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Columns

  • Communication and competency

    Janice Arnold-Jones and Michelle Lujan Grisham, candidates for Congress from New Mexico’s 1st District, shared a stage recently to debate the issues. Before taking their places at separate podiums, they hugged each other.
    Both have a record of working on a bipartisan basis.  
    Republican Arnold-Jones worked across the aisle for eight years as a state legislator.  She developed a reputation for mastering the details of issues and insisting on open practices.  At this forum, she said that before she votes on a bill, she will read it – a practice unfortunately not done by all members of Congress.  
    She talks about the advantages of seeing issues from multiple perspectives and building relationships as a way to work on the issues.
    In response to a recent query from me about signing pledges related to taxes or other topics, Arnold-Jones wrote, “I do not sign any pledges because my only obligation is to the people of the First Congressional District …  I will not submit the people of New Mexico to extreme views that have left government in a stalemate.”

  • New Mexico trails most in work

    New Mexicans don’t work. More precisely, fewer New Mexicans participate in the labor force, on a percentage basis, than in most states.
    I don’t know why. I haven’t heard anyone ask, other than one or two labor economics nerds. The problem has to be cultural, deeply embedded in New Mexico society.
    Start the consideration with Nebraska, the state closest in population to New Mexico. Nebraska’s population was 1.83 million in 2010. Ours was 2.06 million. Culturally the two states are vastly different, which is the point of the comparison. Similarities are a larger city, Omaha, and a state capitol 60 miles away, Lincoln. Omaha beat Albuquerque in the Pacific Coast League division playoffs.
    During 2010, Nebraska averaged 71 percent of its population in the labor force. New Mexico scored 60 percent. With its smaller population, Nebraska offered employers 55,000 more people working or looking for work than did New Mexico.
    As Buffalo Springfield observed years ago, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”
    In the jargon, then, New Mexico’s labor force participation rate was 60 percent. By July 2012, our rate was down to 57.9 percent. Nebraska was the nation’s leader at 71.7 percent, just ahead of oil-booming North Dakota at 70.7 percent.

  • Help from non-traditional sources

    Doris Sandoval works in an industry hard hit by the recession and lagging recovery, yet by following a strategic plan of borrowing through lines of credit, the owner of SSC Construction has kept her business going strong.
    SSC Construction is based in San Felipe Pueblo in northern New Mexico near Algodones.  The woman — and Native-owned company builds houses on tribal lands all over New Mexico and employs seven members of Sandoval’s family and numerous subcontractors.
    While most contractors struggled to find work and financing as home construction slowed and home prices dropped, SSC Construction received five lines of credit from The Loan Fund to underwrite various building projects in Native communities.
    The Loan Fund helps companies that can’t find funding through traditional sources such as banks. It looks for businesses that promote social change and build communities, and what the Loan Fund saw in SSC Construction is what it looks for in other businesses that approach it for funding.
    SSC’s history of contract completion and top-notch workmanship weighed heavily in its favor, according to Norma Valdez, one of the fund’s community development officers. T

  • Humble starts are a political staple

    SANTA FE — Log cabins are regaining popularity. It now is possible to buy kits to build your own log cabin — sort of like life-size Lincoln Logs.
    What’s the attraction of log cabins? Part of it has to do with the image, some of it rubbing off from Abraham Lincoln. Log cabins carry an air of hard working self-sufficiency and part of it has to do with politicians wanting to demonstrate they came from humble beginnings.
    Beginning in the middle 1800s, it became almost essential for presidential candidates to claim birth in a log cabin. According to National Park Service information, seven presidents claimed to have been born in log cabins. Add in vice presidents and losing candidates and you have an impressive number.
    Evidently William Henry Harrison, our eighth president, was one of the first to make the log cabin claim.
    It was only a partial truth. He did retire to a log cabin of his youth but he surrounded it with 16 rooms of more modern construction.
    Harrison was the first Whig candidate to win election to the presidency. He did it with some very creative political advisers. Harrison had been a general 30 years earlier. He was on the winning side of an Indian battle fought near the Tippecanoe River.

  • Heinrich, Wilson polar opposites on U.S. energy supply

    The two people who want to be your next U.S. Senator have a grip on two ends of the energy spectrum, but the middle is still virgin territory. One would offer carrots to renewable energy, the other would incentivize oil and gas. Neither fully embraces the range of sources.
    Democrat Martin Heinrich supported federal tax breaks and loan guarantees for companies developing renewable energy during his first two terms as a representative from the 1st Congressional District, while Heather Wilson did the same for oil and gas during her 10 years in the House. Both would move the nation toward domestic sources.
    Heinrich presents himself as the environmental candidate without acknowledging that solar and wind have environmental and land-use impacts. He says federal tax breaks for highly profitable oil and gas companies that already know how to produce their products have been unproductive.
    And yet production technology has changed a great deal and keeps changing – we have this research going on in the state. Isn’t that deserving of incentives?
    He also said that “coal and tar sands are the fuels of the past.” Not necessarily. Today’s coal is far cleaner than it was 10 years ago.

  • Dunn done good in the Senate

    SANTA FE — State Sen. Aubrey Dunn was a master tactician and understood state finances perhaps better than anyone else ever has. He died last week at 84.
    Dunn was business manager and part owner of the Alamogordo Daily News. He also had an apple orchard at High Rolls. At the Legislature he preferred to call himself an apple farmer likely because that was safer than saying he was in the newspaper business.
    Aubrey was a Democrat but if he were in the Legislature today, he’d probably be a Republican. It was shortly after his 1980 resignation from the Legislature that Democrats in the Southeastern part of the state started changing their registration to Republican or getting beaten by Republicans.
    Dunn was conservative. He thought like a business manager — or an apple grower.
    During the period he reigned as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Democrats held a good 30 out of the 42 seats in the Senate.
    In the House, Republicans and conservative Democrats had formed a conservative coalition to take control. In the Senate that wasn’t necessary since most Democrats already were conservative and Dunn was in control of the money.

  • Would you post your salary on Facebook?

    If I were a New Mexico state employee, crunched somewhere in the middle of the hierarchy (which I used to be), and I learned that my colleagues’ salaries were posted online, I would be tempted to take a peek.
    I might scan for anyone whose salary was higher than mine but who, in my opinion, didn’t deserve it. If I found any, I might become just a bit resentful.
    Would my work suffer? A little, possibly. Would I use this information to justify small acts of defiance, like sneaking a novel into the restroom now and then? Maybe.
    Would I be distressed that my own salary had been put on public display? Absolutely. Wouldn’t you?
    New Mexico state employees’ salaries were posted online, with names, on the state’s “Sunshine Portal,” until the names were removed following a court order, prompted by a lawsuit filed by the employee union AFSCME.
    The court order, it is important to note, referred specifically to the Sunshine Portal. The database was left in place, with names deleted for classified employees.
    I breathed a sigh of relief. I was concerned not only about employee morale and potential internal dissension, but about the kind of mischief that could be done to all those employees by nefarious use of the data — cheesy targeted marketing programs or worse.

  • Could we have a word?

    Why is it that so many people want English to be our “national language” but they can’t speak or write it properly themselves?
    You can have your cake and eat it too, right? But if you have a cake, what’s the big deal about eating it?
    What people should say is, “You can eat your cake and have it, too.”
    And what’s with too? To? Two? There are two too many to’s in our language. And of course, there’s the tutu.
    English is really messed up. That’s what I like about math. Well, yeah, that’s messed up too (or two?), but at least I know what’s being said when someone speaks math.
    English is a different animal altogether (or maybe more like a vegetable). After a quiz, asked a student how she thought she did. She said, “I did good.”
    “So, you did some charity work while I wasn’t watching?”
    I explained, “Helping out others is doing good. On a quiz, you do well, not good.” She nodded (a monosynaptic defensive reflex used by students to get teachers to leave them alone) and said, “OK, I did well,” to which I replied, “Well, it’s good that you did well.”
    Back in high school, I didn’t appreciate the subtle humor woven throughout the DNA strands of English grammar.

  • New Mexico was on hand in Tokyo

    SANTA FE – As part of our centennial coverage, the following is the Japanese surrender ceremony ending WWII:

    On Sept. 2, 1945, Japan made formal the surrender it had declared on Aug. 15. The ceremony occurred aboard the USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay.
    The Japanese delegation, unable to find any vessel seaworthy enough to take them into the bay, boarded an American destroyer to take them on the 16-mile
    journey.
    An impressive 258 Allied warships filled the bay, making it one of the most formidable displays of naval power ever assembled in one anchorage.
    Many more vessels could have joined them for the ceremony, but it was an invitation-only event for warships that had distinguished themselves in Pacific battles.
    The Battleship New Mexico was there, honored for her service in the Gilberts, Marshalls, Solomons, Marianas, Philippines and Okinawa. In her last two battles, she suffered three kamikaze hits, killing a total of 83, including the commanding officer, and injuring 206.
    Also present was Gen. Jonathon Wainwright, the beloved commanding officer who remained in the Philippines after MacArthur left.
    Wainwright, who had endured all the prison camp atrocities experienced by his troops and looking like a skeleton, was quickly rescued from a prison camp in China and brought to the ceremony.

  • State revenues looking OK

    Decent news about state government finances came to the Legislative Finance Committee at the group’s August meeting held in Angel Fire.
    “Decent news” means revenue into the general fund—$5.7 billion for fiscal year 2013, the current budget year—is expected to beat planned spending by $35 million with larger margins expected the next two years.
    So-called “new money” for the next budget year (FY 14), which will be addressed by the 2013 legislative session, is estimated at $198 million. New money is next year’s projected revenue minus appropriations for this year.
    The meeting was quiet, the room small, the crowd modest – maybe 50, including presenters. Good news is boring.
    The LFC’s August 2009 jaunt to Angel Fire provided a quite different scene. The room for that gathering was twice the size of this year’s. The crowd was at capacity, almost hanging from the figurative rafters. The tone was negative, toward nasty.
    Projected revenues were some hundreds of millions short of appropriated spending.
    This year LFC chair Sen. John Arthur Smith, Deming Democrat, bragged, properly, on the LFC’s role during the unhappy times. The LFC and the staff anticipated the downturn.