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Opinion

  • By Aubrey Dunn, Commissioner of Public Lands

    In an effort to protect one of our country’s largest and most important sources of drinking water, I adopted a policy earlier this year to curtail usage of drinking water from the Ogallala aquifer for oil and gas production, specifically the process of hydraulic fracturing.

    I remain a proponent of hydraulic fracturing for the advances it has allowed in energy development in New Mexico and the increased revenue that it has helped to bring to our state; however, as it relates to the use of our state’s natural resources, I believe in responsible conservation.  

    Subsequently, I have been sued by a State Land Office permittee who has made millions of dollars selling drinking water for oil and gas related activities and I have been publicly vilified by some members of the New Mexico State Legislature.

    The Ogallala is a shallow water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains with portions in eight states, including eastern New Mexico, and provides nearly all the fresh water for residential, industrial and agricultural use.

  • When three members of the Interstate Stream Commission resign abruptly, we need to pay attention.

    When they point fingers at the State Engineer, we need to be worried. The two agencies are our water watchdogs.

    The ISC oversees New Mexico’s participation in interstate stream compacts, protects and develops the state’s water and does water planning. The State Engineer regulates water rights and serves as ISC secretary.

    The ISC has withered with an exodus of staffers blamed on both State Engineer Tom Blaine and the administration’s budget cuts. It’s an open secret in the water world that Blaine wants the traditionally independent ISC under his thumb.

    Blaine meanwhile has opened the gate to the state’s biggest water grab.

    The ISC in recent months has lost its director, Colorado River bureau chief, special projects bureau chief, general counsel, acting general counsel, and Middle Rio Grande Basin manager. It has just two senior staffers left.

    When Blaine hired Deborah Dixon in early 2015, she was senior vice president at Bohannan Huston, a major engineering firm. “Ms. Dixon is an outstanding engineer who has valuable experience working in water projects in New Mexico,” Blaine said.

    Blaine fired Dixon in June without a word to commissioners.

  • The Dallas Morning News

  • Probably the least known fact about the long career of Sen. Pete Domenici has to be that he did not hire me to be his press aide in 1989.

    Instead of the knowledgeable New Mexican — me — Domenici hired Ari Fleischer, who knew Washington, D. C. A sound choice, I think. Fleischer went on to be press secretary for President George W. Bush.

    Equally obscure is the story I wrote for the Albuquerque News in 1968 about the first city budget he presented as chairman of the Albuquerque City Commission.

    Much later my kids played Little League baseball with a Domenici grandchild. Domenici attended the occasional game.

    Domenici’s leadership of the Senate Budget Committee brought access to the committee’s economics staff, a smart, collegial group that provided insight on the national economy and New Mexico’s fit into the big picture.

    In the 1980s Domenici and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, together with Gov. Bruce King, created the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI). (Get it?) Santa Teresa with its border crossing was one focus.

    As a matter of good management, two of Domenici’s policy legacies deserve a closer look.

    First is New Mexico First. During the mid-1980s several groups were having conversations about the murky future facing New Mexico.

  • BY DAVID IZRAELEVITZ
    Los Alamos County Council Chair

    This is part three of a three-part series.

    In part one of my editorial on code enforcement, I covered the “why” behind the program, and in part two, I addressed the “how” of the process that is involved. Today in part three, I would like to talk more philosophically about code enforcement and what the county and the community can do to assist with resources. 

    Let me address the “government-encroachment” argument first which I have heard a few times. I can understand that some, and probably most individuals feel an initial gut feeling of government overreach when an ordinance is passed that imposes additional personal responsibilities for property maintenance. However, *any* new law, by definition, imposes new constraints on our freedoms.

    After that initial reaction, we need to then look at the fundamental issue that this new ordinance is addressing, and whether it is the right approach or not. If no one drove dangerously, we would not need speeding limits. If everyone was attentive to their property, we wouldn’t need property maintenance standards either. We do have a property maintenance problem in town, and I don’t see a practical alternative to some kind of code and its enforcement.

  • Joe Cervantes’ office is an old house a half block from the New Mexico State University campus in Las Cruces. His car (truck, really), a black GMC Yukon, tucks into an alcove under a tree next to the door. He doesn’t know the age of the house, though he notes that the thick walls certify that the house is old.

    Cervantes, a state senator and a Democrat, is running for governor (joe4nm.com). The day we talk, a hot mid-September Wednesday, his attire is business casual, sleeves rolled up.

    For those seriously undertaking a task as complex, difficult and expensive as running for governor – and Cervantes is very serious about this – all sorts of reasons appear. He is clear about what is not a motivation. “I am not running for governor to ascend” to a higher political position, he says.

    Cervantes doesn’t name names, but the reference certainly is both to Bill Richardson, who became governor as a platform for running for president, and Susana Martinez, formerly touted for higher posts.

    Results are Cervantes’ focus. “There’s a lot to be said” about having a governor knowing the process. Bruce King was the most recent to come from the Legislature. His final term ended in 1994.

  • I guess it’s always interesting when you stare the possibility of the end in the face.
    I am not sure if I did or didn’t.

    When that earthquake rumbled through Cuernavaca at 1:14 p.m. Tuesday, I honestly questioned my mortality.

    I sat in the bedroom of the guest house of our awesome land lady in Los Tabachines community in south Cuernavaca.
    Cuernavaca is about 50 miles south of the Mexico City.

    Anyway, it was a typical Tuesday, I was trying to get through writer’s block and fulfill my freelance obligations to various clients.

    But then, the earth shook.

    It didn’t just shake, the ground was moving.

    Jill, who was in the kitchen, yelled, ‘’EARTHQUAKE.’’

    I knew what it was but I was just in shock.

    I talked to my dad today and he said we had been through a couple of tremors growing up in Tokyo.

    I had felt nothing like this.

    I could not even up stand up.

    Nori, our faithful Belgian Sheepdog who had been watching me from the bed, jumped up and we somehow got to the kitchen and then to the back yard. Jill was there on her knees. She told me she could not walk because of the quake.

    She told me that she could not believe I was still standing. When I thought about it, I was surprised too.

  • BY DAVID IZRAELEVITZ
    Los Alamos County Council Chair

    In part one of my editorial on code enforcement, I covered the “why” behind the program. Today, I would like to address in some detail the “how” of code enforcement, a process which is managed within the Community Development Department (CDD) by two full-time Code Enforcement Officers.

    My hope is that by explaining a little more about the process, I can help clear up confusion and concern in our community.

    Let’s begin with clarifying two terms that seem to be interchangeable when the public discusses this sensitive topic, but are very different: Notice Of Violation (NOV) and citation. In fact, these are two very different terms that occur in different steps of the process. While county code sets the standards, our process that implements enforcement of these standards is modeled after best practices used in thousands of communities across America. I do not believe that it is overly restrictive for a town our size and population.

  • The New York Times on an upcoming Treasury Department report on the Dodd-Frank financial oversight bill expected to propose lighter regulation for financial firms other than banks:

    Among the most appalling aspects of the financial collapse nine years ago was that no matter how reckless and predatory big financial institutions had been, they had grown so big and so interconnected that the federal government found itself forced to prop them up to avoid failures that would wreck the economy. The resulting bailouts, which included billions of dollars in bonuses for executives responsible for the fiasco, provoked deep public anger and became a rallying cry for populists on the right and the left.

    To reduce the risks from too-big-to-fail institutions, Congress in 2010 passed the Dodd-Frank financial oversight bill. But ever since, even as the stock market soared, wages stagnated and the victims of predatory lenders continued to struggle, Wall Street’s champions have demanded an end to Dodd-Frank’s regulations.

    Step by step, the Trump administration has made it clear that it is on their side, that Wall Street need have no real concern about Dodd-Frank’s provisions and that the lessons of the financial crisis will be ignored.

  • Hurricanes, as we saw last week, are complex. Such events bring out only a few of the talking points, which leaves a good many pertinent factors still drifting in the dark.

    Think where we are today. Republicans and Democrats have settled into rejecting each other’s beliefs about sea rise from climate change. Further, the two parties cling to opposing views of big corporations. 

    Imagine if a big business were to change the conversation about sea rise. This outcome is not as crazy as it seems. Sea levels affect many interests. Average sea levels in the future will rise or not rise. Each possible trend results in a different amount of flooding near coastlines. Floods near the sea may get worse or stay the same.

    A flood means a streak of bad business hits a lot of people all at once. A flood also means a patch of strikingly good business comes in a rush. Bad business for homeowners, churches and shopkeepers is suddenly good business for builders and suppliers. In the middle are the insurers. 

    A place to watch for news is the future rates that insurers will charge for flood insurance on sea coasts. Commercial insurance companies will respond the way big insurers always have, by applying sound business principles.

  • 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.