Thursday, May 21, 2009
Raton Racino: Hold Your Horses? Plus: Bonding With Mayor Marty, And: One Man TV Bands--Old School Style
Here's a new rallying cry apropos to New Mexico's latest gambling controversy: "Hold your horses, Raton!" The NM Gaming Control Board did just that this week, delaying yet again the awarding of a gambling license for a $5o million Raton racino to political insider Marc Correra. The question now for board chairman David Norvell and his fellow members is: Why more delays? Why not just an outright denial? Correra has not produced adequate financial documentation to justify the license, says Norvell, but the elephant in the room is the nearly $16 million in fees that Correra has shared in as a "placement agent" for hedge funds and other firms seeking to get billions in state investment, dollars approved from the State Investment Council. A federal grand jury has subpoenaed records over the role of these placement agents and Correra, whose father Anthony is a major friend of Big Bill, is smack dab in the middle of the controversy. The controversy also rages nationally over placement agents.
Observers ask if NM needs to rush into awarding a gambling license under these circumstances? Correra hasn't been accused of any lawbreaking, but as State Rep. Brian Egolf recently remarked, the whole placement agent episode "smells fishy."
Former NM Attorney General Norvell may be challenged to observe the legal niceties in denying the Raton license to Correra, but if the Gaming Board caves, the fish smell Egolf and company are complaining about is going to have the scent of an open sewer.
INN OF THE MOUNTAIN LAYOFFS?
Our insiders are reporting no major layoffs yet at the Inn of the Mountain Gods gambling casino at Ruidoso run by the Mescalero Apaches, but the casino's failure to make a $12 million payment on a $200 million debt is against raising the issue. One source says employee hours have been reduced, but they are not hearing of lost jobs just yet. Four managers were kicked out a couple of months ago as gambling revenues plunged because of the recession. The Inn has until June 15th to come up with that $12 million payment or face the prospect of having $50 million of the $200 million come due immediately.
The New Mexico congressional delegation has been effusive in its praise of the credit card reform bill that passed Congress this week and which was the focus of President Obama's recent town hall at Rio Rancho. While the measure does ease some of the more onerous credit card regs, for our money Senator Tom Udall's vote in favor of capping at 15 percent the interest rate credit card companies could charge was the real meat on the dish that the lawmakers passed over. Even a cap of 20 percent would have been welcome since consumers can get better loans rates from the Mob than some of the major banks. The proposed cap by independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was scuttled when only 33 Senators of the 60 needed to move the bill voted in favor.
BONDING WITH MARTY
Mayor Chavez is bragging of the city's strong bond rating as the election season approaches, and he has a right to. But the nine members of the city council also get credit for the good news that the city is not suffering any downgrades in its ratings that would make borrowing money more expensive.
But the real story is not our strong bond rating. The money used to pay back bonds we issue for public improvements comes from very reliable property tax collections from ABQ homeowners. The real story remains the plunge in the gross receipts tax. As economic activity contracts, those taxes--the main funding source for the city's ongoing operating budget---continue to fall off the cliff. That keeps the threat of reduced city services and lost jobs hanging over the heads of City Hall hall policy makers. You won't hear the mayor or the council bragging about that.
UP THE ANTE
Now NM will get as much as $3 billion in federal stimulus money, up from the oft-quoted $1.8 billion. Former NM Governor Toney Anaya, in charge of the NM Recovery and Reinvestment office, charged with seeing the federal money gets distributed in the next year or so, says over $500 million of that amount will go the state Medicaid program and a similar amount to education. Question: Can Toney and the Feds make sure some of the money isn't "diverted" into "personal stimulus" plans? This is New Mexico, after all...
DON'T FORGET ME
Freshman ABQ Dem West Side State Rep. Ben Rodefer says don't forget him when it comes to recounting Obama's recent visit to Rio Rancho High School:
President Obama and I had the opportunity to meet and spoke of the Carbon Emissions Cap and Trade bills, the National bill which he is still pushing, and the New Mexico bill that I carried last session, and will continue to push. From our brief interaction I can affirm the President is extraordinarily intelligent, relaxed and personable.
Rep. Ben will likely use that pic of him and the prez in next year's campaign, although not everywhere. He won the normally Republican seat over Eric Youngberg. No word yet on who the R's will field to try to take the seat back.
THE ONE MAN BAND
Our May 1st blog announced the new trend in NM TV news--hiring reporters who not only report, but also act as camera operators and editors. In other words, "a one man band" who produces the news story, allowing management to hire fewer people. But it does seem to be true that everything old is new again. Rodger Beimer, now a deputy manager at NM Expo, was a longtime reporter and TV news anchorman in the ABQ market starting in the 60's. He opines:
There are a number of us who were "one man bands" back in the day. And sound. That was a big deal--not everyone got to shoot sound. It was mostly silent film (yes, film. First, black and white and then color). Film had to be exposed properly (hopefully) then run thru a processor at the lab and edited with glue for a voice over by the anchor--who might have been Dick Knipfing or me...Remember, Joe?
Indeed I do, Rodger. Covering the county courthouse in the mid-70's for radio news, I would see the fellas shooting with their little black and white cameras and reporters complaining about having to get film processed in time for the nightly news. With modern technology, today's one man bands won't have nearly the amount of work TV news folks had in those black and white days of the 60's.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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