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Columns

  • LA needs a real start-up incubator

    Efforts last year to create a local facility, termed a workspace “with the convenience and sociability of a neighborhood café” in White Rock may have taken an unusual twist.   I’m referring to that facility there known as “The Hive,” and in the press recently about its continuing challenges.  
    It was originally termed a “live experiment” in converting an underutilized building into a “community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, independent inventors and innovators, startups, small businesses, big company telecommuters, field workers, and other laptop nomads who are tired of working alone at home or in crowded and noisy coffee shops.”
    While that’s one heck of a blue-sky statement, and in my time working with technology startups I’ve seen a lot of “blue-sky,” just maybe … after a year of this “experiment,” what we need is something more focused and deliberate.  

  • A dash of absurd, class

    The final days of any passing year are traditionally a time to reflect upon the jumble of people and events that shaped the preceding twelve months – the absurd and the laudable.
    The dysfunctional U. S. House of Representatives notwithstanding, my own nominee for the “Notably Absurd Award” would be the New Mexico Finance Authority, whose former officials managed to make it a top scandal in 2012.
     It began when news broke that NMFA controller Greg Campbell had submitted a phony (and late) audit on the agency’s 2011 financial affairs to the State Auditor, as required by law.
    Let it be noted that connoisseurs of the absurd routinely caution that it is always unwise to promulgate phony audits, but that it is downright dumb to submit phony audits late, if only because tardiness calls attention to itself.
    Campbell pled guilty to forgery and securities fraud and was sentenced to five years probation.
    In recent days State Auditor Hector Balderas released a PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation into l’affaire NMFA.
    That investigation cost New Mexico taxpayers $1 million-plus and prompted Balderas to note that Campbell’s supervisors, including CEO Rick May, bear “significant responsibility” for the environment that allowed Campbell to contrive his phony and belated audit.

  • Utilities squeeze out extra dollars

    A new technical whizbang called E-911 was being introduced by the phone company. It was baloney, the senator told me. E-911 was going to be a new way for emergency responders to know exactly where a phone call was coming from. When a call came to a 911 call center, a message would pop up automatically showing the phone number, which could then be linked to an address.
    This was 1991 or so. The phone company, US West in those days, was asking the state for approval to add 50 cents to everyone’s phone bill to cover the cost. The senator told me the technology had been developed anyway, and the 50 cents was pure profit to the phone company.  The increase was approved.
    Caller-ID was introduced shortly afterwards, making the same technology available to everyone (for a much heftier price than 50 cents), demonstrating that the senator was probably right. The technology was there. But E-911 succeeded in squeezing more money out of you and me.

  • Happy trails to the retiring Sen. Bingaman

    In February, when Sen. Jeff Bingaman announced his retirement from Congress, the state Senate passed a memorial saluting Bingaman’s 30 years of service.
    Nearly every senator, from both sides of the aisle, had something to say about the unassuming, hardworking Democrat.
    Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal: “He’s been a great statesman for New Mexico. I didn’t always agree with him, but he was accessible and always listened.”
    Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque: “He didn’t grandstand. He didn’t come to a position until he’d considered all the facts.”
    Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell: “He is unfailingly courteous in every situation. That’s a rarity in Washington and in politics. It should be a goal for all of us.”
    Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup: “He was a helper, and we love him for it.”
    Sen. William Burt, R-Alamogordo: “He’s the most even-keeled person I’ve ever met.”
    Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell: “He sat and listened and kept his mouth shut. He put the state above all issues. I don’t blame him for wanting to come home.”
    Jennings’ response addressed the first reaction many had, which was, “How can he do this to us?”

  • Happy end of the world

    SANTA FE – And a happy end of the world to you. This seems to be a bigger end of the world than your typical end of the world. I hadn’t realized the Mayans had such a powerful lobby.
    No one seems to know exactly when this is going to happen.
    Some prophesies give it another couple of days. I’m going with today. It’s another one of those days that is all ones and twos. This year 12-12-12 seemed to be a more important day to people than any of the other triple repeating days were during the past 12 years.
    Maybe the end will come the second the solstice hits. I’m not sure what time that is and I’m not a big enough believer to go look it up.
    To demonstrate how little I believe, I’m having a big party tomorrow.
    Don’t bother dropping by. We’ll be in Scottsdale with our family, which is where we always like to be for ends of the world.
    Why am I so fixated on this particular end of the world? Maybe it is because so many friends are. They don’t necessarily think it is the end so much as that something will happen in their lives.
    Maybe the boss finally will realize they are the perfect person for that promotion.

  • From me to Yule

    With the holidays upon us, it’s a time of celebration, a time of reflection, and of course a time to spend lots of money on gifts that you can’t afford.
    For most Americans, it doesn’t really matter if one goes bankrupt in December or March or June.  The year offers ample opportunities to buy dangerous toys for your kids, Elvis Presley lamps for that Aunt you hate, ugly sweaters for your father, and Cadmium-laden Chinese jewelry for the one you love.
    But why dwell on the negative aspects of commercialism?  The holiday season is designed to give us all a chance to spend time with our families, maybe a day trip to enjoy the New Mexican scenery, or just sit back and relax for a few days.
    At this time of the year, I find myself enjoying the nuances of history, particularly that of holidays like Christmas.  Many people don’t know that Dec. 25 was chosen by the Christian church as a matter of
    convenience and opportunity.  Dec. 25 was already an established day of celebration by pagans.  The Roman festival of Saturnalia (worship of the God Saturn) and the “birthday” of Mithra (Persian God) were both on Dec. 25.

  • A view toward workable N.M. 502 plan

    Background and history. As you may know, N.M. 502 between Central Avenue and Airport Road, presents significant obstacles and hazards to traffic flow and pedestrians. It operates at peak times with considerable congestion, particularly during the evening commute, when traffic is either crawling or stop-and-go.
     The morning commute operates below the current speed limit due to congestion. Pedestrian service is inadequate, even though some points of obvious access lie along this segment.
    Los Alamos County has proven amazingly dysfunctional in arriving at a preliminary design for this area. In a period of more than 5 years, at major expense in time and money, various proposals have been developed. I think the best of these was a 2007 agreement jointly approved by LAC and New Mexico, but that has been rejected by more recent LAC planning efforts.

  • Claims, risks shadow 'new' state revenue

    A fair amount of “new” money — $282 million — will flow to state government’s general fund during the budget year starting July 1, 2013.
    From state government economic wizards, “caution” is the word for considering uses of that money. “New money” means the difference between revenue expected during the coming budget year and current year spending.
    State revenue looks like around $5.7 billion for this budget year (FY 13) and $5.9 billion in FY 14, Legislative Finance Committee Director David Abbey, told the recent New Mexico Tax Research Institute conference in Albuquerque.
    Much of the good revenue news comes from oil and gas, said Tom Clifford, Department of Finance and Administration secretary. New technology has meant sharp increases in oil production the past few years, Abbey said.
    Caution about using the new money starts with a quarter of it — $72 million — being already claimed to replenish money used to balance the state budget in past bad years.

  • Real ID act likely to be high on agenda

    Over the past few weeks, several community members have contacted me about the REAL ID Act and a looming Jan. 15 deadline. The primary concern is that New Mexico is currently not in compliance with the REAL ID Act.
     This means New Mexicans may not be able to use their drivers’ licenses to board commercial airlines after Jan. 15. If this occurs, it could have alarming effects on our state and community. Public concern over this issue has been heightened by recent news stories and statements from public officials.
    First, let me provide some basic background information. The REAL ID Act was crafted under the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and signed into law in 2005. It stipulates that for state issued IDs to be accepted by Federal entities, the IDs must meet several new security provisions. In accordance with the law and a 2008 Department of Homeland Security guideline on compliance, New Mexico has adopted a number of these changes.
    We are still out of compliance on a few points. The most well known area of non-compliance is a provision that permits undocumented residents to obtain a driver’s license. Residents of New Mexico can currently obtain a driver’s license without a Social Security Number if they can prove their identity with other documents.

  • Safety continues to be LAPS' top priority

    It is important for the community to know that Los Alamos cares very deeply for the safety and security of our students and staff in our schools. To help ensure this safety, school administration works closely with students and staff to be in a state of readiness by practicing a variety of emergency lockdown drills. In addition, the district works closely with Los Alamos County police, fire department, and emergency medical to be in a constant state of readiness. Nevertheless, in view of recent events in Newtown, Conn., the district will conduct a review of our current safety practices this week in an ongoing effort to be prepared for an emergency.
     Some of those reviews have already begun. Members of the Los Alamos Police Department toured Chamisa Elementary to re-familiarize themselves with the school today. I contacted Captain Randy Foster, LA Police Department, to request these walk-throughs of all schools. Captain Foster went on to share that the police will have an increased presence at school sites this week. He states there is no credible threat but his officers were interested in stopping by during the school day and during bus loading times to meet and speak with students, staff, and families.