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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Bloviating In Santa Fe: The Talk Is There But Not The Votes, Plus: GOP Leader Bratton: He's Not In Lea County Anymore, Plus: Going Around On The Roundabout 

It really is so much bloviating in Santa Fe. Until there is a change in the dynamic in the state Senate (and the Governorship) nothing much is going to be done to stimulate the lagging New Mexico economy. That's fine for some. Not so for others.

Dems Monday held yet another cheerleader news conference to tout their commitment to "social justice" by advocating an increase in the minimum wage of a dollar an hour.

Does anyone expect that to pass muster with the conservative coalition in the Senate? To get to the Governor's desk?

Never mind that a minimum wage boost recently passed in ABQ with overwhelming support (66%). And never mind that the extra buck an hour would be spent immediately in local businesses giving them a badly needed boost.

This, gentle reader, is why we focused so much on that esoteric battle for Senate president pro tem. The real life consequences of that leadership battle in which the conservative coalition retained its grip include no hike in the minimum wage and "no" to just about any other measure to stimulate this lethargic economy.

That includes a mega-capital outlay bill, a constitutional amendment to allow use of the state's $11 billion permanent fund for very early childhood education, progress on building a dental school at UNM, increasing the salaries of the lowest paid state employees, filling some state positions that have been vacant too long, giving new life to the film industry by boosting its incentives...and the list goes on and on.

It's 2 against 1 in Santa Fe. The fiscal hawks control the Governor's office and the Senate. House Democrats and their Senate allies can spike the football all they want at surreal news events. But the fact is they're playing in a fantasy league. Of course, we welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong.

GROWING PAINS

Rep. Don Bratton
Memo to new State House Minority Leader Don Bratton: You're not in Lea County anymore:

State Rep. Don Bratton believes in secrecy, selectivity and media manipulation. That makes him a politician. But he is a clumsy and arrogant one at trying to manage the news.

That broadside came from capitol newsman Milan Simonich as he covered how the House R's bungled the abortion issue recently--the first major challenge in Bratton's tenure.

Bratton made good money in the oil biz, but is untested in the complicated statewide waters of La Politica. Our advice to Don: Don't walk around Santa Fe like you're stuff doesn't stink when half the state doesn't have a pot to piss in.

NOT OBSCURE

Dem Santa Fe State Senator Peter Wirth writes of his legislation regarding genetically modified foods It was effectively killed when the coalition of conservative Dems joined with the Republicans;

I have to disagree with your characterization of SB 18 as "somewhat obscure legislation." It is not often "relatively minor bills" are killed in procedural hardball like we saw last week. Also note Monsanto and other opponents just spent $45 million to defeat a similar ballot initiative in California. And interestingly, some of the same interest groups who opposed SB18 here and in California are now discussing GMO labeling at the national level.

NO TIME?

Can't former GOP State Rep. Conrad James, now a member of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents, find time in his busy schedule to do an interview with the student newspaper?"

The Daily Lobo tried to contact James once on Friday morning and once on Sunday afternoon, but he was unavailable for comment both times.

James, 38, lost his bid for re-election after serving only one term in Santa Fe from ABQ's Northeast Heights. Insiders say he did not campaign very hard/

He was appointed to the UNM Regents by Governor Martinez.

ELECTION DAY 

Today is an election day in ABQ. Several seats on the city school board will be selected as well as seats on the CNM governing board. The biggie on the ballot is a $368 million bond issue for construction and repair of schools. Info on that is here Other election info is here. We don't endorse candidates, but we do urge a yes vote on that bond issue that will provide some badly needed jobs.

AROUND THE ROUNDABOUT

Reader Martha Buddecke weighed in here Monday on the proposed "roundabout" at Rio Grande and Candelaria in ABQ's North valley, saying it is a recipe for traffic mayhem and urged city officials to back off the plan. But a resident in the area says it is a matter of safety:

Your letter from Martha Buddecke on the roundabout at Candelaria and Rio Grande represents the point of view of those who use the intersection only as a thoroughfare.  People who commute on Rio Grande see the roundabout as an impediment to their travel times.  Basically, it's their convenience vs. our safety.

Because we who live near the intersection have had family members hit and badly injured in the crosswalk on a green light, and because of our long experience with reporting accidents and attending to their victims and being interviewed as witnesses, the neighbors to this intersection went to the City for help in 2006. We got that help: three engineering studies that agreed that the best solution to the safety problems was a single lane modern roundabout.

In 2010 the City was awarded $1,125,000 in Federal Highway Safety Improvement funds to build the roundabout at Candelaria and Rio Grande. This was the only project in the state of New Mexico to receive full funding. Based on that award, the construction engineering drawings have been done and the project is ready to be built.

Transportation research shows that single lane modern roundabouts that replace four way intersections decrease crashes 39%, decrease injury-producing crashes 76%, and decrease fatal or incapacitating injuries 90%.  Ironically, transportation research also shows that prior to construction, public opinion is generally against a roundabout being built, but after construction, public opinion reverses.

We know we're showing our generation, but every time we hear about this roundabout we think of the song "Roundabout" by the rock group "Yes."

WRITE HIM IN

ABQ native Joseph Torrez wants to be Mayor of ABQ. But he has chosen the hard way. He says he is running as a write-in candidate. Here's his Facebook page.

Dem attorney Pete Dinelli announced his candidacy for Mayor in January, The election is in October. No other candidates are yet in the race.

ABQ APPRECIATED

Travel writer George Hobica calls ABQ "underappreciated" and then he goes on to appreciate it:

Albuquerque is of those cities where you show up and are like, what is everyone doing here? Answer: Same thing they have been for centuries--being New Mexicans. Officially founded in 1706, Albuquerque is the newbie around these parts..

THE CHANGE

While there is much to appreciate about the city, reader Alan Schwartz notes how we continue to change during this unrelenting economic downturn:

Joe, what I've been noticing locally is the "down marketing" of our retail. WalMart continues to see the need for additional stores, the expansion of the "upscale" shopping mall ABQ Uptown is now a Target and Midwest discounters like Conn's and Gordman's see expansion opportunity here. Combine that with a declining population and you get fewer retail transactions with lower dollars per sale.  That yields reduced gross receipts taxes.

Reader and ABQ attorney Jeff Baker says he has some blogging ideas when it comes to the lousy economy:

Joe, How about inviting readers to offer suggestions about how to improve the employment situation?  But in order to make it worthwhile, the writers will need to be more specific than "reduce taxes" or "improve education."  Which taxes should be reduced, and where is the evidence that reducing that particular tax will create jobs?  What type of education needs to be improved (reading scores? high school graduation rates?), and  where is the evidence that a higher graduation rate will attract more jobs?  Perhaps economic development officials can be invited to write about companies which did not relocate (or expand) to New Mexico because of "______." 

Thanks, Jeff. If they send them, we will blog them.

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