Masque Entertainment Group is scheduled to begin photography this May in New Mexico on a "gritty 3-D thriller" called The Tunnel. Masque is the company that intends to build a $20 million post-production facility in the Santa Fe Railyard.
The Tunnel is a story about fugitives making an underground crossing of the Mexican border when a "man-
eating creature" turns their journey into the "ultimate fight for survival." But Masque encountered something scarier this year: An economy-eating creature called Gov. Susana Martinez has turned Masque's plans for locating in Santa Fe into, well, the ultimate fight for survival. In the wake of legislative turmoil about capping film-industry rebates, loan guarantees for the construction of the facility were "tabled."
The specter of the film industry becoming less viable in New Mexico as a result of less-attractive incentives apparently has investors on the edge of their seats. It's still a cliffhanger as to whether or not hundreds of construction and high-wage post-production jobs will be sucked out of Santa Fe and into the maw of hurricane Susana, but it's a keen plot twist to have the sensible, fiscally minded conservative turn out to be dead-set on wrecking the economy.
Unless, you know, you happen to be one of her wealthy pals who profits from bigger, badder industries.
So, that was a waste of a perfectly good legislative session, at least if you were interested in doing something positive for the New Mexico economy. Just as is the case with federal policy and the cabal of Republican-governed states, the wealthiest among us get a pass to continue amassing hordes of cash, while our nascent innovative industries get the same shaft as the poor, the middle class, the unions, the pensioners and everyone else who is not jewel-encrusted in the eyes of the oligarchy.
But at least we managed to cling, just barely, to a democratic majority in our state legislative houses. The goings-on in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, etc., are a good indicator of just how brutal the situation on the ground would be in New Mexico if Martinez had the legislative backing to run all the plays in her book. Maybe next time a few more of us will vote, eh?
The situation is essentially this: fiefdoms versus innovators. The fiefdoms are the entrenched money and power people who represent old, extractive, immensely profitable industry; the innovators represent vision, experimentation and the desire to position New Mexicans to profit in the coming century as newer, smarter, more beneficial industries gain a foothold. Innovation threatens the entrenched mind-set, and the result is that a lot of good projects get crushed in the conservative craze to protect the status quo. Let's hope that doesn't happen with Masque's project in the Railyard.
Speaking of the Railyard, everyone who hates paying to park there should be pleased to learn the city plans to move forward with some free parking. Of course, it'll be a little bit of a walk down to the Railyard: The parking lots are planned for trailheads in the Northwest Quadrant. As is almost a given with everything in the NWQ, not everyone is happy with the plans. One parking lot in particular, the 60-car lot planned for the Frijoles trailhead near the junction of Camino de Los Montoyas and 599, seems like it could have been better-planned.
Gilberto Garcia lives among a small group of houses adjacent to the planned parking lot. On a sunny, late winter day I met him at the proposed location to watch speeding cars careen around a blind corner right above the spot where cars will be entering and exiting the parking lot and families will be considering dashes across the road. Garcia doesn't think it's smart planning and it's hard to disagree with him.
The planned trail improvements, on the other hand, are a good idea and a good part of Santa Fe is excited about the new features. Providing access to the trails is among the top priorities for NWQ development and, as a de facto minder of the trail network that passes by his community, Garcia supports thoughtful improvement and reasonable parking ideas. A wall of resistance has been put up by some naysayers from the Casa Solana community—who will be less affected by nearby development than Garcia and his neighbors—but he says he wants to make the plans work for everyone. That makes it doubly frustrating that city planners seem dead-set on following their original plan without accepting the advice of the area residents who will be most affected.
Hopefully NWQ planners will suddenly remember that they're trying to set a new standard for the community planning process rather than play that old railroad game.
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