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Columns

  • More on ballot questions

    As part of the ballot for the November election, Los Alamos voters are being presented with proposed changes to the Initiative, Referendum and Recall provisions of the Charter, and the process for future Charter amendments.  We fully agree with the notion that changes to the Charter should only be made after thoughtful and deliberate consideration.  The Charter Review Committee provided that analysis after months of open and respectful dialogue.  We support the proposed changes and would like to offer our explanations for our concrete support.
    We begin by providing an explanation of the terms.  A citizen initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of voters can require a public vote on a citizen proposed ordinance or charter amendment.  A referendum is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of voters can require a public vote to repeal an ordinance enacted by the Council. Both initiative and referendum processes are sometimes called “citizen directed legislation.” A recall is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended.

  • Just stop bullying

    Fifth grade is a tender age for children.  New friends to make.  New songs to learn.  New dreams to fill future hopes.  It really is a cute age.
    This world is often short on cute, but little girls in fifth grade manage to keep us in ample supply.  
    Jasmine McClain of Chadbourn, N.C., always liked to do her hair up in pigtails.  She loved to dance.  She loved flowers and pink dresses.  Ashlynn Connor of Ridgefarm, Ill., loved animals and wanted to be veterinarian.  She was known to pick up stray cats and care for them.
    And at the ages of 10, Jasmine and Ashlynn each committed suicide.
     Ryan Patrick Halligan of Essex Junction, Vt., was 13 years old.  He suffered from a learning disorder and always had to work harder to keep up with his classmates.  His sister found him dead, having hanged himself in his bedroom.
    The list of child suicides is long and tearful.  Megan Taylor Meier of Dardenne Prairie, Mo., three weeks before her 14th birthday.  Jared Benjamin High of Pasco, Wash., 14 years old.  Rachel Ehmke of Mantorville, Minn., 13 years old.
    Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Ind., 15 years old.  Asher Brown of Houston, Texas, 13 years old.  Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, Calif., 13 years old.  Joel Morales of New York, 12 years old.

  • Another take on charter amendments

    As someone who was elected to the County Council and served a four-year term, I am an unwavering supporter of representative government. People elect leaders with the hope that they will always act competently and in the best interest of the citizens. When that occurs, we enjoy representative government at its finest. When it doesn’t occur, however, a community can potentially suffer disastrous and enduring consequences.
    My experience on the County Council taught me several things:
    • that council members are not infallible or even necessarily above average in their critical thinking or brainstorming skills;
    • that the groupthink environment that comes from serving on a highly cohesive council does not always lead to the best decisions;
    • and that the highly insular nature of relying almost exclusively on Los Alamos County staff members or their hand-picked, contracted “experts,” many of whom do not even live in our community, often leaves County Council members relatively clueless about the actual desires of the majority of the citizens they serve.

  • On CRC, just say no

    There have been several letters to the editor regarding the four ballot questions designed to amend sections of the Charter that concern Initiative, Referendum, and Recall.  I urge voters to vote No on all four ballot questions for several reasons.
    The first is that council is required by law to present only legal questions to the voters.  These four questions are not legal questions because each one was derived from a number of ordinances that were voted on as a group, not individually.  This is in direct violation of the following sections of the Charter:
    203.2.1 which describes the introduction of an ordinance, introduced in  writing, and limited to a single subject;
    203.2.2 which describes how the notice of the proposed adoption of an ordinance should be published and the contents of the publication;
    203.2.3 which states that council may adopt the ordinance with or without amendment or reject it and the process the council must follow if the ordinance is amended; and
    203.2.4 which states that unless otherwise provided in this Charter, every adopted ordinance shall become effective thirty (30) days after the publication of the notice of its adoption or at any later date specified in the ordinance.

  • A stance on PRC reform

    Toward the end of your ballot in this coming election is an opportunity to professionalize and streamline New Mexico’s dysfunctional Public Regulation Commission (PRC) by voting in favor of Constitutional Amendments 2, 3 and 4.  
    This matters because no local, state or federal government agency directly affects more New Mexicans on a daily basis than the PRC.
    In addition to approving the prices New Mexicans pay for electricity, natural gas, water, and landline telephone service, the PRC also regulates every type of insurance — ranging from auto, property, life, and title insurance to health insurance. The PRC controls the cost and service of motor carriers (including taxis, moving vans, buses, shuttles, ambulances, and tow trucks); processes corporate registrations; regulates oil, natural gas, and hazardous liquid pipelines; and even oversees the State Fire Marshal’s office and ski lift inspections.   
    As a result, the PRC has the broadest regulatory power of any state agency in the nation, yet the qualifications required of the five PRC commissioners are surprisingly low for such a powerful position. PRC commissioners are only required to be: 1) at least 18 years of age; 2) residents of the state for at least one year; and 3) not convicted felons. That is it.

  • Debates a snooze? Open them up

    Last campaign season at this time, my neighborhood had erupted in yard signs, which advocated for an even split of Democratic and Republican candidates. Today, a few lonesome signs hint that voters aren’t as fired up about candidates, and they’re downright sick of this dreary, endless campaign.
    The debates perked things up a bit. Partisans could root for their guy, as they would in a boxing match, but the debates themselves are just one more reminder that our democratic process has been hijacked.
    Former Gov. Gary Johnson, campaigning for president as a Libertarian, has run a spirited race, as we expected him to, and he’s developed a following, despite being shut out of the debates by the two major parties and the networks. So the issues and our choices boil down to two well-worn views.
    Johnson has lately become a hero of the long crusade to open the debates after filing a complaint with the FCC and a lawsuit. He found the walls around the debates more difficult to scale than Mount Everest.

  • Bullies, lawyers take stage

    SANTA FE – From early indications it will be Republican bullies vs. Democratic lawyers at the polls on election day, Nov.  6.
    For those of you who aren’t up for such excitement, absentee voting, which already has begun, or early voting, which begins October 20, may be the answer.
    We’ve already seen news that a poll watcher class for Republicans was held in Albuquerque in late September to teach volunteers methods of challenging potential voters.
    Democratic leaders charge that some of the methods discussed are not legal. The state party has sent an email throughout its system warning that Tea Party bullies will be at the polls intimidating voters.
    The Democratic Party asks that everyone receiving the email donate $25 to $100 or more for lawyers on the ground to fight efforts to steal elections from under our noses.
    How exciting. You don’t want to miss it. Will it be a David vs. Goliath fight? The bullies appear to be mere volunteers. They will be up against highly trained paid professionals.
    Okay, I’ve spent 160 words trying to get you excited about voting. Now, please humor me by reading the next 500 words about the serious choices on the back side of the ballot.

  • The Next Big Small Idea

    I love reading blogs on the human condition.  Why read standard news sites when you can enjoy the introspective analyses of the social issues that impact our daily lives, especially those written by “fair and balanced” minds?
     For instance, a blog might discuss the inventor of the chip-clip and his sociopolitical views on the frightening worldwide shortage of twist ties.  It makes me wonder if anyone ever considered combining the clip-on tie and twist tie.
     Ah, but we do take inventions for granted.  All around us, our world is inundated with the evidence of true innovative genius, from the lowly plastic tip of our shoelaces to the majestic faux Rolls Royce hood adorning thousands of Volkswagen beetles.  It was insights like these that got us out of the dark ages.
     OK, let’s work our way through human virtuosity from the bottom up.  Perhaps the most widespread story of early inventions is that of the toilet, purported to have been the brainstorm of Thomas Crapper.  Well, it’s a cute story, but not true.  In 1596, John Harington invented the toilet as we know it today.  His godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, had one of John’s commodes installed in the Richmond Palace.
     Is this where we got the phrase “a royal flush?”

  • Putting the public first when it comes to public information

    Some years ago, I was present at a Legislative Finance Committee meeting in Silver City. Legislative committees hold some meetings each year outside Santa Fe, to help make government more accessible to citizens around the state.
    Attending the meeting were committee staff plus the usual suspects, state officials and lobbyists. Following committees around the state was part of their job.
     They could have been back in Santa Fe for all the difference the location made. Not a soul from the local community was in attendance, until a dozen or so senior citizens walked in, chaperoned by a staff member of their retirement home.
    The secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration was testifying. As is customary, he was facing the committee, had his back to the audience, and was talking in technical language about technical matters.
     To these visitors, he could have been speaking Klingon. The committee chair never acknowledged the visitors either or changed procedure in any way to accommodate them. They sat in bewildered silence.
    Various state boards and commissions also tramp around the state with their professional followers in tow. Local residents have a chance to participate, or at least watch and say howdy, but rarely do.

  • Character, credibility, cash

    Linda Alvarado brought a basic, overall message to the Domenici Public Conference in Las Cruces last month: “Entrepreneurial ideas are what has made America great.”  
    Myrtle Potter echoed the message, though not in quite the exact words.
    Starting from deep New Mexico roots, their paths have differed. While Potter now owns consulting and media companies, she rose in the corporate world of health care to be president and chief operating officer of Genentech, a biotechnology firm. Alvarado’s company remains as it began—Alvarado Construction Company—with some sidelines gathered along the way, including franchise restaurants in four states and a piece of the Colorado Rockies baseball club.
    In the overall public policy conversation about entrepreneurialism, the sense commonly is that the discussion is about people starting their own companies. The policy gurus focus much more narrowly on “high growth and disruptive new businesses... creating new markets and revving the engines of our nation’s economy.” This is a quote from an Innovation magazine article about Startup America, an Obama administration-blessed, foundation-funded program to help “young, high growth companies.”
    New Mexico is considering joining the Startup America program, the article said.