Preliminary Finding - No Way to Do Business

What we at NewsNM have come to call the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” situation could be told from a number of different perspectives. We see it as having several core issues that are not best practices. This story did not begin with us looking into squandered public funds or $10 million in lost local economic impact, but rather as simply a curious story about a stranded golf course (above) on the east mesa of Las Cruces.
Background: Members of the Las Cruces Country Club had spoken often in recent months to NewsNM about the various ways in which use of the new golf course that the club had agreed to trade for, was being held up by red tape at City Hall. In the course of our investigation NewsNM learned that the spectacular new golf course already had a suitable paved access road, but the road was being rendered useless because the city council demanded not one, but two access roads to the golf course.
We decided to take pictures of the so-called “Road to Nowhere” (left). During our visit to the site in City Councilor Gil Sorg’s district, we also observed that there were two brand new schools under construction. The first school, Monte Vista Elementary School (below), is scheduled to open August 16th. We also noted that both schools had only one access road (Jornada Road). Logic dictated we ask why a school could open with only one access road while a private golf course with only one access road was being kept closed.
Monte Vista Elementary School
The events that followed are typical of any unfolding situation where best practices are not followed. Namely, once one question was answered definitively, it immediately led to another question. Eventually, the question and answer process unearthed the worst sort of public policy blunders made by elected officials in this area in quite some time. LCPS officials indicated in a subsequent meeting that the district had planned to build the two new schools in the golf course area several years ago. (NOTE) The school site locations were based in part on the eventually unfulfilled commitments from a developer no longer connected to the project to have the road infrastructure in place. Unfortunately, as the completion of Monte Vista Elementary School continued to approach, the timeline for construction of a second access road got tight for the school district. However, good news for Las Cruces Public Schools came late last year. Through the use of Special Assessment District financing (SAD), the extension of North Sonoma Ranch Boulevard would finally be completed after years of delays.
Sharon Thomas
Staff members at both LCPS and the city, along with city bond counsel, the city finance director, and the single property owner/developer in the Special Assessment District worked diligently and reached detailed agreements in January of 2010. Next, the Las Cruces City Council reviewed the proposal and voted 7-0 in favor of a resolution to get the private funding for the Special Assessment District finalized and the road completed. Detailed descriptions and surveys of all the property to be assessed to pay for the project were sent out for an independent appraisal after the council’s unanimous vote.
Olga Pedroza
Inexplicably, and without any notice to LCPS staff or the business people funding the Special Assessment District, in an early April work session it soon became clear that six city councilors (shown in order top to bottom in this story), Sharon Thomas, Olga Pedroza, Nathan Small, Gil Sorg, Dolores Connor, and Miguel Silva, all speaking from what seems the same set of notes and talking points, reversed the positions they each took in January when the resolution to get the road built was passed unanimously. So apparently thousands of hours of planning and untold dollars spent in good faith were squandered. These six councilors left LCPS, local area residents, the business people providing the financing, and all local unemployed road building and construction workers in the lurch. During the April work session, only the mayor tried desperately to avert the disaster.
Nathan Small
What actually happened between January and April has become a $10 million-plus question begging for an answer. Mayor Ken Miyagishima was the first elected official to go public with a few details. When he first appeared on NewsNM on July 7th, the mayor explained why the biggest project Las Cruces has had going in many years had effectively been derailed three months earlier.
Gil Sorg
The mayor attributed the problem to the “inexperience” of the other six councilors as well as a wealth of misinformation that was fed to councilors between January and April 2010 by still unknown parties. The mayor also made it known for the first time that the school district would lose out on the $1 million reimbursement commitment from the Special Assessment District property owner.
Confirming the details of the disaster was LCPS associate superintendant Herb Torres when he appeared on NewsNM on July 28th. Local businessman John Moscato, representing the sole property owner providing the assessed property for the entire road building project also appeared on NewsNM on Monday July 26th. Like Mr. Torres, Mr. Moscato confirmed everything essential in what Mayor Miyagishima said earlier in the month.
Dolores Connor
The political posturing that ensued as the story began to break in early July was fairly predictable. When NewsNM first began to merely repeat what the mayor had said on the show about the lost value of the project to the community, including the terrible waste and squandered opportunity, city councilors Sharon Thomas and Dolores Connor expressed outrage, but only behind the scenes. In emails to NewsNM Posse members both suggested NewsNM (not the mayor) was uninformed. Phone calls and an angry visit to the radio station office quickly followed. It was a classic case of a shoot the messenger strategy despite the fact it was Mayor Miyagishima that blew the whistle on this ridiculous blunder.
Miguel Silva
After all the blustering, in the end, despite open invitations to all elected officials by NewsNM, only one councilor, Dolores Connor, actually went on the record in an attempt to explain why she and the other councilors had reversed their positions on a good faith agreement with no notice whatsoever to the other participating parties in the agreements. Before Councilor Connor appeared on NewsNM, we obtained an unsigned memo that had been distributed to city councilors after each made their commitment to the road building agreement in January. The unsigned memo contained a number of false, out of context, and misleading statements about the road project. During Councilor Connor’s appearance on NewsNM she repeated much of what was asserted in the unsigned memo.
LCPS Herb Torres
With Monte Vista Elementary School due to open in sixteen days here is a summary of this scandal. After a thorough vetting of all the pertinent details of the special assessment district and other integrally related agreements, in January, the City Council by a 7-0 vote agreed by resolution to move forward on a very specific proposal. This was followed by:
1. An order that was placed for an expensive property appraisal which included the agreed upon properties in the SAD. The appraisal was completed and paid for.
2. A tentative funding commitment for the entire project from the New Mexico Finance Authority was obtained.
3. The $1 million reimbursement to LCPS from the Special Assessment District continued to be contingent upon the fulfilling of all agreements reached by all parties in January.
Ken Miyagishima
4. At the April City Council work session, essentially all agreements were summarily voided and the good faith efforts collapsed when it became clear that every councilor except the mayor had developed a new position. These new positions were clearly based on the unsigned and misleading memo distributed to councilors.
Ironically it was Herb Torres of LCPS who pointed to the fact that Las Cruces citizens will now get precisely what these councilors claimed they wanted to avoid…..a temporary low grade, colonias-style, maintenance plagued road, instead of four-lane, well engineered, major arterial roadway at the end of North Sonoma Ranch Boulevard. Worse yet, this low grade road will not be completed in time for the opening of Monte Vista Elementary. Worst of all, LCPS will lose the entire $1 million reimbursement from the business people who were ready to finance the now dead road project.
And thus we have the Boulevard of Broken Dreams: a story of inexperience, an inability to differentiate between facts and misinformation, and the regrettable act of breaking important good faith agreements. These are not what citizens expect from elected officials going about the business of managing resources and relationships for the people they represent. We at NewsNM will continue to work on this topic and will issue a final report in the coming days. What is obvious to us at this point is that this is no way for the city of Las Cruces to do business. Many other companies and people will be watching to see if the city can be trusted to stand by their word. This time they did not.


Martinez Announces "Democrats for Martinez Coalition"

Albuquerque –Susana Martinez, Republican gubernatorial nominee today announced her statewide Democrats for Martinez coalition. Coalition members include Democrats from across New Mexico who have endorsed Martinez’s “Bold Agenda for Fighting Corruption” and support her vision to get the state’s economy back on track.

“Regardless of political affiliation, New Mexicans from every corner of our great state are eager to make bold changes in how state government functions, and that begins by ending the culture of corruption that has plagued the Richardson/Denish Administration and the Roundhouse,” stated Susana Martinez, Republican gubernatorial nominee. “If elected Governor of New Mexico, I will bring people together – irrespective of political affiliation – to eliminate public corruption and get small businesses hiring again. After eight years of the current administration, voters want a state government that holds people to account and delivers results and come this November, I will begin to make bold changes benefiting all New Mexicans.”


July Unemployment Rate in U.S. Probably Rose

Unemployment probably climbed in July, raising the risk American households will keep a lid on spending for the rest of the year, economists said before a government report this week. The jobless rate rose to 9.6 percent last month from 9.5 percent in June, according to the median estimate of 57 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News ahead of a Labor Department report Aug. 6. A drop in federal census workers as the population count wound down depressed payrolls by 60,000, the data may also show. Read more here:

We Borrowed $1,028 Per Taxpayer in July

Sen. Jeff Bingaman
Rep. Harry Teague
    Are you saving money for retirement? How much? Are you stashing away more than $1,000 per month? We are guessing probably not. No matter what your status is if you are a United States taxpayer you should click on the You Owe page of We caution you. Only do so if you have some anti-nausea medicine handy.

Sen. Tom Udall

    Our federally elected officials presided over policies that caused each taxpaying citizen in the United States to take on $1,028 dollars in additional debt to service for the month of JULY 2010.
    Amazingly, we are on tap to borrow the same amount again in August. Why is this happening? The answer is simple.
Rep. Martin Heinrich
    As Americans we are, through the silence of our voices allowing this to happen. The elected officials we New Mexicans send to Washinton D.C. are as follows:

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D), Senator Tom Udall (D), Representative Harry Teague (D), Representative Martin Henrich (D), Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D).
    If you feel good about how much money was borrowed on your behalf last month you need say nothing. However, if you are a bit concerned about how business is being done on your behalf, it might be time to find a way to make your feelings known.


Lew Hay - A New Dawn for Nuclear Energy?

Palo Verde Plant
Business Week - Recently there's been much talk of a nuclear renaissance in the U.S. And that's all it is right now: talk. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is acting. More than 50 new nuclear plants are under construction around the world, including 24 in China alone. In the U.S. is just one. Today nuclear power supplies roughly one-fifth of U.S. electricity needs—safely, reliably, and cheaply. It can continue to do so in the future and perhaps even expand its share, but only with sensible policies in place. Read more here:


Human Nature - Get Out of the Tax Heat

Business Week - It turns out that countries have two economies: the official one and a shadow version. The official economy is the one that governments and banking institutions measure with gross domestic product, tax receipts, social security contributions, employment identification numbers, and the like. The shadow economy is all the money and jobs generated outside the official economy, whether legally or illegally. In more than 50 countries around the world, the shadow economy is at least 40 percent the size of documented GDP. Read more here:

Holtz-Eakin and Ramlet - Health Law Needs Repeal

By Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Michael Ramlet - The new health-care law is a threat to the health of small businesses. Its heavy dosage of mandates and penalties will be a financial burden, and the law is riddled with hidden barriers to stronger job growth. The small business implications of the legislation are important because data from the ADP National Employment Report shows that since January 2001 companies with one to 49 employees were responsible for 36 percent of job growth, while those with 50 to 499 workers accounted for 44 percent of new jobs. Read more here: