Monday, August 30, 2010

Martinez Doesn't Take Audience Questions at Large Event

Susana Martinez, Republican candidate for governor, spoke today to the 2010 New Mexico Real Estate/Construction Gubernatorial Candidate Event. Several hundred attended the luncheon event, held in Albuquerque at the Marriott in the Uptown area. Sponsorship came from 13 real estate groups.

Citing a scheduling conflict, Diane Denish, Democratic candidate, did not come today, but will appear at a later event.

After her presentation, Martinez did not take questions from the audience. This is striking because, in my experience, the only time NAIOP meetings do not allow questions from the audience is when the program has run over the allotted time.

At about 12:30 P.M., the program was declared done.

There remained was plenty of time for questions, perhaps a half hour.

Lacking further information at this point, I believe Martinez was avoiding questions.

The situation today interests me because the Martinez campaign, specifically Ryan Cangiolosi, the campaign manager, declined to make Martinez available for a one-hour interview, citing scheduling complexities. Yeah, right, Ryan. The interview was to be the basis for two of my columns that go to ten newspapers around the state.

Martinez therefore becomes a statewide candidate seeking a top office who is unwilling to talk to the media. For me that’s somewhere between dumb and bizarre. But then I’m media.

Today the real estate groups had prepared ten questions. Martinez simply ignored one and part of another. She gave a short but specific answer to three and did talking points, relevant or not, in response to the others. She was allowed time at the end to say what she wanted because time was available. She chose talking points.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Job Situation: Still Going Down

Curious words continue to come from the Department of Workforce Services. In the new employment status report, released today, DWS says, “Overall, the job situation is starting to look better than it has in several months.” I think that means the job situation is a little less bad. But bad is still bad. Actually, a few areas are doing better. But overall, it’s still down.

From July 2009 to July 2010, New Mexico lost 6,600 wage jobs, or 0.8%, or the 802,700 wage jobs that existed in July 2009. A net of 4,500 jobs disappeared in July.

Government lost a net of 10,300 jobs in July, but that wasn’t the big federal job loss predicted last month from the anticipated elimination of census jobs. Instead, local government lost 11,200 jobs in July from June, including 8,600 in local government education. State government, land of the $150 million or so deficit saga ($150 million is the number I heard this morning), gained 1,300 jobs over the month. State government did lose all of 1,000 jobs year-over-year.

One indication of that better job situation came in the Leisure and Hospitality segment which added 700 jobs in July and 3,500 year-over-year. Some weeks back I commented that tourism businesses seemed to have had a good July 4th. I guess that was true.

Eight sectors added jobs during July, but the gains were wiped out by the government losses.

Metro Summary: Seasonally adjusted.

Albuquerque: year-over-year: 3,900 jobs lost. Unemployment rate: 8.7%.

Farmington: year-over-year: 1,500 jobs lost. Unemployment rate: 9.1%.

La Cruces: year-over-year: 1,900 jobs added. Unemployment rate: 2.9%.

Santa Fe: year-over-year: 900 jobs lost. Unemployment rate: 6.8%.

New Mexico is up to ten counties with a seasonally not adjusted unemployment rate greater than ten percent. Three of those counties are in the Albuquerque metro area. In July 2009, three counties broke the ten percent barrier for unemployment.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Martinez Campaign Blows Off Interview Request

Since my syndicated newspaper column appears every other week, I can’t worry much about the daily tit-for-tat in the governor’s race. Instead, I had this idea. Interview each candidate, write two columns about the interview and then post the interview transcript here, assuming my recorder behaves properly. Nine papers around the state subscribe to the column through New Mexico News Service. The nine go to perhaps 40% of New Mexico’s two million people

After a few days, the Denish campaign responded with a time and place.

But after 19 days of dithering, including sloughing the request to a 25 (or so) year old campaign gofer, yesterday Susana Martinez campaign manager Ryan Cangiolosi (photo at right) emailed, “Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that a sit down interview with Susana is not possible at this time. As you well know, the last few months of a campaign are very rigorous, with many requests.”

One can get semantic here and I’ll do that a little.

Does Cangiolosi really “regret” informing me that he is blowing off the interview request? I doubt it. Is it “unfortunate” that he regrets informing me?

And, overall, if Mr. Cangiolosi and the Martinez campaign wanted to talk to the 40% of New Mexicans that read these newspapers, then the one hour I requested would be easily available.

The plan at this point is that after I write the columns about the interview with Ms. Denish, I will write a column posing the questions I planned for Ms. Martinez. Such as. This guy from Texas who gave you the several hundred thousand dollars, have you met him? What is the connection between the Texas guy and your campaign consultant who, with John Dendahl, gave us John Sanchez in 2002? Why are you running? What, really, do you plan to do about the state spending saga? Why are you wasting our time talking about the death penalty? Etc.

Mark Bralley photo

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another "trade mission" To Cuba. Last Year's Questions Remain

The lower right corner of today’s Albuquerque Journal metro page offered a seven paragraph report of another “trade mission” to Cuba by Gov. Bill Richardson. Along for the ride are Miley Gonzales, secretary of the state’s agriculture department, and Stuart Ashman, cultural affairs secretary. The Journal’s “story” was a near transcription of the Governor’s news release.
The plan, said the release, is that “Richardson will help market New Mexico commodities and follow up on inroads made on potential trade partnerships during a visit to Cuba last year.” This is the fourth trade mission (or something) to Cuba.
A big difference is that Katherine Miller and Gilbert Gallegos are not along. Miller is secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration until September 1. Gallegos is Richardson’s communications chief. Last year I had some questions about the trip. Gallegos told me to buzz off.
Here are some of those questions, updated a bit:
How did the travelers get to Cuba? Route? Airline? Private plane?
To buy a ticket to Havana from Mexico City, one cannot use a U.S.-issued credit card. Where does that fit with state procurement rules?
How about developing more trade with someone we trade with, like Honduras.
Did anything come of last year’s trip besides “inroads?”
What does the Cultural Affairs Department have to do with trade in general and trade with Cuba?
Are Richardson, Gonzales and Ashman the only ones on the trip? What about Richardson’s ever present security detail? Last year rumors abounded of other New Mexicans just happening to be along.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Transportation Wrap: GRIP, passengers and intermodal

In The New Mexican today, Kate Nash has a nice summary of the administration’s GRIP 1 and 2 highway building programs. She mentions the basics and misses an item or two, perhaps because of not being germane to story building things.

The Rail Runner commuter train service between Belen and Santa Fe gets credit for being the most expensive GRIP 1 project at $425 and get further credit for coming at 42% over the original $300 million estimate. While Nash does note Rail Runner 14% one-way ridership drop for the second quarter of 2010, over the 2009 quarter, she doesn’t mention Rail Runner’s operating deficit, $20 million annually is what I remember.

The financing mode—borrowing the money—gets full credit as flakey as well as do the allegations of misbehavior in putting together the financing deals. Gov. Gary Johnson gets appropriate credit for starting the borrowing.

High speed passenger rail seems the Obama administration’s next big thing for railroad. High speed means 100-mph and up 150mph. Last year the administration threw $8 billion at the idea. In response state grant requests totaled $102 billion, reported the Wall Street Journal this weekend (in the August 21-22 edition. This year Congress added $2.3 billion and a 20% state match requirement. State interest withered. Most states, it seems, don’t have the $300 (or more) match money lying around.

The delay of high speed passenger rail may be good, one can easily conclude from the three-page story in the July 24 edition of The Economist. (Registration is required for access. See “America’s system of rail freight is the world’s best,” the article says. Today’s freight trains run about 50 mph with passenger trains limited to no more than 80 mph in part because of track quality.

High speed passenger trains probably would require “expensive train control technology,” not needed now, to keep the fast trains from overrunning the freight. The added passengers would eat track capacity, hurt freight and, in particular, hurt the intermodal rail-container-truck systems that works well.

Intermodal, developing ever so slowly in southern New Mexico, got a bit of a boost with the August 13 announcement of $1.23 million grant from the feds to pay for restarting a suspended feasibility study of expanding commercial rail services along the border with Mexico. Central to all this is the plan by Union Pacific Corp. to build a $150 million intermodal facility near Santa Teresa. I don’t know the status of the UP project.

Not that intermodal development along the border hasn’t been studies about 82 times in the last 25 years, it’s good to hear something may be happening, however modest.

Friday, August 20, 2010

July Job Losses Second Nationally

Whatever happened in June to the wage job situation in New Mexico continued during July. It was in June that New Mexico led the nation in percentage decrease in wage jobs, both from May and from June 2010. In July, we dropped to second place in year over year percentage decrease in wage jobs, down 1.3% and tied with our good buddy Mississippi. Nevada led the pack with a 1.8% drop.

The new numbers were posted today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. See

On a seasonally adjusted basis, July employment, which is different from wage jobs, declined 6,200 or 0.7% from July 2009. The number of seasonally adjusted unemployed in July, 78,400, was up 8,200 or 10.5% from July 2009.

Next Thursday, August 26, the Department of Workforce Solutions will release details of the New Mexico job situation. See

Thursday, August 19, 2010

National Publicity for NM; Not All Good

How others see you is incredibly important. Perception is reality goes the truism, whether for a person, a company or a state. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, New Mexico got four or five mentions.

I couldn’t find that fifth mention, a passing reference to the investigations of the state’s investment practices. It might have been a day or two earlier.

Here are the four.

Page A2: A dark New Mexico pops from a map showing results by state for 2010 high school graduates who took the ACT. New Mexico, colored black, is easy to see because Arizona and Texas are white, indicating that too few students too the ACT to allow fair comparison. Our black mark puts us in the group with the worst performance with less than 30% meeting at least three of the four college readiness benchmarks.

Page A5: On a map, New Mexico shows as one of 27 states, the story says, “already provide free contraception and other reproductive-health services to lower earning women who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for services through the Medicaid federal-state insurance program for the poor.”

Page A15: The day’s book review is of “A Grand and Bold Thing,” described as “a breezily informal, close-up account of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey,” which turns out to use, “a dedicated 2.5-meter telescope at Apache Point Observatory,” according to the website,

The review only said that the telescope was “installed on a promontory overlooking the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.” I checked in order to confirm that the location was in one of the group of observatories in the Sacramento Mountains just south of and largely ignored by Cloudcroft.

Page D1 in the Personal Journal had an article about xeriscaping. Albuquerque appeared in the jump on page D2. We got credit only after attention went to, in this order, Las Vegas, NV; Ambler, Pa.; Austin; Peoria, Az; Cary, N.C; and Denver. The Albuquerque item was two long paragraphs about potential conflict between a coming Bernalillo County pro-xeriscaping ordinance and the Primrose Pointe development which requires “irrigated turf” on half of every front yard.

The article said, “Many xeric principles are simply common sense.” Uh, yeah.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Las Cruces 2009 Income Up, Other Metros Drop

The per capita income in Las Cruces increased 1.4% between 2008 and 2009 to $28,855. Las Cruces was the only one of New Mexico's four metropolitan statistical areas to show an increase in per capita income for the 08-09 year. Las Cruces per capita income also increased 4.2% between 2007 and 2008, going from $26,242 to $27,855. Nationally. Las Cruces income ranked 334 in 2009, just behind El Paso which ranked 342 in 2009 and had an 08-09 increase of 2%.
The Fort Bliss expansion explains the relative economic health in Las Cruces and El Paso, said speakers at last week's 2010 Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Symposium in Las Cruces. The Symposium was sponsored by New Mexico State's Arrowhead Center among others. The Bureau of Economic Analysis released the income figures August 9.

Here are the per capita income figures for New Mexico's other three metro areas.

Albuquerque: 2007: $34,604. 2008: $35,415 (+2%). 2009: $35,165 (-0.7%).
2009 national rank: 169.

Farmington: 2007: $29,173. 2008: $31,158 (+8%). 2009: $30,479 (-3.3%)
2009 national rank: 306.

Santa Fe: 2007: $44,186. 2008: $44,927 (+1.7%). 2009: $43,002 (-4.3%)
2009 national rank: 40.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Obamacare: The Expensive and the Ugly

Here’s the short, sweet and ugly about Obamacare from Katie Hays, executive director of congressional and public affairs for the United States Chambers of Commerce.

Overall, Hays said of the bill, “Congress is still trying to learn what’s in it.” The detectives have discovered $569 billion in new taxes and tax increases.

For the first time, small business has to look at health benefits as a long term strategy. One reason is that life will become difficult for those changing plans frequently.

Under the new law, health insurance is supposed to be affordable to employees., as defined by a proportion of the employee’s household income. Discovering this affordable number for each company will require lengthy calculations. Hays was perplexed as to how employers would discover the employee’s household income. Full time “employee” means someone working 30 hours.

The chamber has a number of publications and summaries posted at Hays said there is an 80-page primer for small businesses. I didn’t find it, but you can ask her at

Hays spoke last Friday (the 13th) in Las Cruces at the 2010 Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Symposium. Sponsors were the Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University, the Dona Ana Community College Small Business Development Center and the New Mexico Procurement and Technical Assistance Program.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Real Estate & Income

Farmington ranked 11th on the national list of top losers in median home prices for the second quarter of 2010 as compared to a year earlier. Median home prices dropped 7.3% in Farmington for the year, according to the National Association of Home Builders and as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
For July in Albuquerque, the median detached single family home price, $186,000, was the highest since August 2009, says the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors. July's average price, $230,213, was the highest since August 2008.
Lest one get too excited, metro Albuquerque showed 557 closed sales during July, down 23% from June, reflecting the end of the first-time buyer tax credit.
Per capita income in Albuquerque was $35,415 for 2008, according to figures released this week by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That was a 2.3%, or $811, gain from 2007.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Telling New Mexico" Fails to Tell New Mexico's History

“Telling New Mexico” is the title of a new book from the Museum of New Mexico Press. Produced in conjunction with the opening of the new history museum in Santa Fe, the book claims to be “a new history” of our state.

Not exactly. In my current syndicated newspaper column, now in distribution to ten papers around the state, I trashed “Telling New Mexico” for its omissions such as uranium mining around Grants and for its ideological tilt with various references in the uranium-is-evil genre.

I sought uranium and other mining references for reasons unrelated to whether or not the book is comprehensive. That’s a weasely way of saying I forgot to check for some obvious other topics such as Las Cruces and chile.

First, let’s stipulate that the index is terrible. That’s means it is a poor guide to topics covered in the book. That said, Las Cruces get two index entries, both from the article by John Hunner who lives in Las Cruces. The entries mention, totally in passing, some historic project work that slightly touched Las Cruces and New Mexico State University.

Ideology entered Hunner’s article with this sub-head, “Climate Change Threatens Cultural and Historic Resources.” The section was about the Hatch flood of 2006. No proof was offered of the claim the floods were climate change related.

Chile is absent from the index.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why the Tea Party Movement? Check Alexis de Tocqueville

The short answer is that the notion of skepticism is hardwired into the DNA.
Chapter one of the Fourth Book of Volume Two of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, published in 1840, opens with the following:

“The principle of equality, which makes men independent of each other, gives them a habit and taste for following, in their private actions, no other guide but their own will. This complete independence, which they constantly enjoy towards their equals and in the intercourse of private life, tends to make them look upon all authority with a jealous eye, and speedily suggests to them the notion and love of political freedom.”

Seven pages later, in a footnote for some reason, de Tocqueville adds:

“Now it is in the nature of all governments to seek constantly to enlarge their sphere of action; hence it is almost impossible that such a government should not ultimately succeed, because it acts with a fixed principle and a constant will, upon men, whose position, whose notions and whose desires are in continual vacillation.’

Friday, August 6, 2010

Loss of Census Jobs Expected During July

Federal government employment fell, as 143,000 temporary workers hired for the decennial census completed their work,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics said today. The loss of those jobs pulled the nation into a total loss of 131,000 jobs during July. State figures will be out in about two weeks.

The federal government added 3,900 employees in New Mexico between June 2009 and June 2010. Look for a good many of those to have “completed their work” during July.

That means look for the state job report to be ugly again for July.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Unemployment Compensation Claims Increasing Again

I really wanted this post to be good news about the New Mexico economy. However, at best, the news is mixed and possibly heading in a bad direction.

The topic is the number of new unemployment compensation claims filed each week as compared to the same week a year ago. The figures lag a bit, but seem to provide the best semi-real time measure of our economic performance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces the report. The newest report is for the week of July 24. For that week, there were 1,692 new claims filed, up 95 from a year earlier.

The good news I wanted was a reversion to the year-over-year decline in new claims. From the week of June 19 through the week of July 10, the new number of new claims dropped from the same week of 2009. My hope was that four consecutive weeks of fewer new claims had inaugurated a trend.

That was not to be. New claims increased 206 during the week of July 17 and then increased again, as noted, the week of July 24. The state’s massive job losses during June seem to be turning into new claims.

The new claims numbers for the past nine weeks are below.

Week Ending New Claims Change from a Year Ago

5-29 1,788 -776

6-5 2,738 +173

6-12 2,030 +5

6-19 1,746 -222

6-26 1,426 -189

7-3 1,685 -153

7-10 1,714 -481

7-17 2,054 +206

7-24 1,962 +95

Monday, August 2, 2010

25,000 Work At KAFB, Not 40,000

Today political blogger Joe Monahan quoted employee numbers for Kirtland Air Force Base, numbers he said came from “a real estate newsletter.” The unidentified newsletter claimed, “In addition to the 4,800 military personnel employed at Kirtland Air Force Base, the facility employs another 35,690 civilian employees and contractors, including the 8,400 working for Sandia National Laboratories.”

The figures are wrong. Total employment on the base, not by the base (see below), is about 25,000. That’s a lot, to be sure, but the not roughly 40,000 claimed by the newsletter.

The Kirtland Partnership Committee ( says, “More than 19,000 civilian scientists and technicians, both government and contractor, as well as approximately 5,000 active-duty military and about 1,000 National Guard and reservists work at Kirtland AFB.”

The committee, the local Kirtland advocacy group, got the figures from Kirtland.

Those 19,000 folks include Sandia National Laboratories. For Sandia, 8,168 is the official FY 09 employment number. Further, that Sandia number should include the 850 working at Sandia’s Livermore, California, operation. I suspect that the 8,168 figure also includes Sandia’s Hawaii rocket launch site and its four other offices, none of them in Albuquerque. So, doing my own math, Sandia’s employment in Albuquerque appears to be perhaps 7,200, probably less.

Monahan’s source is also wrong to say “the facility employs” people. It might, but only a few. The employment is done by the more than 100 “mission partners” as Kirtland calls them.

The point here is that Kirtland is not one thing. It is the more than 100 organizations. If one leaves, 99 (or so) remain. The 100 tend to do science that is related to national defense. But there are other missions such as training special forces. Even the U.S. Geological Service has an office on Kirtland.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Redistricting: There Is Another Way

This morning the Albuquerque Journal ran a story summarizing the redistricting process. Redistricting will happen next year. Trapped firmly in the box, the Journal only described the existing redistricting process and failed to mention a movement around the country for creating independent commissions to handle redistricting, the process of shuffling district boundaries to accommodate new census counts. In the January 2010 issue, Capitol Report New Mexico discussed the topic.
Before the primary I used my newspaper column to pose questions to the then six candidates for governor. Ten newspapers around the state subscribe to the column. The papers include those in Hobbs, Roswell, Raton, Espanola, Farmington and Gallup. Sometimes the papers post the column.
The redistricting column ran in early May.
In general redistricting is baldly “political,” especially in New Mexico. Incumbents protect their own. In New Mexico, Democrats protect their significant majorities in both houses of the legislature. Republicans go along, more or less, to protect Republican incumbents, thereby ensuring their continued minority status.
The question for the redistricting column was, “Will you introduce legislation in the 2011 regular session of the Legislature creating an independent commission to handle redistricting of congressional, legislative and other districts? Why or why not?”
Diane Denish: Redistricting is the legal responsibility of the governor and Legislature. That said, I would be open to an independent redistricting committee that would serve in an advisory capacity. Redistricting is an opportunity to ensure fair representation for all New Mexicans. More important than raw partisanship, that means having a redistricting plan that makes sense geographically and ensures that diverse, economically disadvantaged and rural communities have fair representation.
Susana Martinez: I support legislation sponsored by Keith Gardner which amends the New Mexico Constitution and establishes a bipartisan redistricting commission that draws lines for Congressional and state legislative districts consistent with federal and statutory requirements and based on the most recent federal, decennial Census. I support this legislation because too often politics drives this process and detracts from critical discussions like reducing our state’s historic budget deficit and turning our economy around while rooting out corruption.