have to be imported.

The Intel investment is welcome and will come at the same time that the state starts to get a nice first jolt--in the $950 million area-- from the Obama stimulus package. But this is going to be a one or two year deal. Economy watchers also wonder if Intel will require less manpower at Rio Rancho once the upgrades are completed.

We hate to be a party pooper but major segments of our state's private sector economy are shrinking, not growing. That's the reality of these times.


Meanwhile, at the Roundhouse, lawmakers have to decide if they want to give Hewlett-Packard up to $12 million in capital outlay funds to help them build a customer support center at Rio Rancho. HP says it would employ over 1,300 by 2013. But the capital outlay pie has shrunk like a cotton shirt in a hot dryer. Insiders say $12 million looks like a stretch. Also, computer giant HP reported only last year that it had $10 billion cash in the bank. And they need Santa Fe's help?

Another blue-chip company--or at least one that isn't black and blue in this brutal bear maker--General Mills--recently said it will add 60 jobs at its ABQ plant now that the city has approved industrial revenue bonds that provide tax relief for the company. We wondered how many of those positions would be claimed by area workers. Turns out 90 percent of them. That leaves six jobs filled from the outside. Hope they're not the ones that pay the most.

As it has since the 40's, a government job remains the best bet for stable employment in our state, but this nasty recession is scaring even government employees as hiring freezes are in effect and talk of layoffs surface. How much of state resources should be diverted to private companies promising jobs is a hot topic. Nervous government workers want to make sure there is enough to pay them first.


This being the Internet Age, the controversy over University of New Mexico President David Schmidly is swirling on the Web. Students have posted an electronic petition asking the UNM Board of Regents to remove the president. The organizer says they have collected over 140 signatures, verified electronically by the signers' e-mail.

Schmidly is fighting a no-confidence resolution pending before the UNM faculty.

As far as Schmidly agreeing to include himself in the unpaid furloughs he is urging employees to take to make up for the state budget shortfall, one reader opines:

Why doesn't Schmidly stay on the job for those 15 days he plans to take as furlough and just forgo the pay? That would be a much smarter move on his part. If I were University President I would not want to give the idea that the ship could sail just as well without me for three weeks.

The turmoil at UNM is generating heavy interest. UNM Professor of Biology Maggie Werener-Washburner had this column in the Daily Lobo:

UNM needs a new management model, a leaner administration, and representation at every level that understands what it takes to make a university work. Most, if not all, faculty and staff do not want UNM to be about money and big salaries. We want UNM to be about lifting New Mexico up, helping people make a living in small towns, cities and pueblos, providing a great education while supporting the students...

But the Regents are of no mind to doubt one of their own--Chairman Jamie Koch, nor Schmidly or Excutive VP Harris. In the face of the no-confidence move by faculty, the regents voted to commend the trio.

Some might say the regents are pouring gasoline on the fire. If they want a blaze, they got one--a three alarmer.


Out-of-sight salaries are also making news in ABQ city government as City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michael Cadigan questions the $272,000 salary being pulled down by Chris Baca, executive director of Youth Development Inc. That's a nonprofit that gets $1.7 million of its $23 million budget from the city. The city's chief administrative officer, Ed Adams, defends that salary saying Cadigan is "continuing his personal agenda." But Cadigan's agenda seems more populist than personal. Analysts say Cadigan's hit on Baca could hurt the mayoral hopeful on the Westside. But how much support will it get him elsewhere? Mayor Chavez may want to gauge that before he puts Ed back out on the campaign trail.

We were cavalier with the Val Kilmer Vietnam vet remarks on our Tuesday blog, says Jim Belshaw, a Vietnam vet and now retired columnist of the ABQ Journal.

Your analysis of the GOP press release was on the money. Any port in the storm for these guys, I suppose. Val Kilmer says something stupid, pals around with Bill Richardson and voila! a Republican press release...I am one of those "near-criminal punks" to which Kilmer referred. I am not outraged, only astonished at such ignorance displayed in public...

Some Vietnam veterans re-live the war every day...Like veterans of other wars, it was the highlight of their lives...But most get on with their lives...finding other great adventures, or maybe just quiet lives. They indeed are "over 60 years old."...Most Vietnam veterans, 60 or not, are not hard-right Republicans. But they are members of a brotherhood. They shared an experience unlike anything they will see again and it stays with them...You really shouldn't dismiss them so cavalierly.

Thanks, Jim. We did not mean to diss the vets. We said we saw the appeal of the GOP's Kilmer attack as being confined to hard-right R's over 60. We suppose that includes some Vietnam Vets, but we did not intend to single them out. As for what is on the minds of voters, Belshaw says: "It ain't Vietnam, even if the voter is a Vietnam veteran."

We'll be out of the breaking news loop the next couple of days. We'll post some special blogs for you.

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