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Today's Opinions

  • Revenue shortfall anticipated, business wants spending

    An ugly word, “shortfall,” appears twice at the bottom of page 7 of “2015 Post-Session Review,” the Legislative Finance Committee’s report on the 2015 legislative session.
    Based on what the LFC calls “a somewhat conservative scenario for expenditure growth,” revenue is projected to be $14.6 million less than spending in the 2017 budget year (FY 17) and $3.6 million short in FY 18.
    While FY 17 is a way off — it doesn’t start for another year — the idea of less money appearing than the amount of projected spending rattles the psyche of government people. The normal government world means more money each year to provide raises, expand programs and do new stuff. Less money requires ugly choices by elected officials, even conservative ones who are especially prone to copping out of their proclaimed financial righteousness.
    The problem will be solved, if only because the state Constitution requires a balanced budget. The state keeps a reserve fund, which offers the easy place to cover the shortfall. However, the reserves will take a $153 million hit this year because of reduced revenues and unexpected spending requirements.
    For the coming budget year (FY 16) that starts July 1, state government plans to spend $6.23 billion, $7 million less than anticipated revenue.

  • Climate change opinion well meaning but inaccurate

    Joel Williams’ piece is a classic example of people with only a little information trying to convince you that all those professional climate scientists have missed his points even though they are the ones who did all the work he cites.
    Consider just one of the unsaid assumptions: that a single ice core at one place near a pole on the Earth is representative of global behavior…not!  As for recent temperature fluctuations, Williams’ graph disagrees with every one of the peer-reviewed papers — some 20 of them — in their determinations of global (not just in Europe or Greenland) temperature variations in the past. Since you presented graphs, here are a few to consider.
    The first shows that, just as planetary rotation and orbital cycles predict (so-called Malenkovitch Cycles, which govern large scale climate change over the past million or so years), the climate has been cooling down for the past 8,000 years or so as the Earth’s orientation to the sun slowly changes. And that’s why the recent unprecedentedly rapid warming is a matter of concern.
    On the graph: top is from an ice core, middle is measurement of altitude of treeline. Bottom is from stalactites in a cave.

  • Climate change opinion well meaning but inaccurate

    Joel Williams’ piece is a classic example of people with only a little information trying to convince you that all those professional climate scientists have missed his points even though they are the ones who did all the work he cites.
    Consider just one of the unsaid assumptions: that a single ice core at one place near a pole on the Earth is representative of global behavior…not!  As for recent temperature fluctuations, Williams’ graph disagrees with every one of the peer-reviewed papers — some 20 of them — in their determinations of global (not just in Europe or Greenland) temperature variations in the past. Since you presented graphs, here are a few to consider.
    The first shows that, just as planetary rotation and orbital cycles predict (so-called Malenkovitch Cycles, which govern large scale climate change over the past million or so years), the climate has been cooling down for the past 8,000 years or so as the Earth’s orientation to the sun slowly changes. And that’s why the recent unprecedentedly rapid warming is a matter of concern.
    On the graph: top is from an ice core, middle is measurement of altitude of treeline. Bottom is from stalactites in a cave.

  • Climate change opinion well meaning but inaccurate

    Joel Williams’ piece is a classic example of people with only a little information trying to convince you that all those professional climate scientists have missed his points even though they are the ones who did all the work he cites.
    Consider just one of the unsaid assumptions: that a single ice core at one place near a pole on the Earth is representative of global behavior…not!  As for recent temperature fluctuations, Williams’ graph disagrees with every one of the peer-reviewed papers — some 20 of them — in their determinations of global (not just in Europe or Greenland) temperature variations in the past. Since you presented graphs, here are a few to consider.
    The first shows that, just as planetary rotation and orbital cycles predict (so-called Malenkovitch Cycles, which govern large scale climate change over the past million or so years), the climate has been cooling down for the past 8,000 years or so as the Earth’s orientation to the sun slowly changes. And that’s why the recent unprecedentedly rapid warming is a matter of concern.
    On the graph: top is from an ice core, middle is measurement of altitude of treeline. Bottom is from stalactites in a cave.

  • A step forward on public communication

    I’m pleased to report that the County Manager’s monthly report, which provides information about county projects and performance, will become a standing agenda item on the second council meeting of each month.
    This change will give the county manager a structured opportunity to discuss high priority or time sensitive initiatives in the report, which has been distributed to council members for some time.
    Typical report topics include updates on ongoing construction projects or information about extraordinary achievements. For example, in this month’s report, there’s an update on the teen center remodel and on other major facilities projects; information about how the county is preparing for the summer tourist season; and activities at county parks and recreation facilities.
    By putting the report on the council agenda as a monthly briefing by the county manager, the public visibility of the information in the report will be elevated; and there will be a routine, recurring opportunity for council members and the public to ask specific questions about these issues.
    Additionally, it will add an important feedback loop that will help the county manager better understand concerns and perspectives from the council and the public.

  • Letters to the editor 6-9-15

     More opposition
    for plastic bag ban

    I read the guest columnist column on plastic bags, and I find it difficult to reply to nearly a yard of column inches in 250 words. I had no particular opinion one way or the other until I heard the proponents. The complete absence of content in their statements drove me to search for information and, eventually, as a result, I decided to oppose the proposal on factual grounds.
    The guest columnist article was, as usual for those supporting the proposal against plastic bags, very emotional and totally devoid of facts, or data. Mr. Gonzales calls the proposal a “green initiative” and advocates the use of “greener products.”
    In most places, such as Santa Fe, paper is used as a replacement for plastic. Unfortunately, there is a rather substantial amount of data identifying the use of paper as one of the most polluting activities on the planet. Plastic bags are far less polluting than paper bags at all stages in their life, production, shipping, use and disposal.
    The Sierra Club, whose members seem to be the most avid proponents of the bag ban proposals appears only to claim that bags produce litter, which can harm animals. No one has claimed that this is a problem in Los Alamos.

  • New Mexico has no beginning, leads in overpass painting

    We just completed our Great American Road Trip. Remember, “See the USA in your Chevrolet.” That was us — 5,900 miles and 26 days — but in a Toyota and including Canada. Close enough.
     Such a trip offers opportunity to think about New Mexico and to learn. Trip details would bore. A few observations are pertinent.
    Painted overpasses are this column’s proxy for misguided uses of tax money. Around 20 percent of federal gas tax revenue goes for non-highway uses from light rail to bike lanes, says Mac Zimmerman, policy director for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group. Non-highway uses include painting overpasses, I presume.
    Digression: Unmentioned everywhere, so far as I know, is that bicyclists have no equivalent to gas taxes. Nor, I suspect, is there a bicycle drivers license. If gas taxes are a user fee of sorts, then cyclists are quite literally “free riders.”
    A couple of days passed before I started paying real attention to overpasses.
    This was in spite of seeing the all-time champion ugly painted overpass our first day. It was 10 miles west of Santa Rosa, pink and awful. A pink ribbon was painted at one side, perhaps indicating cancer “awareness.” The result of the paint was no less ugly for the good intentions.

  • Manhattan Project era spans much

    The question is not whether history will be debated, but how.
    The key is telling how times affect deeds. If the past fades out, debate decays to mere sound and fury.
    The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is in the offing. To gain perspective, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Park Service came to town last week. The agencies sought ways to display history that changed history, its actual sites, accurate accounts of details, a breadth of aspects and human interest.
    The largest gathering in their visit was on the wide lawn at Fuller Lodge last Tuesday. Discussing this column’s themes with the National Park Service found out their thoughts run parallel.
    As we did in 2010, our citizens group proposed telling environmental history. The idea has two parts, events and context:
    1) The park should relate the environmental history of nuclear weapons work.
    2) This history should be set in the context of the nation’s environmental history for the same period.
    In the 1940s, there were few laws, just common practices. The Manhattan Project — at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Hanford, Washington — followed the waste-handling practices of the time.
    On this point, atomic scientists thought like industrial engineers.