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Today's Opinions

  • Do-nothing Congress just did something

    There was a big celebration in Taos last weekend, at the center of which were two pieces of legislation enacted by the last Congress.
    Who would have thought? A celebration of a couple of bills passed by one of the most maligned and unpopular Congresses ever convened under the Capitol Dome!
    Yet there they were — the measures’ key sponsors, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, former-U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Congressman Ben Ray Luján — congregated for the at-home unveiling of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 19 and for, as well, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act, which went into effect with the president’s signature one week earlier.
    The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act is precisely what the name says it is, but the process of bringing it into being began in 1980, three-and-a-half decades ago, when Congress passed the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Act.
    In other words, such are the ways of our national legislature that it took a sum total of 35 years of “study” for Congress to finally decide to set aside some 46,000 acres of a pristine mountain basin situated in the Sangre de Cristos near Taos.

  • R-T-W Legislation has consequences for working families

    As the national economy shows signs of real improvement, New Mexico’s recovery has been challenging and slow.
    Working families want to know when we will see more jobs, higher salaries and access to quality education at every level. The state legislature has an opportunity to put New Mexico in a position to provide that economic security and rebuild the middle class.
    Unfortunately, the first bill to gain traction at the Roundhouse is a divisive plan backed by out-of-state political operatives designed to divide working families. The so-called Right-to-Work plan championed by special interests would do more harm than good.
    Consider these consequences:
    • In states with similar anti-worker laws, workers earn, on average, $5,000 less each year than their counterparts in competing states.
    • Six in 10 states with the highest unemployment rates have these anti-worker laws.
    • Twelve of the 14 states with the worst pay gap between men and women are anti-worker states.
    • Workers in states with these anti-worker laws earn fewer benefits.
    • Worker safety suffers in these anti-worker states where the rate of deaths on the job is 54.4 percent higher.

  • Divisive Right-to-Work debates jeopardizes more important job bills

    Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard was explaining economic-base jobs to fellow members of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
    The Los Alamos teacher had learned as an advisory member of the Jobs Council that economic-base jobs sell goods or services outside the state.
    It was one of those moments of clarity that cut through the political haze. Finally, after years of chasing anything that might have a payroll, lawmakers are educating themselves on the basics of a real economy.
    This is why the pyrotechnics last week in the House Judiciary Committee over Right-to-Work was so disheartening. In the last two years, the Jobs Council drew together both parties, along with business, labor, the administration and councils of government, to create proposals that would move us down the road.
    Now House members were jeopardizing that bipartisan goodwill with marathon, brutal debates over union membership as a condition of employment.
    Twice last week, the cavernous House chamber filled with business people and labor, one suited up, the other in blue jeans.
    They’re two sides of the same pancake. They need each other, they all want jobs and there is plenty of legislation that they do agree on.
    In the Republican-majority House committee, Right-to-Work was bound to pass, just as it will on the floor.

  • James Madison and the War of 1812

    Presidents Day reflections typically commemorate the exploits of two of our larger than life chief executives whose birthdays we celebrate in February — George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. This piece instead assesses the contributions of a different American colossus — James Madison — and examines the War of 1812 as we observe the 200th anniversary of the treaty that ended the conflict, which the U.S. Congress approved on Feb. 16, 1815.
    Madison’s image does not adorn Mount Rushmore, and he has no memorial in Washington, D.C. However, he played a pivotal role in devising the United States, especially in framing the Constitution and promoting religious liberty. One of the nation’s most cerebral and articulate founders, he served in numerous legislative bodies, including the Continental Congress and the House of Representatives.
    Madison penned the extremely influential Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments in 1785 to argue for ending Virginia’s Episcopal establishment and providing complete religious freedom. Historians label it “the most powerful defense of religious liberty ever written in America.” No other founder had as much impact on the nation’s conception and practice of freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state.

  • Letters to the editor 2-15-15

    Misconceptions of Open Space Plan

    I am writing to correct any misperceptions that may have been created by the Los Alamos Monitor’s coverage of my comments to the County Council regarding the Open Space Management Plan made at Feb. 6 meeting.
    As reported, I am a member of the County Planning and Zoning Commission. The Los Alamos Monitor’s story stated I opposed the Open Space Management Plan. That is not correct. At the beginning my verbal comments, I voiced my support for the Open Space Management Plan, that it was necessary and long overdue.
    My comments were critical of two portions of the plan:
    • The provision proposing, in effect, a Vista/Viewpoint zoning overlay district, without any guidance on how to enact it.
    • The inclusion in the proposed open space map of virtually all of the vacant land owned by the county (not all the vacant land in the county), particularly a large parcel in Pueblo Canyon adjacent to the sewer plant, recently acquired from the federal government and previously proposed for economic development by the Open Space Advisory Group.

  • U.S.-backed loan program helps businesses buy growth assets

    Small companies often lease space before buying or building a property that allows them to expand or modernize. When they’re ready for that leap of faith, the U.S. Small Business Administration can help by underwriting a significant portion of any loan they need.
    The SBA’s 504 loan program is a public-private partnership administered through a Certified Development Company (CDC) that helps small, independently owned companies secure the fixed assets — such as land, building and equipment — that they need to grow and be competitive. If the business owner can provide a minimum of 10 percent of the loan amount, the CDC will underwrite 40 percent — up to $5.5 million in some circumstances — and this makes lenders more comfortable offering a first mortgage for the remaining 50 percent.
    The Loan Fund, a community development financial institution, works with the SBA and CDCs to help business owners obtain 504 loans and access money they might not be able to get. This lets business owners conserve cash for other operating costs.
    Who is eligible?

  • Origin of the fear of Friday the 13th

    A fun aspect of teaching math is that I get to share stories about numbers with my students.
    The number “13” of course holds a special place in society and students love learning words like triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).
    I explain to them that “tris” means “three” and “dek” means “ten.”
    This gives me the opportunity to demonstrate how words contain numerical prefixes taken from Latin and Greek, using these prefixes to define properties of cardinality, such as bi-cycle, cent-ennial, and sex-agenarian (one of my favorites!).
    Now today, being a Friday the 13th, I get to use the word friggatriskaidekaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th). But in this case, the prefix “frigga” has nothing to do with numbers.
    A few ago, a student told me that she had gone to see the movie “Thor” the day before (a Thursday) and was raving about how good it was.
    So I said, “Well then, it’s a happy coincidence that you saw the movie on Thor Day.”
    This led to a discussion on how days of the week were named after planets and gods. Sunday and Monday, of course, are immediately recognized as being named after the Sun and the Moon.
    And, as per our discussion, Thursday was named after that hammer wielding beastie-boy, Thor.

  • Paying for roads may require robbing Peter and Paul

    Rep. Cathrynn Brown was describing roads in southeastern New Mexico. The pit rule, which requires trucking oil waste to another site, has added to the already heavy traffic on state and county roads.
    Drivers take the shortest route, whether or not the road is safe.
    “Fatalities are a great concern to all of us,” said the Carlsbad Republican. “I got to a point where I dreaded opening the newspaper in the morning. Eddy and Lea counties do the best they can (but) we’re really hurting.”
    On the subject of transportation, you can say the same for every county in the state, from the patched and repatched northern U.S. 285 to McKinley County’s war-surplus bridges that can’t even hold a school bus.
    These debates within the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee grow more urgent every year.
    The governor now supports bonding $300 million in road projects, but last week Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith condemned the proposal as irresponsible. The state, he said, is already overextended.
    What he meant is the state has borrowed to the hilt for transportation. Bonds are IOUs.