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Columns

  • Rahn is all about practical design

    Pete Rahn’s path has taken him from Farmington to Santa Fe, where he was Highway and Transportation Department secretary for Gov. Gary Johnson, to Missouri, where he had the same job, to Kansas City, where he joined HNTB Corp., and back to New Mexico, where he lives while working with HNTB and is a member of the Transportation Commission.
    HNTB, Rahn says, does large complex transportation projects but does not work in New Mexico, which means his commission post poses no conflict.
    One modest insight into Rahn is his subscription to at least one car magazine. We visited at the Rahn dining table.
    Practical Design provided an overview for consideration of the big picture of transportation (really, roads) in New Mexico. Practical Design is a conceptual road design and construction framework that Rahn started in New Mexico. The approach was fully developed in Missouri and has been adopted by other states. The word “practical” explains much.
    “Practical design is about a lot of little things that add up to a lot,” Rahn says.
    Some realities overlay New Mexico’s roads.

  • When you should file an amended tax return

    Not every interaction with the IRS must necessarily induce flop sweat.
    Case in point: A few years ago a friend of mine decided his income taxes had become sufficiently complicated to merit hiring an accountant. After examining previous tax returns, the accountant discovered my friend had claimed the standard deduction for two years when he should have itemized expenses. He filed a couple of amended tax returns and voila – the IRS wrote him checks totaling more than $1,200.
    Of course, not all tax-filing mistakes end on such a happy note. Sometimes people find out after submitting a return that their employer had sent an incorrect W-2 form, or they forgot to report self-employment income, or they incorrectly claimed someone as a dependent.
    Although it’s tempting to let such mistakes slide, chances are the IRS will discover the error eventually, and when they do you could be liable for interest and penalties going back to the due date of the original tax return. Worst case: You could even face criminal charges for filing a fraudulent return.
    Here’s a guide to when – and how – you should file an amended tax return:

  • Networking can pay huge dividends

    Networking is a form of marketing that exponentially increases the influence that a professional or business owner can have when searching for new markets or clients. WESST, a nonprofit that helps build small businesses in New Mexico, used the occasion of Women’s History Month in March to teach women entrepreneurs how to use this powerful tool: The organization’s Las Cruces enterprise center started an Empowering Women in Business Networking lunch meeting so clients and other women could mingle, share ideas, get acquainted and help one another.
    The gatherings started small — about three dozen women — but that number nearly doubled by June, suggesting that WESST had tapped into an unmet need.
    From client to caterer
    One WESST client took the networking message to heart and catered low-cost meals for two monthly gatherings. Olga Nunez, owner of Chihuahua’s Restaurant in Las Cruces, provided Mexican food one month and Italian the next to benefit directly from the interaction with other women.

  • Battle for champion gaffer

    SANTA FE — A week seldom passes that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesnít get hit by the media for making another gaffe. But he has company. President Barack Obama makes his share too.
    Recently, President Obama may have made his biggest gaffe of all. In an effort to convince the wealthy to carry their share of the tax load or maybe even a bit more, as with George Buffett, he seemed to begin straying off message.
    Obama said, “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” He wasn’t quite in trouble at that point. Everyone had a great teacher or supportive parents or friends or business associates. There’s no harm in acknowledging them.
    But then the president stepped all the way in the hole. “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
        He said it and he can never walk that one back far enough. The president, who many Americans already thought is anti-business, has just uttered words that never will be forgotten.  
     Republicans didn’t wait to see if the media might pick it up and go with it. This was too valuable not to begin exploiting immediately ñ and forever.

  • The answer is not 'what'

    By its very definition, teaching is a strange occupation.
    My job is to constantly ask questions to which I already know the answers.
    Perhaps that’s why I have this bad habit of always asking questions outside of work when I already know the answers.
    For example, a guy did a U-turn on Central Ave. and I found myself yelling, “Hey buddy, are you an idiot or what?” You see, there I go again!  Of course, I already knew the answer to that question.
    And it wasn’t “What.”
    Walking out of a restaurant, I am engulfed by a cloud of cigarette smoke from the people sitting eight feet away from the door.
    New Mexico Statute 24-16-13 mandates a smoke-free area that extends a “reasonable distance” from the entrance of a restaurant.
    Clearly, these people believe that blowing smoke in your face is reasonable. My question to them is, “Are you an inconsiderate pile of horse output (from a horse that ate a bar of soap), or what?”
    And yet another example: people who speed down Central Ave. I can only assume that they see “52” instead of “25” on the speed limit signs. You have to wonder, are they actually trying to cause an accident, or did their mother simply drop them on their heads when they were young?

  • Is your dog's food the problem?

    Many dog owners work hard to make their pets comfortable and happy, so it can be frustrating when a dog is constantly itching and distressed.
    Dr. Adam Patterson, clinical assistant professor and Chief of Dermatology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Small Animal Clinic, explained how some perpetually itchy dogs may suffer from food allergies.
    “Food allergies in dogs present themselves quite differently than food allergies in humans,” Patterson said. “For instance a person who is allergic to shellfish may experience throat swelling and a possibly critical or fatal reaction, but in dogs the allergy is expressed through the skin and seen most often as itch.”
    Dogs who itch, lick, chew, rub, bite, and scratch themselves year round, typically around the face, ears, armpits, groin, paws and around the anus may be showing signs of a food allergy.
    Since itchy flare factors have an additive effect, it is important to eliminate other possible causes of itching. First, it is necessary to eliminate any possibility that parasites, particularly fleas, are causing the dog to itch. Likewise, the veterinarian should also look for signs of skin infections (bacteria or yeast).
    Secondly, the veterinarian will also determine if environmental factors are causing itchy skin.

  • Let's hate success now

    Absent any traditional success on any front over the past three-plus years, President Obama has decided to make success a bad word. Not just a bad word, success is becoming tantamount to a pathological disorder.
    By “traditional success,” of course, I’m using such archaic standards as creating jobs, generating opportunity, developing strong foreign presence, maintaining a strong national defense, cutting the deficit, reducing our national debt. Things that apparently went out of fashion with the phrase: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
    Those were Obama’s words, proclaimed, curiously enough, five days prior to Nov. 4, 2008.  And now, with our economy still teetering on the edge of collapse, unemployment still over 8 percent (and that isn’t “real” unemployment, which some estimates place in the surreal upper teens), gasoline prices at record levels and still climbing, and our deficit and debt still rising, Obama has decided to make class warfare the center piece of his campaign.

  • No hope for redistricting

    SANTA FE — So the cost of redistricting the U.S. House, state legislature and the state Public Regulation Commission this year was over $8 million. Some of us had predicted $10 million so we got off easy considering what a litigious, polarized, uncooperative, out-to-get-each-other society we have these days.
    The call has gone out for an independent redistricting commission appointed by the public. Forgeddaboutit. That would take politicians of good will. It ain’t gonna happen.
    Yes, some states have independent redistricting commissions. Those are states with initiative and referendum provisions written into their constitutions.
    The story is that Congress wouldn’t allow initiative or referendum in New Mexico’s constitution because it didn’t want laws “made in the street.” They trusted only the governor and Legislature. Too bad they can’t see how that’s been working out.
    Congress did trust Arizonians to make laws in the street.  But they trusted Arizonians. They were whiter, more southern, less Catholic and spoke mainly English. So Arizonians passed an independent redistricting commission back in their good government days a decade or so ago.

  • Secret thoughts from the jury

    Forty people shuffle into the courtroom. They take assigned seats, which correspond to their names on a diagram. They look serious and a little intimidated.
    Voir dire begins – the question-and-answer process by which the biases and beliefs of these potential jurors will be disclosed, and a jury of 12 members and two alternates will be selected to decide the fate of another human being.
    The judge introduces himself, the attorneys, and the defendant. This is a criminal trial, he says. The defendant is accused of possession of heroin.
    The defendant is a small, middle-aged man whose blank facial expression does not change. He looks slightly shabby in nondescript slacks and a flannel shirt.  
    The judge asks questions first.  Do any of you know the defendant, he says, or me, or any of the attorneys, or the District Attorney for whom the prosecuting attorneys work?
     I’m the first to raise a hand. I know someone with the District Attorney, not well. Well enough to influence my decision?
    No, Your Honor. The judge asks about the jurors’ schedules and potential time conflicts.
    The prosecutor asks questions. How do you feel about the drug laws? Are they too strict or not strict enough? Marijuana should be legalized, someone says. Another says the drug laws should be stricter.

  • Depreciation prevents expense spikes

    The Internal Revenue Service stipulates that businesses must capitalize expenditures for big-ticket items and recover that cost over several years – a practice known as depreciation – to avoid dramatic changes in the financial statements of a business from one year to the next. Knowing when to depreciate and when to claim a special one-time expense deduction is critical for entrepreneurs.
    Capital expenditures offer businesses an opportunity to expand operations — to modernize and grow — by buying the equipment and capital they need and deducting these costs on their income tax return. This fuels economic expansion.
    Depreciation makes sense when a business makes a major capital investment that offers long-term benefits, but is purchased upfront or over the short-term. Typical candidates for depreciation include vehicles, buildings, furniture, equipment, and computer systems. Rather than frighten investors by recording the whole impact of a purchase in one financial period, where it can create a loss, a company can spread it out over many financial periods effectively matching the deduction to the period of benefit. It matters not how the loan is repaid; what matters is how long the investment is expected to provide an economic benefit.