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Columns

  • 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;

  • Pesticides and your pets

    While spring is a time to plant beautiful flowers in your yard, it also brings pesky insects out in numbers. Because of this, a potential hazard this time of year for pets is pesticides.
    “Before choosing a pesticide read the label to ensure it is safe for your pet,” said Michael Golding, assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
    “Avoid products with bone-meal as these can be tasty to your pet, and pesticides with organophosphates and carbamates as these can be extremely deadly.”
    The most common ways pets come into contact with pesticides is licking the toxic substances from their feet or coat, or by directly consuming the product from a container that has been left out.
     If your pet begins showing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, trouble walking, drooling, nausea, and/or tremors contact your veterinarian immediately as these are signs that your pet is suffering from pesticide related toxicity.
     “A common way pesticides cause problems in our pets is through organophosphates and carbamates,” Golding said. “They act as competitive inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase, a key component of the central nervous system that allows the brain to regulate the body.”

  • They died happily ever after

    OK children, bedtime!  I’m going to help you go to sleep by telling you a wonderful love story.
     Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young princess who lived in a beautiful castle.  Her parents were captured by an evil witch who gutted them like fish and then ate their livers and hearts.
     Oh, and her brothers were all killed too.  Horribly.  Yeah, lots of pain.  Um, you sleepy yet?
     What is it with children’s stories?  The families are always dysfunctional or dead.  I can still remember how I felt when Bambi’s mother died.  As luck would happen, my uncle had just returned from a hunting trip the week before with his quota of deer.
     There seems to be an endless choice of tragedies and miseries for children to enjoy.  Let’s start with some classics.
     Cinderella is a charming story of love and acceptance.  Her parents are dead at the beginning of the movie.  She’s mentally and physically abused by her step sisters and step mother.  Cinderella is beloved by all animals except for the family cat, Lucifer, who delights in tormenting her.

  • Finishing the job of PRC reform

    The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) touches the lives of every New Mexican who pays a gas, electric, or landline telephone bill, or buys home, auto, or health insurance, among many other things. Unfortunately, the PRC has had a troubled history ever since it was created about 16 years ago.
    In late 2011, Think New Mexico published a policy report entitled “Rethinking the PRC,” which proposed a strategy for reforming the agency. Our report concluded that the PRC’s poor performance was due, in part, to a fundamental structural problem: it was the most powerful state regulatory agency in the nation, yet it had very few qualifications for commissioners (they are only required to be at least 18 years old, residents of New Mexico for at least a year, and not convicted felons).
    During the 2012 legislative session, with the help of good government, consumer, and business groups, Think New Mexico successfully won legislative passage of three bipartisan constitutional amendments to restructure the PRC.

  • Slight growth seen in 2013, maybe

    Not much happening for a while. That’s the outlook for the New Mexico economy from the annual economic outlook conference presented last week by New Mexico State University and Wells Fargo Bank.
    Eugenio Aleman, Wells Fargo senior economist, offered the national outlook, beginning with a tautology.
    “We’re closer to a recovery today than we were yesterday,” he said. Aleman sees gross domestic product growth at 1.7 percent this year, about in the middle of projections from other groups.
    Not so much for New Mexico.
    Jim Peach, NMSU Regents Professor of Economics, estimates the state’s 2013 job growth at between zero and one percent.
    That is, if the federal sequestration problem — the across the board spending cuts — gets fixed. Then number of wage jobs in the state might — just might — return to pre-recession levels by 2018. 
    At the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Peach found support for his view.
    The bank tracks the business cycle in each state and also groups statistics with behavior, suggesting state economic performance six months in the future.
    For New Mexico these leading indictors show no improvement in the economy and perhaps a decline. Since dropping in 2008, the state’s business cycle has flat lined.

  • Prepare now for natural disasters

    Natural disasters are inevitable, unpreventable and often come without warning. No part of the world seems to be spared, whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, drought or flood.
    Even though such catastrophes can’t always be predicted, their likely aftermaths often can, including property loss, power or water service disruption, scarcity of food and supplies or overtaxed relief organizations.
    Superstorm Sandy was a powerful reminder of why it’s vital to develop a family disaster plan.
    By planning ahead and knowing what you might need under dire circumstances, you can save yourselves a lot of time, money and grief.
    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers great suggestions for developing a family emergency plan, building an emergency supply kit, and learning what to do before, during and after emergencies — even a plan for family pets (fema.gov).
    Once your physical safety has been assured, you’ll inevitably need to access important financial and legal records, whether to file insurance claims, apply for loans or simply withdraw cash.
    Taking these few steps now will make accessing such information much easier when the time comes:

  • Alternative health care

    Workers’ compensation insurers are starting to pay for meditation classes for injured workers.
    That’s a milestone worth noting, because work comp is a pretty conservative system and the last place you’d expect to find anything outside the box of conventional medicine.
    In most cases, a claims adjuster has to review and approve anything unorthodox before it’s authorized for payment. When work comp payers are paying for alternative therapies, something important is happening in the healthcare system.
    There are no statistics, and the numbers are probably small, but alternative therapies are beginning to be accepted, according to presenters at a recent meeting of the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Association.
    “Mind-body is the future of medicine,” said Dr. David Lyman, a 20-year occupational medicine physician.
    “The acute care models no longer meet our needs.” For workers who don’t recover with conventional treatment, he employs an interdisciplinary approach that includes mental techniques such as biofeedback.
    David Lang, a massage and neuromuscular therapist and a former member of the New Mexico Massage Therapy Licensing Board, said New Mexico is a leading state in the development of integrative medicine.

  • Political follies roll on in D.C.

    SANTA FE — If there is anything that can make the New Mexico Legislature look good, it is the follies going on in Washington, D.C.
    Both groups share one commonality. There’s a lot of talk but not much is going to get done.
    In Santa Fe, House Democrats can stop Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s meager agenda. Senate Democrats also are the majority party but some of those Democrats have joined with a united Republican party and it appears that coalition is going to be able to stop anything Democrats want to get to the governor’s desk.
    To demonstrate that politics is equal opportunity, the situation in Washington is reversed but the partisanship is unchanged. A Republican House and a Democratic Senate that requires a 60 percent vote instead of 51 percent means little can be accomplished in that body.
    Congress came back to do a little work this week but will spend most of its time fighting. By Friday it has to figure out how to avoid the big boulder it put in its road, called sequestering. They won’t let it happen because that cuts everything equally, which means too many pet projects get hurt.
    Congress will waltz around that boulder, somehow, only to run into the expiration of a continuing resolution that runs the government out of money.

  • Soliciting comments

    The N.M. DOT held an open house on Feb. 20 to solicit comments on the latest conceptual design for N.M. 502.
    This might be the last opportunity for public comment on the major features of the road. I didn’t count, but I’d guess there were roughly 50-75 people in attendance. That seems like a pretty small sample on which to base a decision that affects everyone in Los Alamos (though less so for White Rock residents).
    I think the single design feature that most determines the nature and quality of the road is the proposed roundabout at Central and Trinity.
    For me, the biggest single question associated with an artery like Trinity is, “How easy is it to get from where you are to where you would like to be.” From this perspective, a roundabout is a poor choice. Here are the reasons.
    The roundabout proposed is somewhat like that installed at Diamond and San Ildefonso. It is a hybrid, with some aspects of a single lane roundabout and some portions that will behave like a two-lane roundabout.
    However, there are some important differences between the two intersections. First, the traffic is somewhat heavier at Central and Trinity. Second, the traffic pattern is very different. This makes a significant difference in the efficiency of travel in different paths, as well as for access by pedestrians and bicycles.

  • Compromise is not a four-letter word

    We’ve passed the mid-point of this 60-day legislative session. Time to “evaluate” the new leaders. Weighing in were Joe Monahan, one of the state’s most popular political bloggers, and El Paso Times reporter Milan Simonovich.
    Monahan has consistently painted Senate President Mary Kay Papen as a conservative who will sell out the Dems to appease the governor, but Papen describes herself as a fiscal conservative who is liberal on many other issues.
    For some reason, the political hounds gave House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, a little honeymoon before finding him wanting.
    Martinez’s offense? His willingness to compromise, a sign of weakness in the minds of some. Monahan pronounced Martinez wimpy, and Simonovich jumped in with this: “Martinez is either the biggest underachiever at the capitol or New Mexico’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He vacillates between coddling fat cats and protecting the most irresponsible people ever to lace up a pair of work boots.”
    Martinez has made it clear from day one that he intended to listen and to work with his political adversaries. “Compromise is not a bad word,” he said recently.