Thursday, April 02, 2009

Changes Afoot For Bernalillo County Commission; Guv Figures In, Plus: Job Stats Debate Continues, And: Age Of The Alligator; The Press Frets 

Archuleta & Brasher
If all the cards were to fall into place we might have to rename the Bernalillo County Commission the Big Bill Commission. That's because the seats of three members of the five member panel are in political play. We won't know for sure what will happen until the October 6th city election, but here's the scenario that has has them chattering downtown.

Dem Commissioner Alan Armijo has announced he will try to get back on the ABQ City Council by challenging incumbent Ike Benton; GOP County Commissioner Michael Brasher broke the news to us this week that he is very likely to seek the far NE Heights council seat held by Republican Don Harris and which Brasher held before going on the commission; Dem County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta, who served on the Obama transition team for the Department of Interior, is in line for a job at Interior which will have her leaving the commission. The exact position has not been announced, but we're told it would not require US Senate confirmation. Archuleta is also chair of the ABQ Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Board so her departure would also cause a shift there.

If Brasher and Armijo were to win election to the council, they would leave the commission in December. Archuleta could get tapped for a DC job at any time. That's where Big Bill comes in. He gets to fill any vacancies created by this trio, all of whose terms run until the end of 2010. If all three were to go, we would get a commission majority appointed by the Guv.

But hold on. Insiders are not giving away these elections. They see Harris and Benton as formidable incumbents and say Armijo and Brasher will have their hands full.

As for Archuleta, insiders see ABQ School Board member and attorney Marty Esquivel as a possible replacement for her ABQ SE Heights seat. Tom Rutherford and Lenton Malry, who both represented the area on the commission in years past, are also interested, but Esquivel is a newer face without past political baggage that could give him the edge. Also, the seat is being vacated by a Hispanic and there will be pressure to name another to the vacancy. We have word that a behind-the-scenes struggle is already underway to stop Rutherford who has lobbying ties to Big Bill.

Archuleta is regional manager of the Wilderness Society who is serving her second four year term on the commission. The other two commissioners--who are staying put--are Republican Michael Wiener of the NE Heights and Art De La Cruz of the South Valley.

Armijo and Brasher have been in local government office since the 80's and are serving their second four year terms on the commission. By law they can't seek another. Will their long pasts be a plus or a minus in the coming campaigns? Whatever the case, political wannabe's are advised to polish up their resumes for Big Bill. The odds may be long that we will have a trifecta of three commissioners departing, but strange things have been known to happen at the racetrack of La Politica.


What's the reaction of Hewlett-Packard now that the Legislature has trimmed from $12 million to $6 million the capital outlay money to help the computer giant build a Rio Rancho Customer Center?

"We understand the Legislature's decision. We remain committed to Rio Rancho and will continue to work with local and state officials to determine next steps," an HP spokesman said in an e-mail statement.

We thought the HP proposal would meet with resistance when we blogged the company had $10 billion in cash in the bank (now $11 billion) and the state's budget for construction projects had shrunk dramatically.

Rio Rancho Mayor Swisstack says he will continue to push for the other $6 million for HP, perhaps at a special session of the Legislature that may be called later thus year. But why? Well-off HP says it can live with the $6 million. Legislators from rural NM whose capital outlay has been crimped are sure also to wonder why.

HP has pledged to employ 1,350 people at the support center by 2013. Rio Rancho and the state have pledged more than $50 million in incentives. That's a lot of money for these jobs and will take years of payroll taxes to get back. The $6 million will go toward fixing up the interior of the 218,000-square-foot HP center.


Reaction to our Wednesday blog quoting Dr. Lee Reynis, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UNM. She says the state's official unemployment rate is an "statistical artifact" and that the jobless rate is actually significantly higher than the current 5.4% rate being reported. Dr. Brent Eastwood, a political economist who works at ABQ's DW Turner, came with this:

Every month the Bureau of Labor Statistics tallies total non-farm payroll numbers. This is one of the best statistics we have to count employment. Remember this does not count the number of unemployed persons. This just counts the number of people who are on payroll. To get a clear picture, one must look at those seeking unemployment benefits as well.

From Feb. 08 to Feb. ’09, New Mexico had a net loss of 10,100 jobs. I compared New Mexico to a few other rural, low population states during the same time frame.

West Virginia lost 13,500 jobs; Wyoming gained 4,700 jobs; South Dakota lost 3,200 jobs; North Dakota gained 800 jobs;Vermont lost 12,700 jobs; New Hampshire lost 9,000 jobs; Nebraska lost 11,600 jobs; Iowa lost 22,400 jobs; Arkansas lost 28,200 jobs.

So if you look at this sample of small, rural states, New Mexico is about in the middle in terms of job losses for non-farm payroll over the last year. We have experienced some pain, but not as bad as others in our peer group.

We don't disagree with Dr. Eastwood, but we would like to look at this through a different lens. For the purposes of our discussion, how about if we completely exclude government employment from the labor pool, jobs that are not (currently) subject to layoffs and have actually been growing. That being done, what is the rate of job loss in our state's "private sector" compared to the private sectors of the state's Dr. Eastwood compared us to?

We don't know if our private sector is suffering the same, worse or less than others, but with the politicians telling us that things here are not as bad as elsewhere, we sure would like to know.


And the state Workforce Solutions Dept. came with this statement in response to the Reynis blog, indicating they agree with her:

The BLS methodology is designed to explain movements in the nation's unemployment numbers. The input is the data collected from the monthly Current Population Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau...The model requires that the sum of all states must approximately equal the national number. Some inconsistencies occur, especially in states with smaller populations like New Mexico, since the monthly numbers are based upon survey data as opposed to a complete count. The BLS is aware of the concerns of states.. NMDWS economists believe the state's job market is hurting to an extent that is not yet fully reflected in the unemployment numbers...

In other words, more pain before we see any pleasure. But hey, "we're better off here than elsewhere." We're sure the unemployed thousands here are overjoyed to learn that someone in Phoenix is suffering more than them.


KRQE-TV picked up on our Reynis blog, giving their viewers reports of the Reynis comments on the station's 5:30 and 10 p.m. news.


Huge gobs of federal money are coming into the state--on top of the usual mega-dose of federal funding. It's all aimed at jump-starting the economy out of recession, and no one knows if it will work. From the NM Congressional delegation:

...$512,362,810 in emergency education funding has been released for schools in New Mexico to help save education-related jobs and maintain programs for low-income students and students with disabilities. For example, New Mexico schools will immediately receive $80,803,396 in Title I funds and $97,451,822 in IDEA funds. Here is a
complete list of funds for New Mexico.


The ABQ Journal continues to fret--this time on their Web site in a homemade video from columnist Leslie Linthicum--about your blog's use of anonymous sources--in other words--the Alligators. We wonder why they are so worried about it when for all these years the newspaper has taken this blog's anonymous sourcing and used it to produce dozens of news stories. That's what we call rock-solid sourcing. The Alligators, however, say they don't have bruised egos over not getting recognition. They're simply pleased to be able to improve the coverage and understanding of New Mexico politics for ABQ Journal subscribers.

However, the Alligators don't understand why the dead-tree editors refuse to mention in their printed editons that the Gators can be found at www.joemonahan.com. Its been noted by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Roll Call, Congressional Quarterly, the BBC, PBS NewsHour, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Santa Fe Reporter, Real Clear Politics, National Public Radio, NM Independent, the Alibi, KOB-TV, KRQE-TV, KASA-TV, KOB Radio, KSFR-FM Radio, C-SPAN, Voice of America and the Las Cruces Sun-News, among many others. Don't Leslie and her editors at Journal Center read or listen to that stuff?

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico, I'm Joe Monahan. E-mail your news, comments and other grist for the mill.

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