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Columns

  • Medical marijuana program should come before legalized recreational use

    Returning from a long drive through Marijuanaland, also known as Colorado, I can report that there is no massive transformation. No potheads loitering in the streets. And citizens are still earnestly debating the subject.
    Proponents of legalized cannabis in New Mexico weave tales of vast riches from tax revenues, but it’s not entirely working out that way.
    Colorado’s law has a local option provision, so each county gets to decide whether it wants marijuana dispensaries. Some counties have voted it down, and others have yet to vote.
    As for tax revenues, a youthful source told me the taxes are so high it’s cheaper to buy it on the street. Recreational users pay a 2.9 percent state sales tax, a 10 percent special marijuana sales tax and a 15 percent retail excise tax.
    Because it’s legal to grow six plants, 40 percent goes untaxed, according to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division. The projected $48 million in marijuana taxes for the fiscal year ending in June withered to $12 million.
    One of my friends complains that Mary Jane’s tax revenues can only be used to build schools — the excise tax’s first $40 million is earmarked for school construction — but some communities don’t need to build a school. They need to improve the schools they have.

  • Credit 101 for the college freshman

    To parents with a freshman entering college this fall: You’re probably expecting to shell out major bucks for tuition, room and board and a million other necessities over the next few years. But before you send your kid off, make sure you share one gift likely to steer him or her along the road to financial security — a sound understanding of how credit works.
    You probably learned the hard way yourself that young adults encounter many unfamiliar expenses — and temptations — upon entering college or the workforce. So it’s important to help your kids avoid early financial missteps that could damage their credit for years to come.
    The first step in managing personal finances is mastering the basic checking account and debit card. A few tips you can pass along:
    • Look for a bank or credit union that charges no monthly usage fee, requires no minimum balance and has conveniently located ATMs so you don’t rack up foreign ATM charges.
    • Enter all transactions in a check register or in a budgeting tool like Mint.com and review your account online at least weekly to verify when deposits, checks, purchases and automatic payments have cleared.

  • Pecos league completes fourth year of independent baseball

    Professional baseball continues in New Mexico through Labor Day with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes and spillover into the lower Mesilla Valley from the first-year El Paso Chihuahuas, also a Triple-A team.
    New Mexico had other baseball, organized and professional, during the summer of 2014 and it is that effort that this column pauses from all the state government matters of recent weeks to honor and applaud.
    Wait. The question might come from much of the state, “What other baseball?”
    Answer: The Pecos League of Professional Clubs.
    If the Pecos League seems a little obscure, that’s because in the grand world of baseball, it is. The Pecos League is one of eight independent baseball leagues. “Independent” means not tied to major league baseball, unlike the 20 leagues Wikipedia tells us are “affiliated.”
    Since I paid any attention to this as a kid 55 years ago or so, the old Triple-A, Double-A, A, B, C and D structure has turned into Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, Low-A, Short Season A, Advanced Rookie, Rookie and the Arizona Fall League.
    The Madison (Wisconsin) Mallards of the Northwoods League is the only one of the many minor league teams with which I have the slightest acquaintance other than the Albuquerque Isotopes.

  • 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.