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Columns

  • Voters to Santa Fe: Do something

    Standing in the back of the room, as Democratic lawmakers rolled out their jobs package, was a seasoned economic developer with many notches in his belt.
    I asked him what he thought of all the proposals we’ve heard so far. He said he doesn’t like to mix in politics, “but if we don’t do something quick, we’re screwed.”
    With those inspiring words, let’s look at the proposals.
    The governor and state Economic Development Department Secretary Jon Barela offer the New Century Jobs Agenda, which calls for a single sales factor (companies pay tax only on sales within the stat)e; reducing the corporate income tax from 7.6 percent to 4.9 percent; $10 million to help local governments pay for job-creating infrastructure; $4.75 million for the Job Training Incentive Program, which supports new employee training for qualified companies; a reformed capital outlay process; the Spaceport Informed Consent law; and more money for the MainStreet program.
    Democrats presented a three-point plan: public works, potential growth areas, and a Jobs Council.
    Most innovative is the Jobs Council, which would meet between sessions to develop a strategic plan. Everybody I’ve talked to likes this idea. When we bring up tax reform and other sticky issues, we need a forum to hammer out solutions.

  • GOP not dead yet

    SANTA FE – Is the GOP dead? Not on your life. Yes, demography and Barack Obama’s campaign machine are creeping up on Republicans. But before I get into the whys, I want to talk about the whats.
    Remember the aftermath of the 2008 elections? The Obama war machine, also called a ground game, swept many candidates into office. Democrat Harry Teague even won New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional district. Democrats had control of top state and national offices.
    There were so many Republican defeats just four years ago that many in my business were writing the party’s epilogue. There was no foreseeable way for Republicans to come back.
    Until six months later, that is. In the summer of 2009, Obama started talking about health care and everything turned around. And in the 2010 elections, Democrats lost heavily up and down the ballot.
    It was the perfect time for Republicans to win. They got to redesign state and national legislative and congressional districts. It has been said that had Republican legislators not have redesigned congressional districts; Democrats would have taken back control of the U.S. House in 2012.

  • The ethics of ridicule

     My mother was a short woman, under five feet tall, and weighted only 95 pounds when she got married.  In her late years, she had ballooned into what doctors call morbidly obese.  Her doctor said it wasn’t a medical problem.  She simply ate too much.
     Now, I loved my mother and so I decided to “help” her lose that weight.  I commissioned the construction of a 15’x30’ billboard across the street facing her house and had her pictures put on the billboard so that everyone driving by could see how fat she was.
     The billboard said, “Beep your horn to say hello to my mother, the big fat pig living in the house to your left!”
     She would walk outside and see the billboard and hear the people laughing at her.  She felt “shamed” and realized that she needed to lose all that weight.
     My strategy worked!  Mom shed all that embarrassing fat, trimmed down, got healthy, and lived out her remainder years as a slender “decent” person whom I was “willing” to be seen with.
     Go ahead.  Admit it.  I’m a great son, aren’t I?  I mean, is that love or what?

  • A moral tale for Groundhog Day

    Feb. 2, demarcates the point in the calendar halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
    In simpler times, (prior to anthropogenic green-house gases causing climate change with the resulting unpredictability of atmospheric conditions) on this day — Groundhog Day — it would be up to the groundhog to partner with his shadow to determine the weather for the next six weeks.
    Here in New Mexico, as many of you already know, we do not have groundhogs. Rather we have gophers. Los Alamos’ own rodent celebrity, the glow-in-the-dark gopher, Gus, will see his shadow.
    Actually, he always sees his shadow, so just because he turns around and goes back into his hole, doesn’t mean winter will come. After all, since he glows in the dark, his shadow is always with him— and not just a shadow, but a complete X-ray.

  • Conscious capitalism ideas open business minds

    John Mackey is a radical. But Mackey’s radicalism—what he calls “conscious capitalism”— lies far from what one might assume given that his day job is co-CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc., the upscale purveyor of organics that lures sandal-wearing Subaru drivers. Mackey’s journey has taken him from the 1978 opening of a tiny natural foods store in Austin, Texas, with Renee Lawson Hardy to 264th on the 2012 Fortune 500 list.
    Along the way, Mackey developed a roughly libertarian philosophy—more than that, really, an ethos—with room for espousing ideas such as capitalism, natural foods and animal rights. And, yes, in case you are wondering, Mackey did donate to the Libertarian Party presidential campaign of former Gov. Gary Johnson. According to washingtonexaminer.com, Mackey gave $5,000.
    Mackey’s conscious capitalism has turned into an organization, Conscious Capitalism Inc. (consciouscapitalism.org) and a new book, “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business,” written with a professor, Raj Sisodia. I will leave you to learn more at the website.

  • How to avoid tax refund identity fraud

    Many people file their income tax returns as early in the year as possible. Some are eager to claim their tax refund right away, while others are simply following their New Year’s resolution not to procrastinate until midnight, April 15.
    Let me add another good reason to file your taxes right away: tax refund identity fraud.
    That’s where someone uses your Social Security number (SSN), birth date and other private information to file a fraudulent income tax return in your name and then pockets the resulting tax refund.
    Often, a victim’s first clue is a letter from the IRS contesting their legitimate tax return, saying one has already been processed under that name. It can take months — and mounds of paperwork — to unravel the mess.
    This scam has proliferated in recent years thanks to a confluence of events:
    There’s a thriving black market in personal information stolen from healthcare facilities, nursing homes, schools, insurance companies and other institutions that require an SSN as identification.

  • Udall makes his mark on Washington

    SANTA FE – What happened to the big filibuster reform New Mexico’s U.S. Sen. Tom Udall was going to introduce on the first day of this session of Congress?
    We were told that the motion had to be acted on during the first day of a congressional session when changes to a chamber’s operating rules are in order and can be changed by majority vote rather than the 60 percent vote so often required these days.
    The answer is that Udall got his rule change introduced with 14 cosponsors, including New Mexico’s new senator, Martin Heinrich. The rules change awaited action for three weeks because the legislative day never changed.
    How could that be? Congress and many state legislatures have rules requiring a waiting period between certain actions on bills. But sometimes they want to rush a bill through so they save some legislative days early in a session.
    Legislative days in New Mexico begin and end at noon – theoretically. In actuality, they begin and end when the speaker of the House or majority floor leader of the Senate deems it convenient for moving bills along. It is called “rolling the clock.”
    The majority leader of the chamber will rise and say, “It now being 11:59 of the 1st legislative day, I move we adjourn until 12:01 of the 2nd legislative day.

  • Another approach to fixing the economy

    Are you really ticked off at the dismal condition of New Mexico’s economy?
    Are you sick of hearing about our lousy tax laws, our unwelcoming business climate and our unprepared work force?
    Have you lost patience with the reports about how much better our neighboring states are? Does it bother you (as my colleague Harold Morgan noted recently) that Texas and Utah ranked first and second, respectively, in a 2012 CNBC study for the most business-friendly state, while New Mexico was tied for 36th? At least we weren’t 49.
    Are you tearing your hair out about our mediocre education system and massive dropout problem? The education issue is related to the economy. Executives don’t want to move their families to a state with an inferior education system. You’ve heard that, too.
    Everybody writes about this. I’m asking what we could do that hasn’t already been tried and gotten bogged down somewhere.

  • One man's crusade to save a breed

    One small bill before the Legislature opens the gate to sheep with history.
    In the 1980s Donald Chavez y Gilbert bought the family farm in Belen, which was once part of the 1742 Belen Land Grant. “I jumped into farming and livestock,” he says.
    At sale barns he began to notice that some of the sheep were different – they had hair instead of wool or an occasional ewe had horns. He talked to sellers to learn more.
    “The old guys would say, ‘We would go out hunting and find these sheep.’” Or, ‘When we were rounding up cattle, we’d pick up some sheep. We could never catch ‘em all.’”
    Intrigued, Chavez began buying these oddball sheep and learning more about them, which started him on a 25-year quest to save a heritage breed.
    “I’ve been a student of history all my adult life,” he said. A descendent of land grant founders and pioneers, Chavez listened to his grandfather’s stories haunted the library. Before long, he was immersed in Belen Founders Day events, local genealogy, family journals, and archives.
    Spanish settlers brought a number of animals to New Mexico whose offspring are now heritage livestock – Spanish barb horses, corriente cattle, and Churro sheep, prized for their wool in northern New Mexico and Navajo Country.

  • New Mexico gets a D, but not an F

    Michelle Rhee got the Public Broadcasting “Frontline” treatment a couple of weeks ago. Cameras followed Rhee during the three years (2007 to 2010) she was chancellor of the Washington D.C. public schools.
    PBS was sympathetic to Rhee, an interesting notion, given that in D.C. Rhee took names and, gasp, fired people, and PBS is a bastion of liberal media that one ordinarily would think is entirely a creature of the unions controlling schools.
    Rhee now runs the nonprofit StudentsFirst (studentsfirst.org). On the website, the organization says its “mission is to build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that America has the best education system in the world.”
    On Jan. 7, the day before the “Frontline” broadcast, StudentsFirst released its first “State of Education State Policy Report” (reportcard.studentsfirst.org).
    In the letter grade evaluations, New Mexico got a D, no real surprise there.
    The surprises are not getting an F and being in about the middle of the more detailed rankings. Further surprise is no state getting an A and only Louisiana and Florida getting a B.
    Rhee grades on a tough curve.