I live in Carlsbad, New Mexico. It is not all that far from Mexico, or Texas either. A recent Daily Kos blogger encouraged political activists to target our part of southeast New Mexico as being John McCain land.
We have a lot of people who work for the national park service, for the bureau of land management, for the national forest service, for FLETSI (the federal law enforcement training center in Artesia, not too far north), and for WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant that is I think 20 miles east of Carlsbad proper.
FLETSI is mostly border patrol trainees; they ran out of places to live in Artesia so they came down here and used up all our rental housing too. It's very hard to find a place to rent in Carlsbad and has been for several years now. It has kept our housing market oddly high, all these FLETSI people.
WIPP is what got Yucca Mountain off the hook; it's a nuclear waste dump, the Dept of Energy is always trying to get more stuff dumped there. WIPP is a much better place to dump nuclear waste than is Yucca Mountain. It would be nice, though, if people would not use that as an argument towards it being okay to make a whole lot more nuclear waste.
All of this has turned Carlsbad into an environment that is disproportionately influenced by the federal government, for better or for worse. We have a somewhat vague city government that periodically runs out of money, but it never seems to matter much. The last time the city council had an election, there was no candidate that ran in my district or ward or whatever they call it, until at the last minute there was a write-in candidate who got ninety-odd votes. Carlsbad has at least 20,000 residents, but the usual voter turnout runs around 15 percent.
Some time back, the city council got into a hassle with the local fire department, who wanted more money. The city council agreed to go into binding arbitration with the fire department, and the arbitrator found for the fire department. The fire department's position was they wanted about 250 thousand more a year, as I recall.
The city council members weren't happy about this, and took it to court. The judge who saw the case said; "No, you have to give them their $250 grand a year, the arbitration was legally binding."
There was a great deal of anger expressed locally about this. Some said; "How stupid of the judge to find for the firefighters and bankrupt us!" Others said; "How evil of anyone to try to hurt the firefighters!"
Few said; "How incredibly stupid of the City Council to enter into binding arbitration with the fire department when the city couldn't afford it."
The decision held, and one of the first jobs of the new city council was to deal with how to make enough money to cover the firefighter's pay increase. So, they started talking about increasing the gross receipts tax.
The gross receipts tax in New Mexico applies to anything you sell, including your services. It is a tax that is punitive to the self-employed. Anything you sell, including your services, is subject to the state gross receipts tax after the first $400 a year.
The city sent around ballots and people voted to increase the gross receipts tax to cover the firefighter debacle, so now we will not be in the hole for that.
A few months back, White's City New Mexico got sold at auction. White's City New Mexico had a fair amount of property and lots of water rights, and the Mayor of Carlsbad bid over a million for one of the parcels that included water rights, on behalf of the City of Carlsbad. He didn't win the auction but was quoted in our local paper as saying he would have had to have gotten approval from the city council after winning the parcel, and the city would have had to use the "roll-over" fund to pay for it.
Well, lots to be said for buying up water rights in the desert. Not so much to be said for draining public funds without getting an okay first.
But, with a 15% voter turnout, will anyone care? Will I run for City Council next time around?
Ninety-odd votes. My neighborhood is something in the middle of ghetto, barrio, run-down suburb. Sometimes my neighbors shoot each other (not too often, though). Usually they're pretty quiet. They're not really mostly people I want to be friends with or anything, but usually they don't get on my nerves. Occasionally they do things that seem very strange, but I'm sure that occasionally I do things that seem very strange to them, too.