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Today's Opinions

  • It’s not hard to understand why teachers are leaving

    New Mexico is short of teachers – about 740, according to NMSU’s College of Education. Vacancies are up by 264 from last year. Add in counselors, librarians and nurses, and we’re short 1,173 skilled professionals.

    Some 53,455 students are being taught by substitutes.

    Understanding why isn’t too hard. It’s pay, job insecurity related to testing, and the lack of respect for teachers, according to NMSU’s survey of teachers and comments from union representatives. Half of 1,900 survey respondents would not recommend a career in education.

    These shortages didn’t just sneak up on us. The warnings began in 2012.

    During the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, when 23.2 percent of teachers left, New Mexico had the nation’s second highest rate of teacher turnover, according to the Learning Policy Institute, a California think tank. Only Arizona was worse, at 23.6 percent.

  • Russia shows little regard for international law

    The Telegraph published this editorial Nov. 27 on the seizure of three Ukrainian warships by the Russian navy.

    The seizure of three Ukrainian warships by the Russian navy in the Black Sea shows that Moscow has lost none of its enthusiasm for seeking to intimidate its neighbor. Accusing the Ukrainians of illegally entering what Moscow deems to be Russian territorial waters, Russian warships are reported to have fired on two Ukrainian vessels, and rammed a third. As is often the case with unprovoked acts of aggression by Russia, the attacks took place when the rest of the world was distracted, on this occasion because EU leaders were meeting to sign off the Brexit deal.

    Indeed, it is precisely because the world has failed to take sufficient interest in Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and its subsequent meddling in eastern Ukraine, that the Kremlin felt emboldened to attack the warships sailing through the Kerch Strait which, under international law, is designated as shared territorial waters.

  • GM decision a product of U.S. market trends

    The Wall Street Journal published this editorial Nov. 27 on a U.S. auto maker saying it plans to eliminate 15 percent of its salaried workforce in North America and stop production at five plants that employ 6,700 workers.

    President Trump believes he can command markets like King Canute thought he could the tides. But General Motors has again exposed the inability of any politician to arrest the changes in technology and consumer tastes roiling the auto industry.

    GM said it plans to eliminate 15 percent of its salaried workforce in North America and stop production at five plants that employ 6,700 workers, including one in storied Lordstown, Ohio. “We are taking these actions now while the company and the economy are strong to stay in front of a fast-changing market,” CEO Mary Barra said.

    The U.S. auto maker plans to redeploy some $4.5 billion in annual savings to more profitable truck, electric-car and autonomous-vehicle manufacturing. Investors cheered by bidding up GM’s stock, but the President reacted like a spurned suitor. “You know, the United States saved General Motors and for her to take that company out of Ohio is not good,” he said Monday, adding Tuesday that he might end GM’s subsidies. GM shares promptly fell 2.6 percent.

  • Remember who really counts the votes

    The books are almost closed on the recent election.

    I hope we all have learned this truth: Nobody promised you final results on Election Night. Or for several days after, for that matter.

    Please get that straight. If the votes don’t all get counted within the first few hours, that does not mean anything went wrong.

    We’re spoiled because the TV networks have very accurate analytical methods to project results. Usually the projections are right, but not always.

    If CNN or CBS News or Channel 7 announces a winner, that announcement has no constitutional or legal standing.

    None whatsoever. Those announcements are estimates by private news organizations.  

    What’s real is votes counted by county clerks, watched by observers of both (or maybe more than two) parties. If that takes a few days, it just means something happened to make it take longer. For races above county level, the results are not final until they are certified by the Secretary of State several days later.

    In-person votes are the easiest to count. Those ballots, both from early voting and Election Day, go through machines that record and tally them. The totals are added as precinct officials close up and take their materials to the county clerk.

  • Even a small management team is essential to startup success

    BY SANDY NELSON
    Finance New Mexico

    While it’s normal for the owner of a new business to go the do-it-yourself route, either for lack of money or sparse human resources, no one individual can perform every task associated with nurturing a startup and do all of them well.

    The person who sets the idea in motion might not have a clue how to keep books and end up avoiding this essential skill in pursuit of more interesting or gratifying activities, such as networking and prototype creation.

    For that reason, an aspiring entrepreneur should undertake a rigorous self-evaluation when assembling a team to launch and manage a new business. The founder should not just dwell on her strengths but also acknowledge her weaknesses and skill gaps, as this exercise in realistic reflection can direct the search for people with complementary skill sets and temperaments.

    Every business needs a management team – even a small one – to ensure that all the bases are covered and the business has the expertise it needs in sales and marketing, finance, production and procurement to survive to maturity.

    When building the team, the owner should consider:

  • Red and blue don’t tell us everything

    Red states, blue states, red counties, blue counties.    

    A few elections ago, a TV station began using red and blue to indicate voting patterns on a map, a decision driven solely by graphic design. It stuck, and now it’s an emblem of political identity.

    On maps the day after Election Day, the colors defined divisions between one county and the next, between rural and urban, and between regions of the state.

    Like many other states, the cities here voted blue, but unlike other states, the rural areas were both blue and red. This rural-urban divide was most visible as the state’s second largest city, Las Cruces, flexed its muscles, swinging the vote for Xochitl Torres Small despite solid support for Yvette Harrell in the massive 2nd District’s red counties. The reliably blue north preserves Ben Ray Lujan’s 3rd District seat each cycle. And the blue and very urban 1st District is sending Deb Haaland, of Laguna Pueblo, to Congress.

    While the anticipated “Blue Wave” fell short nationally, it was a reality here, sweeping Democrats into all the statewide offices.

  • One-day tax holiday aims to draw consumers to hometown businesses

    BY SANDY NELSON
    Finance New Mexico

    Once the frenzy of Black Friday fades, Small Business Saturday aims to attract shoppers to local merchants whose stores serve hometown retail needs – not just to keep those businesses healthy in today’s hypercompetitive retail environment but also to generate tax revenue that provides vital community services.

    To stoke that fire, the 2018 New Mexico Legislature passed a law authorizing a one-day tax holiday that will remove state gross receipts taxes from a variety of retail products on the Saturday after Thanksgiving – one of the year’s busiest shopping days, when many people hunt for the best deals on holiday gifts – from 2018 through 2020.

    The 24-hour consumer tax relief measure applies to small businesses of 10 or fewer employees only; franchises, no matter how small, are exempted. It covers a wide range of products, including clothing, sporting goods, artworks, musical instruments, and furniture – as long as the cost of any individual product doesn’t exceed $500.

    The tax-free day represents a sacrifice by the state and municipalities to benefit New Mexico businesses, as it is likely to cost the state nearly $2 million per year in lost revenues and cost local communities their share of the GRT for that day.

  • State population growth dismal, but seven counties gain

    In a previous column, I discussed those leaving New Mexico, namely the 25- to- 44-year olds who should provide the core of a productive society. This time the topic is the number staying. The numbers, for July 1, 2017, come from the Census Bureau. New numbers are due next month.

    The state’s overall population situation remains dismal; we added only 28,891 people from the April 2010 census to 2017. That’s a 1.4 percent increase. Contrast that with Arizona, up by 624,253 (yes, from a larger base), a 9.8 percent increase.  Booming Colorado’s population grew 11.5 percent during the period. Those two neighbors can’t match New Mexico’s “accomplishment” of declining population in 2014 and 2015. It has been a lost decade.

    Ten New Mexico counties gained population during the period. Only Sandoval and Santa Fe counties gained every year.

    Bernalillo and Los Alamos counties lost population during one year by amounts so tiny as to not really count. These four are the north central urban area. Doña Ana is also urban with the second largest county population in 2017 (215,579), with Las Cruces and part of the larger Júarez-El Paso combo.

    Urban wins. The message isn’t good for the rest of the state.

    Amid the gloom a few glimmers appear.