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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Reality Catches Up With Experts As They Document State's Brain Drain And Population Dilemma, Plus: City Hall Fun; Alligator Vindicated 

It's the story of the decade and it could turn out to be the story of the century. The initial shock that New Mexico--a once bustling Sunbelt state--is now in a state of decline with its best and brightest fleeing amid a historic loss of jobs as well as population--has worn off.  Now the new reality that we've been reporting on is catching up to the experts. Let's take a look:

Robert Rhatigan, director of Geospatial and Population Studies at UNM (says): “People are moving out of here. The economy has rebounded faster elsewhere, and they’re leaving.” 

According to Rhatigan’s estimates, the state’s annual population growth rate so far this decade is 0.25 percent. That compares with a rate of 1.25 percent between 2000 and 2010. The new estimates, still preliminary, have the state growing 6.2 percent over the current decade, half the rate of the previous 10 years.

Of course, the scariest part for policymakers is who is leaving:

UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research said. . . the analysis shows that, of the 12,027 people who left the state in 2013, an estimated 5,145 had bachelor’s degrees. That segment of the population is more likely to be frozen out of New Mexico’s job market, which has seen growth in lower-paying hospitality and tourism jobs or more specialized health care careers. He added that is exactly the population New Mexico needs to retain as it looks to rebuild its workforce and increase demand — especially for housing.

And here's why the downsizing of New Mexico could be the story of the 21st century:

(Rhatigan) said the new growth projections are “radically different from three years ago” because it is more evident today that the post-recession trend of out-migration from New Mexico is not slowing. “Maybe this is our size for years to come,” he said.

That's important work from UNM that should serve as another wake-up call. The trouble is the state's leaders choose not to talk about these remarkable and disturbing macro trends that foretell a much rougher path ahead for New Mexico, especially our young.

The news is the worst in the rural areas where you can easily predict that in the decades ahead some counties already foundering will be merged with others. Maybe ABQ pops here and there but if you're a twenty or thirtysomething you're chief worry may be getting stuck here in a low-paying job that does not permit you to buy a house or start a family. 

These grim but essential studies are only going to aggravate those concerns and accelerate the exodus.

The UNM reports confirm what we've known--the state will be much grayer in the years ahead and government budgets will continue to stagnate as the Feds pump in less money here based on our snail-like population growth. A shrinking or stagnant economy with more low-paying jobs could also mean more crime and drug abuse, both of which are already headline makers.

For the politicians and many citizens it's all too overwhelming. Chasing the affluent status of the surrounding states is not on the table. Expectations among the business class have been recalibrated and they are acting accordingly. Tackling the financial and cultural obstacles that confront an ever growing percentage of our state's population is a generational challenge that our generation simply dies not seem to have the stomach for. Some fear we've already slipped or are slipping into an irreversible welfare state akin to West Virginia with vast swaths of our population already eligible for food stamps and/or Medicaid.

New Mexico will always be a marvelous wonder but the state slogan: "It grows as it goes" may have to be revised to: "It slows as it goes."

ALLIGATORS VINDICATED

Just when we think the Alligators are going geezer on us, they prove yet again that they are the top political sources in our enchanted land.

First, we recently had to retract the punishment of ten lashes with a wet noodle to the Alligator who had predicted Idalia Lechuga-Tena was a possible to replace Mimi Stewart in the state House. It looked like he was wrong when it was discovered that Lechuga-Tena did not live in the ABQ SE Heights district. But she moved in so she could be considered for the seat and the BernCo Commission gave her the appointment. That Alligator was vindicated--albeit through the back door---and his ten lashes were recanted.

Rob Perry
Now comes news of the "retirement" of ABQ Cultural Services Director and GOP connected Betty Rivera. And that is cause for more Alligator vindication. Back in the summer a Senior Gator told us that ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry had dressed Rivera down at a staff meeting over an expensive junket she and some of her staffers had taken to New Orleans. The Gator informed that Perry  pronounced that she was being tossed. We waited and waited and nothing happened.

We had no choice but to take the unprecedented action of punishing a Senior Gator--and with more than ten lashes of the noodle. That punishment has now been retracted as Rivera was indeed shown the exits over that trip, after being given a bit of a reprieve by Mayor Berry. They just waited a while to give Betty the axe and throw everyone off the trail. For his troubles our Senior Gator is awarded an enchilada dinner at Garcia's.

Those turned out to be close calls and we're glad for it. What would we do with a non Alligator blog? What would La Politica do?!

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