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Monday, February 11, 2013

Still More Challenges: Fresh Nuke Cuts Latest Sword To Hang Over State, Plus: More On Folks Movin' Out Of Here, Also: The "Fifth Floor" Back In The Headlines & Gay Doesn't Mean Wealthy  

No wonder Jeff Bingaman retired. The pressure continues to mount on the state's congressional delegation. Their latest wake-up call comes with the confirmation that the USA's nuclear weapons arsenal could be cut by as much as a third. Good news for world peace can mean bad news for New Mexico's already beaten down economy. A cut of that size is estimated to save "billions of dollars." That puts Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs and their 25,000 employees and contractors squarely in the cross hairs of the budget-cutters.

The state's newbie delegation was bolstered a bit by the news that Senator Udall will be on the Senate Appropriations Committee, but this kind of weapons reduction would even challenge the skills of veterans like Senator Bingaman and the also long gone Senator Domenici. But it is Obama proposing the cuts. He carried the state twice with big numbers. And we have a large Hispanic population--the newly coveted voting block. Sounds like some stuff our reps could put to use.

Also hurting the cause--as we see it--is the refusal of Governor Martinez and Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela to get squarely in front of the budget-cutting locomotive and let Washington know we will fight--even if we are the David in a David vs. Goliath battle. By not doing so, we are just making it easier for DC to do its damage.

The Santa Fe administration seems to have handed over the battle to that old reliable Sherman McCorkle. The ABQ GOP business leader did great work in helping save ABQ's Kirtland Air Force Base in the 90's, but this time around his effort to avoid the budget blade seems diluted:

McCorkle, , , has organized a group of nearly three dozen community leaders from across the country to lobby in Washington for New Mexico’s labs and other defense-related nuclear institutions across the country. “We want to provide education about the importance of the nuclear capabilities America currently has. We’re focused on educating and providing meaningful information.” McCorkle said his group doesn’t have a name yet but will register as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and include members from at least 20 states, including New Mexico, that have contractors or other interests at Sandia and Los Alamos.

20 states? There's really only one we care about in this mess and that's ours but ABQ business leader McCorkle tells us the 20 state group that he is helping to set up to protect the US nuclear budget has common interests and the funds we receive for our nuclear programs are not up for grabs. He offered as an example North Dakota which has numerous missle silos whereas New Mexico has none (or at least one anyone is aware of. 

As for the overall future funding for defense and energy in the state, the DC crowd will tell you what we need is a singular effort focused on the unique contributions New Mexico has made to national security and a reminder of its historic standing as first among equals when it comes to getting a slice of the pie.

THE SANTA FE WAY

In case you've been caught in a Boston blizzard and haven't heard, the new economic paradigm in Santa Fe is that massive federal budget cuts are inevitable and that we must replace the jobs and cash lost with private sector offerings. This fantasy continues despite the fact that the state is back in recession (as noted by NMSU economist Chris Erickson) and job creation here ranks among the worst in the nation. In fact, we have negative job growth just like you get during a recession.

Martinez and Barela may be right that New Mexico's 70 year tenure as a federal colony may be slowly fading, but their acquiescence and pleas of powerlessness contrast starkly with the leaders who preceded them.

MOVIN' OUT

We're a bit taken aback by the amount of email we are getting about this next story. We thought everyone knew. But apparently not. We blog of New Mexico's standing as a state that people are fleeing. According to the annual United Van Lines annual report, we rank #5 among the 50 states for folks pulling up their stake and heading for what they hope are greener pastures. The story hit several weeks ago, but a new report on it from Forbes ignited another round of anguished email about just what is happening to our fair New Mexico.

It is shocking. Can you think of any other time in your lifetime when the state had more people moving out than in? We are in the booming Sun belt, aren't we?

We wager to say this is one of the biggest stories of our time and as the cold reality sinks in it will intensify the debate over our economic future.

FLEEING FARMINGTON

We are starting to get in hard numbers on the migration out of the state. From the Four Corners:

San Juan County’s population is on the decline, according to an annual estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau. From April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011, the county’s population went from 130,044 to an estimated 128,200, a 1.4-percent decrease.  County government officials said a decrease may signal that people are moving out of the area in search of jobs. A population decrease would reduce local government’s tax revenue which may lead to a decrease in services . . .

We've blogged in recent years of how San Juan has been slammed by the bear market in natural gas prices. Maybe some of those leaving the Farmington area head to the SE NM oil fields where the bull market continues in the oil industry, but no doubt many are outta here.

Judging by the sluggish reactions to the ongoing spate of this kind of awful economic news, it is going to take a crisis atmosphere to get New Mexico and its business and political leaders to fully embrace the new reality and start dealing with it. As nice as it sounds, it is much more complicated than cutting taxes. The campaign for ABQ mayor this year would be a good starting point for the discussion--if we get much of a campaign.

THE FIFTH FLOOR

A couple of our Alligators speculated that Guv Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey (Aka the 5th Floor) could start using his friend and fellow consultant Adam Feldman as his front-man now that Jay has become radioactive. That speculation was confirmed over the weekend when the paper hit with a piece that noted that Feldman's Red Tag Strategies had set up a Super PAC that went negative on ABQ school board candidates in this month's election.

Feldman used to work with McCleskey and is a former executive director of the state GOP who came here from the hills of Kentucky. GOP Alligators peg him as Jay's water boy. We blogged not too long ago that it was thought that Feldman would be headed back to Kentucky to work politics there, but he's still here and playing.

McCleskey has become a lightning rod and way too much of a public figure for a political consultant. You know he would like a lower profile, especially after he was taken to the woodshed by former NM GOP Chairman Harvey Yates Jr.

McCleskey's PAC spent millions last year--mostly unsuccessfully--to defeat state legislative Dems, as well as a few Republicans.

Even Republican friendly school board member Kathy Korte was not buying Feldman's denial that Jay was his puppeteer. She said that it was Jay pulling the strings and doing the hits which included an attack on a candidate for not supporting the Guv's "social promotion" bill. That's the one that would hold back third graders who were not reading proficient. Korte said:

I just read those mailers . . . and they've got the key words "social promotion" . . . so there's no doubt in my mind. . . . that there's Jay McCleskey behind those mailers. And it angers me...

Well, Kathy, the Alligators have no doubts either.  Now it's up to the mainstream media--always arguing for transparency--to try to track any money flow between Feldman and McCleskey.

IN THE SACK?

Meanwhile, the political community continues to wonder if the ABQ Journal is sharing too much sack time with Susana and Jay. This report from the Santa Fe Reporter puts an accent on the issue:

An article published online by the Albuquerque Journal, "AG: Governor Wrongfully Withheld Emails," was revised before print publication to strike a decidedly softer tone toward the state's chief executive."AG Tells Gov. To Reconsider Email Response" reads the new headline. The revisions offer a unique window into the editing process at New Mexico's largest daily newspaper.

Attorney General King is seeking the 2014 Dem nomination for Governor. There is no love lost between him and the paper's editors.

But it is not debatable that the Governor has had a soft ride with the state's media and with a few exceptions it continues. Martinez's minions have been aggressive in pressuring the managers and even the owners of broadcast outlets here. The Journal less so as its inclination in recent years has been decidedly Republican and conservative.

But they also loved Big Bill for a number of years. And we all know what happened to that
 honeymoon.

EMAILGATE

The Guv is certainly getting a break on coverage of emailgate--the release of hundreds of emails from her campaign email account that raised allegations of bid-rigging for the racino lease at the Downs at ABQ. It also raised the issue of a massive amount of state business being conducted via private email and out of the sight of the public. But hardly anyone is talking about that now. Instead, the FBI took an aggressive tone in a just released December letter to Attorney General King concerning whether emails he released were stolen and warning that their release may have violated federal law. They say they are investigating.

So maybe we have two possible stories here--an illegal hacking of an email account and bid-rigging. Are the Feds (and the press) going to get to the bottom of each story? Or just one?

GAY, BUT NOT DINKS

Reader David Stocum, Executive Director of the New Mexico GLBTQ Centers in Las Cruces and Gallup, writes:

In your blog last Thursday reader Jim McClure stated: "Also, make New Mexico even more gay-friendly. Sounds goofy, but when my hometown of Oak Park, IL, got a reputation as a gay-friendly community we saw an influx of DINKs (double income, no kids) who bought upscale homes and started businesses. Legalizing gay marriage could be an economic plus for New Mexico."

While I agree with Jim that marriage equality would be an economic plus for New Mexico, I would like to correct the misconception it would bring an influx of "DINKs." Increasingly, the lgbt community is having children. More lesbians, gay men and bisexuals either have kids, foster kids or are adopting kids than ever before. My partner and I are foster parents. It can longer be assumed that a same-sex couple. . . does not have or want kids.

It is true there are some very wealthy lgbt people but we are not all double income comfortable. The Williams Institute at the UCLA Law School states in Beyond Stereotypes: Poverty in the LGBT Community:

"Twenty-four percent of lesbians and bisexual women are poor, compared with only 19% of heterosexual women. (It’s not that gay and bisexual men aren’t poor, but their poverty rates are roughly equal (13%) to those of heterosexual men.)"  We are no more or less wealthy that the general population.

Quality of life, including lgbt life, is a major factor for many companies looking to establish new locations. So yes, making New Mexico more gay friendly makes economic as well as moral sense. By the way, fairness and equality never sounds goofy.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Former ABQ GOP State Rep. Rory Ogle passed away over the weekend. He had a pretty wild ride, headlining La Politica back in 2004 when he became embroiled in a domestic violence case and decided not to seek re-election to his NE Heights seat. Rory was an astute observer of the political scene and often emailed us with his perspective. He loved the USA and New Mexico. Ogle was 58 and died from complications from pneumonia. Services will be held at 9:30 AM, Friday at French Funerals, 10500 Lomas Blvd NE.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013 
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