Marketing Director and Managing Director, WESST Enterprise Center

    Executive Director, Energy Makes America Great, Inc.

  • I used to joke that my late husband was the last honest man in the New Mexico Legislature.
    He was not the last, though. Most legislators do not take illicit money or otherwise profit from their public service.  
    I have known a few legislators who, after their service was over, out of the glare of publicity, quietly went bankrupt. Their years of honest volunteer service had cost them dearly.
    New Mexico’s past reputation was that there was lots of corruption but most of it was small-time.
    We were only slightly outraged when politicians did favors for their friends. If you won a local election as a county commissioner or a school board member, your reward was jobs for needy relatives. When the other guy won, his relatives might replace yours.
    In low-income counties with few good-paying jobs, this was a way to spread the wealth.
    When an influential legislator-lawyer represented clients before boards and commissions – perhaps using bullying power to influence a licensing decision - it didn’t even make the news. When legislators vote on issues that affect their own professions, we barely notice.
    After all, we rationalize, our unpaid legislators have to make a living doing something other than legislating.
    But we have been troubled by the influence of special interests on legislation.

  • In 2000, the Republicans painted a target on House Speaker Raymond Sanchez, who was as much of an irritant to Republican Gov. Gary Johnson as his brother, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, is to this one.
    The GOP hoped to take control of the Legislature. Running against the powerful House Speaker was John Sanchez, a political newbie who didn’t appear to have a chance.
    That campaign could be a chapter in political science textbooks.
    An over-confident Raymond didn’t take his opponent seriously until it was too late. In November, John Sanchez unleashed a flood of radio ads accusing Raymond Sanchez of resisting efforts to toughen laws against sex offenders and child pornography. His campaign made phone calls and mailed letters to Raymond’s constituents asking them to call him if they think, “families have a right to know if a convicted sexual predator is living next door.”
    Raymond countered with his own radio ads saying the accusations were lies and mudslinging. He lost.
    John Sanchez’s campaign manager, by the way, was Jay McCleskey, the governor’s Rasputin (or puppeteer, critics say).

  • Conferences, policy institutes and the like are useless when it comes to considering nasty problems such as the New Mexico economy, argue many people, including some action-oriented types in Albuquerque.
    They are wrong.
    The action types have recently grabbed the initiative, providing money to push specific agendas such as right to work. But this totally commendable argument for short-term specifics misses the point of considering the longer term.
    Perhaps the action types are motivated in part by the failure of talk efforts such as New Mexico First and the long-gone Business Leaders Forum at New Mexico State.
    A market for longer term, broader scope policy consideration clearly exists. The Albuquerque Business First newspaper lured 300 “business leaders” to a January conference to hear a national economist say nothing new about New Mexico, as best as I could figure from the newspaper’s stories about the conference.
    “The crowd was searching for some solutions,” one story said. None appeared.
    The annual Domenici Public Policy Conference in Las Cruces is less talk fest than listen fest with presentations from national and a few regional policy leaders. There are no coffee breaks, a serious limit on communication among people attending.

    Visions & Values

  • Lemitar is pretty far from the Pacific, but Tim Ott and Abigail “Judy” Armendariz are growing shrimp native to that ocean in a climate-controlled aquaculture plant just north of Socorro.
    Their company, Southwestern Seas LLC, has been selling New Mexico-farmed white Pacific shrimp at the Santa Fe Farmers Market for about a year.
    The business partners in late November received a $49,500 value-added producer grant from USDA that they plan to use to market their unconventional “crop” to other farmers markets around the state and thus increase sales.
    High-altitude ‘ocean’
    Southwestern Seas received its first shipment of young shrimp in the summer of 2014, when Armendariz’s garage served as the nursery. The company then built a 7,000-square-foot facility and equipped it with everything needed to replicate the saline, sea-level ocean environment where these shrimp typically live.
    The shrimp farmers add oxygen to the water in the facility’s giant saltwater tanks so the shrimp can survive at an altitude of more than 4,500 feet. They keep the building’s temperature at 85 degrees and maintain an elevated humidity level.
    Biofilters and recirculators sustain water quality inside the 65,000-gallon tanks, which are replenished regularly with water from an on-site well.

  • As it turns out, Donald Trump tweets.
    I found out about this after President Obama had wrapped up his State of the Union address last week.
    It was a good speech, actually – thoughtful, candid, truthful, hard-hitting and engaging. As most presidential State of the Union orations go, that’s a bit rare.
    Mr. Donald Trump, on the other hand, didn’t like the president’s remarks in the least. Barely had the presidential teleprompter gone black before the real estate mogul was typing out this tweet for the edification of his acolytes: “The #SOTU speech is really boring, slow lethargic – very hard to watch.”
    Then, too, since he embarked upon his quest for the Republican presidential nomination several months back an impressive body of evidence has accumulated to suggest that the only voice Donald Trump truly likes to hear is his own.
    Which probably explains why the voice of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was even more off-putting for Mr. Trump than Mr. Obama’s, when she began her “official” Republican response to the president’s State of the Union.     

  • Adversaries are already squaring off over hot-button issues in the legislative session that begins Jan. 19, so it might surprise you that there’s an oasis of agreement.
    That’s the legislative Jobs Council. The agreement is due to ground rules that required unanimous decisions. Right off the bat, it eliminated pointless debates over issues that will never see a consensus.
    The Jobs Council is three years old. It’s the brainchild of former House Speaker Ken Martinez, who envisioned a nonpartisan forum where legislators, community leaders, business people and economic developers could hammer out ideas.
    That’s what happened.
    Guided by veteran economic developer Mark Lautman, the council began with meetings in every county and every Council of Government district. Participants at this grassroots level were asked, probably for the first time: How many jobs do you need? How many jobs do you think you can create? What economic sectors are most likely to provide those jobs? What obstacles do you face in creating jobs?
    The data from these exercises has been lovingly charted by council helpers.

  • The legislative session looks to be nasty, Steve Terrell, political writer for The New Mexican newspaper, told Albuquerque Press Women a week before Tuesday’s session start. The big difference between 2015 and 2016 is that this year’s gathering will shorter, mostly focused on finances.
    But as to contemplation of fundamental reforms for our floundering state, much less action, uh, no. The exception is the continuing tax crusade by Republicans Rep. Jason Harper of Rio Rancho and Sen. Bill Sharer of Farmington.
    Outside the legislative bubble, the world continues with people not working, government investing in businesses, an athletic discussion and world-class research.
    Nationally the labor force participation rate was 62.6 percent in December, a near-record low. That’s the proportion of people either working or looking for work. The rate has dropped for five years.
    The rate was 57 percent for New Mexico in November, says the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. No doubt we were affected by all the commonly cited factors, from aging population (retiring Baby Boomers) to welfare systems, with little push to find work. Indeed, as unemployment benefits increase, the value of work goes down. Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago works on these topics.

  • Environmentalists like a good crisis. Spreading fear is a proven fundraising technique — with manmade climate change as the fear du jour. But, back in 2005, the “looming crisis,” according to the Kansas Sierra Club, was the end of cheap oil. The post concludes: “The end of cheap oil, followed by the end of cheap natural gas, threatens to cripple strong economies and devastate weak ones.” The author posits: “The world burns oil faster than new oil is discovered.”

    Today, slightly more than 10 years later, thanks to American ingenuity and initiative, the world is awash in oil and natural gas — with America being the world’s number one energy producer. As a result oil and natural gas are cheaper than anyone imagined just a few years ago when the price of gasoline, due to a “red-hot global economy and fears over dwindling supplies,” spiked to $4.11 a gallon in 2008. All time highest average gasoline prices of $3.60 in 2012 — during the last presidential election — gave credence to the “end of cheap oil” gloom-and-doom scenario. 

  • The Obama administration’s lack of understanding of the spiritual depth and commitment of private religious charities is shocking. The callousness of the federal effort to compel a noble Catholic religious order — the Little Sisters of the Poor — to forsake its faith commitments shows the depth of the intolerance of the behemoth secular state under President Barack Obama.

    The story is one of courageousness on the part of the nuns of this religious order. Founded in France in 1839, the Little Sisters of the Poor has spread to many other countries, including the United States, with the charitable goal of giving aid and comfort to the poor. The sisters take the normal vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but also add hospitality, which they extend to some of the “least of those in our midst.”

    In March, the nuns will continue their long battle against the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its head, Sylvia Burwell, when the sisters and their lawyers come before the Supreme Court.

  • In the back of the restaurant, out of sight of the patrons, an employee is trying to avoid sneezing on your dinner.
    He shouldn’t be there. He should be home in bed, but he can’t afford to stay home because his wages barely cover his expenses and his employer does not provide paid sick leave. Working sick is one reality of the new American economy.
    The movement to require employers to provide sick leave has not taken hold in New Mexico so far. Legislation on this issue is not expected in the upcoming 2016 session. What is expected is another attempt to pass right-to-work.
    Right-to-work is the principle that a worker employed in a unionized company or organization should not be required to join a union or pay union dues in order to keep his or her job. Supporters say the lack of right-to-work is holding New Mexico back because businesses won’t come to a non-right-to-work state. Opponents say that’s based on outdated information.
    There’s even a dispute about whether right-to-work is intended to damage or weaken unions. Right-to-work advocates say it isn’t. That’s nonsense. Intended or not, it will damage them.

    Los Alamos

  • From its conceptual box of chile, art and opera for the January issue, New Mexico Magazine stepped to the millennial bright lights of arts and technology entrepreneurship.
    The issue, the magazine says, features “some of the creatives who are shaping 21st-century New Mexico culture (and the business incubators that love them)… Neo Santa Fe: America’s oldest capital city has an exciting new vibe (and) ABQ Awakening: New Mexico’s urban core is being reinvented as a hub of creativity and commerce.”
    New Mexico Magazine is the state-owned tourism and lifestyle promotion publication. The nmmagazine.com description is, “Functioning as an enterprise fund in state government, the magazine is self-sufficient with virtually no funding from the taxpayer other than office space.”
    The description sounds about right, based on my brief stint long ago as the magazine’s business manager. I also scored a cover story about the border, which was highly instructive to me. The other side of state ownership is jumping through incredible bureaucratic hoops to get anything done. My boss, publisher Bob Davis, had some inventive techniques for subterfuge.

    Los Alamos

  • Finance

  • Food stamps have been a battleground for two years.
    On Jan. 1, with New Mexico’s unemployment the highest in the nation, a new rule kicked in that returns pre-recession requirements. Thousands of New Mexicans must work, with or without pay, to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
    Nonprofits, religious organizations and the public objected to the new rules and some even sued. The state Human Services Department modified a few rules and pushed them through.
    We’d like to think this move would create more wage earners, but that’s unlikely. Economic reality and systemic weaknesses will sandbag the administration’s wishful thinking.
    The new rule requires most able-bodied, childless adults aged 18 to 49 to show 80 hours a month of approved work to qualify for SNAP, formerly called food stamps. Otherwise, they get just three months’ benefits in three years. On Oct. 1, people aged 16 to 59 and parents of children 13 and older will come under the rules. That’s 24,000 people, HSD estimates.
    The idea is that these people can work without pay in a job that “gives a person experience in a job or industry, tests a person’s job skills, or involves volunteer time and effort to a not-for-profit organization,” the regulation says. They can also participate in state-supervised activities like filling out job applications and contacting employers.

  • As best my research has been able to determine, testing American drivers’ skills as a prerequisite to operating motor vehicles on public arteries began in 1899, and it started in two U.S. cities, Chicago and New York City.
    The purpose of that testing was to validate motorists’ ability safely to use and operate all those automobiles and other motorized locomotives that had suddenly started lumbering along the local roadways and streets which previously had served mainly as thoroughfares for horses and buggies, oxen and wagons.
    The new tests also measured a would-be motorist’s “knowledge of the road,” including speed limits, stop-and-go regulations, rules governing left turns and right turns and all the other protocols involving the art of operating motor vehicles.
    When a person passed one of those tests, he or she would be licensed to drive and would be given an actual artifact known as a “driver’s license” which validated his or her ability safely to drive.
    It wasn’t nuclear science or brain surgery, of course. It was simply a very sensible thing to do. If you are going to have all these vehicles running around on public roadways, make sure you set down some rules to ensure that persons operating motorized vehicles have passed the required tests.
    So what have we done with this common sense arrangement?
    Well, here in New Mexico lately, we have pretty much screwed it up.

  • When people leave an area, unemployment should drop. That’s because, so the theory goes, the people leaving (migration is the technical term) have some tendency to be unemployed. That doesn’t seem to apply here. Migration declined ever so slightly in 2015 from 2014, but unemployment stayed essentially the same.
    The applicable theory appears to be the old Lew Wallace maxim, “Every calculation based on experience elsewhere fails in New Mexico.” Wallace was governor of New Mexico from 1878 to 1881.
    During the year ended July 1, 2015, there were 13,352 people pulling up their New Mexico stakes and leaving, according to the annual population estimates released by the Census Bureau Dec. 22. The population dropped 458 during the year.
    For the year ending July 1, 2014, it was 14,154 departures and an overall population decline of 1,323. The decline in out migration was 802 people, or 5.7 percent,
    The departure total since the April 2010 census is 43,041 with 27,506 going during the last two years.