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Columns

  • Current shared utilities leadership protects us

    A principal argument to justify the proposed restructuring of county utilities is to increase its “accountability,” to its customers, all of us, by fundamentally altering the relationship between the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the Department of Public Utilities and the County Council. Increased “accountability” was rejected by voters in 1966, has proven unnecessary since, and carries great risks. Voters who value their utility service and their pocketbooks should reject it again. This is about control, not accountability.
    The first proposed county charter (basically, our constitution) was rejected in 1966 largely because citizens feared that a political body, the county council, with direct control of utilities could pad their revenues via the back-door path of requiring substantial sums to be transferred from utilities to general county coffers, with resulting higher utility rates or inadequate operating and capital reserves. They also were concerned politicians would tinker with rates and services to favor special interests.
    A completely independent utility presents challenges, too. The compromise embraced by voters in 1968 was the present semi-independent system. It is a work of genius that has served us well for 46 years.

  • Thingamabobs and Whachamacallits

    People adept at Scrabble use some pretty strange words. My wife’s vocabulary is “slightly” better than mine and when we are Scrabbling, I might play a word like “rock” and then she’ll play one like “ozaena.” I’ll challenge her play, claiming that such a word doesn’t exist. She shrugs and tells me that it means having a fetid discharge from the nostrils. That’s usually more than I want to know and so I won’t bother asking her what “fetid” means.
    In the morning, do you wake up with rheum? You know, eye gunk or eye sleepers? Ever get an itch on your popliteal fossa? That’s the indented back of your knee. When you ran track in high school, were you ever preantepenultimate? That means fourth from last. Now there’s a word you can use every day!
    That white half-moon shaped area at the base of your fingernails is called the lunula (as in lunar). When the moon is crescent shaped, do you know what that shape is called? That’s a lune. No, not like your brother-in-law. That’s “loon.” Try not to get them confused.
    If you want to impress your doctor, call that blood pressure instrument by its official name ... a sphygmomanometer. And if you can pronounce it correctly, even better!

  • Latinas: King doesn't need to apologize for 'heart' remark

    It’s the gaffe that wasn’t.
    The latest tussle between gubernatorial candidates is over Democrat Gary King’s paraphrase of a statement by labor activist Dolores Huerta, a New Mexican from Dawson and compatriot of Cesar Chavez.
    At a fundraiser, King quoted Huerta as saying that “you can’t just go out there and vote for somebody for governor because they have a Latino surname. She said you have to look at them and find out if they have a Latino heart. And we know that Susana Martinez does not have a Latino heart.”
    The governor’s campaign pounced on what appeared to be a gaffe. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez even demanded an apology, which is gallant of him considering that the governor treats him like an insect.
    Then Sen. Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat and King’s former opponent, called a press conference with women who had something to say about Latina hearts.
    “I attended the Voices for Children conference as a candidate for governor,” Lopez told me. “She (Huerta) actually said the governor doesn’t have a Latina heart. It resonated with so many people.”
    Lopez also heard King’s statement. “He has nothing to apologize for.”

  • From the bottom up

    This just in: According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, New Mexico ranks 50th among the states when it comes to residents’ access to emergency room service.
    The problem many New Mexicans have in digesting news of this sort is that it is just more of the same. In virtually every category some outfit comes up with for purposes of ranking the states — income, jobs and job opportunities, literacy, child well-being and safety, roads and infrastructure, you name it — New Mexico is always at or near the blasted bottom.
    New Mexicans are no longer shocked by such news. About all they can do when another batch of dismal rankings comes out these days is yawn when they should up in arms.
    Mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore! Mounting the barricades, waving placards angrily proclaiming “There’s nothing beneath the bottom and we’re falling through.”
    We must demand better from our state officials, particularly in the final weeks of a gubernatorial campaign.

  • No political ties at homecoming

    The Los Alamos homecoming parade is coming up. In order not to politicize a beloved community tradition, our local parties have decided not to participate.
    We have also asked our candidates not to have entries (as candidates) in the parade.
    You’ll see plenty of our local candidates talking to people during the parade and some will probably participate in their other roles as active community members.
    While our two political parties don’t always agree on issues, we can agree that Los Alamos is a great community. Both the local Democratic Party and Republican Party want Los Alamos High School students to enjoy their weekend without political signs and overt campaigning in their parade.
    Robyn Schultz, Chair
    Democratic Party of Los Alamos County
    Robert Gibson, Chair
    Republican Party of Los Alamos County
     

  • Remember American family members who have passed away

    Sibling relationships stay. Even if the relationship becomes troubled, it is still there. Counting the siblings and spouses of my mom and dad, there were 14. They are all gone now.
    I think my dad, also named Harold Morgan and born in 1917, was the oldest. The last of the group died a few weeks ago. These people were the family adults when I was a kid. The realization of their passing came a few years ago in a comment from a cousin from my generation after the death of her mother, father and stepfather.
    “Wow,” she said. “I’m the oldest.” Being the oldest is new for us Baby Boomers.
    Though they were not especially diverse by today’s quota-driven, politically correct standards, the story of these 14 is one of the millions of American family stories. I share a little here because they are gone.
    Oklahoma City was home to nearly all the 14. Tulsa was involved. One husband, born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, came in as the result of a wartime romance.

  • What the MVD has been doing to improve customer satisfaction

    New Mexicans rightfully demand that the Motor Vehicle Division provide fast, easy and reliable service in a customer-friendly environment at all of our offices.
    Gov. Susana Martinez also directed that we turn things around at the MVD in a reasonable amount of time and meet public expectations for operating more efficiently.
    Here’s what we’re doing to make that happen.
    Over the past 18 months, we’ve cut our wait times in MVD offices and at our call center. A majority of our offices now have average wait times of 15 minutes or less — the lowest in years. The average hold time in our call center is now less than four minutes.
    MVD is doing a better job listening and learning from our customers. We recently implemented the country’s first motor vehicle customer satisfaction capture system in most of our offices.
    At the end of each transaction, you can press a button, which tells us how well we’ve met your needs. By empowering our managers to address customer issues right when they occur, service-related complaints have dropped dramatically.
    Since we launched this system last year, more than 800,000 New Mexicans have provided customer feedback. More than 98 percent of MVD customers now rate our service as “good” or “excellent” — every office, every week.

  • A court for every conflict: Resolving business disputes in New Mexico

    A clear, detailed contract with a dispute resolution clause is the best defense when a business and client disagree over performance or other conditions.
    But even the most airtight agreement can’t inoculate a business from all potential conflicts with customers, partners or other businesses.
    Simple arguments can be resolved through formal mediation or arbitration, but more complex disagreements require judicial intervention.
    Different courts
    for different conflicts
    If a business believes a client or competitor has broken federal law, say, by infringing on a trademark or copyright, it can bring the case in state or federal court.
    If a business needs to collect from a client who’s seeking bankruptcy protection, it files its claim on the client’s assets in Bankruptcy Court.
    But most disputes between businesses and their clients, investors or colleagues involve breaches of contract — including violations of confidentiality or non-compete clauses or of the terms of employment — or disagreements over service agreements, lease terms and real estate transactions. And most of these are heard in state courts.
    Size matters

  • Carbon Dioxide is our friend

    YouTube can be a hoot. You can watch someone launch themselves with a giant slingshot towards a small pond, overshoot the pond and land on a boulder. The search for videos like this usually require the keywords “human,” “slingshot” and “splat.”
    Or you can watch someone spray themselves with lighter fluid and set their body on fire, which is simply called “The Fire Challenge.” Imitating the Human Torch from the “Fantastic Four” is what I would call “The Atrophied Brain Challenge.”
    Lots of fun videos to watch and lots of laughs.
    Some years ago, I watched what might be the funniest video of all — “Carbon dioxide is our friend.” It’s an “educational documentary” produced by The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit, non-think tank funded by tea bag sources like the Koch brothers and several “unbiased” companies such as the Ford Motor Company, Philip Morris Company, Texaco Inc. and the Scaife Foundation (an extremely liberal organization).

  • How much testing is enough and when is it too much?

    What do you remember fondly about your school days? When you look at photos that capture these early years in school, you remember how nervous you were in your carrot costume before your big part in the school play. You remember how proud you felt standing next to your blue-ribbon science fair project. Oh! There you are with the turkey you colored after tracing your little hand on a piece of paper.
    And you remember using a No. 2 pencil to bubble in multiple-choice answers on a test. OK, maybe a photo of this last one didn’t make it into your grandma’s album.
    There was a time not so long ago when students were given a comprehensive assessment at the end of third grade and eighth grade, and then took the ACT/SAT tests for college purposes. These were informational tests, telling parents what their children had achieved academically and how they compared to other students across the country.
    When the results came in from that big test, teachers gave their students a little more practice as needed, and parents may have pulled out the flash cards for a little extra help at home — and everyone remained focused on teaching and on raising whole children.