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Opinion

  • BY BOB HAGAN
    Coffee on a Cold Morning

  • BY AGNES NOONAN
    President, WESST

  • As we get closer to primary elections, you’re going to hear two stories about taxes.
    Story No. 1: New Mexico’s taxes are a dreadful burden on its citizens. Story No. 2: New Mexico’s big corporate tax giveaway in 2013 has eroded the tax base so much that revenues have plummeted and responsible public officials must raise revenues.
    First, we’ve heard scare stories about our tax burden for years, and for just as long various studies have told us that we’re actually middling.
    This year, WalletHub said New Mexico ranked 27th in state tax burden as a percentage of personal income. Our gross receipts tax burden is fifth highest in the nation. But the total tax burden, of 8.67 percent, is far lower than New York (13 percent), Hawaii (12 percent), and Maine and Vermont (11 percent). The lowest was Alaska, at about 5 percent.
    On the other hand, WalletHub placed New Mexico 41st in the return for taxes paid. This is based on 20 categories of education, health, safety, economy, infrastructure and pollution. We took a big hit for our sorry economy. Yes, you can hold elected officials responsible for the ranking and the economy. Colorado’s return on investment was third, Texas was 15th, and Arizona was 19th.

  • As the oldest Baby Boomers turn 70, there is an opportunity to compare among cities the factors in successful aging. Disclosure: The Baby Boomer group includes me.
    The analysis comes from the Milken Institute (milkeninstitute.org) of California.
    While Milken talks of aging, boomers in the audience need to admit something obvious and un-boomerlike; 70 is old. So is 68, which is Hillary Clinton’s age. Donald Trump is 69. This old-people-for-president bit is the weirdest part of this very weird presidential year. But I digress.
    Milken provides two lists, one ranking large cities, one ranking small cities. The title is “Best Cities for Successful Aging.”
    Of the 100 large cities, Albuquerque places 67th. Among the 252 small cities, Santa Fe is 76th; Las Cruces, 140th; and Farmington, 169th.
    Cold places rank highest for aging. Madison, Wisconsin, is best large city. Iowa City, Iowa, 177 miles away, leads the small. Both are state-university cities, home to, respectively, the University of Wisconsin and University of Iowa. Both are in the Big Ten. All coincidental, I presume. Weather gets the biggest weight among the general factors. Other than drinking, weather is Madison’s worst rank. Madison and Iowa City must do well on other factors.

  • BY VERONICA C. GARCIA
    Executive Director, New Mexico Voices for Children

  • BY BOB HAGAN
    Special to the Monitor

  • Last winter, as legislators were starting to shrink the state budget to match declining oil revenues, Dr. Daniel I. Fine was trying to put his finger on what’s normal for the oil industry these days. He came up with so many variations on normal, it seems there is no normal.
    Fine, who is associate director of the New Mexico Center for Energy Policy at New Mexico Tech, predicted production in New Mexico would drop 100,000 barrels per day.
    “That’s how serious this is,” he told the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “OPEC is targeting high-cost producers in New Mexico, Texas and North Dakota… We are the main threat. Every barrel of oil we reduce, they will produce the equivalent.”
    I was trying to get my head around little ol’ New Mexico being a threat, as Fine continued.
    In an oversupplied world market, he said, “Saudi Arabia is in a price war with the United States. The Saudis can continue like this for two years. We’re thinking, how do we return to normal. A colleague in Bahrain said, ‘This is normal: $25 a barrel.’ Our normal is a new normal, and we conflict with what is normal.”

  • CHICAGO—Be careful who you talk to in bars. That’s one lesson from a conversation in the elegant bar at the Palmer House hotel in downtown Chicago.
    We talked to a manager from a large nationwide financial institution. This man is a market supervisor (or something like that) for New Mexico, El Paso and Oklahoma. Our discussion considered the differences between Arizona and New Mexico. It included the usual banking structure differences from 30 years ago, but also got to factors including resorts such as the Arizona Biltmore and Camelback and professional golf, which decades ago put a national focus on Arizona.
    The understanding from the conversation is that this manager and, by extension, his very, very large financial institution employer, is mystified by the New Mexico economy.
    The Chicago chat is just one happening from our recent two-week road trip through the Midwest.
    Driving northeast through Colorado on I-76, we came across the welcome center in Julesburg. The men’s restroom was closed. In its place were seven porta-potties.

  • “Sustainability” permeates our world. But what is sustainability?
    Consider this comment from new Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Raquel Reedy: “The fact is that our students move many times. Consequently, there is very little sustainability, very little consistency where children stay at one school the entire time.”
    Likely, whatever Reedy means by “sustainability” and APS sustainability measures is different from the meaning of the people who proposed sustainability resolutions for consideration at the annual meeting of PNM Resources Inc., parent company of Public Service Company and a Texas utility.
    PNM’s board of directors wisely recommended voting against the proposals.
    For those not owning stock, a brief primer is that corporation divides ownership into shares. People can buy those shares. I bought 1.5 shares of Disney for my new grandson, Christopher. Shareowners have a slight say in what a company does, depending in part on the number of shares owned. But shareholders can also ask the company to do things thorough proposals to the annual meeting or by asking questions at the annual meeting.

  • By JOHN BARTLIT
    New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air & Water

    The time has come for regulation to be more businesslike. A healthy dose of market zeal has been missing for too long.
    Regrettably, politicking will not bring needed change.  
    One old campaign banner says regulation is the scourge of free markets. But that reading forgets that large-scale “free” markets owe their steady success to regulations.
    Long-thriving markets are built on the bedrock of rules that standardize weights and measures, rules of contracts, and rules to enforce both.
    After government had established these necessary parts, trade could reach across regions.   
    Another old snapshot says regulation stifles innovation. Whether it was true at one time, it is distinctly untrue today. Regulation today is a storehouse of unmet needs for inventions.
    In the Digital Age, entrepreneurs search far and wide for new markets. The searches skim past regulation, as if it were fine as is. It is not fine.
    Good prospects to innovate are overlooked, which leaves regulation encumbered with hobbly methods that innovations crowd out of other fields.

  • Gov. Susana Martinez is taking another swing at DWI. Last week, she announced a contract with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to observe DWI court hearings and publicize the results on Twitter. It’s strange but has possibilities.
    With a two-year, $800,000 contract, MADD will place monitors in courtrooms in Bernalillo, Doña Ana, McKinley, Rio Arriba and San Juan counties. They will gather information about DWI case outcomes and post them on social media.
    One thing I’ve heard, from both experts and legislators, is that the criminal justice system isn’t working. We have laws on the books, but prosecutors and judges plead these cases down. We don’t know why.
    The MADD monitors might help answer that question, depending on the information they gather. We need to know the judge’s thinking and what the mitigating factors are, and you can’t deliver that in a tweet. Tweets are good for the quick comment, the wise crack. They generate buzz for a moment and then they’re gone.
    How are we supposed to learn what happens in court and spot problem areas? Call me old fashioned, but I want to see a report.

  • Local Democrats responded to Gov. Susana Martinez’s April 14 speech to a big Republican dinner in New Mexico with: “The policy priorities New Mexico has been suffering through the past five years under Governor Martinez are exactly in line with the reckless and racist priorities of Trump and other Republican candidates,” said Debra Haaland, Democratic Party chairwoman.
    While it’s tough to argue Donald Trump is anything other than reckless and racist, pasting that label on Martinez is hardly civil. Democrats note: Haaland’s comment is simply the first one I noticed to provide the contra-example for today’s consideration of political civility. Republicans say the same stupid stuff.
    Further, I consider the labeling an attack by one candidate on an opponent’s record as “negative campaigning” to be weak. Candidates must discuss the opponent’s record and ideas in order to create contrast. The question is how that record is discussed.
    Recently Paul Ryan and David Brooks provided meditations on political civility. Consideration is in order as we swing into our campaigns in New Mexico.
    In his Feb. 26 column in the New York Times, Brooks argued in favor of politics as the best way to accomplish things in our society, the alternative being authoritarianism.

  • In May 2015, an Amtrak passenger train derailed outside Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. The cause is still a mystery. The train was going too fast around a curve, but, according to recent news reports, federal investigators have not figured out why.
    Another accident occurred outside Philadelphia on April 3 of this year, killing two people and injuring more than 30.
    Two Amtrak routes run through New Mexico. The Southwest Chief runs between Los Angeles and Chicago, with stops in Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy (outside Santa Fe), Albuquerque and Gallup. The Sunset Limited runs between Los Angeles and New Orleans, stopping in Deming and Lordsburg.  
    The state is crossed by several freight routes. Freight trains can carry just about anything, including the most hazardous chemicals, with long lines of container cars moving faster than 100 miles an hour.
    Once in a while, a train derails with disastrous consequences. In 2013, a freight train carrying petroleum derailed in Quebec, leading to a fire that left 47 people dead.  
    So you might think it would be dangerous to allow a train to be operated by just one person, the engineer alone in the cab.
    That’s what I think, and I’m not alone. There’s even a Facebook page called Spouses and Families Against One Man Crews.  

  • BY ROBYN SCHULTZ
    Chair, Democratic Party of Los Alamos County

    Guest Columnist

  • BY DR. TRACY MILLER
    Center for Visions and Values

  • New Mexico’s air space has blessed us with three Air Force bases, but it didn’t just happen. Civic leaders pitched their communities as the nation was gearing up for World War II, and for a time the state was dotted with airfields.
    Fort Sumner snagged an installation that became Fort Sumner Army Airfield. This one trained glider pilots.
    Glider pilots?
    This had to be one of the Army Air Force’s more unusual programs. The boxcar-like WACO CG-4A gliders could carry 15 men – a pilot, co-pilot, and 13 heavily armed troops called “glider riders.” It could also carry a Jeep, an anti-tank gun or medical supplies and food. On release, the glider coasted down and made something like a controlled crash landing. The pilots, trained as commandos, then became infantry troops. The Brits had similar aircraft, and they all saw service in the D Day landing.
    “The center of glider training was Eastern New Mexico and West Texas,” said John McCullough, of Lubbock, during the New Mexico Historical Society conference last weekend in Farmington.

  • “If any town in the United States needs roads worse than us, it has my pity,” a citizen told his county commissioners. “Farmers,” said the local paper, “have been wedged between two sand hills long enough.”
    These were the first rumblings of the Good Roads movement in New Mexico. In 1915, farmers on the East Side threatened to take their produce to markets in Texas, where roads were better, if the Roosevelt County Commission didn’t do something.  
    The next time you get in your car, remind yourself that a century ago the nation’s roads were little more than dirt tracks and trails with no signs or bridges. In New Mexico, land owners fenced across roads, and drifting sand was a bigger hindrance than fences.
    New Mexico joined the national Good Roads movement, which produced a network of highways, such as they were. We know Route 66 best, but a few years earlier and farther south was the Bankhead Highway, one of the first transcontinental highways.
    It began in 1916 with the Bankhead Highway Association, whose namesake, U. S. Sen. John H. Bankhead, of Alabama, was a leader of the Good Roads movement. That year, Congress passed the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 over the objections of citizens like Henry Ford, who didn’t think roads were a good use of taxpayer money.

  • Follow a random path and the journey can get a little strange. This path started with a song, a terrible song, it must be said. I heard the song, “Truth or Consequences,” when I paused my dial flipping at KUNM, the public radio station at the University of New Mexico.
    What I could understand of the lyrics indicated unkind things about Truth or Consequences and about New Mexico. The song seemed to fit our situation.
    By email, I got the name of the song and the artist, Fish Karma of Tucson, aka Terry Owen. The lyrics, in part, say:
    “Well I was on my way to Santa Fe to take a brief vacation.
    “Feeling hungry I pulled in here to get a bite to eat.
    “That was about a month ago and they won’t let me leave.
    “I’m stuck in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
    “Ain’t no way out that I could see…
    “…the deepest pit of hell has gotta be better than this.”
    Unfortunately, the song appeared in 1992, just as we began an Intel-driven boom.

  • BY BOB MOOS
    Southwest Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid

  • Considering all the business smarts stored in the brains of seasoned executives, it would be a shame to let it go to waste.
    SCORE gives entrepreneurs the key to that stored knowledge by pairing them with volunteer mentors who have decades of expertise in all aspects of starting and running a business. It also hosts workshops and seminars that teach basic and advanced skills that are crucial for a business owner to have.
    When the nonprofit formed in 1964, its name was an acronym for the Service Corps of Retired Executives, because early mentors were recruited from the ranks of the retired. The organization later shortened its name, as many of its volunteers still hold jobs in a complex and rapidly evolving global economy.
    Thanks to its resource partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration and its nationwide network of volunteers, SCORE can offer its services at little to no cost.
    SCORE’s wide reach
    Santa Fe is home to one of the state’s most active — and oldest — SCORE chapters. Launched in the mid-1970s, it mentored more than 800 clients last year, and 500 more attended its workshops.