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Columns

  • Council should lower boom on unethical, illegal trappers

    Column as I see ’em …
    As someone with a keen personal interest in harvesting animals and owning firearms, I found it rather interesting that both garnered front-page headlines in our paper this week.
    The one on firearms simply made me laugh; the one on trapping left me fuming, and here’s why.
    As someone who spent a great deal of my youth trapping furbearers in Great Lakes area of New York, I was outraged to read that a family’s pet was injured, but thankfully survived after being caught in an illegally set trap.
    Trapping is viewed by most as a barbaric activity designed to inflict unspeakable horrors on animals. Were it put to a popular vote, even the most rural areas of this country would almost certainly end the practice.
    As a teenager, I trapped mainly raccoon, muskrat and red fox and tried my level best to do it as humanely as possible (there are ways to mitigate the trauma, particularly in trap selection and how they’re set), as well as to the letter of the law.
    I learned early on that people even back then weren’t too keen on trapping, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t among those who provided reasons for those opposed to yell even louder.

  • Schmidt did positive things for community

    To Kevin Honnell, Los Alamos School Board:
    This letter has taken so long to compose because I was so angry about our school board’s treatment of Dr. Eugene Schmidt that I have needed time to be more civil. You are our representative, and having worked with you on the Barranca Mesa School Board, I have seen that you have the capacity to consider things carefully. I am therefore hoping that you will take our comments to heart and consider what we have to say.
    When we look at the last five years, we see so many positive things that have happened in the schools due to Dr. Schmidt’s leadership. We have gone from crumbling buildings to having a beautiful new high school, new middle school, and Aspen school is in the process of rebuilding. Not only the buildings have been improved, but the school grounds and curb appeal are hugely improved.

  • UNM-LA spins rezoning efforts

    I want to thank the Unviversity of New Mexico-Los Alamos Advisory Board Chairman Boerigter for his thoughtful response to our letter regarding the UNM-LA development on 9th Street. It is a masterpiece of spin.
    Contrary to the letter’s implication that UNM-LA sought and responded to neighborhood input, UNM-LA had no intention of holding neighborhood meetings, in spite of the fact that we had suggested it do that over a year ago in casual discussions about the future of its neglected apartments.
    After the rezoning request was filed and we were notified in December, I approached county planners and in a series of meetings with UNM-LA and planners persuaded UNM-LA to hold a neighborhood meeting; I personally delivered the notices to people in the neighborhood. After that meeting, UNM-LA withdrew its application.
    The application was refiled — without change — and the neighborhood was notified again, and with only a little prompting this time UNM-LA held a neighborhood meeting at which it presented a plan that was unchanged from the original. It satisfied none of the criticisms that the neighborhood had leveled at the first meeting.
    Its input having been ignored, the neighborhood response was pointed and strong.

  • Tootsie, cattle prods teach math lessons

    I was watching “Tootsie” the other day and enjoying one of my favorite scenes in which Hoffman is consoling a nurse about the abusive Dr. Van Horn.
    Tootsie says, “I think I’m going to give every nurse on this floor an electric cattle prod, and just instruct them to zap him in his badoobies.”
     It›s been a while since I took Biology, but I think the badoobies are located somewhere between the jibberstoop and the collywaffle.
     Of course, I could be confusing this with the mumplepod.
    Tootsie’s idea had real merit in the arena of mathematical conditioning.
    Humans seem to learn more quickly when the consequences of failure are physically disturbing.
    Of course, this doesn’t work if you happen to enjoy electric shock treatment in the badoobies.
    I sometimes ask my students if any of them had recently put their hand in a fire. As expected, they give me a strange look and say no. When I ask them, “Why not?” I get even stranger looks and they tell me, “Well, it would hurt!”

  • Handing out tax breaks is fun, but tax base is another story

    Pour some bubbly. Last year’s last-minute tax package, combined with existing credits, make New Mexico the lowest in manufacturing taxes in the region, according to a new study by the New Mexico Tax Research Institute.
    This is just three short years after we were the region’s highest.
    It’s handy news as Tesla looks us over for a possible plant site.
    Legislators this year passed more tax measures — that’s dandy if you’re on the receiving end, but the nonpartisan NMTRI would like to throw a little cold water in your face before you become too giddy.
    Two bills gave a hand-up to the aviation industry. I heard some of the testimony from operators in Roswell — good companies taking advantage of our weather and abundant air space. Of course, we want to cheer them on.
    HB 14, signed by the governor, removes the gross receipts tax from providers of parts or maintenance services on aircraft. HB 24 extends an existing deduction for aircraft refurbishing to the sale of those planes. A third bill adds a deduction for dialysis facilities if they’re sold to the federal government.
    Infusion therapy services also get a new deduction.

  • Several ways seniors can save some green

    We all love a good bargain, no matter what our age. But if you’re a senior citizen on a fixed income, finding discounted goods and services can mean the difference between making ends meet and going without.
    The good news is that tons of senior discounts are available — often for people as young as 50. One caveat right up front: Although many senior discounts are substantial, you sometimes can find better bargains — especially on travel-related expenses like airfare, hotels and rental cars. So always do your research first before requesting the senior rate.
    It can make a lot of sense to a lot of seniors to check out AARP.
    An AARP membership costs only $16 a year for anyone over age 50, including free membership for spouses or partners. Information can be found online at aarp.org.
    AARP’s discounts website features discounts on dozens of products and services including rental cars, hotels, restaurants, clothing and department store chains. AARP also offers an inexpensive driver safety course for drivers over 50 (members and nonmembers alike) that can lower auto insurance premiums by up to 10 percent or more.
    Popular AARP discounts include:
    • 20 percent discount on installation or upgrades to ADT home security systems.
    • 45 percent off membership to Angie’s List.

  • Los Alamos community is all in this together

    I would like to thank George and Chris Chandler for their letter to the editor. It’s vitally important in this community to ensure open and honest communications, to get facts and issues in front of citizens, and to work toward a shared vision and future for a better Los Alamos.
    It’s a small town and we’re all in this together. Many facts regarding the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos re-zoning request are accurate: the current zone allows only 41 units however there are currently 64 units on the 1.88 acre site.
    The site is owned by the UNM Regents and managed by UNM-LA. The re-zoning request, if approved, would allow up to 82 units. Without the request, redevelopment would be limited to 41 units.
    Prior to the decision to pursue re-zoning and the redevelopment of the site, UNM-LA conducted a thorough evaluation of the current facility. The evaluation concluded that the existing 60-plus-year-old buildings could not be renovated and brought up to current code requirements in a cost effective manner.
    I applaud nearby building owners and residents for their commitment in maintaining their properties. Unfortunately, UNM-LA cannot reverse the clock and renovate these structures. UNM-LA must look forward to providing modern student and workforce housing opportunities through the redevelopment of the 9th Street property.

  • A cautionary tale about earmarked funds

    “I’d like to explain to you about the Subsequent Injury Fund.”
    I used to joke that this sentence could clear a room. If you were the host of a party and your guests weren’t getting the hint that it was time to leave, you could mention the Subsequent Injury Fund and they’d be gone like a shot. I actually did this more than once.
    Even the name invites confusion. Subsequent to what? Injured when? No wonder hardly anybody paid attention.
    The Subsequent Injury Fund has been gone since 1996. I tell the story now because it’s a cautionary tale about earmarked funds. In case you didn’t notice, a few major issues in the recent legislative session, such as the early childhood education proposal, involved earmarked funding.
    The New Mexico Subsequent Injury Fund (SIF), like similar programs in many states, was a workers’ compensation program, established to encourage employers to hire workers with physical disabilities. These programs were started after the Korean War to help injured veterans.

  • 2006-2013: Government jobs up, then down

    Scads of state economic numbers new to me crawled from the darkness a few days ago.
    The numbers omitted government, so first, using other numbers, we will consider the performance of our leaders in weaning the state from the dark dependence on government jobs.
    The Department of Workforce Solutions is the source of the government figures. An entirely arbitrary choice, Octobers from 2006, 2011 and 2013, provide the comparison. The numbers, for wage jobs, are revised and seasonally unadjusted.
    Overall government employment declined during the period. The total, 197,400 in 2006, grew 1,700, or 0.86 percent, by 2011 and declined 4,000, or two percent, to 195,100 two years later.
    The federal sector, by far the smallest of the government employers, more than explains the changes. Federal employers hired a net of 2,300 people, a 7.6 percent increase, between October 2006 and 2011. Federal employment dropped 9.2 percent to 29,700 between from October 2011 to 2013.
    Federal employment runs about half of the state government total and less than a third of local government. All governments do different things. Geography bounds the activity.

  • Column As I See 'Em: Let’s lend a hand to our top teacher

    Let’s start things off on a positive note before getting into a letter we published earlier this week in which a county councilman explains why it was appropriate for him to crack an ethnic joke while speaking with high school students, among other things.
    Carolyn Torres, a third grade teacher at Chamisa Elementary, is this year’s New Mexico Teacher of the Year. With that title comes the requirement that she travel around the state and nationally to represent New Mexico.
    Doing so isn’t cheap, and the assistance she receives from the school district (per diem, etc.) is terrific but, as anyone who has done much traveling will attest, that money only goes so far and often doesn’t cover the hidden costs associated with such travel.
    I spoke earlier this week with Principal Debbie Smith, who is actively seeking financial support to help make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
    As we have reported, some have already made donations, but we’re hoping that sweetening the pot a bit might spark even more.