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Opinion

  • Here’s a challenge. Visualize three miles of anything as one single thing. It’s hard. Runners, for example, commonly cover more than three miles but are conscious only of the much smaller area that is visible. The question arises because of a recent report that railroads are thinking about running trains three miles long.
    What would a three-mile-long train be, besides really, really long?

    On Interstate 25 there is a rest stop north of Lemitar. North of the rest stop, a sign says, “Rest Stop Three Miles.”

    This is the Walking Sands rest area at mile marker 167, which stands out among the state’s rest areas for its distinctive wood structures. A sand dune area used to be located immediately west of the area, but the dunes seem to have walked away.

    Imagine a single train covering the distance from Walking Sands back to the sign. Such a train might have as many as 200 cars, many carrying two shipping containers. And locomotives at both ends. It might need five minutes to pass a given point.

  • BY LISA SHIN
    Republican candidate, New Mexico House of Representatives, District 43

    Councilor Morris Pongratz recently stated that “Under current state law TRIAD may qualify for a 501(c)3 GRT exemption. He went so far to say that Triad has a “moral obligation” to pay GRTs.

    For the record, I am strongly opposed to legislation such as SB 17 that our governor rightly vetoed.  It would have cost our district jobs, put New Mexico at a competitive disadvantage, and further complicated our tax code. It was not fair and equitable, as I wrote in an editorial, “Thanks to our Governor for SB17 Veto.”

    TRIAD has agreed to voluntarily pay GRTs this year. That, of course, would be their prerogative to do so.   The GRT situation remains uncertain, however, and we must elect new leadership that will exercise fiscal responsibility and good stewardship with American tax dollars, both local and federal.

    Consider the following:

    TRIAD has no moral obligation to pay GRTs.  Congress has no moral obligation to keep its operations in Los Alamos.  Our Federal Government can decide to move its operations to a state that has better tax legislation and is more supportive of their scientific and national security missions.

  • BY DAVID IZRAELEVITZ
    Chair, Los Alamos County Council

    There are many things that a local government provides to its citizens. Parks, roads, and public schools all come to mind, but in my opinion, public transit is one of the most appreciated services that our local government in Los Alamos provides to our community.

    Specifically, the Los Alamos Atomic City Transit (ATC) system has really brought parts of the community here together like no other system has done before. Los Alamos County consists of two geographically separated communities: the town site and White Rock. Having public transportation between these two areas has allowed children and adults who prefer not to drive or who are unable to drive to take advantage of the amenities in each community.

    The circulator bus also helps invigorate the downtown, and those commuting to the laboratory from outlying parts of the region can rely on an alternate form of transportation.

    Additionally, public transportation benefits all segments of society. Elderly individuals who no longer drive have a way to get out of the house safely and comfortably, and remain integrated in our community while living independently.

    Children have a safe and reliable way to visit friends, the library or participate in other afterschool activities.

  • BY STEPHANIE AND MARCEL REMILLIEUX

    Owners of Fleur de Lys

    As we are diving into this new election season, many local candidates have stopped by our small businesses to discuss the issues we are facing as business owners and listen to our suggestions on ways to overcome them. This has been a great opportunity for us to socialize and gather some thoughts.

    Some of us have been established for years, some for months, some have closed their businesses recently, and some are about to open one, waiting to see what the future holds for them. We, at Fleur de Lys, have been established for only eight months but an interview of Cyndi Wells, owner of Pet Pangaea, published on Dec. 19, 2012, resonates strongly with our experience, not only because she has also started a small business in our town while being a LANL scientist but also because what she described in 2012 all seems so true today, at least for us.

  • When the owner of a small business wants to move on, whether to retire or to pursue other ventures, he or she has three potential paths: close the business, sell it to investors or to a competitor or let the employees purchase it.
    Each option has consequences for a community that relies on local businesses for jobs and revenue generation.
    Stephen Wiman, former owner of Good Water Company in Santa Fe, never considered closing the independent water company he purchased in 2005 when he exited the company 11 years later.
    “I wanted the business to continue,” he said, “because it did a lot of good work in the community. I spent probably half my time doing volunteer work in water conservation and supporting causes in which I believed. I got close to a lot of customers who had really complex water and could afford what was actually very expensive treatment.”
    He also cared about the well-being of his employees. “I wanted to keep my employees working, as they were loyal to me and helped us establish a good reputation in the community.”

  • The United States has had an immigration policy of some sort since the 1880s, Alan Kraut told the Domenici Policy Conference audience in Las Cruces Sept. 12.
    But we have never had immigrant policies that would help immigrants “make the enormous adjustment” of living in a new country. Sweden and Germany have such policies. The United States relies on charities and local government.
    Kraut suggests a commission with labor, business and other representatives that would produce a workable figure for annual immigration from a rolling five-year projection of labor needs, plus family members, and an estimate of people fleeing oppression.
    Lacking such an institution we get today’s situation that plays on fears and anxieties.
    It’s not that present institutions are great, said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D. C., think tank. (After Pete Domenici left the Senate, he was a senior fellow at the Center.)
    The United States’ border control systems were created when 99 percent of people crossing the border were single Mexican men. Now the traffic is Central American families and their children. The systems are unable to deal quickly with them.

  • 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.