Thursday, March 07, 2013

State Still Disconnected From Mainstream US Economy; Hammered By Fed Cutbacks; Some Cold, Hard Facts, Plus: Fear And Loathing In Santa Fe As Driver's Licenses Resurface, Also: Debate On Susana's Session; She's Hurting Says Dem Pundit 

The great disconnect of New Mexico from mainstream USA continues unchecked and will be the defining story of the first part of this century, long after this legislative session is over and forgotten.

Even as the U.S. stock market made record highs this week and neighboring states continued to report economic recovery, New Mexico was not invited to the party. The new economic reality of the Land of Enchantment for the foreseeable future is what you see is what you get.

There will be more pain--not a rebound--as the drip, drip, drip of federal spending cutbacks take hold without a sizable private sector economy to absorb the ongoing shock.

The state did not plan for this and we are paying the price.

In going over the numbers in news accounts, we've calculated that Los Alamos National Labs now has a permanent staff of just over 7,100, down from 7,600 a year ago. There are about 2,430 contract employees after a loss of 800 in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. And they are losing more as we write. That's about 9,500 jobs at Los Alamos. That number was 12,000 as recently as 2007. And the shrinkage is set to continue.

In ABQ, Sandia National Labs struggles to put its best spin on things, but that nuclear facility reports flat employment at best and says it spent $400 million on goods and services from local firms in FY 2012. That is barely up from up from about $387 million in FY 2011.

Then you have the population stagnation here as people move out of the state and a shrinking workforce that makes the unemployment numbers not look so bad. And for how long? Economists say we are still in recession here.

We know we're supposed to be talking about driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, but we thought you should know.


Then there is that multi-year fear and loathing over the repeal of the aforementioned driver's licenses. What is left to say that hasn't already been said with millions of campaign dollars and reams of newspaper copy? As the kid said of the ghosts in Poltergeist "Make them go away, mommy!" But it won't. 

The faux drama continued Wednesday with no resolution and none in sight. The very limited compromise backed by the Guv remains stuck in the House. The Senate is not moving on anything either. The blow-by-blow on the bizarre House events are here.

Winners and losers in this? Oh well, we suppose any day that is not spent talking about the crumbling economy is not an exceptionally bad day for the Guv--even if she is seemingly unable to go along with a compromise that would make her look good on the national stage that she craves. Maybe her hardcore supporters got to her and told her to hang tough.

Loser? Well, new Dem Los Alamos Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard was singled out for punishment on the Twitter feed of Guv operative Adam Feldman. She flip-flopped during the course of the debate. Stephanie, get ready for another visit from Jay and the boys in 2014. 


With no transformative economic plans making the rounds in Santa Fe, the session has become a parlor game of who is up and who is down. It's one we engage in with regularity, albeit without much guilt. Wednesday the pundits put Susana on the high horse. We said their slogan for the session could be "It's good to be Guv." Today another pundit/Alligator tries to take the saddle from under her:

"Good to be Gov?" Why? Because the front page of Wednesday's newspaper reads “License bill tabled by committee, Martinez dealt a major blow?” Because her 3rd grade retention bill has crashed and burned? Her tax incentive based “jobs plan” is going nowhere? Her lighting rod of a nomination for Sec. of the PED,  was just dragged though a bruising confirmation hearing, only to be  left out to dry afterwards? Good to be Gov because her own party’s only recourse to attempt to pass anything of her very shallow agenda is hijacking bills and subbing in the bills she wants, that had no chance in committee? And even then, they go nowhere?

It is amusing that the word out of Albuquerque is it’s good to be Governor. The rumor in the Roundhouse is the Governor has been yelling at the member of her party for their failure to get anything from her agenda done. The Governor is the Executive of the state, her record is
much more relevant in 2014 than the collective action of the legislature. If having nothing to show for your years in office is good for re-election, than it might be good to be gov.

The debate seems to come down to this: If you think the Dems squashing the Guv's agenda makes them the winner, then the session is not going too badly. If you think the Dems have to do more to pull down the Guv's over 65% approval rating, then they are losing because they are not able to pass anything to her desk and force her to make controversial choices.

Here's how Susana is playing it as she sets up the '14 election: "They don't want change," said Martinez. "They just talk that they want compromise. When we give it to them they change and move the target again." 

Sounds like someone has a focus group working for them. 

After watching two Governors in a row get re-elected, we think it takes a full-court press on a chief executive to shake their standing.  


Most of us are waiting to see if there will be a legal challenge to the city's decision not to count thousands of mail-in votes in the March 11 special election--some 4,500 so far--that the ABQ city clerk says can't be counted because the voters failed to sign the oath on the outer envelope. We hear there will be a legal challenge. Meanwhile, the prospect of thousands of voters not having their voices heard has given critics of the decision a reason to rally, and they will:

Mayor Berry and his Republican allies have been doing everything they can to stop city voters from holding this election. That’s because it changes the city’s charter to require the Mayor to get 50% of the votes to win an election.  He only received 43% last time so he’s thinking about his next campaign, not fair city elections. Voters have been confused by the unorthodox mail-in ballots and forgot to sign their ballots. For weeks they have been able to come downtown and fix it.  But  they suddenly changed the election rules and now say they won’t count any of those votes – even for those voters who already fixed their ballots. This is election rigging 101 and we won’t stand for it in our city.

A rally sponsored by the progressive group Progressnow New Mexico will be held at 10 this morning at Civic Plaza to protest the decision not to count the ballots.


Mayor Berry told TV news recently how pleased he was that the city had gone six months without a fatal police shooting. But the streak ended when city police shot and killed a suspect this week. Chief Ray Schultz says this was another bad buy with a long criminal record who was killed and his officers acted as they should have. The federal Department of Justice is investigating APD for civil rights violations because of the numerous police shootings here in recent years. The incidents are part of the backdrop of the '13 mayoral election. A TV news producer recently opined that Mayor Berry's popularity has not been impacted so far by the shootings because the public perceives them as "good kills" in which bad guys got what they had coming.

And we welcome the national media into town and to this story. The CBS Evening News came with this piece Wednesday on the shooting of mentally ill suspects by ABQ police. It's fair and insightful. The more sunshine on APD, the better.


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