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Columns

  • 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.

  • Ignorance, disinformation cloud candidates' debate over New Mexico economy

    Last week, we talked about job-creation promises of the 2010 gubernatorial race. Today, let’s look at the current campaign rhetoric. Republican Susana Martinez has upped her game, but fills her policy position with disinformation. And Gary King, her Democratic opponent? The dog ate his homework.
    In speeches, King touts an increased minimum wage and pooh-poohs the 2013 tax compromise package.
    Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do because every working person deserves a wage he or she can live on. But it’s not economic development. Democrats subscribe to this tooth-fairy idea that an increased minimum wage will magically stimulate the economy, but studies are inconclusive.
    The 2013 tax compromise that King doesn’t like is the one thing the administration and lawmakers have done that will actually make a difference.
    On his campaign website, King says he would change the criteria for state (State Investment Council) investments in local businesses. He complains that the state has invested in too many failed businesses. Does he not understand that startup companies are by nature riskier?

  • Weh gets a present of 30,000 cancelled health care policies

    Allen Weh got 30,000 presents the other day from President Barack Obama. Weh is the Republican candidate for the United States Senate, trying to unseat incumbent Tom Udall. Weh is given no chance by the experts.
    Remember the president’s oft-repeated claim about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”
    The presents were the 30,000 New Mexicans who got a notice that their plans will end Jan. 1, 2015, because of not meeting health act requirements. Most are now with Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico with the rest covered by Presbyterian Health Plan. I assume the lucky group chose their current plan for a variety of individual reasons as opposed to government mandate.
    While Weh has generally attacked Udall’s support of the health care act, the 30,000 sounds like a present to me because they are real people hurt by the lie of the claim about keeping “your plan.” Effective candidates are supposed to talk about things that touch real people. The 30,000 bring the health care act’s troubles into the real world of individual New Mexicans.
    Finding some of those 30,000 and putting them in ads seems an obvious way bring the Obamacare effect home to New Mexicans. Of course, I’m hardly a campaign strategy rocket scientist.

  • Lunacy governs late campaign attack ads

    They are routinely dishonest, ugly to the eye and offensive to the ear. If that were not enough, they cynically contrive to insult the intelligence of the voters they are designed to seduce.
    Yet, with few exceptions, political strategists skilled at manipulating voter opinion insist that negative campaign television ads work to the advantage of the candidate or party who commission and/or pay for them.
    Simply put, candidates who are subjected to an endless barrage of negative (aka “attack”) TV ads will almost certainly pay a price on Election Day. They may not automatically lose, but at a minimum they will likely see their share of the vote diminished.
    It shames us all that some voters can be so gullible, and it degrades the democracy we profess to cherish.
    This year in New Mexico something akin to lunacy must surely be a governing principle underlying many of the negative ads being leveled against some candidates.
    One of the most unhinged has to be a disingenuous, off-the-wall negative spot brought to New Mexicans’ TV screens by Aubrey Dunn Jr., the Republican candidate for state land commissioner, attacking Democratic incumbent Commissioner Ray Powell Jr.

  • Obligation Bond funding positive for EMS classes

    A colleague of mine at University of New Mexico recently told me that the upcoming election was “the most uninteresting” he could remember in all his years of observing New Mexico politics. It may be, if the polls are to be believed. But UNM and its campus in Los Alamos will have a great deal at stake when voters cast their ballots between now and Nov. 4.
    “Bond Question C,” of the state “2014 Capital Projects General Obligation Bond Act,” asks voters to accept or reject $141 million worth of funding for capital improvements to colleges and universities across the state. UNM-LA’s share of these funds would be $500,000, which we would match with $250,000 of our own for a $750,000 renovation and upgrade of our Emergency Medical Sciences lab and training area.
    No one in Los Alamos needs to be reminded of the importance of emergency services. UNM-Los Alamos stepped forward to fill those needs in 2012, with the implementation of its Emergency Medical Services degree program. Demand for the courses is strong, and we anticipate more growth as we move to further strengthen this key strategic component of our curriculum.

  • Changes to charter will shift control, cause collateral damage

    The proposed changes to restructure the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) have the potential to cause collateral damage that may not be evident as voters consider their positions on this charter change issue.
    I have the perspectives of former county councilor, former chair of the Utility Board and of a senior manager for a public power utility in Nebraska, and also had the opportunity to participate on the first Charter Change Committee when we initially discussed the issue.
    Since most of the obvious pros and cons will be discussed at the public forum, I want to share one perspective relative to my opening comment. As I have previously noted, electricity is considered by most folks to be as essential as air, water and food. Los Alamos has elected to provide not only its own electric power, but also water and gas. The ability to successfully fulfill this mission has been demonstrated for many years. One element of this success, a most vital one, is strategic planning.

  • Reconsider methods?

    The Pajarito Trail Fest was run on Oct. 4. The course, on public land, was marked with small pink flags. Fifteen minutes after the last runner passed, the race organizers had removed every trace of their trail markings.
    The continuing Los Alamos Pace Races stand in contrast. The courses, also on public land, are copiously marked with a white powder, perhaps chalk or flour.
    The race organizers make no attempt to clean up after themselves, and race markings, particularly the ones on rock, can be seen on Los Alamos trails for literally years after the race is over.
    The Trail Fest and others have shown that a race can be run without being a litterbug.
    For the public benefit, could the Pace Race organizers and participants reconsider their methods?
    Stuart Trigman
    Los Alamos