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Opinion

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    The outcome of two lawsuits that are pending against Mora County and its Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance have the potential to impact an individual’s ability to use and profit from his or her own land — not just in New Mexico, but from coast-to-coast. 

    One year ago, in a 2 to 1 vote, Mora County commissioners made headlines by becoming the first in the country to totally outlaw all development of hydrocarbons. 

    County Commissioner John Olivas, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners believes “the ordinance is defensible” and claims the county is “ready for the fight.” 

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    News of this spring’s deadly mudslide in Oso, Wash., fades slowly from the public mind. 

    Oso is barely a mini-dot on the map. Yet the microcosm of events that met there reflects the curious array of forces that governs the whole nation. 

    The Oso story has two most intriguing parts: the persistent powers of nature and the stubborn traits of humans.    

    The persistency of nature set the stage in Oso. The hillside that swept away homes and lives had slid on eight or nine occasions going back to 1949, including a huge slide in 2006. 

    The site of the repeated slides had its own colorful name — Steelhead Haven Landslide — and a local nickname — “Slide Hill.”

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    In Election Year 2014, nothing said means much because it’s all about money. Thank you, Supreme Court.

    Take the most recent political raspberries, for example.

    Mother Jones, a lefty magazine, ran an unflattering story about Gov. Susana Martinez with four-year-old taped statements from the governor and her campaign staff. Yawn. The ignorance and arrogance revealed aren’t surprising — it was apparent in her campaign — but who hasn’t said things in private that don’t look good in headlines?

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    New Mexico is an enchanting land that finds itself bereft of leadership in a time of economic woes.

    Earlier this year the Washington Post put this headline above one of its stories: “Population growth in New Mexico approaching zero — and other bad signs.” In the three and a-half months since that story, there have been other headlines in other publications citing more recent economic numbers documenting that New Mexico is actually losing population and losing jobs.

    But the crux of the original Post story remains the same: New Mexico has the greatest income inequality in the nation. Even more chilling, it has the greatest increase in income inequality. It also has one of the least prepared workforces in the U.S.

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    While we do our very best to keep a close eye on Fido, he tends to let curiosity get the best of him when engaging in an unsupervised stroll around the neighborhood. When this happens, you’ll be thankful that you just invested in that slightly-overpriced-but-irresistibly-cute dog collar, personalized ID tags, and microchip.

    “ID tags can help with identification in case they get lost or run away,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, a lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “It lets people know that the dog is owned and is very helpful when trying to reunite the animal with the owner.”

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    The U.S. is sending about 600 ground troops to Eastern Europe ... to ‘reassure’ allies there as Washington resumes its campaign of pressure on Russia over the Ukraine standoff.” — Politico.

    How many American parents would proudly send their sons and daughters off to kill or be killed in Slovyansk or Donetsk? How many young men and women aspire to be the first American to fall in Kramatorsk?

    Those towns are in eastern Ukraine. President Barack Obama says the “military option” — war, that is — is not on the table in his effort to oppose Russia in the Ukraine crisis, but can we trust him? As pressure mounts on him from America’s war hawks, what will he do when sanctions fail to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to acquiesce? Will the military option then find its way onto that infamous table?

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    An entrepreneur who’s ready to let investors contribute equity to her promising venture needs to shape an agreement that allows others to share in the rewards, but lets her retain significant control over her creation. 

    The rough draft of that agreement is called a term sheet. It’s essentially the template for the legal contract that ultimately spells out the responsibilities and relationships of business partners.

    Commonly used by professionals during pre-investment negotiations, a term sheet can also be used by small-business owners to discuss terms with investors, including friends and family members. The document aims to protect the interests of all parties to the deal and prevent the disputes that can destroy personal and professional relationships if things don’t work out as expected.

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    Monday night begins the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Accompanied by friends, my family will be holding a celebratory dinner along with the ceremonial retelling of this story according to Jewish ritual, the Passover Seder. There are many themes in this ceremony, the precious value of personal freedom, religion as a source of strength during adversity, many others. And if you will bear with me, the value of shopping locally here in Los Alamos.

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    Lenders that resell or buy mortgage loans might feel the impact of a February decision by the New Mexico State Supreme Court that affects their ability to foreclose if the borrower defaults.

    The case, Bank of New York v. Joseph A. Romero, involved a Chimayó man who refinanced a mortgage he had taken on a home he inherited from his father decades earlier. Romero secured the original loan to open a business in Española; the 2006 Equity One refinance was done to pay off that older mortgage and other debts.

    Romero claimed his business made approximately $5,600 per month, but Equity One didn’t confirm that information or require an appraisal. To satisfy provisions of the state Home Loan Protection Act, or HLPA, Equity One had Romero and his wife sign a document stating that their $30,000 cash payout from the transaction was “a reasonable tangible net benefit” to them. 

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    Texans fascinate me. It’s not an uncritical admiration, but I can’t help looking across the border and wondering why they zoom out of the recession while we in New Mexico spin our wheels.

    From a recent annual meeting of the West Texas Historical Society, held in Odessa, I returned with some ideas to share with you.

    “Texas exceptionalism.” 

    This phrase, tossed out during one talk, is a fancy way to capture the confidence, the bravado, that permeates the atmosphere the way the smell of money from bobbing pumpjacks fills the air for miles around Odessa. What other state could name a major Austin museum exhibit “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true?”

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    Toto, you’ve been a bad little girl. In the Land of Oz, I would punish you by making you listen to a bunch of Munchkins sing, but we’re back in Kansas. So now, I suppose I’ll just have to beat you senseless.

    Whack! Just remember that disciplining you is a sign of love, OK? Whack!

    OK? Toto? Ah, damn it! Uh, anyone know how to resuscitate a dog?

    Kansas is an interesting state.

    The Kansas State motto is “Per Aspera Ad Astra”, meaning “To the stars through difficulty.” It’s ironic that Kansas would use Latin for its state motto. Back in 2007, the Kansas House and Senate passed bill H.B. 2140, making English the state’s official language.

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    Today’s widespread animal overpopulation is a direct effect of the failure of many pet owners to spay or neuter their pets. With myths such as behavioral changes and health complications resulting from the procedure circulating, it can be difficult to tell if spaying/neutering is the right choice for Fido or Fluffy. In order to save millions of homeless animals’ lives, as well as keep your animal in the best health possible, these myths should be put to rest once and for all.

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    The dictionary defines “culture” as an anthropological manifestation of human intellectual achievement, which is collectively assigned value and meaning.

    Wow, that’s impressive! Who knew that Boy George named his group “Culture Club” after an intellectual manifestation?

    Our world is like a big vat of yogurt chock full of culture; curdled governments, fermented values, sour foreign relations, and sometimes a little granola-flavored tradition thrown in to add texture.

    But that’s just the surface of human culture. Peel away the veneer of acceptable standards, and much like ripping the bark off a fallen rotting tree trunk, you’ll find a mass of insects busily living out their lives in another world.

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    If you find oil or natural gas on your property, the value goes up. If you find an endangered species, your land becomes virtually worthless — resulting in the half-jest, half-serious advice: “shoot, shovel and shut up.”

    The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to preserve, protect and recover key domestic species. Though well intentioned at the start, the ESA has since been used as a tool to hinder or block economic activity from logging and farming to mining and oil-and-gas development.

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    As the legislative session winds down and the final budget is crafted, I can’t help but reflect on one of the great tragedies of current state government. With every tax break, education program, special interest and critical line item being accounted for, it is easy to forget that our state government is awash in cash.

    There are hundreds of millions of unused tax dollars — excess bonding capacity and thousands of unfilled jobs — tucked away throughout state government. 

    Meanwhile, critical government services, water projects, ‘big idea’ education and economic development investment proposals fall to the wayside. We have the resources to move New Mexico forward but they remain unused. 

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    Column as I see ’em …

    It’s rare these days when proponents of the 2nd Amendment have a reason to celebrate, and rarer yet when that reason emanates from a state like California.

    With little fanfare and a begrudging attitude from gun control advocates disguised as reporters, news broke Thursday that the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel overturned restrictions on carrying concealed handguns.

    No, that doesn’t mean gun owners no longer need to apply and be approved for concealed carry permits, but pending future and inevitable appeals from gun control zealots, it does strike a blow to local municipalities that place unrealistic restrictions on those who apply for a permit.

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    As the world turns its attention to the Sochi Olympic Games, Environment New Mexico revealed a summary of global warming impacts on Winter Olympic sports, and highlighting the need to act urgently to reduce the carbon pollution fueling global warming.

    “When it comes to the future of winter sports, global warming has us skating on thin ice,” said Dominick Lawton, field associate with Environment New Mexico. “There’s still time to keep from sliding off the edge by going after the biggest sources of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.” 

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    In  the United States Constitution, the Founding Fathers took great care with the inclusion and exclusion of various topics. Many aspects of what defines America are explicitly enumerated.

    And many other aspects were purposely avoided. For instance, they made no effort whatsoever to define a national language.

    Standing on avant-garde political terra firma of the times, these colonial guerrillas forged a joie de vivre mentality that gave birth to a nation. The omission of declaring a national language was, de facto, evidence of their compos mentis and a sense of Realpolitik.

    Then again, maybe this exclusion was per se, a faux pas? 

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    Let’s bring the spirit of Christmas to Congress. The last time the minimum wage went up was in 2009, and, as the owner of a Christmas tree farm and other businesses, I think it’s time for another raise.

    Today’s $7.25 an hour minimum wage befits Scrooge — before he saw the error of his ways. It amounts to just $15,080 a year for full-time workers.

    Workers shouldn’t have to depend on food stamps, or food banks to put Christmas Dinner on their tables.

    In my state, Louisiana, which is not a high-cost state, a single adult needed income of $19,256 to afford basic expenses such as food, housing, transportation, health care and taxes in 2012, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator. That’s $9.26 an hour at 40 hours a week year-round, which is $2 more an hour than the current minimum wage.

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    International trade supports about 218,000 jobs in New Mexico — about one in five jobs — at companies of all sizes, according to the New Mexico-based Business Roundtable. While exports bring money to New Mexico producers in an obvious way, imports also bring money to the state by supplying materials that keep the state’s manufacturers and retailers competitive.

    In 2010, 1,056 New Mexico companies imported products to sell or use in manufacturing. Nearly 64 percent of these importers were small businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

    Businesses new to importing can save money by using the services of trade professionals and learning the lingo of international trade.