Casita de Coco

I took down my Airbnb listing this morning. No ceremony. No regrets.

Santa Fe is subjecting hosts to more scrutiny, fees and taxes and it's a matter of time before Albuquerque sees this as a missed source of tax revenue as well. 

The idea is good and I thoroughly enjoyed all of my guests. I got no complaints from neighbors and had a five-star rating. I especially loved sharing Albuquerque with newcomers as all of my guests were.

The problem is threefold: 1) I can't feel comfortable breaking zoning laws I used to administer, even if they're stupid laws. 2) The federal tax thing at this tiny scale is burdensome, nevermind any potential State and local taxes. 3) Homeowner insurance was a question I didn't even ask because I already pay a stupid amount for living in a mobile home.

Zoning here in this unincorporated county says renting a room in your house is a Bed and Breakfast. That's the definition in the ordinance and to do it legally would require a Conditional Use permit involving a fee, site plan, inspection, notice to all my neighbors, and a hearing where I might get told "no." My familiarity with this process and those who administer it offers just the opposite of preferential treatment. No.

Federal tax info is already submitted to the feds by Airbnb. So I'll be paying federal and state tax on the measly amount I earned. My understanding is that if I rent more than two weeks a year it is considered a business and I need to start itemizing for toilet paper and cocoa. I'm really not into dancing around federal tax law or paying an accountant to do it for me. No.   

Homeowner insurance companies already charge mobile home owners more for the privilege of  living in a piece of shit. My modern modular is far from a piece of shit, but that's how they classify it and I pay more to insure 900 square feet than I did for my former 2000 square foot house. I'm completely unmotivated to ask for a quote on a home business. No.

No regrets.




I remember Dad saying we shouldn't ever run a Bed and Breakfast inn or hotel because we'd always be changing  sheets and cleaning toilets.  But Mom did that anyway. And she didn't get paid.

The experience has been good so far - insurance, zoning and tax implications aside. I've met interesting people and my guest unit and house are cleaner than they've ever been. 

Undoubtedly the most frustrating aspect of this little edge of hoteliery is not sheets and toilet cleaning or even insurance, zoning and taxes.  It is hair. It is the capture and containment of this ubiquitous human waste. Hair - so lovely and esteemed when attached, immediately morphs into reviled waste product once separated from its host.

 Two words: lint roller.

Lying Liars Fracking Lies

UPDATE:  Here's a little explanation of fracking: Gasland The Movie.

Statements that start with "with all due respect" never end well and are almost never respectful. The dust up (Clearly New Mexico) in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Monday began with such a phrase from Representative Bratton.  It corresponded with, and could have been triggered by, a question from Representative Al Park about fracking.

It was unclear why Park (doing his Unfrozen "I'm just a caveman" Lawyer) asked the question since the second speaker had already clearly summarized the what and whys of reaching "unconventional" resources.

I sensed the Republican committee members just didn't want to hear about fracking or anything else from those witnesses, like the 27 state tax incentives in place for the industry or the impact of global production on rig counts in New Mexico.  They contemptuously left the room and later dismissed the entire presentation as propaganda.   Most lobbyists left too.

It could have been coincidence but on the same day as the hearing, Jan 31, the  news came out about diesel fuel use in fracking fluid.  (Secret formula my ass.)

Oil and gas service companies injected tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel into onshore wells in more than a dozen states from 2005 to 2009, Congressional investigators have charged. Those injections appear to have violated the Safe Water Drinking Act, the investigators said in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday. (NYT's)

Representatives of the natural gas industry have said no worries:

Today, diesel fuel is simply not used in fracturing operations,” the industry stated unequivocally. “Except in the trucks, of course – they still need diesel to run.

But that’s not what was reported to Congressional investigators. In a letter sent on Monday to the Environmental Protection Agency, the legislators said that the companies they queried reported using 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel, or fluids containing diesel, between 2005 and 2009. Each case, the letter stated, appeared to be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. (NYT's)

The industry representatives and their many friends in the New Mexico Legislature don't feel any need to justify themselves, I sense.  They're on top. They're the producers. Republican Energy Committee members stressed their connections to the industry Monday and demonstrated that they think they know it all.

Nuevo Rancho Viejo

The Rancho Viejo development, totalling about 12,500 acres south of Santa Fe, has been sold.  (Santa Fe New Mexican) Like other big real estate deals, ownership is thoroughly obscured by corporate identity, in this case,  Univest-Rancho Viejo LLC - whoever the hell that is.*  They purchased the "community" from Ariz.-based SunCor Development Co for an undisclosed amount.  The book value was placed at $400 million at one time.  

Referring to a "community" as being bought and sold has a company town ring to it and this gets clarified in the article.

The development has some 1,200 homes as well as parks, playing fields and a central plaza. There are three separate homeowner associations that own all of development's open spaces, recreational areas and six-plus miles of trails. These areas are not included in the transaction.

"We hope some of the past plans as presented to us now will be completed by the new owner," said Bruno Keller, president of the North Homeowners Association.

And no worries there, right?  Right?


*This could be anyone for all hapless homeowners know.  (Could it be SAAAtan?) The New Mexican story states the company includes a group of original owners - whoever the hell that is.

Ethics - All Behind Us Now

"That such a deal was even considered shows the willingness of Richardson's cronies to view the state's coffers as their own private bank. As more documents come to public light, each revelation just gets more stunning and makes you wonder." Albuquerque Journal

Wonder at the apparent naivety, maybe.  People all over, inside, out, and around local government use it as their own private bank.  It's a consequence of long standing structural constructs and customs.  These don't change much with a new administration.  While there are new or different players at the top surface, all the old pond deposits remain.  The leeches, snakes, gators, contractors and lobbyists will show newcomers the twisted dirty ropes on which some will undoubtedly hang themselves as some of their predecessors did.  Nothing will improve if we imagine the problem is all in the past.

BTW, on the scale of dirty inside deeds and deals I count the new Governor's first movidas on behalf of polluting industry as far more unethical than a long-past Baltimore casino deal that never happened


Behind Growth - Dead Regulations

Housing regulations, more than those that bind standard businesses, explain the Sunbelt’s population growth.

 That's the conclusion of economist Edward L. Glaeser in the NYTimes Economix.  He uses census information to frame his idea that land use regulations impact housing supply and a cheap housing supply is the measure of a triumphant city - the title of his book.  The construction industry must adore this guy.   Here's the money paragraph:

A rich body of research shows that regulation, which is intense in the Northeast and California but lax in the Sunbelt, explains why housing is supplied so readily down South. The future shape of America is being driven not by quality of life or economic success but by the obscure rules regulating local land use.


The rules are so obscure he can't name them.  Except for passing reference to the absence of zoning in Houston, the specific regulations constraining urban triumphalism remain consistently mysterious straight through his links. 

I'm no Paul Krugman, but this jumps the shark for urban theory.  It doesn't make sense even if you completely ignore the role of finance, speculative money, public bonds and subsidies for utility and water system expansions and road projects.

If New York and Massachusetts want to stop losing congressional seats, then they must revisit the rules that make it so difficult to build. High prices show that the demand would be there if the supply is unleashed.

Unleash the hounds on the planner!

Transparent Bribes

A couple of Dallas housing developers have been sentenced for bribing public officials.  The story (Dallas Examiner - Harvey Grund)  alludes to the bigger picture of local government corruption.  The case took down some powerful politicians - the former mayor pro tem got 18 years in federal prison and a former planning commissioner - 14 years.  Ten others got fines or jail time.

That may sound like something that only happens in Chicago or New York but this kind of thing happens in most cities, large and small. In a large city the scope of the crime, the amount of money changing hands and the amount of publicity may be greater but in every city across the world there are politicians who face a daily temptation to breech the public trust in return for something they value. Some of them, in truth like some of us, find it hard to resist temptation. 

It reads to me as a caution against the hubris of lauding baby steps at more "transparent" government in New Mexico.  (Especially where such cries for transparency arise from profound civic suspicion and ignorance - nutured by talk radio.)  Knowing agency budgets and salaries is nice and all, but bribery and extortion won't be uncovered through a magical Sunshine Portal.

Santa Fe Ring

Cimarron-TolbyGrave.Weiser.07-03 Just read a great little borrowed out-of-print tract written by Norman Cleaveland  in 1977 entitled, Colfax County's Chronic Murder Mystery.  It's about the Colfax and Lincoln County land wars, the Santa Fe Ring and the murder of a minister-journalist in 1875.  It seems like an earlier chapter in a long story and reminds me of the Cricket Coogler case - a powerful political cover-up with lasting power.

The subtle mystery of the Colfax County incident, according to the author, is not who killed the Rev. Tolby.  The murder was "solved."  It is how facts persistently get buried, forgotten or altered in the retelling.  The Angel Reports, a collection from a 1878 investigation of the land wars conducted by Frank Warner Angel, fingered Samuel B. Axtell, the territorial governor,  as a corrupt tool of the powerful, far-reaching and enduring Santa Fe Ring. 

Tolby was killed for his criticism of political corruption as a journalist for a New York newspaper.   His murder sparked retaliatory acts,  land war violence and an epic cover-up. 

Charges were filed against Axtell and he was fired but nothing stuck.  Four years later he returned to New Mexico politics as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Angel Reports were buried for 80 years and portions were destroyed.  Opponents of the Santa Fe Ring got mousy.  Reviewers and writers rewrote.  The Santa Fe Ring?   What Ring?

The author calls the story an alleged mystery which continues to flourish in spite of being repeatedly solved.
Photo and another account of Catron County land wars found at Legends of America site.