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Opinion

  • BY REP. LARRY LARRANAGA
    Chair, House Appropriations and Finance Committee, Dist. 27

  • BY JOE D'ANNA
    Los Alamos

  • BP’s lengthy oil spill in the Gulf and the Keystone Pipeline are issues long familiar to people of all walks. In sharp contrast, who ever heard of Structural Health Monitoring?  
    I first heard the term just two months ago. I was quickly amazed to see the extent of new techniques available to guard against leaky oil pipes of all kinds. Why does anything so relevant stay hidden from public news?  
    Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) is well explained in Wikipedia. SHM refers to methods of gauging damage in materials and other safety aspects of engineered structures. Devices tied into structures detect changes as materials age. From the changes, computing parts assess safety. Call them “smart tools.”
    The tools can check and report frequently on the well-being of structures such as bridges, airplanes and pipelines. The results, in turn, point to in-situ methods of timely repair. “In-situ” repair means repairing in place without tearing things open.
    SHM is no mere glint on the horizon. It thrives now and keeps improving. The discipline of SHM has an international society of its own with its own technical journal. The 10th International Workshop on SHM was held last fall at Stanford University. Princeton offers a graduate course in SHM. The topic clearly has history and substance.

  • At the first news of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, some of us wondered if it could happen here. The way it played out, that’s not likely.

    It began with Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven being convicted by a jury of arson, but the sentences jumped from months to five years because of a federal anti-terrorism law passed in response to the Oklahoma City bombing. The sentences sparked a protest by ranchers and militiamen in Burns, Oregon, and a few armed protesters led by Ammon Bundy took over the nearby refuge. 

    We’ve learned more about the players. In interviews, current and former employees of the wildlife refuge describe decades of hostility and death threats from the Hammonds. 

    “They said they were going to wrap my son in barbed wire and throw him down a well. They said they knew exactly which rooms my kids slept in,” said a former director. 

  • W

    e all know that Los Alamos is a “word of mouth” town.

    But that doesn’t mean you should sit with your hands folded and wait for people to say nice things about your business. There are several things that you can do to speed up the process. Read on for some inexpensive marketing tactics that build your reputation and encourage your customers to tell their friends about your services.

    Let’s get started!

    First, ask yourself: Who do I want to reach?

    Do you ever worry that there are still people in town who have never heard of your business? Stop worrying, because you don’t need everyone in town to know that you exist. Identify the small group of people who will be your best customers, and direct all your energy to reaching those people.

    Address your ideal customer to the exclusion of everyone else in your ads, your press releases and on your website. For example:

    • Parents of toddlers are invited 

    • Are you going to prom this year?

    • Read this if you’re about to retire.

    • Do you own a stucco house?

  • Last week, two Democratic members of the state House, Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestas of Albuquerque and Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos, introduced a proposed amendment to the state Constitution making it possible for voters registered as independent to cast their ballots in state primary elections.
    Also last week Donald Trump, the bloviated New York billionaire and self-advertised “frontrunner” for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, pulled out of a Fox Cable TV “debate” with the other contenders in that race.
    Seems Trump declined to submit to questions posed of him by the moderator of that debate, Megyn Kelly, because he feels she doesn’t “respect” him. Fox News and Ms. Kelly, on the other hand, dismissed Trump’s tantrum with the suggestion that he doesn’t like difficult questions when he’s in the spotlight performing.
    You pick. My guess is both camps are probably correct.
    But Mr. Trump’s latest campaign stunt was at least a novel way to put on a show without the bother of putting on a show. It also underscores one of the chronic challenges associated with popular self-government.

  • A vast business coalition has massed behind a proposed state law that would preempt local laws. The proposal comes in the form of House Bill 211 from Rep. Jason Harper, a Rio Rancho Republican, and Sen. Mark Moores, an Albuquerque Republican.
    The Association of Commerce of Industry leads the effort with Jason Espinosa, ACI president, as the campaign’s public face.
    I presume HB 211 in part comes in response to the so-called Fair Workweek Act introduced last summer by Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton and Klarissa Peña. Much tearing of hair was the Albuquerque response to the detailed regulations of the Benton-Peña proposal.
    ACI’s Jan. 26 release cited “the recent wave of local governments developing complex mandates for employers.”

  • The editors and writers of National Review recently did something extraordinary. They came out en masse against a Republican candidate during the primary. Their “Against Trump” symposium and accompanying “Editors introduction” offer up a barrage of attacks on Donald Trump’s surprising presidential candidacy.
    For the symposium, National Review assembled an enormously diverse group of conservative thinkers, from “movement conservatives” to more “establishment” types, to “conservatarians.” Clearly, this is no monolithic bloc. Yet there they are – an eclectic bunch of odd bedfellows making the same core argument: Donald Trump is not a conservative based on any meaningful definition of the term.

  • BY APRIL M. BROWN
    Marketing Director and Managing Director, WESST Enterprise Center

  • BY MARITA NOON
    Executive Director, Energy Makes America Great, Inc.

  • I used to joke that my late husband was the last honest man in the New Mexico Legislature.
    He was not the last, though. Most legislators do not take illicit money or otherwise profit from their public service.  
    I have known a few legislators who, after their service was over, out of the glare of publicity, quietly went bankrupt. Their years of honest volunteer service had cost them dearly.
    New Mexico’s past reputation was that there was lots of corruption but most of it was small-time.
    We were only slightly outraged when politicians did favors for their friends. If you won a local election as a county commissioner or a school board member, your reward was jobs for needy relatives. When the other guy won, his relatives might replace yours.
    In low-income counties with few good-paying jobs, this was a way to spread the wealth.
    When an influential legislator-lawyer represented clients before boards and commissions – perhaps using bullying power to influence a licensing decision - it didn’t even make the news. When legislators vote on issues that affect their own professions, we barely notice.
    After all, we rationalize, our unpaid legislators have to make a living doing something other than legislating.
    But we have been troubled by the influence of special interests on legislation.

  • In 2000, the Republicans painted a target on House Speaker Raymond Sanchez, who was as much of an irritant to Republican Gov. Gary Johnson as his brother, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, is to this one.
    The GOP hoped to take control of the Legislature. Running against the powerful House Speaker was John Sanchez, a political newbie who didn’t appear to have a chance.
    That campaign could be a chapter in political science textbooks.
    An over-confident Raymond didn’t take his opponent seriously until it was too late. In November, John Sanchez unleashed a flood of radio ads accusing Raymond Sanchez of resisting efforts to toughen laws against sex offenders and child pornography. His campaign made phone calls and mailed letters to Raymond’s constituents asking them to call him if they think, “families have a right to know if a convicted sexual predator is living next door.”
    Raymond countered with his own radio ads saying the accusations were lies and mudslinging. He lost.
    John Sanchez’s campaign manager, by the way, was Jay McCleskey, the governor’s Rasputin (or puppeteer, critics say).

  • Conferences, policy institutes and the like are useless when it comes to considering nasty problems such as the New Mexico economy, argue many people, including some action-oriented types in Albuquerque.
    They are wrong.
    The action types have recently grabbed the initiative, providing money to push specific agendas such as right to work. But this totally commendable argument for short-term specifics misses the point of considering the longer term.
    Perhaps the action types are motivated in part by the failure of talk efforts such as New Mexico First and the long-gone Business Leaders Forum at New Mexico State.
    A market for longer term, broader scope policy consideration clearly exists. The Albuquerque Business First newspaper lured 300 “business leaders” to a January conference to hear a national economist say nothing new about New Mexico, as best as I could figure from the newspaper’s stories about the conference.
    “The crowd was searching for some solutions,” one story said. None appeared.
    The annual Domenici Public Policy Conference in Las Cruces is less talk fest than listen fest with presentations from national and a few regional policy leaders. There are no coffee breaks, a serious limit on communication among people attending.

  • BY DR. JOSEPH HORTON
    Visions & Values

  • Lemitar is pretty far from the Pacific, but Tim Ott and Abigail “Judy” Armendariz are growing shrimp native to that ocean in a climate-controlled aquaculture plant just north of Socorro.
    Their company, Southwestern Seas LLC, has been selling New Mexico-farmed white Pacific shrimp at the Santa Fe Farmers Market for about a year.
    The business partners in late November received a $49,500 value-added producer grant from USDA that they plan to use to market their unconventional “crop” to other farmers markets around the state and thus increase sales.
    High-altitude ‘ocean’
    Southwestern Seas received its first shipment of young shrimp in the summer of 2014, when Armendariz’s garage served as the nursery. The company then built a 7,000-square-foot facility and equipped it with everything needed to replicate the saline, sea-level ocean environment where these shrimp typically live.
    The shrimp farmers add oxygen to the water in the facility’s giant saltwater tanks so the shrimp can survive at an altitude of more than 4,500 feet. They keep the building’s temperature at 85 degrees and maintain an elevated humidity level.
    Biofilters and recirculators sustain water quality inside the 65,000-gallon tanks, which are replenished regularly with water from an on-site well.

  • As it turns out, Donald Trump tweets.
    I found out about this after President Obama had wrapped up his State of the Union address last week.
    It was a good speech, actually – thoughtful, candid, truthful, hard-hitting and engaging. As most presidential State of the Union orations go, that’s a bit rare.
    Mr. Donald Trump, on the other hand, didn’t like the president’s remarks in the least. Barely had the presidential teleprompter gone black before the real estate mogul was typing out this tweet for the edification of his acolytes: “The #SOTU speech is really boring, slow lethargic – very hard to watch.”
    Then, too, since he embarked upon his quest for the Republican presidential nomination several months back an impressive body of evidence has accumulated to suggest that the only voice Donald Trump truly likes to hear is his own.
    Which probably explains why the voice of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was even more off-putting for Mr. Trump than Mr. Obama’s, when she began her “official” Republican response to the president’s State of the Union.     

  • Adversaries are already squaring off over hot-button issues in the legislative session that begins Jan. 19, so it might surprise you that there’s an oasis of agreement.
    That’s the legislative Jobs Council. The agreement is due to ground rules that required unanimous decisions. Right off the bat, it eliminated pointless debates over issues that will never see a consensus.
    The Jobs Council is three years old. It’s the brainchild of former House Speaker Ken Martinez, who envisioned a nonpartisan forum where legislators, community leaders, business people and economic developers could hammer out ideas.
    That’s what happened.
    Guided by veteran economic developer Mark Lautman, the council began with meetings in every county and every Council of Government district. Participants at this grassroots level were asked, probably for the first time: How many jobs do you need? How many jobs do you think you can create? What economic sectors are most likely to provide those jobs? What obstacles do you face in creating jobs?
    The data from these exercises has been lovingly charted by council helpers.

  • The legislative session looks to be nasty, Steve Terrell, political writer for The New Mexican newspaper, told Albuquerque Press Women a week before Tuesday’s session start. The big difference between 2015 and 2016 is that this year’s gathering will shorter, mostly focused on finances.
    But as to contemplation of fundamental reforms for our floundering state, much less action, uh, no. The exception is the continuing tax crusade by Republicans Rep. Jason Harper of Rio Rancho and Sen. Bill Sharer of Farmington.
    Outside the legislative bubble, the world continues with people not working, government investing in businesses, an athletic discussion and world-class research.
    Nationally the labor force participation rate was 62.6 percent in December, a near-record low. That’s the proportion of people either working or looking for work. The rate has dropped for five years.
    The rate was 57 percent for New Mexico in November, says the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. No doubt we were affected by all the commonly cited factors, from aging population (retiring Baby Boomers) to welfare systems, with little push to find work. Indeed, as unemployment benefits increase, the value of work goes down. Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago works on these topics.

  • Environmentalists like a good crisis. Spreading fear is a proven fundraising technique — with manmade climate change as the fear du jour. But, back in 2005, the “looming crisis,” according to the Kansas Sierra Club, was the end of cheap oil. The post concludes: “The end of cheap oil, followed by the end of cheap natural gas, threatens to cripple strong economies and devastate weak ones.” The author posits: “The world burns oil faster than new oil is discovered.”

    Today, slightly more than 10 years later, thanks to American ingenuity and initiative, the world is awash in oil and natural gas — with America being the world’s number one energy producer. As a result oil and natural gas are cheaper than anyone imagined just a few years ago when the price of gasoline, due to a “red-hot global economy and fears over dwindling supplies,” spiked to $4.11 a gallon in 2008. All time highest average gasoline prices of $3.60 in 2012 — during the last presidential election — gave credence to the “end of cheap oil” gloom-and-doom scenario. 

  • The Obama administration’s lack of understanding of the spiritual depth and commitment of private religious charities is shocking. The callousness of the federal effort to compel a noble Catholic religious order — the Little Sisters of the Poor — to forsake its faith commitments shows the depth of the intolerance of the behemoth secular state under President Barack Obama.

    The story is one of courageousness on the part of the nuns of this religious order. Founded in France in 1839, the Little Sisters of the Poor has spread to many other countries, including the United States, with the charitable goal of giving aid and comfort to the poor. The sisters take the normal vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but also add hospitality, which they extend to some of the “least of those in our midst.”

    In March, the nuns will continue their long battle against the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its head, Sylvia Burwell, when the sisters and their lawyers come before the Supreme Court.