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Columns

  • State Supreme Court finds lost tribe

     The Fort Sill Apaches are now, by order of the state Supreme Court, a New Mexico Indian tribe. But what impact that decision might have on the tribe’s tiny reservation near Deming and on economic development in southwestern New Mexico remains an open question.
    Luna County, where the tribe’s smokeshop and restaurant just off I-10 at Akela employs 11 people, could certainly use a boost. Its jobless rate was a whopping 18.8 percent in February, nearly three times the state’s 6.7 percent.
    The court’s decision requires Gov. Susana Martinez to invite the Fort Sill Apaches to the annual meeting where tribes and state discuss how to divvy up the pool of severance tax bonds set aside annually for tribal infrastructure.
    Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous said he didn’t know what his people might hope to get out of this year’s summit, scheduled for July 17-18. “It’s like going to a new restaurant,” Haozous said. “When you first sit down at the table, you want to look at the menu and see what’s available.”

  • Exit rate up four-fold, income is stagnant

     The number of people moving from New Mexico increased almost four-fold during the 2012-2013 year. Rats leaving the ship? Maybe. Even the silvery minnow, that ever-endangered consumer of money in the mid-Rio Grande, is in more trouble than usual.
    The silence from our so-called leaders is deafening.
    The numbers are from the Census Bureau and are the most recent available. The rate calculation is mine. Births, deaths and moving provide the numbers adding to total population change. The sum of births and deaths are what the jargon calls “natural increase.”
    The deaths part of natural increase has gotten closer the past few months. In addition to my mom leaving us last August, four friends lost parents in the past few months. A group worth passing mention and honor are the people who as young scientists and support people staffed the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos during World War II and, after the war, stayed and made New Mexico the world-class center of research for national security.
    Six counties had too few births to offset the number of deaths during the 2010-to-2013 time. Sierra County led with a “negative natural increase” of 406. The others were Catron, Grant, Guadalupe, Quay and Union.

  • The national media take on Susana

    For the second time, a national magazine has published a tell-all article about Gov. Susana Martinez. Both articles have aimed at getting behind the gauzy image projected by her tightly controlled, nonstop campaign machine to expose the workings of the machine itself.
    The previous article, published last November in National Journal, dealt in depth with the relationship between Martinez and her excessively influential political adviser Jay McCleskey.
    The current article, in the left-of-center magazine Mother Jones, is titled, “Is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez the Next Sarah Palin?”
    It’s based in large part on unusual source material, which the author describes as “previously unreleased audio recordings, text messages and emails obtained by Mother Jones that “reveal a side of Martinez the public has rarely, if ever, seen. In private, Martinez can be nasty, juvenile and vindictive. She appears ignorant about basic policy issues and has surrounded herself with a clique of advisers who are prone to a foxhole mentality.”

  • McMillian's remarks need clarification

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan’s April 9 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee regarding plutonium infrastructure and pit production, summarized by the Los Alamos Monitor on April 18, contained errors, lacked context and should be clarified.
    McMillan’s remarks create the impression that a) it is necessary to build expensive new pit production facilities at LANL sooner rather than later (or never), and b) LANL should create all, not just some, of the analytical chemistry (AC) necessary for large pit production campaigns. In McMillan’s view, NNSA should ignore existing plutonium labs elsewhere in the nuclear weapons complex, which might provide cost-effective expansion space if needed, in favor of building additional new space at LANL.
    McMillan exaggerates the risk of shipping very small analytical chemistry (AC) samples of plutonium to other sites, and assumes shipment would be done through commercial vendors. Such shipments are routine today and believed safe. Risks could be mitigated further if desired, and in any case small shipments need not be done (and have not always been done) commercially.

  • Easter-themed pets can be a huge responsibility

    From the abundance of chocolate candies lining the grocery store aisles to the colorful dresses hung in the children’s departments at the mall, there are many joyous symbols associated with the Easter holiday.
    Two very popular symbols, both irresistibly adorable and covered in fluff, are a chick or bunny on Easter morning. While giving these as gifts may seem like fun ways to celebrate the holiday at the time, it is important to remember that they are still long-term commitments that come with a lot of responsibility.
    Are you prepared to take on the challenge of caring for your little Easter fur ball once the holiday passes?
    Baby chicks are available for purchase at most any feed supply store for the low price of $1 for 3. Because of their easy availability and low initial cost, chicks are often impulse Easter purchases that people make without taking into consideration their present and future care requirements. As with all other pets, they too will soon outgrow their cute, baby-like phase.
    “An impulse pet is always a bad purchase,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “It may look cute in the store, but Easter is gone in a day and then you have an animal to take care of long term.”

  • Some lines just can't be crossed

    A few weeks back, there was some discussion in the paper about the N-word.
    Earlier this year, the NFL began formal discussions on whether the N-word should be banned, and if so what penalty should be levied against a player for using it.
    African-American Richard Sherman, football cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, thinks banning the N-word is in itself racist. He noted, “It’s weird they’re targeting one specific word. Why wouldn’t all curse words be banned then?”
    Sherman added that when spoken by an African-American and pronounced ending in “-a”, it is not racist.  In fact, in that situation, it’s considered a term of endearment.
    Term of endearment?  Harry Carlson, another African American NFL player, but from a generation prior, disagrees. He challenged younger players who use the “-a” version to “go visit your grandfather and use it on him. See how endeared he feels!”

  • N.M. needs new ideas for job growth

    Prompted by a large decline in federal spending, New Mexicans are now engaged in a healthy and useful dialogue about how best to diversify our economy.
    Think New Mexico would like to offer two ideas that we believe could propel private sector job growth in our state — and that gubernatorial and legislative candidates from both parties should be able to embrace.
    Both ideas were advanced in Think New Mexico’s 2013 policy report, Addressing the Jobs Crisis. The first would establish a post-performance incentive that would reward companies only after they create high-paying jobs or make major capital investments. It is designed to encourage existing business to expand in New Mexico and new businesses to relocate to the state.
    Six years ago, Utah, which now ranks second in the nation for job growth, became the first state to move to an economic development strategy based on post-performance incentives.
    Utah’s post-performance incentive has led to the creation of 25,546 high-paying jobs from blue chip companies like Boeing, eBay and Proctor and Gamble. That is in addition to $5.16 billion in new capital investment and $1.62 billion in new state revenues since the incentive was established in 2008. (Several weeks ago Idaho became the second state to enact this sort of post- performance incentive).

  • Opinion: Justice still awaits family of woman slain by cop

    Just off the heels of the Albuquerque Police Department’s evaluations by the Department of Justice, the family of a woman, who was a victim of a state police officer’s excessive violence, rallied together April 11 in to get justice for a life that was cut short.
    Jeanette Anaya, 39, was driving along a Santa Fe street Nov. 7, when State Police Officer Oliver Wilson attempted to stop her for making a “wobbly” right turn. Anaya did not stop and Wilson gave pursuit. Dashboard camera show the pursuit and the police car slam into Anaya’s vehicle. Wilson then got out of his cruiser, ran along side of Anaya’s vehicle and fired 16 shots — two of them killing Anaya. There are conflicting stories on whether the passenger in Anaya’s car was injured, at least physically.
    I knew Jeanette and her family well. From what it seems to me is, she panicked for whatever reason and fled in the direction of her home. When the officer hit her car, the camera shows (at least to me) that she is still trying to get away, not run the cop over as he said.

  • Transparency: Easy to say, harder to do

    Transparency is hard. Just ask the governor, who is now learning, as her predecessors did, that one of the sacrifices of her job is privacy.
    In the latest skirmish of the transparency wars, Gov. Susana Martinez called out a Democratic lawmaker for using a legislative agency to dig dirt on a political opponent.
    Some perspective: The Slurpy hit the fan last month after the governor tried to restrict the Legislature’s two biggest watchdogs, the Legislative Finance Committee and the Legislative Education Study Committee, by requiring them to go through her chief of staff for information. A torrent of criticism from the media and both parties forced the governor to uncuff the committees.
    This happened just after Sunshine Week, a media event that reminds elected officials to keep their cards on the table and their decisions out in the open.
    Coverage of this controversy was interesting. The Albuquerque Journal, which has been so blatantly pro-Martinez as to sacrifice its credibility, blasted the administration for this move. Even red-county newspapers have noted the long fall from grace of the governor who campaigned on transparency. (To be fair, the Legislature has its own transparency blind spots, but that’s another column.)
    We’re seeing more public records challenges.

  • Reining in all prom expenses

    If you’ve got teenagers, you already know how expensive high school can be. Besides food, clothing and school supplies, a whole host of extracurricular activities are competing for a share of your wallet — even as you frantically try to save for college and your own retirement.
    One of the biggest expenses you’ll encounter is prom. Gone are the days of borrowing dad’s suit and crepe paper streamers in the school gym: Today’s proms are often more like a Hollywood premiere with limousines, designer gowns and swanky after-parties.
    I’m not kidding. According to a recent nationwide survey conducted by Visa Inc., the average U.S. family with a high school student attending the prom expects to spend $978 this year. Surprisingly, that’s down 14 percent from last year’s survey average of $1,139 per family.
    A few other interesting statistics the survey uncovered:
    • On average, parents plan to pay for about 56 percent of prom costs, with their kids picking up the remaining 44 percent.
    • Parents in lower income brackets (less than $50,000 a year) plan to spend an average of $733 — a considerable share of the family budget. Thankfully, that’s down significantly from last year’s $1,245 estimate.