Friday, May 08, 2015

Don't Give Up On Those Fed Jobs Yet; US Marshall Comes With Plan 

This column also ran in the ABQ Free Press.

The best jobs that have come into this city the past seventy years are federal government jobs. They're mostly good paying with full benefits and an enviable retirement plan. But now we're told the party is over. We're told that flat federal spending makes it essential we "diversify" away from the Feds if Albuquerque is to have a vital economy. The mayor, governor and economic planners seem to give only lip service to the federal jobs that for generations have been the backbone of the metro economy. They dutifully say we must continue to "fight" to protect our federal money but anyone can see their hearts aren't in it. Just where has that fight been since we started losing those DC dollars? Heck, has anyone at the Roundhouse or City Hall even thrown a punch?

The truth is there is an antipathy toward the federal government in local governmental quarters here. Too often the cries for diversification really mean bringing in jobs that pay 10 bucks an hour at a call center or flipping burgers.

But not all of our policy makers frown at the Feds and some still look to them to provide jobs that are good enough to keep the next generation hanging around here, even if they don't happen to have a pocket full of degrees and the six figure student loan debt that goes with them. And that brings us to NM US Marshal Conrad Candelaria.

The Albuquerque native, retired from APD when President Obama appointed him marshal, has a proposal that if it came to fruition could employ hundreds of city residents in good paying federal positions that don't necessarily require a four year degree. That proposal is to build a federal correctional facility on the outskirts of the metro. Now before you say "not in my backyard" think about it.

Entry level federal correctional officers can earn between $39,000 and $51,000 a year. Then there's the administrative staff pulling down even more dollars. That thick payroll would be spun off to the local economy. It's a tried and true formula that has worked for our area since WWII. In fact, there would be no NE Heights or for that matter a "metro Albuquerque" if it hadn't happened.

A big advantage is land, opines Candelaria. "There is open space galore on the Westside or in Torrance County, We located the Bernalillo County jail on the Westside and have had no ill effects. A federal prison could be added to the mix and provide great career opportunities for hundreds of area young people."

A four year college degree is a requirement for a federal correctional officer. However, that can be waived if an applicant has at least three years of full time experience in teaching, management, sales, counseling, or emergency response.

Candelaria thinks the first step to lure the Feds here is to conduct a geographic study to see if the need is there. "Our state's congressional delegation would be in a position to get that ball rolling," He said.

Candelaria points out that on an average day some 1,600 inmates are housed at 13 local jails that have contracts with the federal government. Wouldn't a federal prison draw stiff opposition from those facilities who are already benefiting from federal largess?

"I don't believe so," declared Candelaria. "Remember, those inmates are pre-sentence inmates. Once they are sentenced they are shipped out of state. Our local jails would still be used to house them but the new federal prison could be where many of them serve out their sentences."

Everyone wants Albuquerque to attract the next Google or Microsoft but the chances are slim because we have so much competition from other states that have more built-in advantages. However, not all of them have the open space, the community support and the lengthy and deep relationship New Mexico has with the federal government. Shouldn't our politicians and policymakers be building on that relationship and really fighting for those federal dollars instead of acting as if they are a necessary evil?

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