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Opinion

  • Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard was explaining economic-base jobs to fellow members of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
    The Los Alamos teacher had learned as an advisory member of the Jobs Council that economic-base jobs sell goods or services outside the state.
    It was one of those moments of clarity that cut through the political haze. Finally, after years of chasing anything that might have a payroll, lawmakers are educating themselves on the basics of a real economy.
    This is why the pyrotechnics last week in the House Judiciary Committee over Right-to-Work was so disheartening. In the last two years, the Jobs Council drew together both parties, along with business, labor, the administration and councils of government, to create proposals that would move us down the road.
    Now House members were jeopardizing that bipartisan goodwill with marathon, brutal debates over union membership as a condition of employment.
    Twice last week, the cavernous House chamber filled with business people and labor, one suited up, the other in blue jeans.
    They’re two sides of the same pancake. They need each other, they all want jobs and there is plenty of legislation that they do agree on.
    In the Republican-majority House committee, Right-to-Work was bound to pass, just as it will on the floor.

  • Presidents Day reflections typically commemorate the exploits of two of our larger than life chief executives whose birthdays we celebrate in February — George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. This piece instead assesses the contributions of a different American colossus — James Madison — and examines the War of 1812 as we observe the 200th anniversary of the treaty that ended the conflict, which the U.S. Congress approved on Feb. 16, 1815.
    Madison’s image does not adorn Mount Rushmore, and he has no memorial in Washington, D.C. However, he played a pivotal role in devising the United States, especially in framing the Constitution and promoting religious liberty. One of the nation’s most cerebral and articulate founders, he served in numerous legislative bodies, including the Continental Congress and the House of Representatives.
    Madison penned the extremely influential Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments in 1785 to argue for ending Virginia’s Episcopal establishment and providing complete religious freedom. Historians label it “the most powerful defense of religious liberty ever written in America.” No other founder had as much impact on the nation’s conception and practice of freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state.

  • Small companies often lease space before buying or building a property that allows them to expand or modernize. When they’re ready for that leap of faith, the U.S. Small Business Administration can help by underwriting a significant portion of any loan they need.
    The SBA’s 504 loan program is a public-private partnership administered through a Certified Development Company (CDC) that helps small, independently owned companies secure the fixed assets — such as land, building and equipment — that they need to grow and be competitive. If the business owner can provide a minimum of 10 percent of the loan amount, the CDC will underwrite 40 percent — up to $5.5 million in some circumstances — and this makes lenders more comfortable offering a first mortgage for the remaining 50 percent.
    The Loan Fund, a community development financial institution, works with the SBA and CDCs to help business owners obtain 504 loans and access money they might not be able to get. This lets business owners conserve cash for other operating costs.
    Who is eligible?

  • A fun aspect of teaching math is that I get to share stories about numbers with my students.
    The number “13” of course holds a special place in society and students love learning words like triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).
    I explain to them that “tris” means “three” and “dek” means “ten.”
    This gives me the opportunity to demonstrate how words contain numerical prefixes taken from Latin and Greek, using these prefixes to define properties of cardinality, such as bi-cycle, cent-ennial, and sex-agenarian (one of my favorites!).
    Now today, being a Friday the 13th, I get to use the word friggatriskaidekaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th). But in this case, the prefix “frigga” has nothing to do with numbers.
    A few ago, a student told me that she had gone to see the movie “Thor” the day before (a Thursday) and was raving about how good it was.
    So I said, “Well then, it’s a happy coincidence that you saw the movie on Thor Day.”
    This led to a discussion on how days of the week were named after planets and gods. Sunday and Monday, of course, are immediately recognized as being named after the Sun and the Moon.
    And, as per our discussion, Thursday was named after that hammer wielding beastie-boy, Thor.

  • Rep. Cathrynn Brown was describing roads in southeastern New Mexico. The pit rule, which requires trucking oil waste to another site, has added to the already heavy traffic on state and county roads.
    Drivers take the shortest route, whether or not the road is safe.
    “Fatalities are a great concern to all of us,” said the Carlsbad Republican. “I got to a point where I dreaded opening the newspaper in the morning. Eddy and Lea counties do the best they can (but) we’re really hurting.”
    On the subject of transportation, you can say the same for every county in the state, from the patched and repatched northern U.S. 285 to McKinley County’s war-surplus bridges that can’t even hold a school bus.
    These debates within the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee grow more urgent every year.
    The governor now supports bonding $300 million in road projects, but last week Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith condemned the proposal as irresponsible. The state, he said, is already overextended.
    What he meant is the state has borrowed to the hilt for transportation. Bonds are IOUs.

  • A wise man once told me that people vote for politicians as they do in well-funded popularity contests.
    It is questionable that the current and impending actions of some policymakers represent the wider public’s interest, and it is difficult when some view election or re-election as unbridled support for their stance on important issues in our state.
    There are many people in New Mexico who feel like they have no voice beyond the voting booth, myself included. I continue to have serious concerns about the current state of our education system and how it reflects our collective beliefs and values, and I know I am not alone.
    My purpose in writing this is to respond to a recent column about House Bill 41, and to urge consistent interaction between the public and their elected officials even after this session’s dust has settled.
    That will take commitment, communication, information, and a willingness from all sides to take the time needed to sit down and consider options without expecting to find a “silver bullet” that will “fix” our education system forevermore.
    We are an ever-changing society. We need processes, beyond the ballots, in place to be able to adapt to changing times. Our founding fathers called this process “democracy,” and it encompasses more than a vote in November.

  • Knowing how to read is one of the most important life skills you could ever learn. When you know how to read, knowledge is at your fingertips and nothing is far from reach.
    Unfortunately for New Mexico, too many of our children are unable to read proficiently. Yet, year after year, we pass them onto the next grade without blinking an eye.
    This is called social promotion — it’s a failed policy that sets our children up for failure. And it’s high time we put an end to it.
    That is why I have joined two colleagues — Rep. Monica Youngblood and Sen. Gay Kernan — in sponsoring legislation that will not only eliminate this policy, but also give teachers, parents and students the resources they need to succeed.
    The truth is, it is not compassionate to move along our children when they are unprepared.
    Doing so only sets them up for failure. In fact, students who cannot read before the third grade are four times more likely drop out of high school.
    It’s not hard to see why. From first grade through third, our children learn to read. After those critical years, they read to learn.

  • The now-infamous 2013 audit of 15 nonprofit New Mexico behavioral health providers has finally been released to the public by our new Attorney General, Hector Balderas.
    You remember. That’s the audit that led the state Human Services Department to accuse all 15 of massive fraud and stop paying them for services under Medicaid, which led to 12 of those providers being starved out of business, a behavioral health system thrown into chaos and several thousands of very vulnerable clients — including many children and a few possibly dangerous individuals — abandoned.
    Sudden forced withdrawal from psychotropic medications, because there wasn’t anybody left to write the prescriptions, was just one of the disastrous consequences of this event.
    Among the 15 providers, over a three-year period, there were $36 million in cost overruns, the audit claimed. That’s a lot of taxpayer money. But I wonder if there might be other explanations for some of this spending.

  • Column up for theological debate

    I’m sure the Los Alamos Monitor does not wish to begin or encourage theological debates, so I will avoid any such rebuttal to Pastor McCullough’s column regarding baptism, “Explaining differences in types of baptism.”
    However, it might be wise for the Los Alamos Monitor to do some fact checking where it can in its religion columns.
    Pastor McCullough’s article immediately began with a factual error. A quick Internet search will indicate that infant baptism was practiced in the church and was mentioned as such by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian and Origen, all of whom died well before the year 300.
    Unless Pastor McCullough has a different definition of “Middle Ages” than most people, his first sentence is incorrect. I will leave it to the reader to speculate about the cause of such an egregious error.

    Drew Kornreich
    Los Alamos

    Misinformed about baptism roots

    In reference to Pastor McCullough’s “Religion” column of Feb. 6, he is mistaken when he claims that infant baptism has its roots in the Middle Ages.

  • I was raised a union bigot.
    Unions were evil. My dad hated unions. I don’t know why.
    My perspective has evolved. Unions are useful. Nor are unions bad. However, monopolies are bad.
    One important lesson came from John Dendahl, then running a small unionized technology manufacturing firm in Santa Fe. Years later, Dendahl was the take no-prisoners chair of the state Republicans.
    A union contract defines the rules, Dendahl said.
    His company had not had a strike. In Albuquerque, a large electronics manufacturer claimed (correctly, I suspect) that the workforce included commie agitators and got much grief from the union, the same one as at Dendahl’s firm.
    As I remember, there were complaints, eventually substantiated, about sloppy handling of toxic materials.
    These memories arise in the context of “right to work” proposals (House Bill 75, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, and, Senate Bill 183, a duplicate of HB 75, sponsored by Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington) being considered in the Legislature. Roch is an educator. Sharer is a businessman.
    The proposals would prohibit requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

  • Gas prices remain below $2 a gallon in most of New Mexico, providing citizens of our state with some extra cash for their winter fun. Don’t get used to it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of implementing three rules that a new study by the Rio Grande Foundation and Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University says will substantially drive up the cost of electricity in New Mexico.
    This comes on top of recent, dramatic increases in electricity prices, thanks in part to New Mexico’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard (RPS). With the state’s largest utility PNM looking for a 12 percent rate hike, the RPS forcing utilities to purchase more costly “renewables,” and the Obama Administration’s proposed regulations, the electricity rate hikes faced by New Mexicans are only just beginning.  
    Of course, all New Mexicans want a clean environment; most appreciate the EPA’s intentions. Nonetheless, it’s clear that with the exception of a radical fringe, few are clamoring for new federal regulations that threaten the state’s struggling economy.

  • Editor’s note: This column first appeared at “The American Spectator.”

    On the morning after Christmas, James B. Edwards passed away. Few Americans under the age of 40 — unless they are South Carolinians — had probably never heard of Jim.
    Here’s the official biography: James B. Edwards was President Ronald Reagan’s original Secretary of Energy. At the age of 17, in 1944, Jim joined the U.S. Maritime Service to serve his country during World War II. Several years later, while still a Navy Reserve officer, he became an oral surgeon.
    In the mid-1960s, concerned about the direction of our country, he got involved in politics, first behind the scenes, then serving a term in the South Carolina State Senate. He surprised the experts in 1974 by becoming the first Republican governor of South Carolina since Reconstruction.
    Limited to one four-year term by the state constitution, Jim worked to promote the presidential candidacy of Ronald Reagan. After Reagan’s election in 1980, he tapped the oral surgeon from South Carolina to be his Secretary of Energy with the mission of shutting down the Department of Energy.

  • A frequent lament of New Mexico’s business community is the loss of brainpower and energy that results when young people move out of state to pursue economic opportunities they can’t find at home.
    This exodus isn’t unique to New Mexico and, by itself, isn’t cause for alarm. No matter where they live, young people almost always leave their home state after completing their schooling or training, even if they obtained that education tuition-free at New Mexico universities.
    Exploring the larger world and all its offerings helps young adults mature into self-aware global citizens — an asset to any community they choose to settle in.
    What most concerns economic-development advocates is how to make New Mexico that destination of choice for our dispersed millennials — the generation now in its 20s and 30s.
    The High Desert Discovery District (HD3) — the first private, nonprofit high-tech startup accelerator in New Mexico — is dedicated to cultivating a climate of innovation and possibility that entices young professionals and entrepreneurs to return to the state and contribute to its economic prosperity.

  • Who would have thought that Nancy Sinatra and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would have a common area of political doctrine, one whose metaphysical ideology would be based on boots?
    As Nancy so poetically belted out, boots are made for walking. And Governor Walker wants those boots to walk all over you.
    With the 2016 presidential race on his plate, Scotty took to the stump to proclaim his “patriotic willingness to put boots on the ground” in Syria. It was a tough choice, but since it wouldn’t be his feet in those boots, he consented to the possibility of committing to ground warfare with ISIS.
    He must be a “Star Trek” fan. The Ferengi Rule of Acquisition No. 34 is “War is good for business.”
    I suppose his decision was based on his training received when he earned his master’s degree, a claim he made in a recent interview.
    Don’t bother looking it up. He doesn’t have a master’s degree. In fact, he doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree either. He dropped out of college.
    Nor does he have any military experience, at least not outside video games he might have played in an arcade.
    Beam yourself up, Scotty! The people on this planet aren’t stupid enough to believe your lies.

  • As I watch this year’s legislative session, I am concerned with the misinformed claims made by Republican Governor Susana Martinez that have made Right-to-Work/anti-worker legislation her top priority.  
    When I think of all the issues we face here in our state in building a healthy economy I am appalled that the governor will be attacking our working families.
    When the governor says Right-to-Work (RTW) is one of several hurdles New Mexico faces in attempting to become more economically competitive with neighboring states she couldn’t be more wrong. Talent and the cost of doing business are more important when factoring whether or not a company will do business in New Mexico or anywhere else in the United States. Businesses look to see what a state has to offer them and the families they will bring with them when they come.
    Businesses look at the labor market and how well the labor force is trained before committing to bringing their business to a site.

  • The push for state takeover of federal land provoked a big push back. Last week, the roar of hundreds of angry hunters, anglers and others filled the Capitol Rotunda and sent me scampering out of the press gallery to see what was going on.
    A standing-room-only crowd of camo-wearing folks rallied to say they won’t stand for the loss of one acre.
    “I don’t want to see any public land sold,” said a gun-store owner, to loud cheering. “I also have an issue of wasted money for studies other states have already done.”
    They wore stickers saying, “Keep your hands off MY public lands.”
    The source of all this excitement is Senate Memorial 6 by Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, which asks the state to study federal land management and ownership and evaluate the impacts of federal revenue streams on the state and local communities. Reportedly, Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, plans to introduce a similar measure.
    Last year, counties received $37.7 million in federal payments in lieu of taxes (PILT), and the state received $9.5 million from the Secure Rural Schools program.

  • “You could be that one person to make a difference in the life of a teen,” challenged Jason Sole, author of the book “From Prison to Ph.D.” Sole carries a heavy rap sheet from his past.
    A former drug dealer and gang-banger, Sole put in years of hard work and found the courage and resilience to turn his life around.
    He is now a proud family man and an assistant professor of criminal justice. He manages his own consulting business and tours the country as a motivational speaker, a gang prevention specialist and a trainer for the One Circle Foundation.
    Sole attributes much of his success to the mentors in his life — the people who believed in him and his ability to realize his full potential.
    Sponsored by the Los Alamos JJAB and funding from CYFD, Sole recently traveled from Minnesota to Los Alamos to lead a training program for facilitators of the Council for Boys and Young Men. Twenty-four professionals from New Mexico and Colorado gathered to participate.
    “This was one of the best trainings I have ever attended,” said Michelangelo Lobato, counselor at Chamisa Elementary School.

  • A first-time global financial literacy study shows that the keys to successful personal finance education are student perseverance and an openness to problem solving.  
    That’s one of the main findings in the inaugural financial literacy portion of the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) test, which evaluated the skills and knowledge of 29,000 15-year-olds in 18 countries and economies in 2012.
    Final results were released in September, and PISA officials announced that the assessment of financial literacy will be offered as an optional component in 2015 testing.
    PISA was launched in 2000 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which promote policies that support economic and social well-being around the world.
    U.S. students earned an average score of 492 out of a possible 700, which ranks those teens between eighth and 12th place among all 18 participating countries and economies, according to the PISA study.
    Other findings from the U.S. results:

  • We got smaller last year.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if the statement introduced a celebration of statewide weight loss? Not exactly, though our total weight may have been less on July 1, 2014, than a year earlier. Any weight loss would be because there were fewer people in the state, 1,540 to be exact.
    Specifically, the Census Bureau estimates that New Mexico lost 1,540 people (or 0.06 percent) during the 2013-14 year. The estimates were released Dec. 23.
    Six states presented similar attractiveness to the their population. On a percentage basis, four outperformed us: West Virginia (-0.18 percent); Illinois (-0.08 percent); Connecticut and Alaska (both -0.07 percent).
    This single population performance number reflects four elements: births, deaths, people moving internationally and people moving from state to state.
    Statistically, births and deaths are simple. Each event generates a piece of paper, a certificate. These are filed with the state and counted, accurately, one presumes.
    About 16,500 New Mexicans die each year, a figure that grows a few hundred each year, based on the past four years. The number of births, around 27,000 annually, declines about 500 each year.
    Necessarily, the number of people moving must be estimated. Techniques are well established. An estimated number really occupies a range.

  • The death of Reies Lopez Tijerina in an El Paso hospital late last month occasioned a good deal of comment and commentary.
    Tijerina invited comment and commentary, even sought it.
    His main claim to fame occurred almost a half century ago when he and a band of followers stormed the Rio Arriba County Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, wounding a jailer and police officer and taking a reporter and the sheriff hostage.
    It was a big deal. “Tijerina’s Rio Arriba Court House raid,” it came to be called, and he ended up spending a couple of years in federal prison. But that was sometime later and unrelated to his Court House rampage.
    Tijerina and his fellow raiders initially got away by escaping into nearby Kit Carson National Forest. His grievance was the injustice he considered New Mexico’s original Hispanic settlers to have experienced when their land grants were abrogated or outright taken from them.
    It made him quite a celebrity, even something of a hero to many young Hispanic and Latino activists who seized upon the land grant issue and made it “a cause celebre.”
    This was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when ferment and activism was abroad in the land.