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Columns

  • Campaigns need to promote civil discourse, dignity

    Ideas for our coming campaign season: Respect and dignity.
    In offering these ideas as a thematic umbrella for the races for governor, U. S. Senate and, indeed, all others, I am not suggesting boredom, ponderous speeches with long explications of obscurity. Nor am I suggesting that candidates refrain from discussion of the opponent’s record.
    Candidates must talk about matters that will make a difference in voter’s lives and they must discuss these subjects with vigorous statements that will get voters’ attention. Talking about the opponent’s record is the best way to create contrast, which is necessary to provide a reason to vote one way or the other.
    The problem is how the messages are presented. Or not presented, as in the case of Albuquerque Republican mayoral candidate Dan Lewis.
    We have a long record of political nastiness. At our country’s beginning, wrote historian Gordon Wood recently in the Wall Street Journal, “The conservative and liberal parties – the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans, respectively – were led by two distinguished patriots, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and the partisan campaigns waged by their parties were bitter and scurrilous.”

  • Democracy, money at stake for the state in 2020 census

    Note: This column was first published in the New Mexico Political Report, which can be found at NMPoliticalReport.com.

    Pop quiz.
    Which of the following statements are true?

    -The census is constitutionally required in order to count every person in the U.S.
    -The census determines how much federal money—more than $6 billion—flows into New Mexico’s economy every year.
    -New Mexicans are more at risk of not being counted by the census than are people in most every other state.
    -The census is in jeopardy—and that puts New Mexicans in jeopardy.

  • Political, market solutions needed to fix health care

    Martin Hickey has been around the quadrangle in healthcare, working in public institutions (Indian Health Service and the VA) and private.
    He’s best known here as former CEO of Lovelace Health Systems, although he worked outside the state for three other companies.
    Now he runs New Mexico Health Connections, a nonprofit health insurance cooperative founded in response to the Affordable Care Act.
    In a talk before New Mexico Press Women last week, Hickey was frank about doctors, hospitals, and the healthcare system.
    “Money has rained down on top of it,” he said, referring to healthcare, and yet outcomes are worse than cheaper systems in other industrial nations. We don’t have real competition between doctors or hospitals, and hospitals are money machines.
    A physician, Hickey said he took his last exam in 1981, but he can still hang out a shingle anywhere. You may like your doctor, but you really don’t know how skilled he or she is because they’re never measured.
    Some healthcare organizations have gotten better at measuring doctors, but the only people who know the results are other doctors, so “you have physicians working with other physicians, and most of the high-cost doctors will get better or leave.” Still, he thinks all doctors should undergo a yearly simulator test.

  • It’s hard to keep up with all the gross receipts laws

    New Mexico’s gross receipts tax is admittedly confusing, but the state still expects businesses to follow the law and pay what they owe from the sale of property or services.
    In a nutshell, GRT is a substitute for the traditional sales tax that shoppers in other states pay when they make a purchase. In New Mexico, the seller pays the tax on the sales price of a product or service even if the seller doesn’t collect it from the buyer — and even if the buyer lives out of state.
    GRT was intended to widen the tax base by taxing more items at a lower rate than would be typical in states with a sales tax. Over the years, however, cities and counties have responded to reductions in local revenues caused by state-allowed exemptions and deductions by loading on their own assessments.
    The combined tax rate in some towns is now — or is about to go over — 9 percent. Until lawmakers agree on an alternative system, businesses should know how to comply with the status quo.
    GRT applies to the gross receipts of businesses or people who sell property, perform services, lease or license a property or franchise in New Mexico, and sell certain services delivered outside New Mexico when the resulting product is initially used here.

  • Weinstein case shows power corrupts for so many people

    Power corrupts. Worse, as 19th-century historian Lord Acton concluded, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a politician, an entertainment mogul, a corporate CEO or a police officer, give any one person – or government agency – too much power and allow him or her or it to believe that they are entitled, untouchable and will not be held accountable for their actions, and those powers will eventually be abused.
    We’re seeing this dynamic play out every day in communities across America.
    A cop shoots an unarmed citizen for no credible reason and gets away with it. A president employs executive orders to sidestep the Constitution and gets away with it. A government agency spies on its citizens’ communications and gets away with it. An entertainment mogul sexually harasses aspiring actresses and gets away with it. The U.S. military bombs a civilian hospital and a school and gets away with it.
    Abuse of power — and the ambition-fueled hypocrisy and deliberate disregard for misconduct that make those abuses possible — works the same whether you’re talking about sexual harassment, government corruption, or the rule of law.

  • Recent shooting proves dangers to store employees

    At a Circle K convenience store, the clerk shot a suspected armed robber.
    We expect to read the opposite story. Convenience stores can be dangerous places, especially for the people who work in them.
    This happened a few weeks ago in Albuquerque in mid-afternoon. The suspect was wounded and is expected to recover; the clerk was not charged with any crime.
    What was that clerk doing packing a gun?
    The incident brought to mind a court case from 20 years ago in which Circle K clerk Paul Sedillo followed a shoplifter into the parking lot and was shot and killed.
    The Eldridge case (named for the mother of Sedillo’s daughter) raised the question of whether Circle K might be civilly liable outside of workers’ compensation, whether the company was so greatly “at fault” that it might violate the “no fault” principle basic to the workers’ comp philosophy.
    It was a hot issue in the workers’ comp legal community, but the case was settled out of court so the question was not resolved.
    Conventional wisdom is that employees should never be instructed to pursue armed robbers or shoplifters. Let them take the money and go. I heard that message in dozens of safety seminars and passed it on to small business owners in my own seminars.

  • Globalization helped set the stage for 'Dreamers' laws

    Millions of middle class Americans, mostly in rural areas, are feeling cornered by the overwhelming forces of globalization.
    Their employment was displaced by automation, international competition and corporations’ transfer of jobs to other nations with lesser production costs and more flexible laws. Many of these Americans express a visceral anger towards anything international and desperately reach for national isolation and solutions that would save them from people who don't look and speak like them.
    Some leaders have convinced them that they are victims of sinister foreigners who ridicule American goodwill and naivete in international agreements, which are unfair to the U.S. Those leaders claim that criminals who have crossed the border illegally are responsible not only for loss of jobs but also for rape, murder and unprecedented addiction to drugs among Americans.
    Fear over declining income, increase of joblessness and violence make people susceptible to lash out at anyone with whom they are unfamiliar. The federal program DACA founded in 2012 is perceived to benefit such “others.”

  • Time to ask, ‘What makes us awesome’

    If you are struggling in your relationship with a teenager or have a senior that will graduate this year, you must read any books by Patricia Hoolihan.
    Recently I came across one of her quotes that might re-define how we see things today. “A pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results.” – Bennett Cerf
    There was a time when we praised kids so much, we were worried about damaging them, but now I wonder if we have let the pendulum swing too far the other way.
    In 2013, two high school students Faith Glasco and Elizabeth Hjelvik started, “The Wall of Awesome,” in Los Alamos. I am proud that their efforts still continue on a smaller scale today, but I am asking you to take it one step further.
    Take a minute this week to ask your kids one of two questions…or both would be great. What makes you awesome? What makes life awesome?
    The answers might just surprise you and they may struggle, just make sure you pause long enough to make them think about it. I also suggest you have an answer for them when they have nothing.

  • Celebrate the sunshine and N.M.’s low disaster risk

    In my garage is an old suitcase packed with old clothes. It’s to grab in an emergency. 

    There’s a sturdy canvas bag tucked away in a suitable place, where a couple of checkbooks are kept and a backup computer hard drive is stored.

    Because I live in central New Mexico, I probably will never need those things. New Mexico is a pretty good place to avoid natural disasters.  

    The state is ranked 40th out of 50 states for the number of disaster declarations and 33rd of 50 for relative riskiness by the company Core Logic, based on an analysis of storm damage.

    But, this week as we appreciate the sunshine and our dry feet, let’s be relaxed but not complacent. The recent hurricanes remind us that disasters can happen anytime and anywhere. What could happen here? What can we prepare for, individually or collectively?

  • Conference to feature business opportunities in local film industry

    BY DAMON SCOTT
    Finance New Mexico

    The New Mexico film industry has been an economic bright spot for the past several years, helping businesses grow and weather the recession. After state tax incentives for the industry kicked into gear in 2003, opportunities for individuals and businesses have been continually created. And industry leaders say there’s still room for growth.

    Nick Maniatis, director of the New Mexico Film Office, said the industry is “as strong as it’s ever been,” with 2017 shaping up to be the third-consecutive year of record activity – defined by overall economic impact and job creation, among other markers.

    Maniatis and his staff are preparing for the 2017 Film & Media Industry Conference, which draws hundreds of people to sessions, panels and exhibitors. The conference, slated for Aug. 25–26 in Albuquerque, highlights the many ways individuals and businesses can be part of the growing industry.

    More than actors and crew

    Karl Kirsch of O’Malley Glass is a believer. The Albuquerque business owner said he’s worked hard to make connections with producers and crews over the years, and it’s paid off.

    Kirsch said he works with three different departments in the industry – set design, special effects and construction.