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Opinion

  • 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.

  • BY Nathaniel Sillin
    Special to the Monitor

  • “The Entrepreneurial Mindset” is the latest great program to land in New Mexico.
    It’s not just for people who want to start businesses. It’s a way of thinking that enables any individual in any job to take personal responsibility for his or her work, applying initiative to the job and committing to be of service to others. It’s based on in-depth studies of hundreds of successful entrepreneurs.
    Through Central New Mexico Community College, the program has been taught to 100 employees of the city of Albuquerque. Mayor Richard Berry has committed to having at least 1,000 employees trained in it. It’s also offered to the public.
    The model was developed by Gary Schoeniger, CEO of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, who was here recently to train the facilitators who will teach the program to their colleagues from the city and other major local employers.
    If it works, hundreds of city employees will develop the entrepreneurial attitudes that let every person become an idea factory for process improvement and better service to the customers and taxpayers.  

  • Our rural counties did better last year than we first thought.
    The news is due to the annual revisions called “benchmarking” to the initially reported job numbers.
    Statistics get revised; it’s a rule. Frustration results and becomes anguish in our current situation. We get reports of one number, but no mention that it really is “the number,” plus or minus, depending on the mechanics of the survey. When more and better information becomes available, the number is revised. So it is with job numbers.
    The complication is that the numbers and associated expectations drive policy and business decisions. Change disrupts the decisions.
    The newest revisions, published in mid-March, take our monthly average employment for 2015 down by 3,000 to 825,600. The state’s job performance started decently and eroded during the year. Nine of 2015’s 12 months were revised downward. The numbers come from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

  • Two recent headlines say it’s time to talk about our economy. One is, “NM second in fed dependency,” written like that’s a bad thing. The other: “We must reduce NM reliance on oil revenues.”
    New Mexico has a lot of pieces to its economy, and we’re getting a little smarter about promoting them. It’s late, slow and done on a wing and a prayer, but it’s movement.
    One of those segments is federal spending, and last week the website Wallethub said New Mexico is the second-most federally dependent state after Mississippi. Last year we were first. This is because of federal installations, agencies and labs, but also because we’re poor (Medicaid) and have an aging population (Social Security, Medicare).
    Looked at another way, federal dollars create jobs (28,000-plus in 2015), and we could do better.
    Terry Brunner, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, recently wrote that every year his agency returns unused federal funds to Washington for lack of projects, and so do other federal agencies.

  • I come from a long line of Republican matrons. These were ladies whose courtesy toward those with political differences at odds with their own was nonetheless genuine and sincere.
    Mind you now, neighbors were courteous to one another, irrespective of partisan differences.
    Still, they were born and bred to hold their tongues, keep the peace when in the company of persons with political opinions significantly different from their own.
    One of my grandmothers even learned to tolerate the brash young Democrat her pretty daughter, Elizabeth, brought home during spring break from college and who shortly joined the family as her new son-in-law.
    They may have exchanged diverse views on social and political matters, but they were muted and circumspect, never confrontational. The president, “Ike,” was always spoken of admiringly and with respect for his courage and wartime heroism.
    Mrs. Eisenhower, the first lady, was routinely admired for the fussy little hats with which she adorned herself. Otherwise, she was simply Mrs. Eisenhower, the “first lady” who as far as my parents were concerned was known to be a “smoker.”
    As a child that was a shocker.

  • If you’re mentally ill or addicted, getting help means getting in to see your CSW, your community support worker. Your CSW understands you, understands your history, knows which medications have or haven’t worked. If you can’t see your CSW, it’s like being in your own sci-fi movie where you’re untethered in deep space.
    And if you even have a CSW, you’re one of the lucky ones.
    This is a little of the cold reality of what we like to call our behavioral health system after the state’s 2013 suspension of funding to 15 providers after accusing them of fraud. They provided 87 percent of services for the seriously mentally ill, substance abusers and emotionally disturbed children. They had served their communities for an average of 37 years.
    From news accounts we have an arsenal of smoking guns: Audits supporting the state Human Services Department’s accusations were doctored, the substitute Arizona providers were lined up BEFORE the audits, managed-care company UnitedHealth Group steered HSD to its conclusions and donated to the state Republican Party, the Attorney General cleared 13 of 15 providers of fraud, and a departing Arizona firm sued UnitedHealth saying its subsidiary OptumHealth accused the New Mexico providers of fraud to mask its inability to pay them.

  • One number and one question.
    Those are where the New Mexico economic discussion goes.
    The number is the ratio of employment to population. The question is why we are so low.
    A second number lends insight. That is the percentage of our population on Medicaid, which is approaching 50 percent. That half our population needs a form of welfare is astonishing, but the situation goes back to work. If more people were working for more money, there would be less Medicaid.
    Employment occupied 53.5 percent of the population in 2015. Our average employment ratio for 2014 was 56.6 percent, a decline from 2013. The definition is what you would expect. The Pew Research Center defines the ratio of employment to population as “a measurement of employed people as a percentage of the entire adult civilian non-institutional population” 16 and over. Nationally the ratio is 59.8 for February and has been nudging fitfully up since mid-2011.
    For employment-to-population, we placed 48th nationally, our usual position. Two of the other states in the bottom four—West Virginia and Kentucky—have coal as a simple explanation for their troubles. Check with Barack Obama on that issue. Mississippi’s explanations appear more complicated, although, from what I have read, racial legacies are a big part.

  • Warning to everybody who goes to work: New Mexico finally has a workers’ compensation drug and alcohol law that almost makes sense. If you are irresponsible enough to drink or use drugs at work, or before work, or you are an employer who allows that sort of behavior, it’s time to shape up.
    WORKERS: If you get injured at work, do not refuse to take a drug test. If the test shows you were drunk or stoned, your workers’ compensation cash benefits will be reduced. If you refuse to take the test, you’ll get no money.
    EMPLOYERS:  If you do not have a drug-and-alcohol-free workplace policy, you need one. The law takes effect July 1, but don’t wait to do this. Model policies are available online, or contact your insurance carrier (contact information should be in a poster on your wall that you should have put there). You can also check with the New Mexico DWI Resource Center (dwiresourcecenter.org).

  • Boos for the state chairwoman and bunches of Bernie babies with signs, cigarettes and slot machines. All appeared at the Democratic Party pre-primary convention March 12.
    For their pre-primary convention, Democrats needed a bigger room than Republicans. Around 1,200 people attended the Democratic show at Isleta Casino. The Republican convention drew about 500. For the Democrats’ meeting, people came and went, nametag or not. The Republicans had people at the entrances, looking for nametags. No nametag, no entry.
    Draw your own conclusions about inclusiveness.
    The cigarettes and slot machines came with the location – the “Bingo Showroom” at Isleta Resort and Casino south of Albuquerque. The cigarettes and slot machines were next door in the casino. As the program got a little tedious – no criticism, such events get tedious – conventioneers drifted to the casino and the slots.
    With no contested races, Chairwoman Debra Haaland observed that the purpose of the convention became making new acquaintances and renewing old acquaintances.
    Haaland began her remarks by saying, “I want to talk today about the need for unity in our party.”

  • New Mexico ag secretary: Let’s appreciate what farmers, ranchers put on our plates – and into our communities
    Milk, beef, chile, pecans…Cheese, lettuce, spinach, grapes…Alfalfa, cotton, corn, onions and more – what’s not to get excited about as spring approaches? Agriculture is alive and well in New Mexico, and the food and crops mentioned here are just a sample of the diverse culture of production that makes New Mexico special.
    On Tuesday, we celebrated National Agriculture Day across America. In New Mexico, I’m asking you to stretch the occasion out for the full week. Ag Day/Week asks us to recognize the important contributions farmers and ranchers make to our dinner plates and local communities. The food on your plate doesn’t just happen. After many months of care and nurturing by people who truly care about our health and safety, the crops grown become our breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and don’t forget snacks). Additionally, our communities thrive from the stable economic impact of agricultural production, as well as the green space it creates.

  • Last week, the governor’s biases were on display as she released the state’s annual pork bill and communities learned which of their public projects will receive capital outlay dollars.
    In a multitude of line-item vetoes, she came down hard on Navajos, Democrats, courts, and acequia associations.
    The governor chastised legislators in a nine-page message for squandering infrastructure funding and spending on local public works. She said some projects were underfunded or unwanted by local governments, and some spending was for items that will wear out before the bond is paid off. And legislators aren’t always working together, she said.
    No argument there, but she also vetoed any request for $10,000 or less, saying it’s not enough to accomplish anything. That’s pretty arbitrary. Some small projects can cost that amount or less.
    The big problem is that many of her vetoes are inconsistent, or they don’t align with her written message.
    Zuni Pueblo has no backup pump on its main well. Three legislators pooled their capital outlay money to buy and install a pump ($190,000), which was vetoed while dozens of other well projects around the state were approved.

  • BY JIM HALL
    President, Los Alamos School Board

  • Having spent a good share (or worst part) of this winter observing largely from my sick bed those events which have thus far shaped the 2016 race for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations, let me say outright that Trump’s rump is too much to bear.
    But, then, even in the most tranquil of times, Trump’s bum would likely be too much to bear.
    When one is fighting fevers and surgeries, the thought of our fellow citizens nominating a presidential candidate with a derriere more nearly the girth of William Howard Taft’s than anyone to have sought the presidency since 1912 is hardly appealing.
    Are these the same American Republican voters who just four years were mounting the barricades on behalf of a fellow named Mitt Romney?
    Or for the reelection of an incumbent Democratic president bearing the exotic nomenclature, Barack Obama, a young man who had yet to complete a full term as a United States Senator from the hoary state of Illinois?
    The doctors had told me that reducing the fever and removing some squamous cell skin cancers from the top of my head would perk me up nicely and perhaps even cure what ailed me.

  • BY NATHANIEL SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • Those of us deeply involved in “consequential matters,” such as politics, the Legislature, the potential $417 million shortage for estimated Medicaid expenses, the non-performance of the state economy, sometimes need reminding that life exists outside the arenas.
    The national political overlay doesn’t help, what with Hillary Clinton’s lies, Bernie Sanders’ delusions, Donald Trump’s destructive offensiveness, the youth of the two senators and John Kasich’s decency.
    A massage therapist in Albuquerque feels doubly pressured. She finds Trump scary and fears the effect on her customers when Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry’s bus rapid transit fiasco destroys Central Avenue in front of the building where she has been for 17 years.
    A recent Sunday had, as bookends, regular life on Saturday and the governor on Monday.
    For us, regular life meant the sunny and warm Jemez Springs Cabin Fever Festival Feb. 21. Festival vendors included artisans from four pueblos – Acoma, Zia, Jemez and Taos.
    Cars lined the main street. The Bodhi Mandala Zen Center filled its grounds with cars parking at $2 each. Restaurants overflowed with people. After checking the legendary Los Ojos Bar, we ambled a few blocks south for a dandy pastrami sandwich at the Highway 4 Café.

  • BY CATHY SORENSON
    Community Development Officer, The Loan Fund
    Finance New Mexico

  • The workers’ compensation coverage requirement in New Mexico has always been a mess. Finally somebody is paying attention to it.  
    A state Court of Appeals decision last year yanked away the exemption that protected farmers and ranchers for decades from concerning themselves with this convoluted language.  After the decision, the Workers’ Compensation Administration told them they would have to start buying workers’ comp insurance.  The state Supreme Court has temporarily stayed the requirement, pending its review of the case. But now, in case the Supreme Court doesn’t bail them out, they are grappling with it (paragraphs 52-1-6 and 52-1-7 of the statutes).     
    Most businesses with three or more employees are required to buy coverage, and that ends the discussion for them. (Construction is the exception, requiring all employers to have coverage, regardless of the number of employees.)
    But for very small businesses, the question of what constitutes “three” is a serious matter.  (My slogan: There are many ways to count to three.) So is the question of what constitutes an employee. These issues are not simple.
    Farmers and ranchers are looking to change these paragraphs. If you operate a very small business, or are employed by one, any changes will affect you.