.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Opinion

  • BY SARA SCOTT
    Candidate, Los Alamos County Council

    One of the best parts of running for public office is the opportunity to speak with so many folks in the community – through knocking on doors, participating in meetings of community organizations, meeting with county staff, and attending local events. I really enjoy getting to chat with both new and familiar faces.

    I’ve heard about a wide variety of issues important to many in the community including:

    • Identifying how to increase the amount and types of housing options.

    • Supporting our school system and the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

    • Growing a few more businesses (restaurants and shops to tech startups) and amenities.

    • Enhancing county support and opportunities for our local businesses.

    • Protecting and maintaining our open spaces.

    • Addressing long-term building vacancies in key areas of the community.

    • Assuring fiscal responsibility in balancing care for our current infrastructure while investing in the future.

  • BY CHRIS MANNING
    Libertarian Candidate, New Mexico Congressional District 3

    For many of you reading this article it will be the first time you’ve ever heard of me. Let me introduce myself, I’m Chris Manning and I’m running for the United States Congress in New Mexico’s CD 3, and I’m a Libertarian, hence why you’ve never heard of me. It’s okay, as the state’s newest major party it will take time before we have grown large enough to warrant the same attention as the Republican and Democrat candidates.

    Before we get into the meat of my article let me first tell you about my day job. I’m a staff auditor for my family’s accounting firm. The majority of our business is auditing governmental organizations and non-profits. I’m not a CPA or a CFE, I have a degree in Secondary Education.

    I spend most days checking compliance and the internal controls of school districts, non-profits, water companies, and acequias throughout the state. So naturally after I decided to run and secured my name on the ballot I began to examine Congressman Ben Ray Lujan’s House financial disclosures and FEC reports to get a better understanding of how and where his campaign’s money came from, and more importantly how he spent it.

  • BY KRISTINA G. FISHER
    Associate Director, Think New Mexico

    As deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for health care continually increase, New Mexico families face a conundrum: they are expected to shop around for the most affordable non-emergency care, yet they have no way to find out in advance the cost of a medical procedure at different providers.

    Fortunately, earlier this year New Mexico took a first step toward making health care prices more transparent with the launch of a website, nmhealthcarecompare.com, where anyone can find the average prices paid by Medicaid for nine common, non-emergency procedures at each of the state’s 44 hospitals. The website, which was created as a result of legislation that Think New Mexico drafted and advocated for, also includes quality metrics for the hospitals, such as 30-day readmission rates and patient ratings.

    Now it is time to take the next step: increasing the number of procedures listed on nmhealthcarecompare.com and adding the average prices paid by New Mexicans who are covered by individual or employer-provided insurance policies.

  • Thanks mostly to oil and gas, legislators will have $1.2 billion or more in new money to divvy up in the next session.
    After the bruising budget cutting of just a couple of years ago, it’s enough to make legislative finance people giddy. But they’re not giddy. They and we have gotten a lot more realistic about the cycles of state revenues.

    There’s much talk about salting money away in reserves and a newly created rainy day fund, and that’s prudent.

    Beyond that, lawmakers will be awash in suggestions. Of course, that never stopped a red-blooded opinion columnist.
    With the ups and down of our revenues, budgeters will have to be very careful of committing money to recurring programs – even such favorites as early childhood education – because the funding might not be there in the future.

    However, this is a fine opportunity to make some one-time expenditures, and they should begin with roads.

    In January, TRIP, a transportation research group, released its yearly report. Of our major roads, 27 percent are in poor condition, 20 percent mediocre, 12 percent fair, and 41 percent good. Of rural roads, 28 percent are poor, 25 percent mediocre, 13 percent fair, and 34 percent good.

  • By Lisa Shin
    Republican Candidate, New Mexico House of Representatives, District 43

    In an upcoming special County Council meeting on Sept. 6, 2018, we can expect Los Alamos County and its elected officials to shift blame and claim innocence. We’ll just ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Hey, let’s celebrate with another 28 shot of Whistlepig!

    Democrats are calling Andrea Romero to step down from the House Race, but who is calling Los Alamos County employees and County Councilors to step down?

    As fiscal agent, Los Alamos County was ultimately responsible for improper reimbursements with public funds. RCLC Board members had their lavish parties and trips, but Los Alamos County paid for them.   

  • Labor unions aren’t that important any more, my friend said, because all the issues that unions used to fight for are now established in law, and we have government agencies to enforce them.

    This conversation happened before the 2016 election. Today, even the most basic labor protections are no more guaranteed than, say, the continued protected status of national monuments.

    Laws can be changed. For every human right that was earned through political struggle, somebody has to be the watchdog to prevent that right from being taken away and to alert the public when it’s threatened.

    For fair labor standards and workplace safety, that watchdog is organized labor.

    A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June overturned the “fair share” requirement as applied to public-sector unions.

    Shortly thereafter, the state of New Mexico stopped taking fair share payroll deductions for state workers.

    Fair share is based on the principle that labor unions negotiate wages and working conditions on behalf of all workers in eligible categories, including those who have not joined the union. Unions are required to negotiate on behalf of all eligible employees, not just union members.

  • FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    Most New Mexico entrepreneurs can’t start or operate a small business without occasionally borrowing money. And that requires preparation and a methodical approach.

    It begins by identifying why the money is needed and the most appropriate loan to fulfill that need. It continues with finding a lender that offers optimal terms and fees for clients with the borrower’s credit score and financial resources and gathering documents the lender needs to review.

    Define the need: Businesses may need loans for daily operating expenses or to build reserves, renovate a commercial building or buy equipment. The specific need typically drives the decision about what type of loan to shop for. Some lenders underwrite just about any business need, while others specialize: The nonprofit Enchantment Land Certified

    Development Company, for example, specializes in loans for commercial, owner-occupied property and equipment.

  • And he’s back.

    Former Gov. Gary Johnson resurfaced as the Libertarian Party candidate in the Senate race, hoping to slow incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich’s sprint to the finish line.

    Johnson always jazzes things up, and his willingness to share his thoughts frankly is refreshing. But he also causes amnesia about who he is, what he’s done, and what he believes.

    The commotion straight out of the chute was typical. Johnson supporters tried to pressure Republican candidate Mick Rich to leave the race so Johnson would have a better chance, as if a Libertarian platform is interchangeable with a Republican platform. It’s not. And Rich has a right to run his own race representing Republicans.

    Libertarians may include refugees of the two major parties, but they aren’t just a meld of those parties – they have distinctive beliefs that may or may not resonate with yours.

  • The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, published this editorial Aug. 28 on prison reform programs.

    A prison reform bill that passed the House with a strong bipartisan majority is slowly dying in the Senate. It must be rescued and broadened.

    The First Step Act focuses on ways to help federal prisoners prepare for a productive life once they leave prison and to support them in their search for employment.

    It is a thoughtful attempt to break the destructive cycle that results in more than half of federal prisoners returning to prison within a few years after their first release. Pilot programs have shown that recidivism can be sharply reduced by providing such support.

    The lone problem with the First Step Act is that it addresses only the 225,000 inhabitants of federal prisons. That is just 15 percent of the nation’s prison population. The bill doesn’t help the far more numerous inmates transitioning from state prisons and local jails. It should provide states with grants to encourage the establishment of similar prison-to-society assistance programs.

  • The legal trails of immigration comprise many parts, to deal with persistent concerns. Since its inception, the nation has dealt with these concerns repeatedly in varying guises and combinations.

    Immigration issues that recur deal with jobs in one way or other and with the nature and quantity of immigrants and new citizens. Laws change as parties change course and populations grow.

    The two parts that are most distinctive are immigration and naturalization. The former refers to living and working here.

    The latter is a path to U.S. citizenship. Only citizens can vote and hold elective office.

    Today, becoming a citizen requires correctly answering six of 10 questions similar to these three:

    • What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?

    • There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.

    • Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.

    These questions are three of the 100 questions on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test. The full list is online at “civics questions for naturalization test.” Take in the stirring naturalization ceremony nearby at Bandelier held every Fourth of July.

  • BY CHRIS LUCINI
    Libertarian Candidate, Los Alamos  County Sheriff

    While campaigning for the position of sheriff of Los Alamos County, I’m often asked “What do you see the role of the sheriff to be?” My answer does not fit on a bumper sticker.

    First to be clear, I nor any other person in the office of sheriff gets to decide what the size, scope and powers of the sheriff’s office are. Neither does the county council get to decide that the sheriff’s office can be stripped of all of it’s powers.

    New Mexico state law dictates many of the powers and responsibilities of the county sheriff position, and the obligations of the counties for staffing and funding of the office of sheriff.

    The lawsuit currently before the New Mexico Appellate Court will, in my opinion, ultimately end up before the New Mexico Supreme Court. Once the New Mexico Supreme Court issues a decision, the extent to which the county charter and county council can restrict the office of sheriff will have been decided.

    The rule of law is critically important in society. It is vital that the county council, and the sheriff, abide by the decision of the court, and during the appeals process.

  • The Wall Street Journal published this editorial Aug. 19 on the Food and Drug Administration approving the first generic competitor to Mylan’s EpiPen.

    A couple of years ago Washington fell into anaphylactic shock over the high cost of EpiPens, devices that shoot adrenaline into someone having an allergic reaction. But the Trump Administration this week injected some overdue competition into the market that could lower prices for millions of Americans.

    On Thursday the Food and Drug Administration approved the first generic competitor to Mylan ‘s EpiPen. The competing drug is manufactured by the Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva. One might wonder why a simple spring device filled with a cheap medicine didn’t have competitors, even decades after invention.

    That was one question in 2016, when Congress hauled in Mylan CEO Heather Bresch to register outrage about the more than $600 list price of a two-pack of pens, which millions of kids and adults have to keep on hand. Not everyone pays full price after rebates and discounts, and some of the shock came from insurance designs that increased out-of-pocket costs. But the sticker price had increased more than 500 percent over 10 years.

  • Welcome to the school year and all the issues our schools have to contend with besides educating New Mexico’s children.

    Such as what is required if a student needs to take a pill.

    Even if you have had children in school in recent years, you may not know how complicated this is.

    I thought I was posing a simple question when I asked about rules for medication in schools.

    But simplicity cannot be assumed when parents are putting their children in other people’s hands every day.

    The minimum advice to parents is that before you send your child to school with even an aspirin, find out the rules of your school district. Each district makes its own rules within a general framework. Some may be different for elementary versus older students.

    The national associations of pediatricians, pharmacists, nurses and others all have sets of guidelines. That’s how important this is.

    The guidelines are reflected in policies of the state Department of Health.

    Most common: Almost all medication should be delivered to the school nurse with written instructions from the family doctor. Most medications should be administered to students only by the nurse, based on those instructions.

  • BY FRED NATHAN
    Executive director, Think New Mexico

    While the recent Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico decision has understandably received intense interest for its landmark ruling that New Mexico’s public schools are not adequately funded, there has been less attention on another, equally important aspect of the ruling: the finding that more money will only make a difference for students if it is spent in the classroom. 

    As Judge Singleton explained in her ruling, there are two aspects to the state’s failure to provide an adequate education. First, she concluded that not enough money is spent to fund the programs children need.

    Second, Judge Singleton stated (on page 53 of her decision) that the Public Education Department and school districts are not doing enough to make sure that the money is actually being spent in ways that will improve outcomes for at-risk students.

    Last year, Think New Mexico studied some of the most successful school districts in the state, such as Gadsden, Texico, and Farmington. We found that these districts tend to spend a high proportion of their budgets on classroom expenses, such as teachers, coaches, counselors, nurses, educational assistants, and school supplies, rather than on administrative expenses in the central district office.

  • BY DOWD MUSKA
    Research director, Rio Grande Foundation

    Enjoying the new season of “Better Call Saul”? If not, you should be -- you’re paying for it.
    Annually, New Mexico’s taxpayers spend $50 million to “incentivize” film and television production in their state.

    Unfortunately, after shoveling more than half a billion dollars Hollywood’s way over the years, the Land of Enchantment has little to show for its generosity.

    The payoff from “investment” in the entertainment industry is dismal. Dozens of studies have been undertaken to determine the ratio of subsidization to tax-revenue generation. The Rio Grande Foundation has distilled the best research down to 14 analyses, conducted in states as varied as Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. All were performed by either legislative auditors or tax departments, and not one was issued by Hollywood consultants, economic-development/film bureaucracies, or ideological think tanks of any perspective. When taken as a whole, the 14 studies found the average “return” for a taxpayer dollar to be an appalling 23.6 cents.

  • The case of Augustin Plains Ranch LLC versus just about everybody else hit another rock early this month, when the State Engineer turned down – for the third time – the ranch’s application for a breathtaking amount of water.

    Speculative, said the hearing officer. Which is something opponents have said from the beginning. Opponents are so numerous the hearing officer had to designate who would speak or they would probably still be there testifying.

    The latest application faced opposition by groups that normally don’t sit on the same side of the table: the Catron County Commission, agricultural organizations, tribes, residents and environmentalists.

    Augustin Plains Ranch (APR) proposed to appropriate 54,000 acre-feet a year of groundwater from 37 wells for “municipal purposes and commercial sales” to parts of Catron, Sierra, Socorro, Valencia, Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Santa Fe counties.

    But APR doesn’t say who exactly will be the customer or how water will be used – information it also left out of previous applications. Without a user or a contract, it’s impossible to evaluate the application. APR claimed that New Mexico law doesn’t require it to have a contract.

  • BY GOV. JERRY APODOCA
    Former Governor of New Mexico

    Last week I had to ask my 10-year-old grandson what a meme was. He explained it’s a humorous video or image on social media. The reason I asked was I saw an image on social media that said, “Would JFK be a Democrat today?”

    It got me thinking, would he? I have always looked at myself as a JFK Democrat: pro-business with openness towards social issues and fairness for all New Mexicans. JFK once said, “if by a Democrat they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate...then I’m proud to say that I’m a “Democrat.”

    I would have to agree – that’s the kind of Democrat I am.  

    As a father, teacher, businessman, legislator and later as Governor of New Mexico, I lived my life this way. I ran an open government and made sure my office and party represented ALL New Mexicans. I am most proud to have opened doors for the first time to minorities that had never had a voice in state government.

  • Last summer, an Albuquerque charity shared its institutional conclusion that poverty is the problem in New Mexico.

    The charity misses the point, as do those writing heart-rending tales about awful things happening to children in our state. Poverty itself isn’t the problem; the many causes of poverty are the problems.

    New Mexico Voices for Children, a leftish lobbying group, drives a good part of the dialogue. A Voices paper, a “Blueprint for a Prosperous State,” says “public investment creates jobs,” which I guess is true in that people get paid for delivering the “investment.” But the private sector is the unmentioned detail. It’s the private guys who have ideas, hire people to deliver the ideas, and, along the way, create wealth and money to pay the taxes that finance that public investment.

    James X. Sullivan and Bruce D. Meyer, researchers at the University of Notre Dame write in the August 7 Wall Street Journal, “Poverty has declined significantly over the past 50 years.” Their report was released by the Council of Economic Advisors.

  • By LISA SHIN

    Republican, Candidate for New Mexico House of Representatives, Dist. 43

  • FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    Toby Rittner wants to help communities leverage their limited financial resources to solve the needs of business, industry, developers and investors.

    Rittner is CEO of the Council of Development Finance Agencies, a nonprofit organization that provides research, training and technical assistance to government entities that want to explore how bonds and other development financing tools can support and encourage public and private investment in infrastructure, redevelopment and other projects that benefit a community’s economy.

    Most people are familiar with general obligation (GO) bonds, which are used to finance public projects such as building or repairing roads, sewers, schools and water treatment facilities and to purchase essential equipment to meet public needs. When tax-exempt GO bonds are offered to investors, the revenue provides capital needed to pay for a project, and the governmental entity repays the debt, with interest, to investors.

    In a similar vein, private activity bonds (PABs) allow governments to act as conduits for private businesses that need to raise money to support their growth so they can bring jobs and prosperity to a community.  Governments issue PABs to accelerate a business’s growth and lower its cost of raising capital.