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Opinion

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    Well-meaning letters from charter change proponents exhibit naïveté and inexperience with public utilities, government and politics. Ed Birnbaum’s latest letter, for example, refers to a transfer rate from utilities of 5 percent established by a 1997 resolution. He is not correct. How do I know? Because I was the county councilor who wrote the 1980s ordinance requiring a 5 percent profit be added into each year’s budget for planning purposes. A 5 percent profit transfer is not guaranteed. This ordinance is found in the municipal code and has precedence over resolutions. (Sections 40-63(c)(11) and 40-63(b))

    What Birnbaum fails to realize is that the proposed new charter language not only nullifies this ordinance, but bypasses all checks and balances in the current charter. It allows future councils to take as much money as they’d like from the utilities department. This loophole is easy to explain.

  •  

    Before I was even a pipsqueak, a popular, no-account insult was “so’s your old man.” In my prime years as a pipsqueak, the snappy no-account insults were “you’re a chicken” and “drop dead.” 

    Today, new customs are on the loose. 

    The airwaves carry so many symptoms that insults pass for normal. The daily news may suggest the infection comes from politics, but the wider pattern says otherwise. Social media spread the habit of scorn to one culture, then the next and next.

    The insult culture is easy to find in network TV, talk shows, politics, sports and every level of school. The signs are the same whether the topic is last night’s ball game or taxes. 

  •  

    Spanish-speaking people have been part of New Mexico’s workforce for hundreds of years. But the dramatic growth of this population — driven largely by immigration — and the anticipated growth well into the future underscore the urgency of culturally tailored workplace safety training. 

    The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries has consistently shown higher workplace fatality rates for Hispanic workers than for workers from other racial or ethnic groups, and these rates are highest among Spanish speakers born outside the U.S. Hispanic workers also suffer higher rates of nonfatal occupational injury and illness.

    One reason for this is that many Hispanics work in higher-risk industries and occupations, including agriculture, construction, petroleum and gas extraction. But manufacturing and food processing also attract many entry-level workers — including recent immigrants.

  •    If you’re currently enrolled in Medicare, what you do or don’t do over the next few weeks could determine whether you can secure the best, most affordable coverage next year. Here’s why:

    Medicare Part D prescription plans frequently change premiums, drug formularies, deductibles and copayment amounts for specific drugs from year to year. Medicare Advantage plans often make similar changes; plus doctors, hospitals and pharmacies may drop out of their preferred provider networks.

    Thus, by simply choosing the same options for 2015 without investigating alternatives, you could wind up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars more for similar healthcare services.

  •  

    Defeat Constitutional Amendment No. 5

    Constitutional Amendment No. 5 is a sleeper that might well pass because it is not easy to understand. 

    It allows investment of the Land Grant Permanent Fund without the protection of the Prudent Man Rule that has governed the State Investment Council (SIC) management of the fund and served us well since statehood. 

    This rule states that one would make investments of trust money as one would for their own portfolio with essentially minimum risk. The proposal removes this rule and substitutes a new rule that would give the SIC (under the Uniform Prudent Investor Act (UPIA) the leeway to legally make risky investments. 

  •  

    This is an open letter to all the dogs out there, who have the unmitigated audacity to think it’s OK to be a dog. Being a human, I can tell you quite authoritatively that it is most definitely not OK to be a dog!

    Or a cat. Or a yak. Or a dung beetle. Or anything organic that doesn’t pay taxes!

    First of all, dogs bark. We humans never bark (at least not without good cause). We yell. We scream. We screech, bellow, shout, wail, howl, whine, shriek and clamor. Oh yeah, and we love reading our thesaurus.

    But we don’t bark.

  •  Forming public banks 

    is an option for U.S.

    Our economy is in bad shape. Two observations make this clear: First, the fraction to the population living below the poverty level has been steadily increasing for several years now. Second, the average income of the middle class — those earning $100,000 or less per year, — has been steadily decreasing over recent years.

    One of the causes of this could be the fact that the local and regional banks have less money available to loan to local businesses and entrepreneurs. (They are also operating under increasingly strict regulations, and the overhead of increasing reporting requirements.) 

  •  

    In newspapers (in all of their forms.). I believe in the First Amendment (45 words/five freedoms): 

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Our founding fathers thought it important enough to make this the very first one! 

    I believe in delivering fair, accurate, objective, timely and complete journalism across multiple platforms while maintaining integrity and high ethical standards… this is what separates newspapers from the opinion-based blogosphere. Newspapers bring truth to light and are the connection to the community.

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    Thank you to the Los Alamos Republican Party for hosting a Forum Aug. 21 on the merits of Question 2 on the November ballot: Should Article V of the County Charter be repealed in its entirety and replaced to reconfigure the relationship between the Board of Public Utilities and the County Council?

    Proponents of the new charter provision stated that it is critical that the board be “fully functional,” given its important role in county governance. Their focus was on board members as individuals who might become impaired. On this basis, they assert that “accountability is lacking” and a mechanism must exist for council to remove a board member “without cause.” 

  •  

    A response to Milder’s letter

    I am responding to Ken Milder’s letter on Sept. 5. The county charter was passed nearly a half-century ago.

    The provisions governing the utilities department are flawed because they (1) do not allow effective oversight of the utilities operations by the council, which is accountable to the voters and the law for these operations, (2) there is no way for the council to hold the utilities board or the utilities director accountable for mismanagement or poor performance and (3) most important, there is no way to resolve disagreements over policy between the council and the utilities board. It is high time these flaws be corrected; the proposed changes do so in a way that has the smallest possible impact on the operations of the utility department.

  •  

     A prized few of the Earth’s marvels have had astonishing effects on world history, geography, discovery, economics and politics. Great reaches of the globe’s long, winding road from the past were built to gain access to gold and silver, spices, silk and oil. 

    In like manner, the years ahead will be marked by the pursuit of rare earths. 

    Rare earths are a group of 17 natural elements whose properties meet growing needs in the 21st century. Rare earths have strange old names and strange new uses. They are vital for building high-tech military and green technologies.

    Dysprosium, erbium, europium, gadolinium, neodymium, praseodymium and yttrium are used in cruise missiles, smart bombs, guidance systems and night vision technology. 

  •  

    The flu is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you’re an older adult.

    About 226,000 Americans will land in the hospital this year as a result of the flu and its complications, and anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 will die from flu-related illnesses. Adults 65 and older will account for 60 percent of the hospital stays and 90 percent of the deaths.

    As people age, their immune system typically weakens and their ability to ward off diseases declines. That puts older adults at increased risk of the flu. Moreover, the virus can cause complications for those already struggling with chronic health problems. 

  •  

    Remember those old commercials for Geritol? “When your get-up-and-go got up and went?”

    If this gubernatorial campaign were a person, it could use a swig. These days, we’d recommend Red Bull or 5-Hour Energy. Anything to give it some oomph. In southern New Mexico, the 2nd Congressional District candidates must be consuming energy drinks by the case.

    Gov. Susana Martinez sits on a mountain of money, and her millions have purchased just 50 percent support in the polls. Gary King, who calls himself the “challenger,” has 41 percent without doing much of anything. Maybe “challenged” is the more accurate term.

    They occupy play forts full of wet ammunition. Neither one has a record to run on. 

  • Elder suicide looks us in the eye, thanks to columns written by Leslie Linthicum in the Albuquerque Journal.
    The facts: In the northeastern community of Roy, Geraldine Ray, 89, was found lying face down on her bed with cotton balls up her nose, plastic filling her mouth, and packing tape across her lips. The state Office of the Medical Investigator called it a homicide, despite two suicide notes in Ray’s own hand. The woman’s daughter was arrested for murder. Her family never believed that for a moment, neither did Linthicum, and science backed them up. Charges were dropped.
    OMI didn’t think a person could kill herself that way. They must never have met a willful woman. I come from a family of willful women, and you’d be surprised what they can do.
    I had just returned from eye-opening visits with elderly relatives out of state, so Linthicum’s column hit me in the heart.
    Cousin Betty (name changed), my role model, was gorgeous, successful in her job, known by everybody in her Roswell-sized town, married with two boys and managed the perfect home. She now has macular degeneration and can no longer drive, she’s diabetic, and she’s had one hip and both knees replaced, not entirely successfully, so she walks with a cane. Four months ago, her husband died.

  •  

    Someone inside the administration gets the notion that life and economics are complicated and understanding might come from a thorough, if expensive, look at what is and is not happening. The result is a new report from the Department of Cultural Affairs, “Building on the Past, Facing the Future: Renewing the Creative Economy of New Mexico.” 

    Summarizing the Cultural Affairs report will take at least one more column. Before starting, a much smaller scale summary deserves applause. The summer issue of “New Mexico Earth Matters,” the newsletter of the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, reviews the role of geology in the state’s future. Topics include water, energy, mining, geologic hazards and induced seismicity.

  •  

    Good thing the Legislature didn’t pass that marijuana proposal.

    The proposal, introduced in the 2014 session, was a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana, which would have been submitted to the voters in the upcoming election. 

    The reasons to legalize marijuana are compelling: removing power from criminal cartels, sparing young people the stigma of criminal records and simply facing the reality that pot is here to stay.

    But New Mexico is not ready.

  •  

    Manufacturing businesses that want to know how their performance stacks up against industry standards have a new tool to make that measurement — and it’s available at no cost.

    The Manufacturing Performance Institute, in conjunction with the American Small Manufacturers Coalition and the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership, created the Next Generation Manufacturing Assessment Tool after surveying thousands of United States manufacturers in 2009, 2011 and 2013. 

    The biennial survey asks manufacturers what strategic benchmarks they use to measure their efficiency and effectiveness in six critical areas: human resources, supply-chain management, sustainability, process improvement, innovation and global engagement. The tool based on this survey allows manufacturers of all kinds to see how they compare with world-class industry practices and standards by comparing their responses to those of thousands of other top manufacturers. 

  •  

    Parents, if this is your first time at the back-to-school rodeo, let me share a few lessons my wife and I have learned the hard way. Chances are you’ll be spending the next few weeks filling out piles of pre-enrollment paperwork, lining up carpools and, of course, taking the dreaded shopping excursions for clothes and school supplies.

    If you’re a first-timer or simply need a back-to-school refresher course, here are a few suggestions that can help you save time, money and sanity:

    Get organized. Maintain a correspondence file from your kid’s school for things like registration requirements, report cards, permission slips, required vaccinations, school policies, teacher and parent contact information, etc. Ask whether the school has a website, online calendar, or email list you can join. Also, create a family master calendar.

  •  

    School Board takes no action on merit pay 

    Parents and students in this school district deserve good teachers who are well paid.  Consequently, it is disappointing that our school district is not participating in the New Mexico Public Education Department’s (NMPED) Incentive Pay Pilot (ped.state.nm.us/ped/RFPDocs/).

    A statement in a Los Alamos Monitor story (July 10) about the Incentive Pay Pilot Program incorrectly implies that NMPED will control and administer this pilot. 

    However, the Incentive Pay Pilot Application itself states that it is up to each participating school district to design an incentive pay model. If the application is accepted, funding is provided by NMPED.

  •  

    It doesn’t take much to be smeared as an isolationist by leading Republicans. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who appears to be running for president again, and former vice president Dick Cheney — not to mention Sen. John McCain, Gov. Chris Christie and other members of the GOP establishment — can always be counted on to drag out that insult whenever they sense a threat from anyone not as hawkish as they are. 

    If they thought that 30,000 U.S. troops should be sent somewhere, and someone recommended sending only 10,000, we could count on Perry, Cheney, et al., to condemn the other person as an appeasing isolationist.

    Let’s be clear: Someone who simply doesn’t want Americans draw into foreign conflicts is not an isolationist. The proper word is “noninterventionist.” “Isolationism” suggests withdrawal from the world. But noninterventionists don’t seek that.