Thursday, December 25, 2008

Population: Growth Rate Plummets

If plummet means a 25% drop, then New Mexico's population growth rate did indeed plummet between 2007 and 2008. The growth for the state's population was 1.02% for the year, according to Census Bureau figures released this week. That's a 25.6% drop from the 1.37% population growth from 2006 to 2007.
The 1.02% 07-08 growth rate tied for the second lowest growth rate of the decade with the 1.02% increase from 2002 to 2003. The 1.37% growth between 2006 and 2007 was the top rate to date for the decade and, as it proved, finished a four-increase in population growth rate. The lowest growth rate for the decade was the 0.4% increase between 2000 and 2001 when only 7,626 people were added to the New Mexico population.
At 1,984, 356, New Mexico's population continues nudging, but more slowly, toward the two million mark. Between 2007 and 2008, there were 19,954 people added to the state population. The previous year, 26,486 new people found a place here.
New Mexico's population growth rate ranked 18th nationally. The New Mexico population is 36th among the states.
The 2007 - 2008 population growth rate is one economic measure where we cannot cheerily (if irrelevantly) claim some consolation for performing better than a lot of others. Yes, 32 states grew more slowly than New Mexico. But our neighbors, a far more meaningful comparison, all were in the top ten for 07-08 population growth.
These are all net figures. People come to the state and they leave. Natural increase—births minus deaths—accounted for about three quarters of the New Mexico 07-08 growth. The big news is the near disappearance of "domestic migration," people moving to the state from other places in the United States. The people in this group provided only 5% of the population growth. They are important because, mostly they are adults or adults plus children. Most of the adults, retirees being a big exception, have jobs on the mind. They build the economy. The other population increase category is net international migration, legal and otherwise.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Legislature: Budget Outlook

Political blogger Joe Monahan asked for my two cents worth about the budget and the upcoming legislative session. The full email exchange is here. -HM

On Dec 19, 2008, at 11:10 PM, Joe Monahan wrote:

Harold--do you have any thoughts on the state budget shortfalls for this and next fiscal year and how it should be approached? (for my blog) -J

On Dec 20, 2008, at 5:51 PM, Harold Morgan wrote:

Joe: By the way, my blog is Capitol Report will return as a newspaper in January which means I'm paying close attention to the financial situation.

The LFC's approach makes sense, but then I'm a huge fan of the LFC. The "FY 09 Solvency Plan" has three general approaches: One-time revenue actions, across the board reductions (of varying percent) in FY 09 spending, and reviewing capital spending. Little things tucked into these three big groups include reviewing the extra money allocated in the 2008 special session for school bus fuel.
The hard part will be pulling state spending back to tracking personal income and back to a 5.5% growth trend. Tom Clifford of the Tax Research gets credit for these two insights.

Personally, what I see is happiness with new taxes at all levels of government—small municipalities to the state level. ACI has caved on this point. Maybe more tax money is necessary. But while most of our problems stem from, first, the national situation, and then the Richardson administration being in George Bush mode and spending all the money, a contributing factor (at some level) is that the Richardson administration has raised taxes, overall. I have reported the tax increase situation in my column for several years. Caving on the tax question means failing to do the hard work on the spending side.

What I don't see is much willingness to not do things. The $20-plus million mobile (Mesa del Sol to the fairgrounds) equestrian center has been criticized. But it is still alive until the legislature pulls the money. Unreported is the detail that there already is an equestrian center—in Las Cruces. Eastern New Mexico University wants more money (it already has some) for what I see as a true frill, a student weight room, I think. A veteran's museum is proposed for Las Cruces. This amounts to rewarding the Museum of New Mexico system for massively dropping attendance. In Albuquerque the newest "traffic calming" device is a concrete island in the middle of the street. There is one on Girard NE at about Hannet and another on Mountain NW at about 15th. I have no idea what these hazards cost, but why now? Etc., etc.

If you quote any of this, as via pasting, look for typos. There are always some. Enough. Ask questions. Link to the blog. -HM

On Dec 20, 2008, at 6:18 PM, Joe Monahan wrote:

what about 2010 fiscal?

December 21, 2008 10:27:12 AM MST

No one has talked about FY 10 much. The immediate task—FY 09—is large and challenging. The FY 2010 shortfall figures are smaller, but still large. I suspect, therefore, that the FY 10 options will remain that everything is on the table and the actions will be "all of the above."

By the way, we're not yet in a recession, statewide. BBER unveiled one of its secrets the other day—the definition of a recession in the state which is two quarters of declining wage employment. Santa Fe is on the way; wage employment has dropped for four months. Metro Albuquerque has lost jobs for two months. This means that for the FY 09 wage job forecast to come true—a 0.1% decline in FY 09—all of the statewide job losses must come during the rest of the fiscal year. In turn, that means the next six months will be ugly for wage jobs.

New job numbers are due Thursday. Merry Christmas. -HM

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Political Notes: A Whole New Car?

Yesterday Tom Taylor was only talking about the state's tax system, but his comments could be generalized to suggest the approach Republicans need to take the next two years. Taylor, Farmington Republican and House Minority Leader, was part of a panel of legislators at the annual Legislative Outlook Conference sponsored by the New Mexico Tax Research Institute. During the introductions, Taylor was teased a bit about a penchant to drive fast.
Taylor took the kidding as an opportunity to offer an analogy about the tax system. "Our boundaries have changed," he said. Actually, as a practical matter, the fiat boundaries of governmental entities such as counties and municipalities are irrelevant because of the Internet and because of business flexibility. yet, changing the tax system is dangerous because "we have no earthly idea" of the effect due to lack of data about how the tax system really works.
Yet, "we continue to try to reform" what he called our '57 Chevy tax system when the parts and technology do not exist to allow the system to function in our Porsche Carrera 911 world, much less the world of the 911 GT2. We have great challenges and a great opportunity to redesign everything, to build a whole new car.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Economy: Small Business

It's said so often New Mexico is a small business state that it is a cliche.
The numbers come from the census Bureau. In the publication, County Business Patterns 2006 (The latest available), the New Mexico page is: For the week of March 12, 2006, there 628,681 employees working in 45,940 establishments:. An establishment is a location. A firm, Blake's Lota Burger, may have a number of locations. Thus, the firm, Blakes, accounts for a number of establishments.
We have 24,312 establishments with fewer than 5 employees, 6,171 with 10 to 19 employees, 43,774 with fewer than 50 (I added the first four groups), and 16 with more than 1,000.

Number of Establishments by Employment-size class
Total Estabs 1-4 / 5-9 / 10-19 / 20-49 / 50-99 / 100-249 / 250-499 / 500-999 / 1000 or more
45,940 24,312 / 9,159 / 6,171 / 4,132 / 1,299 / 628 / 157 / 66 / 16

Business without employees are also of interest and importance. (
In 2006 New Mexico has 117,752 firms (not establishments) with no employees and with receipts of $4.5 billion.Of the 100,000-plus firms with no employees, a bunch will be doing nothing or have slight economic activity. These might be corporations still paying the corporate tax or proprietorships, businesses in the garage, doing little or nothing. However, I think my wife and I are much more representative of the nonemployee group. We both work from our home. With our combined income, we do in fact generate real economic activity and we do pay enough gross receipts tax that the amount is real money.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Energy and Environment: Otero Mesa

I was reminded over the weekend that 70 oil wells have been drilled on Otero Mesa, the allegedly "pristine" desert grassland south of Alamogordo.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Energy: Wind vs. Solar in Taos

Taos seems the perfect place for a battle between wind energy and solar energy advocates. Actually, the solar folks are much more than advocates, passionate prophets, perhaps, in the intensity of their opposition to a 40-turbine wind farm on private land west of Taos proposed by Taos Wind Power Inc. of Ranchos de Taos. Opponents' unhappiness covers the usual basics, reported The New Mexican on Sunday, "health impacts of noise and low-frequency vibrations from wind turbines, flashing strobe lights changing the night sky, turbine blades killing birds and giant structures forever changing the open plateau's landscape." The opponents are more than unhappy, they are angry, The New Mexican said.
Some of the opponents live in the Cielito Lindo subdivision near the site. Homes in the subdivision mainly use solar power. In the subdivision there are off-the-grid homes. Construction materials include straw bales. Supposedly the homes have no negative impact on the environment, except, of course, the impact of building the homes and of people living in them.
Another element in the story is: Establishment vs. counterculture. The establishment is Eliu Romero, Taos attorney and founder of Centinel Bank. After nearly 40 years in business, notes the bank's Web site,, "Today Centinel is one of very few minority-owned financial institutions in the United States."
Yesterday the Taos County planning commission voted 5 - 2 to approve the application for the wind farm. The commission attached 31 conditions to the application by Taos Wind Power.
Opponents have created a blog to present their views, The opponents were outraged at the commission's action yesterday. The blog said, "But tonight the worst of modern America was on display. Entitlement, arrogance, cronyism and ignorance ruled, while our regulatory protections were stomped on. We thought tonight was going to be about Taos Wind Power, but it turned out to be about one very broken regulatory system."
The Web site for Taos Wind Power is: The site says the company is working on projects in Colorado and Montana.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Culture: Natural History Museum

Our visit to the Natural History Museum in Albuquerque last weekend was impressive overall and disappointing in some details. The exhibit of the history of the personal computer is worth seeing. Especially gratifying was the statement, contrary to myth, that Microsoft founder Bill Gates did not leave Albuquerque due to any failure on the part of people in Albuquerque. Rather, with the sale of the MITS company, Gates and Paul Allen lost any reason to be in Albuquerque and returned to Seattle, land of Gates' family and money.
Some of the details:
A University of New Mexico Press book about the allegedly pristine wonders of Otero Mesa was printed in Singapore. Somehow the fuel used for shipping takes a little of the shine from the environmental paean. A carrying bag with an environmental slogan was made of polyester,
We concluded that the Museum does not have English majors write the material explaining exhibits. Two examples jumped at us. A description of the photography of undersea animals indicated that the film was processed underwater. A description of the cast of a dinosaur skeleton suggested that the cast of the skeleton was found near Tucumcari rather than the skeleton itself.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Political Notes: The Rs Future?

Yesterday I happened to briefly visit with a 30-year national level political (Republican) and corporate affairs consultant. This man mostly lives on airplanes but sometimes stops in Abq to do laundry and say hello to his wife.
With regard to Republican woes in NM and nationally, he offered the theory that organizations in society including professions operate with a social contract. Society says: Do your thing and don't mess up too much, too often and you are generally left alone. Accountants and Enron provided his analogy. Corporations and accountants got Sarbanes-Oxley and other joys in return for their errors and misbehavior, Mortgage bankers might be today's analogy.
The consultant argues that Republicans nationally and in NM have defaulted on the social contract. Therefore, he says, any mere "back to basics" is irrelevant. It's more than "rebranding." I didn't get to stick around for the solutions part, but I find the notion fascinating.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Education: Reform Not Rocket Science

There are "four straightforward things," writes former IBM CEO Louis Gerstner in today's Wall Street Journal, needed 'to bring fundamental changes to K-12 education." Everything else either doesn't matter or supports the four items, which are:
1. High academic standards for all with a rigorous curriculum.
2. Greatly improve teaching quality and pay the best teachers a lot more.
3. Systematically measure student and teacher performance via tests and assessments.
4. More time in school each day and more days in school.
Gerstner wants President-Elect Obama to convene the 50 governors and cut a deal to:
1. Abolish all local school districts. Keep state-wide districts and districts in the 20 largest metros.
2. Set a national core curriculum starting with reading, math, science and social studies.
3. Test every 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th grader against national standards.
4. Set national teacher certification standards. Pay the best teachers more than $100,000. Fire the worst.
5. Extend the school day and year.
As a skeptic about national involvement in K-12 education, I'm cautious but intrigued. To start, there is the source of the ideas. Gerstner saved IBM. How about the schools? Certainly it ain't working in New Mexico where the latest proposed fix is massive tax increase. We have huge governance problems, not even counting the existence of a 100 or so districts in the state. That's because we have a state department of education that controls the money, therefore making all local decisions subject to state override and making mockery of any claims to local control.
The other intriguing aspect of Gerstner's proposals is that they are a gift to Republicans, who could offer a package in the coming legislature and begin to stand for something.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Petroleum and Pretentiousness

The other day my neighbor was gathering firewood from his driveway. As he performed this suburban task, I thought of his Prius and of the Obama sticker that probably will be on the Prius for another year, based on past history. If Prius drivers were consistent, they would opt for a ban on the burning of wood for recreational purposes, as was my neighbor's plan, as perhaps even for heating purposes. Wood is really good at putting crud into the air.
A better and much more self aggrandizing version of the purist approach came in today's Albuquerque Journal when the normally wonderful Leslie Linthicum wrote an "Up Front" column enshrining Doug Fine of rural southern New Mexico, wife Amanda, and five-month-old Quinn as petroleum free paragons. Linthicum describes what she calls "a "carbon-neutral, solar, living-off-the-land style." Toward the end of the puff-piece, Linthicum admits that aspects of Fine's approach "fall short of self-sufficiency." The photo accompanying the column expands the reality show. Fine is shown sitting on a large ball that I'm pretty sure is made of plastic, which comes from petroleum. Fine's feet are on precisely constructed bricks which probably aren't handmade and therefore were made using, most likely, oil or natural gas. A recliner is outside. The recliner appears to be of those, uh...., plastic jobs.
Fine traded his evil gasoline consuming Subaru for a pickup that runs on vegetable oil. I have no idea how veggie auto fuel is made, but I bet the process involved electricity which mostly comes from oil or natural gas. And the truck's tires probably are made from a petroleum derivative.
So far as I can figure, Fine appears to be pure except when he doesn't want to be pure. That's a natural human approach, And it's fine, as it were, except when one makes a living proclaiming purity (Fine writes books) and the so-called skeptics of the journalism world fail to notice the obvious and ask. Like, hey Doug, what's that big ole ball made of?
Oh, and there are Quinn's diapers. Store-bought and therefore made from petroleum? Or cloth and therefore requiring a bunch of water to wash?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Jobs: October, Approaching Zero

New Mexico's year over year growth keeps nudging toward zero. The growth for October was 0.1% with a 1,000 job increase from October 2007. The unemployment rate jumped to 4.4% after the drop in September to 4% which was considered a statistical blip. The unemployment rate of 4.6% in August.
Santa Fe is the weakest metro economy with the year over year job loss streak at five months. Santa Fe lost 200 jobs between October 2007 and October 2008, a 0.3% drop. Even local government lost jobs during the year.
Albuquerque scored its third month of year over year job losses, down 1,500 wage jobs for the year. Professional & business services, metro Albuquerque's second largest sector with 63,400 workers, declined by 1,000 jobs from its year-ago level, shrinking 1.6 percent. The industry has lost jobs for five consecutive months, says the Department of Workforce Services in its monthly news release. The professional & business services sector includes Sandia National Laboratories. In Albuquerque, construction has lost jobs for 22 months.
Albuquerque manufacturing lost 1,400 jobs during the past year, extending the year over year job-loss streak to 17.
In Farmington, the annual wage job increase was 0.6% or 300 jobs.
During the past year in Las Cruces, there were 1,400 wage jobs added for a 2% annual growth rate.Call centers in the professional and business services sector added 800 jobs.

Friday, November 28, 2008

McCulloch on GOP Future

Today Dr. Allen McCulloch of Farmington had an opinion piece in the Albuquerque Journal about the future of the New Mexico Republican party. It has been reported that McCulloch seeks the chairmanship of the state Republican party.
When Dr. McCulloch ran for the United States Senate in 2006, he won the primary election while campaigning part time. He continued the campaign part time into the summer. Nice guy. But when ti comes to the commitment of a political campaign, he clearly didn't get it.
At the election night party (read: wake) in Farmington, as he was losing to Sen. Jeff Bingaman by 40 points, Dr. McCulloch whined that the media cost him election. Wrong, as I said in my 2006 post-election campaign newspaper column, Dr. McCulloch lost because he had no campaign.
I suppose it is possible that Dr. McCulloch has taken to heart everything he didn't do in 2006 (which was a lot) and everything he did wrong (pretty much everything he did do) and therefore would be the ideal leader to bring the NM GOP from the depths. Possible, but not at all likely.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving: Palin Pursues Opportunity

My wife, the family liberal, got a personal letter yesterday from newly famous Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Surely it was a personal letter. After all, it was addressed to her by name. The envelope had the seal of the state of Alaska with a return address of "Office of the Governor of Alaska."
Well, OK, maybe it wasn't a personal letter; the salutation said, "Dear Neighbor."
The pitch was to return an enclosed survey card and "receive an official Alaska travel guide—absolutely FREE." Then, once the guide was in hand, Gov. Palin said, "I hope you'll come to Alaska soon."
All in all, it was an interesting ploy. Trade on Gov. Palin's new fame to lure visitors to Alaska.
A modest risk comes from sending the solicitation to people already inclined to think Gov. Palin is a wacko. A few of these folks might be inclined to visit Alaska. Heightening the Alaska association with Gov. Palin might be sending them in another direction. Then there is the timing of the letter, no doubt done to capitalize on Palin's fame while it is still fresh. Given the distance from the Lower 48 to Alaska, I suspect that Alaska trips aren't exactly spur of the moment. But another issue affects travel timing to Alaska—winter. The forecast for Anchorage today is for a high in the mid-20s and another one to two inches of snow. I thought all this meant the letter was sent much too early to be useful. However, some folks with vacation planning experience say that significant vacations are planned six to eight months ahead. That means the timing is about perfect—just ahead of the holiday mail rush and in time for the travel guide to arrive in January.
One reaction to the letter is "good marketing."
From another person, the reaction is that, at some level, playing on the newly enhanced "political" name is just not ethical..
The letter does accomplish the task of boosting Gov. Palin's name identification while spending Alaskans' money.
My wife says she accepts Palin's invitation, so long as Palin pays for the trip.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Economic Development: Eclipse Aviation

As everyone will know by the evening's television news broadcasts, Eclipse Aviation of Albuquerque has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Rather than belabor the soon to be well known details, the point of the moment is to remember that Eclipse always and remains a startup, risky by definition. Not only that, Eclipse has been inventing a new business with its light jet, adding a further level of risk. Anyone putting money into such an enterprise should understand the risk.
One report I just found indicates that the state—meaning the Richardson administration—has two equity investments totaling $19 million. That money—yours and mine, a $10 donation from each of us—is gone, in all likelihood; shareholders are the last ones to escape intact from a bankruptcy.
When investing taxpayers' money, there's a rule—the prudent man rule—that basically says, "Be real careful." Putting money into startups in new industries seems outside that rule.
There is a blog with details upon details. See
Technology Note: My first news of the Eclipse bankruptcy came about 10:45 this morning. I was driving along Montgomery Blvd. in Albuquerque when one of those flashing new electronic billboards got my attention. "Eclipse bankruptcy," it said, and promised news at noon on KRQE TV.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Capitol Report: Oil, Movies And Lt. Gov. Denish

At the Legislative Finance Committee Meeting today in Santa Fe, Sen. William Sharer, a Farmington Republican, and Rep. Don Bratton, a Hobbs Republican, expressed serious worry that the state's financial situation is going to get even worse. Sharer said he had seen five idle rigs in San Juan County recently, something not known for years. It's "because of the pit rules," he said. ConocoPhillips has announced plans to move $150 million in planned spending to other states, he said.
Pits, I understand, are small, lined basins that hold salty water that comes up with oil. Industry considers the administration's new rules to be onerous. More to come on that topic.
This means the state coffers are getting a double hit—less royalty money now due to lower prices and fewer wells in the future because of the pit rules.
Sen. John Arthur Smith, LFC chair, added that the situation was forecast in March. "This is why we don't know where the bottom is. We're very apprehensive," he said.
Smith asked the movie question of Fred Mondragon, Economic Development Department secretary. Smith has been getting what he called "interesting inquiries" about use for operational purposes of state capital outlay money allocated to movie projects. What's up, Smith asked. Mondragon and Film Office director Lisa Strout were unable to enlighten Smith. The discussion ended with mention of a "governor's media fund." Smith said he expected the investigative questions to continue.
Finally, passing by the office of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, I notice a sign on the wall of the reception area. It said, "Observe the turtle. He only progresses with his neck out." neat thought. But "he"?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Real Estate: Industrial & Commercial Outlook

Real estate people are wired for optimism so it might have been expected that the presentation of the 2009 outlook for metro Albuquerque wasn't as depressing as an external person might have thought. Even so, it wasn't a happy tale told today by members of the Society of Office and Industrial Realtors to fellow developers at NAIOP, the commercial developers group.
New industrial developments will be on the west side, around the airport and at Mesa del Sol. The long dominant I-25 corridor is done.
Industrial rents are now above national rates due to the lack of land. Rates are expected to be flat for A and B level properties during the next year and will drop 10-to 15% for C properties. The vacancy rate will bump a point or so to 6.5% by year end and remain stable during 2009. Construction costs will drop slightly during 2009. An expected drop in construction in China will mean more available steel. There has been some industrial sales activity during 2008, mostly early in the year with a few recent deals.
For offices, the hope is that 2008 will end with zero net absorption. The vacancy rate is about 14% now. The office market has been tight, so only a slight increase in the vacancy rate is expected. The amount of sub-leased space is expected in increase. Much of the vacant office consists of large properties such as the former Blue Cross headquarters. The cost of tenant improvements will drop to about $40/square foot from the current $50. Just one reason is a huge drop in the price of copper.
New office construction will be minimal. The price of existing office properties will be down. Those interested in buying offices will need to bring money. A 40% down payment requirement is the outlook.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jennings: Legislature Needs to Meet

Sen. Tim Jennings, Roswell Democrat, doesn’t necessarily believe that the legislature should go through the formality of calling itself into an “extraordinary session.” But he does believe that all of the legislators should get together soon for a thorough briefing on state finances. That’s because there’s trouble, Jennings says. He raised the topic in Santa Fe Friday at a meeting of the Legislative Council, the committee that oversees the Legislative Council Service.
The trouble, Jennings told me via telephone this afternoon, is that “our deficit is bigger than a lot of people want to tell.” The deficit is not $270 million, it’s “more like twice that or more.”
A further problem, Jennings said, is that a good bit of the money counted as among the state’s financial reserves cannot be accessed without legislative action. He cited the tobacco tax.
The first reason for gathering the legislature, Jennings said, is that in general “people need to know.” The second reason is practical. If Jennings’ sense of the state’s financial fix is anywhere close to correct—and he says, “I’m not the financial guru, I know that”—then the more time to fix the problem, the better. When the 2009 session ends in mid-March, the fiscal year is about three-quarters gone. That simply doesn’t allow enough time to deal with what may be massive cuts.
Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, Albuquerque Republican, was the only one who spoke in support of Jennings’ suggestions at the Legislative Council meeting. Arnold-Jones is an advisory member of the committee.

Jennings photo by Mark Bralley

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Economy: Albuquerque Tech Performance

Metro Albuquerque probably should count it a victory to have kept 31st place for 2008 in the Milken Institute/Greenstreet Real Estate Partners Best Performing Cities Index of 200 cities. The Milken Web site says the index "ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth."
The solace in Albuquerque's no change from the 31st place rank in 2007 comes from the turmoil in the rankings. El Paso climbed 85 spots for a 35th place rank in 2008. The losers were led by an 112 place drop by the Vallejo-Fairfield, California, metro area north across San Francisco Bay from Oakland. The rank-dropping leaders appeared to be cities hit by real estate disasters. They are in California and Florida and include Las Vegas, Nevada. Phoenix went from fourth in 2007 to 32nd in 2008.
Provo, Utah, led the 2008 pack with a seven-place climb from 2007, followed by Raleigh, NC, which jumped eight spots.
Albuquerque's rank comes from being fifth in relative high-tech GDP growth from 2002 to 2007 and from having a relatively large high tech sector in the local economy.
Albuquerque did less well in overall job performance, ranking 54th in five-year job growth, 89th in one-year job growth, 70th in five-year job growth and 53rd in one-year job growth.
The index is found at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taxes: Increase Rejected

Voters in Otero County, where Alamogordo is the county seat, last week rejected a tax increase proposed to help pay for New Mexico's Spaceport. The margin was 52% to 48%, early reports said. The ten-year, one-eighth cent addition to the county's gross receipts tax rate would have provided the Spaceport $6.6 million per year.
The reaction from Spaceport officials was along the lines of: No big deal. It not that much money; we'll find it elsewhere.
At 7.5%, Alamogordo has one of the highest municipal tax rates in the state. The county has two other municipalities, Cloudcroft with a 7% rate and Tularosa with a 7.25% rate. The gross receipts tax rate in the rest of Otero County is 5.8125%.
The highest gross receipts tax rates are in Quay County where 8% is the rate in Logan, San JOn and Tucumcari.
Dona Ana and Sierra counties have passed tax increases to pay for the Spaceport.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Politics: Election Report

Lonna Atkeson, University of New Mexico political science professor, crunches numbers and does post-election interviews of candidates. She gave a preliminary report at noon today to the Albuquerque Press Women. All her figures are preliminary, she said.
Atkeson's wisdom usually doesn't quite run with the conventional. Today was no exception. At least in New Mexico, she does not see the election as a transformation, but rather as "a response to a particular set of conditions." It will be interesting to see how the electorate responds to the policy changes resulting from the legislature being pushed left.
Application of voter identification procedures varies from precinct to precinct, Atkeson said. Voter ID is done correctly in perhaps 5% of precincts.
Across the state, voter turnout dropped slightly in percentage. It was 68.2% this year and 69% in 2004. Turnout was about 56% in 2000. Turnout increased in Cibola, DeBaca, Hildalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Juan, San Miguel, Taos and Torrance counties. Turnout dropped most in Grant and Union counties.
One striking result from the 2008 election is the continued rise in the percentage of registered voters not declaring a party preference. The "others" were about 14.5% this year, up from 12.75% in 2004 and 11% in 2000. This "sorting" of party affiliation, which is happening everywhere, will produce more volatility as people choose one message and then the other. The sorting has much to do with the nationalization of politics, which was caused by television. Today's fragmentation of media means more partisanship as the political junkies on one side or the other choose self-reinforcing media. The informed are even more informed, the uninformed know less. Politically inactive people are becoming even more inactive.
At about 22%, Dona Ana and Lincoln counties have the most other" voters. Bernalillo, Los Alamos and Santa Fe are just behind at 20%. Atkeson sees "an interesting tension" with party extremes pushing people to the left or right and people drifting to the middle.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mini-nuke plants from Santa Fe

Hyperion Power Generation of Santa Fe has turned the first letter of intent received in August into what "The Guardian" of Britain calls "more than 100 firm orders" for its small nuclear power generating plants that are based on technology licensed from Los Alamos National Laboratory. For The Guardian's story, see
The August letter of intent cane came from TES, a Czech infrastructure company specialising in water plants and power plants.
Hyperion's power plants, smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes, cost $25 million. The newer orders are from oil companies and utilities, John Deal, Hyperion president told "The Guardian."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Politics: NRAs Final Shot

The National Rifle Association creatively fired a last shot in the New Mexico election. The NRA’s ad was the plastic bag containing my election day Albuquerque Journal. “Defend Freedom. Defeat Obama,” one side said. The other side pitched a vote for Steve Pearce for Senate.
The fine print on the bag reflected changes in our society that perhaps are ultimately more important than a single election. One message said to keep the bag away from children, as if the words from the Nanny State would help.
The second note said the bag was recyclable. Something from the NRA recyclable? But the NRA is transcendently evil, liberals believe. And recycling is Transcendently good?
The NRA shot proved to be a shot in the dark in New Mexico, just as in Colorado where the same bag, but with a different Senate candidate, contained the Denver Post.

Movie Making: Followup

When writing a week ago about movie-making disruptions, I assumed that Jefferson Middle School had to have been out last Friday. The confusion and complexity of the filming looked to be far than would have been possible while holding school. After a week of unreturned phones calls to Jefferson and Albuquerque Public Schools, a visit to Jefferson this afternoon brought an answer. I was wrong. A teacher said the whole thing went quite smoothly. Students were picked up in the normal area, which then was quickly filled for filming.
I'm impressed. Congratulations to both Jefferson and the movie company.
That said, there are bunches of costs of filming that are not covered by the economic analysis of filming in New Mexico.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ute Lake Ranch

That's the name of the development near Tucumcari that may have been advertised by the billboard we saw in Amarillo ten days ago and mentioned in a "Road Notes" post.
The initial plan is for the 12,500-acre project is for 1,500 homes, 750 patio homes at $450,000 or so and 750 estate lots/homes at $1 million to $2 million. Our wizard of Tucumcari reports that most of the estate lots have been now sold with 20 or so patio homes sold and under construction.
Carma US, of Calgary, Alberta, a developer of residential master-planned communities, and Ute Lake Ranch, Inc., are the developers. The joint venture partners have hired JC Resorts of San Diego, CA, to oversee construction and operation of the community's 8,000-yard Nicklaus Design golf course and other resort amenities. The golf course will have twelve holes along he water.
The website is

Friday, October 31, 2008

Movie Making: Being Annoyed

I have read about the disruptions movie making causes regular people. But until this afternoon, I had not had the pleasure. Here's the tale. Driving south on Girard Blvd. in Albuquerque, toward Lomas, I was about to pass Jefferson Middle School. I was late for a 4 p.m. meeting. This is a standard route, though I hadn't come that way for several days. The road is blocked and traffic is detoured. The sign says, "Special Event." A police officer directs traffic onto the detour route. It's Halloween, so I figure Jefferson has gotten really carried away on a school Halloween event. Because the streets on the detour route are two lane, it takes a while to work my way through the detour.
Coming back, I'm heading north on Girard and I see the street is still blocked at Jefferson. There are lights at Jefferson, big ones. They turn out to be part of the movie production. I got around Jefferson and decide to stop and complain to the principal, still thinking it is a Halloween event. Having attended Jefferson and having living in the neighborhood for decades, I know the location of the little passages between homes that allow access to the school yard. I find one and head across the football field. The area behind the school, next to the field, is full of trailers. There are lights. I'm thinking: This is a really big event, all the more annoying and inappropriate.
Then I come to a police tape and a sign says, "To Set." Aha, I think, it's a movie, which explains the trailers. Still, annoyed, I leave. As I get in my car, I decide to ask the police officer guarding Girard the name of the movie. So I go through another access alley, walk up Girard and ask the officer. He says the movie being filmed is "Spy Next Door" with Jackie Chan. The big lights are on just west of the entrance to Jefferson's old gym. A crowd fills the space between the lights and the gym.
When I report the mess to my wife, she says she had gotten caught in the same disruption earlier in the day and had forgotten to mention it.
The movie economic impact studies that I have seen do not consider the lost time imposed by movie set disruption. For my meeting it was about 20 minutes each for three people or about one man hour. Nor do they consider the sales lost by retailers in downtown Albuquerque. Nor do they consider the gas wasted on the detour. The tax subsidy makes the movie business a dubious business for New Mexico. Considering these additional costs won't help.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jobs: September. Slide Continues

New Mexico's economic slide continued, down, that is, in September. Headlines, however, went to a seasonally adjusted drop in the unemployment rate to 4% in September, from 4.6% in August. But after leading with the unemployment rate drop, the release from the Department of Workforce Services release said, "The state’s unemployment rate drop in September likely resulted from a statistical sampling anomaly."
The state added 3,900 wage jobs from September 2007 to September 2008. That's a 0.5% increase, or almost nothing. Santa Fe scored its fourth consecutive month of year-over-year wage job losses, enough to be considered a metro-area recession. Albuquerque lost jobs, year-over-year, for the second month. DWS said, "Over the year, the (Albuquerque) metro area recorded its second consecutive month of negative growth, shrinking by 0.2 percent (-700 jobs). Contractions were seen in half of the 12 major industry divisions." The big hit was in manufacturing, where the Eclipse layoff appeared in the numbers. Manufacturing in Albuquerque has lost jobs for 16 months.
New claims for unemployment compensation in NM were 1,295 for the week ending 10/18, up 260 from a year before. For the week ending 10/11, it was 1,481 new claims, up 397. Year over year increases in claims have been the trend for months.
Wage jobs in the metros:
Albuquerque: -0.2%. -700 jobs.
Farmington: +1.9%. +1,000 jobs.
Santa Fe: -0.9%. -600 jobs
Las Cruces: +2%. +1,400 jobs.
For the year, New Mexico's job growth is behind Texas (+2.3%), Colorado (+1%), and Oklahoma (+0.7%). We are ahead of Utah (+0.1%) and Arizona (-2.2%). Hammered by real estate, Arizona has the 50th ranking wage job performance in the nation, behind even Michigan. Rhode Island is last with a 2.7% year over year job loss.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Politics: Obama / AFL-CIO Thorough

At about 8:15 this evening I received a couple of laser printed Obama / Martin Heinrich flyers tucked into my front door. I knew something might be there because the tucking person rang the bell. Given the time of day, I didn't answer. But a few minutes later, I checked and found the flyers. The effort violates a tried and true political door-to-door rule; Stop at dark. That's because the residential insecurity level goes through the roof after dark. Or as the general marketing rule says; Don't annoy the customers.
Obama and Heinrich probably were not responsible for the intrusion. The disclaimer on the flyer credits the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. Remember that.

Road Notes 2

Three highlights from our return to Albuquerque last Thursday from Clinton, Oklahoma. And you just thought blogs were supposed to be utterly immediate....
1. The east side of Amarillo sports a billboard that may advertise the Ute Lake up-scale retirement / second home development near Logan which is near Tucumcari. The copy was, "Golf. Boat. Live. Ute Lake." Googling around, I find nothing about the development. I have an inquiry in. More later, I hope.
2. Around Santa Rosa we passed a couple of new looking overpassed flanked around the base with what appears to be planter boxes, big ones built of concrete. A sizable tumbleweed was growing from one of the boxes. Such additions to overpasses offer yet another idea of extras that can disappear as the state confronts economic reality. The cost of developing the plantings and then maintaining them would have to be amazing. I assume the water would be trucked to the overpass.
3. Just east of Moriarty we passed a McCain/Palin "Straight Talk Express" RV that was also heading west. A cell-phone report to our friend Mark Bralley established that the McCain campaign has leased a fleet of such vehicles and shuffles them events around each region.
For gas used on our trip, the purchase history started October 7 at Costco in Albuquerque. The price was $3.08/gallon. Today's purchase, also at Costco, was for $2.34/gallon. The highest price gas on the trip as purchased October 13 at a Shell station (The Shell station) in Paxton, Nebraska) for $3.43. There was a tie for second highest price—$3.29/gallon. The purchases were October 12 at a Chevron in Las Vegas, NM, and a Phillips 66 in Newkirk, NM.
The lowest price gas, $2.29/gallon, was purchased October 22 in enid, Oklahoma, from Shell. The second lowest price, $2.34/gallon, was found October 22 at a Conoco in Emporia, Kansas.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman

As just about everyone in New Mexico knows by now, Tony Hillerman, author and gentleman, died yesterday. My tales of Tony are three.
I was in his senior news writing class in 1969 at the University of New Mexico when he floated in one day to announce the sale of his first book, The Blessing Way.
Much later, after a luncheon presentation, I observed that his writing was spare, very much in contrast to the approach of his friend Norman Zollinger, who used a lot of words. In response, Hillerman reminded the audience of what he taught us at UNM—that the adjective was the enemy of the adverb. In other words, never use substitute two words for the appropriate single word.
Over lunch in the bar at the old Al Monte's restaurant on Rio Grande, we talked about the governance of higher education in New Mexico. Hillerman said the Commission on Higher Education was originally intended to be a super board of regents to get around the lunacy of having he state's six universities enshrined in the state constitution. Once passed, however, the administration of time and the legislature were unwilling to invest political capital in making the idea work. From his post at The New Mexican, Hillerman watched UNM President Tom Popejoy start to dismantle the commission. Then Hillerman went to work for Popejoy and helped him finish the job.
Hillerman was from Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, a place too small to be on either of my two Oklahoma maps. Google Maps reports that Sacred Heart is southeast of Oklahoma City, my birthplace, at the intersection of E 1390 Road and N 3480 Road.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Politics: Obama Event

The Ds do much better at political events than the Rs. When John McCain and Sarah Palin came to town last month, the Rs stuck with security checks till the bitter end. Th Ds last night got real and about an hour before Obama's scheduled talk, simply started waving people into Johnson Field at the University of New Mexico. We had been in line about 1.5 hours. People had starting walking into the back of the cordoned area about the same time. A friend was in line on Lomas Blvd. near Stanford when a call came from another friend reporting the back door entrance. Our friend got out of line, went to the field and strolled in.
The event stuck with regular political stuff. There was nothing really stupid along the lines of the cheerleaders at the McCain/Palin event. Nor did anyone follow the Darren White example of rudeness and advocate making random phones calls to undecided voters. See my September 7 and 9 posts on the McCain / Palin event.
Crowd reports are 40,000, plus or minus, including folks not inside the fence. I have done crowd reports, so I know such numbers are often pulled from the air. Even so, Joe Monahan's claim of the largest political event crowd in NM history has to be true. Maybe it was event the largest event crowd in NM history. Certainly it was the longest line in the history of UNM.
The crowd ranged from students to Baby Boomers. The capacity of University Stadium is 37,350. I don't know whether the Rolling Stones concert of a few years ago was before the expansion from 32,000. That concert had seating on the field, so the concert crowd and Obama's crowd would have been around the same size. IN any case, the attendance was just under five percent of the metro Albuquerque population, an amazing proportion.
The highlight for us was visiting with five students from China who were attending to see what is was all about. District Attorney Kari Brandenberg was working the line, so I made sure she spoke to the Chinese group. Then I had to explain what she did. A freind of our is teaching English in the hometown of two of the students. Very small world.
Obama spoke at 9:12 p.m., about 25 minutes after his convoy arrived. He is very, very, very, very good, almost persuasive, in fact, unless one tilts strongly the other way, And we were on the other side of the field from him, just barely able to see him. Obma appeared to be a quarter-inch high. The persuasiveness goes away when I start thinking about who he really is—a conventional liberal who clawed his way up the ladder in one of the most corrupt cities in the America and one who has never done something real, except be a community organizer, if that is real. The size of crowd—around 5% of the entire state's population—and the passion define a huge problem for the Rs, one that needs attention starting about 7:30 a.m. November 6.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sin: Manny Aragon and Crony Capitalism

Wow! I leave town and economic reality hits the state, Mannie Aragon cops a plea and, for comic relief, Rebecca Vigil-Giron is back on the state payroll.
Readers know I'm a big fan of our citizen legislature. The structure keeps the elected folks, mostly, closer to the people. In Wisconsin this week, a friend mentioned yet another problem with the so-called "professional," full time legislatures. It took the Wisconsin legislature six months to pass a budget this year. My friend figures there was less incentive to act because the legislators got paid whatever happened. In New Mexico, legislators lose money, so they have reasons to get it done.
"Professional" legislatures also do not eliminate sin. Nor does public financing financing. (Think Jerome Black Jr.)
One situation that invites sin is a small, lucrative, tightly controlled operation. Before Manny Aragon and Robert Vigil, the University of New Mexico's Lobogate basketball scandal was the handiest example. Without going through the whole tale, just understand it was small, in terms of the number of people involved, and very profitable, both the basketball operation itself and for the people around it, what might be called "crony capitalism," a term used more recently to describe the Putin regime in Russia. In such situation, crossing the ethical line is a big temptation and, for the weaker folks, the legal line offers temptation.
Our legislature is a small operation that financially is not especially lucrative. Power, though, is a principal currency. So is information. Access to the two can be turned into money. "Crony capitalism" is the term of art. Though crony capitalism was around long before Bill Richardson, his administration does seem to have raised it to a higher art,at least if there is any substance to the many news reports.
As senate leader, Manny Aragon was king or co-king of the legislative hill of a long time. But like that fallen basketball king, Norm Ellenberger, Aragon couldn't just be king on his singular merits as a force of nature. Aragon's plea this week to three felony counts will take him to jail. While Aragon's jail probably will be nicer than others, it will still be a jail. Aragon will not be free. That's as it should be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Road Notes and Signs

We are traveling. This is the annual trip to visit the in-laws in Dubuque, Iowa, and southwest Wisconsin. Think cheese, five-year-old cheddar, a delicacy on the scale of the best green chile.
On October 12, last Sunday, at about 10:15 AM, we saw two road signs flanking I-25 just west of Rowe, NM. The one next to the left lane said that the left lane was closed ahead. The one next to right lane said the right lane was closed ahead. Visions of an old and great B movie flashed. The movie was "Vanishing Point," or something along that line.
Moments later we were pleased to find that only the left lane was closed.
On I-76, heading northeast from Denver, the road sign said: Stay Far Right and then had a bicycle icon. We were 200 miles from Denver and 300 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska. This concern for the cyclists seems to me a grand example of waste of money and the effect of a noisy lobby.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Politics: Tom Udall Interview

The two-week publishing is over for the eight New Mexico newspapers that subscribe to the New Mexico Services syndication service. That means I can post, as promised, the non-interview with Rep. Tom Udall. A subsequent post will have some of the email correspondence with the Udall campaign and some additional comments.

Harold Morgan/New Mexico Progress

Udall motivation a mystery

By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress

Is Rep. Tom Udall afraid of me? Actually, properly stated, the question is, “Is the Udall campaign afraid of me?”
However posed, the question is preposterous. And legitimate. I’ll explain.
As noted briefly in my last column, I wanted to interview Udall under the ground rules governing the interview with Rep. Steve Pearce. The idea was to ask the same three general questions using a written script, with no advance notice about the questions.
The candidates would respond spontaneously. Then as best and neutrally as possible, I would transcribe the answers with one column devoted to Udall and one to Pearce. You could then compare the answers and draw your own conclusions.
Pearce accepted. Udall—the Udall campaign—required at least a general indication of the topics. Through two weeks of email exchanges, the campaign continued to insist on advance notice. Finally, I said there would be no interview.
Last fall I did a similarly structured interview with Udall and Pearce. Then it was Rep. Heather Wilson’s staff that blew off the interview—after Wilson agreed. That was strange, but too long a tale for this space. That interview was just one question and with no advance. The responses were transcribed from my notes. The interviews can be found at:, winter issue.
Udall accepted the rules before, but not now. A mystery.
Disclaimer: I am a Republican, your basic small-government sort. That should not have been a problem. The Udall campaign did not raise the issue. To keep the questions even-handed and to avoid accusations of tilt, one way or the other, I got help in developing the questions.
Two other reasons might explain the Udall campaign’s unwillingness to accept the same approach as last fall. First is staff incompetence. I have no basis for comment one way or the other. The second reason might be some desire to protect Udall from the perils of a spontaneous response to a general and perhaps challenging question.
If this factor was an element, it is even nuttier than fear of me. After all, Udall has been an elected official for nearly 20 years and he spent a good ten years before that trying to be an elected official. This is a guy who talks for a living.
Further, a good part of the talking done by an elected official is to and through journalists, even ones who might not think the official walks on water. Elected officials view journalists as a vehicle for communication. From the journalist side, the politician is expected to respond when asked something.
It’s a bit of journalist ego trip, getting to talk to fancy folks. For elected officials to not talk to journalists can be dangerous over time. Besides having the human reaction, being annoyed at the rudeness, they will begin to wonder what is hidden. Finding hidden stuff goes to the core of the journalistic soul.
I don’t know why, in his heart, Tom Udall is running for the Senate. My hunch about his motivation is less than charitable. For a man whose adult life seems to have been all about being elected, being a Senator is more cool than being a Congressman. This is rational, to be sure, but New Mexicans deserve more.
An early theme, now unseen on Udall’s Web site, was “Doing right for New Mexico.” I don’t know what that means. When I wrote this column, the Web site gave you no reason to vote for Udall other than he is Tom Udall. Brand loyalty is assumed, I guess.
When you see Tom Udall, ask him why—deep down, in his heart—he is running for the United State Senate. Try to find passion. And don’t take campaign talking-point rhetoric for an answer.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Economy: The Credit Crunch, KC Fed View

Tom Hoenig, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Bank City, got the second and heavy half of the road show last Thursday. The purpose of the gathering—the 2008 New Mexico Economic Forum—was both to share information and perspective and to listen to people and hearing things that might not filter to Kansas City.
Hoenig, speaking from notes, said his comments could not be characterized as the usual economic outlook. Rather, it would and “economic feel sort of speech” because things were too murky.
He opened with what proved a continuing theme of the talk. “We will see our way through this.” Later Hoenig said that “a year from now” the people in the audience would be saying to themselves, wow, that was really rough. Hoenig also said, “We will work to a solution.” He cautioned against “irrational fear.” Ultimately, the issue is confidence, the faith of businesses and individuals that they will get paid for actions undertaken.
The credit crunch today traces to three causes, Hoenig said. The first was the housing bubble, which happened because of “relatively easy financing.”
What Hoenig didn’t say is that the easy money happened in major part because of Clinton administration changes to the rules for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac starting in 1993. The idea was to expand homeownership, certainly a worthy objective. I mention this because of the casual and unsubstantiated claims by liberal pundits that the (evil slimeball) Bush administration did it. In a recent op-ed, Terry Jones of Investors Business Daily said, Clinton “turned the two quasi-private, mortgage-funding firms into a semi-nationalized monopoly that dispensed cash to markets, made loans to large Democratic voting blocks and handed favors, jobs and money to political allies. This potent mix inevitably led to corruption and the Fannie-Freddie collapse.” The additional detail (thing moral hazard here) is that Fannie and Freddie probably never should have been created with an implicit government guarantee.
There “used to be a statute” limiting a real estate loan to 80% of the value of the property. The limited was eliminated. Loans went, sometimes, to 120% of value. The rush was on.
Also unmentioned by Hoenig is the claim that the Fed’s easy money policies made things worse.
The second shock came because “people hadn’t been paying much attention” to what was really in the CDOs, the too-clever-by-half securities created to somehow off-load the risk of the mortgages done to finance the increase in homeownership. When people did look at the CDOs, the quickly resulting unhappiness “began to affect a whole host of asset backed securities.” Values plunged.
Finally, commodity price shocks affected goods from corn to oil and copper. The result “affected consumers’ willingness to spend” and “depleted disposable income.”
“A fundamental rethinking of the U.S. economy” is the result of everything hitting the fan.
In response, the Fed has been doing its basic thing—trying to keep liquidity, meaning reasonable access to money, in the system. The Fed lowered the Fed Funds rate from 5.25% to 2%, began to use its lending facility to target distressed banks, introduced something called a term auction facility and cooperated with central banks around the world for more liquidity.
What the Fed can’t do and what is the point of the bailout is put capital into the market. Under the bailout, the treasury will buy bad securities. This “is not part of what the central bank does.”
What the Fed—America’s central bank—does do is use monetary policy to pursue a dual mandate—stability in both prices and economic growth. Hoenig tilts a bit toward price stability, which, he said, in the long run is necessary for growth. Over the 20 years, the price index has doubled. “We have to be mindful of that,” he said.
The most important thing that has to happen, Hoenig said, is that someone (which sounds here a whole lot like the government) has to absorb a lot of losses and then get the bad stuff off the books. When you have losses of this magnitude, the government has to make a decision as to what to do. The final step is to think about how to mitigate the negative effects in the future.
For the U.S. economy, the “feel” is:
• “Consumption in the U.S. will slow” but not stop.
• Business fixed investment should improve in 2009. The balance sheets of most of the corporate world are still in good shape, but companies will hang out through 2008.
• Exports, which have been “growing very strongly,” will slow. Export growth has offset the housing hit on the economy.
• “The government of course does appear to be spending.” Hoenig got a chuckle from the audience with that line.
• Depending on the economy, the bailout “should have some effect on the cost of borrowing. You should see an increase in the cost of capital as a result.”
• The third quarter of 2008, which has just ended, will show “very modest growth,” well below the economy’s long term potential of 2.75%, plus or minus, per year.
• “The economy will improve slowly over time” ad will look better by the second or third quarter of 2009.
• “Right now, for the most part, regional and community banks are still lending.”
We’re coming off “a decade of very extreme growth.” Improvement will take time.
Changing mark to market rules is proposed fix Hoenig doesn’t favor. Mark to market means that financial institutions are support to value securities such as sub-prime loans at what the security could be sold for today, however that can be figures.
“I think backing away from mark to market will cause as much (of a) problem as it is intended to alleviate, “Hoenig said. “It would be chaotic. Mark to market is not the problem. The problem” is the sub-prime mortgages and the easy lending practices that produced the sub-primates.
Hoenig’s response to the argument that U.S. regulation of financial institutions is fragmented and ineffective was, “That’s a red herring. I hope we diagnose the problem correctly. It’s not the regulatory structure.” Hoenig noted that the Fed’s attempt to address banks’ concentration of real estate loans ran into a wall.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Economy: New Mexico

Manufacturing is the weakest sector of the New Mexico economy and, as manufacturing sectors go, among the weakest in the nation. In August, manufacturing jobs accounted for 4.16% of New Mexico's nonfarm employment, as compared to 9.85% nationally. Nor do current surveys "indicate a near-term rebound." For perspective, in 1993, manufacturing claimed 6.8% of the state's wage jobs.
The report came last night from Alison Felix, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Felix joined her boss, Tom Hoenig, for the KC Fed's periodic New Mexico Economic Forum. I will report Hoenig's remarks tomorrow. One highlight was that Hoenig doesn't want to dump mark-to-market valuation rules. He says the "chaos" of such a change would be worse than what we have now.
"Overall," Felix said, "the New Mexico economy is outperforming the nation, but has weakened during the past year."
To summarize:
Real personal income is growing nicely in new Mexico, up around 4% for the second quarter of 2008, about double the national rate. Felix didn't mention the huge growth in transfer payments. See September 18 post.
Comparing sector employment to the nation, New Mexico has:
* Four times the employment in Natural Resources and Mining: 2.37% vs. 0.6%.
* Two thirds the employment in financial activities: 4.1% vs. 6%. No surprise here, we're a long way from mega-large population major metros. Finance is the weakest New Mexico service sector with a 2% job drop between August 2007 and August 2008.
* Five percentage points more in state and local government: 18.75% vs. 13.5%. Hmmmm....
Our percentage decline in existing home sales is more than the nation.
Home prices here have held up much better than nationally, only showing a slight decline as of the second quarter of 2008.
Our percentage of homes in foreclosure, 1.35% of all mortgages, is half the national rate and around a third of the worst-hit states such as Arizona.
New Mexico is fourth, per capita, is getting federal spending.
New Mexico tax revenue collections for state government were up all of 1.8% in the fiscal year ending June 30,2008. Without severance tax money, up 25%, we would have been in big trouble.
New Mexicans should get this information—and much more—regularly from the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico. BBER has the data, paid for with public money, but keeps it secret due to the structure of BBER's FOR-UNM Economic Forecasting Service. Transparency in the forecasting service is a battle I've long since lost, but the situation is so annoying, I can't resist mentioning it once in a while.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jobs: August, Again

A bit of reality has finally crept into the monthly employment report from the Department of Workforce Services. In the September 25 news release about August employment, DWS starts with its trademark exaggeration, saying, "The New Mexico economy remains fairly resilient despite rising unemployment and lower job growth." Then comes reality. "The New Mexico economy is weak, but the national economy appears to be even weaker." Uh, yes... And given that after the events of the past couple of weeks, the national economy looks to get even more weak, and further given that the national economy is the prime determinant of New Mexico's performance, we look to get weaker.
Statewide year over year job growth was 0.6% in August, down from 0.9% in July and from 1.1% in May when the rate briefly broke 1%. As noted in my Saturday posting, the unemployment rate jumped to 4.6% in August, up half a point.
After summarizing metro area performance, DWS claims, "These distinct trends suggest that New Mexico now has increasingly localized economies, each with differing fortunes." This isn't true. New Mexico has always widely differing regional economies, maybe six of them.
Metro Albuquerque has lost 600 wage jobs over the August-to-August year, a 0.2% drop, with the big hit coming in manufacturing, in particular Intel's layoff last fall. Eclipse layoff will hit the numbers soon. Albuquerque construction employment has dropped for 20 months.
Statewide, construction added 100 jobs during the year. Instinct says the figure is flawed because the number of foreign born Hispanics declined in New Mexico during 2007. A good many of those folks, it is generally accepted, would have worked construction.
Santa Fe lost jobs for the third consecutive month, a 0.9% August-to-August drop. Leisure and hospitality, the non-government half of Santa Fe, lost jobs.
For August, Las Cruces scored the state's highest metro unemployment rate at 5%. Nothing new there. Wage jobs increased 1.2% during the year.
The Farmington metro areas—San Juan County—increased wage employment 3.1% during the year, growth of 1,600 jobs. Thank you oil and gas.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Politics: Steve Pearce Interview

The story below is my column that runs in eight newspapers around the state. They are in Farmington, Gallup, Espanola, Raton, Hobbs, Artesia, Roswell and the Defensor Chieftain in Socorro. The papers are given a two-week window to print the column. For this column, the window closes tomorrow. The next column will speculate about why Rep. Udall said no thanks to the interview structure that was planned. I'll post that column in two weeks. The subscribing papers, who pay a little for the column, get first shot. I'll also post the email correspondence with the Udall campaign. That correspondence provides detail for which I lacked in the coming column. Note that, as I see it, the campaign is the candidate and the candidate is the campaign.

Thanks to Mark Bralley for the photo of your truly and Steve Pearce. -HM

Harold Morgan/New Mexico Progress

Pearce discusses his positions

By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress

The plan was to interview Reps. Tom Udall and Steve Pearce, candidates for the U.S. Senate, and report in separate columns. The rules: Same three questions, no topic briefing, spontaneous responses transcribed without comment. Because the Udall campaign required topic briefing, there is no Udall interview.
Rep. Steve Pearce and I spoke by phone Sept. 10. The complete questions are posted at
1. Why are you running?
When Pearce ran for state representative in 1996, he was “convinced that the country was changing dramatically for the worse, and rather than just sit in Hobbs and complain, I decided that I would run for public office and try to do something about it.”
The choice was to “either be quiet or be active.”
“I realized that the real significant battles were in Washington.” So in 2000 Pearce ran for the Senate. Had he won the primary, the general election opponent would have been incumbent Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Then fate intervened. Rep Joe Skeen retired and Pearce was elected to the U.S. House. A year ago, fate came again with the retirement of Sen. Pete Domenici.
“The Senate is ultimately the spot where small states are protected. Small states and the small state ideas are protected because, in the Senate, the small states have exactly the same power as the big states. The second thing is that in the Senate, one voice can stop any piece of legislation or any policy, and it takes 60 votes to overcome that one voice. So, in the political context of policy and stopping shifts, the Senate is ultimately important.”
Pearce’s House seat was relatively safe. “The idea that we’re in a relatively safe seat had almost no bearing in the decision; what had a bearing is that I feel the country is in danger from internal slide. If I think that the Senate is the place where the real potential to stop the slide is, then I am morally obligated to run for the seat....
“One of the ways I explain it to people is that I’d like my children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities that I’ve had, and I could see those opportunities slipping away.”
2. Critical challenges and actions:
“Well, the challenges are economic… We have to understand that if we don’t work hard to hold our economy together, our standard of living will shift dramatically. The second (challenge) would be the breakdown of the American family: it gives us less cohesion as a nation, less cohesion obviously as families, but less cohesion as a nation to address, then, the significant problems that we are facing….”
Actions start with “lower taxes, cut(ting) the wasteful spending. Then in the family, the thing that we’ve tried most in the House to do is bring good, strong jobs into the Second District; we’d do the same thing (statewide) in the Senate.”
Pearce remains “an entrepreneur, constantly looking for opportunities.” He cites the nuclear enrichment facility in Eunice and projects in Portales, Clovis and the Truth or Consequences area that will keep people in New Mexico, “where they grew up,” and strengthen families.
3. The public sector or the private sector to solve problems:
“I’m strongly inclined to private solutions. If we consider health care, for instance, the great debate is should the government provide healthcare…. My general point is the government can’t provide more doctors and nurses; all it can do is limit your demand… by saying that you can’t see the doctor for six months, or eight months.
“But then we need to acknowledge there are problems with the private system, and that there are a whole series of things that can be done – just on health care alone – and should be done to improve the private sector. But at no time do I believe that, even with our problems, that we’d be better with a government healthcare system.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sustainability, Purity and Apples

This morning's Albuquerque Journal featured a delightful photo of the line of vehicles waiting yesterday to buy apples at the legendary Dixon's Apples orchard north of Albuquerque. The sign said the actual apples were three miles away. The caption said the wait from the photographed point was another three hours. I could distinguish 17 vehicles in the line. All but two or three were actual trucks or SUVs, which are trucks.
The photo demonstrates the fallacy in the whole argument for the go to the grower's market, buy local, feel better, and don't give money to "corporate" producers who use gas guzzling trucks to transport food.
As the photo shows, people get to those grower's markets by driving. The markets typically are further from home than the neighborhood supermarket. At the grower's market, less food is purchased per trip, probably, so more fuel is used per unit of food. Similar inefficiencies apply to the growers. There are more of them, bringing less stuff to the market per gallon of gas. By contrast, buying a vegetable or two on a perviously scheduled supermarket trip for, say, milk, uses zero additional fuel to buy the veggie.
For Dixon's the inefficiencies are extreme. People drive a long way, commonly, it appears, in vehicles with lower gas mileage, and wait a long time, most likely running the engine and using the air conditioner, further raising total gas consumption.
Dixon's apples may well be better, somehow, than other apples. I can't say, given that I consume few apples. What Dixon's customers are doing is buying recreation—a drive to the country—and participation in one of those grand New Mexico myths. What they are not doing is using less gas.
The Dixon's folks have a great thing going. Keep their secret.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Jobs: August

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment situation in New Mexico seems to be deteriorating less quickly than in other states. Headlines in Albuquerque this week have found solace in this development. The headlines see the cup half full, I suppose, and avoid notice of how quickly the cup is draining.
In August, the BLS says, the unemployment rate in New Mexico popped up another half a point, going to 4.6% from 4.1% in July. In August 2007, the rate was 3.4%.
Among our neighbors, Utah and Oklahoma are below New Mexico. Arizona, Colorado and Texas are higher. Arizona is one of the four states hit hardest by the housing bust. By my rough count from the state unemployment rate list, 11 states have a lower rate than New Mexico. Three others were tied at 4.6%. A more important number, I think, is that 44 states showed an increased unemployment rate between July and August.
New Mexico has 958,000 people employed during August, a 1.6% increase over the past year. Note that these figures are for "employment," not the much cleaner wage jobs figure. That will have to wait until the Department of Workforce Solutions posts its monthly news release, which was due yesterday.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Transportation & Money: MRCOG & NAIOP

Lawrence Rael's, executive director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), started his NAIOP presentation today by insulting the area economic developers.
To end, Rael pitched a new transportation tax. His proof of the need was the transportation plight of a young man commuting to a minimum
wage at a top hotel in Santa Fe. About a quarter of the guy's wages go for gas.
Having been babbling to myself throughout Rael's talk, I had to say something, which
wasn't quite as organized as this:
The young man chose to work in Santa Fe. He has a cost problem with his
transportation. he's whining about it. In general I don't approve of
whining, though as American's we do have the freedom to whine. The guy wants
the government to do something about the problem that is a result of his
Rael's testy and absurd response to me was that if the guy loses this
job, he will just end up in some other government program so we had better
spend government transportation money on him (and Rael's organization). Nonsense. If the guy loses his job in Santa Fe and has a decent performance record, he will easily get another hotel job. That's because hotel people have turnover and would love to get someone with some experience.
My babbling started with Rael insulting the economic developers, many of whom have been friends for more than 20 years. He was talking the joys of a site location Web site,, that MRCOG is now running. I'm sure the site is very cool and will improve with MRCOG's efforts. But Rael claimed at length and without truth that economic development efforts have never focused on the metro Albuquerque region. In fact, metro area economic developers have worked regionally since Rio Rancho emerged as a force, maybe 25 years. I'll concede that the regional efforts have had ups and downs, but that's not what Rael said.
In the middle of his transportation tax pitch / Railrunner-is-wonderful ode, Rael showed a slide of a four-lane street full of cars. Then he showed the people. positioned where they were when driving, but without the cars. Cars take up a lot of space, he said. Then he showed the people, bunched together, filling the amount of space needed if they were riding a bus or some other mass transportation. Our transportation is designed to move vehicles, not people, Rael intoned. Other than portraying people as robots in cars Rael left people out of the transportation. equation.
Perhaps Rael thinks of nearly all people as robots. I don't know. For sure, people choosing to drive themselves and even if they sit in traffic, they have a phone and a radio and and and air conditioner, they are the vast majority. Rael said proudly that 3,500 people per day are riding the Railrunner. The metro population is just shy of 850,000. To be nice to Rael, let's assume hat half the metro residents are adults, that only adults ride Railrunner and that passengers only ride once each day. That means that less than one half of one percent (0.4%) of possible metro users of Railrunner ride it.
And I'm supposed to vote for an additional tax to subsidize those folks.
Rael called for "more balanced" transportation spending. Good idea, dude. More roads.

NAIOP is the professional group of commercial real estate developers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Politics: Jonah Goldberg, "Happy Warrior"

Jonah Goldberg is witty and funny, articulate, incredibly well-read and really, really smart.
Goldberg spoke this morning at the newly and stylishly or garishly (you decide) repainted Marriott Pyramid. About 120 attended. Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing said 50 attended a lunch event in Santa Fe. The Albuquerque appearance was a promotion and public service event that was the second in a series sponsored by the Foundation and the New Mexico Prosperity Project.
For someone who is not yet 40, Goldberg seems to have done everything from being all over the TV talk fests, being a widely syndicated columnist, and a contributing editor at National Review. He and his wife also have one young child.
A clue to Goldberg for us liberal arts fanatics, comes the fact that he attended Goucher College, a small liberal arts college near Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with 1,350 undergrads and 1,000 graduate students At Goucher Dean’s scholarship recipients have a combined SAT score north of 1,400.
Goldberg almost seems to do the pundit stuff to support his reading of literature and philosophy back to the pre-Socratic times.
Goldberg focused on the two main themes from his book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. First was debunking the conventional wisdom that fascism was right wing. Second was that progressives never given up their commitment to the broad “moral equivalent of war” notion that was the driver of Woodrow Wilson’s move toward a semi-dictatorship during World War I.
Conventional wisdom says that political philosophies are circle with the extremes—communism and fascism—meeting. “Nowhere else do we talk about extremes meeting,” Goldberg said. “The National Socialists (the Nazis) are socialists,” he quoted one contemporaneous observer. In the 1920s fascism and socialism were seen as about the same thing, though the two ideologies were rivals. Both hated democracy. Later, when it came to killing people, socialism beat the Nazis by “orders of magnitude.”
President Woodrow Wilson, a self-proclaimed progressive, Goldberg said, “was the first would-be fascist dictator. Wilson was in fact the most racist president in the 20th century.” This “moral equivalent of war” concept is everywhere—in energy, in the “War on Poverty.”
Goldberg might have added that the “war” metaphor is inaccurate and deceptive. If something is war, it gets all the resources, without question. Neither the war on poverty nor the war on drugs or cancer or even terrorism have gotten the resources to fight at the level of a real war. Politicians using the metaphor are misleading people into thinking more will be done about a problem than will in fact be done.
“Political unity” as a general concept makes Goldberg uncomfortable. The whole point of the design of the United States’ government was “to pit faction against faction,” he reminded the audience. Check Federalist Papers 10 and 51. “Unity was dangerous in the eyes of the Founding Fathers.”
Trouble lurks in the cliché, “If you’re not part of the answer, you’re part of the problem.” People who haven’t bought “the answer” are bad, Think, for example, of Al Gore’s dissent stifling hysteria about global warming. (Note that “hysteria” is my word, not Goldberg’s.)
Goldberg closed the main presentation with a charge to the audience members to be “happy warriors,” to stay with the battle for freedom. “This is the permanent fight,” he said. The parameters were defined by Rousseau for the collectivists and John Locke for the sovereignty of the individual. The tension “runs through the human heart,” he said.
“There will always be more of them than us,” Goldberg said. He explained that people want to be part of a tribe and that there will always be people who think capitalism takes too much power from the would-be social planners.
Goldberg had two asides about capitalism. First, it is not a zero-sum game. Second, he prefers the term “free market economics” because “capitalism is a Marxist word.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Income: State

Leave it to me to find unhappiness in the good news that New Mexico's 2.7% annualized increase in personal income in the second quarter over the first quarter ranked sixth nationally and was more than double a year earlier.
Here's the rest of the story. Transfer payments—welfare, social security and the like—jumped 10.7% (All rates here are annual rates) and provided three-quarters of the nice income jump. Transfer payments are what goes up in a weak economy.
Net earnings, real money in other words—the sum of wage and salary disbursements—increased 0.7% and provided 0.64 percentage points of that 2.7% income growth. Proprietors income—small businesses—dropped a bit during the quarter.
Among the sectors, income increases came from areas having to do with the federal government:
Professional and technical services: +0.18%.
Health care: +0.16%.
Federal civilian: +0.05%.
Mining, a key to the state's economic health, increased 0.03%, as did another key, durable good manufacturing. Transportation earnings also grew 0.03%.
Farm earnings, always volatile: -0.32%.
Military: -0.03%.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis, producer of these numbers, included revisions of income from the past three years. New Mexican's personal income was dropped at an increasing rate: 2005 (-1.1%); 2006 (-2.2%); and 2007 (-2.8%).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Investing: Coldwell Banker Legacy

Full disclosure to start: I write a newsletter for Coldwell Banker Legacy, metro Albuquerque's (and presumably New Mexico's) leading, by sales, residential real estate firm.
At the company level CBL has a tendency to not toot their own horn, something I've fussed about a bit with them. The tendency makes sense overall. The business is about brokers and sales associates, and buyers and sellers. The corporate part stays in the background, tending the brand and steering the ship.
All that said, here's a kudo for the corporate. On October 1, CBL is unveiling an amazing new Web site, built around Google mapping technology and with information on each of the nearly 15,000 homes listed for sale in the metro.
The kudo is this: Today is a tough time to be in the residential real estate business. Metro sales of existing homes are running something like half of the peak in July 2006. A good many firms will be pulling in their horns. Coldwell is going the other way and making a big investment in the future. Good for them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Politics: Pearce Interview Questions

On September 10, I interviewed Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for the United States Senate. My newspaper column reporting the interview will appear during the next two weeks in papers in Raton, Farmington, Gallup, Espanola, Roswell, Artesia and Hobbs. The timing of running the column is up to the given newspaper.
The plan was to interview Pearce and his opponent for the Senate job, Rep. Tom Udall, ask them exactly the same few general questions, without notice as to topic, transcribe the interviews as best as possible and then run the interview reports without comment in separate columns, one for Pearce and one for Udall. This was exactly the approach taken with an interview of Pearce and Udall that ran in the Winter 2008 issue of our magazine, Capitol Report New Mexico. The issue is still available at the Web site,
There will be no interview with Udall. His staff—and I need to confirm exactly which person—required at least a general briefing about the topic. That was not to be. In the first place, that wasn't the deal; Pearce accepted the deal. And in the second place, it's hard to give general notice of a general topic. The Udall situation will be discussed in detail in my next column which be distributed for publication starting September 29.
Interestingly, the staff of Rep. Heather Wilson blew off the magazine interview request, even after Wilson accepted. That I found really strange.
Considerable effort went into ensuring the questions were posed neutrally. Here they are:
1. Normal people don’t run for the Senate, or for the House for that matter. You are risking everything—reputation, integrity, a fairly safe seat in the House. You are creating huge amounts of hassle for your family. Please dig deep, cut through the rhetoric and tell me what’s in your heart. Why are you running for the United States Senate?
1a. We all know there are challenges in America. What are a few of the most critical?
New Mexicans need to know three specific things you will do to meet these challenges in the US Senate.
2. In general, political approaches lean toward faith in the private sector to solve problems and faith in the public sector – the government - to be the source of solutions. We know there is always a middle ground, but are you more inclined to one view or the other and why?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Politics: Polar Bears and Sarah Palin

Polar Bears are getting ink and video lately. The ink and video use the bear as a prop to argue charge Alaska Gov. and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin with moral turpitude because Palin has objected to naming the bear a threatened species. Note a bit of irony. Palin is bad because of resisting an action of the Bush administration, which long ago was certified as utterly evil by enviros.
Today’s Albuquerque Journal used a bear photo on page B8 to illustrate an article headlined, “McCain Risks Pro-Environment Record.” Palin was mentioned in the caption. On Thursday of last week the BBC used a bear to illustrate a story about additional oil drilling off the Alaska coast.
An alternate argument exists, one that doesn’t roll over for the, oh, so politically correct conventional wisdom. Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg spends five of the first six pages of his 2007 book, “Cool It,” on polar bears. He says, in summary, “The real story of the polar bear is instructive. In many ways, this tale encapsulates the broader problem with the climate change concern: once you look closely at the supporting data, the narrative falls apart.”
The polar bear population has increased five-fold—to 25,000— in the past 40 years, Lomborg says. Today, one or two of the 20 subpopulations are declining, two are increasing and the rest are stable.
Lomborg doesn’t just assert this stuff. Those five bear pages come with 24 footnotes citing sources. “Cool It” comes with 130 pages listing the literature.
In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, September 13-14, Lomborg takes apart the “over hyped rhetoric” of Thomas Friedman’s new book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded.” Before seriously starting the dismantling, Lomborg specifies, “Let’s be clear. Global warming is real and man-made.” The review closes with, “While occasionally interesting, ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ remains a one-sided plea for an incorrect analysis.”

Politics: Literature Report

One standard gauge of the closeness of election day is the appearance of candidate literature attached to the front door of the home. The deluge started yesterday at my house. When we arrived home in the evening, the door held two items, both paid for by the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Both were full color. The larger piece, 8.5" x 5.5", featured Barack Obama, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich on the front. The back asked a vote for 23 candidates for state representative and 14 state senate candidates. The candidates were distributed around the state and not all had opposition.
The second piece pitched Heinrich's congressional candidacy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

McCain/Palin Second Installment

Security needs must explain much of the work involved in attending a presidential-level political rally. At the McCain/Palin rally in Albuquerque on Saturday, September 6, there was one door for the people attending the rally. If there was a second door, I didn’t see it. But my view was restricted by the need to keep my place in line.
It’s basic queuing theory, something I learned just enough about in business school to get a graduate school “C” and survive. If there is one door—one “server” in the jargon—and many, many people, it will take a really long time to get through the door. Reports were that 6,000 attended.
When we arrived, about 4:30 p.m. for the 6 p.m. program, the line snaked around the southwest corner of the convention center and then east along Tijeras. We joined the line under the railroad tracks, happy for shade. Over time the line extended from under the tracks to the top of the hill where Tijeras joins M.L. King and then turned 180º back to end under the tracks again.
An hour and 15 minutes later, standing all the while but mostly in shade, we were in the convention center. Then it was another 20 minutes to so to get through the security gates and stop for purse inspection.Inside, bleachers extended from the north wall. We couldn’t get to the bleachers, which didn’t matter, because they were full. The people in the bleachers may have thought they got a good deal by being able to sit. They also got to view the back of the speakers’ heads because the speakers faced the cameras.
We went to the remaining open area, stood for a while and then sat on the floor next to the draped railing marking the edge of the audience area. I noticed a drinking fountain on the wall outside the area and then, as I walked to the fountain, a concession stand appeared. I don’t know why a $2.00 bottle of water seemed better than the fountain water, but it did. The fellow manning the concession booth pitched candy bars as I ordered the water. I said, No, thanks, complimented him on the sales effort, and returned to the audience area. My companion and I drank the water. She kept the bottle and filled it from the fountain as we departed more than an hour later. The fountain water was fine.“Raucous” was the description of weekend McCain/Palin rallies from Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal. Meckler nailed it.
Loud. Very loud. Signs and flags waving everywhere.
By the measure of the personal ear-based applause meter, the crowd liked McCain. The crowd loved Palin.
Rep. Steve Pearce, candidate for the Senate, led the speakers with a long invocation, a modest role that seemed odd and has drawn blogger comment. Other speakers not mentioned in the 9/7/08 post included Rep Heather Wilson, with a rousing setting of the stage for McCain and Palin. The Boy Scouts presented the colors. Girl Scouts shun any connection with partisan events.
Cheerleaders offered the low point of the preliminaries. I didn’t catch what group the cheerers represented, if any. They performed two custom cheers, one on behalf of McCain and one for Palin. It wasn’t that they were bad. as cheerleaders Actually, they were probably OK and certainly well intended. However, “out of place” got a new, higher order definition.
Points for theater go to the driving of a “Straight Talk Express” bus, an RV, actually, into the hall. It had been hidden behind a large American flag. There was a puff of smoke. The flag was raised and the RV eased into the hall.
As McCain spoke, a few people began to drift from the hall. Most were older. I understood. The messages from the feet were getting louder. Avoiding the crowd had appeal. We stayed until the end, though, and our departure proved no problem.
We happened to park on First Street, which turned out to be the exit route for the McCain/Palin motorcade. To get to First, we cut between the Tower Building and Marquette. As we approached First, we noticed motorcycles, maybe 40 of them, two abreast. Our friend, photographer Mark Bralley, who was joining us for the ride home, took a moment to visit with one of the officers, an acquaintance from Mark’s years as a police officer. While we walked north, the motorcycle column began to move with officers peeling away to block intersections. Squad cars followed the motorcycles, then a McCain “Straight Talk Express” RV. More squad cars were next, leading another RV, a duplicate we thought, but weren’t sure because it was dark, with more cars in the rear. Sarah Palin was in the second RV, we’re told. Somewhere in the middle were a half-dozen white vans with labels saying, “press,” so we figured the vans carried the traveling media.
The motorcade moved quickly. It passed and we went home where mission one was to remove the shoes. My feet were still throbbing the next morning.

Photos: by Mark Bralley.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Politics: McCain / Palin Rally

Political rallies are real work to organize and attend. The media doesn’t know this, the local media anyway. They get to come in the back door, the “press” door. For national media, political campaigns are work. That was one message on the faces of the national folk who filed into last night’s John McCain-Sarah Palin rally at the Albuquerque Convention Center. We’re tired, the faces said. One reporter in the group, a woman from the Los Angeles Times, did a bit more than collapse at the table. She came to the edge of the press area and interviewed a woman in the audience for about 15 minutes. I forgot to ask the topic, an oversight that probably is one of many reasons I’m not a national media person.
Oh, well.
This is a long post for me, over 1,100 words. Bear with it. More tomorrow on the work of attending the rally. -HM
NM GOP and a Bad Idea
One aspect of rally-related work came earlier in the day. In attempting to confirm reports of schedule changes for the rally, I called the headquarters of the New Mexico Republican Party. This was after looking at the NMGOP’s Web site where the calendar had no mention of the scheduled rally. Nobody answered the GOP phone.
Step back, now, and review. A party’s presidential candidates and vice presidential candidate are coming to town and there is no calendar item. And no one in the office. Political campaigns ain’t an 8 to 5 job, folks.
But, to digress, I’ve had this responsiveness problem before with the state GOP. A couple of years ago, working on a research project, I went to the GOP headquarters and asked for the general election vote tally book, which is public information. After some hassle, the staff bounced my inquiry to then GOP exec Marta Kramer. After some further hassle, Kramer OKed me using the tally book. She also recognized my name as someone occasionally critical of the GOP in my newspaper column. “Why do you hate us,” Kramer asked. Well, I don’t. It’s just there is so much opportunity.
A year later, while building the mailing list for our now-suspended magazine, Capitol Report New Mexico, I sought information that I figured the party ought to be willing to provide, given the nature of the request—the names and addresses of the people on the state central committee. After all, the Democrats posted that information in Excel. Well, no, came the word from above. And it turned out they wouldn’t even provide the names and addresses of the people who were posted on the GOP site.
Customer friendly, the state GOP is not.
Nor was the state GOP legislator friendly last night. There was no special effort to get tickets to legislators. Some GOP legislators did go. Two were even on the program together—Representatives Larry Larranga and Justine Fox-Young. Larranga’s age wasn’t emphasized, though surely his age was the point of having him come out with Fox-Young, who it was noted, is, well, young.
The rally ended on a customer unfriendly note that is both rude and a flabbergasting invasion of privacy.
Bernalillo County Sheriff and congressional candidate Darren White (a cop, please note) introduced the scheme after repeated use of the word, “me,” in pitching his record, especially with regard to anti-DWI work.
White said that lists of undecided voters would be distributed at the end of the rally. The request was that the people on the list be called and asked to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket, Steve Pearce for Senate and Darren White for Congress. White’s delivery made the situation sound a little odd. But, there they were as we left the rally, volunteers ripping sheets from pads and distributing them.
Each sheet contains eight names, complete with address and telephone. To the right of the name, there were six boxes with little circles for filling in answers to questions. A detail is that no questions were provided. My sheet had names of people in Santa Fe. But should someone be rude enough to make the calls, the caller will appear stupid because Darren White is not running for Congress in Santa Fe. Dan East is. While East hasn’t a ghost of a chance of winning, barring some random intervention, apparently the state GOP has forgotten East is the candidate.
1. I’m not naïve. Lists are created and people are called. Even if these folks are listed in the phone book, this kind of mass distribution of personal information is unacceptable. This is nobody’s business.
2. Generating God knows how many random calls to people is a sure way to annoy them and maybe even drive them to the other ticket.
3. The execution was sloppy.
Media Notes
Not being the stay up late type, I didn’t catch the television reports of the rally. I suppose those reports have run endlessly today, though.
The New Mexican in Santa Fe got a story from the Associated Press that was quite different from what Jeff Jones provided for the Albuquerque Journal. Jones said, basically, it was a rock star environment into which they came, they recycled lines from convention speeches, they left.
Matt Mygatt of the AP got into the environment of the rally. He talked to people in the audience. Mygatt even mentioned that actor Robert Duvall introduced McCain, but went no further, appropriately, as Duvall was peripheral.
Duvall began wonderfully. He said, Give me an Amen. Then he asked for another Amen. And got it. Louder. My mind flashed to Duvall’s character in “The Apostle,” a 1997 movie about a preacher prone to saying, “Thank you, Jesus.” Duvall, 77, is a little older than McCain, but shares the same background. His dad was an admiral and the family lived for a while in Annapolis, home to the Naval Academy and St. John’s College. Duvall’s military service Wikipedia says, was a year in the Army.
The Journal’s Jones offered, and his editors allowed, one bit of gratuitous editorializing. Jones said, “McCain also stressed the need for America to develop a range of energies—including wind, tide and solar.” OK. The sentence then continued, “but said he also would increase drilling.” Hmmm…
Jones’ use of the word, “but,” indicates he may think stuff one drills for is not part of or contradicts the “range of (politically correct) energies.” Wrong.
Sarah Palin’s attire got a six-word description from Jones, “a black skirt and brown jacket.” McCain was described as wearing a suit. Maybe McCain was wearing the pants from a suit. I was too far away to tell. But he was not wearing a suit jacket, nor was he wearing a tie. McCain’s sleeves were rolled up.
As a veteran wearer of the entire suit package—pants, jacket, shirt with sleeves rolled down and tie—I don’t think McCain was wearing a suit.
Final Small Item
At the rally, the media were called, “press.” Even the labels on the transport vans said, “press.”
This use excludes electronic media, er, press. Press means print.
Not a big deal on the scale of things. Such errors do get noticed. Annoying the media is a bad idea.