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Opinion

  • BY D. DOWD MUSKA
    Research Director, Rio Grande Foundation

  • By BOB HAGAN

  • BY RANDY S. BARTELL & RANDI N. JOHNSON
    Montgomery & Andrews PA, Employment Law Group
    Finance New Mexico

  • Wonder why we’re poor? Here’s the type of thing that happens here.
    In 2014, the biggest thing in tourism and historic preservation was the purchase of the derelict Castañeda Hotel in Las Vegas by veteran developer Allan Affeldt, who successfully restored La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona.
    The Castañeda, like much of Las Vegas, is a rundown remnant of yesteryear that’s been the object of hopes and what ifs. In 1898 it was Fred Harvey’s first hotel; it closed in 1948. This is a project only “an eccentric investor like me” would want, Affeldt says.
    In the hospitality business, you need a certain size to make the investment worthwhile.
    “The Castañeda was kind of an enticing project,” he says, but bathrooms are down the hall. To provide modern amenities, a restoration would reduce 45 rooms to 25. “It was hard to justify the investment given the size.”
    Also in 2014, Affeldt bought a second historic Las Vegas property, the Plaza Hotel, out of foreclosure. He made improvements and turned it around. (I stayed there before and after. His team worked wonders.)
    “I figured maybe by putting the two together, I could make it work,” he says. He needed New Markets Tax Credits and began negotiating with the New Mexico Finance Authority.

  • BY SEN. MICHAEL PADILLA
    New Mexico State Senate, Majority Whip

  • In the summer saga of state finances, this week brings a general look at the economy and its prospects. Our principal source is the more than 100 pages of background material provided for the Aug. 24 meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee.
    Wage jobs provide the starting point. In July, 825,300 people claimed jobs, among the lowest proportions of population in the nation. Metro Albuquerque was home to 384,500 jobs, or 47 percent of the total. Another 184,300 jobs were scattered among Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Farmington. For all the state’s distance and emptiness, 69 percent of our jobs are in the seven metro counties.
    “Employment has continued to grow at a depressed pace,” observed the LFC. For the July 2015 to July 2016 year, jobs in the state grew 1.2 percent, tied for 35th among the states. For depressing perspective, Utah’s growth was second nationally. Colorado and Arizona tied for sixth. New Mexico’s income growth is also depressed.

  • I am really tired of paying off loan sharks for other people’s debts. Aren’t you?
    You’re wondering what I’m talking about? The social cost of predatory lending.
    We’ve all heard about this, the payday loans and the car title loans, the astronomical interest rates and the low-income people who take these loans, probably not understanding they’re getting themselves into a tangle of ever-increasing borrowing and perhaps believing they have no choice.
    We haven’t heard enough about how much this is costing us as taxpayers, as donors to charities and as residents of a state where poverty depresses the standard of living for all of us.
    When a low income person spends $500 to pay off $100 loans, year after year, that affects you and me. When my taxes support that person’s access to Medicaid, I’m paying off the loan shark. When I write a check to Roadrunner Food Bank or put cans of tuna fish in a donation box, I’m paying off the loan shark again.

  • Here we are back in a sad, familiar place. We’ve lost another child to a brutal, unthinkable murder. Her face has been inside our heads since it first appeared in the newspaper, just like all the other faces of little ones lost to vile criminal acts.
    After the flowers, balloons and stuffed animals, come the hearings and task forces and inquiries and ordinances and laws and speeches.
    And then we turn to other matters until the next time, which comes too soon.
    But maybe this time we can begin the change, which starts with the truth, heard in frank testimony recently before Albuquerque city councilors and Bernalillo County commissioners.
    Sgt. Amy Dudewicz, who works in the Sheriff’s Office special victims unit, said they get more child-abuse and neglect calls than they can respond to. Two UNM pediatricians said that for every child who makes the news, hundreds more are hurt. Albuquerque police have just three child-abuse liaisons reviewing more than 900 cases a month.
    And this is in our largest city. Imagine the situation in rural areas.
    Two politicians made sense.
    U. S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham observed that we have many programs to address successive family crises.

  • The day my newspaper brought a front page report about state government’s ugly financial situation, an insert offered a small-scale government extravagance, a 32-page full-color, tabloid touting the wonders of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The insert, an issue of the department’s “New Mexico Wildlife” publication placed in newspapers statewide, sported additional elements that increased the cost.
    The cover was a photograph of a hummingbird.  
    Outside the budget mess but contributing to the overall national sense of New Mexico lies the killing of 10-year-old Victoria Martens in Albuquerque. Her memorial service provided the CNN.com headline the afternoon of Aug. 28.
    Some context is needed before moving to specifics during the next week or two.
    Solvency is back as the principal focus of state government, as in, how will the state decide to be able to pay its bills? This isn’t the usual meaning of solvency, which is the question of whether the organization can pay its bills. The state will rebalance the budget. The constitution requires it.

  • Relationship figures big in six-year journey to start pet-care business
    By Finance New Mexico
    By the time they had adopted seven dogs from friends and neighbors, David and Juliana Garcia concluded that Las Cruces sorely needed a business that served animals and the people who love them.
    The couple bought a van with their savings to start a mobile grooming business for large pets. By the time they were ready to buy a second van to accommodate their growing client base, the Garcias were thinking about opening a hotel and day camp, with spa services on the side, for dogs and cats.
    In the challenging years between conception and creation of Pet Planet (http://www.petplanetcomplex.com) in 2014 — years that coincided with the deepest recession in nearly a century — the young entrepreneurs drew on their passion for animals and their financial partnership with The Loan Fund to sustain them.
    Timing is everything
    In 2008, the Garcias purchased the land on which they planned to build Pet Planet and lined up a construction loan through a traditional lender. Then the real-estate market crashed, and the bank withdrew its loan offer

  • “Hocus-pocus,” that stylish tool that pretends to do magic, also fits what the party we spurn tries to sell in election speeches. The comparison is not by chance. Politicking and sleight of hand have much in common.
    These words can be read as a cheap insult, yet their meaning is very real. Serious books these days explore the neuroscience behind magic tricks and find close ties to the ways in which illusions persuade people.
    The techniques work the same way in our brains whether the goal is to amuse with magic or to sell, persuade or gain votes. Brains work how they work.  
    In broad terms, magic methods work by distracting the viewers’ attention from the crucial spots at key times. The magic term is “sleight of hand.” When selling or politicking, the more refined term is “sleight of mind,” with the same meaning.
    The fun of magic is that we know what we see is impossible, whether we can spot the trick in it or not. The harm of politicking is we half-believe the impossible, because our minds do not work to spot the tricks.

  • BY DR. GARY WELTON
    Visions and Values

  • We may think of animal hoarders as wacky people like the Cat Lady with six felines. But in New Mexico, police have entered dwellings with upwards of 50 cats and dogs. An Otero County man had 208 dogs.
    The scene is uncomfortably familiar: Dozens of sick or starving animals with no food or water, a “home” with floors covered in filth, stacked cages of animals, and scattered carcasses.
    Local authorities pick up the animals and haul them to the local shelter, where many must be euthanized; others may be rehabilitated and adopted.
    Invariably, the owner of the horror show claims to be an animal lover who rescues unwanted pets. The man with 208 dogs started out as Mission Desert Hills Sanctuary for Dogs, and descended into animal hoarding.
    It’s a nationwide problem – so much so that it even has its own organizations and websites. One is the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC) at Tufts University, which spent 10 years studying the problem. They learned that anybody can be a hoarder.
    Veterinarian Debra Clopton, of Edgewood, insisted she loved her 49 dogs; last week, a jury convicted her of 22 counts of animal cruelty in Santa Fe District Court. Clopton testified that her doublewide trailer was a place for dogs with nowhere else to go. She said she was treating them successfully.

  • BY KRISTIN HENDERSON
    Los Alamos County Councilor, Guest Columnist

  • FINANCE NEW MEXICO

  • The story went like this: You could install solar panels that would generate electricity on your roof. When the sun was shining, you’d generate enough to power your house and then your meter would run backwards, and the power company would send you a check instead of a bill. How cool was that!
    That works, and it’s called “distributed generation,” but the real world has complications. One complication is that the power generated while the sun shines is not stored. The utility still has to provide another source of power to turn the lights on at night.
    Beyond that – no surprise – utilities don’t like having to buy back power. That’s not unreasonable. Utilities have a mandate to provide reliable power all the time and must build and maintain costly infrastructure to meet that requirement.
    The more solar capacity you have on your house, the fewer hours you will buy. Therefore, the cost to deliver power to your house is more expensive per hour than for the typical household. To compensate, the utility does not pay you nearly as much for the power you sell as you pay for the hours you buy.
    The price of power today to New Mexico homeowners is about 12 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour, varying with each utility. What the utilities pay back also varies.

  • Bundles of cables ring the Las Vegas plaza like a wreath. Movie set crews, all New Mexicans, maneuver vehicles, lights and props while locally hired security people and cops steer people and traffic around the shoot for “Granite Mountain,” based on the Arizona firefighters who battled an epic blaze to save a town.
    The cast and crew seem to have the run of the Plaza Hotel, where we’re staying. For everybody, it’s good business.
    A gallery owner tells us the movie makers are paying every store on the plaza for the inconvenience and lost business. “Obviously, it didn’t keep you from coming in, and it’s a nice gesture,” she says.
    “Granite Mountain” employs 190 New Mexico crew members, 40 New Mexico actors, and about 1,300 New Mexico background talent, according to the state Film Office.
    This is a snapshot of a New Mexico success story. Against a backdrop of dreary economic numbers, the movie and television industry dazzles. Direct spending into the state economy for the fiscal year ending June 30 was $387 million, up from $288 million the year before – a new record.

  • Troll your archives and no telling what emerges.
    Recent thumbing of the shelves and the computer led to the report of a legislative committee looking into economic development, Arizona’s consideration of that state’s future, and a discussion of growth with a Colorado economist. The documents illuminate what we’re doing and not doing, over time, in New Mexico.
    Interim committees do much of the Legislature’s work.
    The interim Economic Development, New Technologies and Business Tax Study committee met six times in nine cities between June and November 1983. The chairs were two young and ambitious senators from Albuquerque – Tom Rutherford, Democrat, and Bill Valentine, Republican.
    Talk of process was the main product, the committee report indicates. Recruiting businesses and the Business Development Corporation, which eventually failed, were continuing topics. Everyone with half a claim to an economic development portfolio presented somewhere. Some really were involved in economic development. One presentation covered “the social impact of the computer revolution.” Note that the Mac debuted in 1984.

  • Like phone calls around the country between potential Gary Johnson supporters, political emails get little attention. That’s unfortunate because the grandiose and stupid style of a good many of these emails supports the notion that the other side is evil and worse, thereby feeding the much-lamented hyper-partisanship of today’s political world.
    For New Mexicans, a second reason to notice such messages is that one of our representatives in Congress, Ben Ray Lujan, is nominally responsible for some of them. Luján chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a job he got via appointment by House Minority Leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Luján’s duties, beyond electing more Democrats to Congress, aren’t clear, nor is the time required.
    Presumably, DCCC time takes Luján away from tending constituent duties, such as follow-up on the 2015 mine waste spill into the Animas River. On July 5, NBCnews.com published a 1,575-word fluff piece without mentioning task and time topics. The story dwelt on Luján’s “Uncle Gus’s wingtip shoes.”
    I get these emails from both parties and their friends and until a year ago got DCCC emails. Maybe because I didn’t donate. There were ten DCCC emails in August 2015 through the 28th. The DCCC program continues, DCCC said.

  • BY NATHAN SILLIN
    Practical Money