Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blog Shifts Perspective

The publication Capitol Report New Mexico has a new site, Much of the material previously posted here will appear on the new site. That's because the site and the publication are both now owned by the Rio Grande Foundation. The site supports the mission of the publication which is fairly straight reporting, through a conservative view, of policy matters in New Mexico, centering on the legislature.
Smart aleck stuff, more personal stuff, however tempting, won't make it to the new site, but will appear here occasionally. For example, this is the place to point out that the appearance of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish at an Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce lunch last Thursday (May 21) was all about politics. Yes, Denish was scheduled to talk about business issues. But this is the time for the organized business establishment, the Chamber, to get cozy with the presumptive heir apparent of the governor's office. It ain't philosophy folks, it's "business," namely stability and access.
Here, also, is the place to mention that while PNM CEO Jeff Sterba quite properly touted massive reductions in mercury emissions from the San Juan Generating Station at PNM's shareholder's meeting this week, he also gave CFL light bulbs to people attending the meeting. CFL's contain mercury and inevitably a few of PNM's bulbs will make it to land fills.
If this split perspective doesn't work, I will let you know. -Harold Morgan

Monday, April 27, 2009

Economy: Abq Journal 4/26 & 27

The Albuquerque Journal ran stories Sunday and yesterday about the New Mexico economy. The Sunday story, the second lead, was headlined, "State Is Showing Signs of Recovery." That, folks, is simply not true.
The subhead was, "Hints of Activity Ease Pain of Recession." This is true, but meaningless. One joy of our economy is that positive things are always happening. A few positive things are happening in Albuquerque and around the state.
The two stories are based on "Economy Watch," a report prepared quarterly for the Journal by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico. The quarterly nature of the report means the Journal stories base on data from the fourth quarter of 2008.
In the stories, one happy number was real. Albuquerque Economic Development is setting records for the number of companies visiting metro Albuquerque. However, new jobs from the firms are a year away, at best, and maybe two years. It remains marvelous that AED continues to do what AED does so well.
In the meantime, though, the trend is what hasn't changed. The trend showed 12,000 wage jobs lost statewide from February 2008 through February 2009. For March, the year over year loss was 16,400. For the week of April 11, New Mexicans filed 2,200 new claims for unemployment compensation. The figure for a year ago was 1,200.
This will take a while to change, if only because the numbers are large. In February, there were 831,000 wage jobs across the state with 388,000 in Albuquerque.
A lovely sentence illustrates the thin nature of the straws the reports grasp. "Lost jobs are being replaced by an emerging alternative energy manufacturing industry, film production and several new companies."
This might be true if it said, "A few lost jobs are being replaced..." Further, the new jobs aren't the ones that have been lost. While the hundred or so new jobs from Reelx Network are nice, in fact the film jobs, mostly, com and go and the growth has eased.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Movie Subsidy More Coming

Except the "more" is coming from Texas. Here is the beginning of a story from today's El Paso Times. "Gov. Rick Perry signs Texas law to lure moviemakers
By Kelley Shannon / Associated Press Posted: 04/24/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT
AUSTIN -- Surrounded by cheering film industry workers, Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation Thursday aimed at helping Texas lure more movies and television shows to the state.
"Oh, you're going to be busy," Perry told the crowd. "We're going to move Texas to the top of the credits."
The new law took effect immediately because it passed by large margins in the House and Senate."
Also today, Las Cruces Sun-News Managing Editor Walt Rubel compares the two studies done on New Mexico's movie subsidy. The results were quite different, reflecting quite different methods and quite different sponsors. (Duh!) "These guys aren't even in the same ballpark," Rubel says. He calls for accountability in New Mexico's tax incentives.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jobs: March, the Rest of the Story

The 1.9% March 2008 to March 2009 job loss is New Mexico's worst year-over-year performance since 1954, reports the Department of Workforce Services.
DWS says, "Only two of the state’s 13 industries posted any job growth since last year, while the eleven others reported employment declines. Most of the gains came from the health care component of the educational & health services industry, which was up 4,400 jobs on the year. Government jobs also continued to grow, increasing by 2,000. Most of the new government jobs are at the local level, many at tribally owned casinos."
Wow, the growth is in healthcare, tribal casinos, which are part of local government, and other government.
Albuquerque: Over the past year, payroll employment dropped 2%, or 7,700 jobs. Metro Albuquerque has lost jobs for six consecutive months, losing jobs at a slightly faster rate than the state. Only three of the 12 major industry divisions have added jobs since last March.
Over the year, Santa Fe lost 1,100 jobs, a 1.7% drop.
With no job growth, but no loss either, Las Cruces had the best job performance of the states three larger metros. Monthly figures are not reported for Farmington, our smallest metro area.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jobs: March Unemployment

New Mexico's unemployment jumped again in March and employment dropped. No surprise either place.
The unemployment increase was half a percentage point—to 5.9% from 5.4% in February, a change considered "statistically significant" by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the numbers. New Mexico was one of 18 states with a statistically significant jump in unemployment rate.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, New Mexico's labor force dropped 400 between March 2008 (955,000) and March 2009 (954,600). The number of unemployed went from 36,800 to 51,600 during the period. That means the number employed, as statistically defined, dropped from 918,200 in March 2008 to 903,000 in March 2009. With the seasonal adjustment, New Mexico's labor force dropped 2,400 and unemployment increased 21,200.
The number of New Mexicans on non-farm payrolls went from a seasonally adjusted 848,200 to 838,700 during the March to March year. Construction employment in the state dropped by more than 7,000. Manufacturing lost 2,300 jobs.
Professional and business services lost "only" 900 jobs, from 107,800 in March 2008 to 106,900 in March 2009. This sector is especially important to New Mexico because of its size and because it contains many of the state's science and research organizations.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hispanic Cultural Center: The Gallery

We went to the "Meso-Americhanics (Maneuvering Mestizaje)" exhibit at the gallery of the National Hispanic Cultural Center last Sunday. We arrived at the 10 a.m. opening time. Only one semi-sleeping homeless man occupied the covered walk to the main center that contains the gallery. When it opened, my sense was that the center was a guilt-assuaging exercise, financed by major corporations, that really was a question looking for an answer. The gallery seems to be part of the answer. Jamex and Einar de la Torre are the artists. They live and work both in California and Baja California. Blown glass is their main vehicle, to which they add whatever is handy with thrift stores as a common resource . It's a rich mix and worth seeing. The results are described as "border baroque" in a sub-head on the card summarizing the exhibit.
Words, really, are the only problem with the show. "Border baroque," together, offer a general concept. The main title does not. "Americhanics," what's that? A good many of the item descriptions seems to have been written in the deconstructionist English departments of some Ivy League university. There are strings of really long words. But meaning? None to me.
The center's website is

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Politics: Congress Pays Bonuses, Wilson, Udall, Too

It's one of those gotcha stories journalists love in the dark recesses holding their sense of humor.
Today's Wall Street Journal has a story on page A5 headlined, "Congress Thinks Bonuses Are Fine—for Its Own Employees." Tucked into the 19th inch of the 25 inch the story (and thereby verifying my truism that the good stuff is at the bottom of the story) was this item, "
"A handful lawmakers who retired handed out a total of $283,000 in bonuses. After Republican Heather Wilson gave up her New Mexico seat in the House to run unsuccessfully for the Senate, she gave 13 aides bonuses as high as $3,000. 'My practice over ten years in Congress was to give bonuses at the end of the year,' she said."
Tom Udall, now Senator, played a more complex game.
The story says, "Last fall, Democratic Rep Tom Udall left the house to run for New Mexico's Senate seat. Several members of his House staff took leaves from their government jobs to work for his campaign. When Mr. Udall won the race and returned to Washington, his office budget had accrued a large surplus. He decided to spend the surplus funds by increasing salaries for nearly his entire staff for a short time. Disbursement forms show that in late December, Mr. Udall temporarily increased salaries for 19 of his 22 employees at an annualized rate of $163,796. Among those who earned the higher pay were staff assistants, a scheduler, an executive assistant, and a part-time employee. Spokeswoman Marissa Padilla said Mr. Udall traditionally 'adjusts salaries at the end of the year based on seniority, merit and unused leave' when his office has a surplus."
This congressional bonus thing seems cultural. Wilson is said to be considering running for governor. We should ask if she plans to bring the D.C. culture to state government where it would seem to fit nicely. For Udall, at least, what happens in D.C., stays in D.C.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Broadband: Abq RFP Cancelled

There was fair hoopla when the City of Albuquerque put out a request for proposal to bring wireless broadband to the entire city, especially area less well off economically. The cost have been $30 million, I was told. So it might have a clue (or clueless) when
“I don’t know,” was a common answer from city of Albuquerque staff to questions from the more than 50 people at a May 2007 bidders conference for the proposed wireless broadband network across Albuquerque. “I would have to check that,” was another response. A fair proportion of the 50 people had come from out of town.
Not quite four months later, on September 28, 2007, a city inter-office memo quietly appeared canceling the proposal.
About six weeks ago I happened to wonder what became of the project. I started my inquiries with Deborah James, said to be public information officer for Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. I started with Ms. James because PIOs get paid to answer questions from people like me. Ms. James has a reputation for non-response, an accurate reputation, it seems. Something like five emails elicited one response. That was a phone call during which Ms. James promised to have someone call me.
Eventually I sought another source. About 36 hours of email back and forth, most of it due to some compatibility issues, brought the cancelation memo via email. The memo said the city's idea was to send "little or no" money. But "the proposals presumed a capital investment that could run into the millions." Also, "the proposals required an investment or solution that did not meet the technical guidelines of the RFP."
The memo said, "The original scope of services is outdated."
That, quietly, was that.
The private sector wireless guys are happy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Job Losses: February 2009

In February New Mexico had its second best month for year-over-year job losses in 48 years. The 1.7% wage job loss between February 1960 and February 1961 beat the 1.4% (12,200 job) loss between February 2008 and February 2009. The Department of Workforce Services summarizes, "This (the national situation) all means that the New Mexico economy is doing about as well as can be expected under the circumstances, but recent performance is worse than we have experienced in a very long time."
Two of the 13 major job groups gained jobs during the year. Education and health services was up 4,500 with 2,600 new jobs, or 58% of the growth in metro Albuquerque. Government was up 2,400 with 79% of the growth, or 1,900 jobs, coming in Albuquerque. That combined gain means the total losses came to 19,100 jobs in all the other industries, the ones in the private sector. The government gains, DWS says, tended to come in tribally owned casinos, hardly the basis for a dynamic economy.
Metro Albuquerque has lost wage jobs since October 2008. The February year-over-year loss was 4,800 jobs or 1.2%.
The Las Cruces and Santa Fe metro areas bucked the trend by adding wage jobs between February 2008 and February 2009, though very few in both cases.
Las Cruces was up 0.3% or 200 jobs. Santa Fe added 300 jobs, a 0,5% gain. In Santa Fe, the film industry dragged the information sector to a 200-job loss for the year.
With an eight person increase in unemployment (from 199 to 207), Mora County joined Luna County to kae it two counties with more than 10% unemployment. Grant County, with 8% unemployment, is in third place in unemployment rate ranking. Copper ming layoff have more than doubled Grant County unemployment in the past year.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Politics: House Speaker Ben Luan

By all indications, Speaker Ben Lujan did not have a happy 2009 session. Only ten of his 35 bills passed. Nine died in Senate Finance, which is chaired by his not-so-good buddy Sen. John Arthur Smith. Lujan didn't even get the money for some sort of program named after him at Highlands University. Here is that proposal:
It was HB 214, sponsored by Richard Vigil. It died in House Appropriations & Finance. The text says:


Section 1. APPROPRIATION.--Five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the board of regents of New Mexico highlands university for expenditure in fiscal year 2010 for the Ben Lujan leadership and public policy institute to continue collaborative programs, to explore New Mexico policy issues and to develop a curriculum for use by New Mexico schools dealing with youth entrepreneurship.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Legislature: Tax Bills

Our friends at the New Mexico Tax Research Institute get paid to track taxes. They do a newsletter that is available at their website, The newsletter lists all the tax-related bills filed during the current session. However, the newsletter does tell how many bills it lists. So I counted. There are 179 tax bills this year. That's 9.2% of the 1,942 bills, resolutions and memorials introduced in the two houses this session.
Yes, the figure includes duplicate bills, etc. Still it has to be a proxy measure of the dysfunctional nature of our tax system in New Mexico.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Economy: Goods News, Other News

The good news is about potash production near Carlsbad. It came toward the bottom of an economy story in the weekend Wall Street Journal. On March 9, Intrepid Potash, Inc., of Colorado has its two Carlsbad-area mines operating again. The mines are "only" running for 18 hours a day instead of 24. But, hey, they're running. Intrepid had rolling shutdowns at the two mines through February to adjust to inventory accumulation at dealers, "caused by a global drop in demand and an autumn season marked by bad weather," the Wall Street J report said.
The "other" news comes from Clovis, in the form of a dairy story posted Friday (3/13) from the News Journal ( Here is the beginning of the News-Journal story. "With unprocessed milk prices at the lowest many dairy farmers in Roosevelt and Curry counties have ever seen, they are borrowing against the equity in their operations or going out of business. Milk prices are half of what they were a year ago. 'Everybody’s losing their tail,' said Michelle Heavyside, whose family runs Greenfield Park Dairy on Cacahuate Road. 'But you know, you just have to hope and pray for the best.'
"Albin Smith, who owns dairies in Curry and Roosevelt counties, said the prices are lower now than when he came to New Mexico in 1976, and costs are probably three times higher. Dairy farmers are taking out loans against their equity to pay bills, he said."
A dairy industry friend sent us this report a while back. "As you know New Mexico isn't really business friendly particularly the Environment Department, they are constantly changing the rules/regs (without input from the stakeholders) and they don't care if those changes actually protects the environment or not (because they don't use sound science in determining what needs to be done)...and every time they change the rules/regs it cost our producers money and not little money either, usually it's hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"You know agriculture, we can't pass along any of costs we just have to suck it up...and with milk prices dropping and it looks like it will stay low for a long while (we're looking at approximately $11.50/cwt...break even is approximately $16.75-$17.00)...our producers are really taking a hit. Dairy did well the beginning of 2008, but the year before they were operating 9 months in the red.......end of 2008 and most of 2009 looks like it will be that way again.
"We're actually losing dairies, we lost 6 in 2007...because of the business climate here, and if our producers expand they're expanding to Texas...Texas appreciates agriculture. "
Dairy troubles will hit the southeast especially hard. I think Chaves County may be the number one dairy county in the county.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Consumer Choice: Dumping the Land Line

New Mexico is eighth in the percentage of households that only use cell phones with 21.1% of our households having dumped the landline or never having gotten one. The report was released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. The source seems unlikely, but an explanation exists. The CDC does health surveys via telephone. Cell phone numbers aren't available for the surveys.
My family dumped the Qwest land line service about two years ago after repeated service interruptions and poor quality from Qwest. Part of the problem, Qwest told us, was that the old wires in our neighborhood and with our 50-year-old home were prone to flaking out when wet. It rained a lot that spring, as I remember.
Ever skeptical of Qwest, I compared Qwest's 14-state service area against the ranking of states with only cell phone households. Qwest states accounted for ten of the top 20 states with households only using cell phones including five of the top eight. Not bad. Qwest states ahead of New Mexico are Utah (2), Nebraska (3), Iowa (5) and Idaho (6). At 26.2%, Oklahoma, not a Qwest state, leads in households using only cell phones.
In fairness to Qwest, it should be noted that the CDC report did not break out the cell phone use by company. It is likely that a decent proportion of the cell phone-only households use Qwest. We don't; we use Verizon.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Job Losses: January 2009

In January, New Mexico lost wage jobs at a 1% year over year rate. The state was down 8,600 jobs over January 2008. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.1% in January, up from revised estimates of 3.7% a year ago. Ten of the 13 major job groups lost jobs for the year.
Construction led the way, dropping 5,500 jobs for the year, not quite 10% of the January 2008 employment of 57,000. Education and health services and government were the gainers for the year, up 6,700 jobs together. The Department of Workforce Services reminds us that employees of Indian casinos are in the local government sector.
The year over year job loss was 3,400 in metro Albuquerque, the fourth month of declining employment. Metro manufacturing was down 1,100 jobs, a 4.9% annual rate of loss. January was the 20th month consecutive month for job losses by Albuquerque manufacturers.
Las Cruces continued the effort to hold up its end of the economic performance bargain with a slight gain (but still a gain) of 400 jobs, or 0.6%, for the January to January year.
Santa Fe added 500 jobs over the year, a 0.8% gain. Santa Fe lost jobs for several consecutive months over the summer.
The state still has only one county—Luna— with unemployment over 10%. Luna County unemployment has gone from 12.9% in January 2008 to 15.9% in January 2009. Mora County is working on joining the 10% club with a January unemployment rate of 9.8%.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Journalism: KRQE TV

Some time back a former TV anchor in Las Vegas, NV, remarked to me that the Albuquerque and Santa Fe media were passive. If someone would blow off a question, the locals just let it drop. In Las Vegas, she said, there was a pact, an unwritten professional standard, I suspect. In Las Vegas the blown off question would be repeated by the next media representative to ask a question. This went on until an answer appeared or, I suppose, until the object of the questions got frustrated and departed.
Under new news director Forrest Carr, KRQE TV has a new and refreshing approach. This is not to say that others haven't changed, too, I just haven't specifically checked. Carr spoke last week at the annual Women in Communications reverse news conference. Media people are the speakers and the audience ask questions. The topic was billed as being the economy, a topic which seemed of little interest to the audience.
Carr described KRQE's approach as "viewer advocacy." My poor note taking prompted a request for clarification. Was "viewer advocacy" the phrase, I asked via email. Yes, Carr said, capitalizing the V and the A. Here is more of his reply, "We do not advocate anyone's viewpoint, but
we will fight hard for the right of common people to be heard, and to
get a response from the powerful. Our mission, essentially, is to
champion democracy through giving voice to everyday people and helping
them hold the powerful accountable. We believe public officials,
especially elected ones, have a duty to answer public questions about
the public's business. Therefore, we often make the level of response
we get from the powerful in pursuit of the public's business a feature
of our reporting."
Gov. Bill Richardson's "level of response" on some matters has prompted further inquiry from KRQE to the his apparent annoyance. Oh, well, Governor.....

Monday, March 2, 2009

Economy: Bank of America

Bank of America provides one of those under the radar examples of the national economic mess affecting New Mexico. That's because there is a fair sized group of BofA shareholders in the state. I don't know the size of the group, but it is more than three or four. That's because the bank BofA bought, Sunwest Financial Services, was a public company. Actually Boatmen's Bancshares of St. Louis bought Sunwest in what I believe was a plan to accumulate properties and sell to someone bigger. Boatmen's sold to BofA, so Boatmen's doesn't count.
Sunwest had an employee stock purchase plan. I don't know the number participating, but Sunwest, as I remember, topped out at about 2,500 employees. Also, Sunwest has been around a long time, so employee shareholders and regular investors had time to grow in numbers. Since the BofA takeover in the mid-90s, it is reasonable to assume that BofA employees have continued to participate in employee stock purchase opportunities. It is also reasonable to assume that the former Sunwest shareholders are retired, perhaps for years, or are approaching retirement.
BofA's dividend grew and grew over the years, hitting $148.48/share/year last year or 64 cents/share/quarter. That was a nice check for a lot of folks. Now the dividend is a penny. A goodly quarterly chunk of change has disappeared from the New Mexico economy. Wealth, too. In late 2006, the stock price was well over $50.00. The stock closed today at $3.63.
I worked for Sunwest from 1981 until 1997 and wrote the financial news releases until the Boatmen's purchase.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Economy: Some Good News

A bit over a week ago, there were 1.5 items of good news for the New Mexico economy.
The full item of good news is that Louisiana Energy Services' National Enrichment Facility near Eunice received its first shipment of uranium, a 70-lb batch that will be used to equipment at the plant that will refine uranium hexaflouride for use as fuel in nuclear reactors. Plans are for full operations by year-end.
The half an item is that Gov. Bill Richardson unveiled six proposed modifications to regulations covering the pits (or tanks) next to well that hold the very salty water and chemicals used to lubricate wells during drilling. Industry people have said for months that the Pit Rule, which went into effect in June 2008, add about $250,000 to the cost of drilling a well in New Mexico with the result of driving new drilling to other states. The proposed modifications get only half an item of good news because the culture of the Richardson administration, starting with the governor, is against drilling. So we'll see.
The modifications are outlined in a news release in the announcements section on the website of the Oil Conservation Division,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Legislature: Capitol Crowds

I have seen a report or two that the Capitol is very quiet this year. The usual crowds haven't shown for the Legislature. My brief observation around 4 p.m. yesterday says this is true. Walking through the rotunda after dropping copies of the February issue of Capitol Report New Mexico, it dawned on me that no one was there. I checked with the women who provide Capitol tours during the session. Yes, traffic was down, they said. They couldn't say how much since they don't count. But, yes, they are providing fewer tours this year. As I visited with the tour guides, I looked to the east foyer. Two senior lobbyists were the only people in what usually is a packed space during the session.
There are fewer bills this year, for sure. Fewer controversial bills, perhaps? Less budget money to bring school kids to the Capitol, perhaps?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Surveys: Movies, McCune and NM Community Capital

Earlier today into the email inbox there popped a survey that claimed to "take approximately 20 minutes of your valuable time." The survey was said to be a joint effort of the McCune Foundation, which sometimes does odd stuff, and New Mexico Community Capital, which, in my limited experience, lies among the good guys. The response here comes from a long, if peripheral, association with survey research. the movie comment is t the end.
The McCune/NMCC survey claimed to be "market research targeted at a statewide examination of the Strengths and Gaps/Opportunities in the New Mexico entrepreneurial ecosystems."
The "20 minute" part wasn't true. Whether it was a lie or an error, I can't say. But completing the survey, all ten pages or so, would have required at least an hour. The survey began with, "Which of the following categories best describes your role in the New Mexico Ecosystem?" One category was "C-level manager." Define please.
The next four asked the respondent to "rank the top 5 current industries that you associate with New Mexico." One "industry" was "food Services." Define please. Restaurants? Then the request was to rank the top five fastest growing, fastest declining and "most strategic industries that you associate with future growth in New Mexico." Food services only made the first of the four questions.
These questions are hard. Thought is required, even for someone like me with knowledge of the numbers.
It got better.
The survey went on to a detailed investigation of the respondent's knowledge of New Mexico Community Capital and of technology transfer and capital structures in the state. No regular person could provide meaningful answers without having spent a fair amount of time in the middle the topic. I suspect that few people have heard of New Mexico Community Capital.
There was no indication that the survey was going to a sample. I suspect the audience consisted of a bunch of email addresses accumulated over time. If that guess is correct, the responses will mean only that they are the responses to the survey. Nothing may be imputed from the survey. I look forward to seeing the news release about the results.
Recently the New Mexico Film Office released a study of the economic impacts of filming in New Mexico that purports to counter last year's report from New Mexico State University saying the film subsidies were a big-time loser. The new study, produced by an outfit with a huge vested interest in favorable news, totals data gleaned from a variety of sources and surveys, which I think is statistically dubious, to claim a positive return on the subsidy. The problem is that differing surveys have differing things happening with the probability theory and therefore the results can't be added. I may be wrong as to whether this notion applies to the new movie survey.
In any case, the survey summary has a wonderful line. It says "the length of the average tourist’s stay in New Mexico increased by 1.2% due to interest in" film attractions. OK, so what is "the average tourist’s stay in New Mexico?" And if the stay is 100 hours, the average increases an hour, a statistically insignificant length of time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Intel: Rebuilding Again

Constant innovation is the rule for the semiconductor industry. In keeping with this rule, yesterday Intel Corporation announced plans to spend $7 billion remodeling semiconductor fabrication plants in Rio Rancho and in Oregon and Arizona. "Remodeling" is hardly the word. The concept is more like raising the building, taking out all the old equipment and installing new, more expensive stuff. Intel rebuilds its manufacturing facilities every few years. The most recent project in Rio Rancho was in 2007.
Intel will spend about $2.5 billion at its Rio Rancho facility. The result of the projects will be introduction of the industry’s first 32-nanometer computer architecture. In announcing the projects, Intel said, “The technology used in (the) manufacturing process builds chip circuitry 32nm (32/billionth of a meter or about 1/millionth of an inch) across – incredibly small, atomic level structures.” The resulting chips will be faster, smaller and use less energy. That is Moore's Law in action—more capacity in the chip and lower price.
In Rio Rancho, the project will require more than 1,000 construction workers. Intel employs more than 3,000 in Rio Rancho.
Some other Rio Rancho details were overlooked in news reports, perhaps due to lack of institutional memory.
The chips with the 32-nanometer wide circuits go on silicon wafers that are 300 millimeters in diameter or nearly ten inches, if I've correctly done the math. In 1983, I got a six-inch wafer from Intel. It is a framed and incredibly antique trophy on the wall.
This new project will bring to about $15 billion the amount of money Intel will have spent in Rio Rancho since 1995. Intel has one "fab" or fabrication facility in Rio Rancho. There used to be several.
Intel still has contract workers on site in numbers approximately equal to Intel's employment. Thus, the Rio Rancho site is responsible for about 6,000 jobs, half of which are paid with Intel checks.
This coming rebuilding of the Rio Rancho plant was done because of Intel's happiness with the metro Albuquerque labor force. That was the same reason Intel came to town in first place.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Election Overturned: Amendment 4

Well, not exactly. But if a clear majority of voters, just shy of 75%, in an election vote one way or the other, then people can be forgiven for thinking those votes should have something to do with the outcome of the election. But in the case of proposed constitutional amendment 4 in the November 2008 general election, it turns out the naive assumptions about voter preference don't apply. The Las Cruces Sun-News today has an excellent Associated Press story reviewing the devil hidden n the details of the presumed passage of amendment 4. The amendment would have moved school board elections from the present preposterous date of the first Tuesday in February to the date of other non-artisan elections.
Approval of the proposal came from 74.48% of the voters, just under the 75% required for approval of this type of proposal. Even approval votes from a few more folks statewide might not have passed the amendment because of another requirement—that approval also come from two-thirds of the voters in each county. Fewer than two-thirds of the voters in Mora and Harding counties favored amendment 4. The two approval thresholds were put into the constitution to protect Hispanics interests, the story said. Such protection seems a good idea in general and probably was a very good idea at the time.
1. While the AP story didn't say, it is a reasonable guess that proponents didn't do their homework.
2. The outcome puts yet another spotlight on the dubious rationale behind the continued existence of Harding County, population around 750.
3. While the intent of the restriction may well have been worthy nearly 100 years ago when the constitution was written, today the failure of amendment 4 hurts HIspanics and all other New Mexicans by making it more difficult to capture control of the schools from entrenched interests who know how to play the election game in the dark and cold of February. That's because the point of moving the elections was to get more folks involved. That the failure was due to niggling details that bubbled through to the collective consciousness of the Secretary of State only five months later makes it worse.
4. Our constitution is frightfully easy to amend. I think that most of the amendments don't really matter. This one would have been a real improvement. The manner of the failure is another argument in favor of a constitutional convention.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Commuting in New Mexico

The average metro Albuquerque commute is 23.4 minutes, the Census Bureau reports. The national average commute is 25.1 minutes. Within the metro, Rio Rancho residents are the big commuters with an average of 28.1 minutes, a third more than the 21 minute commute for those living in the city of Albuquerque. The average commute in the city of Las Cruces is 16.3 minutes. In Santa Fe, the city, it is 18.4 minutes.
Metro Albuquerque commuters drive a little less than in Tucson, Arizona, and a minute more than in Colorado Springs. The commuting figures are an average of annual estimates from 2005 to 2007.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pueblos, Spaniards and the Kingdom of New Mexico

In his new book, John Kessell provides a short, readable and interesting history of the early years in New Mexico. Pueblos, Spaniards and the Kingdom of New Mexico should be part of the library of anyone interested in the complexities of New Mexico.
Kessell starts with a summary of the pueblo world before the Spaniards appeared in 1540 and in 185 pages brings the story to 1760. New Mexico's poverty is a recurring theme. So is coexistence. "Even while sharing blood and traits, Pueblos and Spaniards have chosen, or been forced, to recognize the cultural identity of the other—living together yet apart. Their intricate dance through time, especially passionate in the seventeenth century, bids us to look closer."
In the spirit even handedness, Kessell even challenges the received wisdom of a New Mexico story—the alleged mutilation of Acomas by Spaniards after the Spanish conquered Acoma in a five-day battle in January 1599. The sentence was that all Acoma men over 25 were to "have one foot severed and then be bound to personal servitude for 20 years." Kessell's questioning starts with the record. The Spanish were big on documentation, even when it reflected poorly on the Spanish. Kessell knows this. He has spent his career reading the record. The record supporting actual execution of the punishment is sketchy. Besides, he notes, mutilating one's slaves makes little sense. In any case, most Acomas had run off from the Spanish within a few years, a difficult task with only one foot. Kessell writes, "Spaniards may indeed have performed the maimings, but a close reading of the documents raises reasonable doubt." In a footnote, Kessell says his view has attracted severe critics.
Pueblos, Spaniards and the Kingdom of New Mexico has 23 pages of note and bibliography. The book is published by the University of Oklahoma Press ( and costs $24.95. One can order through the Web site or call 1-800-627-7377.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Job Losses: December Numbers (The Rest of the Story)

New Mexico closed 2008 with its second month of job losses, the Department of Workforce Services report January 29. Wage jobs were down 6,800 from December 2007, a 0.8% drop. Eight of the 13 industrial categories lost jobs while four gained.
Metro Albuquerque added 400 jobs in December over November but closed the year down 1,600 jobs from December 2007, a 0.4% year over year drop. This was the fifth consecutive month of over-the-year employment decline for Albuquerque.
For Las Cruces, December to December wage job growth was 700, a 1% increase.
Santa Fe's year over year job loss mode started in June and continued in December. Wage employment in December was down 1.4 percent, representing a loss of 900 jobs from December 2007.
Farmington added 400 wage jobs during 2008 for a 0.8% increase over December 2007. The private sector produced 500 jobs during the year while government lost 100.
With the four metro areas losing a net 1,400 jobs, that means the rural areas of the state dropped 5,400 jobs over the past year.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Real Estate: Year End Numbers

Metro Albuquerque residential real estate sales during 2008 were down a quarter from 2007, reports the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors. The figures cover single family detached homes, condos and townhouses. The 7,644 homes sold figure was the lowest since 2000 when 6,740 homes were sold. Annual sales peaked in 2005 with 13,448 homes.
The listing inventory—the number of homes offered for sale—peaked in July at 7,082 and has fallen steadily, if slowly, ever since. Falling inventory during the second half of the year is the usual pattern. The past two years were exceptions as the inventory peaked in September. The 2008 difference is that the inventory was below 2007 levels for the final three months of the year. This suggests that the inventory will eventually fall to more reasonable levels.
The average price for a single family detached metro home was $232,626 during 2008. The average was $10,463, or 4.3%, below 2007. The good news here is that the price drop is so small. The 2008 average price is about $4,000 above the 2006 average.
For condos and townhouses, prices increased during 2008. The $162,783 condo / townhouse average was up about $1,500 from 2007 while the median price, $154,000, increased $5,000.
Neighborhood price behavior varied widely as usual. Neighborhoods with significant numbers of sales of single family detached homes where prices increased were the Southeast Heights, Downtown, Corrales, Bernalillo / Algodones and the East Mountains.
The Valley Farms area had the largest percentage drop at 15.2%. Rio Rancho North followed at 12.2%
One neighborhood even increased number of sales. Rio Rancho South had 198 sales during 2008, one more than in 2007.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Job Losses: December Numbers

December 2008 saw the close of a year of essentially no job growth with the inevitable—an increase of more than half in New Mexico's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from December 2007. Here are the numbers, in thousands, released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All December 2008 statistics are preliminary.

Civilian labor force
Dec 2007: 945.2 Oct. 2008: 961.6. Nov. 2008: 960.9. Dec. 2008: 966.1.
Unemployed number of people
Dec 2007: 30.6. Oct. 2008: 41.7. Nov. 2008: 41.7. Dec. 2008: 47.8.
Unemployed, percent of labor force:
Dec 2007: 3.2. Oct. 2008: 4.3. Nov. 2008: 4.3. Dec. 2008: 4.9.

Friday, January 23, 2009

UNM & Golf & Planning

When it last hit the fan over the fate of the University of New Mexico's North Golf Course, I argued that the only way to preserve the golf course for what it is—a multi-use community open space—was to get the area under different ownership. My rationale was that UNM, being a large organization, would always want to "do something" with the space. A meeting last night confirmed that judgment. The was called by the North Campus Neighborhood Association, which borders the golf course on the east and north. A crowd of about 80 filled the meeting room, a classroom at UNM's law school, which tucks into a corner of the golf course.
What follows is a bit long. And we only stayed an hour. When we left, the meeting probably had two hours to go.
The first part of the agenda was a presentation of the new UNM master plan, a work in progress but well along from what we could tell. Tobias Flato of Dekker Perich Sabatini got to present the plan. That meant he got the first reaction from the crowd, which always seems crabby when the golf course and the university are mentioned together. Not that, over time, the neighborhood has had anything other than ample reason to doubt the university. Flato introduced the plan as a "framework" a flexible sounding word. Except some things are cast in stone. One is adding what Flato called a new reservoir, which seemed to mean a large water tank and well, in the center of the golf course in a space now occupied by maintenance buildings. The crowd immediately jumped this idea. Let's see, came the reaction, the city of Albuquerque has just spent a gazillion dollars get off well water. What's the deal? The deal is money, came the reply. UNM, now partly using city water, ants to go entirely to well water because it will cost much less for UNM to run its own water system. And the aquifer, some wondered. Follow the money, I guess.
The crowd also doubted plans to move the Bernalillo County mental health center, now located on Marble, just west of Vassar. The doubt was less the fact of the proposed move as it was of the location, to what are called the "barren fairways," immediately west of the green part of the golf course. The relocated facility would go into what will become even more of a pedestrian area, people commented. Also, the neighborhood generally considers the barren fairways part of the golf course. The audience also wasn't thrilled at the idea of extending Camino de Salud across University Blvd and the food control ditch and up the hill to across the new mental health center. For sure, though, something has to be done about the existing mental health center which is long past merely showing its age.
The audience was also surprise by announcement of plans for a new, 450-bed hospital. The good news was that UNM's Health Sciences folks have been persuaded to move the site from Yale and Lomas, where massive congestion would result, to vacant land between Lomas and Indian School Road and east of I-25.
The new roundabout trasffic circle just north of Yale and Lomas came in for some pointed criticism from bicyclists. It is confusing and dangerous, the critics said. Cars have the same issues with the traffic circle, but no one mentioned that.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Job Losses

The year started with continuing deterioration in the situation for wage employment in New Mexico. For the week of January 3, there were 1,626 new claims for unemployment filed in New Mexico, up 478, or 42%, from the same week in 2008.
The week of January 10 saw 3,165 new claims, up 1,613 from a year ago and more than double the 1,552 claims filed during the week in 2008.

Real Estate: Foreclosures

Residential real estate is one economic arena whether New Mexico is both better off than a lot of other places and where it truly matters. There contrast is drawn with the specious consolations offered with regard to the state economy.
Still, some of what is happening nationally is happening here, fortunately just much less. An example of the real world comes from legal notice advertisements placed in the Albuquerque Journal. Today's paper has 13 ads having something to do with foreclosure. Plaintiffs include some famous names: Countrywide Home Loans Inc., Bank of New York, Citimortgage, Inc., and JPMprgan Chase Bank, NA, as successor to Washington Mutual Bank, FA. Flagstar Bank, FSB, another plaintiff and little known in New Mexico, is headquartered in Troy, Michigan, near Detroit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Publications: Más New Mexico!

As Clara Padilla Jones, she was secretary of state from 1983 through 1986. Then it was off to Portland, Oregon, with husband Frank Andrews, a one-time candidate for attorney general who was beaten in the primary. The Portland years included the serendipitous purchase, 14 years ago, of El Hispanic News, which now is just over 39 years old.
Along the way, Clara became president of the National Association of Hispanic Publications. Now Clara and Frank have returned to their "strong ancestral roots" in New Mexico to begin Más New Mexico!, a bilingual weekly that steps into the slightly served Albuquerque / Santa Fe market. The first issue appeared with a January 7 dateline. Más New Mexico! offers a mix of local, state, national and international news. Más New Mexico! news will tend toward the positive, but will not shy away from other realities.
The money is going into the product. The Más New Mexico! offices at 123 Palomas Drive NE in Albuquerque are quite modest and located in a modest area of town.
Clara told me she had no idea she would be in the publishing business. But she possesses one necessary ingredient. I love sales, she said.
The Web site is: Office phone: 505-255-1928.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Politics: Money & Ethics

OK, here's a question: What is the real effect of money in politics? Barack Obama, heralded now for his pragmatism, changed the game when he blew off public financing. Obama took the money, the ultimate pragmatic decision.
Political ethics "reform" always seems to come back to more rules. This is the theme of the liberal reformers, one example in New Mexico being Sen. Dede Feldman of Albuquerque.
I'm interested in the value, dubious to me, of more rules and more detailed rules. I think that all that happens is that the smart guys just hire lawyers to get around the rules. More rules mean more lawyers.
I think that, other things equal, public financing, as we have with the Public Regulation Commission, gives a big edge to the incumbent or someone otherwise with name ID. The way one gets name ID is to buy it. Gary Johnson is the NM model of buying name ID. Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez has to be hoping that every other mayoral candidate uses public financing. That's because, given Chavez' name ID, an opponent would have to outspend him, maybe two-to-one, to get any attention.
My overall interest is in the meaning of ethics in politics. Nearly everyone, especially liberals but also conservatives, has bought the notion that more ethics means more rules. The overall topic is bigger. Its the whole question, the moral question, of the behavior of officials. The Bible and Aristotle are the experts. A small example goes to the habit of restaurants owned by Gerald Peters, Santa Fe art dealer, real estate mogul and friend of Bill, of hosting fund raisers for politicians. Even if Peters doesn't donate, the politico accepting the "favor" of use of the facility has accepted a favor from Peters. Hmm...
I always come back to the notion that with campaign financing rules, we would not have had Gene McCarthy. Remember, a couple of rich guys financed McCarthy. That couldn't happen today and that's bad.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Politics: "New Mexico's Political Wild West"

This was the headline on a story in the Wall Street Journal's weekend edition.

The story, on page A5, summarized what we have come to know. But the last paragraph added something. It said, "A few years ago, the legislature authorized the
attorney general to hire a special team of eight investigators to
probe public corruption. Mr. King promises the state "will be seeing
the fruits of that soon." Asked how many cases he expects to bring, he
answered: "More than a handful."

This of course was the same Mr. King who was unceremoniously shoved
from the governor's race in 2002 by guess who? Bill Richardson.

One thing for sure. In the real world, that is, in the private sector, Gov. Richardson would be out of a job.

Clearly there is a pay-to-play, crony capitalism culture in Santa Fe, at least at the top. One might argue that culture will be tough to change. And certainly it won't be easy. But then consider the Arizona Cardinals, perennial losers for decades. Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt has turned them into champions in two years.

How about a constitutional convention? Its been 40 years since New Mexico had one and 20 years since the topic was even discussed in a New Mexico First Town Hall. I suspect that the fiefdoms create by the long ballot add to the corruption incentive. After all, there's no supervision and money lying around. Lobogate all over again and again.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Politics: Diane Denish, Bill and the Political Rug

This is the second time Diane Denish has had the political rug pulled from under her. In 1994, she declared for Lt. Gov.
against Casey Luna and then Casey declared for Governor. Shortly before Casey declared for Gov. I happened to provide Patsy Madrid a ride to Santa Fe. As we talked during the drive, Patsy said, as I remember, that Patsy had spent a good deal of money building name identification (in her previous races) and that she had one more race in her. A figurative ten minutes after
Casey declared for Gov., Patsy declared for Lt. Gov. and beat Diane. A further memory is that some inept remarks by Patsy helped give Gary Johnson the momentum to beat Bruce King.
Part of the deliciousness of this tale is that Patsy and Diane live about five blocks apart in an area north of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. At the time, I lived about equidistant from the two.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Capitol Report Re-Launches; Projected Deficit Grows

In a public radio interview about 5:30 this evening, Senator John Arthur Smith, the Deming Democrat who chairs the Legislative Finance Committee said the difference between state spending and projected revenue for the current fiscal year had grown to about $550 million. The interview with KRWG FW in Las Cruces was short and did not allow Smith time to explain the growth of the deficit from the $454 million projected in December.
Capitol Report New Mexico, after taking an unplanned year off, is now a newspaper. The relaunch is made possible by financial support from the Rio Grande Foundation, the Albuquerque think tank devoted to increasing the liberty and prosperity of New Mexicans. Now a newspaper, Capitol Report will be mailed Monday. The contains excerpts from the LFC's solvency as it stood in late December and from the Consensus Revenue Forecast unveiled December 8. The new issue, the complete forecast and the LFC's analysis will be posted early next week at

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Corruption: CDR & Abq

In today's Wall Street Journal (that is, 1/7/09), P A4, the next to last paragraph of the Richardson story reads, "In another case, the IRS is conducting audits into whether CDR and French bank Societe Generale SA fixed the prices of financial products used for proceeds from bonds issued in places such as Albuquerque, N.M. The IRS has said it believes the companies structured fees in a way that violated arbitrage regulations. Societe Generale declined to comment; CDR's Mr. Rubin called the issue "a historic, long-tailed matter."
A friend wonders about links to the housing authority.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Politics: The Richardson Situation

Bill Richardson dropping from being the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Commerce seems to leave the following scenarios:
1. The state's $454 million (and change) projected deficit for FY 09 is still the state's $454 million (and change) projected deficit for FY 09. However, dealing with the deficit would seem to have passed to the legislature, mostly. Until this morning, Richardson, though largely absent for three years, was still dealing from strength. No more.
2. Diane Denish, Lt. Gov., must feel a bit like she felt when Patricia Madrid, her neighbor, declared for Lt. Gov. and beat Denish, who had declared her candidacy some time before.
3. If Bill Richardson follows the demand of his ego, which he has done since he set foot in New Mexico about 30 years ago, he will remain as governor as long as possible. Every day Richardson remains governor, the New Mexico Republicans win.
4. If Richardson acts in the interests of New Mexico and New Mexico Democrats, he will resign. That's because every day Richardson continues as governor, a job he has worked hard for three years to leave, the corruption issue accrues to the Republicans.
But not likely is the judgement on a Richardson resignation. Much too much ego involved.