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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Albuquerque Still The Place To Be For The Retired & Carefree, Plus: "Steaking" Out Martin Heinrich, And: Insiders Report On Susana In Indian Country 

ABQ remains a great place to live--especially if you are aren't looking for a high paying job right now. The city has been named by Forbes as one of the best places in the USA to make a retirement home. Here's how they put it:

Fast Fact: Home of world's largest hot-air balloon event; Pros: Terrific weather, low taxes, lot of doctors, modest cost of living; Cons: Crime, difficult environment for driving

The high ranking should please Mayor Berry, but not too much. You can't build a thriving economy solely on the backs of retirees who don't create jobs, but they are certainly welcome,


According to Berry's budget proposal for the city for the year starting July 1, he doesn't see the city returning to boom times anytime soon. He predicts revenues will grow a mere two percent. With inflation running at about that level, that basically means no growth while the metro area still struggles with an historically high 9 percent jobless rate.

We wondered here recently if Berry could do something about easing the city's budget woes by playing tough with vendors that are asking for price increases. That's how it's being played in the private sector. Well, in his proposed budget the Mayor says he saves nearly $4.7 million a year by switching the city's health insurance plan to Presbyterian Hospital from Blue Cross Blue Shield. Not a bad day's work.

The Mayor and city council cut most city employee salaries this budget year by a couple of percent. For next year the Mayor proposes a one percent pay hike for city workers making under $100,000. And to that we say: "Don't spend it all in one place."

STEAK OUT


For those of you who missed our follow-up, Martin Heinrich is not declaring, "Let them eat steak!" Several readers emailed in about the congressman's US Senate announcement video in which he is seen cooking up steak for his family while maintaining he is fighting for the average guy and gal. They wondered how he could be so out of sync. Well, it turns out those were elk steaks that hunter Heinrich himself brought back to the family hearth. From a friend of his:

The fajitas were made with elk meat Martin hunted and butchered with his own hands. His wife told me that he stayed up one evening until midnight butchering the elk before jumping on a plane back to DC for votes. Hunting the state's healthy elk and deer herds provides high-quality meat and recreation for thousands of working New Mexicans...

Readers (and us) heard Heinrich in the video clearly say to his son "Want some steak? We and the others did not catch his earlier reference to "elk fajitas" probably because the audio was more off-mike while the steak reference was much more distinct.

The reader who thought Heinrich should have kept it simple and stuck to spaghetti or meatloaf probably had it right. Folks are pretty sensitive these days about their political leaders trying to empathize with them.

Heinrich makes a salary of $174,000 and his wife's government salary puts their household income in the $250,000 area. That is way, way above average. Nothing wrong with that. It's just that things get tricky when such a candidate tries to use his own personal life to mimic that of his middle-class constituents.

Heinrich has never reeked of insincerity or lacked authenticity. In this case, his arranged "dinner" video struck some as being a bit too clever and putting that image at risk when folks are paying nearly $4 bucks a gallon for gas and are hard-pressed to buy extra hamburger--never mind elk steaks. Image consultants love the young family stuff and it's usually not given a second look, but in this environment even the benign can quickly turn politically toxic.

A little more fun with this from reader Alan Schwartz:

Maybe Heinrich should have placed the bloody carcass on the kitchen floor so there would be no mis-steakin...

Thanks, Alan, but only conservative Congressman Steve Pearce is allowed to throw red meat around like that.

And a final note on the Heinrich announcement. The photo we ran from his Facebook page featuring him at his Saturday announcement was snapped by Mary Ellen Broderick of DFNM.

CARVING IT UP

They'll have their carving knifes out soon in Santa Fe when they undertake redistricting. From the AP:

The once-a-decade exercise of legislative redistricting will produce winners and losers, and Albuquerque's west side is as close as it comes to a guaranteed winner of more political clout. Because of rapid population growth during the past decade in the city's sprawling areas west of the Rio Grande, residents will almost certainly gain seats in the House and Senate.

The special redistricting session is expected to take place in September.

GOING NATIVE


Here's a pretty cool photo of Governor Martinez. It was sent by one of our readers when the Guv was in Shiprock for the signing of a bill aimed at reducing Indian suicides.

Martinez looks genuinely smitten. Most NM Governors quickly learn their special role (as do our US Senators) in representing the Navajo Nation.

There's also some politics here. The Indian Pueblos up and down the Rio Grande--apart from the Navajo's in NW NM--were not supportive of Martinez's gubernatorial bid. One of our Alligators versed in such affairs tells us:

State Senator Linda Lovejoy, a Navajo, was there when Susana made her Shiprock stop. She sponsored the suicide prevention bill. I know she was none to happy with the continuing practice of people from the Pueblos being nominated as Secretary of the Indian Affairs Department. My guess is she pushed hard for Arthur Allison, a Navajo from Farmington, to be put at the helm. Look for the Guv to lean on Lovejoy a bit next session to push some legislation.

A Republican Alligator in Indian Country (now that's a rare species) adds this:

Allison will be the first Navajo to hold the position, which has previously gone to members of one of the Pueblos. The Pueblos fought bitterly against Martinez in the November election, but the Navajo voting block is larger. Navajo voters frequently complain that although they vote 70-80% for the Democrat ticket, they only see elected officials at election time.

RATTLED IN RIO RANCHO


That decision this month by Rio Rancho voters turning down a $22 million bond issue for city roads sent leaders there reeling. The new frugality of penny-pinched voters snuck up on them. A Rio Rancho reader writes:

My wife are two of the 6% that did vote. When Rio Rancho decides to do something for the existing property taxpayers we might give our support. Roads thru nowhere, repaving existing streets that do not need it; hospitals and colleges that should be paid for by the State and County, not solely by Rio Rancho residents and the inability to grade and maintain unpaved streets so our cars do not fall apart in two years are our reasons for a NO vote. The City of Vision needs to drop its blinders and add a rear view mirror.

We think Mayor Swisstack and the City Council there got the message.

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