Professor, University of Wyoming

  • It’s called the sharing economy, and it’s dismantling our economic models.
    Need a ride? Text Uber to have a driver show up and take you there in his or her own vehicle. Need a vacation rental? Go to Airbnb.com to book everything from a castle to a couch directly from the owner. Need tools, sports gear, photo equipment, garden space? Somebody will rent them to you for a few bucks.
    Last week the city of Santa Fe and the town of Taos reached an agreement with Airbnb to collect lodgers’ taxes from Airbnb hosts, beginning August 1.
    Until now, people renting their homes or mother-in-law quarters or bedrooms have been invisible to the tax man, but traditional hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns pay lodgers’ taxes to promote their areas. This, in fact, was a complaint during legislative Jobs Council hearings last year.
    Santa Fe has an estimated 1,000 short-term rentals operating, even though the local ordinance allowed just 350. The City Different estimated it was losing up to $2.1 million in lodgers’ taxes each year, along with uncollected gross receipts taxes, and hoteliers complained the underground rentals were unfairly competing. Santa Fe now allows 1,000 and requires a permit; violations can mean stiff fines. Santa Fe and Taos city officials look forward to new revenues to help balance the budget.

  • With her energy, money and international company of luminaries, Mabel Dodge Luhan helped create New Mexico as a romantic ”Land of Enchantment.” By the time Luhan and others wrote in New Mexico Quarterly, Summer 1951, she had been in Taos for 33 years. It is likely her leadership time had passed. Luhan died in 1962.
    (My complete notes from the New Mexico Quarterly are posted at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com.)
    Drawn by romance and exoticness, pilgrims continue to come. In 1980 I met an aspiring poet who couldn’t spell.
    I mock the pilgrims occasionally for their mantra, “I came to New Mexico, saw the sun set over the mountain and found God.”
    Such folks are prone to overlooking the details of paying the bills. Unless, like Luhan, they bring money, such details catch them. Then they return to New York or wherever, mumbling about stupid New Mexicans. Very annoying.
    The sixties brought hippies and communes. In 2013, New Mexico Magazine said that by the late 1960s, the state had 25 communes, “according to one count.” The reception was mixed. One view shows in an essay, “Taos: Hippies, Hopper and Hispanic Anger,” in “Telling New Mexico A New History.” Other perspectives appear in “Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie,” by Iris Keltz, published in 2000.

  • The map of New Mexico is a vivid reminder of what starkly different worlds we New Mexicans live in – one tight clump in the center of the state and enormous open spaces dotted with small towns.
    The map, in this case, was provided by the Secretary of State’s office, showing the polling sites for early voting and Election Day voting for the recent primary. It is online at polling.sks.com. Save this link for the general election.
    We can’t tell from the data how much early voting influenced our recent primary election.  What we can tell is how much the early voting option was utilized.
    The numbers indicate that early voting was much more heavily used in Bernalillo County and other metro areas than in our sparsely populated rural counties.  
    The early voting period this year was May 21 to June 4. By law, each county was required to make early voting available at the county clerk’s office.  Counties could also set up additional early voting sites.
    Several rural counties used only the clerk’s office. Others had an additional location at a fire station or other public building. Most tribes had a site location at a tribal community center, but not all. Voters from little Picuris Pueblo would have to go to the Peñasco community center.

  • Maybe Mabel Dodge Luhan didn’t do everything required to create a romantic overlay on Taos and northern New Mexico. But she did a lot.
    An excellent show at the Harwood Museum of Art (harwoodmuseum.org) in Taos, running through September 11, tells Mabel’s tale without quite making the leap to one significant result.
    An article in the Summer 2016 issue of the Museum of New Mexico’s “El Palacio” (elpalacio.org) magazine, “A ‘Creator of Creators,’” parallels the exhibit. The author, Lois Rudnick, now retired to Santa Fe, apparently is the expert on all things Mabel.
    I brought to the exhibit general knowledge that Luhan lived in Taos a long time and famous people such as D.H. Lawrence visited. At the exhibit, a page from the New Mexico Quarterly, summer 1951 issue, was open to view. It said, “For the world Taos has become a living symbol…” This symbol creation appears something that happened as a layer on top of the locals who weren’t especially involved.
    In late 1917, Luhan was summoned to New Mexico. Husband three, Maurice Stern, wrote her from Santa Fe, “Save the Indians, their art—culture—reveal it to the world!”
    Save the Indians! They are objects, artifacts.

    Guest Columnist, Los Alamos

    Vice President, Lending and Client Services, Accion

    Guest Columnist

  • “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.

    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.

    Executive Director, New Mexico Voices for Children

    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.


  • 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.