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Today's Opinions

  • Resist tampering …vote 'No' on charter

    I’m voting “no” on the charter amendment questions pertaining to proposed changes in governance of the Los Alamos County Utilities Department.
    I have had long experience as a customer and constituent dealing with both the county government and council, as well as with the Department of Public Utilities.
    During those many years I represented a private, nonprofit organization that was both one of the biggest property tax payers in the county, as well as one of the bigger utility customers. I have never been an employee of the county or the Utilities Department, I have never been a politician, nor am I a cheerleader for the Utility Department. Like most organizations, I think the Utility Department has plenty of room for improvement, but I see no connection between the proposed charter amendments and making improvements.
    I read the election materials published by the county and the logic of the proponents’ argument seems to be about their notion of ideal representative democracy rather than about improving effectiveness of the utilities operation.
    I respect their views and concerns, but I disagree that idealism and hypothetical concerns are what are important in deciding how to vote on this proposal.

  • Funds needed to complete missions

    Los Alamos is a unique, wonderful community with good schools, favorable climate, and beautiful scenery.
    However, there are those in our community who need some aid in order to enjoy these gifts.
    Fortunately, there are resources available to facilitate these needs, but they likewise need funding to accomplish their missions. My husband, Pat Soran, and I have been regular contributors to the United Way of Northern New Mexico (UWNNM) for several decades.
    We have watched our investment used wisely to “give a hand” to those who, for whatever reason, can use a boost.
    This year we are the Co-chairs of UWNNM Community Campaign, raising funds for the Community Action Fund (CAF). But until we started actually visiting many of the 20-plus recipients of last year’s CAF, we really had no idea how much they are able to do for our community’s needs.
    Without CAF funding, many of them would not be able to stay in existence today. In addition to grant funding, CAF contributions enable United Way to form partnerships and collaborations that pull resources and have them work together to directly address pressing challenges and fill gaps in services our region faces.

  • 'It's the jobs, stupid' still good political advice

    A reader writes about a recent column: “What was obvious was your dislike for (Gov.) Susana Martinez. Why not just devote the whole piece to this? Face it, she has done a decent job and will be reelected, probably by a pretty good margin.”
    Dislike has nothing to do with it. Yes, let’s devote a column to this. No, she hasn’t done a decent job. And her reelection will be a measure not of support but of dollars spent against the inept campaign of her opponent.
    The cast of “Saturday Night Live” was once called the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” This is how I think of both Martinez and Barack Obama — both bright, promising people with narrow experience when they took office. Had they worked their way up instead of vaulting into the spotlight, the outcomes would be different for the state and the nation.
    Combine that with money and flimsy spending rules and you get a campaign as substantial as cotton candy.
    In 2010, the candidates were sniping at each other over Martinez’s birthplace, Diane Denish’s Christmas cards, and who was soft on perverts. Martinez campaigned against Bill Richardson.

  • Supporting charter amendments is responsible choice to make

    Nearly two years ago, the County Council decided that the utilities section of the charter required an in-depth review. Because of previous work done by the 2010 Charter Review Committee, the council understood that there was possible weakness in the charter that could create oversight and accountability problems for the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). Therefore it created the Charter Review Committee — Utilities (CRC-2). As a CRC-2 member, I realized the work would be challenging. I also realized that I was going need to immerse myself in the issues. I am glad that I made the investment and I would like to explain my rationale for supporting the major areas of change as follows.
    Dispute Resolution: The presence of a clear path of action in the case of a dispute between the council and the Board of Public Utilities will make each accountable to reach a reasonable solution and will tend to avoid destructive personal agendas that damage the organization.
    Communication: Poor communication is a primary concern related to accountability and liability. Providing specific direction related to communication in the charter will serve to mitigate accountability and liability issues going forward.

  • Messing around with election ballots

    Sometimes New Mexico just embarrasses itself. The latest election ballot nonsense — with non-binding advisory questions on the ballot in several counties — is one of those occasions. These antics are too stupid for serious people to take seriously. And too offensive to earn anyone’s respect.
    Last year, I heard a few leading Democrats say they were working to get an amendment to the state Constitution to decriminalize marijuana on the 2014 election ballot — not because it was the right thing to do, not because New Mexico was ready to deal with the unintended consequences of legal marijuana, but because this would get large numbers of Democrats out to vote.
    They were probably right. Democratic voters are notorious for forgetting to show up in non-presidential years. Voting for their elected representatives and even their governor won’t get Democrats to the polls, but pot will.
    These political leaders were willing to damage both our state’s constitutional process and the Constitution itself, and to invite New Mexico to become the next stoner capital of the nation, to win one election. Not our proudest moment.

  • Utilities board and department need to modernize the system

    They’re caught in a 1960s time warp.
    If you’re paying attention to the ongoing battle over the utilities charter amendment, Question 2 on the upcoming ballot, you may wonder at the fervor of those who oppose the amendment. All are former members of the utilities board (Wismer calls them Utilities Board Alumni, or UBA), or former managers of the utilities department.
    Three Charter Review Committees (1994-1995, 2010-2013) recognized problems including accountability and liability, ambiguous language, the need for a process of dispute resolution between the council and a too-independent utilities board and the lack of consistency with state law. Each committee recommended changes to the charter. The council adopted most of the recommendations of the committees and added a few more of their own.
    The UBA, current board members, and present and former utilities managers were consulted by each committee and the council and overwhelmingly and consistently opposed every change — insisting in the face of every indication to the contrary that the charter is just fine as is. What’s going on here?

  • Questions from 2010 asked again

    A $554 million award to the Navajo Nation was the civil society headliner of a couple of weeks ago. The money, expected to be paid by year-end, will come from the federal government in settlement of lawsuit filed in 2006 charging the feds with mismanagement of tribal trust assets. Public discussions about what to do with the money were set to start Oct. 6 in Chinle.
    An unasked question is why the feds still hold tribal assets in trust to mismanage. PERC Reports, a publication of the Property and Environment Research Center (perc.org), a Montana think tank, raised the question two years ago and answered a resounding, “No.”
    The question is one of those fundamentals about the institutions of civil society. As we tend to matters of daily activity, such questioning seldom happens.
    In April 2010, as the primary election approached, I posed three institutional questions to the six candidates for governor. Four years later, only the answers from now Gov. Susana Martinez matter. Here they are again.

  • Science of insurance gauges risk

    A tidal flat is an ultra productive ecosystem by virtue of its being part sea and part land. As it were, new vigor breeds also where the sea of government regulation blends with the firm footing of commercial insurance.
    Consider a regulatory model of mixed origins.
    We hear endless debate over whether this or that industrial project will cause how much ecological damage. An example is a major break in a long and winding oil pipeline. One side says all is safe. The other side says woe to our world.
    Rather than feeding on hopes and fears, rules could simply require the industry to buy insurance against such a break and its consequences. The economy and ecology would find their own balance in short order.
    If the insurance industry agrees the risk is as small as some claim, the cost of insurance will amount to nothing. If insurers judge the real risk is higher, the insurance will cost more. And so on.
    Over time, insurance rates will be based on actual data, the way the price of life insurance depends on death rates. Risk will track with data, not word wars and competing ads.