Thursday, January 22, 2009

Settling The Senate: Jennings' Deft Hand, Plus: We're On The Biz Beat; More ABQ Media Layoffs; Worries About Eclipse & Intel, Plus: Letterman On Bill 

Tim Jennings may have let his impulsive side get the best of him when he interfered on behalf of a Republican Senate candidate last November, but the newly re-anointed Senate president pro tem came back to the public eye with an all-business posture Wednesday as he handed out key committee assignments at the Roundhouse. To the relief of Senate liberals, whose attempted coup against the 30 year Senate veteran went down in flames on the opening day of the legislative session, Jennings did not act with revenge or vengeance. The libs get to keep their chairmanships. That was also a relief to Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico who are looking for problem solving, not bloodletting, as their state faces its worst fiscal crisis since the 80's.

Not that Tim needed to do much to keep a conservative edge alive in the Legislature's upper chamber. The powerful Senate Finance Committee is in the certain command of the conservatives and that, more than any time in recent history, is where the action is going to be.


While the pro tem did not lust after liberal blood, he did dole out goodies to the seven Dems who joined with him and 15 Senate R's to form a coalition to keep him on as a key player in La Politica. For example, new Senator Howie Morales scored a spot on Finance and fellow Dem John Sapien was named vice-chair of the Education Committee. Jennings even threw the liberals a bone that had some meat on it--he named ABQ Dem Jerry Ortiz y Pino to Finance. Not that Jerry is going to be able to muster the votes to stop the inevitable alliance between the Dem conservatives and R's on that committee, but his presence there can serve as a safeguard. The ax they wield in Finance can get pretty bloody. Oritz y Pino can remind his colleagues they are there to balance the budget, but not on the backs of those who can least handle the weight.


They took down the cameras that were supposed to Webcast the Legislature. We've long supported ABQ GOP Senator Mark Boitano's efforts to get them in there. He won the money for them, but now the leadership--including Senate GOP Leader Stuart Ingle--has decided that the fiscal crisis means we can't have them. Pretty feeble excuse. Now comes ABQ GOP State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones who says she has figured out a way to stream video from meetings of her House Taxation and Revenue Committee. We'll see how long that lasts, but we wish her luck. The streaming site is here.


Economic Development Secretary Fred Mondragon and Sarah Cottrell, Energy & Environment Policy Advisor to Big Bill will hold a news conference today to "unveil details of the new Green Jobs Cabinet and to introduce its members. The Green Jobs Cabinet, will coordinate workforce training, economic development and education initiatives to develop the clean energy economy."

Or so they hope But didn't we just hear of 55 layoffs at Advent Solar in ABQ? And hasn't there been talk for years on how Los Alamos Labs can switch its mission from nuclear weapons to energy development? It hasn't happened.

Mondragon and company have their backs against the wall. The over reliance on oil and gas for state money is killing us just as it elevated us during the boom years. Previous efforts to build out other areas of the private economy to get a better tax and job base have not borne much fruit. Which leads us to to.....


Have you noticed how the number of employees at Eclipse Aviation seems to keep going down? The latest number listed in the ABQ Journal is"about 900." A couple of weeks ago the papers were saying it was 950. And now a dose of reality seems to be seeping into ABQ City Hall. Officials there are finally talking out loud about the possibility of Eclipse shutting down here and moving out. That would be a body blow to the ABQ economy. Local and state officials have lived in denial about Eclipse for years, investing millions in taxpayer money and tax credits to the operation. A bankruptcy judge this week approved new foreign ownership. The new owners say they plan on staying here and making small jets. But others speculate that Eclipse will move overseas. At the least, government could be thinking about the impact. For once, they would be ahead of the curve in dealing with this beleaguered business.

And then there's the 3,500 workers at Rio Rancho's Intel. Talk about worrying.


Our media Alligators report at least five layoffs at the local division of media giant Clear Channel. Most of them are high-paying jobs. No radio personalities are on the hit list--at least not that we have heard. The radio and outdoor advertising conglomerate announced national layoffs of 1,850. Here in ABQ, our insiders report, the company's operations manager, Bob May, has been shown the door. Kim Moser, Clear Channel's national sales manager, is also out. The company has also let go two veterans from their advertising force as well as a promotions person.

Clear Channel operates seven ABQ radio stations including 94 Rock and The Peak. They have a total of 16 NM radio stations. These are the latest in a long line of New Mexico media layoffs which includes the ABQ Journal, KOB-TV, KRQE-TV's Roswell division and the nonprofit NM Independent. Media insiders fear more to come as the recession tightens its grip.


We must have received this at least a dozen times in our e-mail box (thanks, readers) the last couple of weeks. Today we finally get to David Letterman's spoof on Big Bill's withdrawal as Obama's secretary of commerce nominee...

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