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Today's Opinions

  • Regulatory insight from Colorado, New Mexico

    CHICAGO—Be careful who you talk to in bars. That’s one lesson from a conversation in the elegant bar at the Palmer House hotel in downtown Chicago.
    We talked to a manager from a large nationwide financial institution. This man is a market supervisor (or something like that) for New Mexico, El Paso and Oklahoma. Our discussion considered the differences between Arizona and New Mexico. It included the usual banking structure differences from 30 years ago, but also got to factors including resorts such as the Arizona Biltmore and Camelback and professional golf, which decades ago put a national focus on Arizona.
    The understanding from the conversation is that this manager and, by extension, his very, very large financial institution employer, is mystified by the New Mexico economy.
    The Chicago chat is just one happening from our recent two-week road trip through the Midwest.
    Driving northeast through Colorado on I-76, we came across the welcome center in Julesburg. The men’s restroom was closed. In its place were seven porta-potties.

  • Some ‘sustainability’ proposals don’t pass

    “Sustainability” permeates our world. But what is sustainability?
    Consider this comment from new Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Raquel Reedy: “The fact is that our students move many times. Consequently, there is very little sustainability, very little consistency where children stay at one school the entire time.”
    Likely, whatever Reedy means by “sustainability” and APS sustainability measures is different from the meaning of the people who proposed sustainability resolutions for consideration at the annual meeting of PNM Resources Inc., parent company of Public Service Company and a Texas utility.
    PNM’s board of directors wisely recommended voting against the proposals.
    For those not owning stock, a brief primer is that corporation divides ownership into shares. People can buy those shares. I bought 1.5 shares of Disney for my new grandson, Christopher. Shareowners have a slight say in what a company does, depending in part on the number of shares owned. But shareholders can also ask the company to do things thorough proposals to the annual meeting or by asking questions at the annual meeting.

  • Letter to the Editor 5-4-16

    Roundabout battles: the root causes?

    Why does Los Alamos find itself, time after time, over a decades-long period, in roundabout battles? I think it’s a result of double-vision that exists at a deep level among both county planners and citizens. My view of this underlying schism has been formed as a result of participating in two expensive roundabout contests, and through second-hand knowledge as an observer of several previous battles. For convenience, I’ll call these two visions the “utopian” and the “utilitarian”. First, I’ll sketch the visions of each group. Then, I’ll broadly characterize how each group “sees” roundabouts.
    Utilitarian-speak can be recognized by words and phrases such as, “artery,” “efficiency,” “productivity,” “congestion,” “safety,” “cost effectiveness,” “redundancy,” “waste of taxpayer money,” “usability,” “smart signal,” “right tool for the job,” “examples,” “statistics,” “analysis” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  • Venture to change regulating

    By JOHN BARTLIT
    New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air & Water

    The time has come for regulation to be more businesslike. A healthy dose of market zeal has been missing for too long.
    Regrettably, politicking will not bring needed change.  
    One old campaign banner says regulation is the scourge of free markets. But that reading forgets that large-scale “free” markets owe their steady success to regulations.
    Long-thriving markets are built on the bedrock of rules that standardize weights and measures, rules of contracts, and rules to enforce both.
    After government had established these necessary parts, trade could reach across regions.   
    Another old snapshot says regulation stifles innovation. Whether it was true at one time, it is distinctly untrue today. Regulation today is a storehouse of unmet needs for inventions.
    In the Digital Age, entrepreneurs search far and wide for new markets. The searches skim past regulation, as if it were fine as is. It is not fine.
    Good prospects to innovate are overlooked, which leaves regulation encumbered with hobbly methods that innovations crowd out of other fields.

  • Tweeting DWI court hearings should give useful information

    Gov. Susana Martinez is taking another swing at DWI. Last week, she announced a contract with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to observe DWI court hearings and publicize the results on Twitter. It’s strange but has possibilities.
    With a two-year, $800,000 contract, MADD will place monitors in courtrooms in Bernalillo, Doña Ana, McKinley, Rio Arriba and San Juan counties. They will gather information about DWI case outcomes and post them on social media.
    One thing I’ve heard, from both experts and legislators, is that the criminal justice system isn’t working. We have laws on the books, but prosecutors and judges plead these cases down. We don’t know why.
    The MADD monitors might help answer that question, depending on the information they gather. We need to know the judge’s thinking and what the mitigating factors are, and you can’t deliver that in a tweet. Tweets are good for the quick comment, the wise crack. They generate buzz for a moment and then they’re gone.
    How are we supposed to learn what happens in court and spot problem areas? Call me old fashioned, but I want to see a report.

  • Brooks, Ryan seek civility, get slammed

    Local Democrats responded to Gov. Susana Martinez’s April 14 speech to a big Republican dinner in New Mexico with: “The policy priorities New Mexico has been suffering through the past five years under Governor Martinez are exactly in line with the reckless and racist priorities of Trump and other Republican candidates,” said Debra Haaland, Democratic Party chairwoman.
    While it’s tough to argue Donald Trump is anything other than reckless and racist, pasting that label on Martinez is hardly civil. Democrats note: Haaland’s comment is simply the first one I noticed to provide the contra-example for today’s consideration of political civility. Republicans say the same stupid stuff.
    Further, I consider the labeling an attack by one candidate on an opponent’s record as “negative campaigning” to be weak. Candidates must discuss the opponent’s record and ideas in order to create contrast. The question is how that record is discussed.
    Recently Paul Ryan and David Brooks provided meditations on political civility. Consideration is in order as we swing into our campaigns in New Mexico.
    In his Feb. 26 column in the New York Times, Brooks argued in favor of politics as the best way to accomplish things in our society, the alternative being authoritarianism.

  • Letters to the Editor 4-27-16

    Dannemann’s cost
    estimates not on track

    While as usual, Merilee Dannemann’s column shed useful light on the issue of having two engineers instead of one operating a train, she seems to have missed one concern and presented what appears to
    be a flawed calculation regarding cost.
    She states, “The cost of one more crewmember is trivial compared to the human and financial cost of
    a rail disaster.” While that is correct for one additional crewmember on one train, unfortunately, it is not the
    correct evaluation of the total cost of avoiding the single disaster. The full cost includes that of doubling the crew cost on all of the train operations that do not produce a
    disaster. The moral question is not calculable, of course, but the economic cost and value depends on the ratio
    of train operations that end disastrously to those that do not. Actual accident statistics are required to determine whether the cost of crew doubling is reasonable or
    excessive.

  • We need two in the cab for safety

    In May 2015, an Amtrak passenger train derailed outside Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. The cause is still a mystery. The train was going too fast around a curve, but, according to recent news reports, federal investigators have not figured out why.
    Another accident occurred outside Philadelphia on April 3 of this year, killing two people and injuring more than 30.
    Two Amtrak routes run through New Mexico. The Southwest Chief runs between Los Angeles and Chicago, with stops in Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy (outside Santa Fe), Albuquerque and Gallup. The Sunset Limited runs between Los Angeles and New Orleans, stopping in Deming and Lordsburg.  
    The state is crossed by several freight routes. Freight trains can carry just about anything, including the most hazardous chemicals, with long lines of container cars moving faster than 100 miles an hour.
    Once in a while, a train derails with disastrous consequences. In 2013, a freight train carrying petroleum derailed in Quebec, leading to a fire that left 47 people dead.  
    So you might think it would be dangerous to allow a train to be operated by just one person, the engineer alone in the cab.
    That’s what I think, and I’m not alone. There’s even a Facebook page called Spouses and Families Against One Man Crews.