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Today's Opinions

  • Letters to the editor 5-17-15

    Branding needs
    success measurements

    I found Councilor Kristin Henderson’s recent column on branding very much unconvincing, largely because (a) no objectives were explicitly stated for “branding” and (b) no measures of success were proffered.
    Henderson lists several “successful” branding stories, but frankly I had never heard of any of them. The fact that I never heard of such isn’t terribly important, but what is important is that no measure of just how such efforts were judged successful was offered.
    Without such, there is simply no way to evaluate her statements.
     Let’s assume for the moment that the examples Henderson listed are in fact, somehow, successes. Many communities have attempted to brand themselves. How many such efforts have failed?
    Listing only successes seems to me rather like asking a gambler how he or she is doing. Such folks almost always recall their wins, but somehow forget to mention their losses, which are more often than not larger than their wins.
    Surely many recall the monies spent by the City of Albuquerque under the Martin Chavez regime, where much effort (and funds) was spent to brand the city as “Q.” The “Q” effort failed miserably and has been utterly abandoned.

  • Letters to the editor 5-15-15

    Unclear on column health care view

    Merilee Dannemann makes a number of good points in her column on health care, especially that much risk seems to have been transferred to medical practices, but:
    1. While there are always bad apples, my personal experience convinces me that a significant majority of doctors seek to avoid errors and unnecessary procedures because that is good medical care. They do not need a changed incentive of saving money. To suggest otherwise is an uncalled-for insult.
    2. The column is unclear about costs: Average cost per ‘patient’ is about $6,000, while average premium is about $1,500. However, the latter is per subscriber. As long as there are more than four subscribers for every patient, the scheme pays for itself and even provides a profit for the insurer. Does she mean to say that every subscriber is also a patient? Most people are healthy most of the time.
    Terry Goldman
    Los Alamos

    Controlled by the council?

    Around the world, we are fighting an enemy that kills people who disagree with them — sometimes by beheading. They mutilate young girls under the guise of “female circumcision.”

  • Nepal gives new meaning to bootstrap entrepreneurism

    From the surprising number of tourism-related features, I assumed they had government help.
    In this poor, but well-established Mecca for adventure travelers, the hiking trails were well developed, nicely painted signs directed hikers to the different hotels, English was widely spoken and everybody had business cards.
    But when I asked one young hotelier about help from the government, he laughed and said something like: Are you kidding? The government collects taxes, but does nothing for us.
    This was Nepal in 1998. We were visiting our son in the Peace Corps and meeting our future daughter-in-law, and when in Nepal, you trek.
    As a business editor, I was fascinated by the entrepreneurism I saw. When trekkers first started to show up in the early 1970s, the citizens of remote villages clinging to impossibly steep mountainsides knew an opportunity when they saw one.
    Beginning by making an extra bed in the kitchen for travelers, they had bootstrapped themselves into enlarging a room and then building an addition or tea room. Some eventually created stand-alone hotels.
    It was all done with non-existent resources. One young man admitted to my son that his children were malnourished because he needed to buy building materials to enter the hospitality business. Now that’s sacrifice.

  • Follow the money

    Late last month, the County Council, county staff and members of the public spent about 16 hours examining and approving the county’s 2016 budget.
    I learned some important things about the process that I’d like to share with you. Please remember, these are my views as an individual councilor and they don’t necessarily reflect the views of the other councilors.
    First, I want to compliment the talented and dedicated professionals on the county staff. They’ve significantly cut operating expenses over the past five years to address a 29 percent decline in the Gross Receipts Tax revenues that the county relies on for most of its funding; and they’ve done a great job of minimizing the impact to citizen services in managing those cuts.
    They’ve achieved this by decreasing county staff by over 20 positions through attrition since 2014 and by cutting other operating costs and delaying projects. The staff’s dedication to meeting the service needs of our community is noteworthy.
    When I was running for the council, I campaigned with a goal of improving the alignment between strategic goals, citizen needs and resource allocation.

  • A staffer's view of the Legislative session

    I served many of my eight years on County Council as a member of its state legislative committee. In that role, I frequently visited with elected legislators in both House and Senate, lobbyists, and staff.
    It was a close-up view of the legislature from the “outside.” This year, I had the opportunity to view the legislature from the “inside” as a staff member, an analyst for the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee (HRPAC).
    It was illuminating, although there were few surprises.
    The basic job of legislative analysts is to study bills and provide a synopsis, the “CliffsNotes” version, to legislators.
    We look at intent and actual effects, issues raised, costs (in the broad sense, not just dollars), conflicts with existing statutes, technical issues, etc.
    HRPAC was a great assignment.
    The wide range of legislation referred to it included major bills on minimum wage, state lottery, taxes and abortion issues to not-so-major ones (all important to someone) on, for example, barber licensing and special license plates.
    Many were in between, updating laws on lobbyists, various types of medical professionals, telephone service charges, alcohol sales, sex offenders, hunting and fishing licenses, etc., etc.

  • State Dem Chairperson bashes silly editorial

    “Do you know Debra Haaland?”
    That question was put to me recently by a neighbor when our paths crossed while walking our dogs in a nearby park.
    “We’ve never met,” I said, “even though she was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor last year and she’s now the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.”
    “Did you see her letter to the editor the other day?” my neighbor continued.
    “Her letter,” as my neighbor put it, was actually an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal wherein Haaland takes that newspaper to task for a rather silly editorial it published criticizing State Auditor Tim Keller and Attorney General Hector Balderas for having used their own personal email accounts to rally fellow Democrats to their party’s causes.
    In other words, the state’s most widely circulated daily (which “has long been rumored to be a right-wing newspaper,” Haaland noted) had nothing better to do with its ink than criticize a couple of politicians for doing what all politicians do, irrespective of party.
    And doing it on their own time and dime, at that.
    My neighbor’s dog is named Greta, I learned, but I know nothing about his politics.

  • The real “mommy wars” are playing out in the workplace

    Take a glance at any contemporary parenting blog, website or social media group and you’ll see the “mommy wars” playing out.
    The battles range from helicopter parenting versus free-range kids to sling versus stroller and cloth versus disposable diaper.
    While the battles (and the guilt that comes with them) are real, they are keeping our attention from the real mommy wars: the abysmal lack of national policies to protect new mothers in the workplace.
    Almost three-quarters of mothers are in the labor force and they are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households. Still, the U.S. is one of the few nations on the globe that does not ensure that new moms have paid maternity leave. In fact, we have no federal policies on paid leave of any kind and our policy on unpaid leave does not protect enough working women.
    This Mother’s Day we need national policies that reflect our nation’s true family values.  
    Every country except the U.S., Suriname and Papua New Guinea provides paid maternity leave according to the World Policy Forum. Even in countries with poor civil rights records, such as Somalia, Iran and North Korea, women get at least some paid maternity leave.
    Women receive 12 weeks in India, 16 weeks in the Netherlands, and almost 70 weeks in Sweden.

  • Council Corner: Why does Los Alamos need to be branded?

    As the Chair of the County Council, one of the biggest concerns I hear — and am also concerned with — is the idea of expanding beyond being a “one-horse town.”
    As a local government, there are several ways to try to encourage that. Some are harder than others.
    The first is to have policies that support the local businesses here now. This is a high priority for this council, and the staff knows and is working on that. Another is to have policies that encourage lab spinoffs; this has a lot of complications, but there are efforts towards this as well.
    A third is to be known as a great small town to relocate to and as a great place to visit.
    There are many businesses that can “live anywhere,” and the owners both support themselves and often hire others. They might even be small restaurant and shop owners.
    The current branding initiative is an effort by the County Council to work on the last two; becoming known, outside our community, as a great place to live and a great place to visit.
    There are few things branding is not. Branding is not about a slogan for our town, or how we feel about ourselves, or what we do here.