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Today's Opinions

  • Communities may suffer in wake of pension reforms

    PERA’s fund is doing well.
    That’s very good news for you if you are one of the thousands of former state or local government employees who rely on PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) for all or part of your retirement income. (Disclosure: That includes me.)
    PERA’s assets have almost doubled since the stock market cratered at the end of 2008. The fund now has close to $14 billion, with current earnings at roughly 17 percent. The “unfunded liability” — the projection of how much money will be owed over time compared to what’s available — is still worrisome but going down. This was accomplished in part by legislation in 2013 in which PERA-covered employees and retirees accepted a package of benefit reductions.
    If you’re not covered by a secure pension, you could ask how any of this benefits you or why you should have the slightest interest in the solvency of these programs. It’s a common question.
    Here’s my answer: First, public service work is valuable work, and community’s benefit when people who have expertise in their jobs keep working at them. Second, the whole community benefits when some of its members have stable, secure retirement income.

  • Look local for 'government dependence'

    A government employment number stepped from the shadows recently and got my attention. The number was for local government.
    First, a bit of context.
    States that have a whole lot of federal government spending tend to be states that are home to large expensive activities that are allocated to the feds. This insight comes from a recent report by wallethub.com, a business finance website operated by Evolution Finance of Washington, D.C. (evolutionfinance.com).
    States attracting federal money tend to be border states (New Mexico, Arizona, Montana), located on a coast with big ports (Louisiana), with military, reservations and federally owned land (especially in the West) and national parks. Uniquely among the states attracting proportionally significant federal spending, New Mexicans do research and development on behalf of national security.
    Military personnel are not in the usual non-agricultural wage job numbers. That means Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases, White Sands Missile Range (run by the Army) and the military at Kirtland Air Force, which is unusual in being a multi-mission facility with everything from special forces activity to space research.
    A look at the 13 big job classifications suggests that Pogo had it right when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

  • Policy changes to watch for in Republican controlled Congress

    Energy is going to be front and center when the Republicans take control of both houses.
    The past six years have seen taxpayer dollars poured into green-energy projects that have raised electricity rates. Meanwhile, Republicans have touted the job creation and economic impact available through America’s abundant fossil-fuel resources.
    Big changes in energy policy are in the works because a wealthy country is better able to do things right. A growing economy needs energy that is efficient, effective and economical — which is why countries like China and India will not limit energy availability and why Republicans want to expand access in the United States.
    What energy policies should we watch?
    Keystone pipeline
    • Post-election, the Keystone pipeline has suddenly leapt to the front of the lame-duck-legislation line.
    • The question remains whether the White House will approve the bill, though spokesman Josh Earnest hinted at an Obama veto. A veto would further anger his union supporters. With many Democrats already on board and a push for more support from union leadership, the new Congress may be able to pass it again — this time with a veto-proof majority.
    Federal lands

  • Pet Talk: Choosing a dog trainer

    Choosing a good dog trainer is much like finding the right teacher for your child. Assertive but caring, attentive and knowledgeable — there are many important qualities to keep an eye out for when making this crucial decision. In order to choose one wisely, it is advised that dog owners call, interview and observe a trainer prior to hiring them.
    “There are numerous ways to train dogs. In addition, each animal has his/her own learning style and preferred motivators,” said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, or AVSAB, endorses training methods that allow animals to work for things (such as food, play, affection) that motivate them, rather than techniques that focus on using fear or pain to punish them for undesirable behaviors.”
    A good rule of thumb is to avoid any trainer who displays methods of physical force that may harm your dog, including ones who routinely use choke collars, shock collars, or any other physical punishment as a primary training method. Look for a trainer who uses reward-based training with treats, toys and play instead.

  • The real mission of LANL

     
    I have read the recent Santa Fe New Mexican stories on the Valentine’s Day radiation leak at WIPP, Director Charlie McMillan’s response to Los Alamos National Laboratory employees in the Los Alamos Monitor and Greg Mello’s various comments on WIPP and LANL.
    I think it is time that someone spoke up about the real mission of Los Alamos Scientific (later National*) Laboratory.
    When my family and I came to Los Alamos in October 1969, I began working in group N-6. Which has had many names and divisions over the years; at present it is NEN-1. In late 1989, Norris Bradbury was just beginning his 25th and last year as the second director of LASL. Julius Robert Oppenheimer (Oppie), the lab’s first director appointed Norris as director when he went back to academia in October 1945.

  • Pet Talk: Cold weather tips for pets

    As the temperatures begin to drop, many pet owners worry about their pets spending time outdoors. Here are some tips for keeping the four-legged members of your family warm and safe during the winter months.
    For smaller pets, keeping them inside as much as possible during the colder weather can be the most beneficial. If your pet is primarily an indoor pet, this shouldn’t be much of a change. Nonetheless, short exposure to the outside cold can be fine and is usually not detrimental to the pet’s health.
    “Dogs and cats shiver a lot like people. This action is used to help generate body heat in cold climates,” said Dr. Alison Diesel, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “If your pet shivers while outside, shorten the length of your trips together to help reduce this trembling. Providing extra bedding like blankets and towels will also keep your pets warm and cozy.”
    Signs that your pet is uncomfortably cold may include excessive whining, shivering, appearing anxious, slowing down or stopping and looking for a warm place to burrow. If they begin to exhibit any of these behaviors, you should bring them inside (if outside), or wrap them in a blanket in a warm room.

  • Statewide Biz Calendar promotes business-building connections

    New Mexicans never have to wonder where they can go to widen their professional networks or learn the skills that will grow their businesses or advance their careers.
    The online business calendar — or Biz Calendar for short — offers the most comprehensive cache of information about the business events, workshops, meetings, certification classes and professional gatherings that are happening anywhere in the state today, tomorrow, next week and later in the year.
    Public and private service providers use the collaborative web-based calendar to inform the business community about what they’re offering, and economic development organizations use it to connect their local businesses to resources designed to help create jobs and raise the quality of life in New Mexico communities.
    The Biz Calendar began as a project of the nonprofit arm of New Mexico Community Capital in 2007, with support from New Mexico’s Economic Development Department, the Finance Authority and the Small Business Development Network. Organizers aimed to distribute information about events hosted by nonprofits and government agencies.

  • Black-Eye Friday

    Yesterday was Thanksgiving. Families and friends spent the day together to commemorate a day of thanks, a time to reflect on the good times past and the good times to come.
    When I was younger, Thanksgiving meant a family dinner at my parents’ house, gaining 10 pounds by the evening’s end. As I grew older, it meant going out with friends and being very sophisticated as we sampled four-dozen different wines (usually cleaning our palettes with shots of whiskey). And as the years went on, the dinners became more sedated, the conversation more civilized and the party animal put to bed before midnight.
    I’ve learned over time that what makes Thanksgiving a time to be thankful is not the past nor the future, but simply the moment itself.
    Ah, but Thanksgiving is over, and the moment is gone. It’s Friday and no one is fighting over who gets the last drumstick. The fight is now focused on who gets the last computer tablet, who gets the last set of discounted bathroom towels, who gets the last Barbie Fantasy Castle.
    It’s a contest to find out who has the most stupid stuffed in their head.