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Columns

  • Visiting with elected officials is not lobbying

    In defense of lobbyists, almost all of them anyway, I respond to a story at NMpolitics.net about the Republican candidates in the new state Senate District 7, which includes Clovis on the south and all of Union County to the north.
    One candidate, Angie Spears, is backed by Gov. Susana Martinez. The other, Pat Woods, has given money to—gasp—Democrats and has made some bumbling comments linking the money and “lobbying.” Woods has his own endorsements, including that of former long-time state Rep. Hoyt Pattison.
    In the story, Heath Haussamen of NMpolitics.net says, “Pat Woods’ statements about campaign contributions and lobbying raise ethical questions about his prior activities in Santa Fe.”

  • Prepare your kids for summer job expenses

    High school and college students hoping to find temporary jobs may be in for a tough time this summer – once again – as they compete with older, more experienced workers in a still-struggling economy. But if your kid is fortunate enough to find work, there are a few things he or she – and you – should know about the economic and tax ramifications of temporary employment:
    Payroll deductions. If this is their first job, warn your kids about common payroll deductions that can take a big bite out of take-home pay. Common culprits include state and federal income taxes, Social Security and Medicare (FICA), health and unemployment insurance, uniforms and union dues.

  • Stemming the tide of muck

    Two years ago, in its Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court opened the floodgate for corporations, unions and other groups to spend as much as they want on “electioneering communications,” provided they’re independent of candidates.
    That begat the super PAC, which can raise and spend a vault of money, provided it’s “independent.”
    Left-leaning columnist E. J. Dionne saw the decision as part of “a larger initiative by moneyed conservatives to rig the electoral system against their opponents,” and most expected those opponents to be Democrats.

  • Working beyond classroom

    John Pawlak said a mouthful a couple weeks ago, but he usually does.  I want to add to his teacher appreciation column.
     Recently, and it was during teacher appreciation week, a student asked me if one needed a college degree to be a teacher.  A while back a student asked me if math teachers get paid more than P.E. teachers- because math is harder than P.E.  
    My son has graciously pointed out to me that teaching is at the bottom of the professional totem pole and Foreign Language teachers, that would be me, are at the bottom of the bottom.  I ignore him a lot.

  • Our View: Council should rethink ice rink investment

    The Los Alamos County Council should be applauded for its decisive action Wednesday in the approval of eight capital improvement projects. With one notable exception, the council has committed your tax dollars to work on undertakings that should indeed yield some quality of life improvements.

    The one project that should have been excluded is the ice rink. Expending $1.5 million to rehab that facility is a pig in a poke. The rink is in an atrocious location, too far removed from town. At best, it should become a place for training and practice.

  • Driving home a point

    I was only 12 years old, but I remember sitting in the car with my father, listening to soft music, enjoying the fragrant scent of flowers, and wondering who was in that coffin.  It was a “drive-through funeral” and my father (like many other curious drivers) stopped to see if it was really true.
    Well, yes, a funeral home had set up a drive-through area so that people could drive up, spend some time looking at the body in the window, and enjoy the pleasant ambiance piped out to the car.
    Today, you can drive-through at the bank.  You can drive-through for a cup of joe.  There are drive-through pharmacies, restaurants, laundromats, prayer vigils, postal services, car washes, grocery pickup, and even marriage chapels.

  • State finances seem all right

    At one point in the rock opera “Tommy” by The Who, someone says, “I think it’s alright, yes I think it’s alright.”
    Alright seems the status for the state’s financial condition, I concluded after financial officials reported to the recent annual conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute.
    This year’s session of the Legislature was successful, said Charles Sallee, deputy director of the Legislative Finance Committee.

  • Avoid rude rental car surprises

    I’m usually a pretty savvy traveler, but a recent car rental mishap reminded me that even when you take every precaution, things still can go awry.
    While planning a family vacation to Panama, I searched online for rental cars. One lower-cost rental car agency I’d never used before offered a significantly lower rate than the others. Ignoring the little voice in my head, I decided to try them.

  • Environmental history lesson

    The 2012 New Mexico Statehood History Conference took place recently at the Santa Fe Convention Center. And I gave my presentation on, “Preserving New Mexico’s Environmental History.”
    As with all history, environmental history has value to the extent it retains the context of its time. Context is where the logic lurks in history’s events.
    A bare word gets its scope and scale from context: compare “tire patch,” “shoulder patch” and “cabbage patch.” Missing the context has one result, misperceptions.
    My talk and this column highlight the great shift in “environment” that came to pass when New Mexico was but 50 years old.

  • Employment law is so 20th century

    The group of small business owners sat around a table talking earnestly about what helps and what hurts their efforts to stay in business and maintain the jobs they have previously created.
    During the current recession, said one gentleman, he did everything he could to avoid layoffs in a construction-related company that had lost much business. He and other principals took no pay for several months. He knew he could not keep everyone on full time at full pay, so he explored alternatives. Could he cut back employees’ hours, keeping everybody but giving everybody some time off? Or just reduce their pay? Or put some employees on a contract rather than employee basis?