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Monday, June 24, 2013

We're Finally Adding Jobs, The Problem Is What Kind, Plus: Emailgate: Media Coverage Analyzed  

Now that the jobs drought here appears to be slowly ending, you would think there would be much cause for celebration. While year-over-year job growth is always welcome (maybe we'll order extra cheese on our enchiladas today) there is a dark side.

The state reports the strongest employment growth between last April and this April was in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 3,000 jobs. That's good, but it means we are coming out of this recession not with high paying jobs, but those mostly at the bottom of the pay scale.

The state lost 200 professional and business jobs year-over-year and dropped another 800 government jobs. Those are jobs that pay well and provide decent benefits. Manufacturing lost 1,000 jobs--another source for high wage jobs. The construction industry added 2,100 jobs, but it lost so many in the slump that it could be decades--if ever--before we claw back to the employment levels we saw at the peak of the housing mania.

Have you noticed the abundance of thrift stores in the metro? And that most of the new restaurants opening up are for the budget minded? And that the state's premier retail spot in ABQ Uptown is occupied by discounter Target? That is all representative of the new New Mexican economy, where high wage jobs vanish and are replaced by those that pay enough for a nice juicy hamburger, but not enough to start a savings account.

REAL MONEY

A friend who recently returned from a visit to the SE NM oil fields reports there are plenty of high-paying jobs there and a housing shortage to boost. "Some of the hotel rooms were going for $200 a night."

There are still not enough houses or apartments to house the energy workers in Lea and Eddy County.

And that boom is key to keeping the state's finances under control. Millions in royalties are flooding in and making up for the malaise that is "the new normal" in other quadrants of the state.

EMAILGATE 

The big news last week was the administration's refusal to release complete travel records for Guv husband Chuck Franco for a now controverisal 2011 hunting trip he took to Louisiana--the home state of two of the owners of the ABQ Downs racino.

Franco took the driving trip--accompanied by a security detail of two state policemen--while the state was negotiating a lucrative 25 year racino lease with the Downs.

The Guv says her hubby was "privately hosted" and did not stay with anyone in Louisiana who was doing business with the state or involved in state politics. However, that still left much unanswered about the trip which we covered here.

The Governor refused to release complete details of the trip and cited  "security" when asked for the records by the Santa Fe New Mexican. Their story was picked up here and by The Associated Press which added its own angle on  the problems it is having getting a variety of records from the administration.

Notably absent in the coverage was the ABQ Journal, traditionally an aggressive news outlet when it comes to anything doing with government transparency. The paper, including its columnists, have yet to mention the Governor's latest refusal to release records on the Franco trip, nor did the Journal carry the AP dispatch.

In addition, the NM Foundation for Open Government (FOG) whose slogan is "Democracies die behind closed doors," has not been heard from on the Franco trip or on the months-long records quest of The AP. (At least we've heard or seen nothing). The president of FOG is ABQ Chamber of Commerce CEO Terri Cole.

MEDIA MANUEVERS

Several former Martinez campaign staffers and one of their attorneys have identified themselves and gone on the public record and said that they have been interviewed by the FBI about the Downs deal.  They said the inquiries were not part of the FBI probe of campaign emails allegedly hijacked from the Guv's campaign account.

Other sources are telling some media that there is no separate FBI investigation of the Downs dealing. However, those sources have not publicly identified themselves.

One of our sources who has had contact with reporters at the Journal says that he has been told that the Governor through her political arm has warned the paper that they are in danger of getting "egg on their face" if they aggressively pursue the Downs dealing. In support of that, they are said to have cited to the paper its breathless pursuit of former Governor Richardson's campaign finance dealings. That all ended with no federal indictments and had the paper's critics charging over zealousness.

Is this line of reasoning influencing coverage? Who knows, but for the Journal to let the Franco story slip by is certainly out of character and perhaps to the benefit of competing news organizations.

SPOUSE IN THE HOUSE

Meanwhile, on the east coast there's a story breaking that will be of interest to New Mexicans following the Downs dealing here:

Federal authorities are asking Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s associates about previously undisclosed gifts given by a campaign donor to McDonnell’s wife that total tens of thousands of dollars and include money and expensive designer clothing, according to people familiar with the inquiry. The questions are part of broad federal and state investigations into gifts to the governor and his family and whether McDonnell (R) took official action on behalf of anyone who gave gifts, people with knowledge of the investigation have said.

Gov. McDonnell has received over $300,000 in gifts since 2002. The probe already involves a $15,000 gift from wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., chief executive of a major McDonnell campaign donor, for catering at the 2011 wedding of one of McDonnell’s daughters.

Let's be quick to say that there is no evidence that Chuck Franco has received any questionable gifts, but it is the refusal of the administration to release his lodging information from the Louisiana trip that is feeding suspicions.

The operative phrase in Santa Fe is "Trust us." The operating phrase down here is from President Reagan: Trust, but verify.".

IOWA RULES NM?

Reader Norm writes:

If Susana justifies refusing to release information about her husband's trip to Louisiana by referring to a Texas court's decision, does the Iowa court decision allowing gay marriage mean that it's now legal in New Mexico? Just asking...

HOLDING FAST

Reader Kurt Saenz writes:

I just want to take this time to thank you so much for trying to keep this administration (and the prior one) clean and honest. There are many people interested in the information you are presenting. I appreciate that you do not accept the "plausible deniability" and "scorched earth" approach they present. The present condition of our state and federal (as well as local) governments makes one question the ethics and integrity of those who are choosing to run our country and state, and yet there are those who choose to keep electing them. Again, thank you for holding fast for the truth...

Thanks for that, Kurt, and in particular the reference to the prior administration. The current one, which is so critical of our little 'ol blog, seems to forget that we aggressively tracked Democratic Governor Richardson as well. It's all on the record--in 10 years worth of accessible archives on the right side of this page. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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