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Opinion

  • Civil society is a slippery slope.
    It’s a constant tug of war between total individual freedom and rules that enable us to live as a society.
    We have free speech, but we may not yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater to start a panic. If we defame another person, we can be liable for the damage we cause. Your freedom to swing your arm, the saying goes, ends at my nose. We argue vigorously about freedom of the press and what government should be required to disclose.
    Government imposes laws, enforces laws, and has the opportunity to abuse its powers.  Usually it doesn’t. When it does, people sometimes get very badly hurt, but we can correct the abuse.
    Our laws swing back and forth with trends. We go through an era of being “tough on crime,” then the trend reverses as we see, for example, that too many people are in prison.
    Government makes mistakes; sometimes those mistakes lead to tragic results for individuals, but the power is kept in check by opposing forces, including the will of the people and the opportunity to throw officeholders out of office at the next election.

  • BY SANDY NELSON
    Finance New Mexico project

  • Tim Solano is one big reason we need tougher DWI laws, says a lawmaker. Solano is a good example of why those laws don’t work, says a DWI expert.
    Solano had five DWIs in 2005 when he killed a woman bicycling in Santa Fe. He served 10 years in prison. In December, after his release, he was arrested again for DWI.
    That was frightening to Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque. Her husband exercised in the same area when they lived in Santa Fe. She’s carrying HB 83 to increase penalties for multiple DWI convictions. It’s one of three DWI bills in the governor’s package that recently passed the House.
    The measures won’t have any effect on the state’s dreadful drunken driving experience, said Linda Atkinson, executive director of the DWI Resource Center. “The victims get told that these laws will prevent future DWI deaths, but it’s a disservice to victims,” she said. “It won’t change anything. It’s very, very sad.”
    Atkinson has been involved in DWI issues since the 1980s and has worked with such DWI crusaders as Nadine Milford and former Gallup Mayor Ed Muñoz. She co-founded the nonprofit DWI Resource Center, which tracks data and provides information to victims.

  • BY REP. NORA ESPINOZA
    Dist. 59, New Mexico State Representative

  • Temporarily stopping the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency from making new regulations except in emergencies would result from a bill filed by Congressman Steve Pearce to appoint a special investigator to find exactly what happened last year with the Gold King Mine spill.
    The proposal is the ‘‘Gold King Mine Spill Accountability Act of 2016.” The move comes, Pearce said via telephone from his Washington, D.C., office, because, “We just feel like the federal government has no concern for their effect on local people.”
    We need to “defend our constituents…(and) hold the EPA responsible,” he said.
    “People come to us when they want someone to stand up,” Pearce said, explaining his pursuit of the matter, as opposed to, say, Congressman Ben Luján, whose district contains the Animas River, which was badly polluted by mine waste. Pearce said he has pursued other problems outside his district.
    A request to Luján’s office for comment produced a 154-word statement that is posted at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Rep. Luján, and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet have introduced a Gold King bill lacking the special investigator and allowing continued EPA regulation production,

  • BY REP. LARRY LARRANAGA
    Chair, House Appropriations and Finance Committee, Dist. 27

  • BY JOE D'ANNA
    Los Alamos

  • BP’s lengthy oil spill in the Gulf and the Keystone Pipeline are issues long familiar to people of all walks. In sharp contrast, who ever heard of Structural Health Monitoring?  
    I first heard the term just two months ago. I was quickly amazed to see the extent of new techniques available to guard against leaky oil pipes of all kinds. Why does anything so relevant stay hidden from public news?  
    Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) is well explained in Wikipedia. SHM refers to methods of gauging damage in materials and other safety aspects of engineered structures. Devices tied into structures detect changes as materials age. From the changes, computing parts assess safety. Call them “smart tools.”
    The tools can check and report frequently on the well-being of structures such as bridges, airplanes and pipelines. The results, in turn, point to in-situ methods of timely repair. “In-situ” repair means repairing in place without tearing things open.
    SHM is no mere glint on the horizon. It thrives now and keeps improving. The discipline of SHM has an international society of its own with its own technical journal. The 10th International Workshop on SHM was held last fall at Stanford University. Princeton offers a graduate course in SHM. The topic clearly has history and substance.

  • At the first news of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, some of us wondered if it could happen here. The way it played out, that’s not likely.

    It began with Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven being convicted by a jury of arson, but the sentences jumped from months to five years because of a federal anti-terrorism law passed in response to the Oklahoma City bombing. The sentences sparked a protest by ranchers and militiamen in Burns, Oregon, and a few armed protesters led by Ammon Bundy took over the nearby refuge. 

    We’ve learned more about the players. In interviews, current and former employees of the wildlife refuge describe decades of hostility and death threats from the Hammonds. 

    “They said they were going to wrap my son in barbed wire and throw him down a well. They said they knew exactly which rooms my kids slept in,” said a former director. 

  • W

    e all know that Los Alamos is a “word of mouth” town.

    But that doesn’t mean you should sit with your hands folded and wait for people to say nice things about your business. There are several things that you can do to speed up the process. Read on for some inexpensive marketing tactics that build your reputation and encourage your customers to tell their friends about your services.

    Let’s get started!

    First, ask yourself: Who do I want to reach?

    Do you ever worry that there are still people in town who have never heard of your business? Stop worrying, because you don’t need everyone in town to know that you exist. Identify the small group of people who will be your best customers, and direct all your energy to reaching those people.

    Address your ideal customer to the exclusion of everyone else in your ads, your press releases and on your website. For example:

    • Parents of toddlers are invited 

    • Are you going to prom this year?

    • Read this if you’re about to retire.

    • Do you own a stucco house?

  • Last week, two Democratic members of the state House, Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestas of Albuquerque and Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos, introduced a proposed amendment to the state Constitution making it possible for voters registered as independent to cast their ballots in state primary elections.
    Also last week Donald Trump, the bloviated New York billionaire and self-advertised “frontrunner” for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, pulled out of a Fox Cable TV “debate” with the other contenders in that race.
    Seems Trump declined to submit to questions posed of him by the moderator of that debate, Megyn Kelly, because he feels she doesn’t “respect” him. Fox News and Ms. Kelly, on the other hand, dismissed Trump’s tantrum with the suggestion that he doesn’t like difficult questions when he’s in the spotlight performing.
    You pick. My guess is both camps are probably correct.
    But Mr. Trump’s latest campaign stunt was at least a novel way to put on a show without the bother of putting on a show. It also underscores one of the chronic challenges associated with popular self-government.

  • A vast business coalition has massed behind a proposed state law that would preempt local laws. The proposal comes in the form of House Bill 211 from Rep. Jason Harper, a Rio Rancho Republican, and Sen. Mark Moores, an Albuquerque Republican.
    The Association of Commerce of Industry leads the effort with Jason Espinosa, ACI president, as the campaign’s public face.
    I presume HB 211 in part comes in response to the so-called Fair Workweek Act introduced last summer by Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton and Klarissa Peña. Much tearing of hair was the Albuquerque response to the detailed regulations of the Benton-Peña proposal.
    ACI’s Jan. 26 release cited “the recent wave of local governments developing complex mandates for employers.”

  • The editors and writers of National Review recently did something extraordinary. They came out en masse against a Republican candidate during the primary. Their “Against Trump” symposium and accompanying “Editors introduction” offer up a barrage of attacks on Donald Trump’s surprising presidential candidacy.
    For the symposium, National Review assembled an enormously diverse group of conservative thinkers, from “movement conservatives” to more “establishment” types, to “conservatarians.” Clearly, this is no monolithic bloc. Yet there they are – an eclectic bunch of odd bedfellows making the same core argument: Donald Trump is not a conservative based on any meaningful definition of the term.

  • BY APRIL M. BROWN
    Marketing Director and Managing Director, WESST Enterprise Center

  • BY MARITA NOON
    Executive Director, Energy Makes America Great, Inc.

  • I used to joke that my late husband was the last honest man in the New Mexico Legislature.
    He was not the last, though. Most legislators do not take illicit money or otherwise profit from their public service.  
    I have known a few legislators who, after their service was over, out of the glare of publicity, quietly went bankrupt. Their years of honest volunteer service had cost them dearly.
    New Mexico’s past reputation was that there was lots of corruption but most of it was small-time.
    We were only slightly outraged when politicians did favors for their friends. If you won a local election as a county commissioner or a school board member, your reward was jobs for needy relatives. When the other guy won, his relatives might replace yours.
    In low-income counties with few good-paying jobs, this was a way to spread the wealth.
    When an influential legislator-lawyer represented clients before boards and commissions – perhaps using bullying power to influence a licensing decision - it didn’t even make the news. When legislators vote on issues that affect their own professions, we barely notice.
    After all, we rationalize, our unpaid legislators have to make a living doing something other than legislating.
    But we have been troubled by the influence of special interests on legislation.

  • In 2000, the Republicans painted a target on House Speaker Raymond Sanchez, who was as much of an irritant to Republican Gov. Gary Johnson as his brother, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, is to this one.
    The GOP hoped to take control of the Legislature. Running against the powerful House Speaker was John Sanchez, a political newbie who didn’t appear to have a chance.
    That campaign could be a chapter in political science textbooks.
    An over-confident Raymond didn’t take his opponent seriously until it was too late. In November, John Sanchez unleashed a flood of radio ads accusing Raymond Sanchez of resisting efforts to toughen laws against sex offenders and child pornography. His campaign made phone calls and mailed letters to Raymond’s constituents asking them to call him if they think, “families have a right to know if a convicted sexual predator is living next door.”
    Raymond countered with his own radio ads saying the accusations were lies and mudslinging. He lost.
    John Sanchez’s campaign manager, by the way, was Jay McCleskey, the governor’s Rasputin (or puppeteer, critics say).

  • Conferences, policy institutes and the like are useless when it comes to considering nasty problems such as the New Mexico economy, argue many people, including some action-oriented types in Albuquerque.
    They are wrong.
    The action types have recently grabbed the initiative, providing money to push specific agendas such as right to work. But this totally commendable argument for short-term specifics misses the point of considering the longer term.
    Perhaps the action types are motivated in part by the failure of talk efforts such as New Mexico First and the long-gone Business Leaders Forum at New Mexico State.
    A market for longer term, broader scope policy consideration clearly exists. The Albuquerque Business First newspaper lured 300 “business leaders” to a January conference to hear a national economist say nothing new about New Mexico, as best as I could figure from the newspaper’s stories about the conference.
    “The crowd was searching for some solutions,” one story said. None appeared.
    The annual Domenici Public Policy Conference in Las Cruces is less talk fest than listen fest with presentations from national and a few regional policy leaders. There are no coffee breaks, a serious limit on communication among people attending.

  • BY DR. JOSEPH HORTON
    Visions & Values

  • Lemitar is pretty far from the Pacific, but Tim Ott and Abigail “Judy” Armendariz are growing shrimp native to that ocean in a climate-controlled aquaculture plant just north of Socorro.
    Their company, Southwestern Seas LLC, has been selling New Mexico-farmed white Pacific shrimp at the Santa Fe Farmers Market for about a year.
    The business partners in late November received a $49,500 value-added producer grant from USDA that they plan to use to market their unconventional “crop” to other farmers markets around the state and thus increase sales.
    High-altitude ‘ocean’
    Southwestern Seas received its first shipment of young shrimp in the summer of 2014, when Armendariz’s garage served as the nursery. The company then built a 7,000-square-foot facility and equipped it with everything needed to replicate the saline, sea-level ocean environment where these shrimp typically live.
    The shrimp farmers add oxygen to the water in the facility’s giant saltwater tanks so the shrimp can survive at an altitude of more than 4,500 feet. They keep the building’s temperature at 85 degrees and maintain an elevated humidity level.
    Biofilters and recirculators sustain water quality inside the 65,000-gallon tanks, which are replenished regularly with water from an on-site well.