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Opinion

  • By Sandy Nelson of Finance New Mexico

    Timothy Gay shopped around before securing a loan in 2013 to buy a building in downtown Las Cruces for his Massage Therapy Training Institute (MTTI). He chose Century Bank to help him secure a U.S. Small Business Administration commercial 504 loan.

    “They were the nicest people to work with, which is definitely a bonus,” he said about the bank.
    Gay, a graduate of MTTI, bought the business from his father, Laun Smith, in 2007. Over the years, he grew tired of paying rent to the people who owned the building where Smith launched the institute in 1999. Gay wanted to build equity for his own venture in a more centralized location where he could attract more students.

    The gamble paid off: The institute has seen a 25 percent increase in business since moving to the new location in 2014.

    Getting money where it matters

    As a state-chartered and locally owned community bank, Century Bank proclaims on its website that it wants to be “the bank of choice” for borrowers like Gay.

  • If you need dental care and live far from the nearest dentist or can’t afford the cost, you might plan a trip to Albuquerque on Sept. 22-23. That weekend will be the occasion of the sixth annual Mission of Mercy, called New Mexico’s largest charitable event.

    An estimated 150 volunteer dentists will set up a temporary clinic in the Convention Center and provide services free of charge on a first-come first-served basis.

     There have been five such events since 2010, held in different cities. To date, New Mexico MOM has served more than 6,900 patients and has provided $4.9 million in donated dental care.
    But New Mexico is still woefully short of access to dental care.

    Reports show 32 of New Mexico’s 33 counties do not have adequate access. A 2017 report from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services states only about one-third of New Mexicans are adequately served, and an estimated 138 dentists are needed to bring the state up to standard.

    So, in this writer’s opinion, the generosity of this charitable event does not compensate for the Legislature’s failure once again to pass a dental therapy bill.

  • In last week’s column, I talked about an idea that had been brought to my attention that I found interesting.

    It involved selling the existing golf course and building a new one in Pueblo Canyon, something I had heard about from a small group of people. However, it was just an idea and I attempted to present it in that way.

    Since the column was published, there has been a lot of reaction from the community and county officials about the idea. Although many people think that it is an interesting concept, it doesn’t seem to be very realistic at this time.

    County Council Chair David Izraelevitz explained that this idea is not a totally new one, and that it has been brought up in the past, but has been quickly dismissed each time.

    “It hasn’t been taken too seriously because of opposition to closing down the course for a long period of time,” Izraelevitz said.

    It has been discussed at least as far back as the 1980s, when then-County Councilor Roger Waterman brought up the idea of moving the golf course and building houses on the current site, according to Morris Pongratz, his fellow councilor at the time.

  • You can be conservative and in favor of
    improvements

    Dear Editor,
    It was a great pleasure to see Tony Fox insist that the council recognize that voting against the rec bond is not identical with voting against the rec projects. One may be fiscally conservative and still be in favor of some quality of life improvements and infrastructure development.

    And while Dr. (Lisa) Shin is indeed correct that quantification is not precise, it is certainly clear that everyone who voted for the bond is also in favor of the projects. Now if only one in 10 fiscal conservatives are nonetheless also in favor of at least some of the rec projects, a small fraction, then there is also a majority in favor of those projects.

    It is good that the CIP funds will be reviewed for how much we can already afford. However, we certainly can afford something. The improvement of Ashley (Pond) Park is an example of how much can be added to our enjoyment of Los Alamos.

  • There seem to be two kinds of Republicans: those who think that the full faith and credit of the United States can be the subject of political experimentation, and sensible ones.

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin fits in the latter category. He has repeatedly called upon Congress, controlled by the GOP, to pass an increase in the statutory debt limit, with no policy strings attached, so that the United States government may continue borrowing past the current, already expired ceiling of $20 trillion – and pay all of its obligations on time. The stability of the financial system, domestic and international, depends on preserving the “risk-free” status of U.S. debt, earned over centuries. A failure to raise the debt limit would imperil this status, causing a “serious problem,” as Mr. Mnuchin has put it with considerable understatement.

  • What happens in Mexico doesn’t stay in Mexico.

    Our southern neighbor is wrestling with an alarming surge in cartel violence, a U.S. security crackdown on its northern border and a glut of migrant refugees slipping through its back door.  All of which affects us directly or indirectly.

    The situation demands our attention and a redoubling of efforts to create sound, effective policy.

    Simply put, an unstable and unsafe Mexico isn’t good for Texas. Our economies are too entwined. Mexico is our No. 1 trade partner by far. It’s also not good for American industries that depend on lucrative trade deals and cheaper labor supplied by immigrants chasing the American dream. And it’s not good for American communities struggling with the consequences of illicit drugs flowing into cities, suburbs and rural hamlets.

    Let’s start with the uptick in homicides. There’s no way to romanticize the resurgence in cartel conflicts that are turning once-tranquil towns in Mexico into killing fields.

    The Mexican government’s war on drugs and cartels isn’t working. Mexico is on pace for its deadliest year with 12,155 murders recorded from January through June.

  • Is it possible that New Mexico’s economy is finally starting to revive? If you follow the numbers in the last couple of months, you could get whiplash.

    Some major indicators are up dramatically, but they’re both heartening and concerning. Bear with me for some statistics.

    We’re finally on a good list. The U. S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently clocked a healthy surge in gross domestic product for the first three months of 2017. New Mexico’s growth was 2.8 percent, the nation’s third highest. The leading contributor was oil and gas.

    In late July the Legislative Finance Committee brought joy to state bean counters with the news that recurring revenues in May were up 32 percent ($141 million) from May 2016.

    More good news is that gross receipts tax revenue in May was $39.3 million higher than the year before, and year-to-date it was up 6.2 percent. This means, among other things, that people are out spending money. For five months in a row, revenues have surpassed the same months in 2016.

  • By Lisa Shin

    President, A Better Way for LA Political Action Committee  

    On August 8, Councilors Chrobocinski and O'Leary will present “Discussion and Possible Action Relating to Proposed Changes to the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Fund.” There will be recommended action on recreation projects for the bond election, which failed on May 23, 2017.  

    The following are my recommended actions.     

    I strongly recommend that the $13.4 million of CIP funds be used to improve existing facilities: the golf course and softball fields. The Splash Pad had an estimated cost of $720,000 with $37,000 yearly operations and maintenance costs. Through a competitive bidding process, it could be done at a significantly lower cost.  $350,000 with $20,000 yearly operations and maintenance is reasonable.

    I strongly urge the council to wait for the LANL contract to be awarded in April 2018, and our budget to be finalized, before directing our county staff to begin work on the multi-generational pool. Our financial situation could change quickly, with budget cuts and possible lay-offs. We must prioritize the needs of our community, and adjust the CIP funding expected for this project accordingly.

  • By David J. Forjan

    To the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

    Look, we’re all grown-ups here.  Let’s cut through all the BS.

    Every USFWS employee involved with the Mexican gray wolf recovery program has sold them out.  You’ve all sold out the Mexican gray wolves.

    Either by the “Sin of Commission” or the “Sin of Omission.” Either selling them out by direct action, like those who wrote the new recovery plan. Or selling out the Mexican gray wolves by their inaction, like not standing up or speaking up or screaming at the top of your lungs that the program has, and is continuing to, fail the wolves.

    Let’s also cut the BS about the reasons the program is failing. The real reason, the core problem, is money, power and influence. Some people who have alot of money then want power. 

    And some people with power want to influence things. Mostly to make themselves more money. In this case, that influence is also killing Mexican gray wolves. And killing them off.

    And let’s skip the pretense that this new recovery plan will succeed. It will fail for so many reasons that if it wasn’t so sad it would be laughable.

  • A few people truly worry about New Mexico’s long term. But they don’t know what to do. These isolated individuals emerged in the past few weeks in Farmington, Roswell, Las Cruces and Albuquerque from conversations with nearly 40 people who ought to be thought leaders in the state.

    The individuals cover the state’s precious demographics, though most conversations have been with old White guys. But then I am an old White guy.

    For recent conversations, the question has been whether the individual gets in discussions and/or is thinking about the long term for New Mexico. A few answered, “Yes.” Ah, but what to do.

    I used to ask what the individual saw for New Mexico. That question generated the conventional wisdom: too much government, Central New Mexico Community College is doing good stuff.

    The Albuquerque-Denver comparison has resurfaced. This is not especially useful. Denver is the major leagues (think Broncos, Rockies, Nuggets, Avalanche). Albuquerque is AAA. Compare Albuquerque with Tucson, Des Moines, Omaha.

    Typical “future” thinking amounts to citing New Mexico’s position on “all the lists” and wailing.

    Defining the problem is what we have not done. A position on a list says only a little.

  • BY REP. BILL MCCAMLEY
    New Mexico House of Representatives, Dist. 33

    Resist.

    For many of us scared and angry about our current president, it’s become a mantra for a good reason. Protecting basic health care, opposing turning our schools over to corporations, and defending America’s credibility worldwide are all vital to our future.

    But it is not enough. Recently, 52 percent of Americans polled only define Democrats by our work to fight Trump. If we are going to really change communities for the better, and regain people’s trust, we have to be proactive and bold in pushing for real change. What does that mean?

    While unemployment is low and the stock market continues to rise thanks to President Obama’s work after the Great Recession, wages have stayed flat. So while the average CEO now makes 335 times that of the average worker, most people feel like no matter how hard they work the best they can do is keep pace on a treadmill. And if working families have any problem, like unexpected health bills or a major house/car problem, that treadmill kicks them right off.

  • The nation’s lowest average residential electric bill comes to New Mexico’s homeowners. Who’d a thunk?
    The rates rank 20th nationally, but we use less electricity, the 11th lowest amount. Combine the factors and the average monthly bill becomes the lowest.
    This is a federal number, coming from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, courtesy of our Public Regulation Commission. Four PRCers, led by Sandy Jones, commission chair, had a long session July 19 in Farmington with the Legislative Finance Committee and the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee at the BP Center for Energy Education at San Juan College. The session ran an hour and 25 minutes beyond the scheduled hour.
    The electric bill item, obscure but of interest to all New Mexicans, appeared in an out of the way place making it difficult for the information to circulate. This is an old problem. New Mexico’s large size means a lot of out of sight and out of mind. Even the Center for Energy Education, a gorgeous white building located about four blocks from the main campus, shares the out of sight problem.

  • Corruption: dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers) (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

    My fellow councilor Pete Sheehey has proposed a council resolution to more expansively define the roles and responsibilities of the Los Alamos County Sheriff’s Office. The last paragraph of his resolution is very troubling, as it would give the Sheriff the power to perform a criminal investigation should the police department be deemed, in the sheriff’s “reasonable” opinion, to be compromised. I see this expansive power as a fatal flaw in his proposal. To understand my objections, let’s dig deeper into the implications of this role.

  • I like drilling rigs. They’re noisy, dirty and dangerous, which appeals to the teenage boy in me. And I’ve always felt the big flag on the derrick is a nice touch. As a combination of hard work, technical savvy and high-stakes optimism, oil and gas drilling is the quintessential American enterprise.

    As with so much of the modern world, we invented it. Years ago, I met an oilman who had a photo of the famous Spindletop Geyser on his office wall, and he was happy to share the story. On Jan. 10, 1901, Lucas No. 1 in southeast Texas struck “black gold” at just 1,020 feet down. The gusher spewed a fountain of crude 150 feet in the air, blowing nearly a million barrels of oil over the landscape before settling down to pump a steady 10,000 barrels a day. As hundreds of derricks sprouted around that lone well on Spindletop Dome the price of oil dropped from $2 a barrel to less than a nickel and the American Century was underway.

  • BY PETE SHEEHEY
    Los Alamos County Councilor

    The County Council will consider the role of the Sheriff in Los Alamos in a Special Session Wednesday, July 26 at 6 pm at the LA Municipal Building.  After a contentious campaign, Los Alamos voted last November to keep an elected Sheriff.

    I believe a majority on Council now accepts that our citizens want a functional Sheriff’s Office. I am proposing a Resolution (losalamosnm.us/UserFiles/Servers/Server_6435726/File/20170726_Resolution%2017-08_Sheriff.pdf) to return a reasonable set of duties to the Sheriff’s Office.  This resolution is a compromise that acknowledges the wishes of the majority to preserve a functional elected sheriff’s office, while respecting the concerns of those who voted to eliminate the office.  

  • With the July 10 announcement by Congressman Steve Pearce that he is running for governor, the field of substantive candidates seems complete.
    Before going further, one point of context should be specified; I like Steve Pearce. I met him about 20 years ago during his two-term apprenticeship as a legislator from Hobbs. I found him smart and personable. He asked good questions. Since then, he has shown himself to be firmly committed to ideas and prone to the occasional grand gesture.
    One question for Pearce won’t disappear. It’s whether he can win a statewide general election. He won a statewide Republican U. S. Senate primary in 2008 when he beat then Congresswoman Heather Wilson, hardly a trivial opponent, for the privilege of getting soundly beaten by Democrat and now Sen. Tom Udall.
    Wilson, who beat a series of nonentities while she was in Congress (incumbency helps) lost a second Senate race to a formidable opponent, Martin Heinrich.
    Pearce’s ideas form a second question. Call him a staunch conservative. For sure he will be toast if he only presents voters the standard list of right-wing talking points. He will also be toast if he allows Democrats to cast him as a conservative caricature.

  • By Sandy Nelson
    For Finance New Mexico

    Young people can be hard to impress, but students from Albuquerque’s Academy of Trades and Technology (ATTHS) charter school were visibly stoked by a tour of Rader Awning during 2016 Manufacturing Day events.

    Before-and-after shots of the 15 ATTHS students who visited the factory where Rader manufactures awnings, shade panels and fabric products illustrate what can happen when young adults get a close look at the world of manufacturing: a transformation from bored detachment to delighted engagement.

    It’s the kind of transformation that inspires New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NM MEP), the organizers and sponsors of local Manufacturing Day, to focus on introducing a fresh generation to careers in advanced manufacturing.

    Closing the gap

  • Last summer, at the Santo Domingo Pueblo arts and crafts fair, I bought a carved wooden bear from a seller who said he was from Jemez Pueblo. He was sitting with fetish carvers from Zuni Pueblo. Imagine my surprise when I saw a shelf full of the same carved bears across the border in Mexico.

    Recently, U. S. Sen. Tom Udall held field hearings on the issue of counterfeit Native American art. His goal was to hear from artists, experts and law enforcement officials about changes needed in the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 to better protect both artists and buyers.

    This is not a trivial problem. In the past year, we’ve seen multiple indictments stemming from a federal investigation.

    The quantity of fake Indian jewelry pouring in from Asia is truly staggering. It’s risen to a level (one number used in the hearing was 80 percent ) that will kill our jewelry industry if we let it.

    I was surprised to learn some years ago that New Mexico’s jewelry industry is the fifth or sixth largest in the country.

  • By Nathaniel Sillin

    Are you packing up your car and hitting the road this summer? You’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by AAA, road trips are the most popular type of vacation for families in the U.S. in 2017. In fact, 10 percent more families are expected to take road trips this year than last.

    From driving to the tip of Cape Cod, to seeing the Great Lakes all the way to a drive through the Yosemite Valley in California, there are limitless ways to explore on the road.

    Whether you’re going to visit family or taking off on an epic adventure, a road trip can be a great way to make travel about the journey rather than the destination.

    Before you hit the road, make sure your car can handle the trip. Before you pack up your car, it’s a good idea to take your car to a mechanic and ensure that it’s ready for the drive. Having your car inspected and serviced by a mechanic before a road trip can be a worthwhile investment that could both save you money and prevent an untimely breakdown.

    Looking into a rental car is an alternative you may want to consider if you’re hoping to avoid wear and tear that might depreciate your car’s value. Consider your options carefully and choose what makes most financial sense for you.

  • As governor, Bill Richardson had ideas. He gave us commissions for this and that. There was something about a national football league franchise. Somewhere. He gave us the spaceport and the commuter railroad, both heavily subsidized by taxpayers—me and thee. An added bonus from the railroad is the opportunity for people to die along the tracks.

    Just about all of our so-called leaders have ideas about sunsets and little else.

    There are some people with real ideas in Washington, D.C., of all places. Ideas of substance, not the sniping about the failed policies of Gov. X or Sen. Y.

    The two-year-old Economic Innovation Group (eig.org) seems to have mixed people from across the various spectra.

    The website headline is, “Empowering entrepreneurs and investors to forge a more dynamic U.S. economy.” EIG calls itself “a bipartisan public policy organization, ​founded in 2013, ​combining innovative research and data-driven advocacy to address America’s most pressing economic challenges.”

    Notice that it says “bipartisan” rather than “non-partisan.” New Mexico could learn from EIG.

    The distinction recognizes that factions—parties—won’t go away.