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Columns

  • School system working to keep kids off drugs

    An article in the Sunday’s Los Alamos Monitor, posed the question of illegal drug use in our community. The drug awareness event, which was held in Duane Smith Auditorium, presented an opportunity for community members to voice concerns on illegal drug use.
    As superintendent of the Los Alamos Public Schools, I would be naïve to say that drugs have not made their way into our schools and our community. But in saying this, I would state very affirmatively school staff and administration are very vigilant in identifying, responding to, and preventing drug use in schools. Moreover, our school board has in place firm and unequivocal policies aimed at keeping drugs and tobacco out of our schools while providing sensible second chances to young people who many have made a mistake.
    Safe and civil schools are one of three non-negotiable goals of our school system. As such, staff and administration, in partnership with students, parents, and school resource officers are continually on alert for behaviors that suggest a student may be under the influence or in possession of illegal substances at school.

  • What's the fairy tale ending?

    If I thought having cancer was easy, I’d forgot to factor in that life doesn’t always turn out how you planned. It’s not so much that having cancer is hard. It’s not being able to conquer it that’s tough.
    For two years, I’ve gone from drug to drug, initially glowing in the euphoric feeling that it’s going to work, and is working against the cancer, only to find out six months down the line that my body, yet again, is retreating from the invading army. The days when the drugs conquered all, and I could have six, 12, even three years free to live a normal life, seem now a long way away.
    So what’s so different about conquering cancer and knowing it’s your destiny? I would say in a nutshell: accepting the truth and learning to breathe through it. For more than three years while I was in remission, even though I was on maintenance chemotherapy, I was able to write about hope, about living life large in the face of cancer, about stopping to smell the roses. But as soon as my cancer came back, and wouldn’t give me a break, the words dried up. I couldn’t understand it. For someone who had found it so easy to see the colors in the face of blindness, my fingers wouldn’t type, my heart wouldn’t give and the block became a constant frustration.

  • Charter change is flawed on many levels

    The debate over Charter Question 2 has rightly concentrated on the basic issue: whether the checks and balances relationship between the Board of Public Utilities and the county council that has worked well for 46 years should be replaced by a system in which council has unilateral control over utilities. Several smaller or less direct issues also merit consideration.
    A core argument used to support Ballot Question 2 is that only the council is accountable to citizens. Yet Question 2, should it pass, could actually make council less accountable. The proposed new Article V adds a new provision — Sec. 504 (f), which says “the DPU budget will identify a percentage of DPU revenues for transfer to the county general fund based on a formula agreed to by the board and council.” Any monies assessed through utility bills and transferred to the county general fund via this new route is effectively a tax. It just wouldn’t be called that. Citizens can see actual tax rates and hold councilors accountable. It would be difficult to figure out what implicit taxes might be hidden in utility bills. Council would, in practice, be less accountable for their revenues and the spending they enable.

  • Monsters are still in the closet for patients

    CHILE PAC’s half-hour infomercial titled “Breakdown” is an interesting entry into campaign debate.
    Its subject is the human impact of the state Human Services Department’s shutdown of 13 behavioral health providers and their replacement with five Arizona firms.
    Concerned Hispanics Involved in Legislative Empowerment used documentary techniques to take the audience inside the homes of people struggling to care for a mentally ill relative. It also gives a voice to providers who were disgraced and thrown out with no chance to defend themselves.
    Aired recently, “Breakdown” is obviously aimed at Gov. Susana Martinez. Her campaign filed an ethics complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office that CHILE PAC hadn’t registered with the state or filed finance reports. (Imagine an outfit sitting on millions in dark money complaining about a trifling $4,500 spent on the spot.) Still, I credit the organizers for reminding us that this is about sick, troubled people.
    We meet Gib Lovell, whose son Caleb is schizophrenic. After the state’s closure of Caleb’s accustomed provider, the new provider cut back on treatment and services. Lovell built a six-foot wall around his property. “If Caleb has a bad day,” he said, “I can keep my son out of harm’s way.”

  • Constitutional amendments: Yes on 1, No on others

    Five more amendments to the New Mexico Constitution face voters this fall. Amending the Constitution has been a low-key sideline or, perhaps, a sport of state politics since before statehood.
    Find the text of the amendments and pro and con arguments at websites of the Legislative Council Service (LCS).
    Proposed amendments pass the Legislature as joint resolutions and are submitted to the people in general elections, meaning alternate years. The governor has no authority to comment.
    Sometimes elitists argue that amendments are too complex or boring or whatever for “the people” to consider from the perspective of their averageness. This amounts to the same rationale given by radicals such as Sen. Tom Udall with his First Amendment proposal to regulate political speech. Udall and his far left buddies think that regular folks can’t sort through megabucks spending to make a decision.
    I disagree. Voters really do consider constitutional amendments. If that consideration is for one minute, so what? My evidence is that sometimes proposed amendments lose. Individual amendments always get different vote totals. Clearly voters, some anyway, come to different conclusions about a given proposal.

  • Utilities charter change is not in our interest

    As a retired Los Alamos County utilities manager, 10-year member of the Board of Public Utilities (Board) and a utilities customer, I urge voters to vote against Ballot Question No. 2 — utilities. I am concerned about the potential negative effects the proposed re-write of Article V of the Los Alamos County Charter will have on Utilities customers.
    Unless a voter digs deeply into the background he/she may not realize that Article V, which was ratified in 1968 and has effectively guided utilities operations since, will be deleted and replaced with a new version that is substantially changed.
    What occurs in the proposed version is the council gains more control over utilities. Among other things, the council:
    1) will have the ability to remove one or more board members without reason
    2) will have the right to impose a dispute resolution process weighted in the council’s favor, and
    3) could potentially use utilities’ funds for other county operations.

  • No politics with utilities, please

    The advocates of Charter Amendment 2 are now claiming that it is preventive maintenance for the Utilities Department. This type of maintenance is based on the principle: “If it ain’t broke, fix it ‘til it is.”
    Don’t let them politicize our utilities. Vote “No” on Charter Amendment 2.
    Gil Miranda
    Los Alamos

  • A case for voting for Amendment 2

    I am voting for Amendment No. 2 on the upcoming ballot about our Utilities Board. 
    Contrary to the opponent’s dire depictions, it does not give unchecked power to council, or radically change the government structure established in the 1960s.   
    It does, however, put in some fail-safes and backstops that I think most of us would actually assume are in place now.
    Our local government has two parts. One is the Department of Public Utilities, which provides water, sewer, gas and electric. It is managed by a utility manager, policy decisions are set by a citizen utility board, and neither the board nor the manager reports to council. 
    The second is the county government, providing police, fire protection, libraries, parks, and the jail, for instance. These are managed by a county administrator, policies are set by the county council and you elect the council.
    With Amendment No. 2, the changes:
    • Require the utility board to abide by the Sunshine Laws of New Mexico — to announce all meetings and agendas.
    • Require the board to report once a quarter to the community — in a report to council — any issues that might be of concern.
    • Require the board, once every five years, to hire an outside utility consultant to review their processes.

  • Dogs and chocolate are a bad combination

    The Halloween season brings with it much amusement and excitement, and one anticipated tradition is the variety of chocolate you have an excuse to enjoy. While all of these Halloween treats may only bring your children a sugar rush and a tummy ache, it can do much more serious damage to your pets.
    “Chocolate and caffeine belong to a group of plant molecules called methylated xanthine alkaloids, which are commonly found in a variety of foods, drinks and medications,” said Dr. Medora Pashmakova, clinical assistant professor in Emergency/Critical Care Medicine at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
    “As stimulants, they cause excitation of the central nervous system, heart rate, and respiratory centers of the brain and can also stimulate the body’s own secretion of adrenaline. And, when in the form of candy and chocolate bars, they taste delicious, which is why dogs love to eat them in such large quantities!”
    As a rule of thumb, the higher the cocoa concentration, the more theobromine, which is the active ingredient that is toxic in high doses. Baker’s chocolate, for example, can be particularly concerning, while white chocolate contains no cocoa and is not actually toxic to dogs.

  • ISIS, Ebola and Elvis Presley

    “Wise men say, only fools rush in.” To tell you the truth, I’ve always been annoyed by that song. Elvis Presley slurs it so much that I had to look up the lyrics to figure out what he was whining about.
    Yes, angels fear to tread rock and roll!
    Fear is an interesting commodity. It refuses to adhere to well-founded economic principles of supply and demand.
    When the supply of fear is readily available (and it always is), the price goes up, not down. Likewise, people fear to fear, so no one really wants it. And yet with virtually no demand for it, the price continues to skyrocket.
    So as another election looms in the near future, we have to wonder where all this fear is coming from. Why the sudden onslaught of fear for sale?
    Christian Nestell Bovee said it best (without using the word “moronic,” which definitely proves we’re not related). “We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”
    It’s the same old story. We fear what we don’t understand, and we hate what we fear. We fear fear and spiral into a never-ending cycle of panic and dread.
    Let’s take a look at the tsunami of fear drenching us in the news these days.