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Today's Opinions

  • Story of 7 brothers in WWII is remarkable

    This time last year, I did a commentary on five brothers who served in World War II. Very impressive.
    Imagine my surprise when someone who caught the commentary sent me a package with this note:   
    “Dear Professor Kengor: Your [commentary] about the family whose five sons served in WW II was interesting. You might be interested to know about families who had more than five sons who served in WW II.”
    Well, Ted Walters of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, certainly had my attention.
    He continued: “My mother, Stella Pietkiewicz, had seven sons serve in WW II. She had the honor to christen the plane, Spirit of Poles, because she had the most sons who served in WW II.”
    Yes, seven sons.
    Along with Ted Walters’ letter was an old newspaper clipping that showed six Pittsburgh-area mothers, all of Polish descent, who had 33 sons in service. Anna Lozowska, Maryanna Sawinska, Katarzyna Antosz, and Mrs. Joseph Wojtaszek each offered five boys to the cause.
    Honorta Lachowicz provided six sons. Stella Pietkiewicz took the prize with seven.
    Bless their souls. These moms gave their boys to the cause of freedom.

  • Record keeping is a financial must

    If your financial life is confined to boxes, file cabinets and various piles of statements and receipts that only you can navigate, it might be time for a little de-cluttering.
    Software- and Internet-driven advancements in money management not only provide paperless alternatives to planning and tracking savings, spending and investments, they make finances easier to handle in an emergency.
    If you’re thinking about resetting your record keeping, here are some steps to get started:
    First, think about financial goals. Before tackling the job of reorganizing your financial record keeping, think through your current financial objectives and what changes might give you better data and efficiency to achieve them.
    You might want a system that tracks spending, saving, budgeting and on-time debt payments. If you already have that system in place, you might want more detailed information on retirement or your child’s college fund.
    Consider involving your financial and tax advisors in the discussion and see what suggestions they have.
    Also, create a system that makes it easy for loved ones and financial professionals to help in an emergency. If something were to happen to you, could a loved one easily navigate your finances? When organizing, always keep your spouse, children and/or executor in mind.

  • Call Me Ishmael...

    As a young boy, I remember being frustrated at how many people had the same name as me.
    My classes were filled with Jimmys, Johns, Bobbys, Williams and Mikes. It seemed as if our parents had absolutely no imagination when choosing names for their children.
    It’s difficult growing up with a very common name. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be named John!
    Today, Liam and Noah top the list of popular boy baby names. “John” doesn’t even make the top 40!  (I feel much better now.)
    Each year, the list of popular baby names changes, with the top 10 usually populated by movie star and rock group celebrities.
    Are we going to see a surge of Lady Gaga’s in our future?
    We don’t seem to care all that much what someone is named. We’ve got a Barack in the White House, which isn’t anything strange if you’re a history buff. Among Presidents and Vice-Presidents, we’ve had Grover, Milhous, Millard, Simpson, Gamaliel, Delano, Birchard, Hannibal, Horatio, Mifflin, Rufus, Cabell, Agard, and Schoolcraft.
    And I used to think Spiro was an odd name.

  • Veterans like Loyce Deen made U.S. great

    I’ve written in the past about how my Pop carried with him a haunting memory from his time aboard the aircraft carrier Essex in World War II.
    Anti-aircraft fire had killed a turret gunner during a sortie. Pop, whose job it was to repair and prepare planes for the next mission, went up to inspect the plane as soon as it landed and saw the gunner’s body. At Pop’s recommendation, the captain of the Essex gave the order to bury the man in the plane in which he had given his life for his country.
    This burial at sea was unique. It was the only time during World War II that a valuable plane was ordered to be used as a coffin.
    The burial itself was filmed and included in the 1950s series, “Victory at Sea.” Pop saw it for the first time when it was rebroadcast 20-25 years ago.
    Seeing that on the Essex dredged up disturbing memories of what Pop had seen on that long-ago day and for years afterward he would retell that vivid story many nights after consuming copious quantities of Jim Beam.
    The story didn’t end for me with Pop’s passing in 1999, because several years later, I stumbled onto a website about the airman who was buried in his plane.

  • County needs real plan

    The Comprehensive Plan was completed in 1987. By now, even the updates are outdated.
    An effort to rewrite the whole plan in the early 2000s produced only a Vision Statement and Policy Plan, adopted in 2005, that is now cited by the Community and Economic Development Department (CEDD) as “the Comprehensive Plan.”
    This is 19 pages of aspirational platitudes that are so vague and ambiguous that they are useless to anyone attempting to satisfy the requirements of applications for permits and rezoning, or anyone attempting to defend their neighborhood against one of these applications.
    You’d think at least the county attorney would notice a problem here (not to mention the obsolescence of the Development Code — another story for another day).
    My neighborhood experienced the consequences of this ad hoc plan first-hand last year when University of New Mexico-Los Alamos applied to redevelop the apartments on 9th Street. The CEDD worked with UNM-LA to develop a proposal to the council for joint funding of the project, then it coordinated with UNM-LA’s Denver developer to plan for a non-conforming oversize structure and then it attempted to fast-track a rezoning through the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) using the policy plan as the justification.

  • Time to invest in families, communities

    Much has been made of America’s crumbling infrastructure. Rusting bridges and crumbling highways are only a part of our neglect.
    A much bigger part, and one that many of us don’t see is the neglect of inner-city communities, distressed schools and long forgotten playgrounds.
    The recent protests in Baltimore, much like Albuquerque’s protests last year, may have been triggered by unjust police violence, but are much more deeply rooted in decades of neglecting our families and communities, especially communities of color.
    When Governor Susana Martinez was asked recently about the possibility of a special session to approve the financing of infrastructure projects, she said, “if it is, it’s got to benefit the private sector.” She made no mention of the needs of our families or communities, only the “private sector.” That was the reason that the bill didn’t pass in the first place!
    Lawmakers invested their capital outlay for projects like senior centers, tribal needs and community colleges, much of what she stripped from the bill.
    The tax committees met nearly every day of the legislative session and every day they heard bills that would divert even more of our public tax dollars to the “private sector.”

  • The cost of the war on coal

    About 60 demonstrators were waving signs in front of PNM headquarters the morning of the company’s 2015 Annual Meeting.
    Inside, behind a security cordon of nervous rent-a-cops, CEO Pat Collawn delivered the obligatory bland speech to a handful of local stockholders, while the bullhorn-led protestors four floors below chanted, “No nukes, no coal! Solar is the way to go!” and “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho! Dirty coal has to GO!”
    A disclaimer to reveal my bias: I’m thrice-related to PNM.
    First, I’m a shareholder. If that conjures up visions of Rich Uncle Pennybags off the Monopoly box, think again. PNM is almost entirely owned by conservative mutual funds that pool the savings of millions of small investors.
    If your nest egg is tucked away with Fidelity or Vanguard, you may be a PNM owner, too.
    Second, I used to work there.
    Looking back over my long and checkered career, I can honestly say it was the best job I ever had. The company demanded a full day’s work for a day’s pay, but the money was good, at least by New Mexico standards, helping me put two kids through college.
    Finally, I’m a PNM customer. The monthly bill is higher than I’d like, and it’s going to be even stiffer if the company’s current request for a 12 percent rate hike is approved.

  • Capital outlay: Just another political football

    Odds were always slim that we’d see a special session to resuscitate the $264 million capital outlay bill.
    It’s just too close to 2016 elections, and the lost spending bill is too big an opportunity for political missiles.
    Every county had a stake in the game, and the business community made its wishes clear. The parties and the governor apparently had reached some meeting of the minds on capital outlay. Had they left it at that, we’d have a special session and the desired public spending. But the governor wanted a package of tax breaks.
    There are three rules about special sessions: Have an agreement ahead of time, keep it simple, and keep it short.
    Everyone wants capital outlay. The tax breaks are another matter.
    They passed the House but probably would have run into resistance in the Senate. In the last two sessions, I’ve seen a rising bipartisan awareness that continuing to scatter tax breaks like seeds in the wind is not necessarily in the state’s best interest.
    We don’t even know if the last batch of tax breaks worked.
    Even so, I don’t think the governor ever intended to call a special session. The Democrats divined that and both played the hands they held. You could see it in the scripted statements and equally scripted responses.