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Columns

  • Read fine print carefully before signing contracts

    If you always stop to read the fine print before signing anything, congratulations — your parents trained you well. If you don’t, beware: Your signature could commit you to a long-term gym membership you don’t really want, an apartment you can’t afford or worst of all, paying off someone else’s loan you cosigned.
    Broadly defined, contracts are mutually binding agreements between two or more parties to do — or not do — something. It could be as simple as buying coffee (you pay $3 and the restaurant agrees to serve you a drinkable beverage), or as complex as signing a 30-year mortgage.
    Once a contract is in force it generally cannot be altered unless all parties agree. And, with very few exceptions (e.g., if deception or fraud took place), contracts cannot easily be broken.
    Before you enter a contractual agreement, try to anticipate everything that might possibly go wrong. For example:
    After you’ve leased an apartment you decide you can’t afford the rent or don’t like the neighborhood.
    Your roommate moves out, leaving you responsible for the rest of the lease.
    You finance a car you can’t afford, but when you try to sell, it’s worth less than your outstanding loan balance.

  • Disconnect: World fame, excellence nation’s worst state economy

    “Santa Fe, N.M.,” the newspaper dateline said. The story resided on page one of the June 30 issue. The publication was the Wall Street Journal, which has the nation’s second largest newspaper circulation at 2.3 million (including 900,000 for the digital version) for the six months ending March 31.
    Ignoring the digital edition where the story was not prominent, that means 1.4 million newspapers, nearly all with page one given at least a glance, and the words “Santa Fe, N.M.” presented in a positive business context.
    The story was about Bill Miller, a mutual fund manager who has been way, way up (becoming, the story said, “the best stock picker in the business”), way, way down and now is back up. Miller lives in Baltimore, Md., and Vero Beach, Fla., but he comes to Santa Fe occasionally as chairman emeritus of the Santa Fe Institute and a major SFI donor.
    The 30-year-old SFI (santafe.edu) is a place with employees and resident faculty and a network of “external faculty” stretching round the world. A research institute, SFI does the science of complex adaptive systems.

  • Susana feasts on Dems' state chair

    Unless every last New Mexico Democrat with any influence whatsoever has suddenly fallen victim to persistent and pervasive masochism, Sam Bregman’s days as state party chairman are numbered.
    Aren’t they? Doesn’t everything we know about politics and the logic thereof dictate that he must either leave his post voluntarily or face pressure from those top state Democrats capable of rational election year thought to resign his chairmanship?
    The miracle is that prominent Democrats up for election or reelection this year — Tom Udall, Ben Ray Luján, Michele Luján Grisham, Hector Balderas, the whole lot of them, including Gary King — haven’t already quietly taken Bregman by the neck and given him the boot.
    Admittedly the metaphor is mixed. But Bregman has become the main course in the buffet of campaign hash Susana Martinez has been serving New Mexico voters since primary election day when she walked away with her party’s nomination for a second term as governor.
    Who knows what’s fair and what’s not in today’s political climate?

  • From the battlefield to the VA hospital

    In 1974, a group of disabled Vietnam War veterans in wheelchairs staged a 17-day hunger strike in Los Angeles to protest poor treatment in veterans’ hospitals. They demanded better treatment for returning veterans and an investigation.
    And just seven years ago patient neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center burst into the news. These and other cases took the same course: finger pointing, congressional indignation, investigations, resignations and reforms.
    Just like today.
    For a little more perspective on VA and military hospitals, I called my friend Jerry, a Vietnam veteran who’s been a recent patient at VA hospitals in Albuquerque and Tucson, Ariz.
    “I just went to the VA, and there were people there from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, and Iraq and Afghanistan. If we hadn’t gone into Iraq, the VA wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

  • Capital spending priorities backward

    For the state’s capital spending to hit the headlines in mid-year is unusual. But then headlines sometimes result from the work of the Legislative Finance Committee, which does oversight and builds a budget providing the Legislature an alternative to the Governor’s budget.
    Much of the LFC’s oversight work is nuts-and-bolts stuff, both needed and boring to most.
    However the report released June 12 at the LFC’s meeting in Las Cruces got attention. The title: Review of Selected Capital Outlay Projects’ Planning, Spending and Outcomes: Public Prisons. The short version is that $277 million is the estimated cost of repairing the state’s prison system. The number drew the media, as well it should.
    Capital spending authorized by the 2014 legislature will come to $714.2 million, assuming all the authorized projects get done, which never happens. House Bill 55, one of two major capital spending bills, authorizes $228.7 million for 852 projects including $2.4 million for four projects at corrections facilities.
    In her executive message to the Legislature, an eight-page letter to House Speaker Ken Martinez, Gov. Susana Martinez listed 73 separate line-item vetoes. The vetoes hit groups of lines, single lines, parts of lines and punctuation. It was not a good year for semicolons.

  • Duck and cover: It's the police

    What? Albuquerque ranks 360th among some 369 U.S. metropolitan areas surveyed as potential places to set up businesses?
    That tidbit of news appeared in local papers a couple of weeks after I had written a column suggesting that our state’s politicos should get their acts together and basically declare war on the dead-last, bottom-of-the barrel status New Mexico routinely garners in all those rating systems that measure the economic well-being of America’s states and cities.
    On the other hand, when a state’s largest city gets the reputation as a place to duck and cover when someone calls the police, you have to wonder about the local social and business atmospherics.
    It made headlines coast to coast when, after an almost year and a-half investigation, the U.S. Justice Department issued a report bluntly stating, among other things, that Albuquerque police officers have routinely “used deadly force against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed…”
    Worse, the report went on to say, “Officers also used deadly force in situations where the conduct of the officers heightened the danger and contributed to the need to use force.”

  • Class of 2014 picnic a success

    On behalf of the Class of 2014, we would like to thank everyone who helped to make the Senior Picnic a huge success, including the parents who not only donated food items but also their time and grilling expertise. 
    Speaking of grilling, thank you to Dr. Gene Schmidt, superintendent, and Mr. Gerry Washburn, assistant superintendent, for taking a turn flipping hamburgers and hot dogs.
    A thank you also goes out to Valynn Purvis, of Party to Go and her staff for supplying the bounce house and dunk tank, as well as to the Los Alamos Animal Shelter for letting members of the senior class meet Texas and Baby.
    The weather was great and everyone had a great time celebrating the end of a four-year journey.
    Connie Goettee
    Stephanie Pittman
    Class of 2014 co-sponsors 

  • The lowest of the low

    It’s a dog’s world. That means dogs rule, people drool. Dogs know how to have fun in almost any situation, whereas people work hard to find fault with anything and everything.
    And people can manufacture nightmares in this dog’s world that would keep Freddy Krueger awake. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would purposely hurt a dog.
    But some people treat dogs like garbage, abusing and tossing them aside with no more thought than one would have for a discarded piece of trash.
    As a shining example of what people value in our society, consider the mound of yak upchuck who goes by the name Michael Vick.
    In a recent interview, Vick (currently a $5 million a year NFL quarterback for the New York Jets) bragged that he could help any team get to the Super Bowl.
    I don’t know if anyone explained to this sadistic cretin, but they don’t torture dogs at the Super Bowl. His talents would be severely wasted.
    Vick personifies the absolute worst in human DNA, the ability of people to place human pleasure above everything else. After serving 18 months in a plush jail, he was quickly put back onto the playing field for the Philadelphia Eagles, making tens of millions of dollars. Despite the pleasure and profit he took in torturing dogs for entertainment, his fans continued to praise him.

  • PMI expansion in Española will create 50 new jobs

    ESPAÑOLA — Eric Quintana, founder of Performance Maintenance, Inc. (PMI), is putting down roots for his growing business with a new expansion in Española. Since launching PMI with his wife Celina from their home in 1994, the company now boasts more than 80 employees in two states.
    Governor Susana Martinez and New Mexico Economic Development Department (EDD) Cabinet Secretary Jon Barela were the honored guests of the Regional Development Corporation (RDC), also based in Española, who hosted a public groundbreaking at the site (835 N. Paseo del Oñate, Española) on June 17. The groundbreaking ushered in the next phase for PMI, which will create up to 50 new jobs.
    Immediately following the groundbreaking at PMI’s new site, the governor and cabinet secretary cut the ribbon at another new Española business — Blue Heron Brewing just opened a new taproom located at 100 Los Alamos Highway.
    “I could not be happier with the news of the expansion of both PMI and Blue Heron Brewing Company in Española in northern New Mexico,” Gov. Martinez said. “Small, local businesses like these are exactly the kind of enterprises we want to help grow. When they succeed, our families and communities succeed.”

  • Make sure your family has a disaster plan

    June 1 marked the beginning of hurricane season. Meanwhile, across much of the Western United States major droughts have greatly increased the danger for summer wildfires. And don’t forget last winter’s record-breaking winter storms — or the ongoing potential for earthquakes, tornados, floods and other natural disasters.
    Such catastrophic events are inevitable, largely unpreventable and often strike without warning. Even though we can’t always predict natural disasters, we can anticipate their likely aftermaths, including property loss, power or water service disruption and scarcity of food and supplies.
    Sit down with your family and develop a disaster plan. By planning ahead and knowing what you might need under dire circumstances, you can save yourselves a lot of time, money and grief.
    FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema.gov), offers great suggestions for developing a family emergency plan, building an emergency supply kit, and learning what to do before, during and after emergencies, everything from home fires to terrorist attacks. They even provide an emergency plan for family pets.
    Here are some emergency-planning ideas you may not have considered:
    • Pick meeting spots both in and outside your neighborhood where your family can gather after an emergency.