Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Albuquerque 2011: Sluggish Economy Could Start Picking At Berry; What's The Plan? Plus: New Education Debate: Target The Parents
Albuquerque is getting lousy marks as a place to do business and that could begin causing problems for Mayor Berry in 2011. ABQ ranks near the bottom of the list of "Best Cities to do Business" as compiled by Marketwatch. We come in 91st among 102 cities. The methodology can be spun, but the survey is convincing.
Our jobless rate is stubbornly high, still hovering near 9 percent--a modern day record. No new business of any significance has opened its doors in the city in the past two years. Gross receipts tax collections--the city's primary funding method--have stopped plummeting, but are flat, reflecting the lack of economic activity. Commerical real estate vacancies remain near record levels; residential sales are still in a bear market and the forced reduction in spending and hiring by the city and state continues to choke the economy. The glimmer of good news is the forthcoming increase in federal funding for Sandia Labs. Also, the production of "The Avengers" in ABQ will see fresh money injected into the economy. But it won't be enough to get many people back to work and/or forcing many of them to leave the city.
Berry, who began the second year of a four year term this month, is given credit for getting city finances under control without having to resort to layoffs. He has steadied the financial ship. He also scores for his property crime initiatives. But the sounds of silence at City Hall when it comes to economic development--to getting the town moving again--are beginning to annoy even Berry's business supporters. One prominent businessman expressed his frustration, saying of City Hall: "Do something!"
The recession is national in scope and can't be wished away or spun away by public relations gimmicks, but the Berry administration has had few ideas. It made a splash with a program that, among other things, strives to make it easier for businesses to deal with the city, but few businesses appear to have taken advantage of it. It is not regulation strangling business. It is simply the lack of business. Other than that initiative, city hall economic planners seem content to wait for something to happen nationally that will spur the city's economy.
Much of the problem has been caused by the ABQ/Rio Rancho housing bust plus the wrong-headed pursuit of private companies that proved to be fantasies with promises. We are now living with the consequences. In addition, credit remains tight because of fear and lousy balance sheets by those seeking loans. And throw on the trouble pile the Doug Vaughan $80 million Ponzi scheme that has cost the investing class here major money and hurt the city's economy.
The Republican mayor subscribes to laissez-faire economics as most of his party brethren do, but psychology is an important element to perking up an economy. The now much leaner private sector and the thousands of unemployed could use some cheerleading from City Hall if nothing else.
Okay, this is getting a little bolder:
Gov.-elect Martinez is nominating the warden at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants to lead the state Department of Corrections.
If the nomination is confirmed by the state Senate, Lupe Martinez would become the first woman confirmed as a corrections secretary in New Mexico's history.
She might also be the first "Lupe" to sit in a Guv's cabinet. The name is short for Guadalupe, as in Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Lupe, no relation to Susana, has a Las Cruces connection--she was a deputy warden at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility.
If Susana hears little from Lupe in the next four years, she'll be happy. An out of control corrections department is every Guv's potential nightmare. The fella who had it under Big Bill had some issues using a state cell phone to call his girlfriend, but he deserves credit for running the state prisons with few mishaps.
TARGET THE PARENTS?
What will the next state debate on education look like? Reader Joe Craig may have a handle on it:
...Why can't we have a state wide Parental Education program? Hold the parent responsible for their kids education. I like Gov. Susanna Martinez's education program--if they can't read by third grade, they don't pass till they do. Let's make the parents responsible. If they don't come to school, if they are not dressed with coats, if they don't do their homework or if they are problem students--then look to the parents.
How far can the state go in attempting to change the attitudes of parents who don't particularly value education for their kids?
Some clarification now about a prediction we made that is making the rounds. We speculated that of the 375 "exempt" employees left in state government--those the Guv can hire and fire--that we would probably end up with about 275 under Gov-elect Martinez. We meant that she would keep about 275 of those exempt positions to fill with her own appointees--not that she would keep the Richardson people.
We are anticipating at least 100 of the "exempt" positions not to be filled by anyone--if Susana makes good on her pledge to reduce the number of exempts. That would give her administration a total of about 275 politicals, down from over 500 at the peak of the Big Bill years. We'll see.
Meanwhile, if you were appointed by Richardson you are reminded to polish up your resume on New Year's Eve. (And hold off the champagne. You had plenty of that the last eight years.)
Thanks for again naming "New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan" the "best"of 2010.
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