"Errors of Enchantment" Latest Blog Postings

A Box-Office Bomb for Taxpayers

We didn’t need more evidence that New Mexico’s welfare-for-Hollywood is a disaster. But we just got some.

Today the Albuquerque Journal reported that a new study, “conducted by the Canadian accounting firm MNP and [relying] on payroll data, industry interviews and financial reports filed with the New Mexico Film Office,” found that “total statewide spending on goods and services by … film and television productions declined from 2011 through 2014, with $118.7 million being spent in the 2011 budget year and $82.8 million being spent in 2014.” In addition, direct employment fell between the 2010 and 2014 fiscal years.

Errors of Enchantment ran the numbers recently, and came to the same conclusion.

Curiously — or maybe, not — MNP’s study is not available on the website of the New Mexico Film Office. Nor is it accessible via the New Mexico Economic Development Department. The Foundation has requested, via phone and email, a PDF of the study. Stay tuned….

Update: We’ve obtained the study. Some findings not covered in the Journal‘s story:

* Production spending in New Mexico declined from $276.7 million in 2011 to $162.1 million in 2014.

* New Mexico residents accounted for just 46 percent of performing artists, 35 percent of “key creative” employees, and 24 percent of post-production staffers.

* Production spending by region of the state was 5.3 percent in the northeast, 2.5 percent in the northwest, 0.3 percent in the southeast, and 0.5 percent in the southwest. Congrats, taxpayers in Raton, Farmington, Hobbs, and Deming!

Civil Asset Forfeiture Discussion – Albuquerque

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Thu, 2015-10-08 12:48
What's Next for Justice?
Civil Asset Forfeiture and the
Path Forward in New Mexico.

Click here for registration form.

In 2015, New Mexico became one of the first states to largely abolish civil asset forfeiture. The legislature unanimously passed and Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill requiring that a person be convicted of a criminal offense before having his or her property seized. The reform was perhaps surprising given the state's record: Since 2008, New Mexico law enforcement agencies have spent $24.5 million in seized funds.

Despite facing serious opposition from federal, state, and local levels of law enforcement, New Mexico's civil forfeiture reform has signaled serious changes for the state's criminal justice system.

Can New Mexico policymakers use this momentum from enacting civil asset forfeiture reform not only to defend their hard-earned gains but to provide a springboard towards additional, meaningful criminal justice reforms in the state? What other areas of reform are necessary to increase public safety and reduce the high cost of both crime and incarceration? How can New Mexico's reform serve as a model for the rest of the United States?

Please join the Charles Koch Institute and the Rio Grande Foundation for dinner and a discussion on the future of justice in New Mexico, featuring remarks from those involved in the reform process.

About The Event:

  • When:  Wednesday, October 14, 2015, at 6:30pm; doors open at 6:00pm. A light dinner reception will follow the evening's discussion.
  • Where:  Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town, 800 Rio Grande Boulevard NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87104.
  • Cost:  Free!

Participant Information:

  • Moderator:  Paul J. Gessing, President, Rio Grande Foundation
  • Panelists:  Steven Robert Allen, Director of Public Policy, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico; Brad Cates, Former Director, U.S. Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program; Diego Esquibel, Attorney, The Barnett Law Firm; Vikrant Reddy, Senior Research Fellow, Charles Koch Institute
  • Remarks:  Representative Antonio Maestas, (D), New Mexico House of Representatives

Click here for registration form.

A Prime Opportunity to Privatize Tourism-Promotion

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Wed, 2015-10-07 16:18

Yesterday, Governor Martinez announced that “tourism in 2014 generated the largest economic impact in state history, injecting $6.1 billion into New Mexico’s economy and supporting nearly 89,000 jobs.”

It’s good news for a state that has yet to recover from the Great Recession. (The Land of Enchantment has fewer jobs today than it did in early 2008.)

But it’s also a reminder that taxpayers foot much of the bill to market the tourism industry. This fiscal year, the Tourism Department will spend $13.6 million, while the budget for the Department of Cultural Affairs tops $30 million.

Do all those millions represent a wise “public investment”? Probably not. Earlier this year, the Mackinac Center’s Michael J. Hicks and Michael D. LaFaive found that in Michigan, “while government marketing of tourism activities does generate value for some industries, the benefits were puny and outweighed by the costs to the state’s economy as a whole.”

Even without tourism promotion — be it funded by government or the private sector — New Mexico would draw plenty of visitors, from hikers to Ufologists, foodies to art aficionados. The governor and legislators should recognize that there is no legitimate role for government to play in bringing tourists to the state, and pursue privatization-oriented reforms. With the industry on the rebound in New Mexico, there’s no time like the present.

GRT Hike in ABQ: Just Vote No!

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Tue, 2015-10-06 11:55

It’s Election Day in Albuquerque. Two city council races are contested, and voters will decided the fate of several bond issues and charter amendments.

But the big faceoff today is between supporters and opponents of a GRT increase for the BioPark.

Here’s the Foundation’s case against the tax hike, which appeared last month in Albuquerque Business First.

KRQE’s Candace Hopkins spoke to the Foundation about the “revenue enhancement” recently, as did KKOB’s Stephanie Claytor.

Jay Nordlinger Luncheon: Children of Monsters – Albuquerque

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Sun, 2015-10-04 13:07
Rio Grande Foundation Speaker Series Event:
Luncheon with Jay Nordlinger
Senior Editor of National Review:
Children of Monsters Jay Nordlinger writes the “Impromptus” column
for National Review Magazine and
will discuss the current political scene.

Click here for registration form.

What if you learned your father was a tyrant, a megalomaniac, a mass murderer? Jay Nordlinger’s Children of Monsters: An Inquiry into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators is a fascinating and at times ghoulish study of evil that may make your skin crawl, but it is also a book about people and the highly unusual situation these individuals share in common.

Nordlinger is a senior editor of National Review, writing the “Impromptus” column, and music critic of The New Criterion. In his book he surveys 20 of the most horrific dictators: Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and so on, and investigates what kind of lives their offspring have made for themselves. Some were loyalists who admired their father. Some actually succeeded them as dictator. A few were critics, even defectors. What they all have in common, Nordlinger shows, is the prison house of tainted privilege and the legacy of dubious deference. Nordlinger will also discuss the current political scene.

  • Location:  Marriott Uptown, 2101 Louisiana Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110 (note new event location).
  • When:  Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 12:00 noon to 1:00pm.
  • Cost:  Seating is limited and can be purchased at the discounted price of $30 through Tuesday, October 28, 2015; $40 thereafter.

Nordlinger’s previous book was: Peace, They Say, a history of the Nobel Peace Prize. In his journalism, Nordlinger writes about a variety of subjects, including politics, foreign affairs, and the arts. He writes a column called “Impromptus.” In 2011, he filmed The Human Parade, with JayNordlinger, a television series bringing hour-long interviews with various personalities. National Review Books published a collection of his writings, Here, There & Everywhere. A native Michigander, Nordlinger lives in New York.

Co-sponsored by:

Paul Gessing talks to Cato Institute about NM’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Success

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Sun, 2015-10-04 12:20

While at a recent conference with fellow free market think tanks, I sat down with Caleb Brown of the Cato Institute to discuss New Mexico’s successful reform of the State’s civil asset asset forfeiture laws.

The podcast is just a few minutes in length and can be found below.

In September, RTW States Score Another Win

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Fri, 2015-10-02 13:25

The Rio Grande Foundation is tracking announcements of expansions, relocations, and greenfield investments published on Area Development‘s website. Founded in 1965, the publication “is considered the leading executive magazine covering corporate site selection and relocation. … Area Development is published quarterly and has 60,000 mailed copies.” In an explanation to the Foundation, its editor wrote that items for Area Development’s announcements listing are “culled from RSS feeds and press releases that are emailed to us from various sources, including economic development organizations, PR agencies, businesses, etc. We usually highlight ones that represent large numbers of new jobs and/or investment in industrial projects.”

Last month, of 17,908 projected jobs, 12,274 — 71.9 percent — were slated for right-to-work (RTW) states:

Twelve domestic companies based in non-RTW states announced investments in RTW states. Just two announcements went the other way.

Foreign direct investment was also highly skewed. Eighteen projects are headed to RTW states, but only four are to to occur in non-RTW states.

Marquee RTW wins included the decision by Mercedes-Benz to spend $1.3 billion on a “major expansion” of its factory in Alabama, Boeing’s announcement of 200 new employees to “produce 747 fuselage panels” in Georgia, and Blue Origin’s pick of Florida for “launch, manufacturing and support facilities for its Orbital Launch Vehicle program.” (Ouch — another loss for “Spaceport America.”)

Methodological specifics:

* All job estimates — “up to,” “as many as,” “about” — were taken at face value, for RTW and non-RTW states alike.

* If an announcement did not make an employment projection, efforts were made to obtain an estimate from newspaper articles and/or press releases by elected officials and economic-development bureaucracies.

* If no job figure could be found anywhere, the project was not counted, whether it was a RTW or non-RTW state.

* Intrastate relocations were not counted, interstate relocations were.

KRQE Investigates Albuquerque’s ‘Public Servants’

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Thu, 2015-10-01 16:45

Michael Dukakis famously claimed that the 1988 election “isn’t about ideology; it’s about competence.”

Taxpayers in Albuquerque might want to remember that line, as they vote in this year’s election. In the last few days, KRQE has reported that:

* The city, which “declined to go on camera but admits [it] messed up,” aligned an iron fence enclosing Sierra Sunset Park improperly. Since then, neighboring property owner Liz Alvarez built a brick wall to “separate me from the city park and the sidewalk.” Earlier this week, workers returned to fix their mistake, leaving “a piece of Alvarez’s wall … on city property.”

* “[D]ozens of blue … lights have gone dark” on the Bear Canyon Arroyo pedestrian bridge, necessitating replacements that will cost $210,000.

* “[A]nywhere from 100 to 200 bottles” of urine, covered with old newspapers, are littering an alley near I-25 and Coal. “I called a couple times with the city,” resident Richard Reycraft told KRQE’s Lysee Mitri. “They kept saying they’d get at it and get at it, but nothing.”

* The city has used “its own employees rather than use a professional construction company” for maintenance projects at the Biopark. “Building the elephant barn, for example, took three years and cost $4.4 million. [The mayor’s chief of staff Gilbert] Montano said estimates show private crews could have done the work in a year for almost a million less.”

When the EPA Attacks (Again)

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Wed, 2015-09-30 13:02

The Albuquerque Journal has a solid editorial today on the EPA’s impending decision on tightening the standard for ozone. Writing for CNBC earlier this year, Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and John Thune (R-SD) averred that the regulatory ratcheting “could be the most expensive regulation in history and place undue burden on counties still working to comply with existing obligations, as well as impose costly regulations on new communities.” The Journal notes that “the state’s high elevation, where increased interaction of sunlight, heat and pollutants create excellent conditions for producing smog,” is sure to push many New Mexico counties into noncompliance.

The National Association of Manufacturers predicts that the tighter standard will hammer New Mexico’s gross state product, kill jobs, and cause a big drop in average annual household consumption. The benefits? Not much. In June, the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives pointed out that the EPA’s own data show that “ozone concentrations have declined over 30 percent since 1980 and will continue to do so under the 2008 standard.”

New Mexico’s Vulnerability to Washington’s Fiscal Follies

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Tue, 2015-09-29 16:00

The new federal fiscal year starts October 1, and without a budget in place, D.C. “will officially run out of the legal authority to spend money.”

With an egregiously underdeveloped private sector, the Land of Enchantment is at particular risk when Congress and the president can’t agree on a spending plan. As the Tax Foundation documented earlier this year, 36.6 percent of the state’s revenue comes from Washington:

The feds are $18.2 trillion in debt, but that hasn’t kept the moolah from flowing. In the last few weeks:

* The U.S. Justice Department awarded the New Mexico Department of Public Safety a $561,000 grant “to combat methamphetamine trafficking and related violence.”

* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the New Mexico Department of Health $850,000 to “stop prescription drug overdoses.”

* The U.S. Department of Commerce handed $1.4 million to the Siete del Norte Community Development Corporation.

* The National Institute of General Medical Sciences wrote a $11.6 million check to UNM “to find new ways to help people recover from strokes and traumatic brain injuries.”

Without an aggressive economic-development strategy, implemented yesterday, New Mexico will remain dangerously exposed to federal budget shenanigans. Isn’t it time to break free from D.C. dependence?

Solar in New Mexico: The Dream and the Reality

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Mon, 2015-09-28 15:43

Didn’t make it to the the New Mexico Solar Energy Association’s 2015 “Solar Fiesta”? No worries, the Foundation was on hand for all the silliness.

Keynote presenter John Perlin, the author of Let the Sunshine In: The 6,000 Year History of Solar Energy, offered plenty of predictable bromides. The self-proclaimed “Indiana Jones of solar energy” argued that “a lot of ‘progress’ has been regress,” “the sun wants to cooperate with us,” and “the sun belongs to everyone.” His look at the use of passive solar in China, the American Southwest, and Europe was interesting, but he stumbled badly when describing modern times. For example, if photovoltaic technology goes back to the 1950s, why does it make such a paltry contribution to electricity generation today?

Tom Solomon, representing the New Mexico chapter of “350.org,” gave a glowing overview of a preposterous proposal by “The Solutions Project.” The scheme is to “transition to 100% clean, renewable energy” by 2050 — hey, it’s got to be feasible, because it’s backed by Mark Ruffalo! What’s standing in the way of the death of “fossil” fuels? One of Solomon’s slides was a picture of the Titanic, which he said was under the command of “Captain David Koch.” (Memo to Solomon: Describing the wonders of your Tesla is not the best way to appeal to the rather hefty portion of the population that cannot afford a vehicle with a $100,000 price tag.)

Other speakers toed the eco-left line. A local “futurist and philosopher,” warned of “catastrophic global warming” unless per capita energy use was restricted. He recommended “local products for local consumption,” public transit, and “permaculture.” An employee of Sandia National Laboratories swooned about federal loan guarantees for solar projects, particularly molten-salt power plants. A lobbyist with the Sierra Club boasted of the group’s “climate action teams” in New Mexico, and described a trip she took with other activists to the EPA’s recent methane hearing in Denver. A representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists bashed Governor Martinez’s state energy plan because of its reliance on natural gas.

It was same old, same old. Lots of conspiracy theories (most involved “Big Oil”) and apocalyptic ravings about “climate change.” But little about how paltry a role solar plays in New Mexico’s energy demand. Despite the federal and state subsidies speakers extolled, and our status as the fourth-sunniest state, just 1.1 percent of the Land of Enchantment’s electricity comes from the sun. And need we revisit the state’s disastrous “investments” in solar companies?

Time to Toss the Wish Lists?

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Fri, 2015-09-25 12:40

The 2016 legislative session is four months away, but it’s not too early for New Mexico’s solons to think seriously about fiscal restraint.

Field production of crude in New Mexico more than doubled between 2007 and 2014. But the boom, at least for now, is over. ConocoPhillips is laying off workers, and in August alone, the state lost 1,000 jobs in the mining sector, which includes oil and gas. Goldman Sachs thinks oil may drop to as low as $20 per barrel. And as the U.S. Energy Information Administration noted this week, “upstream investment is highly sensitive to changes in oil prices”:

But wait, it gets worse. The state’s Medicaid bill keeps rising. Yesterday the Albuquerque Journal reported that “226,783 of … newly eligible adults have enrolled in the program” since Governor Martinez expanded it in 2013.

Legislators from both parties never tire of floating big-spending initiatives, from “infrastructure” projects to economic-development schemes to “universal preschool.” But it’s looking more and more like revenue declines and runaway Medicaid expenditures will enforce budget discipline during next year’s session.

Santa Ana Star’s issues not unique

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Thu, 2015-09-24 14:55

Recently, an article appeared in the Rio West section of the ABQ Journal stating that the troubled Santa Ana Star Center’s finances were “looking up.” Having followed the Center and its financial issues over the years, I felt it imperative to set the record straight, so I submitted a letter to the editor to clarify that while the Center’s finances are not quite as bad as they once were, the Center was and remains an extraordinarily bad “investment” of taxpayer dollars. My letter appeared in the Rio West section of the paper on the 19th of September.

Letters to the Editor

Rio West – ABQ Journal

Your story about the finances of the Santa Ana Star Center “looking up” couldn’t have been further off the mark. It may be true that the annual operating subsidy for the Center has dropped from $874,000 to $769,000, but with Rio Rancho taxpayers on the hook for an additional $2.2 million annually through 2032, the Center’s finances will continue to be a major burden on City taxpayers.

It is true that a vast majority of arenas and events centers are money losers. That’s hardly a justification. Rather, it is an indicator that cities like Rio Rancho are overinvesting in such facilities relative to the market’s willingness to pay for them. In basic economic terms, supply is outpacing demand.

For Rio Rancho, it is too late. City taxpayers are paying what currently amounts to 80 percent of their annual gross receipts tax collections for an arena. Yes, bond money is separate from the general fund budget, but when you put the City’s financial obligations in that light, you see why the Center was a major mistake.

The good news is that Rio Rancho’s experience can be a lesson to Albuquerque and other cities that might be considering such major and potentially burdensome spending projects.

Paul J. Gessing
Rio Grande Foundation

New Mexico’s Broken-Record Poverty Rate

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Wed, 2015-09-23 11:14

It received very little media attention, but the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey figures on state-level poverty yielded ho-hum news for New Mexico.

From 2013 to 2014, the poverty rate in the Land of Enchantment fell slightly, from 21.9 percent to 21.3 percent. (Only Mississippi fared worse.)

A look at poverty in the era of the Great Recession/Weak Recovery shows how little progress has been made:

Centrally planned economic development, a too-generous welfare state, no right-to-work law, little innovation in government education, and a cumbersome and pervasive tax on gross receipts. Is it any wonder New Mexico can’t escape its poverty trap?

Subsidizing Hollywood: That’s a Wrap?

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Mon, 2015-09-21 13:21

Bernardo Saracino should stick to acting.

Last week the New Mexico native, who has a role in the critically acclaimed film Sicario, told KRQE: “Albuquerque is definitely on the map. No matter whom I talk to, when they ask where I’m from, I’m like ‘Albuquerque’; they’re like ‘wow there’s a lot of work there.'”

Not exactly. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate that film-and-video employment in the state is declining:

Writing in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal, Chris Hudson and Donald Bryson noted that “Michigan and New Jersey ended their handouts earlier this summer, while Louisiana capped its subsidies — albeit after doling out more than $1 billion in the past five years. Arizona, Idaho, Indiana and Missouri have also either rolled back or shut down their programs in recent years.”

Isn’t it time for New Mexico’s elected officials to admit that subsidizing film and television productions has been an expensive failure? Isn’t it time to follow the wisdom of the states that have ended welfare for Hollywood?

Right to Work Boosts Job Creation — Missouri trying to beat NM to be the 26th RTW state

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Mon, 2015-09-21 10:59

The following op-ed was written in anticipation of an attempt by Missouri’s Legislature to override a gubernatorial veto of “right to work” in the Show-Me State. Rio Grande Foundation was one of 80+ organizations nationally that signed a letter in support of Missouri becoming the 26th “right to work” state. Unfortunately for Missourians,  the Legislature did not succeed, but Missouri is now competing with New Mexico to become the state that tips the balance to a majority of US states being “right to work.”


One notable policy shift that is picking up steam is the adoption of “right to work” laws. In the past few years, the idea that workers should be able to choose to associate with and/or pay dues to labor unions has spread to the traditionally heavily-unionized “Rust Belt” states of the Midwest. Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin have all adopted such laws while serious “right to work” efforts have been put forth in Missouri, West Virginia, and my home state of New Mexico.

With 25 states currently in the “right to work” column and 25 states still practicing forced unionism, we at the Rio Grande Foundation decided to track in real time where jobs were actually moving across America. “Right to work” laws have traditionally been associated with greater job growth, but how did this process work in real time?

So, we looked to the experts at Area Development for information. Founded in 1965, the publication “is considered the leading executive magazine covering corporate site selection and relocation … Area Development is published quarterly and has 60,000 mailed copies.” In an explanation to the Foundation, its editor wrote that items for Area Development’s announcements listing are “culled from RSS feeds and press releases that are emailed to us from various sources, including economic development organizations, PR agencies, businesses, etc.

While not “all-inclusive,” the jobs tracked on the site will tend toward being high-paying “economic base jobs,” not fast food and retail.


Every month this year, we at the Rio Grande Foundation have tracked job announcements from Area Development at our blog www.errorsofenchantment.com [3]. When it comes to job creation in 2015, “right to work” states are America’s job creation powerhouses. Despite somewhat smaller populations overall, Area Development notes 105,229 jobs created or added in the 25 “right to work” states. During the exact same time period, forced-unionism states created or added a mere 25,311 jobs.

In other words, during 2015, using real-world jobs data from Area Development, “right to work” states have created or added more than 80 percent of jobs.

This is not a new trend. Over virtually any time period, “right to work” states have dominated American job growth. Between 1993 and 2009, for example, “right to work” states saw 37.9 percent job growth while forced unionism states grew by just 19.6 percent.

Americans have been moving in search of greater economic freedom since before the country was founded. The original settlers left Europe in search of economic opportunity and then spread from coast to coast for the same reason. Blacks fled the South before and for more than a century after the Civil War and are now returning in part due to the economic freedom to be found there.

Given this history and “right to work’s” success in terms of job creation, it is no surprise that Americans overwhelmingly support such laws. When Gallup polled Americans on a variety of labor issues in August, 2014, 77 percent of independents, 74 percent of Republicans, and even 65 percent of Democrats said they supported “right to work” laws. Americans said they support “right to work” even as they say they expressed strong support for unions 53-38 percent.

The freedom to choose is one of the unique features of America. For decades, Americans have “voted with their feet” by moving themselves and their jobs from forced unionism to worker freedom. Other states can and will soon benefit from this form of worker freedom.

Article printed from Watchdog.org: http://watchdog.org

URL to article: http://watchdog.org/238473/right-work-boosts-job-creation/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://watchdog.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2012/11/jobsreport.jpg

[2] www.errorsofenchantment.com: http://www.errorsofenchantment.com


Not the time to raise taxes for Biopark

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Fri, 2015-09-18 14:12

D. Dowd Muska, New Mexico Rio Grande Foundation

Albuquerque has fewer jobs today than it did in 2007. In July, Bloomberg put it on a list of large cities that “lost the greatest share of local people to other parts of the country between July 2013 and July 2014.” And when scholar Joel Kotkin examined the best metropolitan statistical areas for jobs in 2015, Albuquerque ranked 86th among 93 mid-sized cities.

Is now the time for Albuquerque to hike its gross receipts tax?

The New Mexico BioPark Society thinks so. It’s leading the charge for a GRT increase of one-eighth of 1 percent. The projected revenue from the “temporary” tax, estimated to be $17 million annually for a decade and a half, would be used to fund “capital needs, including design, construction, acquisition, improvement, renovation, rehabilitation and equipping or furnishing of the ABQ BioPark.” On Oct. 6, voters will decide the GRT hike’s fate.

There’s no question that the BioPark, which includes the zoo, botanical garden, aquarium, and Tingley Beach, is valued by both locals and tourists. In June, it offered a day of free admission, to celebrate record-setting attendance. The following month, a ranking issued by the Travel Channel found the botanical garden to be one of the best in the country.

But there are compelling reasons for Albuquerque voters to leave the GRT rate where it is. First, while the hike sounds small, a look backward reveals just how heavy the city’s tax burden has become. At the start of the 2000s, Albuquerque’s GRT rate stood at 5.8125 percent. Currently, it’s 7.1875 percent — an increase of 23.7 percent. Any benefits of better BioPark infrastructure would likely be offset by the deterrent value of a higher tax. Second, there are alternate means for the BioPark to boost its coffers. Raising the admission fee for adults is an option, given that it “is $3 less than El Paso charges, $8 less than Denver and $11 less than Phoenix,” according to news reports.

Raising revenue directly would dodge the threat of city diversions. Earlier this year, political activist Joe Monahan recalled that in 1999, the city’s GRT was hiked for transportation spending. But in 2005, an “audit found not all the money was being spent as originally billed,” and today, “the city’s financial condition … is much more precarious.” It’s far from certain that the BioPark will receive all the revenue the proposed GRT hike will generate.

Finally, a strong case can be made for freeing the BioPark from government management — and possibly even ownership. The day-to-day operations of many American zoos are overseen by contractors, not municipal employees. The New Mexico BioPark Society is “dedicated to the development of, procurement for and capital improvement of the ABQ BioPark … and to providing a quality facility through the support of related conservation, education and recreation programs.” As researchers at the Reason Foundation noted, the society is a prime candidate for outsourcing, since it is “already fulfilling … duties such as fundraising, coordinating volunteer efforts, organizing special events and providing educational programming.”

Rather than seeking to tie the BioPark even more tightly to the political process, the facility’s supporters should recognize that the best path forward is a transition away from city ownership/operation. Presently, the New Mexico BioPark Society needs the permission of city councilors and the mayor to do something as simple as raise the fee for riding the zoo’s train.

Albuquerque is struggling. Job growth remains sluggish. Business expansion is disappointing. And airport traffic has fallen for seven years in a row. The ugly reality of the city’s economic condition offers more than enough justification for voters to be skeptical of a BioPark tax hike with a price tag of a quarter of a billion dollars. Besides, there are better options to preserve and enhance one of the city’s most popular attractions.

D. Dowd Muska is research director of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization.

From the Albuquerque Business First: http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2015/09/16/viewpoint-now-is-not-the-time-for-abq-biopark-tax.html


Randal O’Toole Deconstructs Bus Rapid Transit and Outlines Future of Transportation

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Thu, 2015-09-17 11:15

Randal O’Toole spoke earlier this week on the issue of Albuquerque’s transportation future. In particular he focused on the City’s proposed bus rapid transit system, the Rail Runner, and the future of transportation. The entire presentation is below (slides here). Below that are some of the most important slides from O’Toole’s presentation. If you want to get active against bus rapid transit, there is a grassroots activism organization called “Save Route 66.”

The proposed bus rapid transit system will increase congestion in the Central corridor, just ask the consultants tasked by the City with looking at the proposal:

Portland, OR, is often touted as a “model” for mass transit, but after spending billions of dollars, transit carries fewer passengers than it did in 1980:

Transit is a trivial portion of the transportation mix in Albuquerque:

Transit appeals to those who make almost nothing and those who have very high incomes and can choose to locate next to it. For working/middle class Americans, transit is far less useful:

Albuquerque’s bus system is not especially “green” when it comes to energy use. It’s hard to believe a new bus system will be a dramatic improvement:

Discussing Amtrak’s Southwest Chief w/ NPR’s Morning Edition

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Thu, 2015-09-17 09:12

There has been a decent amount of discussion in New Mexico over the future of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. The train runs on the tracks that were purchased by the State for the Rail Runner and run from Raton in the north through Albuquerque. The train then runs West through Gallup and Grants, but New Mexico doesn’t own those tracks.

Amtrak is demanding improvements to the tracks or they won’t run the trains anymore. As noted in the story, Gov. Martinez put up $1 million of our tax dollars as a “down payment” on the $4 million annually that Amtrak is asking for states through which the Southwest Chief runs.

The interview is below. My interview starts around the halfway mark. One interesting note is that the reporter who did the story is based out of Los Angeles. Even though the Southwest Chief travels between New Mexico and Los Angeles, as he notes, he flew home.

Your guide to the City of Albuquerque election ballot

Errors of Enchantment Blog Postings - Wed, 2015-09-16 16:20

Early voting for the City’s October 6 elections is under way. Early voting locations can be found here. Control of City Council hangs in the balance with liberals eager to pick up a 6th seat on the Council to create a veto-proof majority. From the more conservative side, there is hope of adding a more moderate voice to the Council in the form of Hessito Yntema.

Interestingly enough, Albuquerque’s elections require a photo ID when you go to the polls, a tool that generates little in the way of concern come election time, but that the Obama Administration and many liberals claim is “racist.”

Of course, along with the Council races, there are a number of questions on the ballot for voters to decide on. I have listed them below in order of importance:

1) Tax Hike for ABQ BioPark would seem hard to justify: As the Rio Grande Foundation has noted elsewhere, Albuquerque’s gross receipts tax rate has risen by more than 20% since 2000. The gross receipts tax is incredibly harmful and regressive. We also believe there are other ways including privatization which is in use at 75% of zoos that could save money and improve the quality of our zoo without raising taxes in a time of great economic difficulty.

2) Question 1 would change the signature requirement for initiatives to 20% of the last mayoral election and would require that such elections be held only alongside other municipal elections. The latter in particular would save the expense of holding special elections. These changes make sense.

3) Bonds: There are several bonds on the ballot. As we have pointed out in the past, bonds are paid for with your tax dollars. While we all enjoy the government services paid for by these bonds, not all community center and park projects are essential, particularly in economically-challenging times.

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