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Opinion

  • BY PETE SHEEHEY
    Los Alamos County Councilor, Democratic candidate for NM House of Representatives, Dist. 43

    I have written about the importance of scientists like myself playing a role in government. I will work to make sure that facts and sound science are included in lawmaking. I was honored recently that the National Education Association-New Mexico has recommended my candidacy, because I also feel strongly that good affordable public education and health care for all are the keys to a strong society and economy.

    My life experience has taught me this. I grew up in a working class family. My parents were well-read, intelligent people, but were only able to get a year or two of college because of the Great Depression and World War II. From an early age, they took my sisters and me to the public library and encouraged our curiosity, so we looked forward to starting school.

    We had access to good affordable public education, and this served us well. One sister became a librarian, the other an English and Creative Writing teacher.  

  • BY LISA SHIN
    Republican candidate for NM House of Representatives, Dist. 43

    The Los Alamos Public Schools rank among the best in our State, if not our Nation, when it comes to student reading and math proficiency. This, of course, is the natural result of our highly skilled and educated workforce.

    Los Alamos has one of the country’s highest concentrations of Ph.D.s. Our community puts a high priority on education, and it shows. So why then, did our Middle School, receive a D grade last year? At the League of Women Voters’ event earlier this month, Dr. Kurt Steinhaus explained. Even though our students demonstrated a high 83 percent academic proficiency, it was down from a 85% proficiency the previous year. Another school in New Mexico demonstrated a 14 percent proficiency, but received an “A” grade because it was up from a 7 percent proficiency the previous year. A school in Artesia was a National Blue Ribbon School one year, a prestigious designation for high achievement, but received a D grade.

  • The name “Big Bad Wolf” rings scary alarms in voters’ heads. The left and the right reply to fears with fears about big corporations, a big army, big unions, big government and big donors to big campaigns. Metaphors of politics picture Big Bad Wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing or lying in Grandma’s bed. Small wonder that big corporations incite voters to cry, “Grandma, what big teeth you have.”

    Big corporations indeed need a thorough look to figure them out. Big companies have grown through the centuries and brought society hoped-for benefits and unwanted side effects.

    The first Industrial Revolution began in the 1760s in Britain, evolved through the 1840s and came later to the US.

    Many histories come to mind. People produced copper, steel, oil and aluminum and, with them, crafted faster reapers, tractors, cars, trucks and airplanes, later on with radios in them and radars at airports. With these products, people grew and shipped better produce at good prices for more people. Jobs grew. Corporations grew – Big Farming, Big Finance, Big Pharma.

  • BY HOLLY BRADSHAW-EAKES
    Finance New Mexico

    As budget-conscious consumers increasingly opt for the convenience and economy of online shopping, states like New Mexico are ramping up pressure on internet-based retailers to collect and remit the taxes states need to provide essential services.

    While Amazon.com recently agreed to charge New Mexico consumers the state portion of the gross receipts tax (GRT), more change is needed to erase what states see as an unfair advantage for online retailers over local merchants who are required to collect and remit the entire combination of state and local taxes.

    New Mexico consumers, for example, can still avoid paying the state GRT when buying from a third-party vendor on the Amazon marketplace platform. And they don’t pay local option taxes that communities levy to subsidize local needs. For example, a Santa Fean who buys a book from Amazon pays 5.125 percent of the purchase price to cover state taxes, but she won’t be assessed the additional 3.3125 percent in local taxes to support city services.

    Local governments have few options to correct this imbalance, but states are taking action.

    Fighting for fairness

  • We’ve all heard the arguments about early childhood education as the solution to pull New Mexico out of poverty. The state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund is targeted as a way to pay for it.

    Not so fast. The devil is in the details. 

    What follows is the kind of policy wonkish recitation that sends people tiptoeing out of the room. This explanation comes from former State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, who knows because he’s watched lawmakers and others sneak out the back door.

    The Permanent Fund is not one big pot of money that we can dip into any way we choose. The money is all spoken for. Changing the distribution requires a state constitutional amendment and approval by Congress.

    Our state trust lands were established with a checkerboard pattern, six squares by six, a total of 36 squares each representing a square mile. The pattern was applied all over the state. In each checkerboard, four squares – none touching each other -- were given to the state. 

    These tracts are scattered everywhere. On the Land Office map (on the website, look for LandStatus11x17) they appear as lots of tiny pale blue squares and larger clumps where tracts are consolidated.

    Each tract is earmarked for a specific beneficiary. And so is the revenue from that tract.

  • BY REP. ALONZO BALDONADO
    New Mexico House of Representatives, Dist.  8

    The pathway to the ballot in New Mexico starts with a nominating petition.  Every other year in the late fall and winter, voters are approached by well-meaning volunteers armed with clipboards asking, “Excuse me ma’am, are you registered to vote?” and “Are you a Democrat or Republican?” in the hope of collecting enough valid signatures to qualify their candidate for the election.

    All candidates must submit these forms, including incumbents. It never fails that a potential candidate or two will have minor technical issues with their forms. Sometimes it is a missed middle initial. Or perhaps the district number was left off of a page.

    Cue the lawsuits! Partisan interests rush to district court to file complaints for the removal of the opposition from the ballot with the goal of clearing the field for their preferred candidate.

    This legal gambit can create an easy path to office for the remaining candidate, but is this how we want elections to be decided? Is this how our democratic process should work?

  • In my husband’s workplace, years ago, a woman who was clueless about appropriate professional attire showed up day after day in tube tops. Men in the office begged female co-workers to take her aside and ask her to stop wearing the clingy apparel because it was distracting. Maybe for the wearer, that was the point. Nobody worked up the courage to speak, so her daily display continued.

    (Laugh if you want at Hillary’s pantsuits, but for women of a certain age, the pantsuit solved a lot of problems.)

    The tube top episode shows that most men in the workplace are decent people, and men and women work together just fine as long as everybody observes common sense codes of behavior. It’s something to remember as we navigate the turbulent waters of #MeToo.

    After taking down some big players in entertainment, politics and media, the MeToo movement has paused. I’m hearing two parallel debates. A few brave feminists are starting to question the treatment of men in some of these cases – not all piggish behavior is equal – and some men, especially older men, are feeling uncomfortable and unsure of themselves in workplace interactions.  

  •  
    The grey of population loss travels the East Side from Lea County to Colfax and the West from San Juan County to Hidalgo. In between is a light thread of slight population gain along the Rio Grande. 

    Overall, New Mexico’s population grew by 2,638 for the 2016-2017 year. The 1.1 percent increase brought us to 2,088,070 New Mexicans, a gain of 23,463 since 2010, the year of the last census. Bernalillo (+14,241) and Sandoval (+10,929) counties, two of metro Albuquerque’s four counties, more than accounted for the state’s seven-year population gain with 25,166 more people. 

    Doña Ana County (+6,357) and Santa Fe (+4,533) together added fewer people than did Sandoval County. Together these four counties grew by 36,056 over seven years. The 26 rural counties plus metro Farmington (San Juan County) together lost 59,519 people. That’s like eliminating Eddy County (56,997) population and making up most of the rest by dumping DeBaca County (1,829).

  • BY AUBREY DUNN
    State Land Commissioner, Guest Editorial

    A report recently published in the Albuquerque Journal revealed that nearly 99 percent of New Mexico is in extreme, severe or moderate drought.  Long before the report was issued, we at the State Land Office (SLO) have been acting with great urgency to protect New Mexico water and I have implemented long-term water conservation initiatives.

    The volumes of water the oil and gas industry use is prolific. Of the 13 million acres of mineral estate managed by the SLO, 3 million acres are leased for oil and gas development. Oil and gas activity on state trust lands generates 92 percent of the agency’s annual revenues, most of which supplements the operating budgets of public schools, therefore the industry’s investment in New Mexico is critical to our mission. However, while revenues are soaring, we are taking action to ensure the state has adequate fresh water supplies.

  • BY TIMOTHY A. GLASCO
    Utilities Manager, Department of Public Utilities

    On April 10, the Board of Public Utilities and the County Council will convene to consider approval of a Power Sales Contract (PSC) with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) organization, to continue our participation in the Carbon Free Power Project. This will be the world’s first small modular nuclear reactor power generation plant.

    Located in Idaho, this 600MW facility is scheduled to be operational by 2027. Over the past four years, a fatal flaw analysis was conducted and the project was discussed at numerous meetings with the public, BPU and County Council.

    Now is the time to decide if we continue in the project or withdraw, prior to the development of a combined operating licensing application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  

    Why is the county interested in this nuclear generating plant project, and why now?  

  • The battle of regulation – pitting powers outside ourselves against desires inside ourselves – began with the first glimmer of society. Railing against regulation continues to be popular. Today, patterned gripes are printed on tee shirts and sold online. The Babel of regulation grows from there and clutters the news.

    All humans are born with a dislike for regulation, which stays with us. The need for regulation is no less persistent, as is clear in history’s timeline of regulation.

    An early form of regulating was sticks and stones. In due course, this beginning evolved into peer pressure within small groups and hence to tribal customs among clans.

    The world grew more crowded and regulatory themes began to spread among the tendrils of religion. Religious teachings have long sought to restrict damaging deeds, using a potent mixture of fire and brimstone to promote self-responsibility. The Pilgrims enlisted religion as a regulatory aid to succeed in their Plymouth ventures. Laxity is perilous.

    In today’s crowds that have little else in common, people mostly look to a government to be the chief enforcer. This choice is expensive in many ways. It starts bureaucracy, which inspires catchy gripes that sell well on tee shirts.

  • BY LISA SHIN
    Candidate for NM House of Representatives, Dist. 43

    Obamacare had thousands of pages of job-killing mandates, regulations, and taxes. Why should we be surprised at rising costs and skyrocketing premiums?  We should have learned that more government regulation over health care is disastrous. Instead, we have Councilors Sheehey and Chandler falling all over themselves to be the louder voice for single-payer: the most control government can have over health care.

    Be wary of old politicians who tout the merits of socialized medicine.  They love to talk about access to preventative, primary, and specialty care, but avoid the crucial questions:  “How are we going to pay for it?” and “Who will be the providers for it?” Briefly, these are the reasons why a single-payer system would not work for New Mexico. 

  • The spaceport finally caught a break after years of flak. Three breaks, in fact.

    Even so, Spaceport America was in the crosshairs of a sustained transparency debate in the recent legislative session.

    As media and watchdog organizations like to remind you, transparency and open records in government are vital to a healthy democracy. But as an old business reporter, I also understand how cautious and downright paranoid high tech companies are about their internal information. They’re secretive for a reason.

    So when headline writers at the New Mexican exclaim, “Transparency takes hit,” after the passage of a bill protecting customer information at the spaceport, I’m afraid I can’t agree.

    The bipartisan Senate Bill 98, called the Commercial Aerospace Protection Act, started out exempting Spaceport client information from the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act  unless the company waives confidentiality. IPRA is the sacred cow of New Mexico journalists.

  • FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    The federal government is the world’s biggest customer and a major driver in New Mexico’s economy.

    While only a fraction of the $8.2 billion that Uncle Sam spent in New Mexico in fiscal year 2017 benefitted local companies, advisers at the state’s four Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) work to increase the flow of federal dollars to small businesses that offer products or services the government wants.

    To that end, the Clovis PTAC is hosting a workshop March 20 at Clovis Community College for entrepreneurs who want to learn more about becoming a government contractor.

    “The workshop is to educate business owners on how to do business with Cannon Air Force Base and other government agencies,” said Jonnie Loadwick, procurement technical adviser at the Clovis PTAC and a certified VA verification counselor. “Cannon has been growing the last few years, and there is a lot of opportunity for government contracting in this area.”

    Obtaining government contracts can be just as onerous as securing contracts in the private sector: Businesses must aggressively market themselves, because competition is fierce.

  • Joseph Cervantes (joe4nm.com ) offered substantive ideas to the Democratic Party preprimary convention March 10 in Albuquerque and got 10 percent of the votes.

    Jeff Apodaca (apo18.com), with his promise of 225,000 new jobs, attracted 21 percent of the votes.

    Peter DeBenedittis (peterd4gov.com) had the truth, drew 1.9 percent of the votes and endorsed Apodaca.

    Michelle Lujan Grisham (newmexicansformichelle.com) won the audience sign waving battle and 67 percent of the votes.

    The four candidates for governor and candidates for other offices spoke to a full house in a hall on the top floor of Albuquerque’s convention center. The show-biz part might have swayed one or two delegates. As the candidates pitched, delegates completed ballots in small voting booths in an adjacent room.

    The convention was about candidates getting enough delegate votes—20 percent—to be on the primary ballot.

    Candidates not making the delegate vote cut can get more petition signatures to get on the ballot. The six contested races attracted 21 candidates.

    It was show biz with a ritual of a video and supporters packing the stage and waving signs. DeBenedittis did it differently. His fiancé, Tracy Juechter, introduced him and was the only person on stage as he spoke.

  • BY PETE SHEEHEY
    Los Alamos County Councilor, candidate for District 43

    As a member of the County Council’s Regional and State Subcommittee, I helped develop our state legislative agenda, which was approved by the whole Council last December.  One priority was to address the concern that if a non-profit organization won the new LANL contract, state and local government could lose a total of  $50 million per year in gross receipts tax (GRT).

    Working with our State Senators Cisneros and Martinez and Representative Garcia Richard, we developed a bill, SB17, to close the loophole that lets non-profit organizations avoid GRT payment as prime contractors for national laboratories (SB17 preserves the GRT exemption for all other non-profit businesses and contracts). The bill passed both Houses: 31-4 in the Senate and 48-19 in the House.  It still needs the signature of Governor Martinez to become law.

    Why SB17?

  • Political talk has had its substance wither away for the sake of style. In this country, business is conducted the most clearly and quickly using the American standard style of talk, which is also known as the “straight” style.

    In stark contrast, political exchanges today rely on ... are reduced to ... styles of metaphor, mimicry, sarcasm, sound bites and slogans. These popular styles would fail in business and they fail our country.

    Worse yet, the styles shift weirdly. In a political exchange, one style intrudes on the next style where they mix up for a spell before styles flip again. Shifts come too fast for the ear to know what style is in play. How much is metaphor? How much is sarcasm? What is told as a slogan? Or a joke?

    Parts of the talking from enemy sides are done in straight style. Yet, even the straight parts are lost in the crowd of talking styles.

    Examples tell more.

    Black lives matter” and “All lives matter”are two simple facts that are equally true when they are meant in the straight style. Now start every word with a capital letter and refashion the style as metaphor, mimicry, sarcasm or slogans. What happens?

  • BY ANDREA ROMERO
    Guest Editorial

    Founded in 2011, the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC) comprises nine cities, counties, and Pueblos surrounding the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Since I was hired as executive director in 2015, we have worked together to ensure that LANL is responsive to the issues and concerns of our northern New Mexico communities.

    RCLC has been the sole organization to go to the U.S. Congress and request increases for cleanup of nuclear waste at LANL. These requests have continued to increase from $184 million in 2016, up to $191 million in 2017, and a $217 million request for 2018. These funds bring critical jobs to northern New Mexico to remediate polluted land and water, making our communities safer and more environmentally sound.

  • I’m Mick Rich, and I’m running for the U.S. Senate. I’m not a career politician. I’m an outsider and a proven job creator.

    From the time I was in grade school, I wanted to build big things. I worked my way through college in construction and started my own company here in New Mexico. 

    Along the way, learning Hard Hat Values. 

    What are Hard Hat Values? Always do your best work. Use teamwork for every job. And do what it takes to get the job done. 

    Thirty-five years ago, I chose to start my construction business in New Mexico, because I loved the beauty of this state and the character of its people, and I knew I could make a difference here. This is where my wife, Marion, and I chose to make our home and raise our family.

    With the help of Marion and our four children, along with the efforts of scores of skilled and dedicated employees, I have helped to build communities around our state.

    New Mexico’s strongest resource is you and me, the people. People who work hard, treat one another with respect, and do what it takes to get the job done. We care for others and take pride our in our lives. That’s Hard Hat Values.

  •  

    Last year was about digging holes. This year’s recently completed legislative session was about filling holes – literally, figuratively and financially.

    It was also about working together. “We don’t want to be Congress,” they said again and again.

    During the 2017 session, budgeters frantically emptied the state’s reserves, school balances and other funds to fill a deficit caused by plunging oil and gas tax revenues. It was an unforgiving process.

    In recent weeks, they’ve talked about “backfilling,” replenishing reserves and fund balances and restoring agency budgets.

    Two of the big issues were crime and the unstable, man-made cavity beneath Carlsbad. Lawmakers finally stopped talking and approved funding to remediate the Carlsbad Brine Well. Even then I heard griping: Why should it be the state’s responsibility? Well, we’ve harvested boatloads of taxes from the industry for decades. We can’t suddenly wash our hands of its impacts. (Footnote: Debates about over-regulation suddenly fall flat when we have a spectacular failure of regulation, and in this case it was a failure of state regulation.)