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Today's Opinions

  • Fight to save our kids is not over

    I have spent the last four years of my professional career with 9-year-olds for six hours a day, 180 days out of the year. I spend more time with them during the school year than their families do. So it came as a particular blow to me to hear the tragic news of the death of Omaree Varela — a kid that could have been one of my kids.
    Of course, we all remember the tragic story of 9-year-old Varela who died at the hands of an abusive mother, despite the fact that law enforcement officers had just recently intervened in his case.
    I, along with some of my colleagues in the House — including Speaker Ken Martinez — sought to have a legislative response to Omaree’s tragedy, and others like his. In the 2014 legislative session, we co-sponsored the HB 333, named Omaree’s Law, to try and address some of the shortcomings in the system that had been laid bare by Omaree’s case.
    One of the issues that had become apparent in Omaree’s case was the fact that despite just having visited his home in response to a 911 call and hearing his parents verbally berate him, law enforcement officers never filed a report. And this despite the fact that little Omaree had had visible injuries on his body, consistent with abuse, at the time that law enforcement officers had visited his home.

  • Clarification of First Born Program

    At a recent fundraiser in White Rock, candidate Geoff Rodgers expressed concern that the First Born Program was the government telling parents how to parent.
    For clarification, First Born is a non-government health promotion program that has been heavily supported by Governor Martinez through the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.
    In Los Alamos, the First Born Program is overseen by a Board of Directors of a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit group. Current funding is designated to reach up to 60 families who request services.  
    With expanding knowledge of human growth and brain development in the earliest years of life, combined with results from longitudinal studies of child development programs, we now know that children’s success in preschool and beyond is built on the foundation of relationships, experiences and skills they develop in their first three years of life.
    The LANL Foundation is a core supporter of First Born and believes that investing in newborns at birth, when they begin learning, can change lives of individual children today and for years to come. 

  • Watch out for wobbler syndrome

    Cervical Spondylomyelopathy, also known as wobbler syndrome, is a neurological condition in dogs that affects their cervical spine, or neck region. A compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots, wobbler syndrome gets its name from the characteristic “wobbly” walk that affected dogs typically display from the disease.
    “There are two forms of cervical spondylomyelopathy,” said Dr. Megan Steele, a veterinary resident at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “There is a disc-associated form that causes ventral spinal cord compression and dorsal, lateral bone and joint proliferation causing dorsolateral spinal cord compression.”
    Wobbler syndrome is typically a progressive disease most commonly found in larger dog breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes and Mastiffs.
    “Symptoms can vary widely from mild neck pain to an inability to walk in all four limbs,” Steele said.
    Other symptoms often include weakness, difficulty getting up from a lying position, and possible muscle loss. Clinical signs are typically slow and gradual in onset, though acute worsening can occur. If your dog appears to show signs of any of these, especially difficulty walking or any unusual neck pains, a trip to the veterinarian for a diagnosis is a recommended.

  • In economic development, we all have fed the bear

    In the early 1980s, a company wanted to bring a manufacturing plant to a small town in the state. A company representative told me years later that he met with the state senator for that area to explain the proposal and talk about economic benefits to the area.
    The senator asked how he would benefit, and the company representative talked more about economic impact. The senator asked again how he would benefit, and the company representative went on about creating a bigger economic pie that would give everyone a larger piece. The conversation continued in this vein, and the meeting ended with the senator saying he was not satisfied with the company’s responses.
    From then on the senator, who is no longer in office, voted against bills involving that company.
    Now that the Tesla circus has moved on, it’s a good time to talk about economic development, large and small.
    Tesla was worth the effort. Although most of the state considered it an Albuquerque deal, those 6,500 jobs would have lifted New Mexico’s economy. Despite the outcome, New Mexico got some positive attention, and the exercise improved the learning curve of the governor and her people.

  • Review of culture study reveals excellent work cited

    Numbers got the emphasis in the first half of the recently released report on arts, culture and creativity by the Department of Cultural Affairs. The second half, another hundred pages, commendably went places few are willing to consider for fear of ruffling self-righteousness.
    A month ago, I skipped lightly through the numbers. Today’s topic is the rest. To find the report, “Building on the Past, Facing the Future: Renewing the Creative Economy of New Mexico,” see newmexicoculture.org, the site of the Department of Cultural Affairs.
    Recognizing that numbers take one only so far, the researchers from the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research did “structured in-depth interviews with 123 professionals engaged in 15 areas of creative work” and included results from 85 other interviews. That’s not many. No “authoritative census” of our creative professionals exists. Accept that BBER carefully assembled the interview group.

  • Making the ballot but not Duran's way

    New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran got her comeuppance in a case before the state Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago.
    She was adequately represented in the case by a private attorney of her choosing (paid for with taxpayer dollars, of course) when she appeared before the five justices. Nonetheless, she lost in a unanimous ruling, five-to-zip.
    As state law and custom have it, when the governing bodies of New Mexico counties approve measures for voters to consider in a general election, it falls to the Secretary of State to see to it that those measures are duly and properly placed on the general election ballot.
    The Secretary of State, after all, is the state’s chief election official, responsible for preparing and superintending printing of the ballots that await voters in their polling places come Election Day.
    So when the county commissions of two New Mexico counties, Santa Fe and Bernalillo, passed and submitted to Secretary Duran a pair of non-binding measures asking voters whether they would support decriminalizing the possession of small quantities of marijuana, the two counties’ commissioners had every reason to assume the Secretary of State would do her duty by putting the questions on the November ballot.

  • Public banking gets a hearing at symposium

    With tighter credit standards that have resulted in fewer loans since the recession of 2008, some are backing an effort to open a publicly owned and managed bank in New Mexico. These advocates are holding a symposium in Santa Fe on Sept. 27 to educate the public and decide how to proceed.
    State Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) has pushed for a statewide public bank for years, arguing it would keep more money at home and make it easier for businesses to secure capital. Fellow legislators have rejected the idea for two successive years, so backers have scaled down the idea to a publicly owned bank in just one New Mexico community: Santa Fe. They have the support of the city’s mayor, Javier Gonzales, who sees it as a resource for cash-strapped local businesses.
    Some local bankers are skeptical, citing capital availability, but little loan demand from business owners reluctant to take on more debt before they see a strong turnaround in the economy.

  • Know risks before cosigning a loan

    Shakespeare probably said it best: “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend.” Four hundred years later, people still wrestle with whether or not to help out a loved one by loaning them money or cosigning a loan.
    Perhaps you want to help your kid qualify for a better student loan rate or assist your widowed mom with refinancing her mortgage. Before you cosign anything, however, make sure you understand the risks involved.
    Here are just a few of the things that can go wrong and questions to ask before committing yourself — and your good credit — to what could be a decades-long commitment:
    First, understand that the main reason you’re being asked to cosign a loan is because lenders don’t think the borrower is a good risk. By cosigning, you’re guaranteeing that you’ll repay the full loan — plus any late fees or collection costs — should the borrower default.
    If that doesn’t scare you sufficiently, read on:
    • Even one late or missed payment can damage your credit.
    • In most states, the creditor can — and probably will — go after you for repayment without first trying to collect from the borrower, because they know you’re more likely to have the money.