Que Pasa In Baja?

June 13, 2016 Edition
BY: OLIVER QUINTERO

Money fight!  So what else is new? The federal high court has ruled in favor of the hoteliers of Tijuana and Tecate regarding the runaway hotel tax money. If you remember, (and why wouldn’t you?) we told you that the state hijacked the funds raised by the 3% room tax from all the cities in the state. Before that every city managed the money it raised.

The money grab was pushed by our state tourism honcho, Oscar Escobedo, who said it would save big bucks in duplicated overhead which could now go toward promoting the entire state.

Of course the local hotel associations were pretty pissy about this because they lost control over the money raised in their jurisdiction. Now the courts have given hope to them that they will get that money back, because their rights were violated when they were not given enough time to fight against the measure in court.

This doesn’t mean that the money will revert to local control again, but it’s a step towards that. For now it’s back to the courts for more of this cat fight.

Big investments in Baja. Baja California is one of the main foreign investment destinations in the country according to the National Economy Office, at least in the first quarter of 2016.

We managed to snag about 481 million USD in investments this past quarter, a 75% increase from the same period last year. This increase positioned Baja as the fifth state in the country with the most foreign investment and the second from the United States.

Although this is good news for Baja, we can’t say the same for the country, because the money invested nationwide was actually 15% less than the investment in the same period last year.

Where is the money coming from you ask? Well as you may have guessed, the U.S. leads the chart with 66.4%, South Korea gets second place with 14.4%. The remaining 19.20% is distributed between Spain, The Netherlands, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong and other countries.

This investment has helped Baja bring the unemployment rate down to 2.84%, the lowest rate since 2008. The average unemployment rate for the country is 3.8%. Yes, way lower than the United States’ 5%. Under employment is Mexico’s problem, not unemployment. That means jobs are plentiful but the work force is not paid well.

Bypass on its way again. After being on hold for several months, construction on the Ensenada bypass is resuming “soon”. Alfonso Padres, head of the federal Transportation and Communications Office (SCT) in Baja, said the project had been put on hold because the construction company had run amuck.

The original project was to be 39 feet wide but the construction company decided to make it 69 feet wide because they felt if it had to be enlarged later it would be too risky since big rocks had to be blown away with dyne-o-mite. So they just took it upon themselves to make it wider. Sigh.

The process of this decision was not done right, (no shit), so the construction was put on hold until it was all sorted out.

About $5.4 million is being invested on the bypass this year and Padres says the goal is to finish the first section before the year ends. The first section starts in El Sauzal and ends at Ruiz Street in Ensenada, close to the dam.

Deadly Baja 500 race. This year’s off road race was saddened by the death of an 8 year old American child from California who was watching the race with her mom when a trophy truck lost control and careened into the crowd.  The child died almost instantly and her mom survived with broken bones.

People, it’s not safe to watch the race so close to the cars! This has happened before.

Everyone seems to be blaming the spectators for standing too close and putting themselves at risk, but the blame should be shared by the organizers and local authorities as well.

If the event were held in the States, proper security measures would be taken to make sure nobody goes near the course, at least at the start. Of course that is precisely why the race isn’t held in the United States.

The driver may not be so much to blame, as accidents happen in this dangerous sport and they know it. But anyway the 47 year old American driver was immediately taken into custody according to Mexican law and was released a day later when the parents of the boy signed a pardon. Of course this was after $55,000 changed hands.

Later in the race two American motorcyclists died in different accidents.

In related news. This year the Baja 500 race brought about 100,000 people to the city, filling the hotels to100% occupancy. The state tourist office said the race brought about $2 million into the local economy. $2 million, three people dead. 

Election results. As you may already know elections were held this last weekend, voting for city mayors and diputados in the 5 municipalities of Baja. Overall 3 municipalities were won by the PAN party and 2 by the PRI. From the 17 congress seats available, 12 were won by the PAN and only 5 by the PRI.

In Rosarito Mirna Rincon won city mayor with 35.40% of the votes, defeating Laura Torres (daughter of owner of the Rosarito Beach Hotel and former mayor of Rosarito, Hugo Torres), who got 25.75% of the votes. Sra. Rincon is going to be the first woman mayor in Baja.

Although during the campaign Mirna Rincon was heavily criticized for not actually living in Rosarito, but only owns a house here, it looks like people still decided to go her way, possibly because voters are tired of the PRI. The PRI, party of the President of the Republic, took a bath in this election and that was widely seen as caused by voters weary of corruption and the safety problems that brings with it.

Ensenada saw a closer election for mayor, as the PRI won with 25.40% of the votes. The PAN had 21.79% and Omar Garcia, an independent candidate, gathered more than 21.66% of the votes. People seem to be so tired of the corruption in political parties that they supported a young independent candidate who almost took the election. It’s pretty unusual for a candidate not backed by a major party to win.

The winner in Ensenada is Marco Novelo, owner of Las Rosas hotel and part of the Novelo family that owns the Estero Beach Resort south of the city. Let’s just hope that he does well by the American community and tourism which he is highly familiar with.

The biggest losers this election were, as it has been for some years here in Baja, the non-voters. Only 33.06% of people actually bothered to cast their vote.

If you do the math this means that only about 11.68% of the people actually voted for the new mayor in Rosarito and just about 8.38% of them chose the new mayor in Ensenada.  This is where we can always count on my boss to pipe up with her favorite dicho: People generally get the government they deserve.

TJ boom. Tijuana is seeing a boom in construction and by next year will add 700 new condominiums in at least 30 projects.

In the development of what has become known as the Alta Baja, the investment will total $188 million, and generate about 10,000 direct jobs, said the president of TJ’s economic development council. The 30-plus condominium projects are concentrated in Tijuana’s exclusive Golden Zone, and represent to date an investment of $100 million. “Tijuana doesn’t even have 30 such buildings now. We’re building more [condominiums] right now than in the last 126 years. By 2018, there’ll be more buildings in town than ever,” said real estate expert Héctor Bustamante.

Besides the condominium buildings, Alta Baja will also include a five star hotel, high end shopping malls, and private hospitals that will cater not only to the domestic market but to foreigners too.

The municipal government estimated the construction project would generate 8,000 jobs per year.

The profile of the typical buyer remains national, with about 80% of all available condos having been bought by Mexicans.

Call for volunteers! Helpers are needed July 2nd and 3rd for the Flying Samaritan’s 4th of July Bash. Bilingual preferred but not required. There are many positions available. For information, please contact DeeDee Martinson at deedeemartinson@hotmail.com or MX phone 661-100-6800, or US phone: 1-612-332-3533. And you get a cool free t-shirt!.