Monday, August 08, 2011
Barred In Farmington: Guv Closes Door To Press, Plus: Econ Boss Barela Blames Obama For Lousy NM Economy, And: Death Calls For GOP Legend Lou Gallegos
Question of the day: Why would the Guv's office bar the press from covering a seemingly innocuous economic development meeting in Farmington?
Gov. Martinez on Thursday visited with local business and civic leaders as she sought to learn what companies need to grow. Martinez toured Process Equipment and Service Co., and met behind closed doors with invited business owners and elected officials at the San Juan College Quality Center for Business.
"We want to hear feedback from them in reference to any kinds of constraints for them in their businesses," she said, mentioning regulations and taxes. "We want to hear from them how the state can partner with them to be more competitive with surrounding states."
A reporter was barred from the discussion.
So, was what the business and civic leaders and elected officials had to say "state secrets?"
If they want to complain to the Governor in private, they can do so, but can't we all be privy to the Governor's economic development programs when she is discussing them with elected officials in public forums? And if not, why not? Or aren't we supposed to ask?
THE BLAME GAME
Less charitable speculation could lead one to believe that the Guv doesn't have much to say about economic development so why expose the weakness before the press? If you go down to Roswell with me for a minute, you'll see why that line of thinking could take hold.
Economic development secretary (designate) Jon Barela was on a "Job Creation Tour" there last week but after what he said it might be renamed the "2011 Excuses Tour:"
I can only do so much and the governor can only do so much to try to get our economy moving again in the state," He said. "But when you have a wet blanket being thrown on economic development at the national level...it makes our job much more difficult and much more complex..."
Sorry, Jon, but we're not going to get the violins out. We were told during the campaign that your team could turn things around. You can't give the ball back. Besides, we all have problems getting our work done out here--or in the cases of thousands of New Mexicans--finding any work.
We can play the political consulting blame game or get in the real game--rebuilding New Mexico's economy with tangible proposals, political compromise and outgoing executive leadership.
Meantime, Federal stats show the NM labor force is shrinking as people give up looking for work and job growth is nowhere to be found. The civilian labor force numbered 938,400 in June compared to 955,800 in January when Martinez took office. And comparing June of 2011 to June of last year, total nonfarm employment growth was virtually zero--0.3%.
We imagine Martinez's current polling shows blaming Obama for the jobs crunch is good politics, but eventually she will own the state economy--for better or for worse. The emotional issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants can only deflect political and economic reality for so long.
A GUY NAMED GARZA
If Martinez and Barela are bereft of ideas--and there's nothing wrong with that if you own up to it--they might want to stop by and visit with Las Cruces City Manager Robert Garza. He may not have all the answers, but judging from this lengthy (and intelligent) interview, he has a deep understanding of what makes an economy tick:
Garza said he is regularly apprised of several key indicators he calls his “economic dashboard.” They include non-farm payroll, unemployment rates, single-family building permits, permit valuation, the city’s general fund and total permitted value.
Everyone’s aware of the recession of the last few years, and the city’s gauges reflect that downturn. Some of the indicators show Las Cruces and the El Paso area have rebounded better than the rest of New Mexico.
You mean a government official who actually tracks economic data? Heck, if Jon Barela decides to run again for the ABQ congressional seat Garza might be just the fella to replace him.
In this economic wreck, we're always looking for new talent.
NO EASY ANSWERS
Our friends at state GOP headquarters--protective as they are of the Republican governor's record--may not believe we do, but we do empathize with Martinez's plight when it comes to this economy. We simply haven't seen anything like it in our lifetimes. Look at this one: The bear market in real estate and construction in the ABQ area is so pervasive that the Bernalillo County Assessor has announced plans to lay off 20 workers-- a 23% cut of her entire staff:
Karen Montoya said a downturn in new construction has led to fewer projects for appraisers to work on. The office will focus resources in its commercial department.
And this is big problem for us. Even as we struggle to add private sector jobs, the all-important government sector around here continues to shrink, along with those decent salaries and benefits. If you want our two cents worth, this is a wretched time to be an elected official.
We know it's bad, but please don't fight over it:
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of American Adults say the state of the economy is causing more stress on their family.
One elected official has figured out a way to help his constituents with those onerous gas prices. He handed out to his friends the PIN number for his state credit card. This novel economic relief program was brought to us by none other than the always entertaining Democratic Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. Of course, everyone and their mother is now calling on him to resign. There's even talk of the Legislature impeaching him during the upcoming special September redistricting session.
If Block did heed the calls for his resignation as he is investigated for credit card scamming, the Governor would name a replacement to the five member panel.
Dems control the commission 3 to 2. If the Guv appointed an R they would take control. Block's heavy Dem district would probably replace him with a Dem when the seat is up in 2012, but it would be interesting to see what a GOP majority on the commission would do for the year or so they had power. Well, maybe not so interesting to you Dems.
PAISANO BOWS OUT
Former Sandia Pueblo Governor Stuart Paisano recently told us over a coffee break that he was 99.9 percent sure he would seek the Dem nomination for the ABQ US House seat. Well, that one-tenth of a percent of doubt turned out to be a biggie because Paisano now says he will not make the run:
The timing is not right and there are family considerations. I will stay active in the party and look for an opportunity down the road, " he told us.
He's only 40 so that opportunity may come someday. The Native American leader says he is friends with the two announced contenders in the race--former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez and Eric Griego--but is not endorsing either of them at this point.
THE SENATE RACE
In US Senate action, Julie Heinrich, wife of Dem US Rep. and Senate candidate Martin Heinrich relays news that won't surprise campaign watchers:
...The national Sierra Club and New Mexico's Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club announced its endorsement of Martin for the United States Senate! The Sierra Club has a strong presence in New Mexico with over 8,000 members. What an honor to have the support of an organization so helpful to protecting our rivers, animal habitats, hiking areas and wild places. The Sierra Club also has a youth program that I particularly like--it encourages kids to take a break from city life and video games to explore the natural world around them.
Heinrich worked for enviro organizations before he was elected to Congress. Martin's chief rival for the nomination is State Auditor Hector Balderas.
Lou Gallegos did not have a college degree, but he made up for it with sheer determination and a native intelligence. His grit propelled him to the upper circles of New Mexican Republican Party politics and government.
His important career as a top aide and counselor to Senator Pete Domenici, Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan and Governors Gary Johnson and Garrey Carruthers, almost didn't happen. Shortly before Lou, 72, died at his Rio Rancho home Saturday morning, we reminiscned about that and more in a phone conversation with Pete Domenici in Washington.
It was 1977. He was working at the Dept. of Agriculture and was recommended to me for a position that I had open. I noticed he didn't have a college degree, but he had all kinds of promotions in the agriculture department. I hired him over the phone. We had a 10 to 15 minute conversation. I was sold and said: "Do you want the job?" He replied: "I don't know you." I said: "I don't know you either."
Gallegos got to know Pete very well indeed and the pair never looked back. Domenici recalled:
Lou Gallegos had a great ability to recall people and places. He had a special gift...He could talk about a community and instantly know who we needed to see. We didn't need a modern machine...I called on him on anything that I needed...He could be in charge of anything...He had a pretty good feeling about people...Manuel Lujan, when be became Interior Secretary, didn't hesitate to put him in the second position.
After service to Secretary Lujan, Gallegos became chief of staff to eight year Governor Gary Johnson, a political novice whose administration was steadied by the reliable Lou.
We often likened Gallegos, a native of Amalia on the NM-Colorado border, to a political fireman. When the flames broke out he was always there to put them out.
It was a life of hard work and often done while dealing with health challenges, but it all paid off and earned him a well deserved chapter in the never ending book of his beloved La Poltica.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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