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Columns

  • Bring back the abacus

    It’s been a while since I’ve ranted about declining math skills in this country. Well yeah, OK, not really.
    My wife just told me to stop lying and admit that it’s been about 12 minutes.  That’s what I get for marrying a woman who can tell time!
    Los Alamos is joining the fray (or is that fracas?) among public schools across the nation and adopting a new assessment standard.  It’s called “Common Core State Standards (CCSS), an initiative to introduce consistency in educational processes.
    At this time, CCSS has been adopted by 45 states. Texas has not yet adopted the standards. My guess is that state officials are waiting to see if the standards will mandate the teaching of creationism in math classes.

  • Small business, deadbeat dads

    Government leaders keep telling us the engine of economic growth is small business.  They can’t wait to do more to encourage small business. Then they force small businesses to jump through hoops with complicated rules and paperwork.
    Here is what one small business owner told me:
    A few years ago, she learned she had to comply with a program called the New Hires Directory. She is required to file a report, within 20 days of hiring a new employee, giving the employee’s name, address and Social Security number.
    Immigration, you might be thinking. Nope, child support.

  • LFC starts tax conversation

    The Legislative Finance Committee went to Rio Rancho’s version of the end of the world to hear about taxes at its July meeting.
    The presentations by leading tax experts in the state were process, rather than offering exciting specifics worth turning into big headlines. Even so, committee members stayed awake. Sen. John Sapien, Corrales Democrat, was occupied with two computers, a Mac laptop and a tablet. Others had the magnificent view of the Sandia Mountains from the meeting room on the second floor of the new one-building University of New Mexico West.

  • Stressed-out ponderosa pines

    The sudden appearance of drying needles, dead branches, or even dead Ponderosa Pine trees can alarm anyone, especially homeowners.  Damage occurs throughout New Mexico where Ponderosa Pine is found growing, but is most severe in the urban setting, on the fringe of forested areas, and on shallow, rocky, or droughty soil types.
    That describes Los Alamos to a tee. Trees growing near roads or in areas of soil disturbance or abundant competing vegetation are most frequently affected. According to Danny Norlander, New Mexico State Forestry Forest Health Specialist, there has been an uptick in Ponderosa Pine tree mortality in southern area forests and in isolated pockets in Northern New Mexico over the last two years but the problem is not widespread.  

  • Too much reliance on test scores

    There are many reasons to oppose the governor’s plan for teacher evaluation: The tests used are unreliable; the states where similar “reforms” have been implemented have not seen success; huge sums of money have been diverted from schools to publishing companies; curriculum narrows to only those things measured and measurable on a standardized test. The list is long. For teachers, one of the most devastating consequences of over-reliance on test scores is the impact on their relationship with their students.

  • When in doubt, keep riding

    Former Gov. Garrey Carruthers has been a hit on the speaker circuit with the Cowboy Code of Ethics.
    A few years ago, business schools at UNM and NMSU received grants from the Daniels Foundation to develop ethics programs. The challenge became how to convey ethical principles simply and effectively.
    Carruthers, dean of NMSU’s business school, took his inspiration from the book “Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West,” by James P. Owen, a former Wall Streeter grown weary of corporate scandals. The solution, Owens said, was not more laws and regulations but a return to basic values. From a lifelong interest in the West, Owen wrote Cowboy Ethics.

  • Requiem for a canyon

    Recently, we walked up what’s left of Valle Canyon.  In my memory, there are three Valle Canyons — the lovely one pre-Cerro Grande ever changing, ever beautiful, every diverse, the post Cerro Grande one, still intact at least in the lower part, and now the post Las Conchas one, which has lost its entire forest and most of the canyon bottom.
    It’s hard to describe the difference.  Although Cerro Grande left the cathedral-like trees and the riparian shrubs and plants, few trees are left now, and the canyon bottom has been almost totally rearranged by the flooding (as is Frijoles Canyon only worse).  It’s hot, no shade; it’s rocky or silty, no undisturbed soil; it’s quiet, few birds.

  • Transparency still lacking

    So how are we doing on government transparency? It was a major issue during the last gubernatorial campaign. Former Gov. Bill Richardson was raked over the coals for alleged corruption in the investment of billions of state dollars in worthless securities.
    Gov. Susana Martinez promised to do much better. A year and a half into her administration the results are mixed. The governor has been criticized for slow responses to records requests and heavily redacted records. The attorney general and state auditor are looking into whether there was some type of collusion in the award of the state fair racino bid.

  • Relationship built on trust

    Mauro Nava’s seven-year relationship with microlender Accion New Mexico-Arizona-Colorado paid off when the Mexico City native and his Ukrainian-born business partner, Olena Dziuba, decided to open a health clinic to serve residents of Albuquerque’s underserved South Valley.
    Clínica la Esperanza opened in October 2011 at Bridge and Isleta boulevards with seed money from the two partners to remodel the building and a line of credit from Accion to pay bills until the business started generating revenue.
    Nava first contacted Accion in 2005 for funds to start a mobile radiography business called On-Site Radiography. Nava’s perfect payment history on past Accion loans made him a good candidate for the most recent investment.

  • Why you need a social media will

     By most estimates, over half of adult Americans haven’t written a will stating how their assets should be distributed after death. Fewer still have bothered to appoint someone to make financial and health care decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated. And now we can add another necessary, but probably overlooked legal document: a social media will.
    That’s right, in this age of email, password-protected accounts and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, the U.S. Government, of all sources, recently pointed out why it’s important for people to leave instructions for how they want their online identities handled after death.