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Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Clips: Shrinking In Albuquerque, Plus: Cops & The City's Coffers, And: Defending Downtown 

Here are the money lines from the state's May jobless report analyzing the 8.8 percent unemployment rate in the metro. We're shrinking:

...Total employment in May was reported at its lowest level for the month since 2005. Albuquerque, like much of the country, has lost years of employment growth to the recession...

The ABQ area unemployment fell to 8.8% in May from 9.0 percent in April. But we have a workforce the size of the one we had five years ago. That means less payroll, less spending and less tax money flowing into city coffers.

COPS AND THE COFFERS


The city's fiscal crisis has Mayor Berry tangling with the union representing city cops. How a two to three percent pay cut will be distributed is the issue creating tension. The union contract, before the fiscal crisis, had cops been expecting a three percent pay hike. What happens if there is no deal? We put that question to one our veteran City Hall sources:

On July 1, the cops will continue to work and salaries will be subject to what was funded by the City Council and the approved budget which had the 2-3% salary reductions.

The union contracts do not deal exclusively with salaries and have all sorts of terms covering a wide range of subjects such as cars, uniforms, overtime pay and PERA and medical contributions. The union would be wise to stick with fighting over the raises and no other terms while Berry wants to renegotiate all terms that have a fiscal impact.


Once July 1 gets here, the union will have three options: 1. Decide to accept working under the old contract with reduced salaries 2. Sue to enforce the contract that had the negotiated 3% pay raises or 3. Force arbitration or mediation with a third party.

The odds of winning a lawsuit are slim. I believe the contracts have a clause that subjects salaries to availability of funding...

A few months ago, I caught a report that police had busted their overtime budget by $9 million...The more experienced officers know how to work the system and can significantly increase their pay with overtime. Public Safety Director Darren White ordered the change in DWI arrest policy that requires an arresting officer to transport a suspect to jail as opposed to turning him over to the DWI unit. The policy was initiated to reduce court overtime, but has had the effect of reducing DWI arrests.

In fact, there has been a dramatic reduction in DWI arrests this year, compared to other are law enforcement. It could very well become a political issue for Mayor Berry. TV news came with the big story of fewer DWI offenders getting busted.

The budget medicine Berry is proposing is pretty mild, even if it seems like castor oil to public safety agencies used to getting an annual budget boost no matter what. Cities across the nation are laying off police officers. The new economic reality is only starting to sink in here.

NOT A SINKHOLE

Our blog this week referring to downtown redevelopment efforts as a "sinkhole" did not settle well with reader Homer Robinson:

Two of the most significant construction projects of the past few years are the downtown affordable housing apartment complexes--Silver Gardens and Downtown @. Together, these projects created well over 500 jobs, using over 50 local employers and pumping $15-20 million into the local economy.

The second phase of the Silver Gardens project is financed and set to start construction this coming winter. (I work for the company that developed and built Silver Gardens I and will be building Phase II.) Both are public-private partnerships, the result of development agreements dating back to the Baca administration, and brought to fruition by the Chavez administration.

For Albuquerque to be a truly viable city, it must have a thriving downtown. These new rooftops are one essential component...But for the restaurants, hotels and cultural attractions to really thrive, we also need a legitimate events center to bring in larger-scale conventions and conferences, which we cannot even compete for now...Now is the time for long-term thinking and investment for the future. Otherwise, we'll just plod along as we always have.

Thanks, Homer. But is a $400 million downtown sports arena in a market with no professional sports a wise long-term investment?

REALITY CHECK

We don't want to rain on the parade, but it's hard to let go without comment this line from the Governor's office praising a recent award received by the state's Secretary of Finance and Administration:

The fact that New Mexico has weathered one of the nation’s worst recessions is a testament to her skill as a policy maker and financial manager.

Hello, Santa Fe? This state has not "weathered" anything. And it's still storming. We face a cumulative state budget deficit of upwards of a billion dollars, historically high unemployment, government employee furloughs, a Medicaid funding debacle and housing and energy bubbles gone bust.

Well, the Santa Fe thinking is good for at least one thing--the long-suffering tourism business. With statements like that coming from the Fourth Floor, tourists can be assured that the City Different not only offers a reprieve from the summer heat, but also a total escape from reality...

THE BOTTOM LINES


Word comes to us of the passing of an old friend and New Mexico radio legend. Chuck Logan has died at Payson, Arizona. He graced the radio airwaves in ABQ in a big way from the 70's until the 90's. He was 71.

Chuck (real name Charles Lagomarsino) was of a time when men made careers of being a "disc jockey," but they were really exemplary entertainers, spinning records and dispensing humor as well as the information of the day. He did his finest work on the old KQEO-AM and on 50,000 watt giant KKOB-AM before it switched to a talk format.

Logan, as we all called him, was old school all the way--work hard and play hard. He was a constant presence at the ABQ press club in its heyday as a media hangout. His old friend and radio colleague Gary Diamond reminisced Thursday that the "walls at the club still echo from some of those nights."

He often addressed his audience by the Native American phrase "Kemo Sabe," made popular in the Lone Ranger radio and TV series and loosely translated as "trusty scout" or "faithful friend." Chuck was truly that to a generation of radio listeners.

So long, Kemo Sabe...

I'm Joe Monahan, reporting from Albuquerque.


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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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