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Columns

  • Medicaid is black and white and red all over

    Last week, the state’s leading economist waded into the Medicaid debate.
    “I think we should seriously think of saying yes to Medicaid,” said Lee Reynis, director of UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “It’s an opportunity to develop health-care infrastructure, especially in rural areas. The federal government is willing to pay the freight for much of it.”
    BBER’s forecasting models indicate New Mexico would receive $3.9 billion from the federal government from 2014 to 2020, and the expansion would create thousands of new jobs. Reynis was speaking to Economic Forum, a nonpartisan business group. I was surprised at the comment, which came at the end of an otherwise gloomy look at the economy.
    Medicaid expansion has become an election issue. The Supreme Court, in upholding the Affordable Care Act, removed the mandate to expand the program, giving states a choice. Expansion supporters and detractors have their boilerplate arguments, so true believers can take a position without thinking.  If you’re in the middle – I’m sorry – you’ll just have to think.

  • NMFA oversight? The buck keeps moving

    It seems nobody was minding the store at the New Mexico Finance Authority.  
    Still attempting to learn how a fake audit could get past management and board, the Associated Press found that two Cabinet secretaries on the board never attended a meeting. Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary John Bemis did send representatives. Environment Secretary David Martin attended about half. Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration Tom Clifford attended most of the meetings.
    Aha! The buck stops here.
    Well, no, it keeps on moving.
    Barela has said he serves on 31 boards, commissions, and task forces and is actively involved in about a half dozen. Other Cabinet secretaries have similar demands. What does this say for the quality of their time on NMFA business?
    Bemis has said the board relies heavily on the NMFA staff, and that’s true across the public and private sectors. So maybe the buck stops there.

  • H. Clifton fondly remembered

    SANTA FE — Hoyt Clifton arrived in Santa Fe just a few years after I got here in 1965.
    It seemed as though he was the New Mexico elections expert from the beginning but his obituary says he was just the voting machine specialist for the first few years.
    It’s interesting. Clifton came to Santa Fe because of his knowledge of handling the huge 850-pound voting machines of the day. Today, we are back to a pencil and paper.
    As long as I can remember when anyone had a question about elections they called Hoyt.
    He could explain anything in the election code because he had written most of it. If it was a complicated question, he would patiently explain the background and the problem it was designed to correct.
    Many amendments to the election code are introduced every year. Those who worked with Clifton say he could look at any bill and immediately be able to explain what the sponsor was trying to do.
     One day I called the Secretary of State’s Office and the secretary of state herself answered the phone.
    She said Hoyt was not there but that she could help me. I’m sure she could have helped but I was so accustomed to talking with Hoyt that I said to just have him call Jay Miller went he got back.

  • Pet talk: Protecting horses from West Nile

    The West Nile Virus cases in humans and horses have been on the rise in 2012, and, according to the CDC, human cases are at their highest levels since West Nile Virus was first detected in the United States in 1999.
    Dr. Tracy Norman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Large Animal Clinic, suggests protecting horses by vaccinating against the disease and taking measures to prevent mosquito bites.
    The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes from avian hosts to humans and horses. Both humans and horses are considered “dead-end” hosts of West Nile Virus, which means it is not contagious from horse to horse or horse to human.
    If bitten by an infectious mosquito, the virus can multiply in the blood system, cross the blood brain barrier, and infect the brain. There, it can cause inflammation of the brain, interfering with central nervous system functions.
    Most horses infected with the virus do not exhibit signs of the disease. For those that do, however, symptoms are similar to other neurologic diseases and can include impairment of basic motor skills (including loss of coordination or asymmetrical weakness, a change in behavior, or drowsiness.

  • Time to 'turn it up'

    I always find it amusing when my students are surprised to discover that I know the name of the singer or group of their current favorite songs.  Older people aren’t supposed to even know that modern music exists.
     Of course, they’re not always all that far off the mark about what my generation does or does not know.  Sure, most people know who Lady Gag Gag is (hard to miss her in her jewel studded underwear at baseball games), but it’s probably safe to say that most people over 50 wouldn’t recognize names like Avenged Sevenfold, Maroon 5, Drake, Linkin Park, Radiohead, Lil Wayne, Pitbull, Coldplay, Black Eyed Peas, or Foster the People.
    Actually, there’s a lot of good music out there, but you don’t generally hear it on the radio.  As teenagers plug themselves into their iPods and bob their heads to solid walls of sound (all bow to “Benny and the Jets!)”, many of their songs are not mainstream.  Despite what Billboard or MTV award ceremonies would lead you to believe, some groups out there do know how to make music.

  • Stealing a movement

    A woman screeched at me recently that the gay rights movement was “exactly the same” as the civil rights movement.
    I said it wasn’t and offered some reasons why. Her response? “I’m sure millions of black Americans appreciate your speaking for them.”
    Now she could have been sincerely passing along the gratitude she knew millions of African Americans would have for my rising to the defense of the civil rights movement.
    But I doubt it.
    It had the wanted effect, however. I dismissed her in the same breath that she dismissed me.
    She is far from alone in her opinion, of course. Gay activists have long sought to make Americans believe gays, lesbians, et al, have suffered the same myriad miseries throughout their lives as blacks have since this land’s colonization.
    It’s true enough that homosexuals and lesbians have been abused and stigmatized, however, the argument that they mirror the fight for equal rights blacks have experienced is weaker than water flowing down the Rio Grande.
    A quick check of any local restaurant underscores, in part, my point. What say we look at Chick-fil-a?
    During the recent kerfuffle, I ventured into one of these joints to see what all the fuss was about.

  • New system streamlines to build profits

    In today’s ultracompetitive environment, businesses need to get their product or service to customers faster than ever. Shorter delivery times aren’t just good for customer satisfaction; the longer it takes to get a product from the order desk to the customer, the longer the business waits to be paid.
    Meanwhile, the company has its own bills to pay, including loan interest and materials invoices. The briefer an order is in production, the better. Knowing this, savvy companies implement lean manufacturing techniques to periodically evaluate their product flow and processes – and adjust as necessary for maximum efficiency.
    Keeping it simple
    Companies can sometimes cut production time and eliminate waste by carefully studying how products and paperwork flow through office and manufacturing processes. New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership, or New Mexico MEP, helps businesses refine this flow. The nonprofit organization conducts workshops around the state, one of which – on the 5S System – aims to help businesses improve workplace organization and standardization. The 5S System is just one tool New Mexico MEP uses when assisting businesses with company-wide transformation toward efficiency.

  • CRC: How it all got started

    With the election on the horizon, most are aware of the fact that there will be four questions on the ballot that relate to potential changes to the Charter for the County of Los Alamos.  Specifically, the questions for consideration for the November 2012 election deal with the provisions for Initiative, Referendum and Recall.  
    I believe it would be helpful to provide a little background on why the Charter Review Committee was formed and outline exactly what the council tasked the committee to do.  In 2009, amid an environment where  a variety of questions surfaced about the Charter and the home rule powers of government, the council-manager form of government,  the ability of citizens to understand and use the initiative  and referendum provisions, the need for elected sheriff and clerk positions and validity of the system of  partisan balance on Boards and Commissions.

  • Rahn is all about practical design

    Pete Rahn’s path has taken him from Farmington to Santa Fe, where he was Highway and Transportation Department secretary for Gov. Gary Johnson, to Missouri, where he had the same job, to Kansas City, where he joined HNTB Corp., and back to New Mexico, where he lives while working with HNTB and is a member of the Transportation Commission.
    HNTB, Rahn says, does large complex transportation projects but does not work in New Mexico, which means his commission post poses no conflict.
    One modest insight into Rahn is his subscription to at least one car magazine. We visited at the Rahn dining table.
    Practical Design provided an overview for consideration of the big picture of transportation (really, roads) in New Mexico. Practical Design is a conceptual road design and construction framework that Rahn started in New Mexico. The approach was fully developed in Missouri and has been adopted by other states. The word “practical” explains much.
    “Practical design is about a lot of little things that add up to a lot,” Rahn says.
    Some realities overlay New Mexico’s roads.

  • When you should file an amended tax return

    Not every interaction with the IRS must necessarily induce flop sweat.
    Case in point: A few years ago a friend of mine decided his income taxes had become sufficiently complicated to merit hiring an accountant. After examining previous tax returns, the accountant discovered my friend had claimed the standard deduction for two years when he should have itemized expenses. He filed a couple of amended tax returns and voila – the IRS wrote him checks totaling more than $1,200.
    Of course, not all tax-filing mistakes end on such a happy note. Sometimes people find out after submitting a return that their employer had sent an incorrect W-2 form, or they forgot to report self-employment income, or they incorrectly claimed someone as a dependent.
    Although it’s tempting to let such mistakes slide, chances are the IRS will discover the error eventually, and when they do you could be liable for interest and penalties going back to the due date of the original tax return. Worst case: You could even face criminal charges for filing a fraudulent return.
    Here’s a guide to when – and how – you should file an amended tax return: