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Today's Opinions

  • Eight years of guv’s speeches: Rosy glasses and black eyes

    Gov. Susana Martinez just gave her eighth and final state-of-the-state speech. I’ve covered them all. She’s given pretty much the same speech year after year, and in her consistencies are strengths and weaknesses.

    The first year her priorities were education reform, corruption, and repeal of the law allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. In succeeding years she added increased penalties for child abuse, economic development, “job-creating infrastructure projects” like water and road projects, pre-K expansion, higher salaries for starting teachers, and tougher penalties for repeat DWI and violent crime.

    Her education reform platform has had different planks, but in her first seven years it included ending social promotion (passing third graders who can’t read at grade level), curbing school administration spending, and raising pay for new teachers and “exemplary” teachers.

    In her first year, she proposed and got letter grades for schools, calling it a “system that is uniquely our own” and a way to identify struggling schools. Educators call it demoralizing and ineffective.

  • Familiarity doesn’t have to breed contempt

    By Finance New Mexico

    One advantage of running a small business with family or friends is that the principals know and are committed to one another and the success of their enterprise. But intimate partnerships also have potential relationship-based perils, some of which could cause work-force demoralization, legal problems and even failure.

    The trick to making a small venture succeed is to acknowledge these risks from the start and institute processes to contain or minimize them.

    Conflicts are inevitable, so prepare for them: Disputes arise in all businesses, but they’re harder to conceal in a small operation that doesn’t have a formal complaints-resolution process or human resources personnel. Business disagreements can carry over from the partners’ private lives, with long-standing feuds, rivalries and disagreements poisoning business decision-making.

    Partners should refrain from taking sides in a business dispute based on loyalty or emotion; only facts should matter when deciding a course of action.

  • A look at the 2018 session

    BY SEN. PETE CAMPOS
    D-Dist. 8  (Colfax, Guadalupe, Harding, Mora, Quay, San Miguel and Taos)

    As the new year commences, we look to the current legislative session with optimistic caution. Despite a modest increase in state revenue, the budget must address growing state and local needs, federal tax changes and the need for gradual tax modernization. 

    We will approach the 2018 legislative session with a delicate balance of spending, investing, saving and vision-building for the future. We will prioritize the state budget to address people’s real needs, reinvigorating our residents’ confidence and their roles in our future economy. The legislature will focus heavily on mental health, public safety, benefits to our elderly, child protective services and health services for underserved communities. We will seek to stabilize the state’s revenue to allow for more strategic and long-term planning. I will work hard during the session to improve the lives of constituents throughout the state of New Mexico.

  • Allowing innovation at FDA means healthier living, better choices

    BY PAUL J. GESSING
    Rio Grande Foundation

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is hardly a flashy agency. News releases about drug approvals and genetic testing don’t get quite as much fanfare as NASA’s latest mission or the Pentagon’s latest maneuver. But the FDA’s role as a gatekeeper of innovation has increased significantly over the past few decades, with billions of lives sitting on the sidelines. Now, with a rash of decisions awaiting the guidance of agency officials, New Mexicans have a lot to gain with prudent FDA decision-making that prioritizes customer choice over bureaucratic meddling.

    The Land of Enchantment enjoys some of the highest sun exposure levels in the continental United States, but this pleasant weather presents a double-edged sword. Melanoma incidence in the state is higher than the United States average, and the genetic component of the disease makes it all-too-easy for many to develop a malignancy. Personal genetic testing services like 23andMe have been able to point to some of the genetic variants that increase melanoma risk, pointing last year to the suppression of a gene known as BASP1.

  • New ways scientists can help put science back into popular culture

    BY CLIFFORD JOHNSON
    University of Southern California, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

    How often do you, outside the requirements of an assignment, ponder things like the workings of a distant star, the innards of your phone camera, or the number and layout of petals on a flower? Maybe a little bit, maybe never. Too often, people regard science as sitting outside the general culture: A specialized, difficult topic carried out by somewhat strange people with arcane talents. It’s somehow not for them.

    But really science is part of the wonderful tapestry of human culture, intertwined with things like art, music, theater, film and even religion. These elements of our culture help us understand and celebrate our place in the universe, navigate it and be in dialogue with it and each other.

    Everyone should be able to engage freely in whichever parts of the general culture they choose, from going to a show or humming a tune to talking about a new movie over dinner.

    Science, though, gets portrayed as opposite to art, intuition and mystery, as though knowing in detail how that flower works somehow undermines its beauty. As a practicing physicist, I disagree.

  • Senior services may be in jeopardy

    Seniors, take note: A state agency is about to terminate the contract of the organization that provides senior services to most of New Mexico.

    The termination demand has already been delivered, but a transition is in place, through Feb. 1. The organization that got axed is complying with the transition process while also fighting the decision.

    This potentially affects roughly 70,000 seniors who receive services such as meals at senior centers, home delivered meals, transportation, and caregiver respite care through government-authorized programs delivered by local providers.

    The state assures us services to seniors will not be disrupted. But a number of officials, including a few state legislators and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, are crying foul and demanding that the state rescind its decision. They do not believe the state’s assurance of uninterrupted services to seniors. Lujan’s office said he will ask the relevant federal agency to investigate.

  • The legislative life: Part-time, unpaid, fixed-length sessions? Not quite.

     Legislators go to meetings. That’s what they do.

    Legislators also get a lot of mail, both paper delivered by the postal service and email. Some of the mail, maybe much of it, is read. The proportion of read mail might be a measure of legislator diligence or engagement. 

    Our legislators are described as unpaid, part-time, citizen legislators who meet in fixed-length sessions or 30 and 60 days in alternate years. 

    None of this is quite true. 

    Though legislators get no salary, there is a $164 per diem to allegedly cover expenses during the session in Santa Fe or for other legislative business, such as interim committee meetings. The amount is laughable. Few decent hotel rooms in Santa Fe cost less than $164.

  • VAF information sessions prepare companies to apply for funding

     Early-stage businesses, or even those that are more established, often find it hard to land the right cash infusion, especially when traditional bank financing can be elusive. Under this common scenario, funding through the Venture Acceleration Fund (VAF) could be the needed boost.

    Information sessions to help businesses apply for VAF are taking place in Northern New Mexico until Feb. 9, when the application process officially opens. Applications for funding will be accepted until March 12. 

    According to Carla Rachkowski, associate director of the Regional Development Corp. (RDC), which administers the program, VAF has been key as seed financing for early-stage businesses for more than a decade. The point, she said, is to assist entrepreneurs with taking innovations to market more quickly. VAF helps them through marketing and technology development, proof-of-concept, prototyping, developing market share and product launch. Sometimes it’s used to leverage more funding.