Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009: Roast Turkey With A Side of Anxiety; Plus: Some Holiday Appetizers From The Blog Newsroom 

Not that there isn't plenty to be thankful for. New Mexico's eternal gifts--its beauty, culture and climate--continue to delight year after year and generation after generation. But this is a year when more corporeal concerns dominate the thoughts of New Mexicans. Like jobs--and whether theirs will be at risk. Like taxes--and whether they'll have to pay more to shore up huge government deficits. Like the financial markets--and their impact on their retirement plans. And just below their radar lurks the disturbing pay-to-pay culture that has poisoned state politics. It's enough to give a turkey a headache.

We'd like to sugarcoat it, but the truth is this has been a lousy year for the Land of Enchantment. Our economy was ravaged by the recession which then blew a gargantuan hole in the state budget. Policy makers are scrambling to find short-term solutions, but there is a sense of unease over the future and whether the state's usual pattern of slow, but steady growth has been more than temporarily interrupted. And if it has, what's on the other side?

But for now a holiday beckons and with it a respite--however brief--from the powerful winds of change buffeting our beloved La Politica. Read on for our pre-holiday appetizers.


We noted this week that the median price of an ABQ home has plummeted below $180,000. More precisely:

The Albuquerque area median sale price in October was the lowest it's been all year--$170,000. January recorded the second lowest median of $175,500. The median is the price at which half the homes sell for more and half for less.

The median price for home sales peaked in 2008 at $198,477. That means we are down nearly 15 percent from that level. We don't recall any bigger slide, but then the jobless rate in ABQ--8 percent--is also at a new high for this era, with the real jobless rate--counting the underemployed and those who have stopped looking for work--being much higher.

The housing market here was in a bit of a frenzy for a while, but our bubble was much smaller than neighboring states. Still, the net worth of ABQ homeowners--and others around the state--is taking a hit. That means fewer home equity loans and less spending--and that means less in tax collections for depleted state coffers.

Jobs equal housing. Until you see the needle move on that front, the month to month gyrations in housing will mean little. The bear market in prices may be near an end, but a new bull market in which those prices start to gallop ahead in the ABQ metro is nowhere in sight.

There's going to be a new voice in charge of making sure your house is protected from fire. From City Hall:

Mayor-elect Berry named veteran firefighter and rescue worker James Breen as Fire Chief. Breen has been an Albuquerque firefighter since 1990 and most recently was responsible for the Albuquerque Fire Department’s second battalion, the city’s busiest. Before becoming a battalion commander, Breen was in charge of AFD’s heavy rescue program and commanded Fire Station No. 3 located on Girard SE. He was also an instructor at the city’s Fire Academy.


A reader writes:

Reading your column today reminded me that (ABQ Chief Administrative Officer-designate) Dave Campbell and (soon to be city Director of Family services) Robin Dozier Otten were in a law firm together called Otten, Vogel and Campbell in the early 1990s.

Another reader writes:

Robin Dozier Otten was Superintendent at state Regulation & Licensing (under Gov. Johnson in the 90's) but was never confirmed as Secretary of Human Services, only Acting Secretary due to activities at Regulation & Licensing. The Legislative Finance Committee audit is here.


Big Bill told the press before he attended Tuesday night's White House state dinner for the prime minister of India that he has no plans to join the Obama administration.

This is not about a job. It's about having dinner. I'm going to finish my term as governor.

But that's not going to quiet speculation that has been ongoing since Richardson had to withdraw his name from consideration as Obama's commerce secretary because of New Mexico political scandals. Some of those scandals are still brewing, but on the back burner, not the front burner.

Also attending the dinner was US Attorney General Eric Holder. It was his Public Integrity Division that decided not to bring indictments against Big Bill or his top aides in the CDR bond scandal.

Here is brief video from C-SPAN of Bill and wife Barbara making their entrance into the dinner. They are at 39:20 on the tape.


Not in the case of being the public info officer for Light Guv Diane Denish. She just lost her seventh spokesman in seven years. Sam Thompson (who is a she) is leaving the $70,000 a year post because of the "stress," among other reasons.

Maybe there's an idea here. We put Di in charge of all the high-paid political appointees that have bloated the state payroll and they start bailing out like the PIO's.


Frustration often turns to satire and so it is with University of New Mexico Greek mythology Professor Monica Cyrino. She penned this scathing missive to describe how she sees the state of the state's largest university, using the language of her field of study. We take you to the Kingdom of Richardsonius....

Happy Thanksgiving, New Mexico.

Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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