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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Those Ol' Bear Market Blues: ABQ Still Has Them But Does Mayor Berry Know The Tune? New Layoffs And Business Shake-Ups Hit City; Our Cutting Edge Coverage Is Up Next 

Hey, this town is getting us down. Emcore lays off 25 and Albertson's closes its store in the Four Hills shopping center where the movie theatre had already shuttered and where Wells Fargo announced it's pulling up stakes. That was once an affluent neighborhood.

Then Charlie's Front and Back Door restaurant--in biz for nearly 50 years--stops rolling enchiladas for good. And up in Santa Fe, ABQ-based Baillo's electronics ends a several decade run and bids goodbye.

Then there's the news that we're still near the top of the heap among states that folks are leaving. The annual United Van Lines survey has us as 9th worst for 2013, up from an even worse 5th place in 2012, but still...

Oh, and we almost forgot this:

ABQ home prices declined by an average of 2.3 percent from November 2012 to November 2013. . . the real estate data provider’s Home Price Index shows. If distressed sales are taken out. . .home prices in the metro increased 2.2 percent. Nationwide. . . excluding distressed sales, prices increased nationwide by 10.4 percent. according to CoreLogic.

Whew! We need some of those happy pills that Mayor Berry must take when he rolls out of his Four Hills driveway in the morning and heads downtown.

And when he gets up to the the 11th Floor of City Hall he must supplement the happy pills with rose-colored glasses. How else to explain his decision to pay the city's new communications officer $90,000 a year when the old one got $81,000?  Or his decision to pay that former communications director over $85,000 in their new job at transit? Or how to explain the over-the-top $33,000 pay raise for Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry?

All this while the city struggles to hand out barely noticeable one percent pay raises to rank and file workers and as layoffs continue and businesses go bust, terrifying the metro.

TWO NEW MEXICOS

One of our Senior Alligators surveying the economic wreckage says it seems more and more like there are two New Mexicos--one for the haves and one for the have nots:

--The Tramway and Central Albertson’s closes while Mayor Berry and the City Council point with pride to approving millions in taxpayer subsidies so an upscale grocery store can be built Downtown by a politically-connected developer.

--The city is refusing to accept new applications to the HUD Section 8 housing assistance program because of demand and funding issues. In contrast, city leaders have lowered and waived developer impact fees and will spend millions on pet projects like the $20 million remodel of the Convention Center.

--Then there’s CYFD. Governor Martinez knew there were serious issues at that department after Leland Valdez was killed in 2011. Months later a legislative report said CYFD was understaffed and underfunded. The Guv’s response? Martinez’s CYFD returned almost $7 million to the state general fund last year.

--Topping things off, the unforgettable highlight of the 2013 Legislature (House and Senate controlled by Democrats) wasn’t a vote on Early Childhood Education or acting on the CYFD issues raised in its own report. Instead it was the frenzied, last-minute drive to push through the Governor’s corporate tax cut that will have to be paid for by the state's cities.

--If you can afford lobbyists, can make campaign contributions or are otherwise politically connected, the NM political system will work for you. If not, good luck. To those whose concern about the death of Omaree Varela goes beyond spin and damage control, it sure seems that if you’re a "have not" in this state, you’re on your own.

Sounds like the making for a book titled "Two New Mexicos."

A RUT IN ROUTE 66

ABQ is a city whose streets are paved with gold compared to what's happening around it. Take a look:

Much of Moriarty has been boarded up, including the famous "Comedor de Anayas." Santa Rosa is suffering too. John Martinez, owner of the Comet II Drive-In Restaurant, says that Santa Rosa is dying slowly by the vine. "I counted up 22 boarded up buildings not too long ago. 4th Street, which used to be our Main Street, used to be lively. It's deserted now," Martinez said. Residents, like Keith Ross, the owner of Silver Moon Cafe, says the bad economy has made things worse. "The recession has not been easy on Santa Rosa in general. Like other communities, Santa Rosa has been struggling," Ross said.

After five years of charting New Mexico's historic economic downturn, we agree with NMSU economist Chris Erickson that there are no short-term solutions. Because of a variety of factors he forecast in the immediate years ahead is for no growth or sluggish growth. The long-term solution is investing in educating the next generation to prepare them for the jobs that we hope to attract to replace the many being lost.

OMAREE VARELA

Roswell was plunged into pain Tuesday when a school shooting there left two students aged 11 and 13 wounded and stunned the state. It came on the heels of the tragic abuse death of ABQ's 9 year old Omaree Varela of which Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley writes:

I meant to thank you earlier for continuing to express your outrage at  nine-year old Omaree Varela’s tragic death. When I first learned the  heartbreaking news that a mother had beaten her young son to death, I cried, and I am sure I’m not the only one. I thought, “Why is this happening  in our community?” 

Just over a year ago, a 5-year old boy was killed by his mother’s boyfriend for having a accident in his pants. As punishment, this “boyfriend” threw this poor little boy against a dresser. Last year, soon after this little boy’s death, I sponsored a proclamation in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention month. At the commission meeting, there were representatives of several non-profit social service agencies who spoke about the work they do to prevent child abuse. As you can imagine it’s very difficult and emotionally taxing to interact with dysfunctional families every day. It’s admirable what these agencies accomplish with modest resources, but clearly it’s not enough.

The problem of child abuse has gotten worse and we can’t point to one reason. There are many factors that effect a family’s ability to function in a healthy way or not. A family history of child abuse, poverty, drug abuse, lack of education are predominant factors-- and a stagnant economy is a
contributing factor as well.

Because there are so many needs in a community, decision-makers, like myself, do our best to put those resources where they are needed most. Given this latest tragedy, however, it’s clear to me what our priority must be. We have to put the health and welfare of the children in our community first,
period.

THEY LIKE IT

We hear you. Let's end this blog with an upper...

Aspiring attorneys attending the University of New Mexico School of Law are a happy lot--or at least happy with the education they are getting there.

The website Above the Law asked law school students around the USA to rank their experiences. UNM scored in the top ten in the nation:

The ratings are based on a scale from 1-4, with 1 representing “very unsatisfied” and 4 “very satisfied.” UNM’s overall score was 3.46. Scores for UNM include: Quality of faculty and academic instruction category, 3.6; Practical/clinical training for the practice of law, 3.65; Career counseling and job search help, 3.42; 

In the Above the Law rankings--different from the student ratings, UNM is rated a solid #26 among the top 50 law schools.

Politicos will be interested to know that current UNM law school students include ABQ Dem state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne and ABQ Journal politics writer James Monteleone. Is that a future law firm?

THE BOTTOM LINES

ABQ media maven  Clifton Chadwick noted the news here that conservative talker Sean Hannity is no longer going to be on KKOB-AM. Chadwick reports: "Sean Hannity can now be heard on 1600AM and 95.9FM, KIVA "The Rock of Talk."

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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