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Opinion

  • I applaud the County Council for finally approving improvements at the aquatic center that are not directly related only to exercise or athletics. (My surprise at the voting pattern notwithstanding!)

    Some years ago, I served on a CIP citizen’s committee that explored how to use an expected GRT windfall to improve the quality of life in Los Alamos. The proposals were very similar to what the Council has recently made decisions about.

    After years of dithering, some projects were realized: the Ashley Pond Pond improvements, the
    Nature Center, WR visitor center, library, Youth Activity Center and senior center improvements, trails, ...

    But at the time, Steve Lynne very sensibly warned not to count on the best GRT scenario. The first issue to be addressed by The County and by The People, in the context of higher taxes to pay for them (which were voted down), was a set of improvements at the aquatic center: zero-entry pool, lazy river, water slide. 

    I acknowledge a selfish interest: Although too late for my own children, I hoped to treat visiting grandchildren to some of these aquatic experiences. And it’s getting late even for that.

  • By Mick Rich
    Republican candidate for U.S. Senate

    Our Democratic U.S. Senators were AWOL when President Obama stripped the New Mexico Air National Guard (NMANG) of its F-16s. Since 2010, our Air National Guard now has had no airplanes. It’s the only state that doesn’t. (Even Puerto Rico’s ANG has airplanes.)

    Now that Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson (former Republican U.S. Rep. from New Mexico) has said she is not optimistic about New Mexico regaining its F-16s, our Senators have pitched her with a lame idea: helicopter training for our NMANG’s pilots.

    The only mission apparent is their mission to save face.

    According to the Albuquerque Journal, Martin Heinrich sent a letter to Wilson suggesting that the NMANG ‘s 150th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB receive 12 “legacy” HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters “to use for training, and, if necessary, use in missions.”

    That word “legacy” is key. These helicopters came into operation 35 years ago, in 1982. The few currently in use by Kirtland’s 58th Special Operations Wing will soon be sent into retirement in Arizona. The helicopter’s replacement – the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter – is due to arrive at Kirtland’s 58th in 2020.

  • Economics is known as the dismal science. It has certainly been dismal in New Mexico for a while.
    A few sobering facts were offered at the recent Data Users Conference sponsored by the UNM Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The presenter was Jeffrey Mitchell, director of the BBER. There were no big surprises, but no easy answers either.

    People are leaving New Mexico. Net outmigration (years 2011 to 2015) is more than 150 persons leaving for every 100 who move in. All our neighboring states are going in the opposite direction.

    The groups leaving are young people, young families, and seniors. Those staying are older working age adults, ages 45 to 64.

    Individuals with associate and bachelor’s degrees are leaving in the highest numbers.

    Around 1940, Mitchell said, New Mexico was number 21 in percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

    In the 1960s we ranked fourth highest in that category. Nationally, people are getting more education, but New Mexico is dropping in that ranking. We are currently number 39.

  • By FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    Hannah Johnson left Cedar Crest, New Mexico, to get a biology degree, and after a stint in shorebird conservation, she returned to start a coffee shop in her hometown in the eastern Sandia Mountain foothills.

    The owner of Cabra Coffee, which opened in spring 2017, started making quality coffee at college. “My first job working in the industry was when I was going to school at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. It was just the coffee shop in the school, but we were getting coffee from a cafe in Seattle, and they would come down and train us. That’s where I first learned how to make coffee professionally.”

    During her subsequent conservation work with the piping plover at Massachusetts Audubon, Hannah found that her side job in a coffee shop brought her more joy because it offered social interaction. “I wasn’t working with anybody, … and I needed a way to make friends. The coffee shop (in Nantucket) was brand new. I realized that I knew more than anybody else there just from working at the coffee shop at my school. So I was put into the manager position, overseeing everything to do with the coffee. And that’s when I really discovered that it was something I liked doing and that I was good at.”

  • BY LISA SHIN AND KATHLEENE PARKER
    Guests Editorial

    Our nation is divided. Must Los Alamos be too? Why, so often, are letters or comments at public meetings about personal attack? Perhaps we should remember Thomas Jefferson’s, “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”

    In the Dec. 1 edition of the Los Alamos Monitor, Jess Cullinan – incidentally, a prime driver in asking the school board to pass a sanctuary policy – wrote labeling “those vocal few” as seeking to “sow chaos and to sabotage” the school board’s and superintendent’s efforts to protect vulnerable students.

    But, it is that assumption – that students are even vulnerable – that is our right to question. Cullinan’s letter defines that federal immigration policy “prohibits by law” asking about immigration status and that ICE activity in schools is restricted, proof – based on Cullinan’s own information – that the Los Alamos effort is not about solving a real problem but make a political statement.

  • New Mexico’s border crossing at Columbus small but brisk.

    Tiny Columbus’s claim to fame is Pancho Villa’s raid in 1916, commemorated by a state park. Snowbirds hunker down in the campground to spend a comfortable winter. The only shopping is a Dollar Store close to the international boundary.

    Across the border, the much larger Palomas gets a steady stream of Americans shopping at the Pink Store, getting dental work done or buying cheap over-the-counter drugs.

    Border guards on both sides are friendly and professional. The atmosphere is relaxed.

    You can’t visit the border without contemplating The Wall.

    The existing wall here of 18-foot steel columns is of fairly recent vintage. I try to imagine a new wall of the prototypes on display in California and envision a tourniquet that squeezes trade and relations between the two countries.

    In October the U. S. Customs and Border Protection unveiled eight giant rectangles made of concrete or composites. If you live in Ohio, you might believe a wall of this stuff will keep us safe and hold the hordes at bay.

  • FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    Barring congressional intervention, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is ending, and DACA recipients — or “Dreamers” — are subject to deportation when their work permits expire if they didn’t get an extension before the Oct. 5 deadline.

    The demise of the program has created uncertainty among employers who are required to fire DACA recipients the day after their permits expire but risk discrimination charges if they act too soon to terminate — or even identify — DACA recipients on their payrolls.

    Companies risk fines for employing ineligible workers. They’re also advised to prepare carefully for this sudden change in circumstances for up to 800,000 young people whose parents brought them into the United States without proper documentation when they were children.

    A delicate question

    All employees, regardless of their citizenship status, must fill out an I-9 form and provide multiple forms of identification to verify their eligibility to work in the United States. Noncitizen workers carry papers that authorize them to work here temporarily; the paperwork includes a code that specifies the basis for the permit, but employers are discouraged from using the code to identify DACA recipients.

  • Some banks are too small to succeed, suggests Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade and presumably someone who knows his way around the financial world. Maybe “too small” means having assets under $10 billion, Ricketts wrote in the Oct. 30 Wall Street Journal.

    Presented with Ricketts’ observation, a senior executive of a New Mexico-based bank chuckled. He’s not talking about New Mexico, the banker said.

    Maybe Ricketts has a point. Consider: Wells Fargo Bank of San Francisco, headquartered near the Union Square shopping mecca, counts $8.5 billion of deposits in New Mexico. For the whole bank, the deposit total is around $1.3 trillion. At less than 1 percent of the company, New Mexico doesn’t make afterthought status.

    Wells’ New Mexico deposit total dropped $450 million between June 30, 2016, and June 30, 2017, according to the deposit market share report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a regulator. That loss is more than the total deposits of all but 15 banks doing business in New Mexico. Three of the 14 branches closed across the state during the period were Wells Fargo branches. The state had 473 branches as of June 30.

  • The dreaded national monument review stirred up the dust and is now disappearing.
    In April the administration called for a review of 27 national monuments, including two in New Mexico and two nearby in Utah, to examine “another egregious use of federal power,” as the president put it. After many protests and photos of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on horseback, what’s happened is: Not much.
    The blowback was hotter than Zinke and the administration anticipated; public comments, overwhelmingly in support, topped 2.3 million. New Mexicans submitted the largest number of comments per capita (97,000). Supporters went all out to demonstrate that these monuments weren’t just an environmental fantasy – they were created after long study and public hearings, and all but Utah’s monuments enjoyed broad public support.
    From the beginning, it was obvious that the main target was the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah, established by President Obama at the end of his term. The two buttes that give Bear’s Ears its name lie just north of the Navajo Reservation.

  • BY LISA SHIN
    Guest Editorial

    On August 29, 2017, our County Council unanimously passed a proclamation honoring the contributions of immigrants. Compared to the earlier version in April, specific language was removed, its tone was softened, and a more strident “resolution” was changed to a “proclamation,” which did not require a vote. Although Councilor O’Leary called it a “milquetoast,” “weak half measure of timid support,” Councilor Maggiore recognized “that the original was a little inflammatory, a little reactionary to what just transpired on the national scene...” “We’re not actually trying to create new laws or turn the county into a sanctuary county,” because we would be “fools to do that.” Councilor Sheehey, remarked “I see this as a statement of values. I have no intention of trying to push our county into some kind of a legal battle about sanctuary cities.”

  • The Wall Street Journal on U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s sentence and the U.S. Navy’s report on ships’ collisions with civilian vessels:

    The military is one of the few institutions that Americans still hold in high esteem, but that should never be taken for granted. Two events late last week suggest that even the military’s culture of high performance can be eroded without constant attention.

    The first was a military judge’s decision to let off U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl with a slap on the wrist for desertion in Afghanistan in 2009. After a court martial, Army Colonel Jeffery Nance recommended that Bergdahl be dishonorably discharged, demoted to private and forfeit $10,000 in pay. Prosecutors had sought 14 years in prison.

    Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for nearly five years, a terrible ordeal to be sure. But those most outraged by the wrist slap are other members of the armed services who fear the damage to military discipline. Bergdahl deserted on the battlefield in a forward post – the worst betrayal you can make against your fellow soldiers save for fragging them with friendly fire.

  • The Roanoke Times on Democrats’ victory in Virginia serving as a referendum on President Donald Trump:

    Donald Trump lost Tuesday. Bigly.

    He wasn’t on the ballot in Virginia but make no mistake, he’s the reason the race turned out like it did.

    In a normal year, Democrat Ralph Northam would not have won as easily as he did.

    In a normal year, Northam may not have won at all.

    Four years ago, Terry McAuliffe won with just under 48 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Even then, the McAuliffe barely scraped by against Ken Cuccinelli, a polarizing figure who turned off many moderate voters.

    This time around, Republican Ed Gillespie was as mainstream a Republican as you’d find. He seemed well-positioned to win back the suburban moderates who first defected from Cuccinelli and then recoiled from Trump a year ago. And yet none of that seemed to matter, not with Virginia voters feeling the way they do about Trump. They didn’t vote for Trump a year ago and in exit polls Tuesday they made it clear they liked him even less. In the only poll that matters – the one held at the ballot box – voters went for Democrats in a way that seems impossible to explain except as a reaction to Trump.

  • BY FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    New Mexico is home to more than 160,000 veterans, and about half of them are under the age of 65. For those former service members interested in operating businesses, state and federal agencies can help with business formation, certification and contract acquisition that levels the playing field for vets that have spent their careers out of the private sector.

    Veterans come to the private-sector workforce with a lot to offer, including advanced training in specialized fields such as logistics, security, information technology, personnel management and administration. They understand the complexities of doing business with the U.S. government and the importance of following instructions and protocol.

    They appreciate the need for teamwork and leadership, and they work well under pressure. In other words, veterans have the skills needed to start and manage a business.

    Veteran-specific help

    The Office of Veterans Business Development is the advocacy arm of the U.S. government for veterans in business. Besides acting as an ombudsman, the OVBD provides oversight of federal procurement programs for veteran-owned and service-disabled-veteran-owned small businesses.

  • By Aubrey Dunn, Commissioner of Public Lands

    In an effort to protect one of our country’s largest and most important sources of drinking water, I adopted a policy earlier this year to curtail usage of drinking water from the Ogallala aquifer for oil and gas production, specifically the process of hydraulic fracturing.

    I remain a proponent of hydraulic fracturing for the advances it has allowed in energy development in New Mexico and the increased revenue that it has helped to bring to our state; however, as it relates to the use of our state’s natural resources, I believe in responsible conservation.  

    Subsequently, I have been sued by a State Land Office permittee who has made millions of dollars selling drinking water for oil and gas related activities and I have been publicly vilified by some members of the New Mexico State Legislature.

    The Ogallala is a shallow water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains with portions in eight states, including eastern New Mexico, and provides nearly all the fresh water for residential, industrial and agricultural use.

  • When three members of the Interstate Stream Commission resign abruptly, we need to pay attention.

    When they point fingers at the State Engineer, we need to be worried. The two agencies are our water watchdogs.

    The ISC oversees New Mexico’s participation in interstate stream compacts, protects and develops the state’s water and does water planning. The State Engineer regulates water rights and serves as ISC secretary.

    The ISC has withered with an exodus of staffers blamed on both State Engineer Tom Blaine and the administration’s budget cuts. It’s an open secret in the water world that Blaine wants the traditionally independent ISC under his thumb.

    Blaine meanwhile has opened the gate to the state’s biggest water grab.

    The ISC in recent months has lost its director, Colorado River bureau chief, special projects bureau chief, general counsel, acting general counsel, and Middle Rio Grande Basin manager. It has just two senior staffers left.

    When Blaine hired Deborah Dixon in early 2015, she was senior vice president at Bohannan Huston, a major engineering firm. “Ms. Dixon is an outstanding engineer who has valuable experience working in water projects in New Mexico,” Blaine said.

    Blaine fired Dixon in June without a word to commissioners.

  • The Dallas Morning News

  • Probably the least known fact about the long career of Sen. Pete Domenici has to be that he did not hire me to be his press aide in 1989.

    Instead of the knowledgeable New Mexican — me — Domenici hired Ari Fleischer, who knew Washington, D. C. A sound choice, I think. Fleischer went on to be press secretary for President George W. Bush.

    Equally obscure is the story I wrote for the Albuquerque News in 1968 about the first city budget he presented as chairman of the Albuquerque City Commission.

    Much later my kids played Little League baseball with a Domenici grandchild. Domenici attended the occasional game.

    Domenici’s leadership of the Senate Budget Committee brought access to the committee’s economics staff, a smart, collegial group that provided insight on the national economy and New Mexico’s fit into the big picture.

    In the 1980s Domenici and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, together with Gov. Bruce King, created the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI). (Get it?) Santa Teresa with its border crossing was one focus.

    As a matter of good management, two of Domenici’s policy legacies deserve a closer look.

    First is New Mexico First. During the mid-1980s several groups were having conversations about the murky future facing New Mexico.

  • BY DAVID IZRAELEVITZ
    Los Alamos County Council Chair

    This is part three of a three-part series.

    In part one of my editorial on code enforcement, I covered the “why” behind the program, and in part two, I addressed the “how” of the process that is involved. Today in part three, I would like to talk more philosophically about code enforcement and what the county and the community can do to assist with resources. 

    Let me address the “government-encroachment” argument first which I have heard a few times. I can understand that some, and probably most individuals feel an initial gut feeling of government overreach when an ordinance is passed that imposes additional personal responsibilities for property maintenance. However, *any* new law, by definition, imposes new constraints on our freedoms.

    After that initial reaction, we need to then look at the fundamental issue that this new ordinance is addressing, and whether it is the right approach or not. If no one drove dangerously, we would not need speeding limits. If everyone was attentive to their property, we wouldn’t need property maintenance standards either. We do have a property maintenance problem in town, and I don’t see a practical alternative to some kind of code and its enforcement.

  • Joe Cervantes’ office is an old house a half block from the New Mexico State University campus in Las Cruces. His car (truck, really), a black GMC Yukon, tucks into an alcove under a tree next to the door. He doesn’t know the age of the house, though he notes that the thick walls certify that the house is old.

    Cervantes, a state senator and a Democrat, is running for governor (joe4nm.com). The day we talk, a hot mid-September Wednesday, his attire is business casual, sleeves rolled up.

    For those seriously undertaking a task as complex, difficult and expensive as running for governor – and Cervantes is very serious about this – all sorts of reasons appear. He is clear about what is not a motivation. “I am not running for governor to ascend” to a higher political position, he says.

    Cervantes doesn’t name names, but the reference certainly is both to Bill Richardson, who became governor as a platform for running for president, and Susana Martinez, formerly touted for higher posts.

    Results are Cervantes’ focus. “There’s a lot to be said” about having a governor knowing the process. Bruce King was the most recent to come from the Legislature. His final term ended in 1994.

  • I guess it’s always interesting when you stare the possibility of the end in the face.
    I am not sure if I did or didn’t.

    When that earthquake rumbled through Cuernavaca at 1:14 p.m. Tuesday, I honestly questioned my mortality.

    I sat in the bedroom of the guest house of our awesome land lady in Los Tabachines community in south Cuernavaca.
    Cuernavaca is about 50 miles south of the Mexico City.

    Anyway, it was a typical Tuesday, I was trying to get through writer’s block and fulfill my freelance obligations to various clients.

    But then, the earth shook.

    It didn’t just shake, the ground was moving.

    Jill, who was in the kitchen, yelled, ‘’EARTHQUAKE.’’

    I knew what it was but I was just in shock.

    I talked to my dad today and he said we had been through a couple of tremors growing up in Tokyo.

    I had felt nothing like this.

    I could not even up stand up.

    Nori, our faithful Belgian Sheepdog who had been watching me from the bed, jumped up and we somehow got to the kitchen and then to the back yard. Jill was there on her knees. She told me she could not walk because of the quake.

    She told me that she could not believe I was still standing. When I thought about it, I was surprised too.