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Today's Opinions

  • Do you want tax reform? Muzzle the governor and make it bipartisan

    Republicans are discouraged that instead of getting a gross receipts tax overhaul, we’re getting a $400,000 study. But realistically, their 430-page baby was way too much for a two-day special legislative session. The good news is that tax reform is on everybody’s radar, and I see the political will to get it done. What I don’t see, yet, is the necessary bipartisan cooperation.
    Sitting through the long hearing for the bill, I heard strengths as well as unfinished business.
    Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, deserves our thanks for taking on this monster. Harper told the House Labor and Economic Development Committee that he tried hard to be nonpartisan. “It’s not a far right solution or a far left solution,” he said. “We met in the middle of the road.”
    The bill would have removed most GRT exemptions, deductions and credits and applied the savings to reduce the rate from 7 percent to 6 percent. It also remedied a host of other problems with the tax, including its name, which is scary to outside companies thinking about moving here.
    “Names really mean something,” Harper said.
    The bill would also have taxed internet sales, healthcare providers and nonprofits and increased the motor vehicle sales tax and the healthcare premium tax.

  • Southwest Conservation Corps branches out in New Mexico

    On a fine April weekday we stopped outside Grants at El Malpais National Monument visitor center, one of our standard travel breaks. A group was lunching at the concrete tables under the ramada. Several wore bright jumpsuits. Their hardhats had a dark, rectangular insignia resembling, from a distance, the Caterpillar Inc. logo.
    Curious, I ambled over to visit.
    The logo was “SWCC” for Southwest Conservation Corps (sccorps.org), which turns out to have five offices around the region. The New Mexico locations are Acomita Lake, serving the Pueblo of Acoma, the Pueblo of Zuni and Gallup. The Colorado offices are the headquarters in Durango and in Salida.
    SWCC’s website lists 10 programs. In general the programs involve crews going to areas and doing all sorts of conservation work. The programs serve rural areas with one exception, the Barrio Corps in Albuquerque, a partnership with La Plazita Institute (laplazitainstitute.org).
    The Ancestral Lands program, based at the Pueblo of Acoma, has proven popular. Using the Acoma template, a Gallup office opened three years ago with a Zuni Pueblo office last year. A Hopi office is planned for this year.

  • Food waste is money down the drain

    BY NATHANIEL SILLIN
    Practical Money Matters

  • Let’s settle the debate about the role of the sheriff in LA

    There has been a long-standing debate about the role of the sheriff in Los Alamos. The present sheriff, Marco Lucero, was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, stressing the importance of the sheriff’s role in Los Alamos.  
    County Councils, not including myself, have worked to minimize that role, drastically cutting his budget and ultimately calling an election last November to eliminate the office. After a contentious campaign, our citizens voted to keep an elected sheriff. It’s time to settle this debate.  I will present at the June 6 council meeting a resolution that clearly defines the roles of the sheriff and police department, and returns a reasonable but limited set of duties to the sheriff’s office. Council and the sheriff need to come to an agreement at that meeting, so that we can all move on to the many other challenges our county faces.

  • Los Alamos County’s fiscal predicament

    BY LISA BRENNER
    A Better Way for LA PAC

  • Finding common ground on immigrant resolution

    The original resolution turned out to be a bag of worms with few people happy and most believing the other side was getting what they wanted while their side lost out. I’m told emails ran 50-50 while I observed the voices at the Council meeting ran 75 percent conservative and 25 percent liberal.
    Shame on us!
    I can remember when this country was almost all moderates and common ground could be found between Democrats and Republicans. The word liberal referred to a college with a wide range of degree programs. Conservative referred to a person preserving nature and gay meant someone was happy.
    How far we’ve separated ourselves. To bad Obama didn’t live up to his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. “W” Bush had run on a platform of uniting a divided America. But he just divided us more. Listening to Obama I had a great feeling we could unite again. He certainly was a great orator, “There are no red states and blue states only the United States of America! There are no liberals and conservatives we are the United States of America!”

  • Vote against the Rec Bond: There’s a Better Way

    BY LISA SHIN
    President of A Better Way for LA PAC

    A Better Way for LA PAC was formed by concerned citizens who propose that we expand and improve recreation in ways that are fiscally responsible and sustainable. I do not question the quality of life benefits our community would receive from the Recreation Bond. Personally, I would love to see an indoor ice-skating rink and expanded recreational facilities.
    However, I question whether this bond represents the highest and best use of our tax dollars, when there are so many competing needs. There is a better way. 

    I am talking about robust and diverse funding models which have been adopted nationwide to build and operate state-of-the-art facilities. An entrepreneurial, business-minded approach to generating revenues. Strong engagement with the private sector. Philanthropy from private citizens, businesses and charitable foundations.

    Consider the city of Hobbs, which spent four years to “stand together and redefine the term ‘public-private partnership’ where six public and private institutions came together to collaborate on a true center of recreational excellence.” The CORE is set to open in the spring of 2018.

  • Funding, experience improve outlook for fire season

    Driving across the high plains recently, we spotted a fire stretched out across a field and thought somebody was burning weeds until we saw the fire truck speeding down the road from Fort Sumner.
    It’s that time of year when we scan the horizon, a little anxiously. Recent rains have spared us the usual bad news. As I write this, there was a small fire in the Gila National Forest and a larger fire across the line in Arizona.
    So we have the luxury of thinking about readiness, which means spending.
    In the much anticipated appropriations bill, Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich helped snag $4.2 billion for wildland fire management by the U. S. Forest Service and U. S. Interior Department. This includes $2.05 billion the agencies can use to respond to forest fires; with carryover balances, they should have enough money for expected firefighting.
    Udall got $407 million in emergency funding so the agencies don’t have to borrow from non-fire accounts. This is significant. What’s happened in the last few years is that Congress cut the Forest Service and Interior to the nub at the same time severe wildfires increased. Then the agencies had to tap funding they would have used for restoration and forest health, so preventive work didn’t get done. And that in turn leads to charges of mismanagement by the agencies.