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Columns

  • Seducing Independents

    Early this year Gallup pollsters released a survey showing fully 42 percent of American voters either “lean,” or are registered as Independents.
    Only 31 percent of those responding to the poll said they are registered Democrats. Even fewer, 25 percent, were registered Republicans.
    Much has been made of these numbers.
    Some political onlookers find it ironic that members of Congress from a political party with only a quarter of nation’s registered voters are consistently able to block key legislation to the point of nearly shutting down the government. Others wondered how, in congressional elections two years ago, a mere 25 percent of registered voters managed to get enough of their fellow Republicans elected so as to have an outright majority in the U.S. House capable of blocking such legislation — especially since analyses of 2012 election returns reveal that fully 1.1 million more voters nationally cast their ballots for Democratic congressional candidates than Republican candidates?
    Questions of that sort vex politicians and strategists in both parties and the answers vary. Some say Republicans are more apt to vote than Democrats, and that may be the case — especially in off-year elections.

  • Facts about water in Los Alamos

    Third of a series

  • Carbon pollution limits can help save lives, improve health

    Few things are more frightening for a parent than racing to the hospital with a child who can’t breathe. Few things are more difficult for a physician than telling a family that a loved one will not recover from an asthma attack. We work with people who know those experiences far too well and — because of those experiences — support reducing carbon pollution.
    The American Lung Association and the American Thoracic Society members and volunteers understand the impact of polluted air. We know that, as a nation, we have to do more to protect the ability of people to breathe, and that requires us to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
    It isn’t enough for physicians to educate patients about the health risks of air pollution, and for parents to keep their children with asthma indoors on bad air days. We must reduce pollution before it takes a further toll on our children and families.
    As a nation, we have cut air pollution by more than 70 percent since 1970, but today more than 147 million Americans (nearly half of the U.S. population) still live where the air is unhealthy to breathe. Warmer temperatures from climate change will make it even harder to reduce air pollution in many places, and increase the likelihood of drought, wildfires and other threats to our health.

  • Water solutions at an affordable cost

    Second of a series
    One of the major issues in this town is water: do we have enough to keep this a green community, at an affordable cost?
    Contamination Threats and Mitigation
    Laboratory operations since the 1940s resulted in a wide array of chemical releases, often in effluent discharged from wastewater treatment facilities. Many millions of dollars have been spent to monitor and remediate the environmental contamination caused.
    Reactive contaminants, including plutonium and other radionuclides, tend to adhere to solid surfaces, so they usually have not moved very far in groundwater. In fact, wastewater effluent (now treated to strict standards to prevent further contamination) is used to irrigate vegetation holding soil in place to keep previously deposited surface contamination from spreading.
    Non-reactive contaminants, including hexavalent chromium, tritium, nitrate and explosives components perchlorate and RDX, have traveled farther in our groundwater, in some cases reaching portions of our aquifer. The presence of these contaminants above naturally occurring levels has not been detected in our water supply wells, but unless carefully monitored and properly remediated, they could threaten our water supply.

  • Protecting pets from predators

    As caring pet owners, we do everything possible to keep our pets out of harm’s way. However, with more wooded and natural areas being developed into neighborhoods and businesses, wild animals have fewer places to reside. Birds of prey, such as hawks and eagles, can pose a serious threat to cats and other small animals, and depending on where you live, coyotes and mountain lions may also be a danger. Since we share our habitat with wild animals, learning how to prevent an attack can make all the difference.
    Supervising your pets when they’re outside is an effective way to deter predators. “Even in local outlying neighborhoods, hawks, coyotes, and other predators can harm pets,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Stay away from nesting predators such as owls and hawks if you know where their nests are and keep your pet’s area clean and free of debris or plant material that predators can hide in.”

  • Water takes center stage

    First of a series

  • Tough choices needed for New Mexico to take off

    It’s official. Tesla has broken ground at its new “gigafactory” near Reno, Nevada. While New Mexico appears to have missed out on Tesla and its expected 6,500 jobs, some legislators, when asked, seem willing to spend as much as 500 million tax dollars to lure the company to the state.
    While details are by no means firm, it appears that Tesla is looking for an infusion of $500 million, not tax breaks of $500 million. The difference between the two is that tax breaks don’t actually “cost” the state/taxpayers anything because Tesla would have to locate in New Mexico for any tax revenue to result from its activities. When it comes to outright spending of New Mexicans’ tax dollars, those are dollars that come directly out of the pockets of average New Mexicans and the businesses already located here.

  • Campaign questions you don't hear about

    During the political season, while you’re listening to what candidates want to tell you, there’s another form of communication that most of us don’t see. It happens every election season. Maybe it should be more public.
    Organizations of every political stripe send questionnaires to candidates for office, asking for their positions on issues of special interest to those organizations.
    Some questionnaires are designed to educate the candidates about the organization’s issues. That’s a legitimate reason for a questionnaire. Organizations may use the candidates’ responses to make decisions about campaign contributions, endorsements and other forms of support.
    Some questionnaires go further in attempting to pin candidates down to specific positions. The candidate is asked to make a commitment, in writing, to a position that the voters at large never learn about, because the organization has promised it won’t make the answers public. This should concern us.
    Candidates are free to choose which questionnaires they will answer. They can (and do) ignore the questionnaires from organizations they disagree with.
    Over the years I have had a chance to write a few questions and help candidates answer a few questions. Writing the questions is more fun.

  • You can only follow the money if you can see it

    If you’re trying to buy an election or throw an election, you’re in high clover. If you’re a concerned citizen or a reporter trying to find out who is buying elections, you’re in the weeds.
    That was just one thought I had last week, sitting in a roomful of New Mexico journalists at a seminar titled, appropriately, “Follow The Money.”
    Campaign finance is now so murky that it took a day for two smart people from the National Institute on Money in State Politics just to show us the websites we can use to tease out campaign donations. Seminar organizers were the Society of Professional Journalists and New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.
    Even with these tools, the big numbers and their donors still can’t be identified.
    The Citizens United case in 2010 spawned a raft of organizations with lofty names that can accept donations in any amount without revealing the donor, as long as they abide by a few flimsy rules.
    You have the familiar 501(c)3, which is most nonprofits. The 501(c)4 is a social welfare organization that supposedly promotes the common good for a community.
    The 501(c)5 is a labor organization operating for the betterment of working conditions. The 501(c)6 is a business group, like the chamber of commerce.

  • Better to build roads for today than to subsidize Tesla for tomorrow

     Tesla Motors Inc. (teslamotors.com) is brilliant. The electric car manufacturer company says it will build a huge battery factory, a “gigafactory.” (Gotta love that word, “gigafactory.” Wonder where it came from?)
    Tesla has simultaneously and publicly dangled the deal before five states — New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Nevada and California.
    State economic developers have responded like kittens faced with a piece of yarn. The yarn comment, though a tad snarky, merely says that developers, who get paid to chase deals, are doing their jobs.
    I admit to not paying huge attention to the Tesla proposal. This column focuses on the deep structural troubles affecting the entire state economy.
    A report a few days ago, taken with last week’s column, adjusted that perspective. In what follows, for the sake of argument, assume an either/or situation, one choice or the other.
    Tesla has finally said what it wants from the host state, basically10 percent off the top, according to an Aug. 3 Albuquerque Journal story. For a $5 billion project, that’s $500 million delivered via tax abatements, building infrastructure, job training funds, whatever, all for a gamble, a new, heavily subsidized technology.