New Mexico's Dwindling Middle Class
The Land of Enchantment's middle class is smaller and shrinking faster than most other statesLocal NewsFriday, March 27, 2015
The news isn't good for anyone, as all 50 states saw a drop in middle class households since the turn of the millennium. But it's especially bad for the Land of Enchantment.
New Mexico's middle class saw a drop of nearly 5 percent between 2000 and 2013, or more specifically from 48 percent to 43.2 percent of the state's households.
That's comparable to states like Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina, North Dakota and Ohio. Only Wisconsin, according to the chart, had a higher middle class drop during the same time period, totaling 6 percent.
Stateline compiled the graph using data from the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey and the University of Minnesota's Integrated Public Use Microdata Series.
The news organization defines "middle class" as households making between 67 percent and 200 percent of their state's median income. That's significant because New Mexico's median income is lower than most other states in the country. And the Stateline report notes that the drop in middle class households occurred "even as the median income in most states declined, when adjusted for inflation."
New Mexico's 2013 median income was $43,872, a drop from $47,035 in 2000 when adjusted for inflation.
For perspective's sake, Texas' 2013 median income ranked at $51,704; Colorado's was $58,823; Utah's was $59,770 and Arizona's was $48,510. It's also worth nothing that each of New Mexico's neighboring states' share of middle class sit between 45 percent and 52 percent of all households—which are all higher that New Mexico.
For more, click here.
Graphic courtesy Stateline.
Put on your kimonoWeekend PicksFriday, March 27, 2015
This event features stage performances throughout the day. For complete schedule click here.
Vocalists Patty Stephens and David Jenness and the John Rangel Trio perform in support of Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
This documentary celebrates the contributions of African-American women during World War II. The screening is accompanied by remarks from director Lawrence E. Walker and others. Call for reservations.
Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.
Morning Word: Female Therapist Investigated for Sexual Assault on Teen Offender
CYFD turns probe over to New Mexico State PoliceMorning WordFriday, March 27, 2015
It's Friday, March 27, 2015
A big shakeup in the New Mexico juvenile justice system after a teenage male offender was allegedly assaulted by a female staff therapist at a facility in Lincoln County.
A thermal reaction between cat litter and nitrate salts inside a nuclear waste disposal container shipped from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad likely caused its lid to pop and allow gases to leak out last year, according to an independent report released by the US Energy Department.
The flu virus is still attacking residents around the state. The Department of Health reports 28 flu-related deaths this season, including the death of a baby in Doña Ana County.
Meanwhile, a discovery of “fancy water” at the labs may help doctors fight deadly bacterial infections.
The US Census Bureau shows areas around New Mexico’s oil field continue to be in the Top 10 fastest-growing areas in the nation.
The Hobbs area saw its population increase more than 2 percent to nearly 70,000 between July 2013 and July 2014. The area’s population in 2010 was listed as 64,727.Overall, New Mexico actually had a net loss of residents.
New Mexico tribes could be considering joining the growing medical marijuana industry. Tribes could leverage their sovereignty to grow marijuana for dispensaries, researchers and pharmaceutical companies, the consultants said, or even open resorts on tribal land that would target marijuana users.
Lawmakers approved a hemp research bill earlier this month, but Joey Peters reports that even if Gov. Susana Martinez signs the measure, it will be awhile before farmers start planting seeds.
Lawmakers may have opted not to reform the state’s payday loan rules in New Mexico, but now that industry could face new federal regulations.
The proposed regulations are designed to keep cash-strapped Americans from falling into what the agency describes as a predatory debt trap in which they must take out new loans to pay off the old ones — ultimately paying more in fees than the original amount they borrowed.
People opposed to abusive property seizures by police are urging Gov. Martinez to sign a bill that cracks down on the policy. If she signs it, she could end up on the 2016 Republican presidential ticket. Here’s the money quote from the Washington Times:
"The governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, is expected to sign the measure, making it the law, and it could catapult her to consideration for a place on the Republican ticket next year."
Dan Mourning, the manager of Expo New Mexico, says lawmakers' failure to pass a capital outlay bill will set important building projects back even further. Mourning had wanted $11 million to fix up the fair property.
Blogger Joe Monahan says sprucing up or rebuilding Expo’s Tingley Coliseum is long overdue.
Train advocates continue to urge Gov. Martinez to support a $4-million-a-year cost-sharing agreement that would upgrade 636 miles of track from Lamy to eastern Kansas.
Jason Gibbs reports that officials are fast-tracking plans to study an international rail crossing at the Santa Teresa border.
Bill Mattiace, executive director of the New Mexico Border Authority, said the project would be another key element in building the Santa Teresa area into a regional powerhouse for international trade and help attract more businesses to the industrial parks developing near the border crossing.
Bernalillo County Commissioners have delayed action on the large 22-square-mile master land plan. Santolina would be developed on almost 13,800 acres of Bernalillo County land located southwest of Albuquerque — a long-term plan that would bring residential and commercial components to the site.Commissioners, it appears, want to see a development agreement before making their decision.
Gov. Martinez has ordered flags flown at half-staff today in honor of Navajo Nation Police Officer Alex Yazzie, who was killed last week.
If Signed, How Narrow Will State Interpret Hemp Law?Local NewsThursday, March 26, 2015
One of the rare bills that cruised through both chambers of the state Legislature this session would allow the state to grow hemp for research purposes.
Based on how the state Department of Agriculture interprets the legislation, New Mexico farmers still may not be able to grow the plant for a while. Jessica Gelay, a policy coordinator with Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, says that based on her reading of the bill, nothing would prevent the Department of Agriculture, which is housed at New Mexico State University, from being able to contract with private farmers to grow hemp, so long as its tied to research purposes.
But Gelay says that during committee discussions, lawmakers spoke about only allowing the department to grow hemp.
"Certainly the discussions did not indicate they'd be licensing anyone but New Mexico State University," Gelay says.
The bill, which currently sits on the governor's desk, is based on the 2013 federal Farm Bill, which allows states to write their own laws to grow hemp for research purposes. Though that research must be tied to a university or an agriculture department, states like Kentucky also allow private farmers to grow hemp, as long as they're contracted with the state or a university.
Earlier this month, Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Katie Goetz pointed SFR to a federal Drug Enforcement Agency memo to Kentucky that appears to abide by a more conservative interpretation of Section 7606 of the 2013 Farm Bill.
"Only institutions of higher education and State departments of agriculture may be used to grow or cultivate industrial hemp," reads the letter, dated May 22, 2014. "Accordingly, it is the position of DEA that Section 7606 does not provide any authorization to private growers who are not institutions of higher education or a State department of agriculture within the meaning of Section 7606."
Gelay stresses, however, that the New Mexico hemp bill will give the state authority to write its own hemp rules if the federal government lifts more restrictions for growing the plant. That clears a path to commercial production of the plant without having to pass another bill in the state legislature.
Gov. Susana Martinez has remained mum on whether she'll sign the hemp bill, sponsored by state Sen. Cisco McSorely, D-Bernalillo. The bill passed both chambers with wide bipartisan support.
New Mexicans Continue to Fall Ill to Mean Flu Virus
The Department of Health reports 28 flu-related deaths this season, including the death of a baby in Dona Ana CountyLocal NewsThursday, March 26, 2015
Morning Word: Judge Accused of Racial Slur
Public defenders want District Court Judge Fred Van Soelen removed from the benchMorning WordThursday, March 26, 2015
It's Thursday, March 26, 2015
A New Mexico judge could undergo an investigation over allegations that he found humor in the video that shows fraternity brothers singing a racist chant at the University of Oklahoma.
According to the public defender's office in Clovis, an assistant public defender overheard District Court Judge Fred Van Soelen telling an assistant district attorney that the video "would have been funnier thirty years ago." Based on that alleged comment alone, the public defender, Chandler Blair, who is African American, wants the judge permanently excused from all public defender cases.
A citizens advisory group wants the New Mexico Environment Department to consider allowing Los Alamos National Laboratories and the US Department of Energy to pay off its $54 million Waste Isolation Pilot Plant leak fines with contributions and work on other state environmental improvement projects.
Negotiations over the fines are ongoing, according to officials in Washington DC and in Santa Fe, but under a draft recommendation from the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board, those fines could be paid to the state in projects that reduce pollution and protect the health of people living near the lab rather than an actual cash.
While lawmakers have approved a new 22-year gaming compact with most of the state’s tribes, Gov. Susana Martinez still isn’t ready to sign a tribal compact with the Fort Sill Apaches until they reach an agreement with the federal government to allow them to operate casinos on land they acquired in southern New Mexico in 1999.
Site Selection magazine says New Mexico ranks 5th in the Mountain Region for attracting new companies to the state. The Land of Enchantment is 38th overall.
Texas by far smoked the competition nationwide with 689 projects in 2014. Ohio came in a distant second place with 582. New Mexico only had 19 projects in 2014.
Maybe those out-of-state firms who moved to New Mexico liked the improvement in the state’s school graduation rate.
The 7 percentage point improvement in New Mexico’s four-year high school graduation rate between 2011 and 2013 was the third best in the United States, according to a state-by-state comparison by the U.S. Education Department. The state’s four-year graduation rate increased in each of those years, growing from 63 percent in 2011 to 70 percent in 2013 – fueled in large part by an increase in the number of Hispanic students who earned diplomas.
SFR's Joey Peters has a great story about how Santa Fe is using digital technology to help students learn.
Former Game and Fish Director Jim Lane, who resigned his position without explanation last October, has a new job at the state land office. Lane has supported ranchers' and farmers' efforts at the Roundhouse to take away the Game and Fish Department's oversight of cougars.
A fire weather meteorologist believes that seasonal precipitation may mean a shorter wildfire season in New Mexico this year.
Doña Ana County gets mixed ratings in a new health rankings study published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The annual study cited the average life expectancy of county residents and quality of life. The county's premature death rate was far lower than both the state and nation. New Mexico Department of Health officials said Doña Ana County residents have an average life expectancy of 80.2 years. That is just slightly above the average life expectancy in the United States, but less than New Mexico's average.
Fifty years from now, supporters say, it could be home to 90,000 or more people, rivaling the size of Rio Rancho now. The development team says the plan would ensure smart, well-coordinated growth and make it easier to attract employers to the West Side. Opponents questioned Santolina’s fringe location and its strain on the water supply, among other criticisms.
Journalist Lauren Villagran takes a look at another water controversy in southern New Mexico, where Deming officials want to take water from the Gila River.
At least one lawmaker thinks the governor should consider calling a one-day special session to get project money approved and flowing to communities around the state.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle want Gov. Martinez to sign their asset-seizure reform bill.
The annual pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayó is right around the corner, and emergency management teams are already preparing.
Old-timers around New Mexico are mourning the loss of George Fischbeck. The former Albuquerque science teacher and popular television personality died in Los Angeles yesterday. He was 92.
Morning Word: Solar Farms Get Go-Ahead Vote
Thousands of oil field jobs still on the lineMorning WordWednesday, March 25, 2015
It's Wednesday, March 25, 2015
The Santa Fe County Commission has approved the Public Service Company’s plans to build two solar farms.
“The approval of these solar centers is an important step forward as we continue to build a cleaner, more diverse resource portfolio, including renewable energy, to responsibly meet the needs of our customers in the communities we serve,” Ron Darnell, PNM’s senior vice president of public policy, said in a statement released immediately after the votes.
Bloomfield utility customers pay the city of Farmington $12 million in gross revenue for power each year, City Manager David Fuqua said after the meeting. The city owning and operating its own electric utility would lead to greater savings for customers and keep those dollars in Bloomfield, he said.
The number of drilling rigs operating in the state has dropped from 85 last spring to 60, department Secretary David Martin told participants at the annual San Juan Basin Energy Conference in Farmington on Tuesday. The rig count dropped in both the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico and the San Juan Basin in the Four Corners area as producers slashed planned production to compensate for plummeting oil prices, which fell from more than $100 per barrel last summer to less than $45 in early January.
BP’s onshore business chief says the company has decided not to sell its assets in the San Juan Basin after all. He says the company is focused on becoming more efficient. Other industry executives attending an energy conference in Farmington are expressing frustration with fracking bans imposed by local government and by the lack of a railroad to transport crude oil for refining and sale, as well as receiving industry goods.
Speaking of “oil trains,” KRQE’s Matt Grubs discovered most but not all volatile crude oil shipments are bypassing New Mexico.
Just what’s on the freight trains that rumble across the state is a closely held secret. Railroads have fought attempts to force them to disclose manifests publicly, citing trade secrets and safety concerns.
KUNM’s Ed Williams reports new federal fracking rules will impact about half of the state’s wells, because they’re drilled on public lands.
Wally Drangmeister, of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said that could put New Mexico at a disadvantage in attracting energy development. “Just to have another layer of regulation, the biggest impact is not necessarily an environmental protection, it’s just an increased cost,” he said.
A New Mexico Environment Department geologist says plans are set to start building a groundwater remediation well on an Albuquerque church’s property to start cleaning up the decades-old Kirtland Air Force Base gas plume leak.
Both of New Mexico’s US Senators want Los Alamos National Laboratory to be able to set aside up to 10 percent of its budget for Laboratory Directed Research and Development. That program advances frontiers of science and engineering, invests in critical national security missions and helps recruit and retain staff for national laboratories.
It will cost more to shop in Santa Fe after County Commissioners agreed to increase gross receipt taxes.
The increase, which will add almost 13 cents to every $100 purchase, is intended to make up for revenue reductions due to the state phasing out payments intended to reimburse local governments for money they lost when New Mexico exempted groceries and medicine from the gross receipts tax in 2004.
The Doña Ana CountyCommission has also voted to increase gross receipts taxes 3/8 of 1 percent. The increase starts July 1.
A good case is being made to require that video recordings of legislative committee meetings be archived after Phil Griego’s resignation from the Senate this month. A video from a Senate Rules Committee last year shows Griego offering what appears to be misleading testimony in support of a resolution to sell a state building he later earned a sales commission for help brokering.
Even before Griego collects his first state retirement check, two people who want to replace him in the Senate are sharing their vision of how they can best serve the district.
New Mexico’s Republican Party is already gearing up for the 2016 election. Dan Boyd reports the state GOP has hired four new executives to lead next year’s state campaigns, which will be focused on keeping control of the House and trying to win control of the Senate.
A longtime New Mexico artist and philanthropist donated $50,000 to the Western New Mexico University Foundation to establish an artist lecture series that will promote women in the arts.
with Alice Anne Thompson3 QuestionsWednesday, March 25, 2015
On Wednesday, at the St. Francis Auditorium, author and historian Alice Anne Thompson presents excerpts from her upcoming book, The Women of the Santa Fe Trail, and speaks about the women who braved the treacherous
Who were the people who traveled the trail from Missouri to SF, since so few women were included?
Most of the people who traveled to Santa Fe were single men who went on a lark, like for spring break. Some of them were actually English college students. They were just going out there to see the Indians before they all died off, or to see New Mexico and see what pure Hispanic culture was like before it was contaminated by Americans. These were young, very wealthy snips. When they got out there, they were very ethnocentric and almost misogynistic. They were very contemptuous of what they saw. They were all male; they were all around 18. What did they know about life?
In your book, American Caravan, you write about the life of your great-great aunt, Sr. Mary Alphonsa Thompson, who followed the trail. What were her reasons for making the journey?
My father’s side of the family is very English. But they were one of the few families who remained Catholic after the Revolutionary War, so they didn’t get their heads chopped off. Four of the girls in the family joined a Catholic convent founded by two of my other great-great aunts, the Sisters of Loretto. I guess the reason they joined was, they would rather live in a beautiful abbey with tapestries, stained glass, paintings and beautiful songs than be married to a farmer and have 14 kids and die.
What do you see as the legacy of the women of the Santa Fe Trail?
I don’t know what they did, but they all lived into their 80s, while everyone else in Victorian America didn’t make it through their 40s. They were beautifully educated women. The most tenacious and resilient women. They had to pick themselves back up and carry on, fix lunches in the morning, put on four little pairs of mittens and comb hair and put in ribbons. They had to just pull themselves together. And every single woman I know has had to do the same thing. The women in my book were chosen not because they shaped history, but because they reflect it and in many cases inspired it.
Author brings NM-centric tome homePicksWednesday, March 25, 2015
There are many words of praise revolving around Kirstin Valdez Quade’s Night at the Fiestas: Stories. A collection of state-centered tales heavily influenced by her upbringing and local lore, Fiestas, a 2014 National Book Foundation “5 under 35” honoree, has led its author into a sort of cultural whirlwind. One that propels her to a Santa Fe stop on Thursday.
SFR: Are you blown away by your book’s overwhelmingly positive reaction?
KVQ: I am, I am. It’s so harrowing to think of my work out in the world. I’m just so delighted and grateful.
How did your personal journey influence Night at the Fiestas?
My mother’s family is from Northern New Mexico, and they’ve been there for hundreds of years. I was born in Albuquerque, and as a little kid I spent every day with my great-grandmother. I’ve always been really close to my grandparents and older relatives and spent so much time asking them questions about their lives, what was it like growing up in little towns like Torreon and Springer. When I was a kid, my parents and I moved away, and I spent the rest of my childhood moving around a lot…My grandmother’s house in Santa Fe was always the place we always returned to, and that always felt like home to me. It’s the landscape that feels like home to me; it has always fueled my imagination.
There’s something about that landscape that just triggers ideas for me. I’ve lived in so many other places, and no other place does that for me.
What do you take away from readings like the one that’s going to happen here in Santa Fe? What are people’s reactions like?
You know, I’ve heard mostly from my family [laughs] and my grandmother, who sometimes is taken aback. She told me once, ‘Oh, mijita, I didn’t know you knew so many bad words.’ I think that’s one reaction.
Night at the Fiestas: Stories
6 pm Thursday, March 26. Free.
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo St.,