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Opinion

  • The Silver City economy was thriving in 1996 when Christina Montoya bought her family’s bus company from her parents and continued its contract with the Cobre Consolidated School District to transport students.
    In 2001, Montoya approached The Loan Fund for money to finance the replacement of two of Montoya Transportation’s older buses.
    When two Silver City bus companies announced they were looking for buyers, Montoya secured a loan with local AmBank to buy both fleets and assume their contracts with Silver City schools.
    But just as Montoya’s business was expanding, the local economy contracted. Starting in 2002, hundreds of mine workers left town after massive layoffs at the Chino copper mine — the area’s largest employer.
    School enrollment shrank, leaving Montoya with lots of buses but fewer young passengers.
    “It was a struggle to make it every month,” Montoya recalled of those years when she was supporting six children on a shrinking paycheck. “There were times I had nothing left over.”
    Persistence and
    partnerships

  • Personal transportation vehicles powered by fossil fuels — cars, SUVs and pickups, that is — will be around for a long, long time.
    So will commercial trucks, which, with rail, are vital links in moving goods around the country.
    Roads will be around, too. Roads were crucial well before the combustion engine appeared. Check your Roman history. All this means we’re stuck with building and maintaining roads.
    And paying for this work.
    Governments pay for nearly all roads — federal, state and local. Yet, for years the state has been well short of having the road money it claims it needs.
    The recitation of this banal obviousness comes because the state’s political leadership has ignored the situation, a derogation of duty. Here is a summary of our sources of money.
    About $840 million will come into the Department of Transportation during fiscal 2016, the budget year starting July 1, according to “Legislating for Results: Appropriation Recommendation,” published by the Legislative Finance Committee in January. DOT requested $837.7 million; the LFC recommended $842.7 million.
    The difference, though large from the perspective of nearly all individuals, is small on the scale of things.

  • There’s something exotic about painting with oils. Many artists will say that no other medium compares to working with the same medium as the great masters of old. Painting in oils is like painting with butter. Oil paint is thick and can be spread, pushed, troweled, brushed and scraped. Because it dries slowly paintings can evolve, with colors mixed on the canvas in order to create an effect.
    Artist Trevor Lucero wants to help students share in the mysteries of getting the paint to reflect their vision, to capture reflected light so realistically it delights the viewer. Although he developed this class with intermediate students in mind, he welcomes raw beginners, as well as more accomplished oil painters. Lucero say, “The amazing light of our New Mexico landscapes gives artists a great excuse to mash colors together.”
    In his class “Traditional Genres in Oil Painting” Lucero will teach how to build a painting in the traditional way: constructing an underpainting and working toward a completed image using a succession of glazes to achieve luminosity. Students will work on portraits, still lifes, or landscapes using photographs. The class meets from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays April 16-30 at the Fuller Lodge Art Center.

  • The notion of “paying it forward” is a popular one, and while we may not think about our income taxes as a form of paying it forward, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
    The public works that we all depend upon today — roads and highways, schools and parks, telecommunications and electrical grids, even courts and prisons — were made possible in part by taxes paid by past generations. And the taxes we pay today won’t just go toward keeping these systems and infrastructure in good repair, they will also be needed to plan for our future and address unexpected issues and opportunities.
    This kind of long-term vision is the foundation upon which the United States was built.
    Our public works and infrastructure don’t just improve our quality of life, they also make our modern economy possible. Savvy American corporations understand that they depend on this infrastructure and that they bear responsibility for helping to pay for it.
    As the new report “Burning Our Bridges” (Center for Effective Government) shows, much of our nation’s infrastructure needs could be covered simply by collecting income tax on the profits that several corporations have retained overseas.

  • The “news” is too much with us.
    True, print news venues have troubles galore, have had for a long time now.
    But anything electronic — television, blogospheric, streaming, screening, online, live, recorded, you name it — positively fibrillates as it belches forth endless servings of routinely unedited rumor, claims, charges/counter-charges, pure hokum and mindless opinion masquerading as “news.”
    Last week, when a guy named Tom Cotton opined to the effect that it would be far easier simply to bomb Iran than to continue negotiations designed to forestall that country’s efforts to develop its own nuclear weapons, I became halfway persuaded that too many loonies are making too many headlines today.
    It was Cotton, a brand new Republican U.S. senator from Arkansas, who whipped out that infamous letter (co-signed by 47 other Senate Republicans) to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei basically warning him that the negotiations were doomed inasmuch as the GOP controls both houses of Congress.
    Cotton had been in the Senate only a matter of weeks, but the media — particularly online — snapped it all up: Cotton, his letter, his cohorts, their bomb, the whole thing. They couldn’t get enough of it.

  • For those who enjoy the great outdoors, camping during the springtime can be a perfect weekend getaway. However, if you don’t want to leave your four-legged friends behind while setting out on your adventure, try bringing them along.
    “Many campgrounds allow pets, with certain rules and regulations,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
    Often, the rules regarding pets can be seen posted on their website, and if not, questions can be easily answered over the phone. However, it is not advised that you show up with your pet without prior research and consent.
    “Most rules will include things such as having your pet on a leash, making sure they are supervised at all times, and requiring proof of vaccinations,” Stickney said. “Even if they don’t require health records or vaccination certificates, it’s a good idea to bring them along just in case.”

  • Premium food, state-of-the-art veterinary care and creature comforts most humans would envy are now a regular part of life for many American pets.
    That’s why prospective pet owners should consider financial planning before bringing home a dog, cat or other breed of animal.
    For those considering purchasing or adopting a pet, do thorough research first about what owning that animal will cost. The wide range of products, services and advanced medical options for American pets have pushed U.S. pet industry expenditures to almost $60 billion in 2014, nearly double the amount in 2004.
    With pet ownership tripling since the 1970s according to The Humane Society of the United States, it is no surprise that advanced pet products and services at high price points are making it very easy for many pet owners to overspend.
    Prospective pet owners should begin their research with an idea of first-year costs.
    The ASPCA publishes an annual estimate for a variety of pets. Purchase and adoption costs may vary based on breed, so read as much as you can about a specific pet choice.

  • Any entrepreneur with a product idea or prototype can find someone to build it in New Mexico.
    Two companies that do just that for a variety of clients are Marpac, a maker of devices that secure medical tubes and collars, and TEAM Technologies Inc., which designs and fabricates products that require advanced engineering and electronics.
    Both Albuquerque companies opened their doors for New Mexico Manufacturing Day activities last fall and plan to participate again this year.

    From full service to a single stitch

  • The orphanage door was locked and the only way to open the door was to punch in a cryptic key, the deranged design of an eccentric locksmith.
    The key was a zero of a quartic equation displayed above the door, a labyrinth of logic for your average citizen.
    As smoke billowed from the rooftop, firefighters were unable to get inside to rescue the children.
    The fire chief yelled out, “Quick! We need to know how to determine the x-intercepts for this quartic!”
    Fortunately, I was ready, armed with the algebraic knowledge that allowed me to recognize the quadratic form embedded in the esoteric equation. I quickly derived the root, entered the key and rescued the children!
    OK, so this didn’t really happen. I’m still waiting for my chance to be an algorithmic hero, but I’m sure that one day, knowing how to factor a polynomial will be a life-changing event.
    When studying new concepts, my math students always ask, “What am I going to ever use this for? What good is it?”
     I could tell them, “Well, it keeps me employed,” but if that were really the reason, I’d be the first to say we shouldn’t teach it!
    So why do we study math? Or more to the geometric point, why do we study the math we study?

  • For those pining for a Democratic Party that tries to represent more than the whims of the rich and powerful, these are, to say the least, confusing times.
    On the presidential campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has been promoting standard pro-middle class rhetoric, yet also has been raking in speaking fees from financial firms.
    One of her potential primary challengers, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, has been sounding anti-Wall Street themes, but only after finishing up two terms in office that saw his state plow more public pension money into Wall Street firms, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in financial fees.
    Similarly, in Washington, the anti-Wall Street fervor of those such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren sometimes seems as if it is on the ascent — that is, until big money comes calling.
    Indeed, on the very same day Reuters reported on big banks threatening to withhold campaign contributions from Democratic coffers, Democratic lawmakers abruptly coalesced around Charles Schumer as their next U.S. Senate leader.
    CNN captured in a blaring headline how unflinching an ally the New York senator has been to the financial elite: “Wall Street welcomes expected Chuck Schumer promotion.”

  • Deciding which public works projects to fund, even in a good year, exposes our fault lines — political, rural-urban, and governmental — but it also validates need.
    The whittling for this year’s failed capital outlay (pork) bill was more hard-nosed than usual.
    From the $200 million-plus hog, the governor asked for $60 million in capital outlay: $45 million for roads and $15 million for the economic development closing fund.
    State Bill 159 emerged from the Senate Finance Committee and passed the Senate unanimously. It included $45 million for roads, an attempt to accommodate the governor, and money for local projects of all 42 senators and 33 House Democrats.
    But not House Republicans. This is because the Democratic majority in the Senate, the Republican majority in the House, and the governor couldn’t agree.
    Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, has said the state is up to its eyeballs in road debt. He refused to approve any more without a new funding source, namely an increase in fuel taxes.
    In committee, some Republicans weren’t opposed, but the governor, positioning herself for the national stage, was adamant.
    No new taxes vs. no new debt. Stalemate. When diplomacy fails, manipulation takes its place.

  • Choosing hospice care isn’t about giving up. It’s about making every day count.
    Terminally ill people who make the choice receive care for their physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. They’re no longer seeking a cure, but they do want to live out their last weeks and months as comfortably as possible and with dignity.
    Unfortunately, many people with Medicare aren’t aware of the hospice benefit.
    Hospice programs follow a team approach. The specially trained team typically includes doctors, nurses, counselors and social workers, among others. A doctor and nurse are on call 24-7 to care for you and support your family when you need it.
    The hospice benefit allows you and your family to stay together in the comfort of your home, unless you require hospital care. If your hospice team determines you need inpatient care at some point, it will make the arrangements for your stay.
    Hospice’s main goal is to relieve your pain and manage your symptoms. As long as the care comes from a Medicare-approved hospice, Medicare covers the physician services, nursing care, drugs, medical equipment and supplies, and physical and occupational therapy.

  • The debate over PNM’s proposed long-term plan is raising questions that go beyond the plan itself, if New Mexicans are willing to engage in that discussion.
    Though most of the state is served by electric co-ops, PNM’s economic and environmental influence reaches well beyond its service boundaries.
    The Public Regulation Commission must make a decision with far-reaching consequences. Environmental concerns — including the health of New Mexico children — appear to clash with economic objectives, which also affect New Mexico citizens.
    But maybe the clash of objectives is not real. The argument may be broader.
    Three PRC commissioners recently spent more than two hours at a session devoted entirely to public comment about the PNM plan. Under the plan, two of the coal-fired units at the San Juan Generating Station will be shut down.
    The controversy is over what replaces the power from those units. Will it be a mix of coal, nuclear, renewable and natural gas — a plan already agreed to by federal and other state regulators — or, as some New Mexicans demand, will it be changed to scrap the coal and nuclear and rely much more on solar and wind?

  • For some time now we’ve lived with the scourge of civil asset forfeiture, under which the police can seize a person’s property on the mere suspicion it was used in a crime and without having to charge the owner with an offense. Since the authorities have no burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proving innocence falls on the hapless citizen who wishes to recover his property.
    Amazingly, people describe as free a society that features this outrage.
    Now it comes to light that the Internal Revenue Service does something similar. The New York Times reports that the IRS seizes bank accounts of people whose only offense is routinely to make deposits of less than $10,000. If you do this enough times, the IRS may suspect you are trying to avoid the requirement that deposits of $10,000 or more be reported by the bank. The IRS keeps the money, but the depositors need not be charged with a crime.
    You read that right. The government demands notification whenever a bank customer deposits $10,000 or more. If you are merely suspected of avoiding that requirement, it can cost you big time.
    Welcome to the land of the free.

  • Slogans are framed with a mock aura of coherence. By their style, slogans leave out more truth than they include.
    As a slogan is heard more, its inconsistencies get easier to spot. For example, a variety of well-known slogans show up at every debate over the best type of regulation — federal, state or local.
    The case of fracking is typical. Suppose we hear a proposal to pass regulations at the federal level. We soon hear an industry slogan decrying the folly of regulations designed with the idea that “one-size-fits-all.”
    Surely, the best regulations are tailored to fit the conditions on the ground in each state, so the story goes. It’s only natural.
    Thus begins the long road to setting different regulations for fracking in different states. The work will be greatly slowed by concerns that business will flee states that first adopt rules or adopt strong rules. Eventually, regulations will spread to nearly all states, but the rules will vary widely, depending on who was in charge when a state’s rules were passed. Rules will vary from very detailed to very simple.

  • In September 1993, President Bill Clinton reassured his radio audience that “if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll be rewarded with a good life for yourself and a better chance for your children.”
    Picking up that theme over 18 years later, President Barack Obama affirmed that “Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same.” The trouble is neither the government nor the financial system backed by the Federal Reserve rewards people like my parents, who have worked hard and played by the rules their entire lives, only to have their savings wither away.

  • Exporting brings new money into an economy and helps businesses grow, and that’s why the New Mexico Economic Development Department wants more New Mexico companies to sell their products and services worldwide. Our message has resonated: 2014 revenue from New Mexico exports increased nearly 40 percent over 2013.
    New Mexico companies brought nearly $4 billion in international money to the state in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division.
    Top exports were computer and electronic goods, fabricated metal products, nonelectrical machinery, food items and transportation equipment.
    More than 1,300 New Mexico companies created more than 12,000 jobs while exporting products or services in 2012 — a recent figure from the International Trade Administration that’s grown since then.
    With about three-fourths of the world’s purchasing power outside the U.S., the state Office of International Trade, or OIT, and our federal partners want to help businesses find global markets and distribution for New Mexico-made products and services.

  • For those New Mexicans who believe in bipartisan government, reaching across the aisle and the political spectrum — there is good news. The New Mexico legislature has just unanimously passed House Bill 560, without a single dissenting vote in either house. HB 560 revises the procedure involved in the forfeiting of citizens’ assets by government agencies, a practice referred to as “asset forfeiture.”  
    Every year, federal and state law enforcement agents seize billions of dollars during traffic stops, simply by alleging the money is connected to some illegal activity. Under federal and New Mexico’s laws, these agencies are entitled to keep most (and sometimes all) of the money and property, even if the property owner is never convicted and, in some cases, never charged with a crime.
    This practice is so pervasive that the Institute for Justice deems it “policing for profit.” This refers to the fact that some law enforcement agencies pursue assets based on their value to their departments’ budgets as opposed to the property owners’ wrongful conduct.

  • Post-legislative session, the chatter is all about friction and gridlock because it requires looking a little harder to see the whole picture.
    In a year like this, when available money evaporated like a water hole in the desert, when uncertainty and tight budgets exacerbated differences, the debates were bound to be sharp.
    Both parties and both chambers spent a lot of time hunting for money, and because there was none in the usual places, the hunt turned to who had money and how they might be parted from it.
    That led to some well intended but labored bills.
    One was House Bill 474, by Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec.
    It attempted to divert money from the Fire Protection Fund, which supports fire departments, and use it for forest and watershed restoration. Forced to choose between fire prevention and fire fighting, legislators deliberated uncomfortably and chose their fire departments.
    HB 236, by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, and Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, demanded more hard choices.

  • Observers knew in the wake of November’s elections that the 2015 legislative session would be unlike any they’d seen in their lifetimes. For the first time in 62 years, the House of Representatives would be under Republican control.
    Despite this shift to the right, New Mexico’s Senate remained under control of Democrats. This is because the entire Senate is up every four years in presidential election years like 2016. The House, on the other hand, is up for election every two years.
    These are not your run-of-the-mill Democrats. Their Majority Leader, Michael Sanchez, is both a trial lawyer and one of the most partisan legislators in the Senate. There are a handful of moderates sprinkled throughout the body, but they rarely vote as a cohesive group or provide a counter-weight to their powerful leader.