• Public shocked by recent cop scandal

    The recent Los Alamos Monitor coverage of the whistleblower lawsuit filed by Randy Foster, Scott Mills and Paige Early has been enlightening.
    The termination of Foster from the police department was an unwelcome surprise for many that know him to be a superb police officer, and the reasoning behind it seemed inscrutable at the time.
    The newspaper story helps to shed some light on the topic. While we only hear one side of the story in the Monitor coverage, and there is always two, one wonders how top administration officials in the county intend to defend their behavior.
    A mentally disturbed police officer, who threatens to harm the public, is removed from the situation by top-notch police officers acting in the best interest of the public.
    The disturbed police officer, who openly acknowledges his problem, sues the county and is then given a large financial settlement, while the police officers who proactively protected the public are harassed, humiliated and terminated.
    It just doesn’t compute. Unless one considers the possibility that the reputations of top county officials must be protected, and the mishandling of their duties should never bear public scrutiny.

  • Natural Helpers program offers help

    This is my fourth year teaching at Barranca. Over my years teaching here, I have had students abused, suffering from depression, stressed beyond belief, socially inept, suicidal, bullied and more. I was tired of seeing students struggle and feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. They should not be fighting these battles alone.
    If these kids are truly our future, we must invest heavily in them now. Students must learn not only how to support each other but to accept support from others. Bradford Parker, our school principal, brought Natural Helpers to my attention as a way to address the needs of our student population. After investigating the program, I agreed and with the support of Parker and Dr. Gene Schmidt, the superintendent, I worked to get this program in place for our school.
    The Natural Helpers program is for fifth and sixth grade students at Barranca. If the beginning success is any indication, this program will continue for many years. Natural Helpers is a peer-to-peer helping program, meaning students learn how to help their friends and other students who need someone to talk to. Natural Helpers are students who are identified by their peers as someone they can trust, someone who cares, and someone who likes to help others.

  • There is no free lunch

    There is no free lunch
    A T-shirt popular when I was in college (many moons ago) proclaimed “TANSTAAFL.” It stands for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” a common phrase in economics.
    That simple axiom says much about what is wrong with our political dynamics today at all levels.
    Lunch may be free to the person eating it. But someone pays for it. If it is only partially free, the subsidized part is paid for by someone else.
    The same is true for any grant, benefit, or subsidy —whether it comes from an employer, insurer, or government. “Free” money is not free. Someone pays for it. Every “benefit,” private or government, is paid for by someone.
    A few freebies provide high leverage; their actual net benefits significantly exceed their cost. Most are promoted that way; few actually deliver.
    Politicians hate to say “no” to anyone. They are eager to trumpet the freebies, benefits, subsidies, etc. they “give” us. Every single one is paid for by someone. It may be today’s taxpayers or it may burden future generations.

  • Fracking: The rest of the story

    On Sunday Jan. 5, the Los Alamos Monitor carried a 1/3-page article on fracking of petroleum wells, authored by Marita Noon, spokesperson for organizations that, in their own terms, “influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life.”
    Noon argues against the public fear of fracking (hydraulic fracturing), its water consumption, and the chemicals used in fracking. She neglects to mention the public’s main fear, which is contamination of ground and surface waters due to fracturing through the pressure-bearing geologic formation.
    In Wyoming, the Environmental Protection Agency found widespread upward leakage of oil and gas along the outside of wells due to imperfect cementing of the well casings. Experts from New Mexico Tech offered a similar conclusion in testifying to a NM legislative committee. This problem is overlooked in the public arguments. New Mexico regulations do not require testing of the cement after it is injected to form a seal between the casing and the larger borehole.

  • Webber failed to mention specifics

    I appreciate gubernatorial candidate Alan Webber’s willingness to engage in a much-needed discussion over New Mexico’s flailing economy. However, I do want to clarify that economic leadership cannot be limited to the governor’s office. In fact, it is the Legislature that sets economic policy. The PRC and courts also have a great deal to do with policies that help or harm New Mexico’s economy.
    Speaking directly to Webber’s points, he either makes inaccurate statements or fails to specify what he’d do to improve our economy. For starters, Webber claims that our state is offering “hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts trying to lure big-box stores to New Mexico.” He offers no details as to the specifics of the policy or its harms, nor does he offer viable alternatives for developing our economy.
    Webber also writes about education reform, citing the need to “leave politics at the door.” He offers no other specific education reforms while failing to explain how politics can be eliminated from an education system that is funded by taxes and operated by a combination of elected officials and government bureaucrats.

  • Teachers key to education

    When will Governor Susana Martinez and Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera learn?
    The proposed budget for Education for the 2015 Fiscal Year includes plenty of funding for such gimmicks as increased testing, carrots for high test performance and sticks for low (without factoring in poverty statistics, percent of non-English speakers and parent participation), and fancy teaching programs from out-of-state providers, but none for raises for teacher salaries.
    Granted, the governor proposes raising the starting salary for new teachers about 10 percent, but only to suck them into teaching in our state and then treat them like dirt along with existing faculty.
    No thought is given to trying to retain experienced teachers by paying them a living wage.
    Given the number of actual hours that teachers spend in the classroom (before and after class hours and on weekends), at home, and attending various training and certification sessions, their salaries barely qualify as minimum wage.
    And their benefits are gradually decreasing while teachers’ share for them is constantly increasing.
    Teachers are the keystone species in the education ecosystem.

  • Tell full story of Manhattan Project

    The United States Department of Interior has recommended Los Alamos as the site of a national park, or national historical park, for the Manhattan Project, which built the atomic bomb in World War II in secret at more than 30 U.S. sites.
    Builders of the A-bomb anticipated its use against Germany, but in May 1945 Germany surrendered. In July, the bomb was tested successfully near Alamogordo and the U.S. called upon Japan to surrender. When Japan refused, the U.S. bombed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9. Surrender followed in September.
    The conventional justification is about 500,000 American lives were saved by eliminating the need for an invasion of Japan. In opposition is the contention that the A-bomb was unnecessary because Japan was close to surrender.
    The A-bomb was a great scientific achievement by many of the world’s most distinguished scientists, under the leadership of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, with military support by Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

  • Open letter to study group for teacher concerns

    I am pleased to share that School Board President Jim Hall, School Board
    Vice President Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, Curriculum and Instruction Director Pam
    Miller, and I met with Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera and Deputy Secretary Leighann Lenti during the winter break. The conversation was cordial.
    Ms. Skandera promised to review our letter and provide feedback within a week to our concerns. During the conversation, she expressed willingness to consider extending the district some flexibility in observation options.
    In saying this, she appeared to welcome the district’s submission of a proposal at the end of this school year to better meet our needs for teacher observation/evaluation protocols. As part of our proposal for improving the teacher evaluation system, Ms. Skandera has asked that the district compile a year’s worth of data using the current observation protocols and value-added model.

  • Pongratz's comments were off-base

    I totally agree with Morrie Pongratz that the teen center is important and serves a real good purpose.
    But, so do all the other county services.
    Really, Morrie, you came off sounding quite whiny — we need to serve some cheese with that.
    It is quite unlike you to be so ill-informed. The APP funds are from a different pot, as the Los Alamos Monitor pointed out.
    Aesthetics is quite important to work on this town. Many of us need a kick in the butt to spruce up our own properties and APP can be the stimulus.
    And to pick on PEEC, shame on you. Have you looked at their website? They do marvelous things for all ages, but particularly the younger group. This is important to help young people and their parents find exciting, stimulating, alternative ways to entertain themselves while spending time outdoors.
    I am sorry the committee could not agree on a place for the teen center but that argument really did not help the funding situation you were ranting about.
    The county is having budget issues and trying to solve them reasonably.
    We are all going to see some changes and will need to accommodate. Life is tough — nobody ever promised a rose garden.
    Becky Scaborough
    Los Alamos 

  • Contrasts seen in leaders

    alk or drive past the “Oppie” and Groves statues standing together near Fuller Lodge. The wonders of art include stirring varied thoughts in different people at different times. In some sense, this trait defines art.
    The statues are cast in different shades of bronze. Oppenheimer’s shade of metal is brighter in the sun; Groves’s metal is darker.  
    What could this difference mean?
    Oppenheimer was a civilian who drew and led the best scientists from two continents to work toward a common goal against a common enemy.
    Groves was a military mind in a military uniform, who brought to bear a leader’s skills in logistics, managerial discipline and urgent purpose.
    Oppenheimer became history’s face of the wartime effort. Groves remains a different icon, whose contrasting strengths were equally vital in the partnership.
    The history of that era hinged on the complementary differences between Oppenheimer and Groves. A strong leadership team grew from odd compatibilities in their dissimilar natures. The statues remind me so.
    As art does so well, the shades of bronze suggest more than seeing a set of the two leaders, in matched bronze, standing where they stand.
    John Bartlit
    Los Alamos