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Opinion

  • Multinational franchises like McDonald’s and KFC started small and worked their way up the food chain over decades.
    That methodical approach to growth seems too slow for the owners of two Albuquerque businesses.
    Before Olo Yogurt Studio opened its first store in 2010 and WisePies served its first pizza in 2014, the owners of both ventures planned to become franchises — and to waste no time doing it.
    Olo Yogurt opened a second store — a carbon copy of its colorful original — within three years and was strengthening its brand for further expansion.
    WisePies was less than a year old when it announced its intentions to open 20 new stores within a year and to offer franchise licenses for $35,000.
    In December, the company signed a $5 million deal for naming rights to the University of New Mexico basketball arena, commonly known as The Pit, now the WisePies Arena.
    The franchise or chain store model isn’t the only way for a business to grow, but its appeal is obvious.
    A franchisor can recruit talented go-getters who want to run a business with a built-in market, name recognition and institutional support. And they can do it without draining their capital budgets, as franchisees typically pay much of their own startup costs.

  • Starting with the earliest years of the Republic, a constant theme has laced its way through American political rhetoric to the effect that local and state governments, being “closer to the People” than a far-away national government, are best able to deal with the “People’s” needs and problems.
    It has always been a slightly silly proposition, if only because some of the “People’s” needs and problems transcend the boundaries and jurisdictions of state and local government, such as interstate commerce, national defense and terrorism.
    Lately, however, even a governmental function, which has historically been deemed inherently “local” in nature has found local governments in every part of the land clearly floundering, if not downright incompetent to handle.
    Consider local law enforcement.
    As most New Mexicans know, the state’s largest city has basically lost control of its police department and has entered into a written agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to fashion far-reaching police reforms, which Albuquerque officials — mayor and city council — will be obligated to implement.

  • French economist Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” was the most talked about treatise on political economy in 2014, if not the 21st century.
    To those of us who understand and respect the superior productivity and fairness of free markets, the errors throughout Piketty’s Capital were so numerous and obvious that the book was easy to dismiss as warmed-over leftism, hardly worthy of being addressed and refuted. The history of economics teaches us, however, that it can be a costly mistake to ignore a popular book however flawed and wrong-headed.
    When John Maynard Keynes published “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,” in the winter of 1935-36, its fundamental errors were so glaring to the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek that Hayek figured the book would quickly slip into oblivion. Wrong! By the time Henry Hazlitt wrote the first systematic dissection and demolition of The General Theory in 1959 (The Failure of “the New Economics”) Keynes’ macroeconomic errors had become the orthodoxy.

  • I miss the days of truth in advertising. It is amazing to me that PNM gets away with the outrageous claims it makes in its full-scale PR assault on the good people of New Mexico.
    Every time we at Positive Energy Solar see a PNM advertisement these days, it is full of half-truths and exaggerated statistics. 
    “More Sol, Less Coal” is PNM’s latest spin in their “green” campaign, but what it isn’t telling you is that PNM is, in fact, adding more coal and barely scratching the surface in its adoption of “Sol.”
    Here is the truth: it is proposing to bring more coal, nuclear and natural gas into the mix at a cost to ratepayers of $66 million annually. This cost does not include any future carbon or coal regulations that might be incurred, nor does it factor future rises in fossil fuel costs.
    PNM’s claim in the ad that it will have cumulatively invested more than $270 million in solar by the end of 2015 is true, but solar only accounts for a measly 2 percent of the whole. This is a tiny fraction of what PNM could be harnessing, in a state that is recognized as the second-best state in the nation for solar power.

  • Process is as important as product in the deliberations of the Jobs Council, a legislative interim committee.
    By mutual consent, council members — Democrat and Republican, business and labor — focused on where they agreed and set aside questions like right-to-work that would bog them down in debate. Their 13-point package shows they achieved a surprising level of consensus.
    Equally important, the council developed a yardstick for measuring all those proposals pitched as economic development. During the session, many such bills will be introduced, and most of them would produce a negligible number of jobs.
    So let’s have a round of applause for council members for doing the hard work and acknowledge that it is hard to get beyond platitudes and pie in the sky to examine actual numbers: How many people will you have in your county in 10 years? How many jobs will you need? What kinds of jobs? In what industries?
    The members summarized the obstacles that keep each community from creating jobs.
    How many more jobs will the community lose by not fixing that obstacle? For example, if Carlsbad and Hobbs need housing before employers can hire more people, why aren’t builders flocking to these communities? Are towns losing opportunities because they lack bandwidth or the workforce isn’t prepared?

  • America is not a police state. This is not a country in which the arm of justice is empowered to pursue arbitrary and selfish goals.
    Instead, America is a land of laws that restrict harm, damage, selfishness and the arbitrary use of force by police, as well as citizens. Power in America is not absolute because it is restricted by law. Yes, the arm of the law is long, but in very predictable ways.
    In particular, the exercise of power in America is properly limited by accountability. In each and every one of my own roles, I have both designated authority and defined accountability.
    When the system works properly, the accountability increases the likelihood that I will use my authority to strengthen the good of society and limit any arbitrary or selfish exercise of power that harms others.
    In my role as father, I was expected to exert my authority in the training and education of my boys, increasing the likelihood that they would become contributing members of society. I was accountable to local authorities who had the responsibility to ensure that my parenting did not become neglectful or abusive.

  • Over the last decade, reverse mortgages have been marketed as an easy way for seniors to cash in their home equity to pay for living expenses. However, many have learned that improper use of the product — such as pulling all their cash out at one time to pay bills — has led to significant financial problems later, including foreclosure.
    In actuality, there are some cases where reverse mortgages can be helpful to borrowers. However, it is imperative to do extensive research on these products before you sign.
    Reverse mortgages are special kinds of home loans that let borrowers convert some of their home equity into cash. They come in three varieties: single-purpose reverse mortgages, Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) and proprietary reverse mortgages.
    Who can apply? Homeowners can apply for a reverse mortgage if they are at least 62 years old, own their home outright or have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off with the proceeds of the reverse loan. Qualifying homeowners also must have no delinquent federal debt, the financial resources to pay for upkeep, taxes and insurance and live in the home during the life of the loan.

  • Whether as a slowly rising tide or flash flood, marijuana reform is on its way to New Mexico. The question is, who will benefit economically from what’s shaping up to be the fastest-growing industry of this decade?
    Since New Mexico became the first state to license and regulate the production and distribution of medical marijuana in 2007, 23 other states have followed our lead. Now Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska have legalized recreational use. The District of Columbia has approved legalization, and unless Congress blocks it, President Barack Obama will soon be able to reunite his Hawaii choom gang for a smoke in the Rose Garden. (Hard to guess how the Secret Service would handle that, since pot remains illegal on federal property.)
    If he chooses to use the “pen and phone” he’s been brandishing lately in the cause of drug law reform, the president could drop marijuana from the fed’s list of controlled substances, a move that would favorably impact more Americans than his unilateral action on immigration. That would open the floodgates for similar reforms nationwide.
    Arizona legislators will weigh a legalization bill in the session opening this month, although it’s unlikely to make it to a floor vote this year.

  • As the Legislature debates the two related issues of right to work and minimum wage, we’re probably going to hear about theories like free markets and free choice. So let’s get real.
    Some things are still traded in completely free markets, I suppose, but I would hesitate to name one nationally marketed product that is not somehow affected (for better or worse) by subsidies, tax breaks, or other factors that have nothing to do with consumer choice. (If you find one, please write to me!)  
    We are all subsidizing Walmart. If you don’t shop there, you are subsidizing the purchases of people who do.  
    Americans for Tax Fairness issued a report in April 2014 called “Walmart on Tax Day:  How Taxpayers Subsidize America’s Biggest Employer and Richest Family.”
    In this report, a state-by-state analysis shows the estimated number of Walmart employees in New Mexico as 14,322. The estimated public assistance cost for those New Mexico employees is $63.2 million. The estimated yearly total of tax breaks and subsidies to the Walmart stores in New Mexico, benefitting the company’s owners and stockholders, is $73.7 million. Those two figures add up to $136.9 million — money either not collected in taxes or paid out in public assistance to workers.  

  • Many Americans are upset by the decision of President Barack Obama to issue an executive order to reform immigration policy. The executive order effectively grants undocumented immigrants the legal right to remain in the United States if they have been here five years and are parents, children, or spouses of citizens or of legal residents. The president says that he did this because Congress has not passed an immigration reform bill.
    Obama’s impatience with Congress on immigration reform is understandable. Government has allowed millions of immigrants to remain in the United States even though they are violating the law by being here. Since it costs about $23,000 to deport an undocumented immigrant, it would be fiscally irresponsible to try to deport a significant percentage of them. Thus, we need to reform immigration policy so that we have a law that we can afford to enforce. Although Obama may have gone beyond his authority as president, his action serves to highlight the urgency of Congress acting to reform immigration policy.

  • The information in a Jan. 9 report, “Martinez throws support behind right-to-work,” in the business section of the Albuquerque Journal reinforces the claim that Gov. Susana Martinez is just another Republican agent working for big business.
    As usual, the governor proclaims that she is working for the people. “It is fundamentally wrong to require membership (in a union) in order to get a job or take money from the paychecks of our workers by force to support a special interest group that they do not want to be a part of.”
    But where was she speaking and why?
    Martinez was appearing “before about 500 business leaders and legislators at a Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce luncheon.”
    It is a little hypocritical and suspect to claim you are supporting labor rights when you are speaking before a special interest business group that would benefit the most from abolishing unions altogether.
    Hmm. Do you really think the governor is looking out for workers, or is she trying to pay back big businesses for their financial support and troll for more cash to fuel her political ambitions?
    There are several inconvenient truths about right-to-work (RTW) laws.

  • On Wednesday, the world was shocked and appalled by the deplorable attacks at the Paris office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Twelve men and women were murdered for expressing their freedom of speech.
    Sadly, it is not an isolated incident.
    In August, journalist James Foley was beheaded in Syria after being held captive for nearly two years. In September, a gruesome video released by terrorists showed freelance journalist Steven Sotloff beheaded.
    It has become a disturbing trend for radicals and terrorists to target journalists. These attacks challenge the value of free speech at its core.
    Worldwide, there have been more than 60 journalists killed and more than 100 kidnapped in the past year. This is unacceptable. It cannot continue. Every attack on the press is an attack on all of our freedom.
    A free press is a vital and integral part of any free society. Even in our country, we have seen steps taken to limit and outright prevent the media from doing its job.
    In 2013, the newspaper industry was shocked to learn the U.S. Department of Justice seized reporters’ personal records and phone logs. New York Times reporter James Risen has faced the threat of jail time for more than a year because of his unwillingness to divulge the names of confidential sources.

  • I love malapropisms (using the wrong words to obfuscate meaning), such as dancing the flamingo, or teaching family values as the bondage between mother and child.
    Word abuse like that is now called a Bushism, named after a grating great man who was ungratefully “misterunderestimated.”
    But I’m not really well versed enough to understand the nuances of advanced wordplay, juggling between mondegreens, eggcorns, spoonerisms and other side dishes of word salad. I usually wade in the kiddie pool of language and limit myself to idioms.
    Idioms can be truly bizarre when you take the time to think about them. Like saying that something costs an arm and a leg. So what can you get for a spleen and a gall bladder?
    Now, one of the most overused colloquialisms is “Practice what you preach.” Some people liken this to meaning “Walk the walk and talk the talk.”
    Actually, the correct terminology should be “Walk the talk,” meaning to follow a set of rules or directions that you expect others to follow.
    All too often however, the intended meaning is, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
    A perfect case in point would be Bristol Palin, who was paid by the Candie’s Foundation to promote “her message” on the importance of abstinence.

  • Jeffrey and Melissa Pilgrim launched Vista Photonics in 2003 to research how laser-based trace-gas sensors could be developed for a variety of commercial and project-specific uses.
    Among other innovations, the company created an instrument that helps farmers plan harvests by measuring how much ethylene gas crops emit to accelerate ripening.
    But the couple’s favorite brainchild so far is the optical life gas analyzer they developed for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration. The device monitors gas levels on the International Space Station — a function that’s critical to maintaining a balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapor and ammonia in the craft’s controlled atmosphere.
    These achievements — and the Santa Fe company’s growing status as a go-to maker of photonic products for various government agencies — led the Regional Development Center to recognize Vista Photonics in November as one of the companies it predicts will bring more jobs and revenue to the region by 2020.
    Originally begun to identify and nurture 20 high-growth companies that appeared likely to double their workforce and revenues by 2020, the Northern New Mexico 20/20 Campaign this year exceeded its goal: 25 companies have been inducted into the pantheon so far.
    ‘Growing ideas’

  • Skandera should be voted down
    The Albuquerque Journal’s quote of Tuesday was from Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, “We just need to get on with it.” It pertains to Hanna Skandera, “Secretary-designate” of the New Mexico Department of Education.
    Speaking of Ms. Skandera, I reread the resume that was published in the Albuquerque Journal of Feb. 13, 2011.
    It reminded me of a T-shirt I saw recently: “Those who can, Teach; Those who can’t, Pass laws about teaching.”
    Her degrees are in business and public policy, i.e. the modern idiocy that postulates “once you learn how to manage something, you can manage anything.”
    What happened to the boss’s son or daughter who started in the mailroom and learned what the corporation does or makes?
    The fate of Apple under Scully comes to my mind. Tom Scully managed Coke for many years and probably couldn’t even spell Silicon Valley. You may remember he almost drove the caravan into the desert of failed successes and caused the Apple board to bring Steve Jobs back to save it and build it into one of the legends of commerce.

  • Since the governor surprised us with her announcement that Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson will move over to the beleaguered Children Youth and Families Department, we’ve heard some pointed objections.
    Namely, what does Jacobson know about child abuse?
    Point taken. Personally, I regret the loss of the energetic, personable Jacobson from our tourism efforts.
    That said, this reshuffling could work. But it’s a qualified “could.”
    Since young Omaree Varela broke our hearts last year, we’ve learned a lot about CYFD: chronic understaffing, overworked and underpaid social workers, mismanagement from top to bottom, and poor communications with police.
    Former and current workers described salaries lower than other government workers, constant turnover in staff because of poor management, a cliquish atmosphere in which promotions and even office furniture depended on who you know.
    According to the Legislative Council Service, the time needed to complete an investigation increased from 58.2 days in 2008 to 86.4 days in 2012.
    One organization’s study, released in March, found:
    CYFD investigators receive a few months’ training. Other states in the region require six months’ training before they receive their first case.

  • We all expect to pay a price for missing deadlines, but not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
    For the past two years, the EPA has failed to meet the deadline under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), requiring the agency to tell refiners how much ethanol to blend into gasoline.
    In November 2013, the EPA did make an attempt to announce the proposed 2014 blend levels — which by then were already months past the legally mandated deadline. The EPA set the proposed 2014 standard to a level lower than 2013s, even though the law requires increasing amounts.
    Ethanol producers, who were expecting the usual uptick, loudly opposed the reduction. They made so much noise, the EPA agreed to reconsider. To date, the 2014 standards have not yet been announced.
    Then, in November 2014, the EPA announced it would make a decision in 2015 on how much ethanol refiners had to add to gasoline in 2014.
    Congress enacted the RFS in 2005 and revised it in 2007 —which also provided incentives to America’s fledgling ethanol industry. At the time, gasoline demand was rising to an all-time high and oil imports comprised more than 58 percent of U.S. oil consumption.
    Then the world changed.
    The U.S. economy plunged into its worst recession ever, unemployment soared, and gasoline demand fell sharply.

  • I didn’t realize that there’s a “reality” TV series called “Dating Naked” until last weekend, when I came across mention of it in a review of the new book “How to be a Victorian.”
    “Living, as we do,” the reviewer mused, “in a culture so vulgar as to barely yawn” at television programs like “Dating Naked,” It’s little wonder that people glamorize the Victorian era of yore.
    There probably isn’t a single mover-and-shaker in New Mexico’s Democratic Party these days who gives a hoot about the Victorians, but if the November election was any kind of effort at courtship a lot of them emerged from the encounter stripped down to their political skivvies if not of their birthday suits.
    Any realistic stock-taking of the terrain on which they currently stand makes it abundantly clear that they are in “deep dodo,” to filch a phrase popularized some years back by former President George H.W. Bush.
    At the state level, their party is basically leaderless and has been for some time and will be for some time to come.

  • I am a residential solar installer working in Albuquerque for Positive Energy Solar.
    I humbly request that you reject both PNM’s proposed power replacement plan for the San Juan Generating Station and the proposed rate case on economic, public health and environmental grounds to make way for clean, renewable energies in the Land of Enchantment.
    In its 2013 Commission Code of Conduct (Res. No. 01-03-13), the commission resolved to “treat the office of commissioner as a public trust by using the powers of the office solely for the benefit of the public rather than for any personal benefit.”
    Spending a combined $576 million on gas, coal, nuclear energy purchases and generating capacity does not serve the best interests of the public. Similarly, a dramatic rate increase falling disproportionately on residential customers has no benefit for the vast majority of New Mexicans. Contrarily, it bodes well for PNM’s investors, who received an 8.1 percent dividend increase on Dec. 9.
    Instead of draining dividends out of New Mexico, PNM should invest in its state.
    The company’s PR folks deem their plan as the “most cost-effective option for customers out of thousands analyzed for cost, risk and reliability.”

  • The headlines and presenter observations from the New Mexico Tax Research Legislative Outlook Conference provide a brief indication of economic and tax matters coming in the 2015 legislative session. The conference was Dec. 16 in Albuquerque.
    Tom Clifford, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration: Part of the severance tax bonding capacity will be earmarked for highways in the southeast.
    Charles Sallee, deputy director of the Legislative Finance Committee: Medicaid pays for 70 percent of the births in New Mexico. A quarter of the children entering kindergarten in high poverty schools are unable to identify one letter. Eighty percent of children are behind on the day they enter kindergarten. The problem with children who are behind is not ethnicity; it is poverty.
    Gary Tonjes, president of Albuquerque Economic Development: He supports the increase from $15 million to $50 million that is proposed for the Local Economic Development Act by the Jobs Council interim legislative committee. The money serves as a job closing fund from which state government provides capital for business expansion.
    “As a result (of the previous increase to $15 million), deals are happening. We are far more competitive,” Tonjes said.