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Today's Opinions

  • 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.

  • Lights, camera profit: NM businesses needed to support growing film industry

    BY JASON GIBBS
    Finance New Mexico

    With New Mexico gaining a reputation among film production companies, local businesses are needed to help fill a growing demand for services as more television shows and movies shoot in the Land of Enchantment.

    The New Mexico Film Office reports nearly $506 million in direct spending in the state during 2017, and productions including “Godless” and “Waco” are racking up Emmy nominations by the fistful. This has put the state in the spotlight and local businesses are increasingly needed to provide an array of goods and services in addition to locations and crews.

    “The film industry isn’t just for businesses you would typically associate with making movies – like studios, camera equipment or lighting – they literally need anything you can think of,” said Barbara Kerford, the state outreach coordinator for the New Mexico Film Office. “For the cast and crew, they are all living in New Mexico while a production is happening, if they aren’t already living here. And they need all of the services that they would need at home – like gyms, groceries, gas, salons, medical care, etc.”

    “And they will spend that money with local businesses in New Mexico,” she said.

  • Pineapples have the gift of hitching rides

    Pineapples first sprang up deep in South America, in the region where Brazil and Paraguay now meet. The wonders of their shape, color and taste led people to begin carting them outward from there.

    Over hundreds of years, pineapples worked their way from native tribe to tribe and to islands in the Caribbean. One of them was the lush, volcanic island of Guadeloupe, where Columbus landed in November 1493. Imagine sailors ashore amid the wonders of a “new world,” where they met with pineapples. The story builds.

    From this second voyage, Columbus brought pineapples back to Spain. Most likely no more than pineapple crowns arrived intact, which could start new pineapples. News of pineapples spread across Europe and spurred attempts to grow pineapples in the adverse climate.

    In those same years, seafarers ranged far around the globe. Pineapples reached the Philippines on Spanish ships on occasions in the 1500s and after. Later the fruit reached Hawaii. By tricks of fate, today’s icons of tropical islands got

    Early seafarers from New England brought pineapples back from trips to the Caribbean. Pineapples were big treats in the colonies, as much as in South America, Europe and the islands, and then a notch more. Their novelty and scarcity brought a price higher than many people could afford.

  • County’s decision to defend IPRA suit is questionable

    BY HELEN M. MILENSKI
    Guest Editorial

    I love a bargain. These days everyone needs to be selective on where and how we spend our hard-earned dollars. It puzzles me how the local government in our corner of the world doesn’t seem to share this frugal sensibility, especially when it is our money they get to spend.

    There are lots of examples I could point to, but recently there is the notorious case of Brenner vs. Los Alamos County Council regarding Councilor Susan O’Leary’s emails.

    First off, let me say that I believe heartily that Patrick Brenner was firmly in the wrong when he wrote his infamous letter to the council, but I also think that the events that unfolded illustrated flaws in character all around. I got sick of hearing about this whole thing a long time ago and hoped that the end was in sight when I head a judgment was to be issued by the court. I think the judge felt the same way I did. I think we all felt it was going to go away, but alas we aren’t so lucky.

  • Experience matters for the next sheriff

    By Greg White

    My name is Greg White. I’m an Independent running for Los Alamos County Sheriff because I love LA and it’s people. A little background is helpful to understanding my views and platform.

    Since the 1950’s a faction has tried to eliminate the Sheriff’s office. The problem stems from the fact that Los Alamos is a very small county and it’s county and municipal boundaries are the same. 

    This came to a head when Los Alamos elected its current sheriff eight years ago, a very experienced fully accredited law enforcement officer. Most sheriffs in Los Alamos history have had no law enforcement experience. One wonders why the County Council would spend the last eight years desperately trying to eliminate the office. And now are deliberately defying a direct court order from Judge Mathews to restaff the sheriff’s office, give him back all his statutory duties, and fund it sufficiently to carry out those duties. The Court decision is available on my web site at greg4sheriff.com, which also has links to my Facebook and Twitter pages (you do not need a Twitter account to get an inspirational message every day).

  • UNM, higher education in desperate need of reform

    BY DOWD MUSKA
    Research Director, Rio Grande Foundation

    Our state’s system of taxpayer-funded higher education is in crisis. A few key facts about postsecondary institutions in the Land of Enchantment, and the University of New Mexico in particular, reveal the depth of the problem:

    • Contrary to popular belief -- the left-wing New Mexico Voices for Children recently made the assertion that Santa Fe has made “inadequate public investment in higher education over the last decade” – New Mexico spends quite a lot on its government colleges and universities. According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers, the “national association of the chief executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education,” we spend $9,348 per full-time equivalent enrollment. That sum is far in excess of the national figure of $7,642, despite the state’s low cost of living. On occasion, brave voices have acknowledged the system’s spendthrift ways.

    In 2016, former UNM President Chaouki Abdallah told the Albuquerque Journal: “Our higher ed spending is more than most other states; the trouble is we don’t spend it wisely and [we] spread it across so many entities.”