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Columns

  • Make sure to cut your holiday expenses

    The closer the holidays loom, the less time harried families have to buy gifts, plan seasonal events and make travel arrangements. Unfortunately, when time is at a premium and you’re forced to make last-minute decisions, it’s usually your budget that suffers.
    As an occasional procrastinator myself, let me share a few tips I’ve picked up over the years that can help take the expense – and stress – out of holiday planning:
    Before you start shopping, calculate how much you can afford to spend on the holidays as a portion of your overall budget. If your finances are in good shape, spend no more than 1.5 percent of your annual income. But if you’re deeply in debt, can’t meet your regular monthly expenses or don’t have an emergency fund, this isn’t the time to rack up additional debt.
    Once you determine an overall amount, tally up expected holiday-related expenses including gifts, decorations, new clothes and accessories, giftwrap, cards, postage, special meals and year-end gratuities. Don’t forget travel-related expenses if you plan to leave town, and try to recall unanticipated expenses from last year.
    If you’re looking for ways to cut back, consider:

  • Collaboration still works for Coalition

    In 1997 three people got together – one rancher and two Sierra Club activists, who were fed up with the warfare between their two groups. They began to talk about the health of the land, about doing things differently, about working together.
    This unlikely combination formed the Santa Fe-based Quivira Coalition, and at its tenth conference in mid-November, it was still talking about doing things differently and working together. But some goals and partners have changed. The coalition’s 15-plus years have had their ups and downs, but it has demonstrated that collaboration, even in these polarized times, is still possible.
    Quivira’s second event in 1997 was at founding member Jim Winder’s Double Lightning ranch between Hatch and Deming. Winder had restored the watershed on his place and adopted new management practices. The environmentalists were skeptical, the ranchers thought he was crazy, and neither group would speak to the other.
    “I made more money this year than I ever have before,” Winder said. A couple of ranchers began listening. A few years later, a drought management workshop drew ranchers from around New Mexico and southern Colorado.    

  • Elections and emergencies

    A snowstorm hit northern Rio Arriba County and other northern New Mexico communities on Election Day, 1986, affecting voter turnout.  Rio Arriba is a Democratic stronghold. Republican Garrey Carruthers won the governorship, which was expected and probably not changed by the weather. I happened to be watching the attorney general race, and the snowstorm might have been the factor that gave Republican Hal Stratton the edge over Democrat Bob McNeill.  Those are the breaks.  
    Early voting has been instituted since then.  Voters in storm-prone mountain communities can choose to vote early, and campaigns can make extra efforts to encourage them to.  But nobody gets a do-over.
    What to do when a storm disrupts an election became a hot topic a few weeks ago as Superstorm Sandy barrelled through several eastern states.  You thought about it, didn’t you?  Would the storm pass, would the power be restored, would polling places be open and would voters be able to get to them?  If not, what would the alternatives be, and who had the power to make those decisions?

  • Rehashing the 2012 election

    At PJ Media, Ron Radosh, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, offers a cogent analysis of the Republican losses. See: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/2012/11/06/why-obama-won/?singlepage=true.
    Republicans lost two presumably Republican Senate seats because of outrageous, incredible comments about rape from candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Murdock in Indiana. Had I been in either state, I would have voted for the Democrat, just to keep the lunatics from the Senate.
    Romney, Radosh said, simply said he disagreed with Akin and Murdock. A pat on the hand, in other words. Had Romney gone to the two states, held a news conference, condemned the statements and withdrawn support, that would have meant something. Romney’s response fueled the Democrats charges of a “war on women” by Republicans.
    In New Mexico, Romney’s response allowed dishonest demagoguery from Michelle Lujan Grisham, congresswoman-elect. Though Heather Wilson and Lujan Grisham’s opponent, Janice Arnold-Jones, both promptly called for Akin to drop out, weeks later Lujan Grisham ran an ad including an image of Akin. Arnold-Jones was aware of the ad, but did nothing. (I endorsed Wilson and Arnold-Jones.)

  • Benefits of exercising with your dog

     As the semester rolls on and tests pile up many students begin changing their daily routine to one that is more study-friendly and, unfortunately, usually more deskbound.
    What most students do not realize is that while your dog lies next to you on the couch day after day, it is being robbed of physical activity that is vital to their health.
    Multiple studies have shown that dogs that exercise have improved bone health and organ and lung function.
    It makes them look better, feel better, and they are less nervous when left alone.  
    “Exercise is good for maintaining general health, and it helps keep your heart, muscles, and joints strong. It also helps with maintaining weight and their coordination,” said Dr. Jacqueline Davidson, clinical track professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
    Studies also show that dogs lacking exercise usually have poor muscle tone and are more prone to injury, brain ailments, and bone disorders.
    They are also more susceptible to developing emotional problems and behavior quirks.
    “Dogs that don’t exercise are usually overweight, have less dexterity, and their heart and joints aren’t as vigorous,” Davidson said.

  • NM Blue Book a state treasure

     SANTA FE – How do you ever find time to research all your columns? It’s the most frequently asked question I receive about my journalistic endeavor.
    If my wife is around, she usually jokes that I just make it up, but that’s not true.
    I have plenty of readers who call me on any incorrect information. Over 40 years of working in various capacities at the Capitol, plus another 20 years of being aware of what was going on in Santa Fe give me a deep background from which to draw.
     But a guy can’t remember everything. So when I need to check a fact, I have a handy little book within reach that tells me nearly everything I need to know about our state.
     It is called the New Mexico Blue Book, a treasury of information about state and local government, past and present.
     You can obtain your own copy of the New Mexico Blue Book by calling Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s Office at 1-800-477-3632. The cost is $10.95 and well worth it.
    The 2012 Blue Book is a collector’s item. It is the centennial edition of the Blue Book which is published by the Secretary of State’s office every two years.

  • Young adults: Avoid these privacy red flags

    Young adults applying for college or preparing to enter the workforce are sometimes shocked to find out that certain behaviors that were either tolerated or ignored when they were younger now fall under closer scrutiny and could actually hurt their advancement possibilities. Among the biggest culprits are oversharing sensitive personal information in public forums and getting extreme tattoos or body art that may not yet be fully acceptable in certain work environments.
    Red flags. It should be common knowledge that many employers perform online profile searches of job or internship candidates. They’ll scour public postings on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube looking for inappropriate content like racy photos or videos, racist remarks or evidence of illegal activities that would rule inappropriate candidates.
    But many people don’t realize that colleges, insurance companies, law enforcement and government agencies sometimes do the same. Thus, an underage student hoping to boost his cool factor by posting photos that show him engaging in drinking games could be disqualified for college admission or even have his scholarship revoked.

  • The droppings of Election 2012

     At first glance, last week’s election might seem to have been pretty much a “status quo” affair.
    President Obama remains in the White House for another four years. Republicans will continue to control the U.S. House of Representatives for at least two more years, whereas a strengthened Democratic majority will prevail in the U.S. Senate.
    In New Mexico, the election left Democrats in control of the Legislature and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez with just two years left on the 4th floor at the Roundhouse unless she seeks a second term.
    The state’s three-member U.S. House delegation still features one Republican and two Democrats, including newly elected lst Dist. Democratic Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham, and in the nation’s upper house, New Mexicans will continue to be represented by two Democratic senators.
    Nonetheless, Election 2012 left behind a decidedly changed political landscape in this enchanted land.
    When 1st Dist. Congressman Martin Heinrich becomes Sen. Heinrich with the New Year, he will fill the Senate seat occupied for the past three decades by Democrat Jeff Bingaman. Thirty years accrues a lot of seniority in an institution where seniority matters a great deal.

  • MainStreet makes strides

    Artesia is a southeastern New Mexico town named for the artesian aquifer on which the area’s early agricultural industry was based. Today Artesia’s 10,700 residents are drawing on the city’s history as they work with the Artesia MainStreet program to remake the town’s downtown.
    Artesia MainStreet is part of the New Mexico MainStreet Program, a grassroots economic development program of the New Mexico Economic Development Department. The state Legislature launched the program in 1985 to help communities remake older commercial neighborhoods as economically viable business environments while preserving local cultural and historical resources.
    The program currently serves 23 affiliated MainStreet projects and six state-authorized Arts and Cultural Districts statewide.
    In the late 1970s, the National Trust for Historic Preservation developed the consensus-building approach used by MainStreet participants to wed economic development and historic preservation. Community volunteers are the engines of each program, but MainStreet Program directors contribute resources, education, training and technical services as needed.

  • Our View--For all those who so proudly served: A tribute on Veteran’s Day

    This intangible thing we call freedom is interpreted differently by just about every individual, but one aspect that’s not open for debate is that we enjoy freedom because of the sacrifices made by countless men and women of our armed forces. We must never question that freedom is worth fighting for, and dying for. That very concept was the genesis of the United States of America.

    This Veteran’s Day, take the time to salute the men and women of this country’s military and the fact that they have always exemplified valor, courage and bravery. The sacrifices they’ve made throughout the history of this great country allow us all to revel in the freedom we have today; the forfeiture of one’s own life for the cause of freedom is the quintessence of all that is good, right and noble about this country.

    The greatness of America’s armed forces has liberated countries, freed the oppressed, toppled tyrants and dethroned dictators. But not without sacrifice; look at virtually any corner of the globe and you’ll find a spot where U.S. troops have spilled their blood.

    Thus, we often speak of our freedom yet we rarely speak of those to whom we owe it.