Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

New Mexico -- Like a Trip to Outer Space


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- There's good news and bad news in the recent reports about New Mexico.

   Gov. Bill Richardson recently announced that the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis ranks New Mexico fifth nationally in percentage of economic growth. That's nearly double the national average. And our unemployment rate of 3.6 percent is significantly below the national average of 4.5 percent.

   Richardson says the economic news will be a major selling point as he continues to recruit new businesses to the state. There's also a fairly good chance he also will mention it during his presidential campaign.

   We still rank down at No. 40, so we have a long way to go, as NBC's Tim Russert so vigorously pointed out in his recent Meet the Press interview with Richardson.

   Another piece of bad news came a few days later when the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women reported that our state's women rank 42nd in the extent to which they participate in our economic growth. Women make 74.6 cents for every dollar men are bringing in.

   Back to the good news, a joint survey by and Sperling's Best Places ranks Santa Fe as the second best place for artists to live.

   The ranking was based on metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of artistic business establishments. That includes museums, orchestras, dance companies, and such. Who beat us out? Los Angeles.

   The ranking fits in with a recent University of New Mexico study that found Santa Fe has the second largest art market in the nation in terms of dollar sales, generating $1.1 billion annually, according to Art-Talk magazine. Santa Fe also has the most artists per capita of any city in the United States.

   It seems hard to believe that little Santa Fe could be in such tall cotton, but we realize how good Santa Fe is when we visit galleries in major cities that proudly advertise their art communities.

   A few years ago, a well-to-do in-law from Dallas pulled me aside in one of Santa Fe's nicest galleries and said she was embarrassed that she hadn't found where to pay her admission fee. She thought she was in a museum.

   More bad news. Morgan Quinto Press, another publication that rates best places to live, recently ranked New Mexico as the second most dangerous state.

   "Dangerous" is measured by giving equal rank to murders, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts. Generally, the dangerous states are in the south. Nevada is first, Arizona third. California and Texas also are in the top 10.

   The big northeastern states show up as relatively safe. Might this be a good anti-immigration argument? States near the Mexican border have high rates of car thefts. Maybe a murder should be weighted higher than a car theft.

   Here's some news the state Tourism Department may not be too crazy about. NASA scientists are studying New Mexico's landscape because it looks so much like the surface of Mars. They've discovered that volcanic rocks on Mars look strikingly like some found near Zuni. So they're studying the Zuni rocks for clues to what the Mars rocks may look like underneath.

   Forty years ago, Harrison Schmitt, the only scientist astronaut to walk on the moon, trained his fellow NASA astronauts on New Mexico geologic features because they were most like the moon.

   Visit New Mexico, Universe. It's just like a trip to outer space.

   New Mexico voters didn't hold Schmitt responsible for any bad publicity. Two years after the Apollo program ended, we elected him to the U.S. Senate.

   Speaking of outer space, New Mexico thinks it is building Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson a $225 million spaceport. But the June Wired magazine indicates Branson's eyes are wandering toward spaceports in Mojave, Sweden, Scotland and offers from various Middle Eastern and Asian governments.

MON, 6-25-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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