.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Opinion

  • BY FINANCE NEW MEXICO
    Gary Peterson’s Albuquerque auto shop is a profit-generator with philanthropy at its heart.
    Peterson, a 22-year Air Force veteran, started One Community Auto in Albuquerque to refurbish rundown vehicles and donate the sales proceeds to a variety of charities, from Assistance Dogs of the West to veteran suicide-prevention and domestic violence prevention programs. He calls this aspect of his business “social entrepreneurship.”
    The company’s newest endeavor involves providing abandoned or wrecked cars to organizations that demolish them in training exercises.
    Cars for causes
    Peterson is under contract with the Air Force Training Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, to supply 250 vehicles to train firefighters how to safely extricate people from cars after accidents and other emergencies. His company also made a deal to provide cast-off cars that can be used for target practice.
    This novel business model is just what Peterson had in mind when he retired from the military three years ago: He wanted to start a business using the skills he acquired in the Air Force, but he wanted a large part of his earnings to support his philanthropic causes.

  • BY NATHAN SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • Public art has been a force for economic development in New Mexico at least since the Great Depression, when the federal government paid hundreds of unemployed artists to create murals, sculpture and other artworks that grace federal buildings to this day. 

    Nearly a century later, many New Mexico cities are using public art projects to promote economic vitality by creating a foundation for community identity, centralizing disparate neighborhoods with a collective vision and attracting the attention of businesses that value culturally vibrant communities. One of those cities is Rio Rancho.

    “Public art speaks to our culture and how we value the places we live in,” said Daniel Chamberlain, an architect with FBT Architects and chairman of Rio Rancho’s volunteer Arts Commission. “It is a wonderful negotiator of vision. It’s a quality-of-life driver.”

    The payback can be enormous, Chamberlain said, even if it’s hard to measure. 

    Committed to the arts

  • During recent road trips, I heard two positive political ads. They’re so rare, it’s like spotting a golden eagle. The ads – in McKinley and Sandoval counties – were simple messages from the candidates, who described their backgrounds, said what they hope to accomplish and asked for the listener’s support.

    No mud, no slurs, no innuendos. I wanted to send them both a fan letter.

    We hear from political consultants that candidates go negative because it works. We’ve been told this so long, we reluctantly believe it, but it’s not true.

    In February, two researchers posted a study, “Going positive: The effects of negative and positive advertising on candidate success and voter turnout,” on the website Research & Politics. Their conclusion: “Our results suggest that it is never efficacious for candidates to run attack ads, but running positive ads can increase a candidate’s margin of victory.”

  • You can’t rig a presidential election.
    Of all the damage in this presidential election, perhaps the worst is Donald Trump’s allegation that the election is rigged.
    Some things will probably go wrong. Bad things can happen, but they will most likely be localized and not systemic. Our unwritten national agreement is that we try to prevent them, but when they happen, we accept the results. The “peaceful transition of power” is not just a slogan. It’s what preserves our republic.
    Our elections are so decentralized that it’s logistically unimaginable that anyone could pull off a successful national conspiracy. There are too many different processes, conducted in too many separate places. Any attempted conspiracy would be exposed long before it could be achieved. I don’t think I’m being naïve in saying that.
    Our elections are run by thousands of county clerks, with officials and observers from both major parties. The machines are from different manufacturers and built without the capability to be networked, so they can’t be hacked. Most states, including New Mexico, use paper ballots in addition to machine counting.

  • Santa Fe seemed full of visitors the last Friday of September. We had come to hang out with childhood friends from the very upscale Washington, D.C. suburbs. Their first New Mexico trip was a week of art and food in Santa Fe.
    Our friends rented a condo near the plaza, putting them in the national and local shift of what is called the short-term rental market. Santa Fe has limited competition by capping at 350 the number of short-term rental permits. Between individual investors offering the properties such as the one our friends found and national firms such as Airbnb, Santa Fe’s competition limit has been widely ignored. In May Santa Fe kicked the permit cap to 1,000.
    Permit holders cite unpaid lodgers taxes as one problem.
    Taos and Ruidoso have the same dilemma.
    The lodging choice of our friends and the regulatory situation show in the most recent tourism report, “The Economic Impact of Tourism in New Mexico.” The report comes from Tourism Economics of Philadelphia. It covers 2015 and is dated July 2016. The report starkly contrasts with the recent massively overblown proclamations of “economic death spiral” from the Legislature’s interim Jobs Council and its consultant, Mark Lautman of Albuquerque.

  • New people moving into the neighborhood left a loaded trailer parked in the driveway. In the night, thieves made off with the trailer but hit a speed bump too fast, lost the trailer, and sped away, leaving the trailer behind.
    Welcome to the ‘hood.
    We know New Mexico has a crime problem. In 2015, we posted the third-highest violent crime rate and second-highest property crime rate in the nation, according to the FBI.
    It’s a heated election year, and one party would like you to believe that it’s the only one that cares about crime. What we need in the Roundhouse is a thoughtful debate AFTER the election that gets at the heart of the problem, the solutions and the cost of the solutions.
    Keep in mind that in last winter’s legislative session, one of the big topics was proper staffing and pay for state corrections employees.
    Even at starvation wages for guards, the cost per inmate is $45,250 a year. So we can lock ‘em up, but with a budget still in the red, what can we afford?
    This discussion got sidetracked lately when a study done in Albuquerque concluded that a rise in the city’s crime rate directly corresponds to a reduction in jail population. This study is bound to get a lot of mileage from now until the regular legislative session in January.

  •  A woman I know lives alone and, at age 60-plus, has a chronic health condition. Often she doesn’t feel well. She thinks she would not be good company, so she doesn’t reliably return the calls of people who are trying to be her friends. 

    She’s isolated and depressed and has difficulty asking for help when she needs it. Eventually those friends may stop calling. Does that sound like anyone you know?

    Social isolation of the elderly and those with disabilities is an epidemic of our time. It’s receiving increasing recognition in public policy and public health circles. Isolation makes many frail elderly individuals miserable. And they develop health problems that add costs to our health systems. 

    Most people who have homes want to stay in them as they age; the studies confirm what common sense would tell you. But they (make that “we”) are all at risk for the frailties of old age, including losing the ability to drive and other skills basic to living independently.

  • New Mexico’s small population stretches over a big state, so we have taken higher education to the students, with 32 colleges and universities. Nearly every sizable community has a branch or an independent institution.
    For our students, who tend to be older and need to hold a job while they take classes, this is a good thing.
    But one of the bigger arguments in the recent legislative special session was how much to cut higher education. The institutions skated with relatively small cuts, but probably not for long. We’re not out of the hole, and come January, lawmakers will put everything back on the table.
    Recently, Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron announced that the state’s system is unsustainable. Each institution has its own board, and they’re more dependent on state funding than experts say is healthy. New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs is lowest, at 20 percent, while Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari is highest, at 61 percent. The three biggest institutions get 35 to 40 percent of their funding from the state.
    As state revenues have tanked, so have enrollments, which had risen during the early part of the recession. Also, our population is shrinking as people leave the state. Graduation rates are poor (35 percent, compared with 40 percent nationally).

  • The two chile plants were big enough that the restaurant staffer carried one in each hand. He hung the plants upside down, each on a hook on the restaurant wall. Dirt clung to the roots. The chiles, each about six inches long and a pure red, were slightly shriveled. A very New Mexican image, except that the restaurant, Rafele, is in Greenwich Village in New York City. An owner of the restaurant grew the chiles on a farm upstate, I was told.
    Roasting and processing chile is another fall image, but one not seen so much outside the state.
    Since 1997 University of New Mexico alumni chapter members have gathered for group chile processing by the ton.
    I can’t imagine a ton of green chile. My images stop at a bag or two or the bushel we’ve done the past few years. My daughter’s 2016 chile image was the ten pounds that arrived in New Hampshire as a birthday present the night before she, husband and baby were set to fly to Albuquerque. But there were the chiles and process they did.
    UNM’s Washington, D.C., alumni group processed two tons of chile last year, says the alumni office. Maybe they were the bureaucrats who have fled Santa Fe for Washington the past 15 or 20 years as state government competence has eroded.
    Six other chapters gathered processing crews. Total production was six tons.

  • One item on your ballot this November is bail reform, an issue with so much support and study it’s a no-brainer. But House decisions muddled by campaign donations came close to killing reform in the last legislative session.
    The issue: Everyone has a right to get out of jail by paying a bond, but over time it’s given us a turnstile system in which the most dangerous criminals get out if they have the money, while many who pose no risk remain behind bars because they can’t afford bail – at a cost of $100 a day to the county.
    “We often release high-risk people who commit new crimes and hold people who are no threat to us at all,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels in a talk before New Mexico Press Women. “We’re releasing boomerang thugs and packing jails with people who don’t belong there. They’ve become debtors’ prisons.”
    It explains why some of our worst crimes have been committed by people who had been in jail but bonded out.
    “How did we end up with a system where money decides who gets out?” Daniels asked.
    We inherited it. The system is so old it goes back to the earliest laws in England. The commercial bail-bond industry has grown steadily since 1900, and, judging by the number of bondsmen stationed near courthouses, is a booming business. Judge for yourself whether that growth is benign or malignant.

  • BY LORETTA HALL
    Guest Columnist

  • BY SHARON STOVER
    Republican candidate for House District 43

  • Regulatory engineering, as the forms of it evolve, ultimately will prevail in the world. For some five years, these columns have pictured ways of using current technology to do better, faster and cheaper regulating. New “smart” tools are very good at inspecting, reporting and assessing what they find.
    Farther on lies the frontier of engineering that bypasses regulation. There begins the next generation of smart tools that do better things than merely instruct.  
    Over time, such remedies will slow the growth of rules. Competing interests will begin to see that smart tools take care of problems more reliably than politicking does. In due course, it will seem normal to look for a smart tool instead of a regulation.  
    A leading example turns up in an unlikely place – today’s mining industry.
    A persistent problem in mining is the loss that results when drivers of heavy equipment fall asleep at the wheel. The same problem plagues airlines, trucking companies and all who share the road.

  • BY REP. NORA ESPINOZA
    Dist. 59, House of Representatives, Candidate for Secretary of State

  • BY MAGGIE TOULOUSE-OLIVER
    Candidate for Secretary of State

  • I am voting for county Question No. 1, to eliminate the office of sheriff in Los Alamos. I encourage everyone who believes in good government, strong public safety, and reduction of unnecessary risk, to do the same.
    Typically, a sheriff provides law enforcement in county, or rural, areas. The sheriff position in Los Alamos has no law enforcement duties, and Los Alamos has no county – only, or rural, land. All of the county land in Los Alamos is incorporated into the municipality of Los Alamos. There is not a square inch of just-county land for a sheriff in Los Alamos to stand on.
    Los Alamos became a municipal government in the 1960s. The County of Los Alamos had already been created  as a legal entity in 1949. When the Federal Government decided to no longer run Los Alamos as a Federal scientific base, in the 1960s, all of the county land was wholly incorporated into the municipality of Los Alamos.  Los Alamos remains the only city-county entity in New Mexico.
    While debating their preferred from of government, Los Alamos citizens got to choose who would provide law enforcement - a professional law enforcement agency (a police department), an elected sheriff, or both.

  • Before you bite into your next green chile cheeseburger, pause for a moment to consider the importance of that chunk of cheese, not just to the taste of your burger but to our local economy.
    With 150 dairies averaging more than 2,000 cows each, New Mexico ranks ninth in the nation for milk production and fifth for cheese. The average New Mexico dairy ships 44 million pounds of milk a year worth nearly $6 million. Much of it goes to Southwest Cheeses in Clovis, which employs 300 people to turn 3.8 billion pounds of milk into 388 million pounds of cheese annually.
    According to NMSU’s Ag Science Center, dairy is the number one agricultural employer in the state, providing 12,524 jobs paying $600 million a year in wages. In 2014, the average dairy farm worker earned $47,811, compared to the state’s average mean wage of $42,230. At $1.5 billion, dairy is about tied with beef cattle for economic impact and together the two rival the oil and gas industry.
    But while it’s a big business, it’s not a particularly lucrative one. A milk cow eats 100 pounds of hay and grain every day. In return she produces six to seven gallons of milk. Dairy farmers live on the difference between the cost of her feed and the price of her milk, usually expressed as the cost vs. price per hundredweight of milk.

  • BY D. DOWD MUSKA
    Research Director, Rio Grande Foundation

  • By BOB HAGAN