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Columns

  • Charter change is flawed on many levels

    The debate over Charter Question 2 has rightly concentrated on the basic issue: whether the checks and balances relationship between the Board of Public Utilities and the county council that has worked well for 46 years should be replaced by a system in which council has unilateral control over utilities. Several smaller or less direct issues also merit consideration.
    A core argument used to support Ballot Question 2 is that only the council is accountable to citizens. Yet Question 2, should it pass, could actually make council less accountable. The proposed new Article V adds a new provision — Sec. 504 (f), which says “the DPU budget will identify a percentage of DPU revenues for transfer to the county general fund based on a formula agreed to by the board and council.” Any monies assessed through utility bills and transferred to the county general fund via this new route is effectively a tax. It just wouldn’t be called that. Citizens can see actual tax rates and hold councilors accountable. It would be difficult to figure out what implicit taxes might be hidden in utility bills. Council would, in practice, be less accountable for their revenues and the spending they enable.

  • Monsters are still in the closet for patients

    CHILE PAC’s half-hour infomercial titled “Breakdown” is an interesting entry into campaign debate.
    Its subject is the human impact of the state Human Services Department’s shutdown of 13 behavioral health providers and their replacement with five Arizona firms.
    Concerned Hispanics Involved in Legislative Empowerment used documentary techniques to take the audience inside the homes of people struggling to care for a mentally ill relative. It also gives a voice to providers who were disgraced and thrown out with no chance to defend themselves.
    Aired recently, “Breakdown” is obviously aimed at Gov. Susana Martinez. Her campaign filed an ethics complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office that CHILE PAC hadn’t registered with the state or filed finance reports. (Imagine an outfit sitting on millions in dark money complaining about a trifling $4,500 spent on the spot.) Still, I credit the organizers for reminding us that this is about sick, troubled people.
    We meet Gib Lovell, whose son Caleb is schizophrenic. After the state’s closure of Caleb’s accustomed provider, the new provider cut back on treatment and services. Lovell built a six-foot wall around his property. “If Caleb has a bad day,” he said, “I can keep my son out of harm’s way.”

  • Constitutional amendments: Yes on 1, No on others

    Five more amendments to the New Mexico Constitution face voters this fall. Amending the Constitution has been a low-key sideline or, perhaps, a sport of state politics since before statehood.
    Find the text of the amendments and pro and con arguments at websites of the Legislative Council Service (LCS).
    Proposed amendments pass the Legislature as joint resolutions and are submitted to the people in general elections, meaning alternate years. The governor has no authority to comment.
    Sometimes elitists argue that amendments are too complex or boring or whatever for “the people” to consider from the perspective of their averageness. This amounts to the same rationale given by radicals such as Sen. Tom Udall with his First Amendment proposal to regulate political speech. Udall and his far left buddies think that regular folks can’t sort through megabucks spending to make a decision.
    I disagree. Voters really do consider constitutional amendments. If that consideration is for one minute, so what? My evidence is that sometimes proposed amendments lose. Individual amendments always get different vote totals. Clearly voters, some anyway, come to different conclusions about a given proposal.

  • Utilities charter change is not in our interest

    As a retired Los Alamos County utilities manager, 10-year member of the Board of Public Utilities (Board) and a utilities customer, I urge voters to vote against Ballot Question No. 2 — utilities. I am concerned about the potential negative effects the proposed re-write of Article V of the Los Alamos County Charter will have on Utilities customers.
    Unless a voter digs deeply into the background he/she may not realize that Article V, which was ratified in 1968 and has effectively guided utilities operations since, will be deleted and replaced with a new version that is substantially changed.
    What occurs in the proposed version is the council gains more control over utilities. Among other things, the council:
    1) will have the ability to remove one or more board members without reason
    2) will have the right to impose a dispute resolution process weighted in the council’s favor, and
    3) could potentially use utilities’ funds for other county operations.

  • No politics with utilities, please

    The advocates of Charter Amendment 2 are now claiming that it is preventive maintenance for the Utilities Department. This type of maintenance is based on the principle: “If it ain’t broke, fix it ‘til it is.”
    Don’t let them politicize our utilities. Vote “No” on Charter Amendment 2.
    Gil Miranda
    Los Alamos

  • A case for voting for Amendment 2

    I am voting for Amendment No. 2 on the upcoming ballot about our Utilities Board. 
    Contrary to the opponent’s dire depictions, it does not give unchecked power to council, or radically change the government structure established in the 1960s.   
    It does, however, put in some fail-safes and backstops that I think most of us would actually assume are in place now.
    Our local government has two parts. One is the Department of Public Utilities, which provides water, sewer, gas and electric. It is managed by a utility manager, policy decisions are set by a citizen utility board, and neither the board nor the manager reports to council. 
    The second is the county government, providing police, fire protection, libraries, parks, and the jail, for instance. These are managed by a county administrator, policies are set by the county council and you elect the council.
    With Amendment No. 2, the changes:
    • Require the utility board to abide by the Sunshine Laws of New Mexico — to announce all meetings and agendas.
    • Require the board to report once a quarter to the community — in a report to council — any issues that might be of concern.
    • Require the board, once every five years, to hire an outside utility consultant to review their processes.

  • Dogs and chocolate are a bad combination

    The Halloween season brings with it much amusement and excitement, and one anticipated tradition is the variety of chocolate you have an excuse to enjoy. While all of these Halloween treats may only bring your children a sugar rush and a tummy ache, it can do much more serious damage to your pets.
    “Chocolate and caffeine belong to a group of plant molecules called methylated xanthine alkaloids, which are commonly found in a variety of foods, drinks and medications,” said Dr. Medora Pashmakova, clinical assistant professor in Emergency/Critical Care Medicine at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
    “As stimulants, they cause excitation of the central nervous system, heart rate, and respiratory centers of the brain and can also stimulate the body’s own secretion of adrenaline. And, when in the form of candy and chocolate bars, they taste delicious, which is why dogs love to eat them in such large quantities!”
    As a rule of thumb, the higher the cocoa concentration, the more theobromine, which is the active ingredient that is toxic in high doses. Baker’s chocolate, for example, can be particularly concerning, while white chocolate contains no cocoa and is not actually toxic to dogs.

  • ISIS, Ebola and Elvis Presley

    “Wise men say, only fools rush in.” To tell you the truth, I’ve always been annoyed by that song. Elvis Presley slurs it so much that I had to look up the lyrics to figure out what he was whining about.
    Yes, angels fear to tread rock and roll!
    Fear is an interesting commodity. It refuses to adhere to well-founded economic principles of supply and demand.
    When the supply of fear is readily available (and it always is), the price goes up, not down. Likewise, people fear to fear, so no one really wants it. And yet with virtually no demand for it, the price continues to skyrocket.
    So as another election looms in the near future, we have to wonder where all this fear is coming from. Why the sudden onslaught of fear for sale?
    Christian Nestell Bovee said it best (without using the word “moronic,” which definitely proves we’re not related). “We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”
    It’s the same old story. We fear what we don’t understand, and we hate what we fear. We fear fear and spiral into a never-ending cycle of panic and dread.
    Let’s take a look at the tsunami of fear drenching us in the news these days.

  • Ignorance, disinformation cloud candidates' debate over New Mexico economy

    Last week, we talked about job-creation promises of the 2010 gubernatorial race. Today, let’s look at the current campaign rhetoric. Republican Susana Martinez has upped her game, but fills her policy position with disinformation. And Gary King, her Democratic opponent? The dog ate his homework.
    In speeches, King touts an increased minimum wage and pooh-poohs the 2013 tax compromise package.
    Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do because every working person deserves a wage he or she can live on. But it’s not economic development. Democrats subscribe to this tooth-fairy idea that an increased minimum wage will magically stimulate the economy, but studies are inconclusive.
    The 2013 tax compromise that King doesn’t like is the one thing the administration and lawmakers have done that will actually make a difference.
    On his campaign website, King says he would change the criteria for state (State Investment Council) investments in local businesses. He complains that the state has invested in too many failed businesses. Does he not understand that startup companies are by nature riskier?

  • Weh gets a present of 30,000 cancelled health care policies

    Allen Weh got 30,000 presents the other day from President Barack Obama. Weh is the Republican candidate for the United States Senate, trying to unseat incumbent Tom Udall. Weh is given no chance by the experts.
    Remember the president’s oft-repeated claim about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”
    The presents were the 30,000 New Mexicans who got a notice that their plans will end Jan. 1, 2015, because of not meeting health act requirements. Most are now with Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico with the rest covered by Presbyterian Health Plan. I assume the lucky group chose their current plan for a variety of individual reasons as opposed to government mandate.
    While Weh has generally attacked Udall’s support of the health care act, the 30,000 sounds like a present to me because they are real people hurt by the lie of the claim about keeping “your plan.” Effective candidates are supposed to talk about things that touch real people. The 30,000 bring the health care act’s troubles into the real world of individual New Mexicans.
    Finding some of those 30,000 and putting them in ads seems an obvious way bring the Obamacare effect home to New Mexicans. Of course, I’m hardly a campaign strategy rocket scientist.