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Opinion

  • BY KATHLEENE PARKER
    Guest Columnist

    Harold Morgan’s “Utah works, makes babies, grows,” (Jan. 30) should win an award for misleading discussion of population.

    But that award perhaps already belongs to the Washington Post. The newspaper shoves its self-righteous “Democracy dies in darkness” motto in our faces, but when it comes to population, WaPo itself creates darkness. Little wonder

    Americans are “innumerate” or to numbers — in this case, population — what illiteracy is to letters!

    Morgan asserts New Mexico loses population. Yet, we increase by .64 percent a year, or twice our current numbers early next century! In 2010, New Mexico numbered 2,059,207 and in 2018, 2,095,428. But for universal assumptions growth can only be good, some might ask if that isn’t too much growth in a state with failing education, crumbling infrastructure, overwhelmed medicine and ever-worsening poverty despite decades of boom growth, perhaps an indicator that “growth always brings prosperity” is a myth.

  • BY TOM WRIGHT
    Columnist

    We have elected 45 presidents and five have been second-place winners in the popular vote. I visited with a friend the other day and he voiced the need to circumvent the electoral college saying, “We need to elect our presidents just like we do all other politicians, by popular vote.”

    His reasoning sounds good, if you don’t think about it. The problem with his reason is, all other politicians are elected to represent local or state districts and only our presidents are elected to represent us nationally.

    The national popular vote movement is not new.  It has been around since the early 1800s and is not a part of the U.S. Constitution. And once again, there is a winner-take-all bill before the New Mexico Legislature (HB 55), if passed would move New Mexico into a compact of 11 other states requiring their designated electors to cast their ballots for the national popular vote winner and not who won the local state vote.

  • BY REP. CHRISTINE CHANDLER
    New Mexico House of Representatives, Dist. 43

    Rep. Christine Chandler has co-sponsored several important bills this legislative session. Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (SD 15) and Representative Christine Chandler (HD 43)’s bill (SB 11) closing the so-called lobbying “loophole” has successful passed out of committee and onto the Senate. The bill is similar to Senator Ivey-Soto’s bill from the 2018 session that was vetoed by the former governor.

    According to the Secretary of State, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, current law needs clarity with regard to small lobbying expenses. Currently, the law requires individual expenses over $100 to be reported but ignores small cumulative lobbying expenses that in total are more than $100. The bill clarifies that cumulative small donation lobbying of $100 or more should be reported. “I am committed to ensuring New Mexicans have more information about the money that is spent influencing policy at the legislature,” Rep. Chandler said. “I am proud to to work with Senator Ivey-Soto to get this important legislation signed this year by the governor.”

  • BY VERNON KERR
    Guest Editorial

    When some people retire, they move away from Los Alamos and that I do not understand. In my opinion, there cannot be a more idyllic place on earth to retire.

    Despite the fact we do not have all the amenities of metropolitan areas, we can still visit them. One hundred miles to Albuquerque or 35 miles to Santa Fe is no big deal. The Aspen Ridge Lodge is a fantastic place for young at heart but antiquated in body. Their personnel are fantastic, the food is good, and you are still in Los Alamos.

    The people of Los Alamos are kind, thoughtful and curious, quite a combination. You could not ask for better neighbors. The American Legion Post along with the VFW are places where you can meet some great GI’s. The Elks, Knights of Columbus, The Masons, Beta Sigma Phi, and other organizations occupy esteemed places in our town. Officials in our local government are accessible and open to citizens’ questions and concerns.

  • By Milan Simonich
    The New Mexican

    New Mexico college students should beware of trickery at the state Capitol.

    A proposal that seems innocuous at first glance would undermine the state scholarship program that serves them well.

    I call your attention to Senate Bill 283. It's the latest attempt to fatten the income of vendors for the state lottery at the expense of New Mexico's students.

    The title of this legislation by Democratic Sens. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque and John Arthur Smith of Deming is as deceptive as any I've seen.

    It reads: "Limit lottery operational expenses."

    Restrictions on what the New Mexico Lottery Authority could spend to run its gambling operation are only a small part of this proposed legislation. And they're the least important part.

    The bill by Candelaria and Smith would eliminate a section of law requiring the lottery to provide at least 30 percent of its gross monthly revenues for college scholarships. Instead, the bill contains a stark reference to net revenues going to the scholarship fund.

  • BY FRED NATHAN
    Think New Mexico

    As Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the legislature consider a package of bills to transform New Mexico’s public schools, Think New Mexico urges them to include House Bill 77, which will make sure that a greater proportion of New Mexico’s education funding reaches our students and teachers in the classroom.

    The education reform bills being considered by lawmakers were developed in response to last year’s landmark Yazzie/Martinez court decision. In that decision, Judge Singleton directed New Mexico lawmakers to spend more on education for the state’s most vulnerable students. Judge Singleton also made clear that this additional money must be spent on evidence-based “classroom instruction programs such as quality pre-K, K-3 Plus, extended school year, and quality teachers” that have been proven to make a difference for at-risk children.

    In order to accomplish this, New Mexico will need to change the way it spends its education dollars. When Think New Mexico analyzed New Mexico’s education spending, we discovered that in the decade between 2006-2007 and 2016-2017, more than two-thirds of school districts across New Mexico (61 of 89) grew their central office administrative spending faster than their classroom spending.

  • BY REP. ROD MONTOYA
    R-District 1, San Juan

    What is the No. 1 source of education and state government funding in New Mexico? What is our No. 1 industry for employment, high paying jobs and tax revenue?

    What is the specific source of the current $1.1 billion budget surplus? – If you said that the oil and gas industry is the “Golden Goose,” you would be correct. So why is the governor trying place natural gas production on the endangered species list?

    Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen the new administration declare war on oil and gas producers, and at the same time propose a 13 percent budget increase. That’s like expecting to win the lottery every year!

    Unfortunately, the governor has announced plans to institute a Methane Rule, and the first order of business for her new (OCC) Oil Conservation Commission members is to undo a previous decision to update to the Blanco / Mesa Verde Pool Rule. The Pool Rule allows existing gas wells to be reworked to produce natural gas from multiple gas strata pockets.

  • By Greg Mello
    Los Alamos Study Group, Guest Columnist

    At the end of the Cold War it made sense for the Department of Energy (DOE) to consolidate and temporarily preserve pit production technology at LANL. Given the National Nuclear Security Administration’s(NNSA’s) mandate, it still does.

    However, hopes for a reliable, small, pit production capacity at LANL – let alone an enduring one that could quantitatively contribute to maintaining the nuclear stockpile over decades – didn’t pan out.

    In 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down and the Rocky Flats Plant madeits last pit, PF-4 was only 11 years old. The extent of LANL’s seismic hazard was then unknown, officially at least.

    Likewise, the poor geotechnical properties of the unconsolidated volcanic sediments at LANL’s TA-55 were unknown then.

    They were certainly plain to see in the surrounding terrain and in records of TA-55 borings.

  • Arts Council thanks all who helped make council a roaring success

    Dear Editor,
    Los Alamos Arts Council would like to take this time to thank all of the people who have helped to make the events at LAAC a roaring success. Over the past six months, we have had several events that have required the help of other organizations in town, as well as the assistance of many volunteers.
    Our No. 1 “Thank You” goes to our board members and their families, who spend many hours in preparation, as well as time staffing each event. Without their time and dedication, we could not present our events to the level we hope to present to the community.
    The Arts Council is fortunate to have a wonderful group of volunteers who assist us with our events. Among them are Marlane Hamilton, Patrice Goodkind, Lisa Lloyd, Lori Dauelsberg, Don Monteith and Luckey, as well as several students from the LAHS and LAMS. We could not manage these events without their help. Specifically, we would like to thank Aidan, Isaac, Xavier, Jeffrey, Nolan, Haley, Troy and Peyton. We also send our heartiest thanks to Monica Jean and “The House of Boo” for their fantastic Pumpkin Glow Display.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • White Rock needs Jemez House Thrift Store

    Dear Editor,
    The closing of Jemez House Thrift Shop was a blow to the entire community. The shop performs good deeds at every turn using only volunteer workers.
    The main goal is to provide college scholarships to New Mexico students who had at one time resided in a group home. But it does untold good along the way: keeping tons of used clothing, furniture, housewares, books and electronics out of the landfill, at the same time providing a low cost source for these items.
    Now Jemez House needs our help. It will continue to exist until all of its scholarship money has been distributed so there is still time to resurrect the thrift store. They need a space at reasonable rent and adequate parking in order to resume business.
    The community needs to step up and help this worthy organization to continue their good work.
    Kathy Taylor
    Los Alamos

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.