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Today's Opinions

  • Better economy key to brighter future for N.M. kids

    By Rebecca Dow, New Mexico House of Representatives R-Dist. 38

    Republican and Democrats agree – too many children in New Mexico are growing up in unacceptable circumstances 
    Earlier this month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual “Kids Count” report on the status of child well-being in each state. The news for New Mexico was disheartening. 

    While our state showed improvement on most measures, we are not keeping up with other states. Once again, we came in at 49th overall, placing ahead of just one state, Mississippi. 

    Reports like this one motivated me to start AppleTree Educational Center in Truth and Consequences back in 1999. I believed New Mexico could do better, and I felt that focusing on early childhood education was the key to helping our state’s children overcome any circumstances. 

    AppleTree serves hundreds of families with children prenatal through 24 in Sierra County each year. Our evidence-based programs have positively impacted many key health and well being indicators for our county. More kids are entering school ready, avoiding risky behavior, graduating on-time, and going to college. Yet in 2015 Sierra County became the poorest county in the state. 

  • Wonders of wood bloom anew

    Foolish Pig No. 2 of the Three Little Pigs built his house of sticks. The Big Bad Wolf quickly did his famous thing. He huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down. 

    So the fourth Little Pig researched the latest construction news. He went online and landed a job as a sales agent for cross-laminated timber.

    Cross-laminated timber, or CLT, is a high-tech product made from the prehistoric building material that trees supply.

    CLT is made by gluing and pressing together a row of boards to form a sheet of wood. Sheets are stacked in layers, so that boards in adjacent layers crisscross, then are glued and pressed together. The product is then cut as needed. It has been called “plywood on steroids.”

    Surprising utility comes from the natural strength of wood bundled in different directions. A tree trunk or a long log can be broken by bending it sideways hard enough, as you would a toothpick. Now imagine trying to break a log by pushing the two ends toward each other. The task is harder by far.

    When the directional strengths of wood are stacked up to their best advantage in CLT panels and beams, their ability to bear loads defies old logic. Trees are still yielding fresh mysteries.   

  • Prepare for major life expenses with tax- advantaged accounts

    BY NATHANIEL SILLIN
    Practical Money Matters

    College tuition, a new pair of glasses and retirement may seem unrelated, but the tax law says otherwise. By knowing how and where to save your money, you could pay for each of these expenses with tax-advantaged – or in some cases income-tax-free – money.

    Individual Retirement Agreements (IRAs) and 401(k)s are perhaps the two most well-known examples of these types of accounts. But they’re not alone. With educational and medical expenses in mind, consider the following types of accounts and how you might be able to use one to help yourself or your family.

    Invest your college fund in a 529 plan. State-sponsored 549 plans come in two forms. Prepaid tuition plans let you lock in today’s rate for in-state public schools and 529 college savings plans allow you to invest your savings based on your goals and risk tolerance. Contributions aren’t a federal tax write-off, but if you invest in your state’s plan, there might be a state income tax write-off.

  • PED’s teacher evaluations stumble on transparency

    Late last year, we saw some light in the education wars with proposals to revamp the state’s teacher evaluation system. Various legislation would have altered the weight of testing in the evaluation or allowed teachers more sick days. At least two aimed for a complete rewrite.

    The Public Education Department in 2012 handed down the evaluation system by administrative order, and it’s been controversial ever since. Teachers and their unions have complained that it relies too heavily on standardized test scores and that it’s unfair, punitive and demoralizing.

    Teachers explain again and again that not all students are the product of a stable home life and that kids come to school with issues beyond what a teacher can fix during the school day. That’s why they preferred evaluations based on classroom observations.

    During the regular legislative session, several of the evaluation bills rocked along with bipartisan support. The “teachers are human too bill,” with two Republican sponsors, would have let teachers use all ten of their allowed sick days without penalty. After passing both houses nearly unanimously, it was felled by a veto; the Senate voted to override but not the House.

  • Do you want tax reform? Muzzle the governor and make it bipartisan

    Republicans are discouraged that instead of getting a gross receipts tax overhaul, we’re getting a $400,000 study. But realistically, their 430-page baby was way too much for a two-day special legislative session. The good news is that tax reform is on everybody’s radar, and I see the political will to get it done. What I don’t see, yet, is the necessary bipartisan cooperation.
    Sitting through the long hearing for the bill, I heard strengths as well as unfinished business.
    Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, deserves our thanks for taking on this monster. Harper told the House Labor and Economic Development Committee that he tried hard to be nonpartisan. “It’s not a far right solution or a far left solution,” he said. “We met in the middle of the road.”
    The bill would have removed most GRT exemptions, deductions and credits and applied the savings to reduce the rate from 7 percent to 6 percent. It also remedied a host of other problems with the tax, including its name, which is scary to outside companies thinking about moving here.
    “Names really mean something,” Harper said.
    The bill would also have taxed internet sales, healthcare providers and nonprofits and increased the motor vehicle sales tax and the healthcare premium tax.

  • Letters to the Editor 5-31-17

    Time to come together and work for good of community

    Dear Editor,
    Wow! What a couple days Los Alamos has experienced.
    I want to first begin by thanking my fellow officers on the Republican Party of Los Alamos Executive Board. As stated in my resignation e-mail, their hard work and diligence was uncanny and lead to great success.
    James Chrobocinski was always willing to provide us with whatever we needed. Kelly Benner not only planned our events by herself, but also kept us all in line.
    Lisa Shin brought a new energy into the party from national campaign. Jane Gordon could always make us laugh, and make sure we were spending our money wisely. Mary Wilhoit, who graciously filled in whenever we needed her. Finally, Bill McKerely, who could always make us smile and give the best advice.
    You all have been amazing, and I truly wish that none of this excitement had happened to our wonderful group. For that, I truly apologize.
    I next want to thank Los Alamos for all their support! It has simply amazed me how many of you have reached out to check on me, or provide me encouragement. The outpour has simply made me proud to be a resident of Los Alamos.

  • Food waste is money down the drain

    BY NATHANIEL SILLIN
    Practical Money Matters

  • Southwest Conservation Corps branches out in New Mexico

    On a fine April weekday we stopped outside Grants at El Malpais National Monument visitor center, one of our standard travel breaks. A group was lunching at the concrete tables under the ramada. Several wore bright jumpsuits. Their hardhats had a dark, rectangular insignia resembling, from a distance, the Caterpillar Inc. logo.
    Curious, I ambled over to visit.
    The logo was “SWCC” for Southwest Conservation Corps (sccorps.org), which turns out to have five offices around the region. The New Mexico locations are Acomita Lake, serving the Pueblo of Acoma, the Pueblo of Zuni and Gallup. The Colorado offices are the headquarters in Durango and in Salida.
    SWCC’s website lists 10 programs. In general the programs involve crews going to areas and doing all sorts of conservation work. The programs serve rural areas with one exception, the Barrio Corps in Albuquerque, a partnership with La Plazita Institute (laplazitainstitute.org).
    The Ancestral Lands program, based at the Pueblo of Acoma, has proven popular. Using the Acoma template, a Gallup office opened three years ago with a Zuni Pueblo office last year. A Hopi office is planned for this year.