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Today's Opinions

  • Prepare for Medicare price changes in 2017

    BY NATHAN SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • What New Mexico’s tax-hikers don’t want you to know

    BY D. DOWD MUSKA
    New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation

  • How do you get middle school girls hooked on STEM?

    Although women comprise a small fraction of tech professionals—just one in four, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology —several nonprofits and startups are working to jumpstart women’s participation in computer science.

    In a previous column, I considered Grace Hopper Academy, a New York City coding bootcamp designed explicitly for women. GHA’s sister school, Fullstack Academy, takes that program online with a Remote Immersive program. Most recently, I examined how the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) has expanded female educational access in sub-Saharan Africa using big data. But what about middle school girls here in the United States?

    Middle school is perhaps the most prudent place to promote female participation in STEM, according to several studies. Given that many girls rule out tech careers by high school, educators and administrators would be wise to pique student interest before it’s too late. A Philadelphia-based non-profit called TechGirlz takes that challenge seriously.

  • Credit union merger to create largest NM owned financial institution

    Two Albuquerque credit unions are merging. The combination of Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union and Kirtland Federal Credit Union will have total assets of just over $3 billion, which makes for the largest New Mexico based financial institution and more than double the $1.4 billion In assets recorded by Los Alamos National Bank in September.
    Los Alamos National has had the “largest-local” title since its bigger brethren were sold to companies such as Well Fargo and Bank of America more than 20 years ago.
    Robert Chavez, Sandia president and CEO, will lead the combined company. Chavez is an alumnus of Sunwest Bank.
    The two credit unions have an enviable customer base (credit union customers are called “members”) that combines the people from Albuquerque’s research establishment (Sandia National Laboratories) and the military, which is most everything else on Kirtland Air Force Base.
    These people are steadily employed, decently paid and loyal. Bankers should be so lucky.
    After jumping the regulatory hoops, the deal is expected to be done by the end of 2017.

  • Election 2016: Slime attacks, upsets and close calls

    Gov. Susana Martinez will face a legislature firmly in the hands of Democrats after this election. On the other hand, she got rid of the chief thorn in her side, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.
    At this writing, the results are still new and not entirely final. Political pundits will be sorting out this election for a long time, but there are some takeaways.
    The big news here is that Democrats took back the House. After two bitter years of Republican control, we might expect to see some payback, but I hope they focus on the state’s business. Similarly, the Senate is a little more blue than red.
    The leadership shuffle in the House will probably make Rep. Brian Egolf, of Santa Fe, the new speaker. Keep an eye on the powerful House Appropriations and Finance Committee, where Gallup’s Rep.
    Patty Lundstrom has not only the seniority but the knowledge to be chair. And, fellas, women have been a little scarce in leadership positions.
    Incumbents often had the advantage, but not always.
    Newcomer Greg Baca overwhelmed Michael Sanchez after an expensive, ugly campaign. Advance New Mexico Now, a super PAC operated by the governor’s political adviser Jay McCleskey, dropped more than $370,000 on TV advertising alone, according to New Mexico In Depth.

  • Changes to FAFSA make it easier to apply for student aid

    BY NATHAN SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • Air Force veteran’s business growth enabled by Accion

    BY FINANCE NEW MEXICO
    Gary Peterson’s Albuquerque auto shop is a profit-generator with philanthropy at its heart.
    Peterson, a 22-year Air Force veteran, started One Community Auto in Albuquerque to refurbish rundown vehicles and donate the sales proceeds to a variety of charities, from Assistance Dogs of the West to veteran suicide-prevention and domestic violence prevention programs. He calls this aspect of his business “social entrepreneurship.”
    The company’s newest endeavor involves providing abandoned or wrecked cars to organizations that demolish them in training exercises.
    Cars for causes
    Peterson is under contract with the Air Force Training Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, to supply 250 vehicles to train firefighters how to safely extricate people from cars after accidents and other emergencies. His company also made a deal to provide cast-off cars that can be used for target practice.
    This novel business model is just what Peterson had in mind when he retired from the military three years ago: He wanted to start a business using the skills he acquired in the Air Force, but he wanted a large part of his earnings to support his philanthropic causes.

  • Letters to the Editor 1-13-17

    We must properly fund New Mexico’s court system
     
    New Mexico’s courts face a funding crisis that threatens to undermine the judiciary’s ability to protect our rights by delivering timely justice. We must act now to prevent further damage.
    As Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels recently told a legislative committee, “We are now basically on life support through the end of this fiscal year.”
    In courthouses across the state, New Mexicans can see the corrosive effects of budget cuts and underfunding of the judiciary.
    Most magistrate courts are closed to the public for at least half a day each week because the courts are unable to fill vacant staff positions.  
    These courts are the busiest in the state, resolving more than 170,000 criminal, civil and traffic cases last year.
    There will be no more criminal or civil jury trials starting in March unless the courts receive additional funding. Criminal defendants, whether innocent or guilty, are entitled to a speedy trial under the constitution.
    The prosecution of criminal cases is being impaired. Some courts confront the possibility of dismissing cases because the state’s public defender office lacks the staff and budget it needs to handle more cases.