It’s tough being Albuquerque, although it often shines at the same time.
Here we are in early October with the softer fall light sharpening some of the clearest days of the year. The balloon fiesta is in full swing, with thousands of visitors in town, and then the Albuquerque Journal greets you on Sunday, with frowning, front-page headlines, reporting on the nature of city’s crime problem, state government’s inherent budget limitations and dirty secrets of public school administration New Mexico-wide.
This was pointed out to me by one of my former co-workers at the paper, noting in a morning email the downbeat presentation. I respect his views, but I think most of us local journalism veterans also know that half of Albuquerque would accuse the Journal of hiding the news and promoting happy talk if it had presented more of an upbeat look during the city’s signature tourism event.
I have to say I read each of those front-page stories immediately because they involve some of the most pressing problems of the day.
One story reminded me that an abundance of public school administrations is a reflection of New Mexico’s reliance on government spending. Yes, we are a big, spread-out state, but it’s also true that there are few, if any, industries other than public schools in many of the state’s small towns.
I was glad to see the crime story included this perspective from a lawyer in the justice system: “I think the worry from our office is that the public hears ‘repeat offender’ and assumes that to be someone who engages in serial, violent conduct, when in fact APD is often referring to people who, because of homelessness or drug addiction or some other condition, become trapped in the system,” said Scott Wisniewski, a public defender.
Short-sighted, it seems to me, was this comment in the state budget story: “The amazing part to me is that, with the enormous increase in funding in 2008-09, we still did not move the needle, when it comes to education,” Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington.
I think that view illustrates our hugely flawed tendency to expect overnight improvements when, in a poor and culturally diverse state, decades probably are the more realistic timetable.
It’s unfair, too, to single out Albuquerque as troublesome. Most communities in the state have struggled for centuries with familiar economic problems. And if the economic issues in New Mexico don’t get you, maybe cultural ones will.
Journalists in my beloved, adopted hometown of Santa Fe have recently reported on the affordable housing problems there, as well as historical rifts in the city’s pre-balloon fiesta in September, leading to angry confrontations on the Plaza and bronze statue amputations in Alcalde.
So, maybe it’s sometimes tough just being a New Mexican, although the light in October makes me think I would want to live nowhere else — to say nothing of good neighbors and endorphin-inducing food.
I admit that I have just consumed a homemade breakfast burrito with a blanket of red chile. And I am a smiling hypocrite, avoiding many Santa Fe and Albuquerque arguments, living halfway between.
Previously on dream ranch: Never-never Land: https://dreamranch.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/never-never-land-santa-fe/