Monday, April 25, 2011

Martinez Administration Continues Richardson Profligacy

A high school teacher told me last week that he knows of 20 colleagues facing layoff. Though not happy about it, he seemed to resigned to the reality.
This morning I got yet another copy of "New Mexico Wildlife," the newsletter of the Department of Game and Fish, inserted in my Albuquerque Journal. This issue is a 16 page tabloid with four colors of ink on every page. For the non-printers among the readers, all that means "expensive." The only cost concession is use of newsprint as the paper, though I don't think it is the cheapest newsprint.
A story on page two told of the new 18-foot high statue of a rattlesnake's tail at the privately owned Chiracahua Desert Museum in Rodeo. The story did not explicitly say the Museum is privately owned, but it did name the owners, Bob and Sheri Ashley. Charles Painter, a Game and Fish herpetologist did the statue, the story said. I am absolutely sure that every moment Painter devoted to the project came on his own time, including the time he took to pose next to the statue for the photo that appeared in the newsletter.
A couple of years ago an issue of "New Mexico Wildlife" cost $40,000. The price alone ensured the publication an honored place on Harold's List of Really Stupid Stuff done by the Richardson administration. I know the current budget year, which ends June 30, started under Richardson. But it is disappointing to receive another example of profligacy along with my morning paper, especially as we lay off teachers.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Abq Chamber Email Deluge

Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce forever exec Terri Cole has the idea that quantity matters in email communication. It has to be Cole. By all reports and my dated experience, she runs a tightly controlled ship.
I’m not a chamber member. But a few months ago I began to be buried in emails from the chamber. During the legislative session, this was OK, sort of, though I didn’t care about the detail and the snide tone with regard to the legislature was off-putting. Surely Cole knows that snide tones and arrogance have killed legislation. Still, I ignored the quantity.
Finally, though, I decided to count the emails, none of which I read. For the five days of the workweek starting April 18, there were 12 emails: two on the 18th, three on the 19th, two on the 20th, four (!) on the 21st and two yesterday.
That's a waste of time.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Street Signs; It's the Feds?

The comment below responds to last Friday's musing about new street sign design. The story in the link provided in the comment says just what the commenting person claims. This is pretty incredible. We would have to have here a good definition of government overreach. Further, the City of Albuquerque, led by a pragmatic conservative, Richard Berry, refuses to take a stand? We would have to have here a good definition of government overreach.

Comment: " City of Albuquerque is following federal regulations for new street signs. Here's a link from ABC news explaining what's going on."

Here's the beginning of the story. "By JONATHAN KARL (@jonkarl)
Nov. 29, 2010
The federal government says THIS is harder to read than This.

Got that? ALL CAPS are bad. Mixed Case is Good.

It's just one reason the Federal Highway Administration is ordering all local governments -- from the tiniest towns to the largest cities -- to go out and buy new street signs that federal bureaucrats say are easier to read.

The rules are part of a tangle of regulations included in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

The 800-plus page book tells local governments they:

-- Should increase the size of the letters on street signs from the current 4 inches to 6 inches on all roads with speed limits over 25 miles per hour. The target date for this to be completed is January 2012.

-- Install signs with new reflective letters more visible at night by January 2018.

-- And whenever street name signs are changed for any reason, they can no longer be in ALL CAPS."

And much more.
The story notes that the new regulations were written under the Bush administration. They were issued under the Obama administration.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

State Maps Still With Bill

The Tourism Department is still distributing state roads maps with the picture of Bill Richardson. A department staffer said this afternoon that the Martinez administration said it would make no sense to toss the 200,000 maps remaining with Richardson's picture. The staffer said the Richardson administration promptly dumped all remaining state maps with the photo of Gary Johnson.

Friday, April 15, 2011

New Style Signs Harder to Read

Someone in Albuquerque’s City Hall has invented a new style for street signs.
The old style was better because it allowed more space for letters which, then, could be bigger and, being bigger, would be easier to read.
Using caps and lower case means most of the letters are smaller, and therefore harder to see. Putting the border around the sign takes space, reducing the size of the letters.
I have never understood why using all capital letters is preferred for headlines on sign. But it is.
What we have, if nothing else, seems to be a government person arbitrarily changing things without real public input.
I’m reminded of the obstruction that appeared seemingly from nowhere a couple of years ago in Girard Blvd. and a few other places in Albuquerque.
My neighborhood association recently asked Isaac Benton, the area’s city council member about the obstruction. Benton’s staff person blew them off.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Stupid Cyclist Note

This guy was texting from his moving bicycle. To his credit, though, he did stop at the red light a few hundred yards down the road. But when he stopped, he was on the wrong side of the road.

Monday, April 11, 2011

March Home Sales: Prices Drop as Reality Intrudes

Reality lumbered into the metro Albuquerque real estate market during March with a 10.1% decline in sales of single family detached homes from March 2010 and price declines from February and from March 2010.
Some good news does exist in the year-over-year sales decline. Those 634 sales during March 2010 were inflated with sales borrowed from later periods by President Obama’s first time homebuyer tax credit. That means the year-over-year sales drop was expected. The good news about the 570 sales during March 2011 is that the performance represented a nice 39% jump from February. To be sure, much of that increase has to be seasonal rather than reflecting market improvement or anything positive in the Albuquerque economy, which is still losing jobs. March showed 903 sales pending during the month, a 28% increase from February and suggestive of further sales growth during April.
The median price, $162,000 during March, was down 5.7% or $9,750 from February. From March 2010, the median price dropped $13,000 or 7.4%.
The average price was $199,683 during March, 9.4% or $20,616 decline from February. The average price was down $11,366 from March 2010, a 5.4% drop. The average price was moved up by the sale of three homes prices at more than $1 million and one home in the $750,000 to $999,000 range.
Prices for townhouses and condominiums showed a similar pattern with sales down from March 2010 and prices declining from February 2011 and from March 2010.
During March, sales in Rio Rancho doubled from 60 units in February to 121 units in March. That 61-unit increase accounted for 38% of the metro-wide 160-unit increase in sales from February to March.
The sales figures are just out from the Greater Albuquerque Association Realtors, In the monthly market report, GAAR offered no interpretation of the numbers, something unusual.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Life With Bicyclists: The Stupid Factor

A week ago P.J. O’Rourke provided the unwashed, those of us trampled by the bicycle stampede, an analysis headlined, “Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic.” Into the second sentence O’Rourke got the words “innocent,” as in motorists, and “sanctimonious,” as in cyclists.
In O’Rourke’s spirit, I offer four observations of cyclist behavior in my neighborhood. With these four, what is called “the stupid factor” seems in play. Of course, maybe these folks aren't stupid, just arrogant.
The first came a couple of weeks ago. The others bunched into a period of a few days.
1. I am on a residential street, heading west, slowly due to just having entered the street from a driveway. I see a cyclist ahead of me, also going west, but very slowly, hardly moving at all, actually. His front wheel goes back and forth, helping maintain balance. Lacking the slightest clue as to this jerk’s intent, I drop into major caution mode.
Then, suddenly and without the slightest signal, he does a 180° turn towards me and goes into a driveway.
2. I’m at a red light. The two streets are two-lane. Two cyclists are stopped at the red light, headed the other way. While the light is still red, one comes across the intersection.
3. I’m on a four-lane road with a 40 mph, with bike lanes on both sides, and where drivers sometimes go well over 50 mph. A cyclist going the other way in the bike lane see some congestion on the sidewalk, but not in the bike lane. With no hesitation and certainly with no signal, the cyclist pops into the driving lane to avoid the congestion.
4. On the same four-lane road, two cyclists are riding along side one another. One cyclist is in the bike lane. One is well into the auto lane. Fortunately, at the moment, there was no auto traffic affecting the pair.
O’Rourke’s commentary was in the Wall Street Journal.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Big Brother's Well Scrubbed Cousin Visits

Big Brother or maybe Big Brother’s younger cousin, visited my block yesterday about noon. That’s what it seemed initially. After some digging, I found that the scrubbed young couple on the block probably worked for the county assessor.
They appeared—he with clipboard, she with long measuring tape—from a white Focus with an unreadable logo on the side and came across the street. I was just leaving my house. I’m always curious about clipboard carriers, so I chatted them up.
They offered neither ID card, nor verbal identification, just a smooth articulate presentation. I went along with the presentation, asking questions, but stupidly overlooked asking for ID.
Their assigned task, they said, was to measure the buildings on the block (exactly which block, I wondered later) and compare the measured building size with their record. Sometimes they did check measured differences against building permits. Sometimes an addition was done with no permit. Sometimes the project out grew the permit specifications.
They hadn’t been on my block in four years, which they said was a long time. Four years seemed a short time to me.
All this didn’t quite make sense, but I continued my errand and the couple went into the back yard of the house at the end of the block.
Post errand, with things still not making sense, I emailed the ever helpful Deborah Nason in the City of Albuquerque department that handles building permits. Nason did some digging, found nothing, and handed me to the office of Bernalillo County Assessor Karen Montoya.
The second assessor staffer I spoke to recognized the male of my visitor couple and explained that this time of year the Assessor sends people into neighborhoods to compare structure size with the Assessor’s record. If the structure has grown, the property tax may well grow.
Straightforward, I guess, though I’m still not comfortable with random folks tromping around my back yard.
But an identification from the couple by name, backed by a badge and a statement that they were working for the Assessor would have saved us a bunch of time.
Transparency, that’s the word.