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Columns

  • What's love got to do with it?

    We have a rather delicate problem in our neighborhood. A couple who live down the street from my house want to get married. Now, I have no problem with “those people” living in my neighborhood. I don’t know them, but they seem to be decent enough. The problem is … well, their lifestyle isn’t exactly what many of us view as ... normal. If they want to live together, that’s OK with me, but why do they have to get married?
    They’re Presbyterians. Yeah, I know what many people would say to me. What right do I have to prevent Presbyterians from getting married? Well, first of all, you have to agree that if we allow them to get married, the next thing they’ll want is the right to adopt children or even to have one on their own. What next? Buy a house? Get a dog? It’s disgusting!

  • Symbiotic success: Incubator and its tenant companies grow together

    When Allan Sindelar joined the Santa Fe Business Incubator in 1998, both his company — Positive Energy Solar — and the incubator were in their infancy.
    Sindelar had previously made his living as a freelance carpenter and had several years’ experience designing and installing solar electrical systems. He had no background in starting and running a business.
    The incubator, meanwhile, had just opened in a 10,000-square-foot building with barely enough room for eight or nine tenant businesses. Its founder, Marie Longserre, aimed to make it an environment that nurtured entrepreneurial impulses and connected startup owners with essential resources and training.
    As the incubator’s second tenant, Sindelar’s success and that of the incubator evolved in tandem.
    Positive Energy, which graduated from the incubator in 2005, reported revenues of nearly $10 million last year and expects to double that this year. The award-winning company has 55 employees in three statewide offices.
    In that same time, the incubator has tripled its square footage and helped launch more than 140 businesses, said Longserre, its president and chief executive officer. “We have grown physically, in our reach, our offerings and our affiliations.”

  • New mortgage rules can protect against risky loans

    Good news for people shopping for a mortgage — and for current homeowners facing foreclosure because they can no longer afford their home loan: New mortgage regulations drafted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently took effect and they provide a slew of new rights and protections for consumers.
    One of the cornerstones of the new mortgage rules is that lenders now are required to evaluate whether borrowers can afford to repay a mortgage over the long term — that is, after the initial teaser rate has expired. Otherwise, the loan won’t be considered what’s now referred to as a “qualified mortgage.”
    Qualified mortgages are designed to help protect consumers from the kinds of risky loans that brought the housing market to its knees back in 2008. But obtaining that designation is also important to lenders because it will help protect them from lawsuits by borrowers who later prove unable to pay off their loans.
    Under the new ability-to-pay rules, lenders now must assess — and document — multiple components of the borrower’s financial state before offering a mortgage, including the borrower’s income, savings and other assets, debt, employment status and credit history, as well as other anticipated mortgage-related costs.

  • Consider TFR to prevent LANL's possible downfall

    When I look around the lab, I have this sad feeling that Los Alamos National Laboratory is dying a slow death. Every year, the budgets get smaller and the most notable activity is legacy clean up. I can’t help but think that once the waste is gone, the powers that be may very well just decide to shutter the place.
    Money is tight, New Mexico has one of the smallest congressional voting blocks in the nation, and there really is no reason to think that there will be future continuous funding for a non-essential, politically incorrect facility that is lacking politically significant backing. Here to date, the lab survived because of the perceived national security importance and the political seniority of Senator Pete Domenici. However, the dependence on nuclear weapons is giving way to precision ordnance and we lack a senior senator. A reasonable person would be concerned about the lab’s future funding.
    What the lab needs and what is the principal duty of the lab’s director is to advocate for a national mission that is so compelling, both because it is necessary and beneficial, that it is able to garner congressional support in spite of budget constraints and competing national laboratories.

  • How do you like your water?

    Do you drink your tap water? If not, why not? Is fluoride, perhaps, one of your concerns?
    Many cities add fluoride to their water supply because it strengthens teeth. The controversy is over what else fluoride does that is not so desirable.
    There’s a fluoride war in Albuquerque right now. The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority is proposing to put fluoride back into the water supply after removing it a few years ago. Passions are high.
    While the Albuquerque issue is local, the fluoride question affects all communities.
    According to Rudy Blea, of the Office of Oral Health in the state Health Department, the following communities have adjusted water systems to accommodate the appropriate levels of fluoride: Chama, Cimarron, Cuba, Estancia, Farmington, Los Alamos, Milan, Pecos, Raton, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Santa Rosa, Springer, Taos, Villanueva and White Sands. These communities add supplemental fluoride to naturally-occurring fluoride to bring the level up to an accepted standard. Other communities don’t fluoridate, either because naturally occurring fluoride levels are high enough, or because they choose not to.

  • 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.