Thursday, January 19, 2012

Only "C" Grades For Susana? We Explain, Plus: Hollywood Bashing Recedes, Natural Gas Price Plunge, Heinrich's Money Totals & Our Indian Country Visit 

Governor Martinez may score high on the likability charts but that doesn't mean the public is going to let their feelings substitute for results. For example, a KOB-TV news poll conducted on its website and being released this week gives Martinez a barely passable grade of C- when it comes to job creation.

Not that it's the sole chore of the state's governor to "create jobs" and it's not as though Martinez's administration has done nothing. But jobs remain scarce. The Guv points to a decreasing unemployment rate but does not point out that joblessness is decreasing largely because the work force has not been growing, not that we are adding gobs of jobs. The public at large and business owners feel the stagnation. Many people have dropped off the radar and are no longer counted as unemployed or as looking for work.

The 600 call center jobs Lowe's announced for ABQ recently sound good on the surface, but we've lost thousands of such jobs during this recession/Depression. The Union Pacific Railroad project in the south as well as the Spaceport will add hundreds of good-paying jobs in the years ahead but we've lost over 50,000 jobs. It will be a long time digging out of this hole.

The collapse of the housing and construction industries is a large part of the problem. Martinez and the Legislature could come with a giant capital outlay bill on the order of $400 or $500 million to start putting folks in construction and design back to work. But Santa Fe (including a reticent Legislature) seems more prone to lip service than concrete action. More resolve and more results will be needed before the public awards this Governor a job creation grade she can brag about--and run for re-election on.

That TV news poll also gave the Guv a pretty low grade on fighting corruption considering she is is a former district attorney who made corruption a banner issue in her 2o10 campaign. Viewers gave her only a C in the corruption fighting category. The poll is far from scientific but it does come on the heels of that down and dirty lease deal for the Downs at ABQ. Did that ethical swamp help sink her corruption grade?

And on education--another banner issue for the Guv--she is awarded another C-. To improve that grade, She and education secretary Skandera may have to take night school lessons on how to handle the Legislature.

(By the way, over the decades we have found these nonscientific surveys by the state's TV stations to be quite similar to later scientific polling results. Politicians ignore them at their peril. In this case Martinez did not, fielding questions about the results and offering pushback, rather than attacking the survey's methods).


The administration spent a good part of its first year bashing Hollywood and the film industry, but the biting of the hand that feeds you has finally ceased and Governor Martinez, as she did with the Spaceport, seems to be lightening up. Maybe it's getting results. after concerns it would go elsewhere, it was announced that the probable blockbuster--"The Lone Ranger"--will film in New Mexico. The production is estimated at $200 million. Now that's the kind of cash that is going to juice up the balance sheets of a lot of locals. And it should keep the Hollywood bashers sidelined for sometime. The state last year did scale back the amount of rebates to the industry, but Martinez and company have since been employing softer talk in referencing the movie biz and saying there will be no efforts to reduce state support further.

The film industry is but one component of the new and improved economy we hope to see for New Mexico's next generation, The others include the Spaceport, maintaining a strong federal jobs base, robust tourism, a productive energy industry, building out New Mexico with a large capital outlay bill and a constitutional amendment to provide funding for education and social programs for children from birth to five years old. That last one is the way we can finally end the cycle of wasted generations and ensure we have a work force that can fill the jobs in the new economy. Speaking of which...


How are the kids doing? So asks New Mexico Voices for Children and then answers with a 52 page report. They say:

The continuing Great Recession has thrown more of New Mexico’s children and families into poverty. This annual report looks at the well-being of the state’s children with some data presented by county and school district.

And a reader writes:

Joe, I have some evidence to back your call for the constitutional amendment to support education and social programs for kids. The Foundation for Child Development is releasing a report that shows that New Mexico is dead last in the country for overall child well-being. This is because of the direct relationship the report finds between higher state taxes, larger investments in key public programs and higher child well-being. New Mexico isn’t making the cut on any of those fronts.

GUV '14
Given the millions it takes to run for Governor, some Democrats are going to have to start making some noise soon about the 2014 race. One of our Senior Alligators 0f the Dem variety reports at least one is:

At the Roundhouse Tuesday attorney Sam Bregman looked more like a candidate running for Governor than a "casual" opening day onlooker. His handshake resembled (former Governor) Bruce King's.

Several people asked him to run for Governor and he nodded. At the Democratic legislative dinner Tuesday night, many people were dropping names for Governor. I think Democrats are looking forward to the next Governor's race.

Bregman, a former ABQ city councilor, recently ran and narrowly lost a bid for the Dem Party state chairmanship. He has told friends he is looking at the Dem race for Guv.


nsiders report that new Democratic Bernalillo County Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz has ousted Democratic Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham from the powerful city-county water authority board and replaced her with Republican Commissioner Wayne Johnson. Johnson voted recently to bump Commission Chair Maggie Hart-Stebbins and replace her with De La Cruz. Of course, Johnson getting named by De La Cruz to the water board has nothing to do with his chair vote. I mean, really, banish the thought.

And now Alligator analysis of what is going on within the water board and Commissioner De La Cruz's role:

De La Cruz and water board executive director Mark Sanchez, a veteran of La Politica, want to further their control of the water authority. Apparently, questions being raised about Sanchez's running of the utility are not appreciated. The City of Albuquerque appointees on the Authority Board are considered pushovers, and Sanchez, et. al. want to extend utility water to Johnson's East Mountain areas and to De La Cruz's South Valley areas by eating up the small mutual domestics surrounding Albuquerque.This would enhance the power of the utility.

My, oh, my. Power grabs over water? In New Mexico? Shocking!


Reader John Gniady wants to update us on the continuing crash in natural gas prices, a resource NM relies on to fill its treasury with royalties:

This is not good news for the 30 day legislative session just getting underway. We had
another 47 cent decline Tuesday and if it stays there it means another $50 million in state royalties disappear.

Natural gas is now trading at around $2.50. The liquefied stuff goes for more but it is also declining. Energy expert Gerges Scott with DW Turner says for every one dollar decline in the natural gas price, the state treasury suffers a revenue loss of about $100 million. Will new state revenue projections trim that $250 million surplus that is projected for the budget year that starts July 1st? If they are, the entire tenor of this legislative session will change abruptly.

Rep. Heinrich
The money reports for the federal candidates for the last quarter of 2010 won't be filed until January 31 (not mid-January as we mistakenly blogged recently) but they are starting to leak out. For ABQ Dem Congressman and US Senate hopeful Martin Heinrich the news is good.

Although he did not match the $650,000 he raised in the 2010 third quarter, he did come with a hefty $483,000. That gives him a bulging cash on hand total of nearly $1.4 million. He has raised nearly $2 million since the start of his Senate campaign. This makes Heinrich the obvious front-runner over State Auditor Hector Balderas, his lone primary foe. Hector reported $465,000 in cash at the end of September. The pressure on him to raise more funds is enormous. His grassroots appeal lessens that pressure, but only some. A fully contested primary for an open United States Senate seat means intensive and expensive TV ads. Heinrich now has his TV money banked.


We get this from political consultant Sterling Fluharty:

Both Christine Trujillo and I announced on Facebook our campaigns for the Democratic nomination for the state House seat held by Rep. Danice Picraux.

We earlier noted the entrance of labor leader Trujillo into the race for the mid-NE Height seat held by Rep. Picraux who this month announced her retirement. We have not yet seen any R's candidates for the Dem leaning district. Fluharty, 34, runs Southwest Political Services. He says:

One of my strengths is having a lot of different skills. I am a trained historian. I have taught college. I have been an administrator at a high school. I have worked in libraries and archives

Prez Chino & Blogger
We headed to the Mescalero Apache Reservation near Ruidoso last week for a ceremony that you can't find just anywhere--the swearing in of a new tribal president. That president is Fredrick Chino, Sr. who won election in November.

The event drew Indian leaders from across the region--including Navajo President Ben Shelly. Southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce keynoted the event. State Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings was also on hand to help induct Chino. The new tribal leader told me young Mescaleros are a chief concern. Their suicide rate remains high and there are also problems with domestic violence and alcoholism.

A number of poignant letters written by 11 and 12 year olds from the Mescalero schools addressed these issues and were read aloud at the inauguration. Later, when we talked with the new president, he said he not about to sweep long-standing problems under the rug. He pointed to the student letters stuffed in his back pocket and told me, "I've got my work orders."


Ruidoso remains a premier tourist destination--especially for nearby Texans. When we grew extra hungry after the three hour Mescalero inauguration we stopped at the Landlocked Restaurant. It is slow season now and our party of two were the sole customers. With a name like Landlocked you would think the salmon sandwich would be the last thing to order. But order a pair of them we did and without regret.

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