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Letters

  • More support for UNM-LA

    I moved to Los Alamos in 1969. At that time there was no institution of higher learning present in the community. The community was negotiating with University of New Mexico to establish a branch. They wanted a way to enhance the learning opportunities for those in the community. In 1970, UNM established a branch and it became known as UNM-LA.
    I was the first biology teacher hired at the new branch. For the first seven years I taught general biology, plant taxonomy, human anatomy and physiology and ecology. Then later I taught community education classes. In the early years, we were housed in what is now L-Wing of Los Alamos High School (presently home of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center). There were a handful of us teaching the basic college courses. It was both an exciting and challenging time. Resources were limited. I had to conduct my labs in the high school with the wonderful cooperation of the high school teachers.

  • Support the mil levy

    Every person who lives in Los Alamos who has benefitted from education in any way should vote ‘yes’ on the UNM-LA mil levy.
    This school is one of the not-so-hidden treasures of our community. It does an incredible job of providing a wide variety of higher education opportunities to high school and college students, as well as community members who are seeking professional development and personal enrichment.
    Dual credit courses (taken by 1,399 high school students to date, 794 from LAHS), innovative programs in fire science, EMS certification, robotics and many other classes taught by a highly qualified and capable faculty are just a sampling of what UNM-LA has to offer.
    Interestingly enough, the college accomplishes much of this on a shoestring budget. Many people are unaware that UNM-LA receives no funding from the UNM main campus.
    Furthermore, its state funding is dwindling, reduced by 38 percent in the last five years while enrollment has increased by 14 percent.
    In addition, the presence of a college contributes to higher property values in a community.
    The reasonable mill levy is a small price to pay for this economic benefit.

  • On the subject of class size

    uality and hallmark that Los Alamos has long valued. Community conversations and strategic plan surveys continually reinforce the importance of maintaining small class sizes.
    Over the past several years, budget constraints have made it increasingly more difficult to honor our community’s desire for small class size.
    Significant reductions in state funding this past spring created a $2 million shortfall in our school budget, which had a direct bearing on the decision to increase class size.
    School administration and the school board recognize small class size is important to our community. Efforts were made to preserve this value by reducing and/or eliminating budget items to preserve small class sizes.
    Despite these efforts, reductions in teaching staff were still necessary to bring the budget into balance. Reductions of seven elementary teaching positions through attrition were made during the budget building process this past spring.
    The reduction in staffing resulted in larger class sizes in the second grade at Aspen, Mountain and Barranca Elementary Schools. Second grade class sizes at these schools range from a low of 24 at Aspen and Barranca to a high of 27 at Mountain.

  • Watching night skies for meteors

    On the night of Aug. 11, I was lying on the roof of my home in Barranca Mesa watching the sky for signs of the annual Perseid meteor shower.
    At about 11:05 p.m., a yellow fireball, the largest of the night up to that time, came roaring in directly overhead from NE to SW, leaving behind a large golden tail. And I mean literally roaring. For the first time in over 55 years of watching the night sky I actually heard a load, deep, ripping sound. I heard the roar within a fraction of a second of observing the light.
    Based on the extremely short lag time between seeing the light and hearing the sound, I could only conclude that the meteor was no more than than 1/4 mile away.
    Did anyone else report seeing and hearing a meteor in Los Alamos that night?

    John Eklund
    Los Alamos
     

  • Cuts jeopardize national security

    Our national security could be in jeopardy if the $500 billion in sequestration defense cuts are implemented. Our military had to absorb $80 billion in prior cuts and is now cutting $487 billion over 10 years to comply with the Budget Control Act.
    The $487 billion in cuts translates into the Army reducing its forces by 80,000 soldiers over the next five years.
    The Marines will cut 20,000 troops.
    Other cuts include early retirement of ships with the possibility of having 11 carrier battle groups instead of the 12 needed; the retirement of the Air Force A-10 Warthog aircraft; and the possible closure of our only tank production facility in Lima, Ohio.
    These cuts are occurring while leaving the Pentagon’s civilian workforce of 750,000 unscathed. DOD added 62,000 civilians during the past four years.
    If the additional $500 billion in sequestration cuts are implemented, over 1 million civilian full-time jobs with contractors, sub-contractors and ancillary businesses will be lost.
    The Obama Administration and Congress have to find other ways to reduce the deficit without adversely impacting our national defense.

    Donald A. Moskowitz
    Londonderry, NH
     

  • For-profit schools not the answer

     In his column on for-profit/charter/online education in Wednesday’s Los Alamos Monitor, Paul Gessing states: “ Non-profits, by contrast, have little incentive to become ‘early adopters’ of cost-saving tools and techniques, such as online instruction.” This is arrant nonsense.
     I dare him to present a single non-profit that prefers to waste contributions rather than maximize the effective use of their funding for their specific goals. It is true that they rarely can put aside funds for investment in what may ultimately enhance productivity -- but Gessing should distinguish between lack of incentive and limited capability.
    Why can’t he celebrate New Mexico being “in the Middle of the pack” in embracing digital education? For a change, we are not 49th or 50th in the Nation! Perhaps we could do even better if the Rio Grande Foundation were to provide grants rather than knocks and assist local non-profits supporting the same goals.
    Terry Goldman
    Los Alamos 

  • Questioning op-ed

    It is impossible to address all the points raised in Paul Gessing’s op-ed on “Digital Education” in a space-limited letter, but a couple of his statements are so egregious that they shouldn’t be allowed to stand unopposed.
    First, is his statement “For-profits have a relentless, selfish imperative to seek out and adopt cost efficiencies.” This is probably true, but their fundamental goal is to make profits for their shareholders, not necessarily to improve student experience. Cost efficiencies, which increase profits, may have nothing to do with better education or student success, and in fact, may make things worse for students, depending on what is counted as a “cost efficiency”.
    Second, is the statement “Nonprofits, by contrast, have little incentive to become early adopters of cost-saving tools and techniques …”. What evidence does Gessing have to support this statement? Non-profit businesses feel the same stresses as for-profits in terms of meeting government mandates and their payroll. Failure means they will likely fold their doors, so striving for cost efficiencies in a non-profit is just as important as it is for a for-profit.

  • Stop all killing competitions

    There is probably no more ruthless predator than man; yet as far as we know man is the only being with a spiritual conscience. Then why does man do unconscionable acts such as the mass killing of wildlife?
    I guess the answer is that man has had the ability to turn killing into a competitive sport so that conscience may be set to one side. Man has shown time and time again that personal pleasure, no matter how twisted, justifies certain behavior.
    Much of man’s actions, such as animal killing contests are without regard for our ecosystem and the natural order of things.
    The calls and emails I’ve received from concerned citizens about Gunhawk Firearms’ upcoming prairie dog killing contest reminds me of the historical mass killings of other wildlife, which drove them to the brink of extinction.
    I urge Gunhawk to reconsider feeding man’s greed and brutality because of their selfish desire for profits over a good sense of humanity.
    I have reviewed important data concerning the Gunnison’s prairie dog’s severely diminished numbers, their status being reviewed for listing under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, their keystone role in New Mexico’s ecosystem, and the concerns of hundreds of citizens dedicated to their preservation and am troubled by the answer.

  • More pros and cons of Fair Tax

    errell tells us to visit the fair tax website (fairtax.org), which discusses the pros (but not the cons) of replacing our current income tax with a 23 percent Federal sales tax.
    Sales taxes are well recognized as being among the most regressive ways to raise money, since both rich and poor pay the same rate, although the “prebate” proposed to make purchases up to the “poverty level” tax-free, would help.
    However, two other issues suggest that the proponents of the fair tax are either very naïve or purposely deceptive. One problem is that a sales tax covering all purchases is not likely to make it through Congress.
    Companies that sell, for example, yachts, are going to complain that their businesses will fail if they have to add a 23 percent tax to the cost of their yachts. What about home sales? Will the home construction industries be content with such a tax, or will they fight to exclude home sales from the tax? What about purchases outside the U.S.?
    Given our experience with the current income tax system, does anyone believe that a flat tax has any chance of getting through Congress without special interest groups slipping in exemptions?
    Second, and even more importantly, the fair tax proposal only taxes “the purchase of new goods and services for personal consumption.”

  • Educate yourself on Fair Tax

    I am writing in response to the letter from Glen Terrell of Arlington, Texas who wrote in favor of a “Fair Tax” on Aug. 4. Mr. Terrell encouraged readers to educate themselves about the Fair Tax, and so I have done.
    According to what I learned, the “Fair Tax” plan would eliminate the current federal income tax system and replace it with a flat national sales tax of at least 23 percent. Everyone would pay the same percentage of tax on purchases (thus the “fair”) and there would be no obvious loopholes.
    There are several problems with this, the primary being the old adage that equal is not the same as fair. When the CEO of a company earns more than 300 times the pay of the company’s workers, this is considered (by some) to be fair, but it is by no stretch of the imagination equal. How then can it also be fair that this CEO pays the same percentage of taxes as his workers on purchases — a much lower percentage of his take-home pay?