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Columns

  • Bring telecom regulation into the 21st century

    We need better broadband access and infrastructure in New Mexico, especially in the rural areas. This year, the Legislature took a big step forward with a bill to spend $50 million over five years to bring broadband to schools statewide.
    The Democrats are congratulating themselves for this success, and they should. But they can’t congratulate themselves for the state’s backward attitude toward telecommunications regulation. Telecom is the flip side of the same coin. It’s one reason neighboring states move forward, while New Mexico remains stuck.
    Senate Bill 159, which the governor signed, allows the state to buy hardware for schools to link to the Internet. It’s a real plus for education.
    Senate Joint Memorial 4 got less attention. It creates a task force to study what role the state should play in building broadband infrastructure so that all New Mexicans have access to a broadband network.
    Political reporter and blogger Steve Terrell has been throwing cold water on legislative memorials as a waste of time and paper, and I mostly agree with him. Memorials can also provide the information and arguments to support future legislation.

  • Jury duty is one's Constitutional duty

    Voting, private property and stable legal institutions are pillars of our society. So is trial by jury.
    The United States Constitution, Article 3, Section 3, says “The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury…”
    In the New Mexico Constitution trial by jury is in Article 2, Section 12, between religious freedom and bail. “The right of trial by jury as it has heretofore existed shall be secured to all and remain inviolate.”
    Neither constitution mentions peers, though in the common vernacular “jury” and “peers” go together like “love” and “marriage.” Jury impartiality is what counts. But one Internet source (criminal.findlaw.com) traces the use of peers back to the Magna Carta. Today “fellow citizens” is another phrase for peers.
    To be on a jury, one is plucked from voter lists and just about any other official known database. A letter comes saying the court needs some possible jurors, and you are on call for a while, three weeks in my case.

  • Fifty years of doing ‘wings’ the right way

    Column as I see ‘em ...
    They are to my native home what green chilie is to New Mexico, but considerably more famous.
    “They” are chicken wings and this month the staple of Buffalo, N.Y., cuisine celebrates its 50th birthday after a rather inauspicious beginning that, believe it or not, has at least some religious overtones.
    No, they weren’t conjured up as an appetizer to be enjoyed with sacramental wine. Ihey were born when a group of hungry men poured into the Anchor Bar, a nondescript Buffalo gin mill owned at the time by Frank and Teressa Bellissimo.
    The owners’ son, Dom, was tending bar that cold March night when a group of his friends came in around 11:30, looking for food.
    Dom asked his mother to cook something special, but urged his buddies to wait until after midnight — an obvious nod toward the Catholic practice of meatless Fridays.
    After the clock struck 12, not only did Teressa cook something special for Dom’s buddies, she created what would become known the world over as Buffalo wings.

  • Gun owners must show some responsibility

    In response to Mary Louise Williams in her letter to the editor titled “Teach gun safety to all,” let me first say that I am sorry for her experiences with guns being the wrong hands. Those tragedies are more than anyone needs to experience in a lifetime. I can’t even imagine.
    Secondly, I would like to thank her for the tone of her letter. It was respectful, kind, and to the point. So many letters today are just the opposite.
    I am an avid firearms enthusiast, hunter, Sportsman’s Club member, NRA member, and 2nd Amendment supporter. I am also a father.
    What really caught my attention in this letter was the answer to her own question, “What did these deaths have in common? Each of these young men were experienced hunters, well trained in the use of firearms.”
    While I don’t have the facts in front of me, I don’t doubt Mary Williams. To me, it’s really immaterial.
    I always tell my friends and coworkers, lock up your guns when they are not in use. There are many reasons for this, and you can still be ready in an emergency. I believe there is no excuse for not securing firearms when they are not in use. Let me explain.
    Kids will be kids. Kids are immature and inexperienced. They lack good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience.

  • Loan helps equine therapist treat veterans with PTSD

    When Claire Ann Barr-Johnson applied for a loan with Accion in 2013 to expand marketing for her Albuquerque-based equine therapy nonprofit, her primary goal wasn’t the money. She wanted the mentoring and advising that comes with being an Accion client.
    Barr-Johnson’s for-profit company, Clinical Solutions, generated enough revenue to provide an income. But she wanted advice about how to build Horses for Healing into her central occupation — especially in light of a new, $50,000 contract with the state Behavioral Health Services Division to work with veterans who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
    Horse sense
    Barr-Johnson began her work in equine therapy more than a decade ago while working at an agency that treated young victims of abuse and neglect. She noticed how children who distrusted people relaxed their guard around horses.
    A few years after starting her own clinic, she returned to the idea of working with horses during discussions with her son-in-law — an Iraq War veteran. Barr-Johnson began researching how horses could help former combatants reintegrate into civilian life.

  • The metaphysical metaphors of meaning

    A few weeks ago, Google gave tribute to John Steinbeck by posting a rather nice Google Doodle. As I clicked on the animated icons, I soon found myself reading a synopsis of “Grapes of Wrath” to reacquaint myself with some of the characters.
    My two favorites were Grampa and Granma Joad. Grampa is a foul-mouthed earthy fellow who delights in tormenting his wife. The family has to drug him in order to get him into the car when they leave. He dies soon afterwards and they decide to secretly bury him so that they can save the money. Can you feel the love?
    Granma is another lovable character whose only reason to inhale is to spout off hellfire and damnation to her family and friends. Keeping up with family tradition, she also dies on the trip, but they cart her body along for a few days without telling anyone. Her quiet demeanor during those three days should have been a clue to the kids that she was no longer inhaling.

  • Don't forfeit past tax refunds

    Does this sound familiar? A few years back your yearly earnings were pretty low so you figured you wouldn’t owe any income tax. Thus, when April 15 rolled around the following year you didn’t bother filing a tax return, knowing you wouldn’t be penalized.
    Big mistake.
    Even if your income fell below the threshold at which you’d owe anything, chances are taxes were deducted from your paycheck throughout the year. (Check your year-end W-2 form). If so, you probably left a sizeable tax refund on the table.
    And you wouldn’t be alone. The IRS estimates that each year close to a million people don’t bother filing federal tax returns, thereby forfeiting around $1 billion in refunds they were due — refunds that average several hundred dollars apiece.
    Here’s the good news: The IRS generally gives you a three-year window to go back and file a past year’s tax return if you want to claim an unpaid refund. For example, to collect a refund for 2010 you have until April 15, to file a 2010 return. After that, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

  • Economic dynamics: Create jobs, lose thousands, gain few

    We speak of the “New Mexico economy” as one thing, a monolith of sorts. It is not. Nor is the U.S. economy one thing. For the nation, though, statistical constructs such as gross domestic product provide an indication.
    A new book, “GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History,” by Diane Coyle, tells the tale. The nation is big enough that the numbers mean something, however imperfect. But for New Mexico, there just aren’t enough numbers. Our population is modest (2.1 million) and dispersed.
    The conventional wisdom tries to stick with considering the state as a whole. Major exceptions exist. The north-south divide dates to well before statehood, the new “New Mexico: A History” reports. “Southern New Mexico’s resentment of northern control…. caused various abortive secession efforts…” And I thought the problem was the force field anchored between the rest stop halfway between Socorro and Truth or Consequences.

  • Term loans, credit can finance business expenses

    When a business needs to buy expensive equipment and doesn’t have the operating cash to buy it outright — or doesn’t want to commit liquid assets to such a big-ticket item — the owner will often approach a bank for financing. The same is true when a business has cash flow shortfalls because its inflows and outflows are out of sync.
    Most banks have commercial lending departments that can offer the business a loan to finance equipment purchases or cover short-term obligations. Two of the most common loan types are term loans and revolving lines of credit. An experienced commercial banker can help the business decide which loan is most appropriate for its situation.
    Term loans
    With term loans, the bank advances a specific amount of money and requires the business to pay it back over a defined period. Such a loan is typically structured with the bank contributing 75 percent of the cost and the business committing 25 percent, though the percentages can vary depending on the type of equipment being purchased.
    The bank sets the maximum repayment schedule to be slightly less than the useful life of the equipment. For example, if the business wanted a new machine that should last for seven years, the bank may offer a five-year term to ensure the loan is paid off before the collateral has zero value.

  • Saying so long to departing House members

    You’re leaving? Seeyalaterbye.
    News coverage of the 10 House members bowing out has had that quality to it. In the world of political junkies and journalism, there’s no room for sentiment.
    Instantly, speculation was rampant about who will move to what power position and how it will affect the political balance, a subject I’ll leave to those who know it better while I indulge in a little sentiment.
    Rep. Tom Taylor, former Minority Leader, will be known for his irrepressible sense of humor, a valuable commodity in the Roundhouse. House Minority Leader Don Bratton could frame the big picture, apply his engineer’s logic, and keep discussions civil.
    The long-serving Chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, Rep. Kiki Saavedra, will be remembered for soliciting Republican input into the budget process (his predecessor didn’t) and making people comfortable with the process. House Majority Leader Rick Miera was a consummate public servant with a command of facts.
    The other six include three Democrats (Edward Sandoval, Ernest Chavez and Nate Cote) and three Republicans (Anna Crook, Bill Gray and Jim White).