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Today's Opinions

  • Expanding civil legal resources is a good move for New Mexicans

    BY JUSTICE SHANNON BACON
    New Mexico Supreme Court

    We all know that anybody accused of a crime has the right to legal representation and that if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. But being provided a lawyer is not a right, nor is a lawyer guaranteed in civil legal cases even though these types of cases can change the course of a person’s life and have severe life consequences.

    Civil legal cases—anything that’s not criminal—can involve eviction, child custody and guardianship, veteran’s benefits, consumer debt, and restraining orders against an abusive partner. When it comes to essential legal matters, people deserve access to resources to help them through the process. Injustices occur when people do not have access to the help they need. People can become homeless, lose benefits, or lose their children.

  • Lujan Grisham ouster of Trujillo raises questions

    BY SYLVIA ULLOA
    New Mexico In Depth

    Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision to fire Education Secretary Karen Trujillo on Monday took a lot of people in New Mexico by surprise, including Trujillo, who said she was blindsided.

    It’s been three days, and some New Mexicans suspect they haven’t been given the real reason Trujillo was fired and why now.

    The administration has said it was about her ability to communicate, manage and meet the governor’s expectations for transforming public education in New Mexico.

    A spokesman initially pointed to the shaky rollout of a signature education program called K-5 Plus across the state, but the administration is beginning to walk back an effort to pin the firing on implementation of that program. Trujillo had pushed back, saying she didn’t get much direction from the governor and that she had raised alarm early on about how difficult K-5 Plus would be to implement immediately, as designed by the Legislature.

    And Trujillo said if communication was deficient, it was on the part of the governor.

    “It would have been nice to have a conversation with the governor where she said what her concerns were so that I could have done something about them, but that conversation never took place,” Trujillo said.

  • Lottery CEO’s excessive pay, golden parachute come at expense of New Mexico students

    BY FRED NATHAN
    Think New Mexico

    The New Mexico Lottery Authority recently voted to raise Lottery CEO David Barden’s salary by 26%, from $174,142 to $220,000.

    That is twice as much as the governor of New Mexico is paid. It is more than twice what the state Attorney General is paid. It is significantly more than the chief justice of the Supreme Court and state cabinet secretaries are paid.

    As a spokesman for Gov. Lujan Grisham put it: “What is the rationale” for this enormous raise? “Is the lottery doing a 26% better job of getting scholarship money to New Mexico students? I think if people find this salary and increase to be inequitable or improper, given the primary goal of the program, they have some justification for feeling that way.”

    After all, every dollar going to excessive compensation for the Lottery CEO is a dollar less for college scholarships for deserving New Mexico students. The statutory purpose of the New Mexico Lottery is to “provide the maximum amount of revenues” for scholarships at the state’s public universities.

  • Legalization coming sooner, not later

    BY TOM MCDONALD
    Gazette Media Services

    SANTA ROSA — We are now about a year away from legalizing recreational marijuana in this state.

    Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has already set the wheels in motion for its passage at the Roundhouse next year, and if the state is ready with the regulations, it could conceivably become legal on July 1, 2020, when a lot of new laws take effect.

    That’s my prediction — legal pot will be selling in New Mexico by this time next year. If it comes to pass, recognize my crystal-ball brilliance. If not, forget I ever said it.

    Whether legalized marijuana will hit the streets next year or the year after, it’s coming, and probably sooner rather than later. Lujan Grisham has created a task force that’s looking at how the 11 states that have legalized recreational marijuana are regulating their burgeoning cannabis industries. She wants the task force’s work done in time for next year’s legislative session, where she intends to pass a law legalizing recreational pot.

    It’s the next logical step. First it was medical marijuana, legalized in New Mexico 12 years ago and now legal in 33 states. Then came hemp, brought out of the cannabis closet late last year when Congress passed a farm bill that legalized the production of hemp nationwide.

  • Counting the well-being of New Mexico’s children

    New Mexico is once again at the bottom of the barrel for the well-being of children. The annual survey known as Kids Count has placed us at 50 out of 50.

    Kids Count measures categories in the areas of economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

    Behind the summary numbers are detailed analyses of characteristics that affect the lives of children and teenagers.

    In economic well-being, the survey says 27% of New Mexico children live in poverty; 36% of their parents lack secure employment; 28% live in households that spend more than 30% of their pretax income on housing-related expenses; and 10% of teenagers are neither in school nor working.

    These numbers do not surprise us, unfortunately. These issues bring us back to the difficult question of how to address rural poverty. It’s hard to create jobs in very small towns. Other states are not doing well with this issue, either. 

    The education category is just plain alarming: 56% of young children are not in school; 75% of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading; 80 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math; and 29% of high school students are not graduating on time.

  • 2019 Legislature supports soil, parks, babies, little league, new license plates needed

    One Catch 22 was removed from state government during the 60-day 2019 legislative session (maybe more, I don’t know). 

    Public safety officers, people who work for police departments but aren’t full-fledged cops and who get to take intoxicated and/or incapacitated people to treatment centers or jails, can now ask the facilities to take the individuals. Curious situation for the public safety officer—being employed to take people to the facility but unable to seek commitment to the facility.

    This enlightenment, via House Bill 234, is one result of the session that saw 309 bills passed with 281 signed by new Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, double the approvals compared to former Gov. Susana Martinez in 2017, Martinez’ final 60-day session.  These new laws are now in effect. The numbers come from the Legislative Council Service’s annual “Highlights” publication that, LCS says, “summarizes much, but not all, of the legislative action.”

    “Busy” is the LCS word for the session.  Indeed. Lots of new money from the Permian Basin oil boom explains the activity.

  • Nuisance Code Enforcement: For thee, but not for me

    BY LISA SHIN

    Guest Opinion

    On March 13, 2019, a severe wind storm caused a mess in Los Alamos, causing hundreds of trees to be knocked down and road closures. 

    Unfortunately, one of those trees on Los Alamos County property, hit my home and caused considerable damage to my roof, walls, and patio door.  I am thankful that no one was home, for my homeowners’ insurance, and for the contractors that helped us.  But I am greatly disappointed, but not surprised, by the county’s refusal to accept any responsibility for this incident.  

    After the storm, the county paid to remove trees that fell on its own property, the roads, and LANL premises.   It is reasonable to expect the county to pay to remove its trees falling on private property as well.  It is the duty of the county to maintain their own property, in a safe and hazard free condition, inspect, identify, and cut down at risk and damaged trees.

    Note that in the Los Alamos’ Nuisance Code #2. “Trees/shrubs extending into a public street or sidewalks. Vegetation obstructing or impeding the safe removal of pedestrians must be trimmed back.” If the county expects citizens to keep their trees off of public streets and sidewalks, then the county should keep its own trees off of private streets and sidewalks, too.

  • Coworking space helps vet build gourmet popcorn business

    BY SANDY NELSON

    Finance New Mexico

    A decade ago, Roberto Mendez was broke, his real estate business wiped out by a devastating recession and his wife sidelined by a debilitating stroke. Today he runs a thriving family business built on his favorite snack food: popcorn.

    “Ten years ago, life was hell,” said the owner of Albuquerque-based Cornivore. “We were trying to survive, so we would make a couple of hundred bucks here and there” selling homemade gourmet concoctions created in a kettle corn popper to friends and acquaintances.

     Cornivore was a bootstrapped business, started with Mendez’s limited resources, as no one would lend to him at the time. First, he found a niche market—people willing to pay several dollars for a bag of fresh popcorn coated with natural flavors. Then he expanded his clientele beyond friends and family, experimenting with wholesaling and concession sales before landing a ready-made sales force in the fundraising market.