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Today's Opinions

  • Movie industry draws rave reviews from some

    Bundles of cables ring the Las Vegas plaza like a wreath. Movie set crews, all New Mexicans, maneuver vehicles, lights and props while locally hired security people and cops steer people and traffic around the shoot for “Granite Mountain,” based on the Arizona firefighters who battled an epic blaze to save a town.
    The cast and crew seem to have the run of the Plaza Hotel, where we’re staying. For everybody, it’s good business.
    A gallery owner tells us the movie makers are paying every store on the plaza for the inconvenience and lost business. “Obviously, it didn’t keep you from coming in, and it’s a nice gesture,” she says.
    “Granite Mountain” employs 190 New Mexico crew members, 40 New Mexico actors, and about 1,300 New Mexico background talent, according to the state Film Office.
    This is a snapshot of a New Mexico success story. Against a backdrop of dreary economic numbers, the movie and television industry dazzles. Direct spending into the state economy for the fiscal year ending June 30 was $387 million, up from $288 million the year before – a new record.

  • Rooftop solar power challenges rate making

    The story went like this: You could install solar panels that would generate electricity on your roof. When the sun was shining, you’d generate enough to power your house and then your meter would run backwards, and the power company would send you a check instead of a bill. How cool was that!
    That works, and it’s called “distributed generation,” but the real world has complications. One complication is that the power generated while the sun shines is not stored. The utility still has to provide another source of power to turn the lights on at night.
    Beyond that – no surprise – utilities don’t like having to buy back power. That’s not unreasonable. Utilities have a mandate to provide reliable power all the time and must build and maintain costly infrastructure to meet that requirement.
    The more solar capacity you have on your house, the fewer hours you will buy. Therefore, the cost to deliver power to your house is more expensive per hour than for the typical household. To compensate, the utility does not pay you nearly as much for the power you sell as you pay for the hours you buy.
    The price of power today to New Mexico homeowners is about 12 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour, varying with each utility. What the utilities pay back also varies.

  • Considering structural issues is useful work

    Troll your archives and no telling what emerges.
    Recent thumbing of the shelves and the computer led to the report of a legislative committee looking into economic development, Arizona’s consideration of that state’s future, and a discussion of growth with a Colorado economist. The documents illuminate what we’re doing and not doing, over time, in New Mexico.
    Interim committees do much of the Legislature’s work.
    The interim Economic Development, New Technologies and Business Tax Study committee met six times in nine cities between June and November 1983. The chairs were two young and ambitious senators from Albuquerque – Tom Rutherford, Democrat, and Bill Valentine, Republican.
    Talk of process was the main product, the committee report indicates. Recruiting businesses and the Business Development Corporation, which eventually failed, were continuing topics. Everyone with half a claim to an economic development portfolio presented somewhere. Some really were involved in economic development. One presentation covered “the social impact of the computer revolution.” Note that the Mac debuted in 1984.

  • Political emails: Outrageousness to love

    Like phone calls around the country between potential Gary Johnson supporters, political emails get little attention. That’s unfortunate because the grandiose and stupid style of a good many of these emails supports the notion that the other side is evil and worse, thereby feeding the much-lamented hyper-partisanship of today’s political world.
    For New Mexicans, a second reason to notice such messages is that one of our representatives in Congress, Ben Ray Lujan, is nominally responsible for some of them. Luján chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a job he got via appointment by House Minority Leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Luján’s duties, beyond electing more Democrats to Congress, aren’t clear, nor is the time required.
    Presumably, DCCC time takes Luján away from tending constituent duties, such as follow-up on the 2015 mine waste spill into the Animas River. On July 5, NBCnews.com published a 1,575-word fluff piece without mentioning task and time topics. The story dwelt on Luján’s “Uncle Gus’s wingtip shoes.”
    I get these emails from both parties and their friends and until a year ago got DCCC emails. Maybe because I didn’t donate. There were ten DCCC emails in August 2015 through the 28th. The DCCC program continues, DCCC said.

  • Court decision makes small farmers more like small businesses

    Is a small family farm a business, a hobby, a living museum or something else?  
    It’s increasingly clear we can’t have it both ways – business and quaint tradition. The recent state Supreme Court decision on workers’ comp coverage for farms and ranches puts that in sharp relief.
    The court decided the special exemption for farmers and ranchers is unconstitutional. Agricultural employers are now required to buy insurance if they have three or more employees, just like other small businesses. (Construction is an exception, requiring all employers to have coverage.)
    One insurance professional commented to me that he is impatient at the way New Mexico has coddled family farmers. They are running businesses, he said. They should develop budgets like other businesses, make businesslike decisions about who is an employee and treat employees as the laws require.
    That’s what this court decision will force them to do, but we also may be losing a valuable part of our traditional culture. The change will mean more formality and bureaucracy. Probably some family farms will be scared to hire anybody, even when they need help, and some farmers will decide farming is not worth the trouble.  

  • How to find the right financial advisor

    BY NATHAN SILLIN
    Practical Money

  • Innovation comes from entrepreneurs, major corporations, children

    Countries become more prosperous by producing and selling more stuff. One approach is having more people produce the same amount for each person. This might apply in New Mexico where a low proportion of our population works. Just hire more people.
    Using technology to have each person produce more is better. Or combine old ideas into a new application, the technique of Vasari21 (vasari21.com), a Taos-based website launched by Ann Landi, a four-year Taos resident transplanted from New York City. Landi has been a freelance writer for publications including the Wall Street Journal and ArtNews.
    Vasari21, is an online publication directed at artists, not art consumers. “There’s nothing like it,” she says. With decades of contacts at the top of the art world and with the internet, Landi is able to operate from Taos.
    Topics include how artists make their way, why critics act the way they do, and talking to a gallery.
    So far, so good, she says. Vasari21 has “a very low bounce rate.”
    Landi has learned that means people stick around the site for a while instead of clicking away in a few seconds.
    Major corporate innovation came recently to my Gillette brand shaving cream, made by Proctor and Gamble. The shaving cream cap has been a 2.5 inch diameter, two-inch-high plastic item.

  • We fill budget holes instead of creating a dynamic economy

    David Abbey, the longtime director of the Legislative Finance Committee, has said the state is running on fumes, and he’s not one to exaggerate.
    Because the recession hangs on and oil and gas prices dropped, tax revenues were down for 11 months of the last fiscal year by a whopping $543.3 million. Even though legislators cut budgets and swept spare change from every possible corner during the last session, we’re now spending money we don’t have.
    That might be a fine American tradition, but it’s illegal. The federal government can run deficits; New Mexico state government can’t.
    So Democrats, now joined by some Republicans, want a special session, but the governor is waiting for numbers from the entire year – as if one month’s revenues will make a difference – before calling a special session.
    Nobody likes a special session, especially during an election year, when the inevitable ugly decisions could affect votes.
    But the longer they wait, the worse it gets. They’ve used cash reserves to plug the hole, so the account hovers at 1 percent of state spending, or $63 million, down from $319.8 million last year. Good governance calls for higher balances.