Thursday, December 29, 2011

NM New Unemployment Claims Increase

For New Mexico the number of new claims for unemployment compensation are still increasing.

The good news is that the increase is smaller than before. The week ending December 17 is the latest for which figures are available. Claims increased 87 from the same week a year earlier.

For the seven weeks between November 5 and December 17, claims increased for three weeks and dropped for four. For the period, new claims grew by 510 over the previous year.

By contrast, for the week of December 19, 2009, new claims increased 215 over the same week in 2008. For the week of November 7, 2009, claims jumped by 691 from the 2008 week.


The number of new claims compared to a year earlier is considered a good proxy for labor market behavior.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Clovis' Only Two Bars Close

The only two bars in Clovis closed this summer. No idea what that means, if anything, beyond that they closed. The December 27 year-end wrap story from the Clovis New Journal notes that Clovis City Limits and Webb's Watering Hole "were the city’s only businesses dedicated solely to serving alcohol, though multiple other establishments offer a mix of dining and alcohol services."

See: www.cnjonline.com/news/beauty-46184-clovis-jobs.html.



Friday, December 23, 2011

Abq / Oklahoma City Analogy Doesn't Work

Albuquerque’s downtown advocates and Mayor Richard Berry have come in thrall of the perceived analogy with the perceived success of downtown Oklahoma City’s redevelopment, says Megan Kamerick, New Mexico Business Weekly senior reporter says in a December 20 post. Kamerick reported a December 14 speech by OKC Mayor Mick Cornett to the Downtown Action Team.

The trouble is the analogy doesn’t work. I can say this. I was born in Oklahoma City and lived there until age 13 when my parents had the good sense to come to Albuquerque. My dad worked in the Kerr McGee building downtown.

For, though, the good news about downtown OKC.

The renovated Skirvin Hotel, OKC’s oldest hotel and properly the Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City, is wonderful. Reopened in 2007 after a multi-tens of millions renovation that included evicting bats, it offers 224 rooms amid art deco elegance. The rates, while not cheap, aren’t bad at $125 for a regular room using a AAA discount.

We checked out the Skirvin a couple of years ago on a whim. We were avoiding snow to the north. My one compliant was that the Internet connection was an extra charge, a petty approach given the overall class of the place.

As a sort of cultural bonus, when I explored the lobby after checking in, I found a group of tall black guys hanging out and wearing warmups. Finally a t-shirt provided a clue. Worn by a white guy, it said, “Phoenix Suns.”

For Albuquerque the analogy doesn’t work because Albuquerque’s downtown has not been the central focus for the city since World War II, in other words, since Albuquerque became large. Albuquerque is a series of urban nodes. Downtown is a much better place than 30 years ago. But Albuquerque downtown is not, nor will it be the central focus of the metro area.

OKC’s downtown was created as the central focus of the city, remained so a long time and now has been somewhat restored. Downtown OKC has some other neat stuff. But the real world intrudes. When we visited, the old 1930s First National Bank building offered an emptiness in the former banking floor with its marble and art deco metal work.

With oil and other locally based firms, OKC has a driving entrepreneurial culture that doesn’t exist in Albuquerque. What that means is OKC has a kind of corporate oligarchy not found here. If I remember correctly, the firm driving the North Dakota gas boom is based in Oklahoma City.

In 1995 the Murrah Building bombing brought OKC an emotional focus that I hope Albuquerque can avoid.

With big time football Oklahoma City has a cultural focus that happily doesn’t exist in New Mexico. (Boomer Sooner.)

OKC has other huge socio-economic differences with Albuquerque, a comparison we win. Then there is the lousy weather, which I don’t think counts for the purposes here.

OKC has raised something over $1 billion from tax hikes to pay for all this.

While in OKC on our Skirvin whim, we drove the well-publicized Brickyard area. Vacant land was the dominant sight.

One other cool thing. The area around 23rd Street and Classen Blvd., about two miles from downtown and my family’s stomping ground through the 1970s, has become the Asian center, marked by a median sign on Classen Blvd. The ultra-establishment Gothic-design First Presbyterian Church is two blocks from an Asian big box store.

A couple of miles from the Asian center and also a couple of miles from downtown lies the neighborhood where my mom lived in the 1920s. It’s a borderline slum.

If you are driving I-40 through Oklahoma, stay at the Skirvin. Take a little time to visit the Murrah Building monument, called the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. (www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org).

Otherwise, be very careful with any claimed Albuquerque analogy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Private Sector Wage Jobs Increase in Abq

The Department of Workforce Services released metro area job totals this afternoon. Before getting to those numbers, a correction. In the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics posted Tuesday, I messed up the trade sector performance. Trade employment increased 3,100 instead of dropping 3,100 as I wrote. Sorry.

The DWS analysis has a new and useful emphasis on the private sector performance as compared to the government.

New Mexico had added jobs for six months, DWS says, not many each month but the trend is nice.

Albuquerque continues to look a little less bad, if not quite up to being “better.” Though the wage job total dropped yet again from year ago, private sector wage jobs increased on a year over year basis for the first time since January 2008. The 1,200 disappeared government jobs offset the increase.

Leisure and hospitality wage employment in Albuquerque grew 1,600 from November 2010 to November 2011. With 39,300 jobs, the sector is Albuquerque fourth largest private sector. Outside Albuquerque the sector lost 100 jobs, dropping the statewide gain to 1,500.

While restaurants and bars provide most leisure and hospitality jobs, DWS says the sector includes hotels, performing arts and spectator sports; museums, parks, and historical sites; and amusement, gambling, and recreation. These businesses attract discretionary spending. People don’t have to go to restaurants, museum or casinos. Something good is happening here, even if metro job totals don’t suggest a source of the money.

In Las Cruces wage jobs declined by 500 year over year. Private sector employment grew by 400 and government lost 900.

Santa Fe added 300 wage jobs from November 2010 to November 2011.

Farmington added 900 jobs over the year.

Families Avoid NM

Families see little opportunity in New Mexico, American families anyway. That’s my conclusion from state population figures for July 1, 2011, released yesterday by the Bureau of the Census (Census.gov). The New Mexico population is 2,082,224, up 23,044, or 1.1% from the April 2011 census.

The family opportunity problem for New Mexico, as I see it, stems from the small numbers for “domestic migration” in the census estimates. Migration refers to people moving to the state instead of being born here. They can come from within the U.S. (domestic) or from without (international).

Just over 70% of New Mexico’s population increase since the census came from “natural increase,” the excess of births over deaths. Of the rest, the migration, 2,202, or 9.6% of the total increase, came from domestic migration. There were 4,559 international migrants.

With positive domestic migration, New Mexico as in the good minority along with 22 other states, but barely. Only Alaska had fewer domestic migrants. Alaska’s population is a third of New Mexico’s. Delaware, with less than half of New Mexico’s population, attracted more domestic migrants.

New Mexico's population ranked 36th nationally. The percentage growth was 16th and the number growth was 36th. All very nice until one considers all those new babies, the source of our growth.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wage Jobs Increase a Little

On a seasonally adjusted basis, New Mexico’s decline in unemployment rate—2.1 percentage points—led the nation for the year from November 2010 to November 2011, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) figures released today. Florida was second with a 1.9 point drop.

Wage job totals are up in New Mexico over the past year, not enough to be statistically, but less statistically insignificant than a few months ago.

Statistically significant seasonally adjusted changes in employment, all of them increases, came in 25 states. New Mexico was not in the group. Nor did New Mexico make the group of 13 with statistically significant employment changes from October to November.

The labor force in New Mexico has increased by 5,000 since September. As of November, the labor force showed a 19,900 drop to 935,900. Unemployment in the state, steady at just over 61,000 the past three months, is down 21,100 since November 2010.

The seasonally adjusted statewide wage job total was 804,600 for November, flat since September, and up 6,600 year over year. The increase since November 2010 is 0.83%.

Sector performance for the past November, October and September 2011 and since November 2010 includes:

Construction: 3 months, flat at around 39,500. One year, down 5,900, or 13%.
Manufacturing: Flat since November 2010 at just over 29,000.
Trade, Transportation and Utilities: 3 months, flat at just over 137,000. One year, up 3,100. (12/22: The trade performance was originally reported as a drop of 3,100. Oops.)
Professional and Business Services: 1 year, flat at about 92,500.
Education and health services: 3 months, flat at about 127,000. One year, up 6,100 or 5.1%.
Leisure and hospitality: One year, flat at about 85,000.
Government: One year, down 3,600, or 1.8%. 3 months, steady at about 196,500.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Media Mentions: Spaceport and Gov. Martinez

New Mexico got a couple of nice national media mentions yesterday, one in passing, one a full page.

The passing mention came from Richard Branson, English billionaire entrepreneur and leader of all things Virgin, airlines, music operations and, for New Mexico’s purpose, Virgin Galatic, prime tenant at Spaceport America, located on the mesa between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences.

The interview with the Wall Street Journal went to space travel as a topic. The mention was brief, just a linkage of Virgin Galactic and the Spaceport.

Branson predicts the first commercial space flight from Spaceport America will happen in about a year. He fudged a bit, though, but consider the fudge in light of his record.

The full page was an article in the December 17 “The Economist.” (www.economist.com) The headline says, “Susana Martinez shows how Republicans might one day woo Latinos.”

The premise of the article is this. “Her Democratic predecessor, Bill Richardson, is of Mexican descent on his mother’s side. And Brian Sandoval in Nevada is both Latino and Republican. But Ms Martinez is the only governor who is simultaneously Hispanic, female and Republican. As such, she seems well on the way to embodying the party’s hoped-for future as a conservative movement that can appeal to, rather than repel, Latinos, America’s fastest-growing main ethnic group.”

Martinez is described as “tough and wonkish.” Well, one of two ain’t bad.

The article doesn’t quite say Martinez has no overall philosophy beyond being roughly conservative. But the suggestion is there.

The correspondent, as The Economist calls it’s reporters, missed a couple of things. Our “remarkably informal” capitol “is nicknamed (the Roundhouse) in homage to old Navajo hogans,” the article said.

I didn’t check that assertion, which is new to me. I think the Roundhouse, built roughly in the shape of the Zia sun, is called “the Roundhouse” because it is round. I have never heard a hogan connection, old hogan or new hogan.

Also, the correspondent claimed the legislature “still tilts Democratic.” Tilts?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

$90,000 & 5% Purchasing Preference

That how much was saved by not binding the gross receipts tax forms package mailed recently. "Little things add up," said Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla when I spoke to her today at the annual legislative outlook conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute.

Padilla was at the TRI meeting to provide a briefing on the progress of state businesses applying (or reapplying) for the 5% preference given to New Mexico-based firms doing business with the state.

The deadline is December 31. As of today, all of 90 businesses have applied out of an expected 10,000.

Probably it would be best to call 827-0951 to check out this new deal. Or call your CPA.

Padilla said to go to the department's website, www.tax.newmexico.gov, and search for in-state preference. I did and with some further detective work got to "APPLICATION FOR PREFERENCE" to "qualify as a Resident Business or Resident Contractor."

I was good. I didn't argue the inefficiencies of the 5% subsidy, er, preference. That's for another day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

November Home Prices Hit 2011 Low

Prices hit the lowest level of the year during November for single family detached homes in metro Albuquerque. The 492 sales closed during the month represented a 74 unit, or 13% drop from October. Pending sales for the month, 746, showed a 5%, or 39 units, drop from October. Of the 785 sales pending during October, 63% turned into closed sales.

November sales fared better when compared to November 2010. Closed sales grew 5%. Pending sales jumped 27%.

None of the price comparisons are happy.

For the median price, $160,000 for November, the next lowest 2011 price was $162,000 during March. The November median price was 4.2% lower than October and down 10% from November 2011.

The next lowest average price was $196,321 in April. The November average, $194,830, was down 3.5%, or $7,044, from October and dropped 11.6% from the November 2010 average of $220,453. The November average price was pushed up by the sale of three homes for $1 million or more during the month. No million dollar homes sold during November 2010.

The detached homes sold during November spread fairly evenly across the six price groups between $100,000 and $249,000. Five of the six groups showed sales between 53 and 65 units. The exception, homes priced between $180,000 and $199,000 has 36 sales.

The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the November sales report this week.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Business Weekly Words Trash Union Pacific

The headline and first paragraph of a "news" story follow.

Headline: Union Pacific carves up the desert
First Paragraph of Story: More than four dozen tractors, bulldozers and other heavy machinery are ripping up desert shrub just west of the Santa Teresa Airport in southern New Mexico.

No, this isn’t some Sierra Club publication. The headline and paragraph come from a story in the current New Mexico Business Weekly. I found the story, part of it, online in the current edition. (www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque).

The story is about the site work being done on the new Union Pacific multi-modal facility near Santa Teresa. I think that is the topic. The story appears in the Premium Content section. Being unwilling to pay, I only saw the beginning.

“Carves up the desert?” Well, that’s bad, of course. For a business to “carve up the desert,” that’s bad, too. So business is bad. See where this goes... All in the choice of words.

With the words chosen, media people point the story. In this case, a business publication pointed the story in a manner that is anti-business. That's a sin.

How about: “Massive site preparation underway for Union Pacific project.”

You know, some words not laden with “business is bad” values.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sandia Technical Talent Misused In Ethanol Push

Engineers are practical. That’s the indication from Dawn Manley, an engineer and “transportation fuels expert,” according to a Sandia National Laboratories new release issued today.

Manley works at Sandia’s Livermore, California, branch. In October she spoke to California’s Senate Transportation and Housing Committee about what the news release headline called “practical ways to reach new energy goals,” in particular use of ethanol. My objective here is neither to criticize Ms. Manley, or to make fun of her. Rather, the issue is the yoking of Sandia’s world-class technical staff to discredited policy goals such as using ethanol as a fuel.

A higher truth or, perhaps, practicality exists regarding ethanol as a fuel. Ethanol is a terrible fuel because it is short on carbon atoms. That means it is inefficient. Expanding ethanol production, which is made from corn, brings collateral effects. Two are displacement of forest land for new corn fields and higher tortilla prices in Mexico.

In allowing the presentation, Ms Manley’s bosses may have been being practical. Sandia gets lots money research various energy topics. Another player worth consideration as a practical matter is Sandia’s ultimate boss, Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab which is general neighborhood of Livermore.

A proper, practical use of Sandia’s technical prowess would be to stop consideration of ethanol as a fuel.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Qwest Ended. (Century) Link Severed

In mid-October we finally got around to completely cutting the cord with Qwest/Century Link.

We dumped the dial-out part of the landline service a couple of years ago. But we kept the telephone company relationship because of our Internet needs and partly to keep the fax, which Susan still needed for business.

Then our ISP, Southwest Cyberport of Albuquerque (SWCP.com) added a service where SWCP could supply the DSL service. Our Internet service on the hardware end, the phone company end, that is, was getting continually worse. All SWCP needed was to install the connection and have Century Link to install the line. We got that done.

The next step was to unlink. Susan called Century Link about 6 P.M. October 18. No one was home, a spooky prospect for someone needing customer service. Folks were home the next day and our ever increasing land line bill was ended.

We are happy. SWCP’s service is wonderful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lacking Right to Work Costs NM

Any national right to work law mapping of states fits New Mexico and Colorado with a horse collar.
Right to work laws allow employees of unionized companies to choose to not join the union and, therefore, to not pay union dues.
Wyoming has right to work. So do the states stacked on Arizona and Texas to the Canadian border.
Unions are useful, I believe. But I favor right to work because anyone with a monopoly gets lazy and fails to serve the customers, in this case union members.
I haven’t paid much attention to New Mexico not having right to work because private sector unions don’t matter much here. Pushing right to work in New Mexico has always seemed the cause of far right fanatics devoted to lost causes.
However, there is a change in the big world. Site selectors, the consultants who help companies locate new and branch plants and offices are using lack of right to work as an initial criterion for eliminating states from location consideration. Lacking right to work immediately zaps New Mexico from consideration by about a quarter of companies.
That matters.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Mexico, Three Metros Add Jobs. Really!

Wage jobs grew in 39 states between September and October. New Mexico was one of the 39 with 2,100 new wage jobs appearing (on a not seasonally adjusted basis) over the month. That makes for one of the state’s best performances in a long time.

Our wage job total went to 811,800 in October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday, November 22. The increase from October 2010 was even better—5,000 new jobs, a 0.62% improvement well under one percent, but still the best in a while.

New Mexico scored the nation’s largest drop in unemployment rate, year over year with a two percentage point decline, the BLS said. As noted before, this comes from people leaving the labor force, not from people getting new jobs. The national unemployment rate is 9%. New Mexico is at 6.6%.

Construction, though down 9% over the year, posted a 1,000 job, or 2%, one month increase, again the first in months and month. Construction employed 41,400 across the state in October.

Mining, which includes oil and gas, added 1,800 jobs year over year for 10% (wow, double digits!) growth to 20,700. The sector is small, but it pays well and sends major dollars to the state.

The 6,000 or 7,000 jobs that disappeared a year ago from the professional and business services sector remain gone, statistically anyway. The sector reported 100,500 wage jobs in September 2010 and 94,200 in October 2010. Sector employment has been flat since October 2010 with 93,200 jobs reported in October 2011.

Education and health services continued to add jobs (what else?) with 6,900 new jobs year over year, a 6% increase.

For the metro areas, Albuquerque led with a year over year loss of 1,500 jobs, or 0.4%, the Department of Workforce Services reports. In Albuquerque leisure and hospitality and education and health services each added 1,400 jobs.

Las Cruces showed no change in wage jobs over the October to October year. The private sector gained 800 jobs and government lost 800, DWS said.

Santa Fe added 400 jobs over the year even as government 400 in the state capitol.

For the year Farmington added 1,000 jobs for a nice 2.1% growth. The private sector produced 800 of those jobs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Texans to the Bosque. Mannnie's and the Owl Closed On Sunday

The sunny Sunday yesterday drew us to the Bosque del Apache. Coincidentally it was the final day of the Festival of the Cranes. Artists who did bird stuff were in a big tent on the Bosque headquarters grounds. There were animal exhibits.

Our entirely informal survey indicated that out of state visitors outnumbered New Mexicans. Texas seemed the biggest source of visitors, followed by Arizona and Colorado. We also saw license plates from Oklahoma, Indiana and Michigan. The New Mexico Department of Tourism RV cruised the loop roads. (Maybe it wasn't from tourism, but it was a state vehicle.)

A young Prius-driving couple from Oklahoma had created a changing table for the baby on the back deck of the car.

Lunch was at Frank and Lupe’s El Sombrero in Socorro. The food was up to the usual high standard. The restaurant business card brought the news that there is a Frank’s and Lupe’s in Scottsdale.

Maybe 20 years ago public broadcasting did a show on radio telescopes and the astronomers around the world. The Very Large Array was a featured site, obviously. One segment showed the astronomers at El Sombrero doing post-dinner cosmic mapping using their beer bottles.

We were glad we chose to eat in Socorro. To our surprise both the Owl CafĂ© and Mannie’s in San Antonio were closed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NM Has Same Proportion of Artists as Does Nation

New Mexico has 12,481 “artists,” plus or minus 1,173, says the National Endowment for the Arts in “Artists and Arts Workers in the United States,” a report released in October. That’s 1.3% of the state’s labor force, just behind the national percentage of 1.3. We are ahead of Arizona, which has 37,403 artists, but only 1.2% of the labor force.
New Mexico is one of five states ranking at the national level for share of artists in the workforce. That puts us behind 13 other states.
Among metro areas, Santa Fe doesn’t stand out.
As compared to national averages called “location quotients,” New Mexico is big on art dealers, custom architectural woodwork and millwork, nature parks, architects, motion picture and video industries and sound recording industries.
The report is also called, “NEA Research Note #105.” It used American Community Survey (ACS) data for 2005-2009 from the Census Bureau. Another source is the Current Population Survey from the BLS. See http://www.nea.gov/research/Notes/105.pdf.
The report takes an expansive view of artist, which is why the quotes were used above. Florists are “artists,” for example. I suppose so, but including florists would not have crossed my mind. Industrial designers are artists, too, which may explain Michigan having many artists.
These are the artists profiled:
Actors—stage, television, radio, video, or motion picture
Announcers—radio, television, public address systems, events
Architects—private residencies, commercial buildings, landscape architecture
Fine artists, art directors, and animators—art directors; craft artists; fine artists include: painters, sculptors, and illustrators; multimedia artists; animators
Dancers and choreographers—dancers, choreographers, and dance teachers Designers—commercial and industrial designers; fashion designers; floral designers; graphic designers; interior designers; merchandise displayers; and set and exhibit designers
Other entertainers—circus performers; comics; jugglers; magicians; puppeteers; rodeo performers; show girls; ventriloquists, and other entertainers
Musicians—music directors, composers, musicians, and singers
Photographers—includes scientific photographers, aerial photographers, and photojournalists Producers and directors—stage, television, radio, video, or motion picture production
Writers and authors—advertising writers; authors; biographers; copy writers; crossword-puzzle creators; film writers; magazine writers; novelists; playwrights; sports writers; and lyricists

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sandia, Los Alamos Remain in the Supercomputer Game

New Mexico has always been big in the business of doing research with computers because building nuclear weapons required large calculations. Now supercomputers have moved beyond the requirement of doing lots of arithmetic to dealing with what are called “big data problems.”

A competition called Graph 500 (www.graph500.org) started a year ago to rank machine or platform capability in this area. Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory are very much in the game. Los Alamos has one person on the Graph 500 steering committee. Sandia has five (if I read the list correctly), including Richard Murphy, the chair.

Sandia scored four places on the newest rankings, announced yesterday in a Sandia release. Los Alamos had two.

The Graph 500 website explains things this way, “Data intensive supercomputer applications are increasingly important for HPC (high performance computing) workloads, but are ill-suited for platforms designed for 3D physics simulations. Current benchmarks and performance metrics do not provide useful information on the suitability of supercomputing systems for data intensive applications. A new set of benchmarks is needed…
“Backed by a steering committee of over 50 international HPC experts from academia, industry, and national laboratories, Graph 500 will establish a set of large-scale benchmarks for these applications. The… committee is in the process of developing comprehensive benchmarks to address three application kernels: concurrent search, optimization (single source shortest path), and edge-oriented (maximal independent set). Further, we are in the process of addressing five graph-related business areas: Cybersecurity, Medical Informatics, Data Enrichment, Social Networks, and Symbolic Networks.”

Got that? Kernels? Mostly we lay people need to remember this stuff exists here, that it is world-class, that very smart people are employed doing the work and paid lots of money.

Sandia’s release says, “Big-data problems are solved by creating large, complex graphs with vertices that represent the data points — say, people on Facebook — and edges that represent relations between the data points — say, friends on Facebook. These problems stress the ability of computing systems to store and communicate large amounts of data in irregular, fast-changing communication patterns, rather than the ability to perform many arithmetic operations in succession. The Graph500 benchmarks indicate how well supercomputers handle such complex problems.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Metro Homes Sales Defy Seasonal Pattern, Increase During October

During October sales of single family detached homes in metro Albuquerque increased from September. So much for the seasonal trend of sales dropping as the weather gets colder.

Townhouse/condo sales followed trend, however, with 46 October sales, down three of seven percent from 49 in September.

The 566 single family detached home sales were nine percent or 49 more than the 517 sales during September.

Detached home sales were up 24% from October 2010 while townhouse/condo sales dropped 19% from October 2010.

One possible factor in the October sales jump is that 70% of the September pending sales turning into sales closed during October. By contrast, September closed sales were 59% of August pending sales. There were 785 sales pending for October, just three percent fewer than September.

Another possible factor might be the metro economy getting a little better, as I have noticed recently.

Prices for all homes continued down. Average and median prices dropped both from September 2011 and October 2010.

During October, one metro home sold for $1 million (or more). A rough guess is that a million dollar sale raises the average price by $1,450 for the month. During October 2010, four metro homes sold for $1 million, perhaps explaining around $5,000 of the $23,792 year-over-year average price drop.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Winery Closed, Gate Gorgeous

We learned about the Guadalupe Vineyards (guadalupevineyards.com) today at La Ventana in Grants where we lunched. Guadalupe bottles were tucked into nichos at La Ventana.

La Ventana served us a very nice rolled chicken enchilada with tomatillo sauce and a turkey sandwich with avocado and jalapenos.

Returning to Albuquerque, we opted for a part of the scenic route and exited I-40 where the sign said, “San Fidel.” Just east of downtown San Fidel, a sign pointed us to Guadalupe winery. The road was San Jose Loop, a well maintained one-lane gravel road. San Jose (St. Joseph), it seems, is big in San Fidel with a school and a church.


We looped. The winery was closed. Not surprising given it was 4 P.M. on a November Thursday. However, the website claims, “Our tasting room hours are Wednesday thru Sunday, 12 noon to 5:00 pm.” But the gate was gorgeous. Note the small photovoltaic collector providing gate power.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NM Delegation Sticks With Fairy Tales

One of those occasional high-contrast offsets appeared in today’s Albuquerque Journal.

One side came from Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson. The other side from New Mexico’s three hard-core liberals in Washington: Jeff Bingaman, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.

Find Samuelson’s columns at www.washingtonpost.com/robert-j-samuelson/2011/02/24/ABSZV8O_page.html. I have always liked Samuelson, partly of course because I agreed with most of his arguments but also because he brings clarity and brevity to complex issues.

Samuelson outlined “the budget fictions of the right and left.”

The fictions, the fairy tales, are:

Conservatives: “We can reduce deficits and cut taxes by eliminating ‘wasteful spending.’”
Liberals: “We can subdue deficits and raise social spending by taxing ‘the rich’ and shrinking the bloated Pentagon.”

Neither fairy tale mentions entitlements, the big part of the problem.

The liberals made the front page with their fear of a proposal to change the index used for cost of living adjustments to social security.

Oh my gawd, Udall told the Journal, “While I would consider reasonable changes to the cost-of-living adjustment, pushing our seniors into poverty is a nonstarter.” Give me a break, Tom.

Even Rep. Steve Pearce, anchor of the right in our delegation, babbled a bit in semi-skepticism. Come on Steve, abandon the fairy tales.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wage Jobs Up Very Slightly in September

Pre-recession, three years ago or so, about 63% of New Mexicans were participating in the labor forces, that is, working or looking for work, says the Department of Workforce Services in the monthly job report released today. Had that rate maintained, the state’s unemployment would have continued to increase through September, the latest month covered in the DWS report. But it didn’t, people dropped from the labor force, which explains the unemployment being 6.6% for September and down two points in the past year.

New Mexico added 1,700 wage jobs year-over-year for a rocking 0.2% growth rate. Still, DWS says, September was the fourth month of job growth after 32 months of losses. There were 1,800 new jobs from August to September.

Among the sectors, professional and business services remains the loss leader, down statewide 7,400 for the September to September year and 1,600 for the month.

Retail surprised me with a 4,000 job, or 4.5%, year-over-year increase. The surprise comes because retailers can increase employment, especially via part time people, fairly quickly in response to increasing sales and expectation of further sales growth. Retailers cut just as quickly. Retail responds, one way or the other, to other sectors. The Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe metro areas all showed more retailer jobs. DWS
doesn’t report Farmington’s sector numbers.

Year-over-year the four metro areas lost 1,300 jobs, led by Albuquerque, which was down 2,200. The year-over-year arithmetic means rural areas added 3,000 jobs.
Farmington was the only metro area with job growth for the year and from August to September.

Albuquerque lost 2,700 construction jobs over the year meaning that the rest of the metro added 500 jobs.

The four metros added 2,700 jobs from August to September. Even Albuquerque found 1,700 net new jobs in the face of 900 more jobs lost in construction.
Only two counties—Luna and Mora—have more than ten percent unemployment. A year ago the ten percent count was six.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Heather Wilson Interview Transcript

Interview of Heather Wilson, Republican candidate for the United States Senate. Conducted by Harold Morgan, October 13, 2011, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the headquarters for Wilson for Senate.

Harold Morgan writes a weekly column that is syndicated to ten newspapers around New Mexico. The interview is the basis for two columns. This transcript been edited to remove verbal pauses, repeated words and similar interference that come with the spoken word.

Morgan: We’re here with Heather Wilson in her headquarters. Heather, I had three things that I (said we) might talk about, with focus, since our time is limited; one being just what has happened in the last couple of years, what you might have seen. Then this whole “conservative” thing. And, thirdly, the money, the main issue in your campaign as you’ve stated it. So what’s happened in the last couple of years? What have you seen? Learned? New problems?
Wilson: I got a dog, subscribed to Netflix. There were times with my family. Survived cancer. Started a business.
Morgan: Yeah, there was that cancer thing, right.

Wilson: Those were the superficial answers. I spent a lot of quiet time, which I hadn’t had in a long time, and I really enjoyed that. I had an opportunity to read and think in longer stretches. That was great. And I really needed some time, but I enjoyed it. I found that there is a geometry to reading. For every book you read there’s usually three that you add to your list, and so, as my husband puts it, the circumference of darkness is roughly three times the size of the diameter of light.
Which, if you do geometry, is actually true. The more you read, the more you know there is to read, and so my reading list is longer today than it was when I left the Congress. I started that that way, and then got back in depth into some of the issues that I care most about, defense and intelligence, and did that work for a couple of years before announcing that I intended to run for the Senate.
So I guess it was an opportunity to reflect, to observe and to become, frankly, deeply concerned with what I was seeing; the decisions about the direction about this country, particularly its financial directions.
Morgan: That seems to answer things, I think. Anything to fill in on that?

Wilson: Well, with respect to the financial direction of the country, we’ve just had a fiscal year that closed on the 30th of September. In the three years, in the three previous years, we had a thirty-percent increase in federal government spending. Three-zero. So a thirty-percent increase in federal government spending in a three-year period of time.
This country has not had that steep an increase in federal government spending since we chose to defeat the Nazis. It was 1941 to ‘44, roughly. The difference is that instead of defeating one of the greatest evils that has ever faced the planet, what we really did was had an increase in spending that was largely domestic spending. That’s at a time when every family in America was cutting back on spending, tightening their belts, worrying about their jobs, the federal government went on a spending spree: $787 billion stimulus bill.
Put this in context: When Bill Clinton decided he want to try that stimulus bill and spend federal government money in order to stimulate the economy, he proposed a $19 billion stimulus bill. It was rejected by the Senate, including democrats in the Senate, because it was too expensive and was the wrong way to go.
The Democratic Congress and the President of the United States spent $787 billion and did not generate the economic activity that they promised, and the reason is they’re wrong in their approach. Government cannot create wealth. Sometimes there’s a short-term sugar high, but it doesn’t do much more than that, because that’s not where the wealth and jobs come from.

Morgan: In Las Cruces, at the Domenici Conference, Alice Rivlin told us that, that we would outgrow the deficit spending eventually with a growing economy, and that the real issue was entitlements, Medicaid and Social Security. What’s your observation on that?
Wilson: If I look back on the things that I did not get accomplished when I was in the House that I worked on and wished we had made more progress on, one was reform of the Medicaid system. It is one of the fastest growing parts of the federal government and it doesn’t serve very well the people who depend upon it. There’s a subspecialty of the bar on how to qualify mom and dad for Medicaid in the nursing home while protecting your inheritance. That’s not what Medicaid was intended for. There is that piece of Medicaid I think needs reform, and Medicaid as a program doesn’t improve the health status of the people who depend on Medicaid.
It is very much focused on paying for episodes of critical illness rather than improving health status. There needs to be a significant change in the way the program is run that improves health status and reduces the cost of healthcare, reduces this escalating growth. So I would probably start there, looking at what we can do with that program, and it is one of the things I most regret not having made more progress on.
With respect to other kinds of programs, it seems to me that if Ronald Reagan and Daniel Patrick Moynihan can get together in 1983, ‘84, and figure out how to extend the solvency of Social Security and protect it for another 30 years, that our generation can meet that challenge too.

Morgan: One of the other things that they talked about at the conference was the notion that there have been the three or four groups examine the federal spending and the deficit, including the Domenici-Rivlin group, and that more or less they had agreed that the main issues are just sort of obvious. The next step then is doing something, having the courage to do something. Again, observations on that point?
Wilson: I was kind of disappointed when the President of the United States proposed a budget for this year. We’re now in the first month of twelve months of our fiscal year (and) still don’t have a budget yet. But the budget he proposed for this year projected over a trillion dollars in deficits as far as the eye can see. This is unsustainable, and his budget was rejected by the Senate. Every single Senator, including all of the democrats, rejected that vision of where we need to go financially. And then, when the House proposed a budget, he calls everyone down for a speech and sits them all there and just blasts them. And I thought, you know what this really means is he’s chosen to make this a political issue rather than trying to figure out what’s right to do for the country and start working to figure out how we’re going to bridge these gaps and get back on the right path to something that’s fiscally sustainable. I just found that tremendously disappointing. So it does require the political will to say we will do what is best for the country.
I think there are two parts to this: One is major reforms, like Moynihan and President Reagan did. The other one is the day-to-day hard work of oversight, to try to find things that aren’t working in the federal government and stop doing them. I’ve done that, both in the federal government and in state government. Everyone talks about waste in government, but it’s actually very hard work to identify the things that are not working and stop them.
Morgan: Such as?
Wilson: The ones that I did or the…
Morgan: Yeah, or ones that you think ought to be stopped.
Wilson: Well, $25 million for EPA conferences, including going to Paris, and that doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me. The Agriculture Department spends $550 million dollars a year in federal subsidies to private landowners who allow hunting on their land. I’m not sure that’s something the federal government should be doing.
There are $2 billion in un-obligated balances in the Army Corps of Engineer budget. Those are just examples. They come from one of these commissions. It does require, though, that people focus on those issues and make decisions on those issues and build consensus to get rid of some of that stuff and do some common-sense things.
What I did in state government, we terminated a lot of contracts that were not getting value for money for the, the taxpayer. We eliminated bureaucratic positions at the top of the department and pushed them down to the field; the priority was customer service. And when I chaired the Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee in the House for House Intelligence, we did a complete review of all of what would be called overhead architecture. Just technical collection from, from overhead, to see how we could we could look at the system instead of just buying the next version of a particular widget.
If you’re in charge of widgets, you always want widget 2.0. Well, is there a different way to do this by looking at the architecture? Look at the whole thing and figure out how to maximize and meet all of your needs with a system of systems, rather than just individual pieces, always getting the next version. One of the things that that resulted in was the cancellation of a very, very expensive program.

Morgan: The Joint Strike Fighter has been an example of an attempt to do that, that maybe hasn’t quite worked.
Wilson: That’s a very expensive airplane, there’s no question. There are moments when I think the F-16 is still a pretty good airplane. But one of the problems with something like the Joint Strike Fighter was that you’re much better off committing to a program and doing it in a fairly truncated period of time. It’s when acquisition stretches out over decades in the law and beyond is when the cost per unit, it just goes through the roof. That’s another thing that needs to be changed is federal government acquisition, particularly of major systems.
If you think about it, and when the first satellite program was established, I think it was called “Corona.” The first 13 crashed. This was when they—it’s now declassified, but it was, would have been when Eisenhower was president—were trying to take pictures from satellites. The first 13 didn’t work. There were all kinds of problems. But they learned from each one, and they were doing. They were tweaking things as they went along and gradually getting better, not waiting another year to launch the next system, but they were (launching) in weeks and months. So, they rapidly learned and got better, and they succeeded. We don’t buy things that way now.

Morgan: Your illustrations draw my comment on the same issue. Some time in the recent past a federal review of how highway signs should be designed has fallen through somehow to neighborhood street sign design. Right here in Albuquerque. I don't know how those things happen. Had you heard of that one?
Wilson: I missed that one.
Morgan: Oh.
Wilson: So they’ve got new standards for street signs or something?
Morgan: Right.
Wilson: Yes, it costs a lot of money.
Morgan: And it’s a federal mandate on municipalities to replace the street signs and design them in a different way. It seems a little bit of overreach to me.
Wilson: Yes.

Morgan: In talking a couple of years ago to some other Senate candidates, the two of them cited one specific thing about why they wanted to be a United States Senator. Is there one specific thing -- I’ll tell you what this is in a minute, but is there one specific thing that, for you, that says this is why you should be a United States Senator?
Wilson: It’s not a specific thing, but it is a thing. I told you I’m very concerned about the future of this country: our financial future; our ability to defend ourselves; a healthcare system that’s probably going to be near collapse between 2014 and 2016 if we allow this new federal healthcare program to be implemented in the way that it was passed and designed. So there’s huge challenges facing this country, and I believe that every generation before ours had faced those challenges and met those challenges. That’s who we are as Americans. Now’s the time for our generation.
We are blessed by our parents and our grandparents to have inherited a tremendously strong country, full of tremendous opportunity. But it’s not assured. It’s up to every generation to make sure that we steward the freedom that we’ve been given to build a better country for our children and for our grandchildren. I see that as at risk. And I don’t want to be the first generation that failed the test.
Morgan: These other folks, by the way, the one single reason, if you cut it all away down, for wanting to be a United States Senator, is they said that one Senator can stop something. That’s what I was told.
Wilson: That’s true. But that to me is tactical. That doesn’t resonate with me. I’ll just leave it that way.

Morgan: Interesting. You have called for the repeal of Obamacare.
Wilson: Yes.
Morgan: Not just pieces of it -- the whole thing?
Wilson: I think it needs to be repealed and replaced. There are challenges that we face in healthcare in America. There (are) a number of things disappointing about Obamacare, but one of them is that the biggest challenge is the escalating cost, and Obamacare does nothing about that. In fact, it’s going to exacerbate that problem.
The estimate is that one in four Americans who has private-sector health insurance today will not have it come 2014 because of the so-called Minimum Essential Benefit Package that will be required by the federal government; and every small business that’s able now to offer health insurance is going to have to probably expand what they’re offering for their employees. A lot of them will just say we just can’t do this and keep customers coming in the door. So, so people are going to lose their health insurance and the cost of the insurance is already going up. So cost is the central element to me that we need to really focus on.
I also think that competition works to help hold down costs. You see that in Medicare Part D, where, where competition—choice in the marketplace—resulted in a program that’s much, much less expensive than it was predicted to be.
Likewise, if you look at most of the things that aren’t covered by third-party insurance without any co-payments, and those that cost share, like elective plastic surgery, or eyeglasses or hearing aids, the inflation rate for those things is much closer to the normal rate of inflation than we see in the other parts of healthcare because consumers are making informed choices about their options and helping to keep things competitive and costs down.
Fundamentally I think that the Obamacare bill is unconstitutional for two reasons: One is, that it is the federal government mandating that every citizen purchase a government-approved private-sector product. And if the federal government can tell you what you have to buy with the money you earned, then there is no limit to government power.
And the second constitutional argument that few people focus on is the mandatory expansion of Medicaid forced on the states. Here in New Mexico, this new law will force New Mexico to add 120,000 people to the Medicaid rolls. That is supposed to be a joint federal-state program, and it should have been some kind of a joint federal-state decision. But it’s not, it’s a federal government mandate, and a lot of states just can’t sustain it. The kicker is, the first two years the federal government borrows the money—prints it—and there’s no cost initially for the State of New Mexico, but starting in 2016 it starts to go back to the state and federal match, and the State of New Mexico has to find $300 million dollars a year out of its budget, to cover the cost of the Medicaid.
There are only two places that can come from—K to 12 education, or from increases in taxes. And anyone who says that you can add 120,000 people on the Medicaid rolls and it won’t cost anything has a math problem.
Morgan: At best.

Wilson: There are people who claim that this really is going to reduce healthcare costs. But it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t work that way. It’s unconstitutional, and it is likely to cause the cost of healthcare to go up. Here in New Mexico, it’s probably also going to have a severe impact on seniors who use Medicare Advantage, and here in New Mexico it’s a very popular program. One in four seniors get their healthcare through Medicare Advantage, and that’s where they took half a trillion dollars out of—do you have Presbyterian Senior Care?
Morgan: Um-hmm.
Wilson: Yeah. That is Medicare Advantage, and they took half a trillion dollars out of that program to start all of these other things that are probably less important to seniors.

Morgan: What about Dodd-Frank? Has anyone called for repeal of that?
Wilson: Yes. But Dodd-Frank passed kind of in the wake of Obamacare. People were paying less attention to it. But I’ve got to tell you, when I’m out and about and talking to people in the financial services business or even people who manufacture things that are publicly traded companies. It’s a nightmare. Thirty-three thousand pages of new regulations on banks. That’s probably three-quarters of a mile of paper.
Morgan: Yeah.
Wilson: Maybe CitiBank has enough lawyers to figure out what these regulations mean, but most small- and medium-sized banks don’t. I was talking to somebody who works with a regional bank, not a huge bank, a regional bank in the southwest. They had to hire 44 new compliance people to cope with the rules of Dodd-Frank, so they went from nine people to over 50 people.
Morgan: Wow!
Wilson: You and I are paying for that as customers, just for compliance. In addition to that, there’s all kinds of things in that bill. There is a requirement in there that got added in to have every company traded on the U.S. Stock Exchange has to do an audit and certify that anything they sell or manufacture does not have any minerals in it that come from the Congo or any of the 12 surrounding countries. Now, it doesn’t prohibit using those minerals, but it requires an audit to say, yes, this particular metal in this particular thing comes from the Congo or the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Equatorial Guinea or whatever the 12 surrounding countries are. It’s a blood diamonds provision. This is a cell phone. How many minerals are in this?
Morgan: A lot.
Wilson: Do you know how many cell phones are sold in America every year?
Morgan: A bazillion.
Wilson: Well, just from AT&T they sell 25 million of them (With materials) from 60 different countries. Now, what does that do? Obviously it’s a huge auditing nightmare for anybody. What it really does is that any company that’s looking to potentially go public, better not go public in America or on an American stock exchange. Go to Singapore or London or Delhi. It’s a nightmare.

Morgan: And those things, the requirement like that and the compliance requirement on the financial institutions, (it) seems to me they in effect amount to tax increases.
Wilson: Certainly cost increases, for the cost of doing business. The other thing that’s so ludicrous about this, so they have to audit their whole supply chain with 50 different suppliers for this cell phone or 60 different suppliers in 50 different countries, to say where all the minerals came from in this little piece of equipment. If you were willing to sell blood diamonds, would you be willing to lie to an auditor? What good is this going to do anybody? Well, this is stupid.
There’re a lot of things in Dodd-Frank that just prove another drag on business, another point of reluctance for anybody who is an entrepreneur or creating a company or creating wealth to say, gosh, do I really want to do my initial public offering here in America? Maybe we’d be better off in Delhi.
Morgan: My suggestion that these things were a tax increase, is they (are) government-driven that fall through to individuals by increasing the cost , and that seems to me a tax, in effect.
Wilson: It’s a regulatory compliance tax.
(Discussed Farmington Daily-Times op-ed with staff)
Wilson: I did a piece on the regulatory program, the federal government. There is a requirement that the federal government—the executive branch—provide notice of any proposed rule making next year that is anticipated to cost more than $100 million. This coming year, there are two hundred and ninety, a 15 percent increase over last year. Seven of them have an estimated over $1 billion economic impact from just a single regulation. It’s just growing like topsy. This is amazing to me.
Some of it is things to implement by regulation, Cap and Trade. But there are also all kinds of weird things, like saying that fly ash from a power plant—the ash that’s left when they burn coal—that has to be treated as a hazardous material. Never has been in the past. You know who that really effects? The cement manufacturers who use the fly ash to make cement, because now it’s a hazardous material.
Morgan: I haven’t heard that.
Wilson: That’s a proposed new regulation, and it’s not really intended to protect the environment, it’s intended to shut down coal-fired power generation.

Morgan: All these things seem pretty conservative to me, the viewpoints, that is. This whole thing over the years that has trailed you, that I’ve always thought was strange, was Heather Wilson is somehow not conservative enough. You had your announcement there a few months ago, and (it) seemed to me you checked off all the “Capital ‘C’” Conservative points. You have any observations on this item at all?
Wilson: I’m a free-trade, free-enterprise, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment person. I also believe that the things that government has a responsibility to do, it should do exceptionally well. I think that we should have Medicare. There should be a safety net for the elderly and the poor. Maybe for some people that’s just not good enough. But 12 of 15 sitting Senators in the Legislature and almost two-thirds of the state representatives and an overwhelming third of the elected and local officials from around the state who’ve endorsed my candidacy, basically think I’m okay.

Morgan: Doing something excellently, though, brings back to my mind, as you put it, New Mexico’s unique role in the defense of the country, and your stance on defending that.
Wilson: We do have it—New Mexico makes a unique contribution to our nation’s defense. We have three Air Force bases, two national laboratories, White Sands Missile Range. The stewardship of our nation’s nuclear deterrent is largely done by New Mexicans. There are a few Californians as well, but it’s largely the responsibility of New Mexicans, and we need to make sure that that deterrent is safe and secure and reliable in the absence of nuclear testing. That is an extremely difficult problem.
In addition to that responsibility, our national laboratories have taken on other national security responsibilities, including in intelligence, and try to make sure that not only is our nuclear deterrent safe, for example, but seeking to understand what other countries are doing. And they play an important role in a lot of that. I think New Mexico needs a United States Senator who is able to articulate the importance of that contribution and is willing to stand up and fight for it.
And there are three Air Force bases here, and, of course New Mexico only has about 350 good flying days of the year.
Morgan: Yeah.
Wilson: It’s a great place to train; very supportive of the Air Force in general. I’ve worked with the Air Force and other military services. Of course, most important to us is our New Mexico. We have a long history of serving national interests, and I think that needs to continue.
Morgan: Well, I guess other air forces think we do some of that pretty well as, and train at White Sands.
Wilson: We can do things here in New Mexico without a whole lot of disruption that are very hard to do in other places—in the air and on the ground.
You’re blessed and defended by the world’s most powerful United States’ military. We need to keep it that way.
I do think (that) of Martin Heinrich, Hector Balderas, myself and Mr. Sanchez, I’m the only one that’s ever served in the military. (Greg Sowards, a Republican candidate for Senate, served in the Army.) There are a declining number of members of the United States Congress who have military service, and that’s really a change in the nature of the military. And in the passing of generations. The World War II generation, the Korea generation, Vietnam generation are retiring now, or passing away. My generation has fewer people per capita, certainly, who served in the military, and yet that is the first and foremost responsibility of the federal government, so that matters.

Morgan: Well, I agree with you. Just one more point, our time is going really quickly, but on our defense capability and nuclear, there was a Sandia team, I gather, sent to Japan last spring, pretty quickly, and the other nuclear resource people. A whole bunch of them were there, so it’s broader.
Wilson: There were Sandians who were there. There were also Sandians and Los Alamos folks who supported the effort in the Gulf of Mexico to stop the spill. When the Secretary of Energy says, hey, do you have anybody who could do a very revealing x-ray 3,000 feet below the surface of the water—to try to figure out what’s going on in this wellhead, through murky, gucky water and everything else, yeah, I think we can do that. So their engineers were very important, their engineers and scientists, and they’re important in the nation in a lot of different ways.

Morgan: Well, again the time has grown short. Any final two cents worth here?
Wilson: So I think you covered most things, defense, healthcare, the financial situation the country finds itself in. We’re now almost at the point where our ratio of debt to GDP is close to 100 percent, just roughly where Greece was when things started to come apart. America’s a stronger country with a stronger currency and all those things. I don't know where the point is where we have a similar kind of problem, but I certainly don’t want to find out.
Morgan: Good place to stop. Thank you.
Wilson: Thank you.
(Discussion continued as Morgan looked for the stop button on the recorder.

Morgan: The point you were making dawned on me a few years ago. I haven’t done anything about it. It dawned on me that the broad society was very separate from the military, and basically had no clue. That’s disturbing. I guess it really makes it easier to, let’s say, oppose the Iraq war if you’re not in it, or if it doesn’t touch your life.
Wilson: It is disturbing to me, and it should be a concern to all of us. And it’s not just that, we’re at a point where only two in a thousand serve in uniform. We are such a powerful country. In World War II, one out of ten served in uniform, so, that during World War II, every third house on the block had a blue star in the window. Today you have to go 167 houses to find the next blue star in a window.
Now, with the draft ended in 1973, we now have kids in school whose grandfathers were not subject to the draft. So that’s how far away that sense of mutual honorability is, and it does really leave a gap between the protected and the protectors. One of the things I did say to my classmates and colleagues, who were former military, is that the obligation to serve doesn’t end when you hang up the uniform. You need to have more of them step forward, whether it’s in the city council or the school board or Congress.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Job Situation Still Bleah

New Mexico had the nation’s largest drop in unemployment rate from September 2010 to September 2011. The reality, though, is that the change comes from people dropping from the labor force instead of getting jobs. On a seasonally adjusted basis, New Mexico lost another 5,700 wage jobs from August to September. The state’s year-over-year job change is not significant, statistically, anyway, accord to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics which release the numbers on Friday.

Sticking with the seasonally adjusted figures, New Mexico had 20,600 people drop from the labor force between September 2010 and September 2011, a 2.4% decline. The labor force was 930,700 in September. During the year, 20,000 dropped from the unemployed ranks, bringing the number of officially unemployed to 61,600.

Officially and still seasonally adjusted, New Mexico added 2,700 wage jobs, year-over-year, a definitely insignificant 0.3% (three tenths of one percent) change.

For the year, construction is down; manufacturing the same; trade and finance, both up slightly; professional and business services, down 6,700 (6.8%) and still the big drag; education health services up 5,500 (4.6%); leisure and hospitality up and bit; and government down a bit.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Abq September Home Sales Third Lowest of 2011

In metro Albuquerque sales of single family detached homes fell from August to September. Closed sales were 517 in September and 646 in August. That’s a 20% or 129 unit drop.

A piece of good news is that sales were 7.9%, or 38 units above September 2010.

A piece of context is that things happen in August such as kids going back to school that lead to fewer home sales closing September. Going back to 1997, according to the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors, only one September, in 2009, showed more sales than during August.

So much for happiness.

The September sales performance brought the third fewest sales of the year, ahead only of January and February, traditionally, the slowest months.

There were 878 sales shown pending during August. Only 59% converted to closed September sales, a 20 point conversation percentage drop from July and August.

The median sales price, $171,500 during September, was up five percent from August but down from the $178,000 of July. Both median and average prices during September were helped by sales increases over 2010 in homes priced from $200,000 to 299,000. Also, the 19 homes sold in the $400,000 range were the most of the past three years.

The September median was 6.3% below September 2010. The average was down 9.8% from September 2010. Except for February, metro home prices have been below the same month of 2010 all year.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NMSU Building Wine Academy

New Mexico State University’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management is building an academy of wine. The full proper name is the Bobby Lee Lawrence Academy of Wine. It will be a beverage management laboratory.

Lawrence died in 2010. A $250,000 gift from his wife, Marion, had made the project possible.

Also at NMSU, renovations and additions to the Branson Library and Hershel Zohn Theatre will create a home for the Pete V. Domenici Institute for Public Policy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

BofA Posts Security

My noon visit to the Albuquerque Bank of America main office downtown came with a bonus of sorts—people with signs and, in response, security. The security people were in response to the demonstrators, a bank employee said.

A couple of security guys were hanging out on the sidewalk along Third Street near the north entrance to the building. Inside, the north entrance to the first floor banking office area was locked. A sign referred people to the south entrance.

At the south entrance there were four people: two security types; a man, manager of the main office branch, I suspect; and a woman. Another pink sign on the door said, "No trespassing."

The joys of free speech!

Update: As of 4:30 P.M., the sign carriers were gone from BofA. The security folks were still there. This was discovered due to needing to return to BofA. The lack of dedication from the sign dudes is disappointing. Commitment is one thing the country needs. If the sign dudes can't be annoying all day, then why bother at all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quigley: Business Culture “Immature and Ineffective”

That's what the Journal's Win Quigley said of "our business culture" in the Albuquerque Journal’s Business Outlook this morning. (page 5, paragraph 5). Quigley was introducing his interview of George Boerigter, a part time New Mexican and owner of a 140-employee business in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Quigley's full sentence was, "I asked (Boerigter) to (critique New Mexico) because I have long believed our business culture is immature and ineffective."

Quigley didn't define our business culture. Nor did he define what he means by immature and ineffective.

Two things happened here. First, Boerigter seems one of those wealthy, well intended types drawn to NM by "The Enchantment." Usually such folks are liberals with inherited money and they go to Santa Fe and points north. Once here they find we are imperfect, which is true, God knows. So they set about saving us from what they see as our insular, ineffective, immature stupidity. Eventually they go away, convinced we are irredeemably stupid and backward.

Credit Boerigter with backing some of his ideas with money.

Second, journalists are people who ask questions for a living. Those questions generate from within the given journalist's moral framework. Quigley has done us all a favor by going public with how he sees the world that he covers. When faced with dealing with Quigley, we all should understand that he thinks we are idiots. Respond to him, yes. But respond with care.

The Quigley view, as expressed by Boerigter, is “The core business of this town is living off the government. The core local business is real estate: build, buy or flip.” Boerigter must not have noticed what happened to real estate around here the past few years.

As to “the government,” my argument remains: There’s government and there’s government. While the national laboratories and other research facilities bring an often maddening process orientation, they are not regular government, such as, say, the Bureau of Land Management or the EPA. The national labs are world class excellence and play an important role in the security of this nation. I’m glad they are here.

As to building private sector technology businesses, one might check with Sherman McCorkle about his years with Technology Ventures.

An element in play here is something I always associate with the late Gov. Bruce King. “I may be a country boy,” I can imagine King responding to some interlocutor, “But don’t ever call me a dumb country boy because I’ll ‘country boy’ you to death.” And he would.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Montezuma Voting Was A Mess, Too

Voting at Montezuma Elementary School was a mess, too, in Albuquerque’s city election on Tuesday. This information comes from one of the poll workers which whom I happened to visit this morning.

Through about 3 P.M., he said, the voting machines worked sometimes. When they didn’t work, the lines grew.

A bigger problem, a true system problem, came from the poll workers. Well intended as poll workers almost always are, some of the people had slight to zero computer experience. This is a function of demographics. Poll workers tend to be older. One Montezuma worker had never dealt with a computer mouse. They simply did not deal with the technology as effectively as a 14-year-old or even a 34-year-old. Training will not fix this problem.

Apparently the convenience of the new approach has to do with the technology allowing faster processing of the voters. Even if that’s true, which dubious, so what. Getting ballots to voters is a quick process. Doing something in two minutes instead of four minutes seems a trivial change not worth the disruption. Consolidating the polling places seems to have to do with getting enough voters into polling places to justify the technology.

My sense is that this so-called convenience is something that voting powers-that-be have decided is a good thing. Their attitude is, James Taylor put it, “Well, I'm a steamroller, baby I'm bound to roll all over you.” Time to resist.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Abq Election "Convenience" Meant Long Lines

Yesterday the city of Albuquerque tried a new approach to locating polling places. The theory, I understand, was to make things more convenient by having far fewer polling places than in previous city elections. This seems backwards. I can’t imagine McDonald’s, one working definition of fast and convenient, consolidating locations in the name of increasing convenience.

We voted at Jefferson Middle School, kitty corner across Lomas Blvd. from the University of New Mexico. The polling place in the old gym. We took my mom to vote. She is pushing 92 and is semi-mobile.

We waited about 45 minutes to vote, finally getting to the head of the line after 6 P.M. More than 1,200 people had voted by this time. This wasn’t all bad. We got to visit with a number of acquaintances who were also stranded.

One theory of the line was offered by the UNM freshman in the line ahead of us. Being close to UNM meant that tens of thousands of people, not resident in the area, perhaps saw the Jefferson polling place as handy. We were told that Montezuma Elementary, a mile or so to the north, had no crowd, which supported the UNM theory. The length of the line drove some people away. One of our neighbors opted for Montezuma, observing that she just didn’t have the 45 minutes to wait.

The Jefferson parking situation, never good with the slightest crowd, which means every day after school, was a mess. Some new access adjustments, clearly the product of the worst nightmares of traffic engineers, made things worse. The parking lot by the gym had two handicapped spots, both full, of course. Two young men rolled their BMW convertible into the spot reserved for police.

Part of the convenience idea was that anyone could vote anywhere. But that meant some production issues which took more time. The polling place lacked the usual printed voter list, an omission that made sense because the list would have needed to include every city registered voter.

Polling staff, presented with a photo ID, found the voter in the database, which took a moment or two. Then a custom ballot was printed which took a minute or two. At, say, two minutes per voter, these tasks added more than 40 hours to the process for people voting at Jefferson.

Bernalillo County officials including Maggie Hart Stebbins, a county commissioner, were in evidence at Jefferson. The county really wants to implement a voting system like the one producing the long lines yesterday, we were told.

Say it ain’t so. Just under 40,000 people voted yesterday. Can you imagine the disasterous effect of laying this convenience on a general election?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Mexico Magazine Layoffs Overdue

The recent layoffs at New Mexico Magazine, a division of the Department of Tourism, surprised and pleased me. Small publications are dynamic, if nothing else. But this is the government.

Seven of the 17 magazine staffers depart October 5. For the magazine to have lost more than $1.4 million over two years, as I read, without staff changes months ago reflects its government owned status. Just how did the old regime lose all that money. A new editor did appear in May with a new publisher set now.

My perspective is dated. My New Mexico Magazine experience as an employee was in the fall of 1979 and I have paid only occasional attention to it for years.
The magazine has two main problems, being part of the government and a northern tilt in the editorial.

I would create an "authority" to run New Mexico Magazine, keeping it within the state umbrella, but freeing it from the strictures that get in the way. One example is in the games that my boss played to get around the purchasing act. Such games are necessary to function, silly, possibly illegal and certainly inefficient. A later publisher was fired for being what I called "too entrepreneurial." Something about trading ski passes to ad buyers.

Also, I have always found the vacation planner incoherent.

The layoff prompted a letter to the editor that stands as one of those classically parochial whines about the purity claimed from being born in the state. Excerpts:

“It makes me sad to know that with the Sept. 20 layoff, New Mexico Magazine now has even fewer native-born New Mexicans working at its office…
“No longer are there any people of color represented on the policy-making staff, an occurrence that hasn’t been seen in decades…
“New Mexico Magazine — written, edited and presented without our native people — is like making green chile stew and substituting spinach for the chile.”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Redistricting: Martinez Abandons Campaign Position

During the primary campaign last year, I posed some questions to each of the candidates for governor. There were three questions. One of my newspaper columns was allocated to the answers to a question. Some candidates answered. Others didn't, blowing off the exercise. One of the questions was about redistricting. That was because I knew that redistricting was a partisan mess and because I have become enamored of the idea of independent redistricting commissions. Iowa sets the standard. Arizona and Washington are good.

This was, I admit, also a set up. The answer allowed me to hold the winner accountable. So it is with Susana Martinez. The redistricting special session of the legislature adjourned with no decisions (well, few). The whole thing is going to the courts. That's a cop out, not at all the work for which the governor and legislators get paid. And certainly not bold, to come back again to Martinez campaign slogan. The question and Martinez' answer follows from my mid-May 2010 column.

Question:

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?

Martinez Answer: 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.

Keith Gardner is Martinez' chief of staff. "Too often politics drives this process..." Still does, it seems.

Friday, September 23, 2011

2Q Personal Income Up 1.1%

The personal income of New Mexicans grew 1.1% in the second year of the year from the first quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported yesterday. That growth rate, down from a 1.6% first quarter increase over the fourth quarter of 2010, tied the national growth rate and was good for 35th nationally.

Personal income increased 4.9% in New Mexico from the second quarter of 2010 through the second quarter of 2011.
For the one-quarter increase, Arizona grew 1.2%; Utah, 1.4%; Colorado 1.1%.

By percentage, dividends, interest and rent led New Mexico’s growth with a 1.9% increase, followed by transfers at 1.2% and net income 0.9%.
Construction earning dropped 2.6% during the second quarter. Accommodation and food services dropped 0.4%. Health care and social assistance earnings grew 2.1% during the quarter.

Revisions knocked 1.1% off New Mexico’s previous reported 2010 personal income and 1.3% off the 2009 estimate.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rural Counties Add 7,200 Wage Jobs. Metros Lose.

The Department of Workforce Services released new job numbers today. In my Sunday (9/18) entry, I covered the big picture, using the federal figures. Today I’ll concentrate on the metro areas. The numbers that follow are for wage jobs and are not seasonally adjusted.

Albuquerque lost wage jobs for the 35th consecutive month on a year over year basis. The loss was 1,600 wage jobs (0.4%) for the year with a 400-job gain between July and August. One reason, DWS said, is that mining, while growing nicely statewide with an 1,800 job, or ten percent, August to August increase, have only two or three jobs in metro Albuquerque and therefore can’t help things grow.

Leisure and hospitality in Albuquerque, which more or less means tourism and local restaurants, added 1,300 jobs (3%) year over year which losing 300 jobs between July and August.

Las Cruces dropped 100 jobs year-over-year while adding 1,800 between July and August. The improvement had nearly everything to do with New Mexico State University getting backing session.

Santa Fe added 400 jobs for the month and lost 100 for the year. That 100-job loss is 0.2%, nearly nothing.

Farmington added 1,100 jobs over the year, a nice 2.3% gain and had no change between July and August.

The four metro areas together lost 700 jobs year-over-year. The means the rural counties added 7,200 jobs.

Things continue to improve on my ten percent unemployment measure. We’re down to two counties with more than ten percent unemployment—Luna and Mora, both with rates approaching 13%.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Real Economic Development: Sandia, Cray Form Institute

Real “development” of any economy comes from doing new things or doing existing things more productively. Doing new things can mean luring a new company to an area. Or it can mean existing companies doing something new.

Back in May I got a news release from Sandia National Laboratories about a new partnership with Cray Inc., the supercomputer manufacturer. It slipped to the bottom of the electronic pile, but in thinking about developing our lagging economy and in my continued annoyance at those whining about “dependence on the government,” I dug it out.

Much of Sandia’s release follows. What the release doesn’t say is that New Mexicans at national laboratories have led large-scale scientific computing since before there were national laboratories. Los Alamos was known as the Manhattan Project in those days. When I started following such things in the 1980s, New Mexico had more supercomputers per capita than any state.

Here is the release: May 27, 2011 6:01:54 AM MDT ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia National Laboratories and supercomputer manufacturer Cray Inc. are forming an institute focused on data-intensive supercomputers. The Supercomputing Institute for Learning and Knowledge Systems (SILKS), to be located at Sandia in Albuquerque, will take advantage of the strengths of Sandia and Cray by making software and hardware resources available to researchers who focus on a relatively new application of supercomputing.

That task is to make sense of huge collections of data rather than carry out more traditional modeling and simulation of scientific problems. Sandia and Cray signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) to establish the institute.

“It’s an unusual opportunity,” said Bruce Hendrickson, Sandia senior manager of computational sciences and math. “Cray has an exciting machine [the XMT] and we know how to use it well. This CRADA should help originate new technologies for efficiently analyzing large data sets. New capabilities will be applicable to Sandia’s fundamental science and mission work.”

Shoaib Mufti, director of knowledge management in Cray’s custom engineering group, said, “Sandia is a leading national lab with strong expertise in areas of data analysis. The concept of big data in the HPC [high-performing computing] environment is an important area of focus for Cray, and we are excited about the prospect of new solutions that may result from this collaborative effort with Sandia.” Rob Leland, Sandia director of computing research, added, “This is a great example of how Sandia engages our industrial partners. The XMT was originally developed at Sandia’s suggestion. It combined an older processor technology Cray had developed with the Red Storm infrastructure we jointly designed, giving birth to a new class of machines. That’s now come full circle. The Institute will leverage this technology to help us in our national security work, benefitting the Labs and the nation as well as our partner.” Red Storm was the first parallel processing supercomputer to break the teraflop barrier. Its descendants, built by Cray, are still the world’s most widely purchased supercomputer. The XMT, however, has a different mode of operation from conventional parallel-processing systems. Says Hendrickson, “Think about your desktop: The memory system’s main job is to keep the processor fed. It achieves this through a complex hierarchy of intermediate memory caches that stage data that might be needed soon. The XMT does away with this hierarchy. Though its memory accesses are distant and time-consuming to reach, the processor keeps busy by finding something else to do in the meantime.” In a desktop machine or ordinary supercomputer, Hendrickson said, high performance can only be achieved if the memory hierarchy is successful at getting data to the processor fast enough. But for many important applications, this isn’t possible and so processors idle most of the time. Said another way, traditional machines try to avoid latency (waiting for data) though the use of complex memory hierarchies. The XMT doesn’t avoid latency; instead, it embraces it. By supporting many fine-grained snippets of a program called “threads,” the processor switches to a new thread when memory access would otherwise make it have to wait for data. “Traditional machines are pretty good for many science applications, but the XMT’s latency tolerance is a superior approach for lots of complex data applications,” Hendrickson says. “For example, following a chain of data links to draw some inference totally trashes memory locality because the data may be anywhere.” More broadly, he says, the XMT supports programs very good at working with large data collections that can be represented as graphs. Such computations appear in biology, law enforcement, business intelligence, and in various national security applications. Instead of a single answer, results are often best viewed as graphs. Sandia and other labs have already built software to run graph algorithms, though “the software is still pretty immature,” Hendrickson said. “That’s one reason for the institute. As semantic database technology grows in popularity, these kinds of applications may become the norm.” Among its other virtues, the XMT saves power because it runs at slower clock speeds. This normally bad thing is good here because rapid computation is not the goal but rather the accurate laying-out of data points. SILKS’ primary objectives, as described in the CRADA, are to accelerate the development of high-performance computing, overcome barriers to implementation, and apply new technologies to enable discovery and innovation in science, engineering, and for homeland security.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

BLS Says Jobs Up, "Employment" Down

New Mexico didn’t stand out in the August jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, released Friday, September 16. The labor force, on a seasonally adjusted basis, shrank by another 6,500, bringing it to 929,700, down 24,000 from August 2010. Employment, 889,800 a year ago, was 868,300 in August 2011. The number of officially unemployed—people who say they’re looking for work—dropped to 61,400, but that’s only because so many have given up and bagged the whole job game. Our 1.9 percentage point drop in the unemployment was the nation’s largest. It would be nice if that meant improvement in the economy. Total wage jobs (different from “employment”), still using seasonally adjusted numbers, was 805,500 in August, increased 3,100 (not quite four tenths of one percent) from July and 7,400 from August 2010 (approaching one percent). Among the sectors, construction spent the summer at around 40,000 jobs with manufacturing at 29,000. At least they’re not dropping. Trade, together with transportation and utilities for some reason, gained 5,000 (138,600) during the August-to-August year. Finance gained 2,300. Professional and business services, with 93,900 employees, remained in the summer range, but still is down 5,500 for the year. Leisure and hospitality, which sort of means tourism, has spent the year at about 83,000 wage jobs. Government, with 194,600 jobs, is down 1,300 for the year. Education and heath services (127,200 jobs) was steady during the summer and is up 7,600 since August 2010.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Refuge? In the Public Education Department?

That's what the sign says, though, "Area of Refuge." From what? When is the area to be used? The sign is in a stairwell in the Santa Fe building housing the Public Education Department. I took the photo Tuesday, September 13. I thought church's or spiritual organizations such as the Lama Foundation offered places of refuge.
I was in the education building looking for the Legislative Education Study Committee, which turned out to be across the street. LESC took about two minutes to agree to help find information addressing some questions that the Public Education Department has ignored for several months.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Abq Homes Sales Up in August

Metro Albuquerque home sales increased in August over July. The news surprised me because the 815 pending sales of single family detached homes during July were a 119 unit, or 13% drop from June. Pending sales provide a rough leading indicator of sales closed the following month. Therefore I expected August sales closed to drop. The difference came in the proportion of July pending sales that turned into closed sales during August. Sales closed during August represented 79% of July’s pending sales. Sales closed during July were 67% of sales pending during June. Why? No idea. A hint comes from the prices of those sales closed during August. Both the median price ($163,808) and the average price ($197,671) hit the second lowest level of the year and were down more than 10% from August 2010. The August median price dropped 8% from July. The average was down 6%. With an average of 76 days on the market, single family detached homes has the shortest sales period of 2010. The average sales period was 89 days during February. Some insight for us comes from Elliott D. Pollack & Company of Phoenix. The oversupply of homes there is getting absorbed, however slowly. However, Pollack sees a housing market recovery taking four or five more years. Phoenix is adding a few jobs, 22,300 in the year from July 2010 to July 2011.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sanchez: Put Valencia in One District

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez has a bright redistricting idea for his home territory—Valencia County. Compact and contiguous seems to characterize the proposal. Sanchez has introduced a bill, prepared at his initiative and without consultation, proposing that Valencia County go into one congressional district. Now the county is sliced in half, roughly along the Rio Grande. Sanchez would put the county into district one, which is dominated by Albuquerque.
Sanchez pitched his idea today to the Senate Rules Committee which is chaired by Linda Lopez. A Rio Rancho resident objected to Sanchez putting “the heart of Rio Rancho” into district one. Most of Rio Rancho now is in district three. Photo by Mark Bralley.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

American Cities No Place for Cyclists

The Economist hit the proverbial elephant sitting on the bicycle seat with this headline, “With very few exceptions, America is no place for cyclists.” The magazine’s point is that “lanes are protected from motor vehicles by a line of white paint—a largely metaphorical barrier that many drivers ignore and police do not vigorously enforce. Bicyclist behavior, often erratic in my experience, is another factor, one not mentioned. Speed kills, the magazine said of the obvious. A car striking a pedestrian at 30 mph has 45% chance of killing the pedestrian. At 40 mph, the odds go to 85%. On Indian School Road in Albuquerque, equipped with those metaphorical white line “barriers,” 50 mph is not an uncommon speed. I have briefly followed a few of the maniacs just to check. Northern European cities separate cyclists from cars with physical barriers such as concrete buffers, trees or parked cars. Speed limits are lowered to about 19 mph, sometime that is done in Albuquerque in couple of places. The death toll is low. Portland is the only American city taking even most of the steps. “The result” more bikes and fewer deaths.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

This is Economic Development?

Two television shows filmed (taped?) in Albuquerque will end after their respective fifth seasons. They are “Breaking Bad” and “In Plain Sight.” Wrung hands have ensued. But consider another perspective, the economic development perspective. Had a developer appeared before the developer’s board with the proposition below, that developer would have been laughed out of town if the board was at all sentient. Here’s the deal: 100 employees. (excellent!). Part time, eight months a year at best. Five years in business would be considered a great success. One or two years is more likely. We, the local and/or state government, kick back to the company 25% of all spending in New Mexico. We think we can find more such companies, but there is no guarantee.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Martinez Speech Disappointing, At Best

“Disappointing” is the nicest description possible of Gov. Susana Martinez’ “remarks” (not a speech) last Wednesday, August 31, to the Domenici Public Policy Conference in Las Cruces. The disappointment began with the introduction of Martinez by NMSU president Barbara Couture who repeated the nonsense (true nonsense, but nonsense) that Martinez was “born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley.” Born and raised in El Paso, Martinez hid behind the euphemism for most of her race for governor. Probably someone gave Couture the script and Couture didn’t think much about it. But why are Martinez people still unwilling to admit her birthplace. It’s just silly. This birth place thing is not quite as absurd as Bill Richardson’s claim of having been drafted by a major league baseball team. But with each repetition, it gets closer. Martinez said she was in Las Cruces to help celebrate the beginning of a new minor at NMSU, in child advocacy, I think she said. If Martinez is serious about reducing government activity in New Mexico, the last thing (or maybe the next to last thing) she should be doing is expanding the state’s profligate higher education system. But this was Las Cruces, NMSU and a subject close to Martinez' heart. Martinez repeated her campaign promise to cut the staff at the governor’s mansion. Old news. Whoppee. She said, proudly, “In the end we balanced the budget.” Balancing the budget is required by the constitution. Any governor who brags on balancing the budget is blowing major smoke. The next brag was on Union Pacific starting work on the multi-modal facility at Santa Teresa. Martinez indicated that the project was the result of her pro-business policies. Well, no. Martinez did support reauthorization of a locomotive fuel gross receipts exemption (or something like that) vital to the multi-modal. But the tax exemption, previously extended, has been around for maybe five years and the multi-modal idea has been around for maybe 25 years. Kevin Boberg invented the project and honored me with one of the first presentations. Probably the gross receipts extension was a slam dunk. Martinez had little to do with it. To claim more credit for the project was disingenuous at best, dishonest at worst. Martinez trashed legislative criticism of her ever expanding agenda for the special session of the legislature that starts tomorrow. She said legislators only wanting to do redistricting just want to protect themselves. True enough, but so what. Martinez did not pursue the idea of an independent redistricting commission, a notion that during the campaign she told me she favored. Martinez gave the same speech (er, remarks) earlier in the day to the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce. At least I didn’t have to go to both meetings.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chilies in Las Cruces, Large and Small

The small chiles, all on one plant, I believe, are at the Chile Pepper Institute Teaching and Demonstration Garden in Las Cruces. (See sign photo.)
It appears to be a large red beached whale to drivers passing America's Best Value Inn on Picacho Avenue in Las Cruces. It is, however, proclaimed by a sign to be the world's largest chile. GIven that chiles are edible, more likely it is the world's largest sculpture of a chile. We had this same confusion in Durant, Oklahoma, when viewing what claimed to be the world's largest peanut. We suspected it was the world's largest sculpture of a peanut.
Does anyone know the size listing for chile and peanut sculpture?