UNM Site Off The Table For City Homeless Shelter; PR Pressure Tactic Failed; Mayor Keller Caught “Flat Footed”; BERNCO Has Funding

The meaning of the term “caught flat-footed” is loosely defined as caught unprepared and taken by surprise. The usage comes from one or another sport in which a player should be on his or her toes, ready to act, but instead is not and loses the competition for failing to be prepared. Mayor Tim Keller was caught “flat footed” when it comes to UNM rejecting his preferred sight of UNM vacant land for the homeless shelter.


On February 27, the City of Albuquerque released a report and analysis announcing the top 3 preferred locations for the new 24/7 homeless shelter known as the “Gateway Center”. The 3 locations, in order of preference, were listed as follows:

1. University of New Mexico land next to the state laboratory, near Interstate 25 and Camino de Salud
2. Coronado Park at 3rd Street and Interstate 40
3. The former Lovelace hospital on Gibson

On February 28, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference with local church leaders at the UNM vacant land and announced his support for building the 300 person “Gateway Project” for the homeless on the location.

During the Friday press conference Mayor Keller boldly proclaimed:

“Out on those hills out there, right on the other side of them, is one of our top three choices. I want to note that this is nowhere near campus. It is on UNM land, but it is very far from campus and so we want to kind of debunk that myth. … It is very different from students and the duck pond. This is not the city’s [land] and if the UNM community is not interested in sharing it then this will be off the table. … We’re working with them. We’re in discussions with them … and we’re essentially in a negotiation phase to see if we can come up with something that works for both of us. It might happen or it might not. Those are both 50% likely.”


On November 5, voters approved general obligation bonds of $14 million for a city operated 24-7 homeless shelter that will house upwards of 300. The actual cost will be upwards of $30 million. Mayor Keller asked the 2020 New Mexico Legislature for an additional $14 million to complete phase two of the project, but the 2020 legislature said no to the funding delivering a major blow to Keller’s plans for the shelter and indicating that Mayor Keller’s influence in Santa Fe has diminished for the former State Senator.


On March 12, it was announced that the University of New Mexico was no longer interested in offering the empty lot they own off the I-25 Frontage Road for consideration as the possible site for Albuquerque’s new Gateway Center.

UNM President Garnett Stokes in a statement announcing the decision had this to say:

“In listening to the University community, it is clear that many people support UNM being a part of tackling the issue of homelessness and serving the various vulnerable populations in our City. Regarding the proposed use of UNM land, there was not a single variable that led to this decision. Ultimately, our concerns about enrollment and future needs of our health system had to be considered in our determination of whether the UNM site was appropriate for the City’s plans.”

UNM Regent President Doug Brown also commented on the decision:

“We want to do everything we can by way of services, but we did not feel the preferred site from the city was appropriate for our campus. … We had an enormous amount of resistance from neighborhoods, the (UNM Comprehensive) Cancer Center, the Children’s Campus and so on.”

Brown said UNM had received an outpouring of opposition urging the university officials not to allow the shelter to be built on campus. The university’s Campus Safety Council, a group that includes the dean of students, student body president and chief of campus police, was among the groups that strongly opposed that the shelter not be built anywhere at UNM.

People who live nearby the UNM site also expressed strong opposition to the site. Members of the Spruce Park Neighborhood Association attended a regents meeting and asked the board not to allow the facility to be built at the proposed UNM location.

Carol Pierce, Family and Community Services Department Director in a news release had this to say:

“With UNM eliminated for the main site, our focus shifts to logistics at Lovelace or Coronado, or a combination of the sites, to meet the needs of the homeless population and our city as a whole.”

Chief Administrative Officer had this to say in an interview:

“We’ve always known we’re going to have to work closely with any neighbors of any facility to make sure that we are addressing their security concerns, their concerns about the appearance of the facility, so that’s going to happen no matter where this thing goes.”

Mayor Tim Keller for his part issued the following statement about UNM’s decision:

“For all our public institutions, there is a moral opportunity to come together and make a difference on a growing problem that affects the entire community. With this option now off the table, we are convening elected officials from the City and [Bernalillo] County, as well as UNM, to work with us on the remaining options, or a possible combination of sites. We are continuing our collaborative efforts and are also dedicated to doing all we can with the funds we have to make a dent in all of our homelessness challenges.”



City officials will now look closer to the two remaining sites and may consider using both. Critics of the city’s 300-bed shelter plan have instead proposed building a series of smaller facilities that would serve more targeted populations.

City officials are left with Coronado Park at Third and Interstate and the closed Lovelace Hospital facility on Gibson which is privately owned.

Following are details of the 2 remaining locations with analysis that made the city’s initial cut:


According to a report released by the City on February 27, building the new shelter at Coronado would cost a total of $12.7 million. The city would need to buy abutting land, which may include office space across from the park, to have enough space.

The overwhelming number of those who completed the on line city survey chose the Interstate 40 and 2nd street location as the best area for the shelter with upwards of 31% of the respondents saying the area was the best location. The area is in the same general vicinity as Coronado Park, a city park that has attracted for years many homeless people and those that feed the homeless. The city uses the park as a pickup location for those needing rides to the West Side shelter. No other location site received even half of the number of votes.

For decades, Coronado Park has become an “encampment” or one of the most popular places for the homeless to congregate during the day and sleep at night. Many times, over the years, charitable organizations or “good Samaritans” have set up “food lines” for the homeless at Coronado Park. City and zoning health inspectors have been dispatched repeatedly to the park to try and curb the serving of hot food in the area in order to curtail potential health risk to the homeless and feeding them tainted food. At one time the American Civil Liberties Union even threatened to take action against the city over its efforts to curtail serving hot food to the homeless at Coronado Park.

Marit Tully, the president of the Near North Valley Neighborhood Association said at Thursday’s meeting that Coronado Park has seen major problem over the years due to the park’s existing concentration of people who are homeless. The neighborhood area she was referring to is located north of the freeway. Tully said area residents have for years raised concerns with the city, but the city has made s little improvement. According to Telly, her neighborhood association could not support any shelter site unless the city invests just as much in the chosen neighborhood.


Police over the years have been dispatched over and over to take action against the homeless at Coronado Park. The use of Coronado Park by the general public is scant or significantly curtailed. To succeed at the Coronado Park location and to have the lowest impact to the area would require sufficient safety precautions including security fencing and law enforcement or security surveillance of the area. The advantage is that the City owns the land and the location is far enough from the down town area to reduce impact to downtown and residential areas. The freeway still would act as a buffer to businesses north of it.

Opposition to the Coronado Park as the site for the new shelter is very strong. Wells Park Neighborhood association adamantly opposes to the city developing another major project geared toward homeless people in the area.

Wells Park Neighborhood Association President Doreen McKnight has said residents’ pleas for help from the city addressing the associated issues have gone largely unanswered by the city. The Wells park neighborhood association has voted to oppose placing the shelter anywhere in the city unless there are matching funds deployed to the selected location to help with infrastructure and to mitigate any potential problems.

According to McNight:

“While we absolutely see the need for a new shelter, and we support it and think it needs to be done, we have shouldered the brunt of concentrated homelessness in the area for decades with no real substantial help from the city.”


According to the February 27 city report and analysis, the Lovelace Hospital Complex would be $14 million in acquisition and renovation costs.

Although the former Lovelace hospital on Gibson was not listed in the on line survey, 42 people who took the survey wrote it in as an option. It was not listed on the survey because the city did not have permission from the building’s owners to list it.

It was in 2007 Lovelace Medical Center closed down. It was later purchased by local private investors. The investors who purchased the former Lovelace Hospital on Gibson were Jimmy Daskalos and Nick Kapnison. Nick Kapnison is one of the owners of “Nick and Jimmy’s” Restaurant, Mikinos Creek Restaurant and El Patron Mexican Restaurant..

The Loveless facility is a 529,000-square-foot building and upwards of 50% of it is said to be vacant. According to one news report, an estimated $10 million in upgrades in the Lovelace Hospital Complex, including remodeling for specific tenants, improving common areas and the parking lot and installing a 540-ton cooling unit out back were made. Parts of the building date back to 1950 and what was then known as the Lovelace Clinic, and as a result the need for any asbestos remediation is subject to speculation and has not been reported on by the news media.



On Feb. 26, 2015, the Bernalillo County Commission approved a 1/8 % gross receipts tax increase on a 3-2 vote to fund new behavioral and mental health services to improve access to mental and behavioral health care services in the county. The tax generates approximately $20 million annually.

When enacted, the county commission announced the intent for the tax was to invest the funding “in proven ways to better manage the high cost of addiction, homelessness and mental health problems”. According to a county commission announcement, “these issues impact families throughout the community and drive up the cost of public services, especially at the Metropolitan Detention Center.” The gross receipts tax costs shoppers one cent on a $10 purchase of goods and services.


The 1/8th% gross receipts tax was supposed to be used for the purpose of providing more mental and behavioral health services for adults and children in the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County area. The intent is to provide a safety net system for those in need of mental health not otherwise funded in New Mexico.

Since enactment of the tax in 2015, the tax has generated $91.6 million. The county has spent $20 million of the money but has earmarked the bulk of what it amassed for one-time expenditures. Those expenditures include $30 million for a new crisis triage center, $12 million for supportive housing and $4 million for the Bernalillo County CARE campus, formerly known as the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services center, or MATS. The renovations to the CARE campus when complete will create an outpatient behavioral health clinic and living room space for peer-to-peer counseling sessions.

On February 17, 2015, when the Bernalillo County Commission approved the tax, it failed to develop a plan on how all the money would be used, including not identifying services to be provided, location of facilities and qualifiers to obtain the services offered. As a result of having no spending plan or identifying priorities, the tax has been collected but not spent and upwards of $70 million in tax revenue has accumulated and just sits in a county account unused and the amount is growing. According to the latest figures from the Department of Behavioral Health Services, money is encumbered for one-time expenditures including $30 million earmarked for a future crisis triage center and $12 million for supportive housing, but nothing for a homeless shelter such as the “Gateway Project”.



Confidential sources within city hall are saying Keller was genuinely caught off guard, surprised and upset when UNM President Garret Stokes told him in a private conversation that UNM decided to say no to the project. After all, he is the Mayor, he had done a press conference to announce his preferred site and giving unequivocal support for the UNM property for his priority project. In Keller’s mind that should have done the trick to convince UNM to go along.

Keller’s public relations stunt failed him. It was on Friday, February 28, that Mayor Tim Keller held his press conference with local church leaders at the vacant land and announced his support for building the 300 person “Gateway Project” for the homeless. No doubt Mayor Tim Keller is anxious to get a start on his new shelter, but holding a press conference with “church leaders” who are not even parties to a transaction was a major mistake. Confidential UNM sources have said UNM President Garrett Stokes and a few regents were not at all happy with Keller using a press conference to pressure the university to agree to the putting the shelter on UNM property.

Keller holding the press conference with church leaders and using words such as “if the UNM community is not interested in sharing it [with the community] then this will be off the table” smacked of trying shame and force a party’s hand to agree to something they do not want to agree to and who have extreme reservations about the project. Holding a press conference is something you do not do when you’re in the middle of negotiations with an entity and when 2 other sites are also under consideration. Now that UNM has rejected his plan, Keller proclaims “For all our public institutions, there is a moral opportunity to come together and make a difference on a growing problem that affects the entire community” knowing full well the two remaining sights involve city property and a privately owned property and no other government entity.

As noted, the county has accumulated upwards of $70 million dollars from the behavioral health tax that has yet to be used. Keller has never announced any efforts he has made to get the Bernalillo County Commission to assist with the building of the city homeless shelter, yet he had no problem attempting to get funding of $14 million from the 2020 New Mexico legislature and he failed.

You always know when Mayor Tim Keller has been caught “flat footed” whenever he does not get his way, things do not go as planned or he wants to avoid controversy by responding to questions from the press. Under such circumstances, Keller issues a press release instead of holding one of his many press conferences. Such is the case with what happened when UNM rejected his plan to use the UNM vacant land.

In his press release, Mayor Keller announced the city is only now convening a working group that includes UNM, county administrative leaders and elected officials to work out remaining details on a site, design, construction, and operation for the Gateway Center. Such a working group of city, county, UNM and elected officials should have been done long ago. No names were announced.

You would think Mayor Keller, with his penchant for press conferences, would have held yet another a press conference to introduce all members of the working group, but then again, he is probably scrambling to find people to appoint. The working group is likely just another public relations afterthought to save a little face for the Mayor as he seeks a second term.

Albuquerque Journal Editorial: Much-lauded state pension ‘fix’ is really just a Band-Aid; 2020 PERA Pension Reform Measure “Fabricated Crisis”

Below is the Albuquerque Journal March 14 Editorial with link followed by the link to my March 9 blog article entitled “Governor Lujan Grisham Signs PERA Pension Reform Measure To Fix Fabricated Crisis Created By Her Appointed Pension Reform Task Force”

Editorial: Much-lauded state pension ‘fix’ is really just a Band-Aid
Saturday, March 14th, 2020 at 12:05am

There was plenty of self congratulation when the Legislature passed and the governor signed New Mexico’s latest “fix” for the state’s chronically underfunded public employee pension system. It pumps in a one-time cash infusion of 55 million in tax dollars, freezes and limits cost-of-living adjustments for two years, moves to a profit-sharing model for COLAs – based on investment success – and bumps up contributions by both employees and government employers – aka taxpayers.

“By paying out more than it was taking in,” the governor said, “PERA was on a path to eventual bankruptcy. Now we’ve reversed course, and I’m confident New Mexico can keep its promises to current and future retirees.” Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup and a pension-fix co-sponsor, said “we’re watching after everyone’s future.” Rep. Phelps Anderson, R- Roswell and a co-sponsor, told colleagues “New Mexico has overpromised, (and) we’ve got to step up and deal with that. …”

They were half right. We have overpromised. But this isn’t the long-term fix needed. If it feels like you’ve seen this movie before, you have. You’re likely going to see it again – especially if markets continue to reel under the impact of oil prices and coronavirus. Fund solvency is tied to investment success.

Lawmakers “fixed” PERA in 2013, using many of the same tools – increasing contribution rates and trimming benefits.

PERA Executive Director Wayne Propst said in November 2013 he was optimistic but it was too early to “pop the champagne corks.” No kidding. PERA’s unfunded liability has climbed from $4.6 billion to more than $6 billion since then. (And in 2019 the Legislature approved a $5.5 million infusion – described as a small step for pension reform.)

This year’s legislation grew out of a governor’s task force and drew heated opposition from retirees, who understandably feel promises should be kept. Approval wasn’t easy.
But declaring victory and achieving it are different things.

When this legislation is fully implemented in 2023, government will contribute 19.24% of each salary under the main plan for PERA-covered workers, who will contribute 10.92%.
The “fix” didn’t implement the vital structural change needed for long-term solvency – changing when workers can start drawing benefits. At a time when life expectancy has increased, as a general rule state workers can retire after 25 years and draw benefits of up to 90% of their best three years’ salary for life.

It’s worth noting in 2013 the state had about 55,000 employees and nearly 34,000 retirees. This year? Workers are about 50,000, retirees 40,000. With the baby boom aging out of the workforce, the basic trend will continue – and a hiring spree to shore up the fund will make things worse.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said during a pre-legislative seminar it isn’t possible to have a fiscally sound system in which you can work for 25 years, then draw benefits for 45. “That’s not a pension system. That’s a Ponzi scheme.” Ultimately, current workers must be protected but a path to fiscal sanity needs to look more like Social Security, where you don’t draw full benefits until close to retirement age.

The structural problem here is pretty obvious, as is the lack of appetite for real reform – especially in an election year. Meanwhile, it’s fair to suggest that at nearly 20%, we’ve reached the limit for bumping up public contributions. Let’s face it. A huge part of the state’s population has no retirement plan outside Social Security.

Ivey-Soto is right. This hard discussion can only be put off for so long. The taxpayers of this state, and the public employees, deserve a real “fix.”


Below is the link to my March 9 blog article entitled “Governor Lujan Grisham Signs Pera Pension Reform Measure To Fix Fabricated Crisis Created By Her Appointed Pension Reform Task Force”

Governor Lujan Grisham Signs “PERA Pension” Reform Measure To Fix “Fabricated Crisis” Created By Her Appointed Pension Reform Task Force

Resign If You Can’t Enforce NM’s Red Flag Law

On March 13, the Albquerque Jounral Published my guest editorial comment on New Mexico’s newly enacted “Red Flag” law. Following is the column and the link to it:

Resign if you can’t enforce NM’s red flag law
Friday, March 13th, 2020 at 12:05am

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the “Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act” also known as a “red flag” law. She said that any elected county sheriff who refuses to enforce the law should resign.

They should.

“Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions have been enacted by 27 county commissions to prevent enforcement of gun control laws. The blunt truth is the resolutions exceed county commission authority and are null and void.

Thirty of the state’s elected sheriffs opposed the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, arguing it violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms, the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure and the 14th Amendment depriving “any person of life, liberty and property, without due process of law.” The three amendments are cited by gun fanatics to oppose meaningful gun control. Each separately and together have limitations and exceptions subject to court interpretations.

Virtually every Republican in the House voted against the bill. As Republicans cast their votes, they held up copies of the Constitution. Democrats should have held up copies of death certificates to symbolize suicides and dead victims of domestic gun violence. The New Mexico suicide rate is 21.9 deaths per 100,000 people, which is more than 50% higher than the national average. Ten counties in New Mexico have suicide rates at least twice the national average. Current statistics are one in three N.M. women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. New Mexico has ranked among the top 10 states with the highest rates of women killed by men during the last decade.

The new law allows for court-ordered seizure of guns from individuals deemed an imminent danger to themselves or others. Law enforcement officers, acting on information provided by a relative, school administrator or employer, can exclusively seek a court order prohibiting someone from having firearms. The petition must be based on “probable cause” to believe the individual “poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others.” If granted, a court can order the temporary seizure of firearms for up to 10 days and until a hearing can be held. After a hearing, the order could be extended one year. It’s “due process of law.”

An “extreme risk order” is an extension of the 2019 New Mexico legislative law prohibiting gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act where domestic abusers must surrender their firearms to law enforcement. Gun possession prohibition also applies to people convicted of other crimes. Seventeen states have adopted “red-flag” laws, with 13 states passing them since the Parkland High School shooting killed 17 people.

Given New Mexico’s high suicide rates, domestic violence killings and the threat of mass shootings, it is shameful elected county sheriffs are more concerned about “Second Amendment rights” believing anyone, including those who pose a harm to themselves and others, should have the right to a firearm of their choosing. Elected sheriffs hide behind the Second, Fourth and 14th amendments so as not to protect or enforce the rights of others who have the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” guaranteed as much under the Constitution as the right to bear arms.
In the violent world of domestic violence, mass shootings, mental illness and suicide, elected sheriffs who oppose meaningful gun-control legislation the red flag law represents are negligent in performing their duties and responsibilities to serve and protect the general public. They choose to promote their own fanatical pro-gun political philosophy and their own personal interpretation of the law and constitutional rights.

County sheriffs who refuses to enforce the new red flag law need to resign immediately and allow county commissions to vet and appoint their replacements. Too many have died in New Mexico from suicides and domestic violence to the point that gun-rights fanaticism placing perceived gun rights over victims’ rights has no place in law enforcement.

Mayor Keller Announces Appointment Replacing City Councilor Ken Sanchez

On March 11, Mayor Tim Keller announced the appointment of Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena to fill the District 1 City Council seat held for 14 years by Ken Sanchez, who passed away weeks after a medical event in November. She was vetted by a committee and Mayor Keller interviwed the applicants before making the selection.

Sena, who is Vietnamese, will be the first Asian American to serve on the council. She will also be the first woman to represent City Council District 1. District 1 is referred to as the Westside City Council District and includes most of the area west of the Rio Grande between Central and Montaño. According to the mayor’s office, City Councillor Sena is a West Side neighborhood leader and activist, she is a health care advocate and a three-time cancer survivor. In her application letter, Sena said she has advocated for earned paid leave, democracy reform and language accessibility. According to Sena, her mother arrived in Albuquerque as a refugee from a war-torn nation. She was four months pregnant and didn’t know anyone in the city. She said Albuquerque embraced her mother.


There were a total of 16 applicants for the City Council District 1 Position. Those applicants were:

1. Barbara Baca, the former City Parks and Recreation Director, now retired, and . elected member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board. Baca is also the daughter of long time former Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Baca who was Ken Sanchez’s predecessor on the City Council.

2. Michael Gallegos, former Las Vegas, N.M., City Councilor who served for 12 years.

3. Daniel Green, a grocery store supervisor.

4. Kristopher Finfrock-Martinez who lives in Tijeras but disclosed he has lived in District 1 before and plans to move back. The city charter mandates that City Councilor must be residents of their Districts so he in all likely is disqualified. Mr. Finfrock-Martinez has said he is a “proud supporter” of Republican President Donald Trump.

5. Michael Gary Garcia, a pharmacist who has said he graduated with Sanchez from West Mesa High School.

6. Attorney Damian Lara, a 2018 Democratic primary candidate for the city’s U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by now Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

7. Angelo Lujan, who interned in the Mayor’s Office under both Mayor Berry and Mayor Keller and who now works for a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities.

8. Jaclyn Sanchez, Councilor Sanchez’s daughter and a local salon owner.

9. Victor Segura, a small-business owner who was also a city hall appointee of Mayor Martin Chavez.

10. Dan Serrano, current member of the city’s Environmental Planning Commission and founder of the ABQWest Chamber of Commerce.

11. Melonie Mathews, program director for the Gathering of Nations Ltd.

12. Andres Rivera, a University of New Mexico School of Law student.

13. Jeff Turcotte, a coach and activities director for St. Pius X High School.

14. Dr. Joe Valles, a dentist and former president of the West Side Coalition.

15. Pete Zollinger, longtime Democratic Party political activist who ran for congress and the Democratic nominee against former Republican United States Congressman Steve Schiff.


Congratulations to City Councilor Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena as she begins a great adventure in the rough and tumble city hall politics. Good luck to her as she begins her city political career.

Mayor Tim Keller’s appointment of Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena to fill the District 1 City Council seat held for 14 years by Ken Sanchez is without a doubt one of the most critical appointments of his tenure as Mayor. The fact that there are 15 other applicants for the political appointment means that it is likely one or more of those applicants have been alienated by the appointment.

Mayor Keller has already made it known that he is seeking a second four year term as Mayor in 2021, and newly appointed City Councilor Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena will also be required to run next year if she wants to serve a full 4 year term in her own right. Given the number of applicants, it is more likely than not that one or more of those applicants will run against City Councilor Thanh-Lan “Lan” Sena.

With only one year before she has declare to run if she wants, she will have to learn quickly what’s going on the city council to avoid making a mistake that can cost an election bid.

Its HEEEERE! Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham Declares Public Health Emergency; Ban On Public Events; Schools Closed For 3 Weeks; Catholic Church Services Cancelled

IT’S HEEEERE! For the last week, the corona virus has dominated the national news. All three national media news agencies have devoted up to half of their beginning news programs to the corona virus and then some and what’s happening around the world.

Each time the news casts would put up a map of the United States showing the states in red where the virus has been found, New Mexico would be in black. Now New Mexico is in red. With 5 cases of the virus now found in New Mexico, the pandemic has indeed arrived to the Land of Enchantment.



The corona virus was formally declared a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the World Health Organization there are more than 124,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 104 countries and territories. More than 4,200 people have died worldwide. Of those deaths, more than 3,100 people have died in China.

More than 1,200 people across 38 states and Washington D.C. who have confirmed cases of coronavirus. The U.S. death toll is at least 33, including 24 deaths in Washington state. More than 1,100 cases are spread across at least 41 states and the District of Columbia. At least 33 people have died. 25 have died in Washington state, four have died in California, two have died in Florida, one died in New Jersey and one in South Dakota.


The NBA has suspended its season “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive March 11 for the coronavirus, a move that came only hours after the majority of the league’s owners were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas. Now there will be no games at all. Other major sporting event tournaments such as the rest of the NCAA finals are being held without fans.


President Trump spoke to the nation announcing a 3O day travel restrictions. Trump said he is suspending all travel between the U.S. and Europe for foreign nationals for 30 days beginning Friday as he seeks to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Trump blamed the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the coronavirus and saying United States clusters were “seeded” by European travelers. The truth is the only “cluster” is in the White House given the President’s poor handling of the crisis.


Just when things were looking great with respect to oil and gas royalties to finance state government, BAM the corona virus hits, a global oil price war ensues, and New Mexico gets hit in the process, all within one month since the adjournment of the New Mexico legislature. The global oil price war has hit hard the recent revenue boom and has caused the state budget surplus to evaporate. New Mexico’s most recent revenue estimates pegged oil prices for the budget year that ends in June to average $52 per barrel and the price of oil has now plummeted to $33.19 dollars a barrel. The result was the Governor vetoing the $49 million capital outlay bill and line item vetos of another $100 million in projects from the $7.3 Billion dollar budget.


On March 11, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham became the first New Mexico Governor to invoke the 2003 Public Health Emergency Response Act (PHERA), issuing an Executive Order declaring a “public health emergency” giving her administration broad powers to deal with the coronavirus . The governor urged people to avoid public gatherings, sanitize common surfaces and minimize contact with other individuals, even if it means staying home from church or going out less often in order to slow transmission of the virus. During a press conference declaring the emergency, Lujan Grisham said New Mexico has 2,400 tests available to determine who has the coronavirus. Health officials will be determining who is most in need of the test. The state has completed about 129 tests for the coronavirus so far and just 5 have turned up “presumptive positive.”


In announcing the Public Health Emergency the Governor had this to say:

“This is a very highly infectious virus. … This is a serious situation. I will use every tool and resource to keep us safe.”


Republican State Senator William Sharer, R-Farmington, accused the governor of going too far. He declared people should take common-sense steps to protect themselves, but said the governor’s message will damage tourism and disrupt life in New Mexico far beyond what’s necessary.

In a written statement, Republican Senator Sharer had this to say:

“The Governor has called for mass panic, then told us not to panic. . . I encourage people to take common sense measures to prevent the spread of any disease. We all should take the same precautions as we do to avoid the flu. If we put this in perspective, many more people get sick and die from the seasonal flu in our state every year than have contracted COVID19 in the entire United States.

While we are concerned about the seasonal flu, we don’t declare states of emergency and cause panic over it. The governor’s emergency declaration is already having huge negative effects, The governor has touted tourism as the way to move away from the fossil fuel industry that currently funds the state budget. As of today’s emergency declaration, she is actively destroying that industry as well. . . The panic the governor induced in New Mexico has the potential to go on and on. Wash your hands and ignore the panic.”


Following the announcement of the 5 coronavirus cases in the state, the New Mexico Athletics Association (NMAA) made the decision to ban fans from the state basketball tournament. The NMAA will limit those in attendance to essential team personnel. The decision was made hours after the NMAA released a statement that encouraged people who were ill to stay home.


On Wednesday, March 11, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency after the state Health Department confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus cases in New Mexico. In the interest of public safety, Governor Lujan Grisham ordered the cancellation or postponement of all events in state-owned facilities including the Gathering of Nations. All events at Expo New Mexico have been canceled at least through the end of March. These include the Monster Jam, Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival, the World Series of Team Roping, ABQ Rubber Stamp Show, Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Festival, Central New Mexico STEM Research Challenge, MasterWorks of New Mexico, New Mexico Renaissance Celtic Festival, New Mexico Photographic Art Show, and Treasures of the Earth Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Expo. The flea markets have also been closed through the end of the month.

The Good Shepherd Center canceled the annual Brother Mathias Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner scheduled for Saturday. People who pre-purchased tickets can get a refund by calling 243-2527 extension 303.

The Albuquerque Little Theatre is postponing all performances of “Beauty and the Beast,” scheduled for March 13, 14 and 15. Those who already have tickets can call the box office Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at 505-242-4750 extension 2.

The U.S. Army announced it was canceling this year’s Bataan Memorial Death March on March 15 at White Sands Missile Range. Just a day earlier, organizers announced that a record-breaking 10,000 had registered to march this year.


On March 12, New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel announced a temporary ban on public mass gatherings of 100 people or more, as the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have rapidly intensified. Secretary Kunkel has the authority to impose the ban under the 2003 Public Health Emergency Response Act (PHERA) now that the Govener has declared a public health emergency. Mass gathering means any public or private gathering that brings together 100 or more individuals in a single room or connected space in close proximity to one another.

The ban announced by Secretary Kunkel applies to facilities such as auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theaters, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. The ban took effect immediately. However, airports, public transportation and shopping malls are exempt from the order. It also does not apply to weddings, funerals, restaurants, bars, hospitals and schools, retail stores, grocery stores, offices, businesses, clinics, courthouses, places of worship or shopping Malls.



Late March 12, Cabinet Education Secretary Ryan Stewart announce that all New Mexico public schools will be closed and classes canceled, starting Monday, March 16, for three weeks. The governor’s office said in a news release that the closure of K-12 public schools is in response to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

Education Secretary Ryan Stewart had this to say about the school closures:

“This is a proactive measure to limit the potential community spread of COVID-19. …We have seen other states take this measure after they have experienced community spread of this virus. New Mexico is going to be proactive and do everything we can to prevent the potential spread of the virus. I have been in communication with all of our superintendents about this proactive step, and we are all going to work together to address this public health challenge.”



Archbishop John C. Wester announced on Thursday, March 12, that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is canceling its church services and closing its schools until further notice, effective immediately, following the lead of state officials who have ordered the closure of all New Mexico K-12 public schools for three weeks. The measures were taken to prevent community spread of COVID-19. The Archbishop had this to say about his decision:

“The church is very much pro-life and we see this as very much a pro-life issue. … We are concerned about the health of our parishioners, particularly those who are elderly, and people with underlying and chronic health conditions.”



When Republican State Senator William Sharer says “Wash your hands and ignore the panic” the only one that needs to be ignored is Sharer, given that even Republican President Trump knows how bad things are getting and the impact it is having on a crashing stock market. Instead of just keeping his mouth shut and allowing the Governor to lead, Senator Sharer pops off deciding to ignore science and medicine and suggests to “wash your hands”.

It is clear that this is a very infectious disease that is spreading like a wild fire throughput the world, the United States and now New Mexico. The Governor is taking action to get a handle on the health crisis and its called leadership. There is no doubt that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham knows what she is doing and declaring a “Public Health Emergency” was without a doubt the right call.

Governor Lujan Grisham has the experience, knowledge and credentials to deal with the crisis. From 2004-2007 Governor Lujan Grisham served as the Secretary of the Department of Health, the agency that now assumes power in making decisions regarding coronavirus and public safety. The Governor also served as a longtime director of the New Mexico Agency on Aging, now the Aging and Long-Term Services Department, experience that is timely because the coronavirus is most serious for individuals over 60, many of whom are in nursing facilities that the Governor as a cabinet secretary oversaw.

Government officials urged people to protect themselves by:

Washing their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

Cleaning “high-touch” surfaces daily with regular household cleaners

When coughing, use a tissue or cough into the forearm of your elbow

Avoiding the sharing of personal household items and, when sick, staying home rather that going to work or school

Staying home when sick

Avoid large crowds and public events

Older adults and those with chronic illnesses are most at risk to contract the virus that could result in death from complications. Even healthy people not worried about getting sick should take steps to protect themselves and others. The strategy must be to limit the chance of transmitting the disease to persons who are more vulnerable.

Abq Drops In “Best Preforming Cities” In Milken Institute Report; Wage Earners “Left Behind”; City Fails To Diversify Economy

The Milken Institute is a think tank that is based in California. Since 2002, the Milken Institute’s “Best-Performing Cities” report has tracked the economic performance of major large and small United State Metropolitan cities using 9 individual criteria to track job growth, including wage growth, high-tech gross domestic product (GDP) indicators and overall wage and salary. 200 cities are ranked on overall performance using indicators to identify components behind their success or failure.


To quote the Milken Institute report:

“The Milken Institute utilizes the geographic terms and definitions used by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The OMB defines a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) as a region generally consisting of a large population nucleus and adjacent territory with a high degree of economic and social integration, as measured by community ties. Once specific criteria are found, an MSA with a single nucleus and a population of 2.5 million or more is then divided into geographic areas called metropolitan divisions (MDs).

The Milken Institute measures growth in jobs, wages, salaries, and technology output over 5 years to adjust for extreme variations in business cycles. It also incorporates the latest available year’s performance in these areas. In addition, it includes a measure of 12-month job growth to capture recent momentum among metropolitan economies.

Employment growth is weighted more heavily because of its critical importance to community vitality, as is growth in wages and salaries because it signals the quality of the jobs being created and retained. Other measures reflect the concentration and diversity of technology industries within the MSAs and MDs. High-tech location quotients (LQs), which measure the industry’s concentration in a particular metro relative to the national average, are included to gauge an area’s participation in the knowledge-based economy.

Milken Institute also measure the number of specific high-tech fields whose concentrations in an MSA or MD are higher than the national average. Best-Performing Cities is solely an outcomes-based index. It does not incorporate input measures, such as business costs, cost-of-living components, and quality-of-life conditions, such as commute times or crime rates. These measures, although important, are prone to wide variations and can be highly subjective.”


During the week of February 24, the Milken Institute released its 2020 report on the 200 best-performing cities in the country. Albuquerque did not fair too well. The city dropped in the rankings among the 200 largest cities rated. You can review the full report here:



According to the report, out of the 200 largest cities ranked, Albuquerque went down in ranking from 125 to 161 overall. Albuquerque’s decline was the 14th-largest decline of any city on the list. The report showed Albuquerque has seen very little high-tech “Gross Domestic Product” growth over the past several years. The city and state receive billions each year from the federal government and the military for research and development. The lack of growth in high tech Gross Domestic Product is very troubling given that Sandia National Laboratories is located in Albuquerque, not to mention Los Alamos National laboratory.

Michael Lin, one of the report’s authors, said Albuquerque historically has fared well in categories focusing on the concentration of tech workers in the city due in part to the presence of Sandia labs. Lin attributed the City’s decline in high tech jobs in part to a relative lack of industry diversification within the tech sector and said:

“If you look at San Francisco or San Jose, they have something more than national defense.”


Kevin Klowden, who oversaw the study for the Milken Institute, said Albuquerque’s ranking suffered from stagnant wages and relatively slow high-tech industry growth over the past several years and said:

“What happens is that you wind up in a situation where even if a city is adding jobs, it’s not doing it in a way that’s lending itself to a healthy enough economy.”

Albuquerque suffered from poor wage growth despite a significant decline in its unemployment rate. For the two-year period of 2017 to 2018, Albuquerque ranked 177th in wage growth, and 167th in wage growth over the past five years from 2013 to 2018. The slow wage growth may be due to Albuquerque’s high number of government jobs, which tend to have more steady wages than private-sector jobs.

Smaller cities in New Mexico did not fare very well either. Slow wage growth extended to Santa Fe, which ranked 166th and to Farmington which placed 196th on the list of 200 small cities. Klowden said he was encouraged by Farmington’s relatively strong recent job growth in 2018 and 2019 but added both Santa Fe and Farmington were hurt by stagnant wages saying:

“The state is being left behind in wage growth.”

The only New Mexico city to rise in the rankings was Las Cruces. It jumped in the studies ranking from 173 in 2019 to 102 in the 2020 report. Las Cruces posted strong tech growth in 2019 which can be credited to the growing defense and aerospace industry by new jobs at Spaceport America.

Research source materials:




For comparison purposes, and using metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) defined as a region generally consisting of a large population nucleus and adjacent territory, following are the ten best performing cities and rankings followed by Albuquerque’s Rankings according to the Milken Report:

San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, California:
2020 Rank 1, 2018 Rank 4, Change: +3

Provo-Oram, Utah:
2020 Rank 2, 2018 Rank 1, Change: -3

Austin-Round Rock, Texas
2020 Rank 3, 2018 Rank 3, Change: Steady

Reno, Nevada:
2020 Rank 4, 2018 Rank 11, Change: +7

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
2020 Rank 5 (tied), 2018 Rank 2, Change: -3

Orlando, Kissimmee, Sanford, Florida
2020 Rank 5 (tied), 2018 Rank 7, Change: -2

Boise City, Indiana
2020 Rank 7, 2018 Rank 12, Change: +5

Seattle, Bellevue Everette, Washington
2020 Rank 8, 2018 Rank, Change: Steady

Dallas, Plano, Irving, Texas
2020 Rank 9, 2018 Rank 5, Change: -4

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
2020 Rank 10, 2018 Rank 54, Change: +47


Albuquerque’s drop in rankings reflected in the report listing the 200 Best Performing Larger cities are as follows:
2020 Rank 161, 2018 125, Change: -36

Albuquerque’s 5-year job growth ranking (2013 to 2018) : 156
Albuquerque’s 1-year job growth ranking: 134



The Milken Report is 56 pages long and contains an Executive Summary followed by a detailed breakdown of the various cities and their rankings. The link to the entire report as a “pdf document” for download is here:

Following is a report summary of the 4 major highlights delineated in the Executive Summary of the report:

1. “San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA, regains the crown as the best-performing large metro after 2014. The skilled workforce, abundant venture capital (VC), and innovation and entrepreneurial culture support regional high value-added industries, including the expanding tech and biotech industries. The metro’s excellent performance in our five-year high-tech GDP growth (ranked first) illustrates this point.”

2. “Twenty-one top-performing large metros return from our 2018 Best-Performing Large Cities Index. A substantial number of them are metros with dynamic tech sectors, including San FranciscoRedwood City-South San Francisco, CA; Provo-Orem, UT; Austin-Round Rock, TX; and San Jose Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA. Others, like Reno, NV, continue to develop a diverse industrial base while experiencing rapid growth in the advanced manufacturing and technology sectors.”

3. “California secured four (San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA; Oakland-Hayward- Berkeley, CA; and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA) of the Top 25 spots among large metros. The Bay Area in Northern California consistently shows economic excellence powered by high value-added industries. “

4. “For the fourth straight year, Bend, OR, ranks first in our Best-Performing Small Cities list. Compared with other small metros, the region has a rather diverse industrial composition with a well-developed, niche tech scene in e-commerce and vehicle technology. Bend’s entrepreneurial community has also helped grow its tech sector.”

“Overall, metros with strong tech industries remain the superstars of regional economies. One key factor in the success of these tech powerhouses is their ability to engage in new technologies. For instance, metros in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley area of California (San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA, and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA) lead tech innovation.”

https://milkeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/reports-pdf/BPC-2020%20Report.pdf Pages 1 and 2


During the last 10 years, Albuquerque has fallen to the bottom and in many cases dead last of every meaningful ranking in the country, including economy, jobs, crime, education, real estate, desirability, and traffic. According to one Brookings Institution report, the Albuquerque metro area’s economy was so bad between 2009 and 2014 that it almost fell off the charts of three measures of economic health. In a Brookings Institute Report on the largest 100 metro areas in the U.S., Albuquerque ranked 100th, 99th and 83rd in the three areas measured by Brookings: Growth, Prosperity and Inclusion.

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of New Mexico (UNM) lists the nine (9) major Albuquerque industries or economy sectors as follows:

1. Retail and Wholesale Trade
2. Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities
3. Manufacturing
4. Education and Health Services
5. Accommodation and Food Services
6. Real Estate & Financial Activities
7. Professional and Other Services
8. Information
9. Government


Clearly the film industry in Albuquerque is emerging as a major new industry in Albuquerque with the NBC Universal deal and the NETFLIX purchase of ALB STUDIOS.


On June 14, NBC Universal announce it will open a studio in Albuquerque as part of a 10-year venture with Garcia Realty and Development. The media giant will be taking over, renovating and creating sound stages at a now vacant industrial building south of I-40 on Commercial Street, north of downtown in the vicinity of historic Martineztown.

The NBC Universal plans are to redevelop the warehouse into a state-of-the-art television and film studio with two sound stages, offices and a film production mill. The turnaround time for the renovations is very short and it’s expected to be complete in the fall of 2019.

The media giant is expected to provide more than 330 full-time jobs year-round at the film studio. NBC Universal employees will earn about $58,000 a year. The studio operation is projected to generate an economic impact of $1.1 billion over a 10-year period.

Once complete, the studio will be used by NBC Universal to produce scripted productions for many platforms, including broadcast and cable channels.

The state’s Economic Development Department is providing $7.7 million through the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) to the redevelopment and production commitment. The City of Albuquerque will provide another $3 million from its LEDA fund which was approved by the Albuquerque City Council on June 17, 2019 by a unanimous vote.



On October 8, 2018, it was announced that Netflix was buying Albuquerque Studios.

Source materials:



The State contributed $10 million of Local Economic Development Act funds. The City of Albuquerque contributed another $4.5 million of Local Economic Development Funds. Albuquerque beat out other places such as Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, New York, Georgia and Los Angeles. The Albuquerque site will be Netflix’s first hub purchased in the United States.

It is estimated that at least 1,000 well-paying jobs per year will be created. The jobs will run the gamut of film and TV production work, most of which is project-based contract labor. Many of the jobs are expected to pay $70,000 a year. The purchase deal also calls for $1 billion worth of production spent over 10 years which will have a dramatic effect on the City and State economies.



A service-based industry is one that offers its products, goods or services primarily within a particular region and does not supply markets outside the region nor increase the economic base of a region. In general, service base industries offer lower paying or minimum wage jobs not requiring much education or technical skills.

An economic base job is one created or needed by a business or industry that increases economic growth of a region by increasing exports of manufactured products, goods or services from the local economy or region to another region or economy thereby increasing the size of the local economy with profits and cash flow from outside the region.

The corner stone of the “economic base theory” is that an increase in economic growth of a region or economy is dependent on increase in exports, manufactured goods or services from one region or economy to another region or economy and supplying markets outside the local economy.


On June 19, 2018, a report entitled “An Equity Profile of Albuquerque” was released. You can read the entire report here:


The report is a racial profile of the city and the impact race has on the city economy.

The Equity Profile Report examined the indicators of economic and social inclusion and found that “equitable growth” leads to a stronger local economy.

In the report, and “equitable city” is defined as “when all residents – regardless of their race/ethnicity, nativity, gender, income, neighborhood of residence, or other characteristics – are fully able to participate in the city’s economic vitality, contribute to the region’s readiness for the future, and connect to the region’s assets and resources.”
(See “An Equity Profile of Albuquerque”, page 11).


Since the 1950’s, Albuquerque has relied upon the federal government for billions in funding. As goes federal spending, so goes our economy. Over the last few decades, especially the last, the mantra from politicians, community leaders and the business community has been Albuquerque and New Mexico need to diversify the economy and wean itself off of federal funding. Further, Albuquerque’s economy is the economic engine of the State. Albuquerque’s ranking of 161 out of 200 in the 2020 Milken Institute report is clear evidence that the City is continuing to fail at diversifying its economy.


Albuquerque has made some progress with economic development in diversifying its economy with the film industry with the NBC Universal deal and the NETFLIX purchase of ALB STUDIOS as evidence of this fact. Critics of the film industry proclaim that the film industry is very fickle, not to be relied upon and that New Mexico and the City will never fully recover all the subsidies and tax credits paid and given to it.

Notwithstanding the criticism leveled against the film industry, last year alone, the film and TV production industry brought in over $180 million of direct spending to the city and state. With the Nextflex purchase, the State now has a major production and distribution company hub that will produce projects on a consistent time line for at least 10 years and probably more. Far more important, $70,000 a year jobs will be crated and have to be filled.

The emerging Albuquerque film industry is the first time in a very long time that a new industry is emerging that is producing a large number of economic based jobs. Once Netflex is fully up and running, it is expected to produce at a minimum 1,000 jobs with many of those jobs paying $70,000 a year. NBC Universal employees are expected earn about $58,000 a year. The jobs Netflex and NBC will be providing are a far cry from the hourly wage jobs provided by the minimum wage “call centers” that the state and city have become accustomed to being announced.

The City and the State need to continue with efforts that will ensure that our education institutions such as the New Mexico Community College continue to offer a trained work force for the film industry. Both the City and the State need to create more incentives to build and guarantee that the film industry continues to grow and prosper in New Mexico.


Albuquerque and New Mexico need to pursue with a vengeance the real growth industry like healthcare, transportation and manufacturing, the film industry and the recreational industry to diversify our economy. Public-private partnerships in the growth industries where ever possible should be encouraged and developed. Special emphasis and support should be given to the film industry which is developing, expanding and proving to be very successful in providing well-paying jobs. A good start would be funding a $20 million initial startup fund for new local businesses with claw back provisions with the program administered by the Economic Development Department.

When it comes to economic development and diversifying the city’s economy, far more must be done. Albuquerque can and must expand and find better ways to use financial incentives for economic development such as tax increment districts (TIDS), industrial revenue bonds, and even fund economic development investment programs such as initial startup funding with claw back provisions. Public-private partnerships in the growth industries where ever possible should be encouraged and developed. Emphasis must be placed on attracting “economic based” job industries and not the service industry-based jobs the city is accustomed to attracting .

The June 19, 2018 “Equity Profile of Albuquerque” released needs to be relied upon heavily by the city formulate an economic development program to diversify the Albuquerque economy. The report found persistent inequities by race and gender that are holding the city back from having a stronger local economy. The report identifies 22 industries that are expected to grow over the 10-year period from 2014 to 2024. The report also identified 22 specific occupations that are expected to grow over the 10-year period from 2014 to 2024.


Our elected officials and the business community, including the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, Albuquerque Economic Development (AED), the Economic Forum, NAIOP and the banking, finance and development industries, need to think long and hard about finally doing something to attract new industry instead of just being satisfied with protecting their own financial interests and bottom lines and membership drives.

Our political, business and civic leaders need to show far more backbone and commitment to improving and diversifying Albuquerque’s economy. Otherwise, we are destined to become a dying, dusty southwest city without any real potential for growth and better economic times.

Until then, “lights, camera, action.”