Here is interesting commentary by Robert Novak on death of the living wage in Chicago. It looks far from over, however. Wal-Mart and Target still face enormous risk of political takings in Chicago.
It is important for opponents of eminent domain to attend the meeting this Thursday of the Governor’s Eminent Domain Task Force. This will be the only opportunity that the public will get to express their opposition to eminent domain abuse.
Pertinent information is as follows: The meeting will be held at 4:00 PM on September 28th (this Thursday) at the Village Hall in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The Village Hall is located at 6718 Rio Grande Blvd. NW.
The purpose of the meeting is to allow members of the public to provide comments and suggestions to the Task Force. The Task Force was convened by Governor Bill Richardson following the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London, to study the adequacy of New Mexico’s eminent domain laws and determine whether there is currently sufficient legislative protection to prevent the abusive use of eminent domain for economic development purposes.
If you are unable to attend the open meeting, please send comments to the Task Force via mail, fax, or the Governor’s website as follows:
Mail: Governor Bill Richardson
Attn: Task Force on the Responsible Use of Eminent Domain
State Capitol Building, Suite 400
Santa Fe , NM 87501
Fax: (505) 476-2207
Website: http://www.governor.state.nm.us (click on contact the Governor)
Questions concerning the Task Force can be directed to the Governor’s Office at 476-2200.
Despite the fact that I live nowhere near a Rail Runner station and have no real need to ride the thing, I decided to take a ride on the train this morning to see how ridership is holding up. As you may know, the train is still “free,” at least in the sense that it costs nothing to get on, but that will change in mid-October.
Anyway, I took the train from Journal Center northbound at 7:46am and found that the crowds have thinned out considerably as compared to what I’d read in early news reports about the throngs of people aboard. Despite the fact that there were only two cars on the train, I had my own row and there were less than 25 passengers on my car.
When I got off at the 550/Sandoval station, a handful (less than 5) people got off who looked like they were going to work. Most of the rest of the people seemed to be waiting either on or near the train for the trip south. Clearly, 2 months in, a large percentage of the train’s passengers are joyriders.
On the way back south on the 8:20am train, I switched cars and counted 10 passengers on board. When I got back off at the Journal Center station, there were between 10 and 15 people getting on to go downtown, but by no means was the train going to be crowded.
Another sign of the Rail Runner’s declining popularity was abundant parking — the lots at 550/Sandoval and Journal Center were at most half full.
So, what does this all mean? Just that before millions of additional taxpayer dollars are spent on laying Rail Runner track to Santa Fe, perhaps we should more honestly assess whether these trains more resemble shiny new toys that will actually harm our overall transportation network or whether they are in fact serious efforts to better move people from place to place.
I just loved this little blurb from Grace-Marie Turner at the Galen Institute: Wal-Mart announced yesterday that it will soon offer a 30-day supply of nearly 300 generic medicines for just $4 each. Target quickly followed, and surely Walgreens and others will be close behind. Who says that competition doesn’t work?
Wal-Mart’s program is starting in Tampa Bay and will include the entire state of Florida by January, then spread to stores around the country.
Not to be outdone, Target announced it is matching Wal-Mart’s prices in Tampa Bay first, with other stores to follow. Three cheers for Wal-Mart for getting this started!
Generics already are cheaper in the U.S. than in Canada, so how long do you think it will be before we have Canadians coming to the U.S. to get their prescriptions filled here?
There is a lot of talk about the 2005 Energy Bill that passed Congress and the campaign ads in which Patty Madrid criticized Heather Wilson for voting for a bill that contained $2.6 billion in subsidies for the oil industry. Wilson defenders have hit back saying that the Energy Bill was “good for New Mexico” and that all five members of the New Mexico delegation voted for the bill.
So, what is the real story? Well, Dr. Harry Messenheimer recently cut through a little of the confusion by putting “a pox on both houses” by criticizing both politicians for their disinformation about gas prices and the energy industry in general. But, there is even more meat on this bone.
First and foremost, yes, there were very real subsidies in the Energy Bill. In fact, the Energy Bill was far more costly than the $2.2 billion received by the oil industry. The real cost of the Energy Bill is closer to $74 billion. Unfortunately for Madrid, much of that money was spent on nuclear energy, “clean coal,” and the development of “next generation” energy sources.
Is this good for New Mexico? After all, New Mexico is a big producer of energy. Any economist worth his or her salt would say “no, let the market decide.” First and foremost, people need energy from all sources, the only thing subsidies do is alter which form of energy is used and artificially raise or lower demand. Unless the bill specifically encouraged use of energy sources from New Mexico at the expense of other sources of energy, there is no net benefit to the state.
Unfortunately, in New Mexico, the concept of a “free market” might be as rare as a saguaro cactus sighting is within our borders.
Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez is acting as if the city itself won the latest lottery jackpot. A week ago he introduced plans for a new, taxpayer-backed downtown sports arena, now he is pushing his latest big-budget idea, a so-called “modern streetcar” running along Central Avenue from Old Town to Nob Hill and from Central Avenue to the Sunport.” (I urge you to check the previous link to the schedule of “town hall” meetings the Mayor is holding on this project and to attend and speak your mind as I will)
Never mind that the cost for this system would be $240 million (split evenly betwen the city and the state) and that although the Mayor has repeatedly called the system “modern streetcar,” it is really just a light rail system that brings all the costs and problems of light rail (cost overruns, slowness of service, and clogged streets among the prominent issues).
Beyond all of the problems associated with light rail is the question that must be asked, “Why do we need light rail running down Central Avenue when the Rapid Ride serves the same purpuse at a much lower cost?” Instead of blowing $240 million on a shiny new toy, Mayor Marty should consider ways to expand bus service to serve more people at a far lower cost, or he should do nothing and let taxpayers keep some of their hard-earned money for a change.
The results are in and it appears that you can fool some of the people all of the time, or at least 58 percent of them anyway. Now, we turn our attention to the so-called quality of life tax increase that will face voters in November.
For more on the deluge of tax hikes that are falling on taxpayers in Bernalillo County and Albuquerque like the monsoon rains did earlier this year, check out this recent missive from the Rio Grande Foundation on the web-magazine The Citizen. By the way, if you are a close follower of the news, especially what happens here in New Mexico, but the Tribune and Journal leave you feeling less-than-fully-informed, I highly recommend bookmarking The Citizen.
Before heading off to the polls, it’s always wise to take a look at the sample ballot, you know, so you don’t end up accidentally voting for Pat Buchanan. Preparing for tomorrow’s APS special election, we find, in English and Spanish:
“Shall the Albuquerque Public School District issue $351,000,000 of general obligation bonds to erect, remodel, make additions to and furnish; school buildings within the district, to purchase or improve school grounds, to purchase computer software and hardware for student use in public schools, and to provide matching funds for capital outlay projects funded pursuant to the Public School Capital Outlay Act?”
This language was erected by someone clearly interested in the bond measure’s passge–plenty of detail of all the good things that will be done for the children, but nary a word on who is going to pay or how much. Who will own this ‘obligation’? How will this obligation be repaid?
Expand on the benefits, obfuscate the costs, and any deal sounds sweeter. The ballot measure should state in plain terms that passage would raise property tax rates by 5.6%, forcing the owner of a $100,000 house to pay an additional $71.32 per year in taxes.
Given that APS only graduates 52.8% of the students who enter its schools, and of those who enroll at New Mexico’s institutions of higher learning, 44.1% need remedial classes, it seems unlikely that APS is adequately preparing its students to face this kind of decision as educated adults.
But this is no surprise coming from a school district better known for its conflicts of interest, for paying huge settlements to administrators with substance abuse problems, and for blaming failing schools on the ‘diversity’ of its own students, than for any success in actually educating.
$351 million that actually improves the education received by APS students might very well be worth the increase in property taxes. But what worth is $351 million in the hands of Albuquerque Public Schools? $351 million dollars breaks out to about $3884.29 for each and every one of APS’s 90,364 students, most of the average private school tuition in this country.
If you were going to spend $3884.29 on your child’s education, would you make out the check to APS?
It really shouldn’t be such a radical, nor should it be such an uphill push in Congress, but it is good to see the Albuquerque Journal throwing its considerable weight behind more transparency in government.
Speaking of “transparency,” although I can’t say for sure whether the Republican Party’s lawsuit on biased location of early voting stations has merit, it seems pretty obvious that locating an early polling station in the Albuquerque Public Schools headquarters for the September 19 school tax hike is a transparently political move. I’m not sure how this problem can be solved, but ways to improve neutrality in voting sites should be considered.
As Election Day rapidly approaches, it appears that Congress may be on the verge of accomplishing something positive for taxpayers for a change. Although it took a massive coalition of groups from across the political spectrum and endless pressure from the blogging community, we are one step away from slightly greater transparency in government and exposing all those earmarks that Congress is so addicted to.Economics in Focus