We’ll see you back in the blogosphere next week.
Perhaps our “leaders” in Washington and Santa Fe could benefit from watching this rap video (of all things)? It is at least an entertaining watch!
The Rio Grande Foundation has long been New Mexico’s most prominent critic of the Rail Runner. Scholar Ken Brown wrote this critical piece way back in January of 2006. I have also written on and discussed the numerous problems with the train many times over the years including this recent blog posting telling the train’s supporters to put their money where their mouths are and step up to close the train’s $750,000 deficit.
Well, it seems like more and more people are getting it. For starters, check out Trever’s excellent cartoon in today’s ABQ Journal:
Also, Joe Monahan, who we don’t always agree with, but certainly seems to have the pulse of the New Mexico establishment, made an interesting point in a recent blog posting on the Rail Runner:
The political impact of the troubled Rail Runner on the Dem Light Guv campaign of Lawrence Rael has already been mentioned. Lawrence was head of MRCOG and is taking credit for the Rail Runner. Then there is presumed Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish. She may have some tough questions to answer about how she sees the future of this train. However, maybe not too many if the R’s nominate Allen Weh as their Guv nominee. When he was GOP chairman Weh was supportive of the Rail Runner.
The long-term future of the Rail Runner remains troubling because it was not modeled after the expensive European model of speed–lots of speed–like well over 100 mph. That is hurting the train as cars race past it from ABQ to Santa Fe. And then there’s the recession. Fewer state employees mean fewer Rail Runner riders and lower gross receipts tax revenue means less money to fund the train,
In case you missed it, a few weeks ago, RGF analyst Scott Moody and RGF president Paul Gessing appeared on Bob Clark’s show on AM 770 to discuss New Mexico’s bloated government employment and unsustainable pension systems. Listen to the show here.
Also, Gessing discussed New Mexico’s legislative session and the federal health care debacle with Mike Jaxson on 990 KSVP. Click here to listen to this 15 minute interview.
Our investigative journalist, Jim Scarantino, is really on a roll. Yesterday he published a report on Governor Richardson’s efforts to implement stringent carbon caps through an unelected body, the Environmental Improvement Board, which is full of his radical environmentalist appointees.
Now it looks like the folks at National Review Online, including publisher Jack Fowler, have noticed. In a blog posting put up today, Fowler called Scarantino’s article an “fascinating post” and quoted extensively. Kudos to Jim and if you want to support Jim’s ongoing efforts, help us out with a tax-deductible donation here.
I have taken a closer look at the Albuquerque Public Schools’ $616 million bond measure and have my questions/concerns. First and foremost, the election date is February 2nd, but early voting is taking place right now and continues from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Friday, Jan. 29, at the following locations:
* Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office Annex, 620 Lomas NW
* APS Building, 6400 Uptown Blvd. NE
* Alamosa Community Center, 6900 Gonzales Road SW
* Don Newton Multi-Generational Center (Taylor Ranch Community Center), 4900 Kachina St. NW.
Here are some significant issues that voters must carefully consider:
— Although proponents argue that property taxes will not go up as a result of this bond issue, the fact is that property taxes would fall significantly if this measure were to fail. Since Albuquerque taxpayers pay property taxes at a rate 25% higher than any of the top ten cities in New Mexico, one could certainly argue that it is time for a tax cut, especially in light of what I believe are some problems/wastes of resources in Albuquerque’s Public School system;
— New Mexico has a law on the books called “Davis-Bacon.” This law mandates that all government construction projects pay something called the “prevailing wage” which is essentially an inflated union wage. There is a federal Davis-Bacon law which applies to federal construction projects, but New Mexico is one of 25 or so states that enforce the prevailing wage at the state level as well.
These laws typically raise labor costs by 25% and total construction costs by 10%. On a project costing more than $100 million like the new Volcano Vista High School on the west side, we are talking about real cost savings if Davis-Bacon were repealed;
— Another unnecessary cost-driver – that is, something that makes project costs unnecessarily high – is the pursuit of LEED Certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Arguably, but not necessarily (for reasons I won’t go into here), building to LEED standards includes increased energy efficiency. But that is only part of the story.
Obtaining LEED certification is an arduous, paperwork-intensive process that costs a lot of money. Estimates are that it raises building costs by 10% or more. Ironically, the certification process is completely unnecessary. In fact, APS could build to LEED standards relatively cheaply without going through the time-consuming and intensive certification process.
— Lastly, APS could save money by transitioning to modular school design or at least limiting the number of school floor plans used. Although specific data on this was difficult to come by in my research, I do know that modular construction is not widely used in APS projects and architects are hired on an ad hoc basis to design schools. Clearly, significant cost savings could be realized in this area as well.
According to Michael Coleman of the Albuquerque Journal, former New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici has joined the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. The organization’s goal is to convince Congress and the president to rein in the national debt.
Interesting that Domenici would join such an initiative. I could see him leading an organization dedicated to spreading nuclear power or some other pro-energy cause, but Domenici’s record in Congress certainly doesn’t strike me as that of a deficit hawk:
For starters, in his final year in the Senate, he received a gentleman’s “C” from the National Taxpayers Union. That is not exactly the rating of a true fiscal conservative, but it is representatives of Domenici’s NTU ratings; Also, according to the NTUF, during the 109th Congress Domenici voted to increase federal spending by $465,395,000,000 during that Congress alone. Again, hardly fiscally-responsible.
Specific, costly policies supported by Domenici in recent years include votes for Bush’s massive $1.2 trillion prescription drug bill and support for the trillion dollar Iraq War. I’m sure there are more.
My point is not to trash Domenici and what seems to be a positive effort in retirement to tackle a serious problem. Rather, I just wish he’d acted on his concerns about America’s massive debt problem while he had the power to actually do something.
Great articles in the Albuquerque Journal today on the Rail Runner, the fact that event with $19 million in annual subsidies, that the train service needs to make up a $750,000 deficit, and the possibility that weekend service may have to be curtailed in order to cut costs.
Of course, there was the expected hue and cry from riders, merchants, and even the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce over the possibility that weekend service will have to be reduced. By implication, these groups believe that the rest of us should be asked to dig into our pockets even deeper to fund their train. But there’s another way…
How about charging weekend riders a little more to make up the difference? Perhaps members of the Albuquerque Chamber and merchants near the train station in Santa Fe who supposedly benefit so much from the train would be willing to help fill the $750 million gap? It would seem to me that those who benefit the most from the train should be willing to pay a little more for it, particularly since the rest of us are already covering $400 million in construction costs and $19 million annually in operating costs. If these groups are not willing to put up any more money to keep the trains running, then perhaps it is not really as beneficial as they say.
Fair is fair…cut service or let beneficiaries pay more. Don’t burden the rest of us with an even bigger bill.
Sweden, that supposedly socialist European nation, is beginning to seem downright free market compared to the US in some ways. First, there was the nation’s refusal to bail out the car company Saab when the US was busy bailing out GM and Chrysler.
Now, comes this very interesting which shows that Sweden’s K-12 educational model is very choice-based and culturally all-American. What do they do in Sweden? As the article notes:
The Swedish model is built on two pillars of choice: a voucher system at both the primary and secondary levels and varied high school tracks.
Let’s start with the voucher program. If a public school isn’t meeting a student’s needs, he or she can leave. Students have the option to switch to another public school or they can leave the public system altogether and opt for a private school, explained Fredric Skälstad, political adviser to the Swedish minister of education.
The government attaches money to each student, which then follows him wherever he goes. Students with special needs — such as those from non-Swedish-speaking backgrounds — receive extra money.
If a public school isn’t up to snuff, students leave. And they take their money with them.
Wow, sounds like a huge step forward for our socialist education model! Perhaps the New Mexico Legislature can learn something from Sweden by adopting choice this legislative session.
As the Rio Grande Foundation and our guest speakers like John Charles (from Portland, OR) have pointed out, transit, despite its green reputation, is not as energy efficient as its backers would like us to believe. This includes Governor Richardson’s beloved Rail Runner.
It is understandable, of course, that greens and other backers of transit don’t buy what we have to say. But, when I picked up a copy of the Albuquerque Alibi last week, I found a very interesting article from The Straight Dope. If you aren’t familiar with it, Straight Dope is a “mythbuster” column that attempts to get to the heart of reality on various topics. There is no conservative bias but the truth. Well, the column which can be found here and clearly backs up the assertion that mass transit simply does not save energy.
The author’s conclusion is in his own words here:
On the face of it, then, transit currently offers no energy advantage over cars except in the handful of cities with heavy rail — and not all of those. (Chicago’s an outlier.) Estimates of auto efficiency vary depending on how many passengers you assume they’re carrying, so I won’t say transit is an energy loser. Instead I’ll agree with O’Toole: from an energy perspective, transit vs. cars is pretty much a wash.
Good to see independent sources verifying our data!