Monday, December 31, 2007

Production Schedule Note

The print magazine, Capitol Report New Mexico, appears three times each year. From the time we go to press, it takes about four weeks to get the magazine in the mail. 
The two elements combine to mean that sometimes the headline events pass us by, cases in point being the death of Sen Ben Altamirano, December 27, and the withdrawal, December 30, of Rep. Joe Cervantes from from the race for Congress. The plan, now, is to have a tribute in the Spring capitol report to Sen. Altamirano's long service to the state.
Of necessity and inclination, Capitol Report isn't too worried about the headline events, but rather gives emphasis to the policy deliberations and information that turn into the headlines. Our attention to headline items comes here, in this blog, where we put a light on developments given short shrift elsewhere such as job growth.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bosque del Apache

Our jaunt today to the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge south of San Antonio uncovered a new bit of bureaucratic language. The Rio Viejo Trail in the refuge was posted with a sign saying motorized vehicles were not allowed. That was fine. Then the sign offered an explanation. The ban was so that people using the trail could have "a non-motorized recreational experience." The need to explain the ban was odd enough, but "non-motorized..." Gad!  And We the People pay people to think up this stuff?
The trail was decorated with a cell phone tower. At least the tower was 20 or so yards off the trail, mostly hidden in the trees. Our surprise at seeing the tower quickly gave way to admiration for the wildlife folks who run the bosque for picking up a few bucks leasing the tower site. (We assume it was leased.) It isn't as if technology and "motorized" stuff is not found at the bosque. The bird food,—corn and other grains—is planted using machinery and made available to the bird using machinery.
As we entered the driving tour loop, we saw a bald eagle perched alone at the top of the skeleton of a tree. Glorious.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Job Growth November

Wage employment in New Mexico grew 1.2% during the year from November 2006 through November 2007. The numbers were released yesterday. This was up from the 0.9% growth in the October to October year. During November, the state's unemployment rate bumped to 3.4% from the record (since 1976) low in October of 3.1%. While never a single data point does a trend make, it seems here that the state's low job growth has to show up in a higher unemployment rate eventually.
Construction around the state is down 400 jobs (0.7%) in the past year. Manufacturing has lost 1,500 jobs or 0.4%. The information sector, home to movie jobs, is flat. The Department of Workforce Solutions, source of these numbers, continues to point out the project nature of movie work. The short term jobs can mean swings or several thousand jobs, one way or the other, during a given months. It appears that a good many movie jobs are hardly the long term "sustainable" jobs that were promoted as the benefit of putting big money into industry subsidies.
Wage employment in Albuquerque grew only 0.4% during November to November year. That meant 1,400 new jobs over the year. Four of the 12 major industry groups lost jobs. Six added employment, but only 100 in several sectors.
Wage jobs increased 2.1% in Las Cruces, 4.3% in Santa Fe and 2.1% in Farmington.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

NM Population: New Numbers

The population was 1,969,915 On July 1, 2007, the Census Bureau estimates. The figures were released today. That is an increase of 150,869, or 8.3%, since the census in April 2000. New Mexico was the nation's 36th largest state in 2000. It still is. New Mexico ranks 29th in the number of new people since the census and 16th in the percentage of population growth. The annual number of new residents of New Mexico has increased each year since 2003. So has the percentage of population increase.
What is called "net internal migration" is the reason for the increasing rate of population increase. This means people moving to New Mexico from other parts of the U.S. and people leaving the state for other parts of the U.S. For New Mexico, net internal migration was negative in the late 1990s. It was 31% of the state's population in the year from July 1, 2007 to July 1, 2007. This 31% figure has grown from pretty much zero in 2000. Net internal migration has produced 22% of the state's population growth since 2000.
Immigration from outside the U.S., illegal or otherwise, has produced 17% of the population growth since 2000 and 17% in the 2006-2007 year. 

Friday, December 21, 2007

Personal Income

For the third quarter of 2007, New Mexico had the nation's second highest rate of personal income growth with a 1.9 percent increase over the second quarter of 2007. Nationally, personal income grew 1.4 percent during the quarter. The figures were released December 19 by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The state of Washington had the nation's highest personal income growth, a situation explained by stock grants during the quarter from information industry companies such as Microsoft.
For the quarter in New Mexico, dividends, interest and rent were up 2.9 percent to lead the income components. Net earnings increased 1.6 percent. Retail trade, up 0.9 percent during the quarter, led the sector growth, followed by mining and transportation, both up 0.8 percent. Earnings in the slumping construction sector were up 0.1 percent.
The earnings growth came as New Mexico's job growth continued down, dropping to 0.9 percent for the year from October 2006 through October 2007.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Santa Teresa Port of Entry

During October, northbound commercial crossings at the Santa Teresa port of entry with Mexico hit a record 4,149 commercial vehicles. This was a 32 percent increase over October 2006. Jamie Campos, executive director of the New Mexico Border Authority says the increase came the port extended operating hours to 10 p.m. from the pervious close time of 6 p.m.
Jerry Pacheco of the International Business Accelerator in Santa Teresa says the increase in traffic has been in the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. window. Truckers who might previously have missed the 6 p.m. closing now have a margin allowing them to get to Santa Teresa. 
The new hours began September 7, though crossing traffic did not jump until October.
Santa Teresa is 10 miles due west of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez as the crow flies. The port is ideally suited to serve south Juarez and shipping coming from the interior of Mexico, Pacheco says.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tax Proposals

The New Mexico Tax Research Institute ( passes along the tax proposals endorsed for the 2009 session by the interim Revenue Stabilization and tax Policy Committee. TRI calls the proposals "relatively low impact."
The dozen proposals include a fix to the small counties assistance distribution formula, $800,000 to the emergency service fund, more money to municipalities from the law enforcement protection fund, fixing (i.e., removing) the application of overtime of the state's new minimum wage to police, firefighters and other government employees not working "traditional" 40 hour schedules, a local option for capital outlay for gross receipts taxes, money for a statewide, computer-assisted mass property tax appraisal system, expanding the ability of local governments and tribes to deposit money with the state treasurer for investment, and a couple of proposals affecting wine producers. 

Friday, December 14, 2007

UNM school of business

It really is the Anderson School of Management. The name used to be, awkwardly, Schools of Management, referring to the undergraduate school and the graduate school. The school is benefitting from architectural creativity rarely seen in the public sector except, perhaps the building of trophy museums such as in downtown Denver. The building immediately west of Anderson's 1970s home houses the Parrish business library on the first floor and was built with the second floor cantilevered toward the east. Someone got the bright idea of wrapping glass around the space below the cantilever and creating a student lounge. And so they did.
Yesterday a planned series of business to business presentations debuted with Allen Parkman, Anderson professor emeritus of economics, discussing his newest book, "Smart Marriage." About 20 years ago Parkman added a law degree to his Ph.D. union card and since then has focused on law and economics with special emphasis on analysis of marriage. 
The law gives us the rules, Parkman says. Economics tell us how people play.
Parkman is a footnote in New Mexico politics. In 1988 he ran as a libertarian in the race for congress that was won by the late Steve Schiff over Tom Udall.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


OK, why aren't we collapsing as oil flirts with the $100/bbl price level. There are three reasons, offers The Economist, the London, England, based magazine. The Economist actually cites new papers by three "well-known economists (who) come to similar conclusions: oil shocks do not hurt as much because oil used less intensively than before, because the economy is more flexible and because central banks are better at controlling inflation." The economists are Oliver Blanchard and Jordi Galf, both of MIT, and William Nordhaus. The article is in the November 17 issue.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Santa Fe Economic Development

SFEDI is closing because of money, or, rather, the lack of it. In a statement issued yesterday to The New Mexican, Cathy Zacher, SFEDI director, said, "Unfortunately, the continuing operation of SFEDI is... dependent upon financial support provided by the community through state and local government. That support has not been forthcoming."
Our view is that where there is commitment, there is money. No money, no commitment.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Santa Fe Economic Development

The email notice came this afternoon that the organization is closing December 31 after 22 years in operation. No explanation was provided. But then such notices don't usually provide explanations. In mid-1997, SFEDI developed what it called the Cluster Approach to Economic Gardening. While the sound of economic gardening is more than a bit new agey or something, the approach seemed sensible in an environment hostile in general to things economic and specifically to economic development. Over the past decade, SFEDI has helped more than 900 companies start or expand. The organization and longtime director Catherine Zacher will be missed.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Form Based Zoning

Planning, as an occupation, and planners have fads. The latest is "form based zoning." Albuquerque got an introduction Saturday morning when about 150 people, a good many of them planner types, attended a three-hour "form based code presentation." City Councillor Issac Benton, an architect who hates cars, led the pitch. (Benton's city Web site {} has this line, "He does not support continuing to design Albuquerque around a perceived need to accommodate more and more cars." 
Form based zoning seems to mean that building shapes and arrangement are dictated by the zoning code rather than developer, designer and market inspiration. One of the eight "basic principles" listed on a handout is "sustainability," a term overused and turned into convenient mush. Here sustainability means, "Gives developers and neighborhoods the opportunity to create something that fits with our times and our values." Small problem: Values and times change. But that doesn't matter because a form based system would be parallel to the existing zoning code. "Walkability," which apparently means walking to the corner grocery (necessarily small, with limited inventory and higher prices), seems a thread through it all.
Bob Feinberg, an Albuquerque commercial real estate broker, attended and, in starting the comment period, made points no one wanted to hear. Feinberg discovered, by asking for a show of hands, that four people had walked to the meeting. None of the slides touting success of the form based approach were of cities with any relation to Albuquerque, he said. This brought memories of the mid-80s Festival marketplace that was supposed to save Albuquerque's downtown. The Festival Marketplace glories were also promoted by analogy to other cities, only one of which, Dallas, was between the Mississippi River and the West Coast. 
None of the expensive condominiums have sold in the former First National Bank in downtown Albuquerque, Feinberg said. Albuquerque's "downtown is not a success. It is a dismal failure," he said.
Feinberg talked too long for Councillor Benton who told him to stop.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Real Estate: Industrial & Commercial

Around metro Albuquerque, there are 35 million square feet of space for industrial activity, with about six percent vacant as of the fall of 2007. The vacancy rate nationally is 10%. Cities around the region such as Tucson, Dallas and Denver have a higher vacancy rate than Albuquerque.  During 2007, there were 1.5 million square feet absorbed by new activity. Much of the absorption came in two pieces, the Tempur-Pedic mattress factory and Albuquerque Studios film facility in the Mesa del Sol development. Land ready for industrial development costs around $10 per square foot. The supply is quite limited.
Office space in Albuquerque is 11% vacant, the lowest rate in recent memory. Albuquerque has 15 square feet of office space per capita, comparable to Salt Lake City and Phoenix and double the space in Tucson. Projections of past growth suggest the need for 2.5 million square feet of new office space over the next nine years or about 280,000 square feet per year. Guarded optimist is the office market outlook for 2008 with the vacancy rate up a bit and rents flat to down.
The figures and the outlook are from the Albuquerque chapter of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors. The group spoke to NAIOP, the commercial developers organization, in late November.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Real Estate: Some New Numbers

The U.S. housing market peaked during the fourth quarter of 2005. Eighteen months later, in the second quarter of 2007, metro Albuquerque mortgage delinquencies of 30 days or more were 2.64%, a drop of 0.09 percentage points. Just 14 markets around the country showed a greater improvement. Nationally, as of the second quarter of 2007, an average of 3.15% of mortgages were delinquent, an increase of 1.12 percentage points.
Overall, 2.7% of New Mexicans' mortgages were delinquent during the third quarter of 2007. For first mortgages, the delinquency rate was 2.75%; for home equity loans, 1.07%; and, for closed end second mortgages, 2.71%.
There were 22,782 high rate mortgage loans made in New Mexico during 2006. The value of the loans was $2,702 million. The high rate loans were 26.2% of mortgage loans during 2006 and 21.6% of the loan total. New Mexico's percentage of high rate loans ranked 25th nationally. The loan total was 27th
Equifax and Moody's produced the report with help from realtors. The report appeared yesterday on

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Wilson Announcement Tour

Rep Heather Wilson's tour of the state announcing her United Senate campaign turned out to be a listening tour. It ended last Friday afternoon in Edgewood, east of Albuquerque in the community center. Questions and topics of interest raised by the 14 people attending started with taxes. Transportation and immigration were the other big topics. 
In handling immigration, Wilson said, the government has lost its credibility. To regain the credibility, the government must regain "operational control of the border." Doing so means a combination of many approaches, she said,such as enforcement, technology, and information and security systems. "I oppose amnesty," she said. "People should come here legally." A big percentage of people illegally in the country do come legally, but stay when their visa expires. "We need to be very careful how we talk about these things. We are a law biding people. We are a caring people."

Thursday, November 29, 2007


A bit after noting yesterday the electronic unavailability of the Department of Workforce Solutions' monthly news released about employment numbers, an obvious alternative appeared in the search for the figures: Go to the DWS headquarters and see if a paper copy was available. One was. Low teach, but it worked.
Apparently the news release had been posted minutes before the visit. For the release, see In its post haste, DWS forgot to remove the notice apologizing for the release not being posted. As of 11 a.m. yesterday, the economic research group lacked phones, a fact that also amused the DWS staff that provided an escort to the economic research office.
The release offers news: New Mexico's declining annual rate of employment growth has cracked the 1 percent barrier, dropping to 0.9 percent for the year between October 2006 and October 2007. Three sectors lost jobs statewide: manufacturing (-1,700, -4.4%); construction (-800, -1.3%); information (-100, -0.6%). 
Metro area wage job growth rates were: Santa Fe, 3.9%; Las Cruces, 2.3%; Farmington, 1.5%; and Albuquerque, 1%. With all the metro areas growing faster than the state rate, the arithmetic says rural areas grew even less. Santa Fe's wage job growth came in the face of zero new jobs in six of 12 sectors. Albuquerque manufacturing has lost 1,600 jobs in the past year with semiconductors taking the big hit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Information Availability

The Web site at the Department of Workforce Solutions ( says that the monthly press release about the employment numbers will be posted in a few days. The delay, it said, is because the economics group is moving to a new office. My confidence in the economists is very high. My faith in the rest of the department has taken another blow. That's because the schedule says the news release was to be out November 21, a week ago. No tech person that I am, I don't get the connection, being baffled by the inability of dws to post on some other computer.
We have here another example of electronic "communication" hurting communication. 
When the city of Albuquerque produced monthly building permit statistics on paper, it took a couple of weeks to get the numbers. Now, with the numbers posted on the city's site, there is a four month or so lag. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Local Gross Receipts Taxes

The New Mexico Tax Research Institute ( newsletter, Tax Matters, reports new gross receipts tax rate numbers from the Taxation and Revenue Department. As of January 1, 2008, the state will have five jurisdictions with a GRT rate above 8 percent. They are two tourist communities, Taos Ski Valley and Red River, and three in Quay County, San Jon, Logan and Tucumcari. Between 7.5 and 8 percent there are 19 other towns. Albuquerque's seemingly modest 6.875 percent is still 18 percent above 2003. 
The rate hike trend has been pushed by the desire to find money to replace the 0.5 percent which was pulled to pay for the food and medical GRT cuts in 2004.
The newsletter includes a good summary of how the GRT works.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Genome Sequencing

The National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe has added a new operation, the New Mexico Genome Sequencing Center. Grand opening was November 19. Though the Genome Sequencing operation doesn't appear large—the legislature hit the petty cash box to chip in $600,000—it does appear to be one of those important if unheralded economic development actions. The center adds a new dimension to what is already a national if not world center of science excellence in the state. From an economic development view, that's what counts—expanding the base economy.
See for more.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hotel Book from UNM

"The Economist," the British news magazine, has found another University of New Mexico professor it likes. Hotel: An American History, by Andrew Sandoval-Strausz, gets a laudatory review in the November 24 issue. See Sandoval-Strausz, the review says, "makes two grand claims for the American hospitality industry: that America hotels what they are today and, more startlingly, that hotels helped make America." The latter notion is considered "stretching the argument," the reviewer considers it "an interesting thought to ponder." Sandoval-Strausz is an assistant professor of history.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nuclear Power

I have long said that New Mexico had the best nukes and the best anti-nukes, making for yet another rich vein of discussion the state.
"Power to Save the World" is described as "flat out love song" to the virtues of nuclear energy. The comment comes in a review in today's Wall Street Journal by Spencer Reiss, a "Wired" magazine staffer. The author is Gwyneth Cravens, formerly of both The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine. Cravens grew up in New Mexico. Cravens' "Virgil," Reiss says, is D. Richard Anderson, now retired from Sandia Laboratories, who maybe be the world's leading expert on nuclear waste disposal.
In his best line, Reiss calls the book "a 400-page indictment of the nuclear power industry's tragic-comic inability to tell its own story."
"Power to Save the World" went on sale October 30.

Friday, November 16, 2007

System Note: SHARE

A old rule of systems is: When the users of a system, in order to function, have to invent their own sub-systems, that means the main system doesn't work. So it is with the state's $28 million SHARE system that was supposed to replace human resources and other accounting systems. The particular insight came from the Administrative Office of the Courts which yesterday told the Legislative Finance Committee that half of the 13 district courts (half of 13?) are running payroll systems in parallel to SHARE. "We're in a testing phase while we're in production," the AOC official said, frustration evident.
The comments came during a three-hour grilling of Katherine Miller, Department of Finance and Administration secretary, and other involved with SHARE.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rural Prosperity

Prosperous counties, according to Andrew Isserman, an economist at the University of Illinois, graduate their kids from high school. People work in prosperous counties, and unemployment rates are low. There is less poverty in prosperous counties, and the housing people live in is both affordable and in good repair.
To get rid of the spill-over from metropolitan areas, Isserman looked at what he called "strictly rural" counties. Isserman found that 289 of the 1,371 strictly rural counties were more prosperous than the national average.
No New Mexico counties made the list. Mineral County was the closest "prosperous" Colorado county. Creede is the county seat. It is immediately north of Archuleta County which has Pagosa Springs as the county seat.
Beaver County in the Oklahoma Panhandle made the list. Kane County was the closest Utah County. It is north of the Grand Canyon.
Isserman's study is described at
HIs paper is at The paper is in the Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy, Vol 37, No. 1.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Voter Turnout

In presidential elections, an inverse relationship seems to exist between voter turnout and the gravity of the issues facing the voter. The observation comes from P.J. O'Rourke, writing in the November issue of The Atlantic.
For example, the 1828 race between John Qunicy Adams and Andrew Jackson turned on a choice in the nation's direction and attracted 55.2% of the voters. In 1840, the contest between Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison drew 77.5% of the voters to choose between two men offering nothing much. The 72.1% turnout in 1860 election, which was about the civil war, drew ten points fewer voters than did the 1876 election which must have been about something.
The 1932 election about the depression attracted 56.8% and the 1940 contest had a 62.9% turnout.
Making more people eligible to vote also seems to drop the turnout percentage.
O'Rourke got his numbers from the new five-volume, 25-pound Millennial Edition of Historical Statistics of the United States, published in 2006 and costing $1,000.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

LANL & Supercomputing

Not that Los Alamos National Laboratory ever left the business of computing leadership, it will go back to having the world's most powerful system when the $110 million Roadrunner computer starts operating next year, reports the Wall Street Journal. The project is just another example of new things at the national laboratories as they are in the midst of big changes. IBM is building Roadrunner, which "may be the biggest bet to date on hybrid supercomputing, combining AMD chips with processors used in Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 system," the November 6 Journal report said. Hybrid supercomputing adds specialized accelerator chips to what are called x86 "multicore" chips that have the core circuitry of multiple microprocessors on the chip.
Computing has always been a principal activity at LANL, dating to the lab's creation in the 1940s, because of the need for fast and massive calculations in its nuclear weapons work.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Political Notes

The Albuquerque part of Steve Pearce's official announcement of his United States Senate campaign went nicely. Pearce's volunteers packed nearly everyone who attended the event at the Embassy Suites onto the stage, presumably for the benefit of the television cameras. Former Governor Dave Cargo was a surprising emcee, surprising considering Cargo's reputation for being a moderate and Pearce being a card-carrying conservative. Another surprise was the attendance of three pueblo governors.
Two days later, new University of New Mexico President William Schmidly got an initiation into Politics New Mexico-style. Schmidly's presentation of UNM's tentative plans for development on the nine-hole remnant of the original 27-hole golf course on the north campus was treated mostly civilly by the 300 or so Baby Boomer types crammed into the largest lecture hall in the Law School which borders the golf course. Audience members responding to the presentation got repeated loud applause and shouts of support as they denounced the proposals.
Seven elected officials, all Democrats, attended the presentation and a rally held immediately before the meeting. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez led the elected group. Should something like the plans being discussed move to the building stage, Chavez, a candidate to the United States Senate, threatened to hold the building permits hostage. Legislators threatened retribution as well.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Task Forces

The state seems littered with task forces—health care, a couple on transportation, mortgages, ethics, guardianships and more. The guardianship report is the first one that has come our way. Task force reports will be gathered and posted at, starting with the guardianship report and its appendices. There will be a new section in the top left of the home page called—ta da—Task Report Reports. The reports will be listed in the January issue of Capitol Report New Mexico.
Curiously, the administration doesn't seem to know how many task forces are out there—we've asked. Lack of information about task force work, especially on more obscure topics such as guardianship, run the risk of the proposals disappearing into a black hole and wasting the work of the professionals on the task force.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NM Medical Insurance Pool

The Pool is a 20-year-old state program offering subsidized health care coverage to people unable to buy private market coverage but who also are ineligible for direct government support. From 2004 to 2005, the Pool's losses roughly doubled to $10.6 million. The losses nearly doubled again in 2006 to $20.8 million. For 2007, losses are projected to be $39 million. The losses are covered by state and federal money and assessments to insurance carriers.
The Pool also subsidizes premiums for lower income people. For example, a two-person household with a $54,623 income, i.e., 399 percent of poverty guidelines, gets a 50 percent premium reduction.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Dennis Latta, director of the New Mexico Sports Authority and one of the Authority's two employees, says the Authority was created to pursue Gov. Bill Richardson's vision of major league professional sports coming to New Mexico. By major league it is meant the National Football League, National Basketball League and Major League Baseball. Latta told the Governor's Conference on Tourism yesterday that, "When we got into it, we realized that's not where the future was." For example, bringing an NFL exhibition game—just one game—to the state would have cost $3 million. Another conference participant put the NFL situation this way: New Mexico lacks the financial base, the population and the television market to support the NFL.
Big successes for the Sports Authority, Latta said, have been the New Mexico Bowl, the college bowl game in Albuquerque, and the recent Santa Fe Trail Horse race.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Diane Denish

This report is from, a blog of the Denver Post.

N.M. Lt. Gov. Denish here to raise funds
Article Last Updated: 10/28/2007 11:33:12 PM MDT

New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, a Democrat, is expected in Denver today for a private fundraiser. Denish, niece of the late Colorado cable-TV pioneer Bill Daniels, is a potential 2008 candidate for an open U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico. Denish created a federal political-action committee this year that gave $1,000 to Joan Fitz-Gerald, president of the Colorado Senate and a congressional candidate.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Job Growth Continues Down

In September, the state's year-over-year job growth rate continued the downward trend of the past 15 months. The number of wage jobs increased 9,800, or 1.2 percent, during September, one-third the 3.6 percent growth posted from June 2005 to June 2006.
Metro areas provided 5,400 new jobs over the September 2006 to September 2007 period. The metro growth was: Albuquerque, 2,300 jobs, 0.6%; Las Cruces, 1,400 jobs, 2.1%; Santa Fe, 800 jobs, 1.3%; Farmington, 900 jobs, 1.7%.
The natural resources / mining sector provided just one example of the slowing growth. The sector added 700 jobs for the year, a nice 3.6% increase. But there were 2,000 new resources jobs between mid-2005 and mid-2006.
Over the year, construction employment has dropped 0.3% and information has lost 200 jobs, a 1.2% drop.
The figures were released October 25 by the former Department of Labor, now known at the Department of Workforce Solutions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The Bureau of Labor Statistics has some new numbers that are seven months old. The numbers report employment and weekly wages for March 2007 for the nation's 329 largest counties and for the states and compare to March 2006. Bernalillo County is the only New Mexico county making the list. For the March 2006 to March 2007 year, New Mexico's wage employment grew 3.2% while Bernalillo County's increased 1.5%. The state's job growth rate has since dropped by nearly half. Bernalillo County had 17,500 business establishments, a third of the state total, and employment of 332,300, which was 41% of the state's 819,300 employees.
The average weekly wage in Bernalillo County was $732, up 3.4% in the year, and $47.00 more than the states average wage of $685. As is almost always the case, the money is in the city.
Bernalillo County's percentage job growth was 113th among the 329 counties. Wage growth was 199th.
Establishments are business locations. A firm may have several establishments.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Richardson in Iowa

Governor Bill Richard’s presidential campaign office in Dubuque, Iowa, is next door to Sen. Joe Biden’s presidential campaign office. The meaning of the location probably has everything to do with availability of downtown storefronts. Even so, Richardson’s twenty-something Dubuque staffers can look next door and take solace in Biden being even lower in the Iowa polls than Richardson.
The literature includes a baseball card. The only direct baseball reference is a photo of Richardson, ball glove on his left hand and baseball in the right hand, that may have been taken during his visit to the Field of Dreams. Corn fields are in the background. Under the “positions played” section of the “Career Highlights” listed on the back of the card, there is no mention of Richardson’s baseball career, including no mention of his decades-long false claim to have been drafted by a major league team.
Both the baseball card and a letter-size sheet tout Richardson maintaining a balanced budget, something required by the New Mexico constitution. The sheet claims that as governor, “he cut $230 million in bureaucratic waste.”
In an October 18 speech in Des Moines, Richardson called for a new Marshall Plan to fight hunger and poverty in the developing world. The speech got about 12 inches in the October 19 Dubuque Telegraph Herald. The story, from the Associated Press, ran on page 16C, about six inches from the top.
Apparently the AP reporter didn't quire accept the premise of Richardson's proposal. The story said Richardson was "arguing" that "hunger and overpopulation are the greatest looming threat to the establishment of a stable world."
Skepticism—but on the editorial pages—may be appropriate. All the 1970s dire predictions of overpopulation guru Paul Erlich have proven incorrect.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Presidential Candidate Web Sites

We're in Iowa, Dubuque as I write. A thought on the Iowa trip came from the idea that Iowans are used to presidential candidates up close, personal and everywhere. New Mexicans lack the same closeness to the candidates. Our thought was to find a candidate event as we drove along Interstate 80. We started looking with Hillary Clinton, by far the leader of the Democrats. Clinton's Web site has a box headed "Upcoming Events" on the lower right corner of of the home page. The box had room for three events and a fourth barely shows. I couldn't figure how to scroll down the event list, but at least a few could be seen in a simple and easy manner.
Other candidates are different. Mitt Romney's "Upcoming Events" window is in the middle of his home page, easily visible when the site appears. Three events show. Fred Thompson's site shows nothing about upcoming events. Maybe there aren't any.
Bill Richardson has an "upcoming events" box on the lower left corner of his home page. Two events show.
John Edwards requires clicking on an "Events" header on the bar at the top of the home page.
Barack Obama's site was, well, different. The home page appears and wants you to login if you have and account or to create an account. The right side of the home page has seven headers, all starting with the word "My."
My? Seems to me that the last thing one wants in a candidate is an obsession with the word, "My." But, click on "My Events" and there is a page headed "Events" with three options, one of which is "Find an Event." Click on "Find an Event" and you have the option of "Search for an event near you." Enter some location data and click, yet again, and a map appears with pointy buttons pointing at locations. Click on one of the button and event data appears.
Many clicks are required. All in all a pain in the clicker.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Not only does enthanol eat corn and thereby run up the price of tortillas, it is a "lousy fuel," says The Economist in its September 29 issue. The better stuff has more than ethanol's two carbon atoms in each molecule. Butanol, with four atoms, is even better and octonal, with eight atoms, tops butanol. Scientists and entrepreneurs are now taking the next step, making their own fuel that behaves like gasoline but is not a hydrocarbon, or at least not a hydrocardon from the ground. So much for running out of fuel. Take that, Al Gore. The idea is to find molecules that are similar to hydrocarbons and turn them into fuel. "Synthetic biology" is the term of art. See

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The $100,000 House Races

The National Institute on Money in State Politics tracks political spending and reports through its Web site, A look at the report on New Mexico's 2006 house races shows that the $100,000 legislative campaign is well established in the state, sometimes even where the race is uncontested, as was the case for two of the 39 uncontested races in 2006. The unopposed big spenders were Representives Al Park of Albuquerque and Lucky Varela of Santa Fe.
The other $100,000 contests were in the southern part of metro Albuquerque (Districts 7 and 8), Las Cruces (District 37) and in District 54, in Artesia and Carlsbad.
The institute showed seven races that were competitive and 23 uncompetitive with no report on one district. In four of the seven competitive races, the loser outspent the winner, suggesting that money while money matters a lot, it isn't always the key to victory. In District 15 in the northwest part of metro Albuquerque, Traci Cadigan had a $44,000 spending margin over Rep. Teresa Zanetti ($92,000 to $48,000) and lost.
On the Web site, the institute says the data are incomplete. Still interesting, though.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Albuquerque Tribune

With circulation down to around 10,000 from about 45,000 in the mid-1980s, the afternoon Albuquerque Tribune has almost faded away. The Tribune's owner, Scripps-Howard, announced August 28 that the Tribune would be closed if no one bought it. Phil Casaus, Tribune editor, reports nothing new on the sale front, except a hunch and a hope. Casaus told the Albuquerque Press Women yesterday that Scripps closures of afternoon newspapers the past few years have happened within a few days of the announcement. More than six weeks after the announcement about the Tribune, he has no news. Therefore, something may be happening. Assuming the Tribune does close, Casaus believes it will be later rather than sooner, whatever "later" means.
"I don't think any one thing" explains the Tribune's situation, Casaus said. The challenge for newspapers is to "reinvent themselves for a younger audience." Figuring out how to make money from the Internet is the big part of that reinvention.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Art in Santa Fe

Keep Adding is a Santa Fe art group that offers, as one news release put it, "complete sensory experience." The group is good enough to have made the Top Stories section at
Apple says, "The Mac has become integral to the evolving nature of their work (of creating multimedia and installation art). Explains Keep Adding partner Noah MacDonald, 'I might work on a painting, then take a photo of it, put it in the computer, open it in Photoshop, digitally rework it, and from that get a sense of what I want to physically do next on the actual painting. The computer influences the physical end of what I do, because I can work on the paintings offsite, then come back and paint what I’ve envisioned on the Mac.'"
Keep Adding will be featured with other artists in a show running from November 3 to December 29, 2007, at 516 Arts in downtown Albuquerque.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Chronic Disease Costs

The Milken Institute has figured out the cost of chronic disease by state. The institute, founded by Michael of junk bond fame, is known for quality research. See and then select New Mexico. The report was released today. The institute's release says, "'An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease' shows the current treatment costs of seven chronic diseases (cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders and pulmonary conditions) and the economic impacts of lost workdays and lower employee productivity across all 50 states and the nation as a whole."
Here are the New Mexico numbers.
Reported Cases of Common Chronic Diseases 2003 (As percent of population)
Cancers: 55,891 (3.0%)
Diabetes: 66,000 (3.5%)
Heart Disease: 91,897 (4.9%)
Hypertension: 174,914 (9.3%)
Stroke: 10,504 (0.6%)
Mental Disorders: 263,746 (14.0%)
Pulmonary Conditions: 224,103 (11.9%)

Economic Impact in New Mexico 2003
(Annual Costs in billions)
Treatment Expenditures: $1.2B
Lost Productivity: $5.8B
Total Costs: $7.0B

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fund and Taxes

When Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund was in Albuquerque last week, he didn't think Gov. Bill Richardson's tax change record was a big deal. That record is one of raising taxes more than cutting them until the 2007 legislature. That a Democrat cut taxes at all is the more important matter. Fund also said the tax cuts worked for the New Mexico economy, an assertion worth examination from someone with appropriate expertise.
Fund spoke in Albuquerque and Santa Fe at fund raising events for the Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico's conservative think tank. Capitol Report co-sponsored the Albuquerque event.
Fund may also have had advance information about Newt Gingrich's decision to not run for president. On Thursday, Fund said definitively that Gingrich would not run. Gingrich made the official announcement on Saturday. Our understanding is that Fund and Gingrich have stayed in touch for many years.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Mexico Economic Outlook

For the Governor's Summit on Economic Development, now in session at the Hyatt Regency in Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research has provided a three-page plus summary of its extensive and detailed economic forecast that is issued a number of times each year.
Here is the summary paragraph of the summary. "The outlook for the New Mexico economy calls for moderate but slowing expansion. Following a robust increase of 3.0 percent in 2005, New Mexico nonfarm employment growth will slip to 2.0 percent in 2007 and 1.9 percent in 2008, and then to near 1.5 percent each year through 2012. New Mexico personal income growth will follow a similar pattern, with gains of 6.7 percent next year. Following that, growth will ease into the neighborhood of 5.5 percent through the forecast horizon. The unemployment rate will hold at just over 4.0 percent."
Sector Job Growth:
Construction - a modest recovery in the second half of 2008, job losses in 2009.
Mining - virtually zero growth after 2007.
Manufacturing - growth around one percent through 2012.
Information - growth dropping to around 3.0 percent starting in 2009, less than half the current rate.
Health Care - 2.5 percent in 2008 and 2009, then less.
Professional and business services - "a very good showing," which means mostly less than 3.0 percent.
Trade - 1 percent or less.
Arts, entertainment and recreation - around 1.0 percent through 2010, then dropping.
Accommodation and food services (the big tourism sector) - 1.6 percent in 2008, then dropping.
Other services - half a percent or less.
Government - employment decline of 0.6 percent in 2007, then increases of around 1.5 percent.
BBER has much, much, much more, including whether the government job decline is in state, local or federal employment. The report provided conference attendees contains more sector details than we've seen BBER release in a long time. That is why it is provided here. Though nearly all the forecast service's financing come from the public sector, BBER standardly refuses to share with the public any information beyond modest and varying summaries. It's a long story and a bureaucratic battle long since lost.

Uranium Notes

The National Enrichment Facility, now under construction east of Eunice by Louisiana Energy Services, offers the model for redevelopment of the uranium industry in New Mexico, Juan Velasquez of Strathmore Resources Ltd. told the New Mexico Mining Association yesterday. Velasquez spoke as Strathmore announced a joint venture with Nu-Mex Uranium Corp. to explore and develop Strathmore's Nose Rock properties northeast of Crownpoint in the Grants mineral belt. The agreement calls for $44.5 million in work commitment expenditures on the 5,000 acres.
Louisiana Energy Services worked closely with people in the Eunice area, Velasquez said. "They developed credibility," he said. "Grassroots support is crucial to our success. Stakeholder involvement is a must." Communication must come ealy and often.
The regulatory situation is quite different from the 1970s, Velasquez said. Then permit requirements were minimal. Now permits are required for even the slight impact work of gathering data.
As the association met, NRG Energy Inc. of New Jersey filed the first two of what is an expect "flood" of applications for new nuclear reactors, the Wall Street Journal reported. NRG wants to add two units to its existing station near Bay City, Texas.
State Sen. David Ulibarri of Grants participated in two panels at the association meeting.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Housing in New Mexico

New Mexico had 850,095 housing units in mid-2006, the Census Bureau estimates. The numbers were released September 12. The 2006 figure was a 12,045 unit, or 1.4 percent, increase from 2005. New Mexico is 37th in the number of housing units, about the same place as the state's population rank. The 05-06 performance was 33rd in the number of units added and 19th in percentage increase.
Arizona was second in percentage increase for the 05-06 year behind Nevada and sixth in the number of new units. Arizona and Nevada are two of the states driving the increase nationally in the number of foreclosures, a situation that began developing in a big way as these stellar housing unit increases were being posted. Florida and Georgia, two other states driving the foreclosure wave, were fourth and sixth in percentage increase of housing units for the period.
Think bubble for those states.
A housing unit can be an apartment, a townhouse or condominium or a single family detached home.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Intel and IRBs

Intel Corporation has made extensive use of industrial revenue bonds as its Rio Rancho facility grew from small to be, at one time, the company's largest single manufacturing site. IRB's, one of New Mexico's two most important economic development incentives, exempt users from paying property tax on investments made with the bond money. New employment typically is the main standard for getting a government entity to bless issuance of the bond. Note that the company borrows and owes the money, but the government blessing is required.
Intel won't be adding jobs in Rio Rancho. The recent layoff "affected" 1,150 people. But Intel, as is necessary in the semiconductor business, will be constantly investing large amounts of money in Rio Rancho. The company has some billions left on its most recent IRB. That will run out eventually.
So Intel New Mexico Government Affairs Manager Jami Grindatto posed a question at yesterday's Albuquerque Economic Development Investor's Luncheon. How about changing the economic development incentive criteria to allow IRB's for firms in Intel's situation: Investment required to maintain employment.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Albuquerque Economic Development

The metro's leading economic development organization held its quarterly investor's luncheon today. The event at the Sandia Resort and Casino attracted 667 registrations, a record, said Gary Tonjes, AED president. The resort catering staff responded capably to the challenge with pretty decent food for a banquet and prompt service complete with refilled ice tea glasses.
Speakers included technology executives Doug Cayne of Aspen Avionics and Robert Harbour of Lumidigm.
Avionics are the instruments than run an airplane. Aspen's niche is to make avionics that will allow retrofitting the dials and switches on existing low-priced aircraft with computer-based gear and sell at an affordable price. Avionics for the masses, one might say. Aspen is sold out through the first half of 2008, Cayne said.
Lumidigm calls itself "an identity solutions company" that makes "biometric security products." One Lumidigm device quickly and cleanly records the fingerprints both on the surface of the finger and on the subsurface. Yes, there are such things as a subsurface fingerprint.
For AED, Tonjes said, there is the potential that the fourth quarter of 2007 will be a record in terms of new companies and jobs or merely be "very impressive." AED's top six location prospects would add 6,500 jobs to the metro area and need 3.2 million square feet of space.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico and Public Service Company sponsored the luncheon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Conservation Perfection

Such a thing is possible when voting on legislation. Sandy Buffet, executive dircector of Conservatin Voters of New Mexico writes:
"Thank you for including a mention of our CVNM Scorecard in your most recent issue of the Capitol Report! We’re pleased to be highlighted.
"Unfortunately, it missed some critical info—you reported that our highest score was Jeff Steinborn at 95%. While we’re proud of Jeff, somehow the writer missed the full page of our scorecard where we highlight all of our 100% champions. These include: Rep. Elias Barela, Rep Miguel Garcia, Rep Joni Gutierrez, Rep Antonio Lujan, Rep Rick Miera, Rep Mimi Stewart, and Rep Peter Wirth. All of these House Legislators scored 100%, a perfect pro-conservation vote.
"I hope you can note this as a correction in your next edition. Feel free to call with questions.
"Sandy Buffett"
And indeed, there they are on page 20 of the Conservation Voters' report. We messed up. Sorry about that and thanks for writing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Abq to Hit 1 Million

A September 17 story Albuquerque Tribune story somewhat breathlessly proclaimed that the metro Albuquerque population will hit one million by 2021. The story was briefly mentioned by a television station which is how I learned of it. That it took much Internet digging before the thought occurred to check the Tribune reflects both the Tribune's obscurity as a journalistic enterprise and the searcher's obtuseness. The source of the projection—the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research—doesn't appear until the 11th paragraph. Nor does the projection obviously appear on BBER's Web site. BBER's propensity for not sharing projections, specifically those of the taxpayer funded FOR-UNM Economic Forecasting Service, is an old and separate issue.
The Tribune story misses the point in its effort to pitch the need to manage this implicitly out-of-control growth. This is the old journalistic thing about hooking a policy position—managing growth, as if it isn't being "managed" now—on a number—the incipient 1 million metro population.
The point is that if one lifts the mind from the false boundaries of metro areas, namely county lines, the metro, the real metro, has passed one million.
Call this real metro the North Central Urban Area. It runs from Belen to Velarde in Rio Arriba County. That means the four-county metro Albuquerque and metro Santa Fe (Santa Fe County) with southern Rio Arriba County and Los Alamos for good measure. The combine population passed one million, according to Census Bureau estimates for July 2006.
That Albuquerque and Santa Fe had come together appeared a dozen years ago when viewing the two equal streams of 7 a.m. commuters on I-25. A little later, Rio Rancho started marketing homes to Santa Fe workers. Then there is the bumper-to-bumper traffic from Santa Fe to Espanola and beyond.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Job Losses

Not only has the state's job growth dropped back to what the state Department of Labor (er, Workforce Solutions) calls "more normal," i.e., the lower two percent range, new claims for unemployment compensation have increased all year. Why this hasn't turned into a bigger jump in unemployment is a good question, one beyond the scope of this note.
The numbers are that weekly new claims went on a run of 21 consecutive year over year increases from the week ending March 17 through the week ending August 4. In the following four weeks, claims were up twice and down twice. For the first ten weeks of 2007, claims dropped during five weeks and increased in five weeks.
When claims do increase, the percentage increase commonly seems around 25 percent. The week of April 28 was typical. The 970 new claims were a 270 claim, or 27.7 percent, increase from a year earlier.
One has to go to the feds to get these numbers. See The Department of Workforce Solutions does not post the new claims numbers. The Department of Labor did.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The (Coming) Lab Layoffs

Here's a guess—a pure guess—about what happens when the forecast layoffs come to Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.
First, the world won't end.
The suspicion is that there will be buy-outs—people will be offered money to go away. This is what Bank of America did with me in 1997. I took the money. A good many people taking the laboratory (read: taxpayers) money will be Baby Boomers who have been there a long time. If these people are on the technical side, they earn good salaries, well over $100,000.
By the way, the reason Los Alamos has a high proportion of millionaires is not because of entrepreneurial activity, but because of well paid scientists chunking money into pension plans.
The bulging pension plans will mean slight loss of income for those leaving the labs. Some of those leaving will be rehired as consultants and maybe even net out with increased compensation. Others, just a few, might even do something entrepreneurial. Over time, some of those dear departed ones will be replaced by young Ph.Ds who will be very well paid for their age and who will spend the money on houses, babies, expensive hiking gear and Priuses.
in sum, then, the guess here is that the ripple in Albuquerque won't be noticed and the ripple in Los Alamos will be modest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Abq Job Growth (, the online arm of American City Business Journals, owner of New Mexico Business Weekly, has a new report ranking job growth in the nation's top 100 job markets. Albuquerque ranks 25th, between Sarasota, FL, and Oklahoma City. Albuquerque's "employment score" is 3.94.
Each market was rated for nine job related categories, most covering differing numbers of years.
Phoenix leads the rankings by a big margin. Salt Lake City was in second place. The break between a positive and negative rank came between 45th place (Harrisburg, PA) and 46th (Indianapolis).
Other regional cities ahead of Albuquerque are Dallas (6), Austin (8), Tucson (10) and Wichita, KN (20).

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Task Force

The Governor's Task Force on Mortgage Lending is the latest of the many such forces. The charge is to evaluate the potential impact of the national subprime lending crisis.
Our guess as to that impact is: Some, but not a whole lot. Nationally, the problem is one of moving out the risk horizon on morgage lending and then trouble developing at the risk boundary. Moving out the risk horizon meant figuring out ways for lower income and/or funky credit history people to get mortgages. Statewide, foreclosures declined 30 percent during the first half of 2007, as compared to a 58 percent increase nationwide, according to RealtyTrac, a research firm. In metro Albuquerque, sales have declined, but prices continue to increase. Construction employment has dropped a little in Albuquerque over the past year and has held steady statewide.
The national delinquency and foreclosure rates are being driven by events in four states—California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, reports the Mortgage Bankers Association. These four have more than one-third of the nation’s subprime adjustable rate mortgages, more than one-third of the foreclosure starts on subprime ARMs, and are responsible for most of the nationwide increase in foreclosure actions. The subprime market brought 12 million households to home ownership, said the late Edward Gramlich, a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. A large majority of these households would not have qualified for mortgages 15 years ago.
Task Force chairs are Michael Loftin of Homewise and Tomasita Duran of the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Rural Voters

The Sunday, September 9, Denver Post had a lead feature arguing that "there is a sense in many rural communities across the country, that they are invisible - at least politically." The headline said, "Rural America: Invisible Voters."
Clayton got considerable play in the story. Here are a couple of excerpts.
"Many rural residents resent interference by the federal government, but their towns' existence often depends on grants and funding for infrastructure.
"It's our lifeblood," said Garth Boyce, mayor of Clayton, N.M......
"Boyce counts his town of Clayton, tucked into the northeastern corner of New Mexico, lucky in getting a prison. At one point, it looked as if it might get a meatpacking plant.
""Those are dirty, dangerous jobs. We were willing to take it, but thank God we didn't get it," he said.
"The prison, which the smiling, gray-mustachioed Boyce prefers to call a "detention center," will bring 200 jobs and pay $12.50 an hour - more than twice the minimum wage.
"Not only could that make a difference in a cattle-ranching community where most of the 2,500 people hold low-paying jobs on the land or in service industries, but Boyce hopes it will fill some empty shops on Main Street.
"Government jobs also mean medical insurance, a luxury in this area. Chrystal Jonas, 23, is a home health care worker - but isn't covered herself.
""My kids get Medicaid, but there's no cheap insurance I can afford," said Jonas, dressed in multicolored medical scrubs and flanked by her 6-year-old son and her daughter, 5."
For the entire story see:

Friday, September 7, 2007

Transportation & Money

The Transportation Technical Committee has a long list of potential sources for new money for transportation projects. What does not seem to be on the committee's topic list is sunk cost. Our accounting book defines sunk cost as "as cost which has already been incurred and which, therefore, is irrelevant to the decision making process." Sunk cost is waved aside when someone says: We've already spent $xxx, so we have to finish the project. Well, no. If the initial spending has been wasted, then no reason exists for spending more.
The Governor's commuter railroad would seem an appropriate target for consideration in light of sunk cost. But in our brief time at the comittee's September 6 meeting, the only topics were sources of more money. Sources mentioned include:
- Allocating some part of severance tax bonding capacity, perhaps 25%, to transportation. (Lawrence Rael of the Albuquerque-based Mid-Region Councail of Governments liked this. So did Sen. Diane Snyder of Albuquerque who said she is "willing to run {a bill} so we talk about it.)
- Creating local options for raising gross receipts taxes. (Rael said gross receipts tax increases "generate the most bang for the buck. At the local level, that's the only mechanism" to raise big money. David Abbey of the Legislative Finance Committee cautioned about raising gross receipts taxes, citing pyramiding and the broad base of the gross receipts tax.)
- Hitting new money from gaming compacts.
- Raising vehicle registration fees and indexing to inflation.
- Impact on road users.
- Railroads, a container tax, perhaps, said Johnny Cope of Hobbs.
Overall, said Rep Dan Silva, "the solution is new revenue."

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Liberal Arts and PR

Unless I have missed one, we have three private, liberal arts colleges in New Mexico—St. John's College in Santa Fe, College of the Southwest in Hobbs, and College of Santa Fe in, yes, Santa Fe. They are quite different. St. John's, approaching the 40th anniversary of the graduation of its first class, got some gratuitous PR last week from Paul Greenberg, nationally syndicated columnist and editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.(Disclosure: I was part of that first class, but did not graduate.) Gail Griffith, St. John's director of communications, said the College didn't know of Greenberg's writing plans until the column appeared.
Greenberg hiked (his word) from downtown to the St. John's campus, a non-trivial jaunt, especially for those from lower altitudes. He called the College "a school dedicated to classical education and the study of the Great Books in general." The program "offers perspective," he said, and "learning." All true. All three liberal arts colleges are also multi-million dollar operations that occupy important places in the local economy. St. John's, by the unique nature of its program, brings yet another national perspective to Santa Fe.(

Monday, September 3, 2007

Job Situation

Job growth is the primary way to measure the performance of any economy smaller than the nation. Gross state product is emerging as a supplement, but small states such as New Mexico provide limited data, making the figure uncertain for the state.
The most recent numbers were released August 30 by the Department of Workforce Solutions, formerly known as the Department of Labor. New Mexico has settled comfortably back into the mediocre performance that characterized the state for many years. That means job growth under 2% and less than our neighboring states.
Wage jobs grew 1.8% between July 2006 and July 2007, the department reported August 30, half the annual growth rate of a year ago. That's a year over year increase of 14,900 jobs. The department says the current performance is "a level that is
closer to the state's long-term average." That means mediocre, the accepted description for job growth between 1% and 2%. The other descriptions are, roughly: Under 1%: Not much at all. Between 2% and 3%: Good. Between 3% and 4%: very good. Over 4%: Booming.
Here is the jog growth performance of the surrounding state:
Utah - 4.8% (Number one in the nation)
Arizona - 2.8%
Texas - 2.7%
Colorado - 2%.
Nevada - 1.7% (This is a big change. For a long time, Nevada led the nation in job growth.)
Oklahoma - 1.6%

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Tranportation & Birds

Birds as in Roadrunners. The Inevitable financial crunch seems to have come to roost on Gov. Richardson's Rail Runner commuter railroad, reports the Albuquerque journal September 2. The report says Rail Runner operating costs "could rise to $20 million a year, up from $9.5 million currently. Note, there is no mention of revenue. The railroad is part of an overall financial squeeze on money to spend for transportation infrastructure. A task force has been formed to address the situation. We will work to bring you the group's report.
We have asked the administration for a list of task forces. Twice. To no avail.
The most interesting new aspect of the railroad's fortunes comes in Socorro where legislators have their eye on the bird and the pork that it might bring. According to the Mountain Mail, the group spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Socorro Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Commerce and Industry. According to the newspaper, "State Sen. David Ulibarri, Sen. Ben Altamirano, and Rep. Don Tripp each spoke about the importance of extending the Railrunner passenger train service to Socorro. 'The RailRunner will never be able to make any money,” Tripp said. “But the economic benefits to Socorro and the surrounding area would be far reaching.'"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Global Warming & Modeling

It is clear that something is happening with cllimate. It is fairly clear that humans have something to do with it. It also is clear that the less crud people put into the environment the better. But Al Gore's certainty of apocalypse aside, it is not at all clear what is going to happen in the future. That's because the predictions are done by people and those people use computers. Remember the infamous Club of Rome's computer-based predictions of apocalypse from 1972's "The Limits to Growth." Some very basic modeling precepts were overlooked. In an article in the August 18 issue, "Gambling on Tomorrow," The Economist reminds us of the complexities of modeling. For the lay reader, the article is a bit challenging. But, basically, how variables for the model are chosen has a lot to do with the outcome. The Economist concludes, "As the old saw has it, garbage in, garbage out. The difficulty comes when you do not know what the garbage looks like."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wine: Vivac Winery

A highlight of our weekend Taos / Santa Fe hang out trip will today's visit to the Vivac Winery. We noticed Vivac about four years ago, just after they had opened the winery. They had been in business for a couple of years before that. The owners, brothers Jesse and Chris Padnerg, are Dixon natives who are in their early 30s. (That age is a guess, for sure, they are younger than we are.) They bring a fresh enthusiasm of youth. The winery is at the intersection of N.M. 68 and N.M. 75. Business has grown enough that Vivac has made the lengthy wine list at the Trading Post Cafe in Ranchos de Taos.
Vivac is a family business all the way. The spouses of the Padberg brothers, Liliana Zavala and Michele Bartley, contribute their talents toward expanding the non-wine product line. Offerings include paintings and hand-made chocolate.
Jesse Padberg says New Mexico now has around 38 wineries. The official brochure lists 21, including Vivac. The difference, Jesse says, is paying the dues to get listed.
We like the Vivac wines, though note that our taste buds are only semi-educated, and we love the spirit of the Padberg brothers. Check them out at

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Governor & Gossip

Gossip isn't our normal cup of tea here, but we can't resist.
A conversation with a Republican operative provided laundry list of potential Republican candidates for governor in 2010: Rep. Steve Pearce; Darren White, Bernalillo County sheriff; and Susana Martinez, Las Cruces-based district attorney for the Third Judicial District. Pat Lyons, commissioner of public lands didn’t make this list, but must be added for two reasons. He is the highest ranking Republican state official and governor is on his 2010 options list.
Pearce and Lyons would have two huge advantages over White and Martinez. As high-level elected officials, they have a donor network in place, considerably easing the fund raising problem. Pearce also would bring personal wealth. White and Martinez have raised money for their successful campaigns, but nothing on the scale of a governors race.
Money counts. The price for admission into a competitive primary is $1 million.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Immigration & Cops

Capitol Report New Mexico photographer Mark Bralley is a blogger in one of his other lives. His most recent post, August 19, is a long examination of the relationship between citizenship status and local police. Mark's posts are almost always long. Also very good. He makes two basic points:
1. Immigration status is not the job of local cops. 2. There is no bureaucratic mechanism—i.e., no little boxes on the forms—to collect data anyway in a standard manner.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New Mexico Tech honored

From the Mountain Mail in Socorro comes this story:

Tech One Of 25 ‘Hottest’
by: Thomas Guengerich For The Mountain Mail


Current issues of Newsweek and Popular Science laud a small science and engineering university on the Rio Grande for its work in Homeland Security and explosive research.

New Mexico Tech is regularly featured as a “best buy” by the Princeton Review and nearly always gets a high ranking from U.S. News & World Report. Those rankings are based on Tech’s overall value and the quality of the education.

The recent headlines are generated from a small – but lucrative – division at the university – the Energetic Materials Research Testing Center, or EMRTC.

In its list of the 25 “hottest” universities, Newsweek named Tech as the university that is “Hottest in the War on Terror.”

The single paragraph said, “Tech, in a friendly desert town an hour south of Albuquerque, has reduced admissions red tape while quietly building, with a flood of federal dollars, one of the prime research centers for fighting the War on Terror. It is in some ways the Los Alamos of a new age, this time focusing on searching suitcases and disabling roadside explosives rather than building the

A-bomb. The school boasts a stylish collection of historic buildings with red tile roofs and a lush 18-hole golf course.”

In the September 2007 issue of Popular Science, Tech is featured in a two-page pictorial spread that highlights research opportunities for undergraduate students at EMRTC.

The spread includes a seven-frame sequence of a Buick sedan exploding, plus a large photo of Tech students Stephen Graves, Matthew Nelson and Matthew Majors examining the remains – or posing and pretending to examine the remains – of a 1978 Skylark destroyed by a five-pound bomb.

In the feature titled, “PopSci Goes To College,” Tech and EMRTC are praised as “one of the country’s foremost lab for explosives research,” and where “students work on every aspect of the research, including setting up shots, analyzing data and conceiving new tests.”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cooling Global Warming?

Robert J. Samuelson makes his living taking on the conventional wisdom. His latest target is one of his employers, Newsweek magazine. In an column first published in Newsweek, Samuelson attacks a Newsweek cover story attempting to debunk the "denial machine" that "has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change." The story, he says, "was a wonderful read, marred only by its being ndamentally misleading." Emission reduction goals are "fantasy," he says, and we don't know how to achieve the goals, even if they were real. Global warming is not a morality tale. Doubt exists and is legitimate. There is much to debate and debate we should.
Samuelson's 1995 book, "The Good Life and Its Discontents," dealt with classic American utopianism—"We expected all social problems to be solved." They aren't solved and won't be. Samuelson discussed the resulting complaining.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Municipal Wireless

The enthusiasm of believers to the contrary, municipal wireless networks ain't what they're cracked up to be. Albuquerque is working on a proposal. Rio Rancho is trying to rescue its project from disaster.
Some projects are running 30% over budget, reported the Wall Street Journal on August 16. Customer demand is slow. Various concerns have pushed San Francisco's deal with Google and Earthlink onto the November ballot for voter consideration. Anchorage cancelled its project. Minneapolis increased project spending to make the signal strong enough to get through trees. New Mexico cities probably have fewer trees than Minneapolis, but the problem is one not to leaf, er, leave, standing.
A Web sire is tracking such projects around the world See:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Girl Scouts &

From her biography, It doesn't appear that Patricia Diaz Dennis lived in New Mexico a long time. This deduction stems from all the Texas and Washington, D.C., items on Ms Dennis' resume. But she did start in New Mexico, by being born in Santa Rita, and that trivia item was discovered in the most backhanded manner. Professionally, Ms Dennis is Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel for AT&T. In her civic life she chairs the board of the Girl Scouts of USA and is a board member of, which cycles back to her birth in Santa Rita, a mining community located in Grant County which is the locale of all sorts of border related development activity centering on Western New Mexico University. got a full discussion recently from San Diego-based nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette. is a "a binational think tank to help bridge the divide between Mexico and the United States," Navarrette said. The acronym stands for Mexicans & Americans Thinking Together. The organizatiion "has more than 1 million members on both sides of the border."

This is another instance of dicovering a hugely accomplished person with New Mexico ties, however thin, via the national media instead of the locals.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Santa Fe & New York Times

An August 5 article in the New York Times travel section had this headline: Is Santa fe Ready for a makeover? Such things are always a useful window on what the other guys think. In this case, in my opinion, the other guys are patronizing, "blinded by the light," to borrow Bruce Springsteen. Asking whether Santa Fe is ready for a makeover starts with the premise that Santa Fe hasn't changed. That premise has no basis in reality. Santa Fe, and any other dynamic place, is constantly making over. For example (some of these are a little old):
The Bull Ring parking lot was paved.
The Bull Ring moved.... into the Wells Fargo Building, which was despised at the time of its construction.
All the big political events are now held at the Eldorado, which was despised at the time of its construction.
A convention center is under construction.
The Pink Adobe has new owners.
Capitol Report New Mexico will present the first handbook of the interim committees.
etc., etc., etc..

Friday, August 10, 2007

Health Care Recommendations

The Health Coverage for New Mexicans Committee has submitted its recommendations to Governor Bill Richardson.
According to a news release from the Department of Human Services, the Committee’s key policy recommendations include:

1. Create a single statewide unified health care authority or governance structure based on the guiding principles adopted by the Committee that would be charged with implementing health care reforms regarding universal coverage, cost and quality controls and oversight of health care delivery in New Mexico.
2. Maximize enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP as soon as economically feasible.
3. Reform New Mexico health insurance and HMO requirements to move towards guarantee issue for individuals regardless of health status or pre-existing condition; require a standard percent of premium collected by insurance companies to be spent on direct services; lower the twenty percent that insurance carriers can add to small group rates due to health status and claims experience and implement common data reporting.
4. Allow employers to buy into the state employee health risk pool and individuals without access to commercial insurance to buy into a Medicaid benefit plan.
5. Consolidate or create larger health insurance risk pools where beneficial and consolidate public administrative functions.
6. Require individuals to obtain coverage through public programs or commercial insurance.
7. Require employers to contribute in some way to coverage for employees.
8. Maximize health information technology such as enrollment, develop electronic medical records, diagnosis, billing claims, provider payment and reimbursement.
9. Increase provider recruitment and retention through incentives.
10. Consider a state-operated reinsurance or risk equalization program to distribute risk and manage the effects of catastrophic claims on any one pool due to medical procedures.

“Many recommendations may be implemented without delay following the successful passage of legislation in 2008,” the release said.

The committee’s final report is in the health care section at

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Biomass and Doing One Thing

The problem is that one can never do "just one thing."
A biomass plant proposed for Torrance County does some other things (the details don't matter here) and has been rejected by State Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry. Syndicated columnist Sherry Robinson, in her column this week, says "Curry ignored the favorable recommendation of his own hearing officer and denied the permit because the plant would use natural gas once a year to start up after maintenance." Other proposed alternative energy projects are watching for the outcome of the Torrance County situation. Robinson's column runs in eight newspapers around New Mexico..
Ethanol made from corn comes to mind. Ethanol is touted as a supplement to gasoline. But diverting corn to fuel feedstock creates more demand than farmers have been able to deliver. The result: higher food prices.
One other example: A water bureaucracy dispute in northwest metro Albuquerque becomes major factor in the significant delay of a large real estate project.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Home Prices: Albuquerque

In metro Albuquerque, average and median homes prices are up, sales are down and the number of homes offered for sale, known as "inventory," is way up. The explanation, and just about the only explanation, according to a recent report: More expensive features in new homes which increases the price and, in turn, pulls up the price of existing homes.
Well, no.
The first rule of simple explanations is that life is almost never that simple. People in Albuquerque used to think the water situation was simple.
Housing markets around the country vary widely. Albuquerque, in fact, is one of the healthiest if one defines health as prices continuing up.
Neighborhoods also vary widely. The Albuquerque Metropolitan Board of Realtors tracks housing prices for 41 areas around the metro. For the first half of this year, prices in seven neighborhoods increased by more than 10%. Prices dropped in seven other neighborhoods and showed essentially no change in two. One area, Canoncito, had no sales.
The geographic behavior is inconsistent. Sandia Heights, with a average 2007 price of $510,000 and the fifth highest prices in the metro, showed a 1.2% drop this year. North Albuquerque Acres, next door and with the highest average prices in town at $682,500,, registered a 10.7% increase.
Prices in the Far North Valley, with an average around $350,000, dropped. Prices in Four Hills, also around $350,000, increased.
The number of sales in some neighborhoods is down. Others are holding steady.
It just ain't that simple.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Education Spending

A new report from the Rockefeller Institute details something thought never to happen—a drop in spending on K-12 education. The report, a Rockefeller Institute Policy Brief, begins by saying, "Total revenues supporting K-12 education—after factoring in inflation and changes in the number of students — fell in most states between 2002 and 2005. These overall revenue declines were driven largely by reductions in state support for K-12 education. Increases in revenues from the federal government and local governments compensated for some of the state-level cuts in many states."
In New Mexico, for the period, real (inflation adjusted) revenue per pupil dropped $33. The biggest drop, $182 per pupil, came in state revenue. Between 1992 and 2002, New Mexico spent an average, each year, of $7,427 per pupil, 41st nationally. The report is posted in the economic reports section of
The Rockefeller Institute of Government is the policy research arm of the State University of New York. It looks at government finance and management.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Rural Economic Development

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City often has some thoughts on our rural economies. The following comments come from a KC Fed newsletter, "The Main Street Economist."
"The advantages of innovation are often well within the reach of rural America. Size and distance may limit a rural entrepreneur's ability to produce radical new innovations. But adopting new technologies and retailoring them exemplify the traditional spirit of rural American, especially in agriculture. In the language of economics, rural places are adept at technological adaption. a kind of inovation that improves existing technologies. The key players in this game of innovation are rural entrepreneurs."
This issue is posted in the economics section at

Monday, July 30, 2007


Water in New Mexico got a couple of passing mentions in the Summer 2007 issue of PERC Reports. Brandon Scarborough's article, "Buy That Fish a Drink," summarized development of voluntary markets of tradable water rights, which were called "an alternative to costly and inefficient regulations that dictate water allocations..." New Mexico is one of the states where the Bureau of Reclamation and state agencies have been buying water rights "to meet water requirements for endangered species and interstate compacts."
Laws in Montana, Oregon and Washington facilitate the free exchange of water rights. In New Mexico and other states, "political, legal and even social barriers have inhibited markets and thwarted efforts to restore flows for fish and wildlife."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Richardson Coal Report

Gov Bill Richardson scored a short story in the July 28 edition of The Economist, a news and business magazine based in London, England. He can't have been happy with the story. It was headlined: The Politics of Indian Coal. The story begins by saying, incorrectly, that "The cornerstone of Bill Richardson's cacmpaign for the Democratic nomination has been his his efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions."
"A" cornerstone, maybe. "The" cornerstone, no. That is the Richardson resume.
The story takes Richardson to task for being quiet, until recently, about the proposed 1,500MW coal-fired Desert Rock electrical generating station on Navajo Nation land. Navajos led by Joe Shirley, Navajo president, love the plant. The Navajo power authority will be part owner. The tribe will get jobs and money. Environmentalists and other Navajos oppose the plant for the usual reasons. The new Richardson comment, reported in the story, is that the plant's carbon dioxide emissions would make Richardson's "aggressive greenhouse-gas reduction goals difficult—if not impossible—to meet." The story did not say that Richardson now opposes Desert Rock.
Uranium is different for the Navajo Nation which has banned new uranium on tribal land to the joy of the enviros.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Job Growth Down

The state's newly designated Department of Workforce Solutions reports the the statewide unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted, dropped to a record low of 3.2% in June. The year over year job growth rate continued down from the June 2006 peak of 3.6%. Since June 2006, New Mexico has added 12,700 jobs, a 1.5% increase.
Statewide, construction has lost 200 jobs in the past year.
Wage jobs in Albuquerque just barely grew during the June-to-June year with a 1,000 job increase, up 0.3%. Over the year, jobs grew 2.7% in Santa Fe, 1.4% in Las Cruces and 1.2% in Farmington.
In Albuquerque, construction and finance lost jobs. Albuquerque construction employment, down 400 for the year, has dropped in five of the first six months of 2007.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Zia Pueblo & Aztec

Zia Pueblo continues to remind us that the Zia sun sysmbol, long since unofficially enshrined at the symbol of New Mexico, started with the pueblo. A billboard on U.S. 550, near Zia's entrance, says, "Zia Pueblo. Home of the Zia Sun Symbol."
Street repair in Aztec offers evidence of other policies. We don't know those policies, but we do know people make choices and stuff happens. Or doesn't happen. In March, driving through Aztec, we found several blocks of Main Street destroyed. One observation was that Aztec's residents who are customers Citizens Bank undergo a serious hassle banking at the Aztec branch. Our July 24 observation is that Main Street is still destroyed. Some of the details are different, but far from different enough to be explained by steady work for four months. The next day, July 25, we found that Aztec's commuters have been given a bonus, a street resurfacingon N.M. 516 in front of West Side Plaza. The guess is that Aztec has taken a page from the construction scheduling approach of Albuquerque Public Schools and a page from Santa Fe's street repair timing manual.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tourism Promotion

The amount of money state government devotes to tourism promotion probably will always lag our neighbors. Spaceports are more exotic, after all, though tourism touches every corner of the state. Every so often the industry puts together an effort to keep New Mexico, well, a little less behind (my words, not the industry's). New Mexico spent about $2.9 million for tourism promotion during the 2006-07 fiscal year, according to an industry study reported by David Miles in a July 22 article in The New Mexican. Miles reported that "Texas ranked fourth with a $15.2 million budget, Colorado fifth at $14.7 million and Arizona eighth at $11.4 million, the study said."
Tourism doesn't just happen. It is promotion driven. The industry plans a new proposal in the 2008 legislative session for additional promotion money. A pitch for a five percent cut of tribal gaming concession payments didn't fly this year.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Personal Income

New Mexico's heady climb up the income ladder of the past few years hit a snag during the first quarter of this year. Personal income grew 1.4 percent between the fourth quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of 2007. That was good for a tie for 42nd with Washington and Montana and a long way from the performance needed to pull the state from ranking in the forties. New Mexico has also returned to its place as the slowest performing state economy among its neighbors. State personal income increases during the first quarter were Arizona, 2.1%; Colorado, 2.1%; Texas, 1.8%; and Oklahoma, 1.7%.
Nationally, person income grew 2.2% for the three-month period. The numbers, subject to revision, are from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Health Care Ranking

The executive summary of the U.S. Index of Health Ownership explains, "The U.S. Index of Health Ownership is the first effort to measure the degree to which individuals, be they patients, health professionals, entrepreneurs, or taxpayers, 'own' the health care in their states. It quantifies how state laws and regulations affect the liberty of citizens involved in state government
health plans (primarily Medicaid), the private health-insurance market, and the provision of medical
services. In addition, the Index assesses the effect of medical tort on people’s freedom to engage
health services."
Overall, New Mexico ranks 22nd once the 24 variables are summed into four categories. The state is in the bottom five for two categories and leads in one.
New Mexico's lowest rank is for state government health care, The report says, "New Mexico, at 48th, seriously underinvests in prescription drugs, is much too dependent on federal matching payments, and has overexpanded Medicaid eligibility."
In state provider burden of regulation, "New Mexico takes this category because of few restrictions on nurse practitioners’
scope of practice and the corporate practice of medicine."
The index is available from the Pacific Research Institute. John R. Graham is the author. See

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Health Care Forum

If greatly over filling the parking lot and meeting hall means the organizers of a meeting are onto something, then the Health Care for All coalition has reason to brag. Last night's health care forum at the Unitarian Church in Albuquerque was standing room only. The vehicles driven to the meeting overwhelmed the church parking lot and spilled into the parking for the two adjacent buildings. Health Care for All had nine organizations on its steering committee. They ranged from the New Mexico Public Health Association to New Mexico Voices for Children and the always impartial League of Women Voters.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Summer of Love

It was 1967. That makes the 40th anniversary this summer. I went to San Francisco that summer to a see a woman who now lives in Santa Fe. My trip ended in Golden Gate Park, but I left to catch my plane before the Jefferson Airplane appeared. The New Mexican today ( has a long summary / retrospective of Northern New Mexico's considerable role in the Hippie movement. The story forgets "Be Here Now," the iconic tract from the Lama Foundation of San Cristobal. The first 330,000 copies, plus, of "Be Here Now" were printed in Albuquerque.
The story reveals something that seems entirely surprising—a fair number of the Hippies turned into Realtors and are still in New Mexico. The appeal comes from freedom and independence of the real estate work.

Richardson & Rio Grande Foundation

Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Grande Foundation, the New Mexico conservative think tank, got his national shot at Gov. Bill Richardson in the July 14-15 weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. Gessing began by crediting Richardson with cutting taxes, which became true, on an overall basis, only after the 2007 legislative session. The theme of the article is that "there is more to Richardson's fiscal record that tax cuts. He's also a profligate spender..." Gessing's check list starts with the 11 percent increase in general fund spending awarded this year. He moves to covering adults with money from the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and the Railrunner commuter train, which is ecpected to need a $10 million subsidy annually after the state kicks in to replace $75 milliond of capital money that didn't appear. Gessing's analysis ran as part of the Cross Country department of locally originated political columns.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ruidoso Media

A bit of a media mini-conglomerate has sprung to life in Ruidoso. 1 to 1 Creative Group (( is the promotional umbrella for Write Designs, LTD and Print Write Now! Services range from graphic design, regular printing using Xerox digital presses, Web design and reproduction of artwork. The newest effort is a quarterly lifestyle magazine, Oh So Ruidoso (, that is two-issues old. The first issue had 40 pages. The second had 60. Publisher Laura Reynolds says via email that Oh So Ruidoso is "is by subscription and newsstand sales only. We print
quarterly. Our second issue was just distributed from a 9,000 press run. We mail out complimentary issues to over 6,000 property owners of Lincoln County."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Interim Committees

The Web site of the New Mexico legislature ( lists 23 committees under the heading, "Interim Committees." This may be accurate in the sense that the groups meet during the interim, the time between legislative sessions. But nuances exist. Within the 23, there are three task forces, two permanent committees with their own staff (Legislative Finance and the Legislative Education Study), 17 that appear to be true interim committees and the Legislative Council, a permanent committee that oversees the Legislative Council Service.
Capitol Report New Mexico will publish the committee work plans in our next issue, set to appear around September 1. Some of the longer plans may be summarized in the magazine with the complete version posted at
Our first look at about half the work plans shows fascinating and important topics being considered.
The Land Grant Comittee will consider implications of granting political subdivision status to community land grants.
The Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee will "review the work and recommendations of the blue ribbon tax task force" and address "development of a long-range plan for tax policy and tax changes in the state."
Two committees, Economic and Rural Development and Revenue Stabilization, will look at economic development tax incentives.
Possibly the most obscure of the bunch, the Legislative Structure and Process Study Task Force, may have the biggest task—"developing a series of recommendations to help the legislature conduct its work and perform its duties in a more effective and efficient manner."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Today, July 10, USA Today has a story summarizing the hopes for a revival of uranium mining. The dateline is Grants. Jobs are coming, the story indicates, though not in big numbers for now. The story is evenly told, quite unlike a December 24,2006, tale the Albuquerque Journal picked up from the Los Angeles Times that had as its focus, according to one subhead, "Uranium's Toxic Legacy."

"Trading at $7 a pound in 2001, "yellowcake," as it is called, hit $120 a pound in May. By the end of June it raked in as much as $138 a pound on the spot market.
"The surging price has lured more than two dozen companies with mining expertise to the high-desert uranium fields here in just the past year or so, says John Indall, a Santa Fe lawyer for the Uranium Producers of America. The companies are reviving old claims, searching filing cabinets for forgotten geological maps and hiring old-timers who know the land.
"Uranium is found widely, but New Mexico is the mother lode. Indall estimates that 600 million pounds of uranium lie under New Mexico's sandy soil. And the energy produced by a pellet of uranium the size of a fingertip is equal to that produced by nearly a ton of coal, Lister says.
"Yet not everyone is hankering for a uranium boom.
"Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley signed a tribal law two years ago banning mining on Navajo lands, which cover much of rural New Mexico. He says the last boom left behind radiation, pollution and disease.
"'I believe the powers that be committed genocide on Navajo land by allowing uranium mining, he said.
"Not all Navajos agree."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Very Small New Mexico Businesses

New Mexico is a state of very small businesses. In fact, 116,614 New Mexico firms don’t even have employees. Of course, total sales for the group aren’t that great, only $4.5 billion in 2005, according to the Census Bureau. That’s about $38,350 each. The Census Bureau compiles the information from tax returns. The largest number of non-employee businesses are found in the professional, scientific and technical services category, which sounds a lot like “consultant.” Only 89 are found in the utility category. It is a bit difficult to imagine a utility without employees.
About 41% of the businesses are in metro Albuquerque, around Albuquerque’s proportion of the New Mexico population, and earn $1.9 billion, a proportionate share of the $4.5 million.
Harding County had 55 firms without employees in 2005.

Department of Labor

It isn't the Department of Labor any more. It is the Department of Workforce Solutions, a naming winner behind only "Expo New Mexico" in its obfuscation. There is much more to the department than "Workforce Solutions," whatever that means.
I found this via the Web site when looking for the quarterly covered wage employment report. (Name may not be quite right). Then I tried calling the research and statistics section which seems to have disappeared and been reincarnated as Labor Market Information. The telephone, for two R&S numbers, said, "We are currently experiencing technical difficulties." I then called the number listed on the Web site for the delightfully named PIO, Carlos Castaneda. It kicked to voice mail. The Web site number is different from the phone book. Then it was the first number listed in the phone book under Office of the Secretary which turned out to be the director of administrative services. It said the director was on the phone. I punched zero and was cut off. There was no number of the Secretary listed in the phone book.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Abq Homes Prices

Metro Albuquerque and Farmington are among the 11 cities reporting median home price increases of more than 10 percent from the first quarter of 2006 through the first quarter of 2007. The numbers are from the National Association of Realtors.
Albuquerque’s 12.7 percent increase to $193,700 ranked sixth among the eleven while Farmington was tenth with a 12 percent increase to $176,800.
To sure, though, the number of sales in Albuquerque has dropped on a year over year basis. During May, 1,129 homes (both single family detached and townhouses) down 13 per cent from 1,301 in May 2006.
An analysis of the traits common to these 11 communities from starts with “positive fundamentals including strong job and population growth, which then fuel demand for houses.”
The 11 cities never had the true boom in housing prices. Prices never overheated. Of the group, only Seattle has a median home price, $380,200, well above the national median of $212,600.
Small size is another characteristic of the group. Seattle leads by a big margin with 3.3 million people. Farmington is the smallest metro with about 126,473 in 2006.

Monday, July 2, 2007

New Mexico Roads

This is the summary of New Mexico's road conditions from the "16th Annual Report on the Performance
of State Highway Systems (1984–2005)" of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian-oriented think tank. The full report, with state rankings in each category, is in the Policy Reports section at
"In 2005, New Mexico reported 12,205 miles under the state control. The state
ranked 4th in the overall performance ratings in 2005. This represents a sharp
improvement from 2000 when the state ranked 27th. Its best ratings were for rural
interstate condition (1st), capital/bridge disbursements per mile of responsibility
(5th), urban interstate congestion (9th), receipts per mile of responsibility (10th),
deficient bridges (12th), total disbursements per mile of responsibility (13th) and rural primary
pavement condition (16th). Its worst ratings were for fatality rate (43rd) and administrative
disbursements per mile of responsibility (35th). New Mexico’s solid condition ratings are more than
enough to offset its high fatality rate and administrative costs."

Thursday, June 28, 2007


The city Albuquerque population passed the half million mark around the end of 2005 to be 504,949 as of July 1, 2006. The city added 10,472 residents between 2005 and 2006. Albuquerque ranked 19th for the number of new residents during the period among cities with a population of more than 500,000, and, with a 2.1 percent increase, was sixth in percentage growth. Rio Rancho's population of 71,607 in 2006 is nearly 20,000 more than in 2000.
The Census Bureau shows 258 cities with a population of more than 100,000. Las Cruces, Santa Fe and Farmington don't make the list. All have more than 100,000 in their metro areas, but fewer than 100,000 in the city. Las Cruces has 86,268 people in 2006. SAnta fe has 72,056 with Farmington at 43,573.
Grenville, in central Union County, has a population of 21, placing it well ahead of Taos Ski Valley and Causey in the competition for being New Mexico's least populous municipality.
See the Economic Data section at for the July 1, 2006, population of the state's 105 incorporated places.