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Today's Opinions

  • Foster care system must improve for children placed in state's custody

    Among government’s critical responsibilities is protecting children from abuse and neglect. Our goal in this legislative session is to improve the foster care system for children placed in the state’s custody because their parents are unable, or unwilling to care for them.
    We are co-sponsoring Senate Public Affairs Committee substitute for Senate Bill 115 to help accomplish that. The Senate has unanimously approved the legislation, which will lay a foundation for realigning citizen review boards required by federal law to help oversee the state’s efforts at safeguarding children in foster care.
    Let us be clear at the outset. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure the state’s policies and practices effectively serve children.
    We’ve heard concerns expressed that proposed changes would silence citizen input into decisions about foster children. Rest assured the legislation will not do that. In fact, citizen advocates for improving child welfare can more effectively influence state policies if SB 115 is approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez.
    The legislation is straightforward. It reorganizes an advisory committee to include representatives of the state agency responsible for child protection, the courts, former foster children, as well as members of the public.

  • Real estate loans help business owner promote community health

    Health is a common denominator of Deanna Montoya’s Belen businesses. The Extreme Fitness gym, which she started seven years ago, and the Enchanted Smiles dental practice, which opened in September 2013.
    The lifelong Belen resident operates both businesses, leading Zumba classes at the gym and working as a dental hygienist at Enchanted Smiles.
    Montoya’s passion for fitness is obvious to locals — whether they’re the other instructors she employs to lead spin, rip and circuit training classes at Extreme Fitness — the dentist, receptionist and part-time hygienist who work at the dental practice, or the people who’ve benefited from community fundraisers Montoya has hosted to help pay her neighbors’ medical bills or raise awareness about cancer.
    That enthusiasm was equally apparent to loan officers at Accion New Mexico, the nonprofit business lender that provided the commercial real estate loans that Montoya needed to open the gym and purchase the dental practice.
    “In addition to a deep commitment to running a business and knowing what she was looking for in a commercial property, Deanna’s great character and passion for what she does was evident from the start,” said Justin Hyde, New Mexico market manager for Accion.

  • Dunn Takes Action — Pump Jack To Return

    A politician did something unusual and refreshing a few days ago.
    This was an action, something definite, not the spewing forth of a mumbo-juxmbo fog of words, not the filing of a bill, which indeed is a specific action but one only leading to process upon process.
    Further, this action stands against one of those mindsets created by liberals to better our lives as defined by the liberals’ view.
    I exaggerate some but not much, only in the sense that the action by Aubrey Dunn Jr., Commissioner of Public Lands, started a process that will have a real result.
    For just about forever the State Land Office at 310 Old Santa Fe Trail in Santa Fe had a pump jack out front. In case anyone doesn’t know, a pump jack is a device supporting the piston pump drawing oil from a well. A pump jack is — horrors — industrial.
    At some point, the pump jack was replaced by a brick head — a large head made of bricks. The head was part of the state’s public art program, a concoction based on the notion that spotting “art” around public spaces makes us feel better, sort of, I suppose, like painting overpasses. I don’t know when the public art thing started, but it has become part of the woodwork.

  • Golf course renovation necessary

    I can’t help but compare the discussion involving the merits of the CIP project for the proposed North Community Regional Park and Community Links with what I do for a living: provide apartment housing for people living in Los Alamos.
    I own and manage a number of buildings in town that are almost the same age as is the golf course and believe it or not, there are more similarities than you might think.
    By the time our current projects are completed this summer, we will have invested well over $1,500,000 in upgrades and innovations in recent years. We do this because we have to meet or exceed the needs and desires of our customers.
    As a result, we have stayed competitive in the market and have a successful business.
    The same cannot be said for the golf course in Los Alamos.
    There is little disagreement that the course needs a new irrigation system. The current system is nearing 30 years of age, was not properly installed in the first place and is a component that typically requires replacement every 20-25 years.
    What is being debated is the proposed renovation of the course, which would include completely new turf and the re-design of several holes for safety concerns.

  • Letter to the editor 3-8-15

    Value of PARCC test questioned

    I am retired now, therefore my grandsons might be subjected to the PARCC testing or its equivalent.
    I still wonder though, if I had been “assessed,” I might never have gone to New Mexico State University, to spend six and a half years earning a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree seven years later and becoming a registered professional engineer in New Mexico and Washington state.
    I was scholastically outclassed much of the time.
    Years later, after earning my credentials, I decided that tenacity was more important than brilliance.

    Jon Hicks
    White Rock

  • Finding the right angle on education

    The basic problem with America’s educational system is not that college is too expensive. Nor is the basic problem that public school teachers are underpaid or that educators are poorly trained. The basic problem with America’s educational system today is that far too many children are given the implicit message at home that education is not a priority. “Perhaps the nerds and the geeks need these educational skills, but in our home, they just are not that important.”
    Our schools face a huge challenge today, because the educational message that teachers are trying to inculcate into their students is far too often dismissed at home. If you live in a subculture where education is not valued, it is unlikely you will come to value your own educational opportunities. We cannot expect our schools to inculcate values of learning when there is little to no reinforcement at home.
    The reality of life is that education and learning is not always fun. I was, and still am, an eager learner; nevertheless, some topics were uninteresting and seemed pointless when I first learned them.

  • House budget sets the course for a better future

    I’m proud that the House of Representatives recently passed a budget that will not only keep New Mexico on solid financial ground, but also chart a better course for the future of our state.
    With this budget, we underscore our commitment to fiscal responsibility while also putting our families first. We did this by dedicating a large chunk of new revenue toward education reforms aimed at helping struggling students learn. On top of that, we secured funding to diversify our economy and protect our children.
    I am proud to say that these legislative priorities are not partisan policies, which is why both Democrats and Republicans backed the final budget. Together, we understand that what matters most is making New Mexico a better place for you and your family.
    It starts with education. Our budget invests an additional $44.7 million into K-12 education, with more dollars going directly into the classroom than ever before.
    With this money, we will be able to expand tutoring and interventions for a total of $61.7 million.
    The money goes toward important programs like Pre-K and K-3 Plus, a program that provides additional instruction to struggling students.
    The funding also calls for raising the starting teacher salary from $32,000 to $34,000 a year.

  • Need to fix a flawed tax shift

    On Jan. 1, 2005, food bought at New Mexico’s grocery stores was excluded from the gross receipts tax (GRT). In exchange for the break, the GRT was hiked on all other purchases.
    A decade later, it’s clear that the tax shift was a mistake.
    With several proposals before the legislature to reinstate the GRT on food, it’s time for an honest examination of how and why the well-meaning exemption failed.
    While it’s all but forgotten now, many of the state’s liberal activists and organizations opposed ending the food tax. In 2003, New Mexico Voices for Children argued that the “very poorest people will not receive the benefits,” because most “use food stamps, which are not subject to gross receipts taxes.”
    Currently, a qualifying New Mexico family of four receives $514.32 per month, tax free, in food stamps. A staggering 21.5 percent of our citizens participate in the federal program.
    In addition, many household essentials such as soap, paper products and toothpaste remained taxable. Utility and motor-fuels taxes were not touched, either.