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Today's Opinions

  • Letters to the editor 1-20-15

    Food tax proposal
    good for communities
    The food tax exemption enacted by the state Legislature in 2004 stretched the food budgets of middle- and upper-income New Mexicans, but did nothing to help low-income residents who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) vouchers, which are tax exempt.
    Subsequent actions by the Legislature to compensate for this lost revenue only made matters worse, especially for the least advantaged New Mexicans — the supposed beneficiaries of the food tax exemption.
    The 2004 law raised the state gross receipts tax (GRT) rate by .5 percent, and in 2010, the state GRT on non-food products and services jumped again from 5 percent to 5.125 percent.
    In 2013, local governments were allowed to raise local tax rates three-eighths of a percent for non-food items, which could increase GRT by three-quarters of a percent if a city and county both imposed the increase.
    For example, the GRT in Red River is 8.4375 percent. If both the town and Taos County enact the local increase, purchases made in Red River would be subject to GRT of 9.1875 percent. A GRT rate over 9 percent is hard on low-income families, bad for businesses and harmful to the town when tourists choose less-expensive destinations.

  • Letters to the editor 1-22-15

    Donate for Valentines for Vets

    The Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8874 in Los Alamos is a nonprofit organization of volunteers who donate their time and talents for the benefit of our veterans at home and abroad.  
    We send care packages to our military overseas, as well as phone cards (via Operation Uplink) to our deployed military personnel.  
    On the home front, we financially support the VFW National Home for Children, Unmet Needs and Cancer Aid and Research programs, we continually work to obtain legislation that will benefit our veterans and their families, we sponsor the Young American Creative Patriotic Art, Outstanding Young Volunteer and Americanism youth programs in our schools, we assist local families of disabled and needy veterans, and we visit the VA Hospital in Albuquerque every February for the Valentines for Vets event.
    The Valentines for Vets event consists of visiting our veterans and distributing amenities along with Valentine’s Day cards made locally and collected by our Girl Scouts.  
    This year’s event will be at 1 p.m. Feb. 8. Since the Albuquerque Veterans Hospital services the entire northern area of our state, we are soliciting donations from everyone in our connected communities.  

  • Home remodel for the new year

    Our 2014 huge positives were the first grandchild, a new kitchen and hanging out by the ocean in Monterrey, California. The negatives were many, many trips to doctors.
    The kitchen came courtesy of an inheritance from my mother. In developing the project, we considered many things. Our research led us to million dollar homes with sloppy work. Most of our ideas worked; some didn’t, demanding compromise and rethinking. Our experience may lend some insight as you contemplate such a project.
    While we managed without a $10,000 stove, the project was extravagant. Fortunately we could not enlarge the kitchen because our house encircles it.
    We had the cash. Obvious advice, item one, be able to pay. Call me an outlier in our consumption ethos, but I’ve never been a borrower. Only for houses, but not for cars (once, only) and definitely not now with a fixed income.
    We didn’t worry about recapturing remodeling cost on sale of the house. We plan to be in the house long enough to render such an analysis moot. We did the project for us, not for the next guy.

  • Letters to the editor 1-9-15

    China’s growing interest in U.S. companies
    According to Forbes Magazine Nov. 24 issue, which I paraphrase below, since the year 2000 Chinese companies have made almost 900 purchases of U.S. assets worth $43 billion.
    China’s billionaires are gobbling up U.S. companies at a record pace.
    Most disturbing are the implications of these purchases by Chinese Communist companies on our national security.
    Ralls/Sany purchased four wind farms in Oregon near a Navy weapons system base. Wanda group purchased 342 movie theaters previously owned by AMC Entertainment. WH Group bought Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor. Lenovo purchased Motorola and part of IBM’s server business.
    “In five years China’s direct investment in the United States has grown from $2 billion a year to $14 billion.”
    We should limit the purchase of U.S. companies by the Chinese Communist regime, and probably restrict the ownership of U.S. companies to less than 30 percent of outstanding shares of stock.
    Donald A. Moskowitz
    Londonderry, New Hampshire

  • High-flying Vista Photonics recognized for growth potential

    Jeffrey and Melissa Pilgrim launched Vista Photonics in 2003 to research how laser-based trace-gas sensors could be developed for a variety of commercial and project-specific uses.
    Among other innovations, the company created an instrument that helps farmers plan harvests by measuring how much ethylene gas crops emit to accelerate ripening.
    But the couple’s favorite brainchild so far is the optical life gas analyzer they developed for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration. The device monitors gas levels on the International Space Station — a function that’s critical to maintaining a balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapor and ammonia in the craft’s controlled atmosphere.
    These achievements — and the Santa Fe company’s growing status as a go-to maker of photonic products for various government agencies — led the Regional Development Center to recognize Vista Photonics in November as one of the companies it predicts will bring more jobs and revenue to the region by 2020.
    Originally begun to identify and nurture 20 high-growth companies that appeared likely to double their workforce and revenues by 2020, the Northern New Mexico 20/20 Campaign this year exceeded its goal: 25 companies have been inducted into the pantheon so far.
    ‘Growing ideas’

  • Letters to the editor 1-8-15

    Skandera should be voted down
    The Albuquerque Journal’s quote of Tuesday was from Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, “We just need to get on with it.” It pertains to Hanna Skandera, “Secretary-designate” of the New Mexico Department of Education.
    Speaking of Ms. Skandera, I reread the resume that was published in the Albuquerque Journal of Feb. 13, 2011.
    It reminded me of a T-shirt I saw recently: “Those who can, Teach; Those who can’t, Pass laws about teaching.”
    Her degrees are in business and public policy, i.e. the modern idiocy that postulates “once you learn how to manage something, you can manage anything.”
    What happened to the boss’s son or daughter who started in the mailroom and learned what the corporation does or makes?
    The fate of Apple under Scully comes to my mind. Tom Scully managed Coke for many years and probably couldn’t even spell Silicon Valley. You may remember he almost drove the caravan into the desert of failed successes and caused the Apple board to bring Steve Jobs back to save it and build it into one of the legends of commerce.

  • Competent, open-minded manager can fix CYFD

    Since the governor surprised us with her announcement that Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson will move over to the beleaguered Children Youth and Families Department, we’ve heard some pointed objections.
    Namely, what does Jacobson know about child abuse?
    Point taken. Personally, I regret the loss of the energetic, personable Jacobson from our tourism efforts.
    That said, this reshuffling could work. But it’s a qualified “could.”
    Since young Omaree Varela broke our hearts last year, we’ve learned a lot about CYFD: chronic understaffing, overworked and underpaid social workers, mismanagement from top to bottom, and poor communications with police.
    Former and current workers described salaries lower than other government workers, constant turnover in staff because of poor management, a cliquish atmosphere in which promotions and even office furniture depended on who you know.
    According to the Legislative Council Service, the time needed to complete an investigation increased from 58.2 days in 2008 to 86.4 days in 2012.
    One organization’s study, released in March, found:
    CYFD investigators receive a few months’ training. Other states in the region require six months’ training before they receive their first case.

  • The rare place where renewable energy advocates and environmentalists agree

    We all expect to pay a price for missing deadlines, but not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
    For the past two years, the EPA has failed to meet the deadline under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), requiring the agency to tell refiners how much ethanol to blend into gasoline.
    In November 2013, the EPA did make an attempt to announce the proposed 2014 blend levels — which by then were already months past the legally mandated deadline. The EPA set the proposed 2014 standard to a level lower than 2013s, even though the law requires increasing amounts.
    Ethanol producers, who were expecting the usual uptick, loudly opposed the reduction. They made so much noise, the EPA agreed to reconsider. To date, the 2014 standards have not yet been announced.
    Then, in November 2014, the EPA announced it would make a decision in 2015 on how much ethanol refiners had to add to gasoline in 2014.
    Congress enacted the RFS in 2005 and revised it in 2007 —which also provided incentives to America’s fledgling ethanol industry. At the time, gasoline demand was rising to an all-time high and oil imports comprised more than 58 percent of U.S. oil consumption.
    Then the world changed.
    The U.S. economy plunged into its worst recession ever, unemployment soared, and gasoline demand fell sharply.