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Opinion

  • Finance New Mexico

  • Check out license plates the next time there is an opportunity to cruise a big parking lot, say at the neighborhood supermarket.
    My informal supermarket survey suggests that about half the plates are the new, cool blue centennial plates with the rest the traditional red and yellow. Perhaps half the red and yellow plates (a quarter of the total) show some fading and half of those are significantly dimmed, faded enough so as to be difficult to read. For a few, the red of the numbers will be a faint hint against the remaining yellow of the background. For another few, the sheeting, as the industry calls it, will be dried and peeling. 3M (3M.com) makes sheeting.
    The ugly balloon plates, which seem especially prone to fading, are no more. This design dates to 1999, making the plates a legacy of Gov. Gary Johnson.
    At Santa Teresa, the hordes of Texas license plates are neither faded nor peeling. Likewise on a recent trip to Arizona we saw all of two faded plates, both of them specialty plates.
    The only number I found for a New Mexico vehicle count was 1.7 million in 2009, from  Statista, a German firm. In 2014, those vehicles were driven by the nation’s second worst drivers, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

  • BY STEVE RESNICK
    Owner, Capitol Computer/Finance New Mexico

  • When Bill Richardson started flirting with a plan to run for president, some of his actions as governor looked suspiciously as if he were using New Mexico to advance his political ambitions.
    It’s hard to avoid the same suspicion about Gov. Susana Martinez. She’s taken a number of actions over her two terms that have seemed to be more about piling up sound bites for somebody else’s policy checklist than what’s best for the state.
    Now she’s officially a lame duck. It may be hard for her to run for any higher office, not because of any lack of competency or accomplishments but because of the infamous Christmas party incident of 2015. (If you don’t remember this, please Google “Susana Martinez pizza.”)
    But she still could have political ambitions in a less obvious direction. We can watch to see how this plays out in the bills she chooses to sign or veto.
    It’s widely understood that New Mexico’s tax system could use a major overhaul. In order to do that, policymakers must be able to engage in give-and-take, which means some taxes may go down and others may go up. Gov. Martinez’s inflexibility on raising any taxes has looked like she wants to preserve her anti-tax bragging rights, not like she wants to solve the problem.

  • BY NATHANIEL SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • BY KATHLEENE PARKER
    Guest Columnist

  • BY FINANCE NEW MEXICO

  • BY BOB HAGAN
    Special to the Montor

  • The Detroit News on U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos:

    Betsy DeVos has endured weeks of attacks on her character — and her mission to make schools work for children. But Michigan’s billionaire philanthropist has prevailed, despite the best efforts of Democrats and teachers unions.
    We’re glad for that.
    It was certainly not an easy victory. Following the defection of two Republican senators last week, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins, Vice President Mike Pence needed to cast the tie-breaking vote, which was unprecedented in Cabinet nominations.
    Democrats tried their darnedest to sway one more Republican to defect, spending 24 hours repeating union talking points on the Senate floor.
    The teachers unions have tried to convince politicians, teachers and even parents that DeVos will dismantle public education as it exists. That’s not true, and they know it, but to their credit they launched an effective campaign to discredit DeVos that almost worked.
    The federal Department of Education is in major need of an overhaul — one that will reduce its ever growing bureaucracy, which only causes headaches for districts and isn’t making a dent in academic performance.

  • I came home from dinner one evening and found my dog lying on the kitchen floor. She couldn’t get up. After I helped her up, she couldn’t walk.
    My dog was old. Her back legs had been weakening for months. She couldn’t see or hear much, was experiencing dementia, and was showing clear evidence of pain.
    I had been preparing myself for the difficult decision I would have to make some day. Did I say difficult? Heart wrenching.
    Our pets are so lucky. When they are too sick or too infirm and their lives are mostly suffering, we can arrange for them to die peacefully, painlessly and almost instantly, with the help of a compassionate veterinarian and some drugs. It’s been said this is the most loving thing we can do for our beloved pets.
    So I’ll point out a truth you might have heard a hundred times. In this most crucial matter, we can be kinder to our dogs and cats than we are allowed to be to our own families. New Mexico law does not allow us to help each other to die in peace.

  • General thinking has slipped into New Mexico’s public dialogue. The two approaches—one from the left, the other from the right or, maybe, center right—aren’t nearly as deeply systemic as this column desires. But, hey, ya gotta start somewhere. For sure, these ideas are orders of magnitude more useful than the narrow ideological menus offered last year by the two parties at their preprimary conventions. The Democrats said: abortion and unions. The Republicans said: no abortion.
    The good deeds come from Alan Webber and Harvey Yates. Both come with a high-level political history. Such history cannot be shed, no matter how hard one tries. Thus, the political history occupies part of the context of the policy thinking.
    Webber, a Democrat, ran for governor in 2014. He finished second in the primary, 12 points behind Gary King who then was trounced by Gov. Susana Martinez. A founding editor of Fast Company magazine, he came to New Mexico after “investors” sold the magazine. Earlier he worked in Oregon alternative media and city and state politics. In Massachusetts Webber edited Harvard Business Review and advised governors including Michael Dukakis.

  • BY REP. KELLY FAJARDO
    R-Valencia, New Mexico House of Representatives

  • The Wall Street Journal on reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines:

    President Trump is making short work of campaign promises, and on Tuesday he signed executive orders reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The resurrection is good news for the economy, but one question is whether he’ll sink the projects with his protectionist impulses.
    Mr. Trump signed an executive order inviting TransCanada to apply again for a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which the Obama Administration rejected to indulge the anti-carbon obsessions of Democratic campaign donors. Another Trump directive aims to expedite the Dakota Access pipeline, which is 90 percent finished but was halted by President Obama amid protests. A federal judge ruled that the government had met its legal obligations, but the Obama Administration suspended work anyway.
    Such carve outs for progressive constituencies are one reason voters rejected Democrats in November, and the pipelines promise broader prosperity. Keystone is predicted to spin off 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs, many of them to be filled by union workers, and add $3 billion to GDP.

  • This is the final article on why I am running for re-election to the Los Alamos Public Schools Board.  My first article provided basic information about LAPS as an institution, the Board, and some major accomplishments of the Board and administration. The second article focused on current issues facing LAPS. This article focuses on my compelling vision: the staff, programs, parents, and community working together to enable all students to love learning, have great skills, and know basic facts.
    LAPS has three major challenges that have to be addressed in progressing toward this vision: funding, the technology revolution’s impact on learning, and student and staff well-being.  Each is discussed below.
    Funding first: Over 90 percent of school operational funds are allocated to school districts based on a complex state formula. Local communities cannot vote for additional operating funds, and our state budget, heavily dependent on oil and gas production and federal funds, may be constrained for years to come. Yet LAPS must increase compensation for all employees, grow program diversity, and maintain our commitment to long term fiscal stability and educational excellence.  

  • BY BOB HAGAN
    Coffee on a Cold Morning

  • Three little words will generate a lot of heated words during this legislative session: To be determined.
    This is how the Legislative Finance Committee, meeting between April and December, indicates the source of money to help balance the budget in fiscal 2018. “To be determined” is shorthand for more cuts on top of cuts already made or new revenue in the form of tax increases.
    Before you jump to a conclusion about that choice, take a minute to grasp where we are. The choices made in this session will decide how poor New Mexico will be in coming years.
    All the usual clichés about “belt tightening,” “trimming the fat,” “low hanging fruit” and “right-sizing” no longer apply. In previous years, the governor and Legislature have made across-the-board cuts to state agencies, and those cuts continue. This year, they have to decide who gets hurt.
    The proposed victims, according to proposals from the executive and legislative branches, are schools, higher education (big time), courts, fire departments, law enforcement, economic development, water, tribes, local communities, state employees and teachers, and wildlife.
    Let’s see, did they miss anybody? Our unpaid legislators even cut their own feed bill, which funds the current session.

  • BY BOB HAGAN
    Coffee on a Cold Morning

  • Politics leads the nation in constant fights for and against new pipelines. So why do so few partisans on either side sing out for smart tools on pipelines?
    No matter how you view pipelines, President Donald Trump has timely chances to change the old ways.
    “Smart tools” is a broad term for the steady stream of 21st century devices with computer chips that continuously inspect, analyze and report on the state of health of almost everything. Smart tools are known to business and industry for saving costs and improving the reliability of products and operations. Smart tools are used in fields as diverse as health care, farming, manufacturing, home security systems and maintenance of infrastructure.
    To maintain public safety, smart tools yield rapid, routine knowledge of the health of large civil structures, such as tall buildings, bridges, aircraft and pipelines. Over the years, this field evolved into a speciality with its own name – Structural Health Monitoring (SHM).
    SHM has a rich history. The discipline of SHM has an international society of its own with its own technical journal. The 10th International Workshop on SHM was held in 2015 at Stanford University. Princeton offers a graduate course in SHM. Researchers at the national laboratory in town work on SHM.

  • Grants Mayor Martin Hicks told a legislative interim committee last summer that the only remaining coal mine had laid off 150 people, the population has dropped to 8,500 from 18,500 when he was growing up in the town, and there are 22 empty buildings on the main drag.
    But Cibola County has some possibilities in tourism and logging.
    On the East Side, tiny Anton Chico has an old school building with a functional gym and kitchen that could be used to house small businesses. And the economic development group would like to take over a meat processing company, but the processor’s building is held by the bank. The organization needs help to enter e-commerce and find markets for area farm products.
    All either town needs from the state is a little help – money and knowhow.
    And so it goes.
    We may continue to dogpaddle in the economic toilet bowl, but in pretty much any community in the state, there are possibilities. And, surprisingly, hope.
    So what do we hear from our leaders?
    The state’s chief executive offers a package of get-tough DWI bills. And in testy language, she defended her budget and picked a fight with the Legislative Finance Committee over their budget.

  • By Harry Burgess
    Los Alamos County Manager

    I would like to take this opportunity to address safety concerns we have heard recently from the public regarding the intersection of State Road 4 (SR4) and the Truck Route. Over the last few months four serious motor vehicle accidents involving residents have occurred. These accidents typically involved a westbound turn by a motorist from SR4 onto the Truck Route at this signalized intersection. I think we all agree that the situation is dangerous and accidents can happen for a variety of reasons.

    Clearly this intersection backs up in all directions during peak commute times, and this factor played a part in recent accidents. There is personal responsibility on the part of all drivers to be attentive and aware of traffic entering any busy intersection. But there is a role for government with respect to road design as well.