I don't watch TV as much as I used to, which may be why I had a tough time fathoming a couple of fast-food spots over the weekend. First were the commercials for Sonic Drive-In where two "30-something" guys spend the bulk of their day either: a) hanging out at the drive-up window, dumb-struck by the marvels of Sonic cuisine or, b) haranguing minimum-wage employees at other fast food joints for nothaving the same menu as Sonic. Really, has anyone without a pledge paddle hanging in their room gone to Sonic after watching these two dorks in action?
But following Sonic in the "How stupid do they think the public is?" ad wars is McDonald's. Gone is the syrupy "You deserve a break today!" jingle replaced instead by an urban anthem P-Diddy could have ghostwritten. Listen, like Dennis Miller, I like rap as much any other slightly intimidated white guy, but we're talking about ground beef here. I don't care how hip the soundtrack is, guys—it's still a Happy Meal.
On that note, following are a couple of other observations from the press side of the red carpet.
If this is cutting taxes, I'd hate to see what raising them looks like. Much has been made of Bill Richardson being the "tax-cutting" governor. Early in his administration, the guv ran full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal trumpeting tax cuts he made, even though he's a Democrat. In the words of the ad, "things are different in New Mexico." Well, it's now clear things aren't all that different: What the taxman giveth in one area he'll make up for in another.
Spending by state government will increase $271 million—or 6.6 percent next year—well ahead of the rate of inflation. The money for that spending increase isn't being created out of thin air. A lot of it's coming from increased taxes.
While the news media of New Mexico have, in their Pavlovian fashion when it comes to Richardson, fallen all over themselves reporting the removal of the gross receipts tax on food, they've neglected to zero in on the resulting tax increase that's being imposed on other goods and services to pay for it. For example, if you go to the store and buy a bunch of bananas, a frozen pizza and some toilet paper thinking you'll pay less tax, think again. The only item of the three that will cost you less is the bananas—the tax on the pizza and toilet paper (essentials if there ever were such a thing) will go up.
More commonly, this is known as a "bait and switch." Even though it's done by people in pinstripes and cufflinks, what we're talking about is still a shell game played in a way that's meant to keep the suckers from catching on.
I don't want to give Richardson too hard a time, however. He's had one of the better political quotes in a while. Asked after the special session of the Legislature about the tax increases that were approved, Gov. Richardson said, "I'm still the tax-cutting governor. This is just a modest increase." Bill Clinton couldn't have said it better.
PGS—don't go into the light! Even though many are thinking it, no one is actually saying it. So let me do what I do best and just lay it out there: The Planned Growth Strategy is flat-lining. Give it another year like the one it just had and it's as good as dead.
What's frustrating, though, is the way the symptoms of its demise are being handled. The body of this public policy has been exposed to anthrax and everyone's acting like it needs rhinoplasty.
The latest setback came in the form of a joint letter to the Albuquerque Journal signed by Councilor Michael Cadigan and County Commissioner Alan Armijo. In their letter, Cadigan and Armijo pledged cooperation in the county's ongoing efforts to cement its hostile takeover of the city's water utility—now known officially in Soviet-style parlance as "The Water Authority".
The hypocrisy here—especially from the editorial board of the Albuquerque Journal—is the insistence that city officials cooperate with the growth and development Neanderthals at the county in the seizure of Albuquerque's water utility. But when it comes to mutual cooperation on growth management policies like those embodied in the PGS (which the Water Authority does not currently have), well ... it's everyone for themselves.
Hypocrisy, however, is actually too kind a word to describe the actions of Commissioners Alan Armijo and Tim Cummins, both of whom, as Albuquerque City Councilors, were original sponsors of the Planned Growth Strategy but now act like a couple of deadbeat dads when it comes to the PGS.
How did the change of heart for Cummins and Armijo take place? Were lucrative insider deals on Westside land a consideration? Were campaign contributions a factor? Who knows? But it's a question their constituents ought to ask when re-election time rolls around.
In the meantime, hang in there PGS! You won big at the last city elections. With any luck, that'll count for something someday.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. Payne, a former city councilor, can be reached at email@example.com.