.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Columns

  • Why 'fix' Ashley Pond

    Recently, I have received questions from members of the public regarding an upcoming project to make improvements at Ashley Pond Park.
    This is a project that has been in the county’s capital improvement program for more than two years, however, with so many projects going on inside the county, it’s easy to understand that some residents may not have heard about all of the various aspects of the project, or why it is so desperately needed. I’d like to try and explain the project and elaborate a bit on how we got to where we are today.
    If you’ve been to Ashley Pond lately, you’ve probably noticed the serious issues with water quality that have emerged. The pond is in the early stages of eutrophication, which stated simply means that the pond is dying due to lack of oxygen.
    There were likely many contributing factors, including overabundant fish population, inadequate recirculation of water, and pollutants conveyed by the collection of storm water runoff. Regardless of the cause, the only way to fix the problem at this point is to drain, dredge and rebuild the pond.

  • Rural areas plagued by poverty

    After World War II, national defense provided the biggest economic boost. But today, the rural areas farthest from the metro areas struggle under century-old burdens of limited educational opportunities and substandard infrastructure, among other challenges. Those rural counties near cities or with natural amenities have tended to hold their own.
    Rural counties are plagued by what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls “persistent poverty.” Residents of rural areas “earn substantially less” than metro residents.
    Sound broadly familiar? It should.
    But if this summary of rural economic problems doesn’t quite sound like New Mexico, that’s because the description is of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and parts of three other states, the territory served by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The description is in “Wanted: Jobs 2.0 in the Rural Southeast,” in the current issue of EconSouth, a publication of the Atlanta Fed (frbatlanta.org).
    For New Mexico the article provides a useful summary, the type of overview we seldom get. It is close enough, overall, to provide insight, allowing for differences. With our double dip recession in place, we should take insight where we can find it.

  • In the voting booth with PRC

    New Mexico is trying to fix utility and insurance regulation yet again. New Mexico’s  Public Regulation Commission (PRC), created in 1996 to replace the previous, dysfunctional State Corporations Commission and the appointed Public Utilities Commission, has suffered its own dysfunction. So now we are voting on three proposed constitutional amendments (Amendments 2, 3 and 4), intended to fix the PRC.
    To be informed on these proposals, you must do more than simply read the ballot.
    The ballot contains only a sentence briefly describing each amendment, taken from the title of the legislation. That leaves a lot to your imagination. If you want to know what you are voting on, here’s some homework.  
    The Legislative Council Service (www.nmlegis.gov/lcs) has prepared a detailed online publication describing the PRC, explaining the amendments, offering arguments for and against, and copying the full text of all the amendments (if you can’t find the publication, use your search engine).
    I recommend it. The League of Women Voters has briefer arguments in its voter guide.  
    Amendment 2  proposes to require qualifications for future PRC commissioners. The presumption is that commissioners who regulate something as complex as utilities ought to have prior knowledge or experience.   

  • Don't forget amendments, bonds

    You’ve probably decided by now how you’re voting on candidates at the top of the ballot, but how about farther down? Here are a few thoughts on some of those.
    Changes to the state Public Regulation Commission, long overdue, are in Amendments 2, 3 and 4, and deserve our support.
    Amendment 2, to increase qualifications and require continuing education for commissioners, is particularly important. Currently, the state doesn’t even require a high school diploma.
    Candidates in District 1 and a few sitting commissioners oppose this amendment. That’s because they know squat about utilities, energy, rates or any of the other complex issues that come before the PRC.
    As somebody who’s sat through rate hearings, I can say there’s nothing worse than watching inept commissioners pretend they understand technical language and issues and then stumble toward a decision. New Mexico has urgent business, and we don’t have time for on-the-job training.

  • 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.