• A brief history of fumbles and foibles

    Talk of the economy and economic development, as the legislative session gets rolling, makes me think there’s a finger on the playback button. I could dust off old stories and columns and they would sound fresh.
    In fact, I will. Here’s my own playback.
    1986: New Mexicans studying economic development have produced piles of reports, “usually without any concrete plan for moving from point A to point B.”
    Business people told me that year, “Probably the best thing the state could do is create a stable, non-political climate in areas that matter — taxes, education and public services.” They blamed the Legislature for allowing the University of New Mexico to decline and blasted its lack of commitment to higher education.
    Said one CEO, “The continuing problems that we have in coming to grips with the kind of university and educational system we want is noticed by others. The state doesn’t seem to have it together.”
    1987: “We need to radicalize our business climate,” said up-and-coming economic developer Mark Lautman. “We need to do everything possible to make ourselves better than Texas.”

  • Dental therapists could help solve care issues

    As a practicing dentist in Fort Sumner, I see patients from just about everywhere in New Mexico: Santa Rosa, Roswell, Vaughn — and even from Albuquerque and some of the Texas border towns.
    Many of these folks drive several hours each way to get dental care at our clinic. Some come simply because they know me.
    Others make the trip because our clinic uses a sliding payment scale based on income and we don’t turn anyone away.
    A high percentage of my patients’ needs are extractions. That’s because a lot of the patients I see don’t have access to preventive and routine dental care. They are poor, often without health insurance, and from remote areas where dental care is hard to get.
    Across New Mexico, many people struggle to get dental care. Less than half of children from poor families see a dentist. Yet poor oral health at this stage in their lives can adversely affect their learning, social development and overall health for a lifetime.
    It doesn’t have to be this way. We could bring high-quality, affordable dental care to more people by creating a new kind of mid-level practitioner called a dental therapist. Many dentists don’t like this idea and I understand, because I was one of them.

  • A cool business climate

    In the bottom center of the map lies New Mexico, a light orange blip in a sea of blue. Our distinctiveness bodes ill. The map shows state business climates based on a survey of 650 business leaders by Chief Executive Magazine.
    Our light orange places us between two deep blue states, Texas and Arizona, respectively first and 10th in the survey. We rank 33rd in the 2012 survey. See chiefexecutive.net/best-worst-states-for-business-2012. On the map, New Mexico gains attention in a subtle way. We are one of two states between the left (er, west) coast and the Mississippi River to place below 31st in the CEO estimation. Minnesota is the other.
    The magazine survey, being a survey of people, however informed and thoughtful, remains just a survey, short on data. The Brookings Institution and the CNBC Top States for Business report fill the gap.
    Though Brookings only considers Albuquerque, the use of location quotients offers statewide insight, given that Albuquerque plus Santa Fe are half the state. Location quotients compare the given area’s concentration of employment in an industry to the national average.

  • NMSU harnesses intellectual capital

    Entrepreneurs don’t have to live in or near Las Cruces to take advantage of the many services offered by Arrowhead Center — a business development hub launched in 2004 by New Mexico State University to stimulate economic development for the betterment of all New Mexicans.
    The center’s resources are open to any state resident who needs help turning an idea into a commercial venture or taking an existing business to the next stage.
    The Enterprise Research service draws on students, business mentors, entrepreneurs, faculty researchers and research partners to create and validate research studies for startups and existing businesses.
    And the Arrowhead Technology Incubator links technology-based firms with the resources they need.
    Enterprise Research
    Arrowhead Center accepts applications three times a year from businesses that need help analyzing the commercial potential of new technologies and products, formalizing business plans to attract investors and identifying resources for startups.
    Student innovation teams help write business plans, test technologies, research market potential and explore licensing opportunities with potential investors.

  • The future of health care mandates

    The future of health care — or at least how we pay for it — is confusing, to say the least. One question is what happens to state authority under the Obamacare law.
    New Mexico contains quite a few mandates — services insurance companies are required to cover.
    For example, some years ago a prospective adoptive parent found that state regulations required health insurance for the adopted child, but insurance companies weren’t covering adopted children.
    A legislator was asked for help, and a law was enacted to require that coverage. Hence, a mandate.
    Current law mandates coverage for mammograms, colorectal screenings and a whole list of other treatments.
    Some of them are quite narrowly written — a specific treatment for a specific cancer, for example.
    Heartbreaking stories may lie behind some of these provisions — a badly needed treatment denied, a call to a legislator and a new mandate written into law.
    Whether mandates add to the cost of insurance can be argued. One side says people should pay for their own routine preventive screenings.
    The opposing argument says screenings catch serious health conditions early, saving money because early treatment is so much more cost-effective.

  • We need smaller shoes

     Early last year, the US military announced it was withdrawing 11,000 troops from Germany and Italy, as part of its strategic shift to annoying people in Afghanistan rather than in Europe.
    This was euphemistically referred to as “downsizing our European footprint.”  European footprint.  That kind of sounds like the impression one makes with an overpriced ugly shoe, doesn’t it?
    And perhaps that makes it the perfect metaphor to discuss America’s military presence in countries around the world.  It’s a big footprint.  
    Our military feet are jammed in the doors of over 150 countries around the world.  Nearly 200,000 American troops “police” the world outside US territories.  This does not even include the huge numbers serving in embassies or those aboard naval ships.
    More than 100,000 of those personnel are stationed in Germany, Japan, and South Korea.  WWII ended nearly 70 years ago, yet we still live in the past, patrolling those evil nations out there who might otherwise wreak havoc on the democratic stability instilled by our military presence.

  • Mary Kay Papen is the best choice for Senate Pro Tem

    During the last legislative session, a female scribe in the press gallery asked me, “Have you ever noticed that the women say what they need to say and sit down, and the men go on and on?”
    I had noticed.
    Now, this isn’t true of all legislators. There are a few long-winded women and some men who measure their words. Both chambers have too many lawyers (male) who never tire of exercising their vocal chords, even though everybody else tires of exercising their ear drums.
    When the session convenes this week, the Senate will have just six women, the smallest number in a decade, because some bowed out and others lost their races.
    The House gained six women, for a total of 25. So if the initial observation holds, House speeches should be shorter and more to the point.
    The usual argument about having more women is that many of the issues affect us more, but I argue that women do things differently. We’re inclined to be more collaborative and less competitive.
    A businessman once told me that he preferred to hire women. “They’re more loyal,” he said. “Guys are always working deals on the side.”
    Other men told me they’d become avid fans of UNM’s Lady Lobo basketball players “because they really play as a team.”

  • Matters of the Heart: Congenital heart disease

    Humans and animals often have similar health problems. One example of this is Congenital Heart Disease. Congenital Heart Disease refers to a problem the animal is born with. There are multiple types of Congenital Heart Disease: valve malformations or dysplasia, valve narrowing or stenosis, abnormal openings between the heart chambers or septal defects, and patent ductusarteriosus.
    Patent ductusarteriousus is the most common among dogs, said Dr. Ashley Saunders, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
    “There are anumber of diseases that your dog can be born with, patent ductusarteriosus is the most common in dogs,” she said.
    PDA is caused when the ductusarteriosus, an arterial connection between the aorta and pulmonary artery, doesn’t close properly after birth, Saunders said. This results in blood being pumped back through the artery instead of through the rest of the body.
    Saunders added that different breeds such as German shepherds, miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, Pomeranians, collies, and Shetland sheepdogs are more susceptible to the disorder. Female dogs are also predisposed to the disorder.
    Most dogs with PDA have a heart murmur that the veterinarian will hear upon routine checkup.

  • Muni Building should be named for citizens

    The new municipal/administration building is THE Los Alamos citizens’ building! As such, it should not be a memorial to any one person, dead or alive.
    While a few previous, and some current, councilors doggedly refused to allow LA citizens to vote on it, the building is still the citizens’ building and not the council’s building.
    If a nickname is needed, make something like “The GRT (Golden Revenue Trove or Gross Receipt Tax-windfall) Building” as that is what enabled it.
     Councilor Berting put forth the request that the building be named in memory of Jeannette O. Wallace.
    Berting insisted by her actions that this be the honoree the administrator’s committee focused on even though several councilors argued that the public should be pulsed more generally about any naming.
    I voiced, during “public comment,” that the motion had the appearance of council’s pre-emptive decision in the naming. Since the committee is to hear from the public and report back to council at the beginning of February, scrutiny will, by sheer time constraint, be restricted.
    There has been plenty of time in the last year to address this “naming” business without rushing; yet, we are now being asked to do a quickie.

  • Don't expect much from this Legislature

    SANTA FE — What should we expect from New Mexico’s 2013 Legislature? Our chosen leaders have promised to work together but the chances don’t look good.
    Former Gov. Bruce King’s campaign slogan was “Working Together,” But Bruce had been on the county commission, was a former House speaker and a three-time governor. He knew how to make it work.
    Today we are faced with more than 30 of our 112 lawmakers being new to their jobs and a governor whose experience is as a prosecutor — a job not known for working together.
    Add to those problems new leadership in both the House and Senate. House Speaker Ben Lujan retired and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings was beaten in a bitter battle. So we have no steady hand of longtime leadership plus a number of first-time committee chairs.
    And it doesn’t end there. The recent elections were the most expensive ever -- and probably the dirtiest. Everybody claims dirty elections but this is the first time we have had GOP money being used to defeat Republicans in the Republican primary and Democrats in the Democratic primary. And it was the governor’s PAC that was behind it all.