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Today's Opinions

  • Water bills dried up in this legislative session

    Lawmakers considered some substantive water bills this year.
    As usual, successes were small.
    One of the most watched bills was House Bill 38, the Forest and Watershed Restoration Act.
    Lawmakers and interest groups — agricultural, environmental, and civic — have said the state’s current efforts to remediate wildfire devastation to forests and watersheds are inadequate, considering the extent of damage and potential for even more harm to critical water sources.
    The bill created an advisory board, attached to the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, and a fund. The board could adopt guidelines and best-management practices for projects, coordinate activities with various agencies and nonprofits and evaluate and prioritize projects for funding.
    The department would have the last word.
    The state Department of Agriculture said the bill’s $2.25 million in funding would step up the pace and reach of restoration work, and the State Land Office said some of the projects would make state trust lands more productive and reduce fire damage.
    The bill had bipartisan sponsorship (Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, and Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe), passed both chambers unanimously, and miraculously found funding. But EMNRD said HB 38 would duplicate work done by its forestry division.

  • Why strengthening the Freedom of Information Act is so important

    President Barack Obama has routinely promised greater transparency within the federal government. Now, Congress is making strides towards achieving this critical goal.
    The House of Representatives and Senate are currently considering nearly identical bills to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provides the general public, including journalists, with access to federal government records.
    This legislation has received broad support across media organizations, including the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of which the Newspaper Association of America is a member. And here’s why:
    • Openness instead of secrecy would be the “default” key within the government.  
    The legislation would require agencies to release documents under a “presumption of openness,” reaffirming the principle that information should never be kept confidential to protect government interests at the expense of the public.
    Agencies would need to prove specific harm that could result from disclosures before withholding documents. While this policy has been in place since 2009, the legislation would ensure future administrations honor this objective for openness.
    • The process of obtaining FOIA records would be much more efficient.

  • Earth Day in Los Alamos County started 45 years ago

    To remember the first Earth Day in Los Alamos County, one must give credit where it is due — the Los Alamos High School Students to Save Our Environment.
    A group of very concerned students answered the call of a teacher and formed a group to determine how to plan for a first Earth Day. They were linking up with the efforts of the newly formed Citizens for Clean Air and Water, a group of citizens and lab scientists who had begun addressing the deadly air pollution from the Four Corners power plants.
    The idea for the First Earth Day arose nationally in the midst of the Vietnam War as the nation’s awareness began to focus on issues, such as the Cuyahoga River in Ohio catching fire from oil slicks, oil spills off the California coast killing sea life and so many other issues raising public consciousness. Gaylord Nelson, Democratic Senator from Wisconsin and Pete McCloskey, a conservative Republic Congressman, joined hands to bring about the first national Earth Day. As the nation began to respond, so did the students.
    LAHS students approached the administrators who readily gave permission to celebrate the first Earth Day. The students formed “teams” on particular topics to research and prepare talks.

  • Lost opportunities in hemp production

    I’m a natural-fiber kind of person. Whenever I can, I prefer to purchase and wear clothing that is 100 percent cotton.  
    I have learned recently about the pollution involved in the growing of my favorite fiber.
    Conventional cotton is filthy. It uses more herbicides and pesticides per acre than most other crops.
    For that reason I was doubly disappointed when Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the industrial hemp bill.
    Hemp has been demonized in the United States because it is biologically very close to marijuana, but it won’t get anyone high. It’s a useful and amazingly versatile plant. Until it was banned because of its similarity to marijuana, hemp was used all over the world for centuries for an astonishing variety of purposes — food, clothing, paper, building material and, famously, rope.
    Sources agree growing conventional cotton uses as much as 50 percent of all the pesticides consumed in the nation. Hemp grows like a weed. It should be of special interest to New Mexico because it doesn’t need much water.
    Wouldn’t it be useful if New Mexico researchers could help New Mexico farmers know when to use hemp as an alternative crop?
    A massive amount of information is widely available extolling the benefits of hemp and refuting the old bugaboos about its similarity to pot.

  • Business accelerators invited to compete for SBA funds

    For the second year in a row, the Small Business Administration is sponsoring a competition to award $50,000 each to 50 business accelerators, incubators, shared tinker spaces and co-working startup communities.
    This time around, Javier Saade, associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation, hopes to see more applicants from New Mexico. Only one accelerator in the state competed in 2014 — out of 830 applicants.
    Given that one objective of the program, according to the SBA, is to “fill geographic gaps in the accelerator and entrepreneurial ecosystem space,” New Mexico is just the kind of place the agency would like to spend money from its growth accelerator fund.
    “It is well known that the most successful accelerators to date were founded on the coasts,” according to the SBA. The National Venture Capital Association concurs, reporting that startups in San Francisco, San Jose, New York, Boston and Los Angeles have consistently received the lion’s share of venture capital funding over the past five years.
    The SBA awards are designed to stimulate more capital investment in parts of the country that lack conventional sources of capital and vibrant entrepreneurial networks.
    What they’re looking for

  • Lost opportunities in hemp production

    I’m a natural-fiber kind of person. Whenever I can, I prefer to purchase and wear clothing that is 100 percent cotton.  
    I have learned recently about the pollution involved in the growing of my favorite fiber.
    Conventional cotton is filthy. It uses more herbicides and pesticides per acre than most other crops.
    For that reason I was doubly disappointed when Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the industrial hemp bill.
    Hemp has been demonized in the United States because it is biologically very close to marijuana, but it won’t get anyone high. It’s a useful and amazingly versatile plant. Until it was banned because of its similarity to marijuana, hemp was used all over the world for centuries for an astonishing variety of purposes — food, clothing, paper, building material and, famously, rope.
    Sources agree growing conventional cotton uses as much as 50 percent of all the pesticides consumed in the nation. Hemp grows like a weed. It should be of special interest to New Mexico because it doesn’t need much water.
    Wouldn’t it be useful if New Mexico researchers could help New Mexico farmers know when to use hemp as an alternative crop?
    A massive amount of information is widely available extolling the benefits of hemp and refuting the old bugaboos about its similarity to pot.

  • The inherent defectiveness of public school system

    The Feb. 15 Washington Post reported that an outgoing superintendent of public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, Joshua P. Starr, is lamenting the short tenure of school superintendents.
    Starr took the job of school superintendent in 2011 and is now leaving because he failed to garner the support of the local school board.
    Unfortunately, all too many believers in public schools just don’t get it: it doesn’t matter whom they get to be superintendent and it doesn’t matter what reforms they adopt. The problem with public schooling is public schooling. It is an inherently defective system.
    That means it cannot be fixed and it cannot be reformed. In fact, oftentimes when a system is inherently defective, reforms only make the situation worse.
    Public schooling is inherently defective because it is a socialist system, which itself is an inherently defective paradigm. It always produces a shoddy product no matter who is in charge of the system and no matter what reforms are brought to the system.
    The only solution to socialism is to dismantle it, which means the free market, which is the only system that works. It produces the best possible product.

  • New exec could make ACI relevant

    The impending departure of the staff chief at the Association of Commerce and Industry offers opportunity to ACI and the state.
    New blood and new people are needed. The older baby boomers need to step aside.
    But for whom? That is the troubling question. After all, how are we going to create the enormous changes we need in our state without new ideas and probably very different ideas?
    If the task is going to fall to an organization, the Association of Commerce and Industry, by definition of its name if nothing else, is the statewide organization. The name is not linked to geography, a business segment or any people demographics.
    Any claims otherwise notwithstanding, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce is only Albuquerque and not all of Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce has carved a role. NAIOP takes a broad view, but is an organization of commercial real estate developers.
    ACI offers a unique capability of creating a statewide dialogue about the New Mexico situation and dilemma.
    OK, how? A number of people close to ACI provided background for this column. None are executive committee members.
    ACI is “member driven,” it says.
    Not exactly. In professional organizations, the person with the hands on the wheel, the person really driving, is the staff director.