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Opinion

  • “Bananas –59¢/lb.” Bananas are rich metaphors for the untold oddities that lurk deep in nature and in humans.  
    People see different things in a banana plantation. You hear them called banana “plants;” others call them “trees.” Botanically, bananas grow on a plant whose “trunks” of tightly-woven leaves look to all the world like trees. Say what you will.
    Equally strange, the heavy bunches of bananas grow upwards from their stem-end, which looks upside down to our eyes. Nor is that surprise the last.  
    In the early 1800s, sailors returning from trips to the tropical Americas would earn a little extra profit by loading on board the mostly unknown long, yellow fruit. In 1866, one Carl B. Frank began the first planned importing of bananas from northern Panama to New York City.
    That same decade saw the birth of banana republics, a name coined in a 1904 book of short stories by O. Henry.  
    Bananas are now as common as fish, but the exotic fruit is still popular in today’s markets. Nothing grows a tougher wrapper that makes peeling and eating so easy. Nothing else has a bite-size cross section that neatly reseals the end where it is bitten or cut.

  • BY DR. L. JOHN VAN TIL
    Visions and Values

  • New Mexico entrepreneurs who want to start a business or take an existing venture to the next level need a model that allows the business to “scale up” – to improve profitability as demand increases for its product or service.
    A scalable model attracts more investors because it equips the business to adapt to a larger market without significantly increasing its costs. And that has a positive impact on economic development in New Mexico, where a home-grown business that’s prepared for exponential growth brings more out-of-state money home.
    Different paths
    Many entrepreneurs are content to grow in a linear, conservative fashion: When sales increase, the business hires more people or buys more capital to accommodate bigger demand. The business has a stable bottom line, but its profitability doesn’t increase over time or it crawls slowly and inefficiently upward.
    A business with a scalable model, by contrast, aims for faster, cheaper growth by breaking up the sales growth/cost growth relationship. It grows exponentially by keeping costs stagnant when sales ramp up.

  • The kid was obviously talented. He was athletic and graceful. He could sing, dance, memorize lines, and occasionally did a cartwheel across the room for fun.
    We were in an amateur show produced by a local community organization. Most cast members were adults. The kid held his own, did fine, brimmed with confidence.  
    This kid is going to be a big success in life, I thought.
    A few weeks into rehearsals, his grandmother pulled me aside. He is biologically female, she told me. It was a lot to absorb, to say the least. The grandmother was not confiding in me because of any special relationship. She told me, I thought, because others already knew. It was not a secret.
    This child knew who he was from age three, the grandma explained. He had a girl’s name and was treated like a girl. For his third birthday his family bought him a tutu. He refused to wear it and told them he was a boy, and that was that.  
    This was the most accepting family a child could have hoped for. “We told him, ‘We didn’t know, we didn’t understand,’” the grandma told me. They changed what had to be changed, including his name, and never tried to change his mind.   

  • New Mexico is about to fire Billy the Kid.
    Coronado, Victorio, the conquistadores, and the U. S. Cavalry are getting the sack, too.
    Visitors come here to see these icons at the state’s seven historic sites. Just in time for peak tourist season, the state Cultural Affairs Department announced a draconian plan to kick out the very people who know the most about these sites – their managers.
    The department announced a plan in late May to save money by reorganizing the Historic Sites Division, combing six sites into three regions with new managers. This would affect Jemez, Coronado, Fort Selden, Camino Real, Lincoln and Fort Stanton historic sites. Bosque Redondo and Los Luceros aren’t affected (yet). Another six positions department-wide are also on the block. But the department wants to hire 13 “critical employees,” including three PR people.
    Terminations are effective Aug. 3, if the State Personnel Board approves the plan at its July 21 meeting.
    Let’s recall that during the legislative session, declining revenues forced lawmakers to shrink the budget and give the administration permission to do more cutting, if necessary.
    It’s always a grim process, but in reducing costs, two principles ought to be at work. First, spread the pain evenly.

  • As a rule, New Mexico oil and gas production is out of sight and, therefore, out of mind. Even in the production areas of the southeast and northwest, I suspect a goodly proportion of people not directly involved have only a general sense of what happens.
    Even the financial impacts manifest only in a general way. In good times, state government gets oil and gas money and expands. In less good times, such as today, less money appears and government, though crunched, expands anyway. Local effects, though, are immediate for good or bad.
    At the recent Legislative Finance Committee meeting in Artesia, staff at Elite Well Services and Nick Agopian of Devon Energy walked through the steps in making an oil well. Overall, the Delaware Basin in New Mexico and Texas within the Permian Basin is a “world class oil and gas play,” Agopian said. The term “play” means (thank you Wikipeda) an area with the same geology (to over simplify).
    Each well costs from $1 million to $8 million. In most communities, an $8 million business investment merits a headline.
    The tasks are complicated, difficult, technical and not obvious to the passerby. The work requires much science and a fair amount of luck.

  • BY VERONICA C. GARCIA, Ed.D.
    Executive Director, New Mexico Voices for Children

  • BY WILLIAM F. FULGINITI
    Executive Director, New Mexico Municipal League

  • The Dog Head Fire in Torrance and Bernalillo counties roared to life just as a couple of important bills were under debate in Congress.
    A few upbeat notes: We’ve seen a fast response by helpers to raise money, pitch in at evacuation sites, and bring animals to the State Fair Grounds for safekeeping. Southwest Incident Management posts timely information on its website and has a Facebook page, so if you’re sitting in an evacuation center you know what’s going on.
    Fire fighters are, again, our heroes. Locals have been lavish in posting their praise and thanks, except for one guy: “Who will reimburse me for all the days spent in a hotel, and all the food lost in my refrigerator/freezers since the power was cut????”
    That provoked a response: “Give these people a break, for crying out loud! It’s a natural flippin’ disaster and people are working their butts off trying to keep others and property safe.”

  • Just how little we know about the New Mexico world around us is one lesson from the mid-June visit to Artesia by the Legislative Finance Committee’s traveling summer road show.
    Massive danger from Obama administration regulatory overreach (putting it politely) is another lesson.
    Holding meetings around the state allows legislators to get some direct knowledge of people and activities and provides an opportunity for those, such as Eddy County Commissioners Stella Davis and James Walterscheid, who both attended the Artesia session, to get acquainted with respected senators and representatives.
    LFC members coming to Artesia included Sen. John Arthur Smith, Deming; Rep Jimmie Hall, Albuquerque; Rep. Paul Bandy, Aztec; Sen. Carlos Cisneros, Questa; Rep. Jason Harper, Albuquerque; Sen. Carroll Leavell, Jal; and Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, Gallup.
    Oil was the topic for the day in Artesia. One illustration of different legislator perspective came as the group toured Elite Well Services (elitewells.com). The firm and its facilities are a long way from Sandia National Laboratories where Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, earns his living. Employment of the highest technologies connects Elite and Sandia. A layman-level summary of extracting oil was a highlight at Elite Services.

  • BY FINANCE NEW MEXICO

  • We’re celebrating the centennial of the national park system this year, and this week the First Family visits Carlsbad Caverns. I hope they enjoy it as much as my family has.
    For many of us growing up, the family vacation meant a road trip. Sometimes the destination was a national park. I saw the caverns the first time as a kid and passed it along when my son was old enough to understand what he was seeing. He loved it.
    New Mexico has its share of treasures: Carlsbad Caverns, Bandelier, El Malpais, White Sands, Fort Union, Aztec Ruins, Capulin Volcano, Chaco Canyon, El Morro, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Manhattan Project, Pecos, Petroglyph, Salinas Pueblo Missions, Valles Caldera.
    When we think of the national parks and monuments, it’s with a brush of nostalgia, but issues of 2016 will elbow their way in to the party.
    As we know, Carlsbad Caverns was without its elevators until recently. Congress has underfunded the National Park Service for years, and the backlog of deferred maintenance has reached $11.9 billion; in New Mexico, it’s $113 million -- $44.4 million just at Carlsbad. Many sites are understaffed.
    And yet our tourism industry counts on the 1.6 million visitors to New Mexico’s national parks and the $88.8 million they spent. The parks also provide 1,400 jobs here.

  • BY PAUL J. GUESSING
    Rio Grande Foundation

  • BY SEN. MARTIN
    HEINRICH (D-N.M.)
    Guest Columnist

  • Recently, this column looked at the Legislative Council Service (LCS) report on the legislative session and considered the budget (the biggest part of the picture), listed state government’s major functions, and briefly discussed Medicaid.
    Today we look, from the policy view, as before, at legislative decisions affecting those major functions and touch on a few of the tiny and always interesting items. “Less than very seldom” is how often really big changes happen in state government.
    Scrounging money required considerable creativity during the session. The term “skimming money” isn’t usually associated with doing good, legal things. But skimming money is the LCS description for pulling money from “various reserves.” House bill 311 did the deed.
    Public schools get 44.3 percent of the money budgeted through the General Fund, the state’s operating account. Education changes amounted to bits and pieces, the same as for all of state government in this year of reduced spending. One change, following the precedent from the 2008 recession, allows school districts to change requirements for class size, length of the school day and other factors. This suggests Santa Fe doesn’t know all the details of running the schools.

  • My heart aches over the stories I hear about heroin overdoses. Local fathers post stories about their sons and daughters, fatal victims of the heroin market. Police conduct raids. The illegal marketing demand continues to fund Afghanistan poppy farmers. Other illegal drug markets cause societal issues, as meth labs contaminate homes and acreage. A house in my neighborhood is selling for half its former market value because of meth lab damage. More than ever, we live in a drug culture.
    When I google “heroin,” however, my top hit is an article by the National Institute of Drug Abuse indicating that nearly half of young people who inject heroin reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin.
    As bad as our illegal drug market has become, the potential for the abuse of prescription drugs is a much more pervasive problem throughout America today.
    This conversation is frequently fueled by stories about yet another superstar and his/her battles with prescription drugs, the most recent being that of Prince. I am not sufficiently familiar with his pain and challenges to comment on his possible addictions, but I am saddened at his plight and that of millions of Americans who deal with chronic pain.

  • BY LORETTA HALL
    Guest Columnist

  • The great blessing that science gives us humans is a growing supply of knowledge.  
    The great curse that science puts on us is a growing supply of knowledge.
    And everything we learn brings the next unknown, which may be a new cure, a new cause of harm, or a sizable chance of both.  
    The thorny work for us is to blend new knowledge safely into a busy world. Democracy slows the work to a tortoise’s pace, with so much time given to the enormous patchwork of public opinions.  
    So we keep doing our best to minimize the risks that are intertwined in a world of new knowledge, unknowns, and opinions of every shade. Our lot is called the human condition.
    Such struggles are often in the news, with scant history. Lead made news recently.  
    Hazards from lead predate Ancient Rome and were clarified as science grew. In the last century, science learned specific chances of harm to different people from lead in different amounts for enough time.  
    A proper question to ask is, “Should we get rid of lead in painted walls and lead in working pipes as soon as we have that knowledge?” After all, some children will eat leaded paint from walls. Lead pipe systems are mostly handled better.   

  • In the first 15 months of its CreativeFund program, The Loan Fund helped more than 100 creative entrepreneurs in Albuquerque and Santa Fe secure a loan or receive training or advice to help turn their creative talents into successful business ventures.
    The program has been so successful, in fact, that The Loan Fund is planning to expand its offerings statewide.
    It’s all part of an effort by the nonprofit – a community development financial institution with an economic and social improvement mission – to serve a group of typically debt-averse individuals who support themselves through creative endeavors of some form, said Matt Loehman, The Loan Fund’s director of development and special projects.
    Changing mind-sets
    Creative enterprises are the primary source of income for more than 43,000 New Mexicans, according to a 2015 report by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. That’s equivalent to the number of New Mexicans who work in construction and 50 percent more than the number of manufacturing workers.

  • Gary Johnson is saying something worth listening to. It’s about the conduct of the presidential election.
    New Mexico’s former governor is running for president again as the candidate of the Libertarian Party. He probably will be the only third-party candidate on the ballot in all 50 states. I am not a fan of Johnson or his political philosophy, but he’s absolutely right about the process.
    He tried to run as a Republican but was not given a chance to appear on Republican debate stages because he was not high enough in the polls. As he has said, the only way to get higher in the polls is to get enough exposure on TV. Debates are one critically important way to do that. The other way is through all the interviews Johnson didn’t get.
    Last fall and into the spring, when Republican candidates were interviewed, they were usually asked to comment on Donald Trump, and were not given a chance to talk about their own views on national policy. It was disgraceful.
    Senator Bernie Sanders didn’t get much exposure, either, you recall.
    Way back before the public was invited, a few network executives apparently decided which candidates were going to get coverage and which would be ignored.