Monday, January 09, 2012

Say What? More Recession To Come? Plus: The Chief Speaks; APD's Schultz On Latest Shooting; Blog Draws His Ire, Also: Rep. Stapleton Draws Primary Foe 

You mean it's not over yet? After three years of being in the economic ditch, the state has finally shown signs of at least stabilizing but now we're being warned that this epic downturn could catch a second wind:

New Mexico’s economy lost those 53,000 jobs (in the recession), 20,000 of them in the construction industry and, according to forecasts and experts, won’t get them back until at least 2015. And the state’s economy, although recovering slowly, could lose another 50,000 jobs starting in 2013 if across-the-board federal spending cuts go into effect, some say.

Another 50,000 jobs? Say it ain't so, Joe. Well, those who are saying New Mexico must join the nation in "sacrificing" its federal funding to help solve the national deficit are looking like they're eligible for membership in a sado-masochistic society. It will take Democrats and Republicans working together following the 2012 election to keep the federal economic engine humming here.

For ABQ Mayor RJ Berry, the first Republican Mayor since the 80's, joblessness in the city has joined him at the hip bone ever since he took office in December 2009. Take a look:

...The Albuquerque metropolitan area remained mired in job losses. From November 2010 to November 2011, the region lost 1,000 jobs, according to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. It was the 38th consecutive month of over-the-year job losses for the metro area.

38 months! Folks, this is not your daddy's early 90's downturn. Mayor, maybe it's time to drill for oil beneath Civic Plaza?


Santa Fe hasn't done much about the steady stream of joblessness the past three years, but they've finally come up with one clever idea. From the AP:

Martinez proposed lifting the gross-receipts tax on 40,000 small businesses, those with a tax liability of less than $200 a month

Small business is a key employer in the state and eliminating the job-killing gross receipts tax on those that take in only about $40,000 a year or so could encourage expansion resulting in the jobs we need.

Not that there aren't some issues. The big business guys could start multiple businesses to take advantage of the tax break. And then there's the revenue hit to an already diminished state budget. How about restoring a higher personal income tax rate on the wealthiest to make up for this gross receipts cut? Well, the chances of that happening are about as good as the Sandia Mountains turning gold at sunset instead of watermelon red.

And the gross receipts break itself already seems headed to an early funeral with political pastor and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith (also known as "Dr. No") presiding over the ceremony.

Smith and company would dig a ditch to find a lost penny, but their parsimonious ways are drawing increasing criticism as the state faces one of the highest rates of construction unemployment in the USA. That's why architects and other professionals are pushing for a big capital outlay bill to fund a wide range of state construction projects.

When the Legislature begins its 30 day session next week two state senators tell us there should be at least $300 million in capital outlay funds (severance tax and general obligation bonds) to divvy up without causing a property tax hike. Last session the Legislature approved less than $90 million in capital projects, much less than the over $210 million Governor Susana requested. We could get a repeat of that scenario if Dr. No is still in possession of the ball. But the continued construction sluggishness in this state calls for as much stimulus as we can get. Martinez may need to fight harder if the fiscal hawks she has broken with on this one continue to soar above the Roundhouse.

Chief Schultz
Last week saw another fatal police shooting--this one involving a burglar--and it prompted renewed criticism of APD Police Ray Schultz in this corner and elsewhere. We again wondered if and when Mayor Berry was going to start looking at the chief's "dirty linen" and make a change at the top of the police pyramid. That brought this retort directly from Chief Schultz:

Joe, in case you have not seen what occurred, the officer was in a fight for his life. Thank God he survived the incident. He nor the Department did anything wrong, just protecting our community from a brazen criminal who assaulted a helpless unarmed security guard. If you would actually examine the shootings and situations that the officers of APD have found themselves in lately you might be asking questions like: Why are these criminals out on the street? Or what would have happened if a unarmed law abiding citizen had encountered one of these criminals and had a tragic outcome? Or, Why are there so many holes in the State Mental Health System?

The shootings have occurred because of the actions of the individual, i.e. pulling a firearm, pulling a knife, attacking the officer, etc.. If you don't support the officers, you should not take the (police) Union's money and display their banner on your web page. If you do support the men and women of APD say so! Ray.

Thanks for the comments, Ray. We agree that many of those fatally shot in the last two years have been bad guys. Of course, there are issues with the mental health system and criminals who are not behind bars but should be. But that has nothing to do with whether there have been too many shootings. We welcome an investigation by the Department of Justice--currently pending--to determine what has gone wrong within APD. And it is not just the shootings. Numerous infractions have resulted in banner headlines. And then there are the millions of dollars going out the door as the result of lawsuits. And then there is the failed and damaging experiment when for the first time in city history you as police chief directly reported to the now ousted public safety director, instead of the chief administrative officer and mayor.

We wholeheartedly support the police department. That's why we have blogged our concerns as well as solicited the advice and opinions of two of your predecessors--Chiefs Sam Baca and Bob Stover--in trying to ascertain what has gone wrong.

Putting aside the string of relentless bad news, we think more than five years at the helm of APD is enough for any chief. Cliques tend to form and cultures can break down over time without fresh blood. That is more than a mere annoyance when it impacts a paramilitary organization.

As for the advertising policy here, placing an ad does not guarantee that the opinions of the advertiser are going to be reflected in these columns. Folks advertise here to reach the state's political and business communities. In this case, we do happen to be a supporter of public employee unions and their resolve to provide livable wages and good benefits to their membership. But we don't agree with the police union on all matters. For example, they don't believe there is a need for change at the chief's office. We do. By advertising here even when they disagree, they are signaling their support for a free and open discussion. That's the attitude that is going to eventually put APD back on track.

Stapleton & Valente-Compton
Newly controversial State House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton is drawing a challenger in the June primary. Her foe will be Cara Valente-Compton, 43, a University of New Mexico law school student who has long been involved in Dem party politics. She's a mother of four.

Stapleton opened a can of political worms when she delivered a racist rant against Governor Martinez during a recess at a capital committee hearing. Earlier, she took major media hits over receiving her salary as an administrator for the ABQ Public Schools while serving in the Legislature in Santa Fe.

We've wondered if all of this would lead to a challenge and now we have our answer. However, observers of the SE Heights district which Stapleton has represented since 1995 see an uphill battle for Valente-Compton. Stapleton is the first African-American woman elected to the Legislature and she retains the good will of labor unions and other Dem interest groups that can provide valuable support in a Dem primary. Still, if she is going to be taken out this is the year it could happen. If it did, Sheryl would have no one to point at but herself.


ABQ Dem Congressman and US Senate hopeful Martin Heinrich Heinrich continues to build a wall around ABQ to keep out challenger Hector Balderas. Here is the latest brick he's put in:

State Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas announced his endorsement of Martin Heinrich...In a statement announcing his support Rep. Maestas praised Heinrich’s commitment to New Mexico’s families. “Now, more than ever, we need a thoughtful, courageous leader who will fight for working families. Martin will fight to rebuild our economy, create jobs and protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from any cuts. He will move New Mexico forward,” said Maestas.

And will Moe of ABQ's Westside move Martin forward with Hispanics and progressives? Heinrich hopes so.


We received this email from Rick Homans, former director of the NM Spaceport and a major player in the Big Bill Guv administration as well as a veteran of the state political scene:

Joe, Just wanted to pass on this news. It has been a pleasure working with you, and I will continue to bookmark and read your blog on a regular basis. Keep plugging the Spaceport -- you've made a real difference.

And here's the news Homans referenced:

Rick Homans,
a former New Mexico state government economic development official, is the new chief executive officer and president of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp...

In his years in ABQ and New Mexico Homans published a magazine, served as economic development secretary and pursued a number of business ventures. He also made a bid for mayor of ABQ in 2001. He wasn't always successful, but he hit a home run when he got the Spaceport up and running. That ensures his name will get a permanent space in the long-running book of La Politica.

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