Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Drumbeat Continues: Feds Report ABQ Growth Comes To Standstill And Fed Dollars To State Continue To Shrink, Plus: Amid Sour Economy Child Abuse Cases Soar in Metro, And: Heinrich Has A Merry Month Of May 

Those who think ABQ is just the right size will be pleased to see the latest Census Bureau stats. Those who believe the city is in a long-term economic malaise won't be so joyful.

From April 2010 through July 1, 2013 the state's largest city didn't shrink, but growth did slow to a trickle. During that time, ABQ went from 545,852 residents to 556,495 for a mere growth rate of 1.9 percent. In the year from July 2012 to July 2013 growth came close to a standstill, clocking in at a barely noticeable 0.3 percent.

It's the economy, of course, that has taken the wind out of the city's sails. Just what role the decline in federal spending has played in the downturn is brightly illuminated with these numbers:

Federal spending on grants, direct payments, contracts, loans and insurance totaled $18 billion in FY13, down from $22.2 billion the previous year, according to the federal website usaspending.gov. That spending peaked in 2009 at $22.7 billion. . . All federal contracts in the state totaled $6.7 billion in FY13, down from $7.2 billion the previous year, and down from a high of $7.6 billion in FY09.
Department of Defense and Department of Energy contracts account for about 90 percent of all federal contracts in the state. The Department of Energy is the largest federal contractor in New Mexico. In FY 13 it let $4.9 billion worth of contracts in New Mexico, a drop from $5.1 billion in FY12 and from the high of $5.3 billion in FY09.

That $5 billion hit in federal spending since 2009 has had a mighty impact on the state's economic well-being as evidenced by our shrinking workforce, near record commercial real estate vacancies, low business formations, a decline in overall economic activity and the stagnant population. . . .

It does not appear the decline in federal spending is over and without much of a private sector to serve as a shock absorber we could see more contraction.  Even if NM landed the Tesla gigafactory it would make up only a fraction of what has been lost.


Do you believe as we do that the economic decline has led to an intensifying of the social conditions crisis here?

Look at this chart from the ABQ Journal on the number of child abuse cases we are experiencing since the economy went south. Pretty astounding and depressing. This is the latest example that will be used in the spirited debate over what New Mexico should do when it comes to protecting and enabling its kids.

The proposal that has been showcased the most is a proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters to tap the state's $14 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to the tune of about $100 million a year to support education and child welfare for those aged zero to five--the critical formative years.

The soaring number of child abuse cases in Bernalillo County speaks to the need to have outside involvement with dysfunctional and/or economically disadvantaged families. If someone is working with the family of a newborn or a three year old, could it prevent another tragedy like that of Omaree Varela?

$100 million a year may sound like a lot but it would not cause the huge Permanent Fund to shrink. It would simply grow at a slower rate for ten years.

Faced with a ranking of 50th in the nation in child well being and ongoing horror stories about what is happening to children in way too many of our households, $100 million a year for ten years to stop the spiral seems a small price to pay.


The power struggle between Dem US Senator Martin Heinrich and southern NM GOP Congressman Steve Pearce continues and the score this month is Heinrich two and Pearce zip.

First, over Pearce's strenuous objections and with the full backing of Sen. Heinrich and Sen. Udall, President Obama declared some 500,000 acres of the Organ Mountains area near Las Cruces a national monument. A big win.

Now comes the compromise over the SunZia transmission project at White Sands Missile Range. Pearce and the defense department initially argued that 45 miles of line that would run through White Sands for the renewable energy project needed to be buried because national security would be endangered by an above ground transmission line. In the compromise announced Tuesday only five  of the 45 miles will have to be buried in order not to interfere with tests and low-altitude flights.

Heinrich's reaction:

SunZia transmission line will unlock the state's world class wind resources for clean energy production and export to hungry energy markets in the West. All the while, New Mexico stands to gain thousands of good-paying construction jobs.

And what of all the hullabaloo that WSMR would be forced to shut down if SunZia's transmission line ran over even one mile of the range's hallowed ground? It was just so much hullabaloo, agreed the Department of Defense in DC.


APD PIO Janet Blair responds to criticism voiced here Tuesday that the department stiff-armed TV news recently and it shows the communication culture at APD remains dominated by the stonewall:

We were given maybe two or three hours to respond to Mr. Proctor’s request on a Friday afternoon. I didn’t have time to research and confirm hardly anything about this story, let alone produce an on-camera comment. In my personal opinion, it was an ambush. We did respond to the Ch 13 a few days later. Here is our statement:

Statement for KRQE
Thursday, May 22, 2014
The story you aired on Friday May 16 was incomplete because it failed to correctly detail Albuquerque Police Department’s efforts to investigate the Ruben Nieto child pornography case. In February 2013, our agents offered to assist the Attorney General with the investigation of child pornography. The AG’s office subsequently sent us some older downloads of child pornography allegedly in the possession of Ruben Nieto. We suspended our investigation into this case while a higher priority child rape case involving this same offender was prepared. When that case was submitted to the Bernalillo County District Attorney, our detectives again turned their attention back to the pornography case against Mr. Nieto. Detectives requested additional downloads from the AG’s office, but got no response. The latest downloads and evidence had gone to Bernalillo County Sheriff’s detectives instead. The BCSO prepared the case and submitted it to the DA and Mr. Nieto was charged.

Originally, we were asked for our response to this story late on a Friday afternoon. We did not feel we had adequate time to contact all detectives involved in these cases and provide accurate information regarding APD’s role. We understand our responsibility to be accountable to the public and we hope this summary clarifies the facts of this case and APD’s good faith effort to investigate these serious allegations.


A reader sends this news:

Some Taos teachers say their profession is being stomped on, citing a laundry list of issues surrounding teacher evaluations. They argue the scores should factor in growth, they say they’re not even testing students on the curriculum they’re teaching and the test scores they’re basing much of the evaluations on are from last year. It’s why they decided to take a stand. After sending students off for summer break, a group of elementary school teachers in Taos received their evaluations. Then they burned them.


We don't see on the web the negative TV spot that the Gov. Martinez campaign released for the final days of the primary but readers report it is an effort to redemonize former Dem Governor Bill Richardson and along with him  the Dem Guv candidates. It shows all five Dem hopefuls--one of whom will be crowned the Dem Guv nominee next Tuesday night--and then morphs their faces into that of Bill Richardson. Obviously, Martinez is wasting no time to try to define her challenger--no matter who it is.

Martinez ran on Richardson's unpopularity four years ago and apparently thinks it's worth a second shot. She also ran on a platform of selling the state jet and firing the chef from the Guv's mansion and this primary season we've been treated to her TV ads about that as well. Gees, it all seems so 2010. . . .


The longtime spokesman for Expo New Mexico has died at the age of 47. May he rest in peace.


State Rep. Nick Salazar of northern NM is 85 tears old and faces a Democratic primary challenge next Tuesday. His opponent, former state Rep. Bengie Regensberg, says Salazar is too old to be on the job. To which Nick says:

I have all my teeth, I run 2 miles every morning and my mind is good.

Sounds convincing. How many 60 year olds can say the same?

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