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Today's Opinions

  • School board should keep eye on the ball

    I read, with concern, the article in Sunday’s Los Alamos Monitor, titled “School board to consider gun resolution.” Mr. Langenbrunner tried to convince the board to endorse his view on gun control, citing health and safety of our children as the motivation. He gave interesting, and questionable, statistics related to our children and firearm injury, with emphasis on suicide.
    From there he went way off in the weeds with a suggestion that the board voice support for background checks for gun purchases and a ban on semi-automatic firearms. Wow, what logic! Background checks are already done on the vast majority of gun sales. Besides that, Mr. Langenbrunner had already stated that the guns he’s worried about come from the home, not purchases by our youth. Firearms in the home should be stored safely, not unlike the keys to the family automobile. Additional background checks will not change the availability of firearms to our youth. As far as banning semi-automatic firearms, that represents most modern firearms and has nothing to do with their danger. Revolvers or bolt-action rifles present the same danger.

  • 2006-2013: Government jobs up, then down

    Scads of state economic numbers new to me crawled from the darkness a few days ago.
    The numbers omitted government, so first, using other numbers, we will consider the performance of our leaders in weaning the state from the dark dependence on government jobs.
    The Department of Workforce Solutions is the source of the government figures. An entirely arbitrary choice, Octobers from 2006, 2011 and 2013, provide the comparison. The numbers, for wage jobs, are revised and seasonally unadjusted.
    Overall government employment declined during the period. The total, 197,400 in 2006, grew 1,700, or 0.86 percent, by 2011 and declined 4,000, or two percent, to 195,100 two years later.
    The federal sector, by far the smallest of the government employers, more than explains the changes. Federal employers hired a net of 2,300 people, a 7.6 percent increase, between October 2006 and 2011. Federal employment dropped 9.2 percent to 29,700 between from October 2011 to 2013.
    Federal employment runs about half of the state government total and less than a third of local government. All governments do different things. Geography bounds the activity.

  • Column As I See 'Em: Let’s lend a hand to our top teacher

    Let’s start things off on a positive note before getting into a letter we published earlier this week in which a county councilman explains why it was appropriate for him to crack an ethnic joke while speaking with high school students, among other things.
    Carolyn Torres, a third grade teacher at Chamisa Elementary, is this year’s New Mexico Teacher of the Year. With that title comes the requirement that she travel around the state and nationally to represent New Mexico.
    Doing so isn’t cheap, and the assistance she receives from the school district (per diem, etc.) is terrific but, as anyone who has done much traveling will attest, that money only goes so far and often doesn’t cover the hidden costs associated with such travel.
    I spoke earlier this week with Principal Debbie Smith, who is actively seeking financial support to help make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
    As we have reported, some have already made donations, but we’re hoping that sweetening the pot a bit might spark even more.

  • Legislation of key issues a go, but still more work to do

    As Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.” These words ring true as I reflect on the 30-day legislative session and what we were able to accomplish as individuals and a body. While a 30-day session has its challenges, time mainly being the biggest hindrance, I am proud to report I was able to secure passage of three pieces of legislation and aide in the passage of key education reform legislation to shore up our lottery scholarship solvency crisis and increase funding to our public education system.
    This summer, a task force I served on, found a growing trend of state bids being oriented towards out of state companies. After working with both private industry and labor to fix that problem, I sponsored House Joint Memorial 11 that guides state and county governments to give in-state businesses the opportunity to bid on government contracts rather than focusing on out-of-state contractors. This bill was an important step to help protect our contract workers that serve Los Alamos National Laboratory and I worked tirelessly to ensure its passage in both the House and the Senate.

  • Letters to the Editor 03-07-14

     

    Trivializing a sensitive word?

    After spending an hour talking about Judaism to the high school humanities class a few weeks ago, I took some questions, and one student raised an important issue; one I could tell was difficult for her to pose in public. Why did I think, she asked, that Jews have been labeled as obsessed with money? 

    I looked at her with my best poker-face, and asked “Will you give me a twenty for an answer?” When she meekly said no, I pretended to then disregard her and go to the next raised hand. Everyone laughed at the obvious self-mockery, and I felt that the joke had diffused the tension around us, so I could go on to speak to the subject of anti-semitism and ethnic discrimination in general. 

  • Disciplining Toto

     

    Toto, you’ve been a bad little girl. In the Land of Oz, I would punish you by making you listen to a bunch of Munchkins sing, but we’re back in Kansas. So now, I suppose I’ll just have to beat you senseless.

    Whack! Just remember that disciplining you is a sign of love, OK? Whack!

    OK? Toto? Ah, damn it! Uh, anyone know how to resuscitate a dog?

    Kansas is an interesting state.

    The Kansas State motto is “Per Aspera Ad Astra”, meaning “To the stars through difficulty.” It’s ironic that Kansas would use Latin for its state motto. Back in 2007, the Kansas House and Senate passed bill H.B. 2140, making English the state’s official language.

  • Dems gamble at casino on candidates

    This coming Friday evening, delegates to the 2014 state Democratic Party’s Pre-Primary Convention will gather at the ballroom of an Albuquerque area casino-hotel to schmooze, booze and politic until schmoozing, boozing and politicking have ground them to their knees.
    The next day they convene in formal session and get down to the business of deciding which of the Democratic candidates seeking various offices up for grabs at the November election will top the party’s June 3 primary election ballot.
    We’re talking serious business here. Political tacticians maintain that a candidate whose name comes first on a ballot has an edge over his/her opponents whose names appear further down the line.
    It doesn’t guarantee victory for the person at No. 1, but it does means he/she will probably pick up a few extra votes simply by virtue of ballot position. Cynics will tell you it simply goes to show that some voters are given to mindless voting. Nonetheless, candidates routinely hanker for the top spot. Which, when all the speechifying and bombast are spent, is what Pre-Primary Conventions are all about in New Mexico.
    The candidates who garner the most delegate votes at the convention for nomination to the sundry offices at the June 3 primary election will have their names listed first on the ballot.

  • Change law on reviewing school superintendents

    There has been plenty of hand wringing over the past several days as the taxpaying public searches in vain for answers why its popular school superintendent suddenly resigned.
    One of those taxpayers, Morrie Pongratz, rightly questioned the school board Tuesday night, saying that the public deserves to know what led to this situation.
    That would be the ideal situation but unfortunately, state law allows school boards to review superintendents behind closed doors, allowing board members to say whatever they choose in private and never having to reveal publically their individual opinions or thoughts on the superintendent’s performance.
    Oh, following the review, the board will release a milquetoast summary, which purposefully doesn’t capture individual criticisms or concerns and focuses instead on blanket, unattributed statements that rarely if ever give taxpayers a true assessment of what each board member truly thinks.
    To further complicate the issue, because that process occurs in secret, board members are then forbidden to discuss with taxpayers exactly what was said and by whom.