• Union Pacific Railyard making Santa Teresa an inland port

    Appreciating something very large and flat poses a challenge. Ants always have the problem, but they are used to it.
    The appreciation problem had an extra element the day we toured Union Pacific’s new intermodal facility in Doña Ana County just north of the Santa Teresa port of entry and the Mexican border.
    The wind averaged 48 miles per hour that day with gusts to 60 mph. Dust ensued, much dust.
    Union Pacific is making Santa Teresa an inland port. If the concept sounds murky, remember that a port is where stuff gets shuffled around, much of the time today while still inside large metal boxes we inland types see stacked on rail cars.
    The typical port is on a coast with container ships of ever-increasing size on one side and trains and trucks on the other.
    With an inland port, the concept of moving huge amounts of stuff remains the same but without ships and perhaps with a small role for airplanes added.
    The facility will be a fueling station, a place to change crews and an intermodal ramp for moving goods.
    It is currently UP’s largest capital investment and is the largest construction project on the border, said our host Jerry Pacheco, executive director of the International Business Accelerator (www.nmiba.com) in Santa Teresa.
    Attention to the numbers is appropriate. They are large.

  • Organic food movement still continues to grow

    There’s good news and bad news about the future of edible food in the world and, specifically, in New Mexico.
    One item of bad news is that the New Mexico Senate rejected the bill to require labeling of genetically modified food (SB18, sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe), deciding that you don’t have the right to make informed choices about what you’re eating.
    This was a disappointment but not a surprise; New Mexico rarely does well at resisting powerful lobbies.
    The good news is that New Mexico is seeing growth in organic farming and local marketing of farmed products. According to state Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte, organic farming in New Mexico brought in about $53 million in 2011.
    The organic food movement reflects several overlapping themes about healthful food and environmental sustainability.
    Public concern is growing over the long-term safety of genetically altered food, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, the health of the soil, toxic chemicals in the water, humane treatment of farm animals, and even the health of those essential pollinators, bees.
    As the concern grows, so does support for local farmers who choose to grow organic.

  • Time running out for lawmakers

    Three days to go and a thousand bills to cover. That’s a tall order and it won’t be filled.
    At the beginning of this session, when the leadership battle between Democratic candidate Sen. Pete Campos and conservative Democrat candidate Mary Kay Papen was fought, it was explained that the president pro tem of the Senate appointed all the committees. To many, that didn’t seem like a crucial power.
    But it is. The committee chairman can hold a bill in his/her committee for the entire session without hearing it. The old accounting principal of first-in, first-out doesn’t apply. An important bill simply can be ignored.
    Occasionally it gets less simple. Back in the 60s, Fred Foster, chairman of the House Education Committee, grabbed a bill he didn’t like, placed it in the bottom drawer of his desk. Locked the drawer and proclaimed it would never see the light of day. The action really wasn’t necessary but Fred wanted to make a point.
    Sen. Tom Benavides wasn’t even a committee chairman but somehow he got hold of the original copy of a bill, which is the only copy that counts. He got in his car and drove it to Juarez, where it remained for the rest of the session.

  • Sunshine cures what sunsets worsen

    Companies complain that regulations in place to cut pollution are flawed. They complain about rules being clumsy, confusing, redundant, scattered among bureaus, and slow in the process.
    Flaws that companies overlook are the scant resources for inspections and enforcement that is clumsy, scattered among bureaus, and slow in the process.
    To make rules work well, or perhaps end them, companies favor the “sunset clause.”
    A sunset clause is a clause in a regulation that states the rule expires after a set number of years. The idea is to require regulators to re-examine and re-decide each regulation every so many years to keep it current with new knowledge and technology, with other rules and with more efficient methods.
    Making regulations more efficient is good.
    But the devil is in the rest of the story.
    The story begins with the basics of regulation. The system has four distinct steps – rule-making, permitting, surveillance, and enforcement. Agencies issue permits to emit pollutants that comply with set rules. A working system needs efficient inspecting and enforcing to go with permitting.

  • You aren't going to believe this

    SANTA FE — The world is going crazy folks. I don’t know how else to explain some recent occurrences.
    The most unbelievable event was basketball star Dennis Rodman’s two-day visit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Rodman was the bad boy of basketball while he played in the NBA.
    The United States has had no contact with North Korea, the bad boys of the world, for 15 years or so except for a few ill-fated secret talks.
    That is why the U,.S. State Department was so upset when Bill Richardson accompanied the head of Google to North Korea a few weeks ago. Richardson and Co. never got close to Kim Jong Un.
    But Rodman and a basketball team arrived in town and had Un hugging and kissing Rodman during two days of basketball games.
    Evidently Rodman has been a favorite of Un’s for many years. Un likes basketball and especially likes Rodman’s style. Could the reason be that they both are bad boys?
    Back during the “ping pong diplomacy” with China in the early 1970s, it was frequently said that only Richard Nixon could go to China.
    It is highly unlikely that anyone is going to venture that only Rodman could go to North Korea.

  • More Pi in the sky

     If I yelled out a three.  Then a one and a four.  Would you ask me to go on and shout out some more?
     OK, math lovers!  Next Thursday (March 14) is once again our chance to sing out the digits of harmonic irrationality to the world, to repeat our favorite non-repeating number.
     3.141592653 something uh something something.  Yeah, you know, it goes on and on, kind of like our irrational leaders filibustering in Congress.  But there’s a big difference.  Pi never repeats itself.
     So why the fascination with pi?  What is it about a number that motivates people to memorize it out dozens of places.  Or hundreds?  Some people have memorized and recited pi out over 10,000 digits.  The current record holder is Chao Lu who managed to recite pi out 67,890 places.
     Of course, computers are much better as spitting out the digits.  As computational capabilities continued to increase, it became traditional to demonstrate a computer’s power by having it calculate pi out to the umpteenth digit.  A couple years ago, they broke the ten trillion-digit mark.
    Ten-trillion digits.  If you recited one digit every second, it would take you more than 300,000 years to read it.

  • Freshman legislators with fresh ideas

    Legislative sessions that follow on the heels of an election can be quite refreshing, if for no other reason than freshmen legislators often arrive at the Roundhouse pumped with the energy of fresh ideas.
    That is particularly true when an election produces a large turnover in the composition of a Legislature, as is the case here in New Mexico this year, where fully one-third of all state senators and roughly 30 percent of all state House members are freshmen.
    It was perhaps to be expected, therefore, that new ideas seem to be popping up with some degree of regularity at this year.
    Recently in this column, we checked in on freshman Las Cruces Rep. Bill McCamley’s ill-fated effort to pass a measure through a House committee that would have limited the lengths of those interminable political campaigns to which we are subjected every election year.
    Just last week another legislative freshman had the experience of seeing his novel and perfectly sensible idea bite the dust in the state Senate.
    It breaks no news to note that Legislatures are intensely political by their very nature.

  • WR businesses

    A comment about last Friday’s story, “WR retailers inspire creativity.”
     I was surprised to learn from this article that after being in “Los Alamos” for 37 years and a resident of “White Rock” for 26 years, that White Rock is a “suburb” of Los Alamos!!
    Per Wikipedia; A suburb is a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city, having some degree of administrative autonomy.
     I do believe that White Rock shares the same police force, fire protection, utilities, government, “newspaper,” zip Code, as does the “town” of Los Alamos, or did something change recently??
    Some of us in White Rock do sometimes feel that we are the “other” part of the community, but that’s a political thing, which I hope your story doesn’t perpetuate.
    By the way, for the uninitiated, there is another White Rock, about 25 miles due south of Farmington, N.M. in San Juan County. All of the above is with tongue-in-cheek, so don’t take it personal.
    On the positive side (the real reason for this letter), it’s nice to see stories of White Rock in the Los Alamos Monitor, positive stories that hopefully will be noticed and more of Los Alamos County will realize that White Rock is not too shabby.

  • Tweety Bird and the Legislature

    In December, Keith Gardner, the governor’s chief of staff, told a legislative forum, “It’s important to put differences aside and collaborate.”
    He went on to talk about how important it was to “compromise and work together” and to “come together and do what’s best for New Mexico.”
    After Republicans bankrolled an election like a coyote hunt that failed to alter the political makeup of the Legislature, Gardner sounded like a cornered Tweety Bird saying, “Nice puddy tat.”
    In January, the governor sprinkled her state of the state speech with “compromise” and “bipartisan” and extended her hand instead of her foot to Sylvester the Cat.
    So for this and other reasons (the sequester kicked in as I was writing this), this has been a session of compromise.
    More or less.
    Right off the bat, the governor took a couple of major steps. First she committed to Medicaid expansion and decided against pushing right-to-work. That was a respectable olive branch.

  • More on Trinity Drive, roundabouts

    Opinions we all have them and we are very attached to them. But a person’s opinion does not a fact make.
    Hopefully, the opinions that we have are supported by fact. I recently read a couple of letters in the Los Alamos Monitor that were filled with very strong opinions regarding Trinity Drive and roundabouts.
    People have opinions and that’s fine. But let’s look at the facts regarding roundabouts as published by reputable and mainstream engineering organizations.
    To study the effectiveness and safety of roundabouts, the Federal Highway Administration sponsored a study that was carried out by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) of the National Academy of Engineering.
    The NCHRP-672 Report found that a well-designed roundabout provides better operational performance than a traffic signal in terms of
    1. better level-of-service (shorter delays and fewer stops),
    2. better motor vehicle safety , and
    3. lower pollution emissions.
    In addition, a roundabout has the following pros:
    4. the long-term maintenance costs of the roundabout are likely to be less than the expense for a signal, because there are no signal maintenance and signal operation costs;
    5. the roundabout would provide an opportunity for community beautification;