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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Labs: Where We Stand Now Direct From The No-Spin Zone, Plus: TV News Reacts To Blog Firing Report, And: Our Free Coke Contest Continues 

There will be no jobs boom because of funding for Sandia Labs. The same for Los Alamos. But recent action in D.C. also appears to spare the national defense Labs from drastic spending cuts. The budget making its way through the Congressional maze appears to fund the labs within a percent or so of what they are now getting. We won't be sure until late September. But the money paragraph in the ABQ Journal news article that described the long-term outlook for the labs was buried. And that's the story that needs to be highlighted:

While the current spending plans appear to offer stability for the labs, the following year's budget might not be as good for them, said David Culp, a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, an arms control group. "The big battle will be next year," Culp said. "Success is never permanent in Washington," Senator Jeff Bingaman pointed out.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010 and we'll probably be in the midst of a major budget battle over the labs, just as the campaigns for the state's three US House seats heat up.

PEELING THE NUCLEAR ONION

While funding for the budget year starting October 1 appears relatively stable (Senator Bingaman gets some kudos) it still represents a long term, downward trend in overall lab funding.

Because of their importance, let's repeat some numbers and analysis of figures released by Bingaman's office in May. In fiscal year 2008, he says DOE funding for Sandia was $1.40 billion. In FY 2009 it went down to $1.322 billion. The President has requested $1.342 billion for DOE Sandia funding for the fiscal year starting this October--FY 2010. Throw in some onetime federal stimulus money and you soften the blow for the coming budget year.

Sandia gets more than DOE money. It's total revenue, according to its Web site, for FY '08 was $2.294 billion. The estimate for this fiscal year was $2.249 billion, a reduction of $45 million.

Bingaman says the overall DOE appropriation for the state two years ago-- in FY 2008--was $4.54 billion. The president's request for the upcoming year is $4.0 billion, a reduction of $500 million or about 11 percent.

Maybe we tick up from that $4.0 billion when the budget is finalized, but the trend from FY 2008 is down and likely to continue. We know this can be hard to follow, but there is an historic and deep seated bias among policy makers and the press here to see lab funding thru rose-colored glasses. And why not? We've had a great 60 year run. But even a small reduction in funding has a large ripple effect. All the more reason to be seeking other federal programs as well as new industry. Barring unforeseen developments or large, onetime projects the national labs have seen their peak budget years. Why? Because, in a nutshell, nuclear weapons ain't what they used to be.

FOLLOW THE PEOPLE

The population of Los Alamos County in 2000 was 18,344. In 2008, the estimate was down to 18,150. The labs and their future size---it's the really big story of the second decade of this new century in New Mexico.

ETHICS DUST

Lt. Gov Denish is calling for more regular reporting of campaign contributions, but why not call for instant reporting on the Internet? We know the SOS Web site has been nothing but trouble lately, but still this is the Web age and requiring the reporting of donations and expenditures by the Major statewide candidates within 72 hours of any activity seems reasonable, especially if you put a 2012 start date on it. But then again high tech is not the state's cup of tea, is it?

ALWAYS THE MONEY


It seems these modern campaigns just never stop with the money raising. If the R's thought that negative TV spot they hit with this week accusing Di of "pay to play" for her support of expanding casino hours at the state's racinos, would cause her to spend money to defend herself, they can forget it. In fact, she is using the attack to raise money. Here's part of her new money pitch:

I can't let this attack go unchallenged. And I won't. But I need your help to fight back. Republicans are scared by my strong standing in the polls and our sound policies for New Mexico. This ad shows how far they are they are willing to go and that we are going to have to fight to set the record straight and win in 2010.

Denish may "fight back" but not against this particular ad buy. State Dems came with the news that the GOP has only purchased $4,000 of air time for the hit ad, and only on cable outlets--not over-the-air networks. A GOP spokesman would not say how much is being spent on the ad.

And if you think it's all glamor and high-level political action when you run for Governor, take a look at Di's opening line in her e-mail missive:

It started as a pretty standard Sunday night around the Denish household. I was getting a little laundry done.

What about all that "dirty laundry" in Santa Fe. Does Di have enough Tide to clean that up?

DICK AND FOREST


KRQE-TV general manager Bill Anderson disputes a quote from Monday's blog from one of our media sources that said anchorman Dick Knipfing went to him and demanded that news director Forrest Carr get the axe or else he was headed for the exits. Anderson told us Knipfing expressed concerns about the direction of the newsroom and Viewer Advocacy Journalism (VAJ), but did not demand Carr's firing. Carr was let go from the station last week. Anderson added:

"VAJ is an editorial strategy that Michelle Donaldson and I targeted back in May 2008. When she announced her departure I interviewed candidates according to that objective. Forrest has made his bones in the industry doing VAJ, so it is understandable that since we launched it under his leadership it would be identified so closely with him. But, it was in the works already when he arrived.

The story struck a nerve. News legend Knipfing rebuffed the report that he had said it was either Carr or him with this terse statement: "Joe, it didn't happen."

We've been believing Dick since 1971 and we have no reason to doubt him now. But he did not refute Anderson's statement that he had expressed concerns about the direction Carr was taking.

Then there was this from a Carr defender using the moniker "TV Decisions:"

I have worked with Forrest for many years. At no time have I heard him want to be confrontational just for the sake of confrontation. Now, if the politician does not want to answer the question, Forrest would always say be polite, but be insistent. Isn't that was journalism is? No, this has nothing to do with VAJ. New ways of doing things? Forgetabout it. Stuck in the 50's. You betcha! This station will soon find that times have changed. We will see how it plays out for them.

So it goes when you wander into the Machiavellian hallways of the TV newsroom. But wander the Alligators will...

THE CONTEST IS ON


Our contest to give away a free, six month supply of Coca-Cola is tough, real tough. You can't easily find the answers by a Google or other search. But we have had some correct answers. We are looking for the fifth correct entry. Take a look at Monday's blog for the questions and get your answer (or guess) in via email. If you're right, it could be you're coolest July ever.

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