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.