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Talk of the Town


Ways To Reduce Jail Overcrowding

THE NOV. 16 editorial highlights an important process that could alleviate jail overcrowding in the MDC. Huge amounts of funds are wasted detaining low-risk offenders and people awaiting further processing in the justice system. In addition to the groups mentioned, there are also, at any moment, close to 100 people being held on ICE holds — an unfunded mandate. This costs — wastes — at least $7,000 per day. The city and county are not obligated to do ICE holds.

Furthermore, they could use discretion and only hold people who have serious criminal offenses. An enlightened adjustment in the policy for ICE holds would surely save jail space and costs. An added benefit would be less disruption of our families and less fear among the immigrant community, including families with mixed status. This could also help rebuild trust in our law-enforcement agencies.



Patience, Transparency Key to SIC

UNFORTUNATELY, the Journal’s editorial lauding recent investment returns for the N.M. Land Grant Fund was misleading. We all applaud positive returns, as well as welcome the overdue accountability and transparency. However, some context was required, rather than blanket statements making it appear SIC management is fully responsible for recent gains — or conversely, was fully responsible for 2008 losses.

For example, according to the Journal editorial, the fund is up from $13.7B to $16B since September 2011, a nice 16.8 percent increase. However, in the same period, the S&P 500 was up 19.7 percent — first of September 2011 to end of September 2012.

Therefore, if the fund had simply been invested in a market index fund, with almost zero management fees, the returns would have actually been superior. Similarly, in 2008 the S&P 500 dropped 39 percent during the financial crash, so it was no surprise the fund lost $2.84B that year.

That all being said, it is certainly better to have a top performing fund than not, and the welcomed transparency and diligence should help extend the winning streak. It will take some time for the SIC to implement its plan. Also, the SIC and the state may consider a plan to set, monitor and continually publicize investment goals of short, medium and longer terms to allow for a diversified investment strategy and avoid potential knee-jerk reactions to quarterly returns. Such a strategy may garner increased goodwill, patience and involvement from New Mexicans as the SIC works to grow the funds.



Virgin Galactic Seems Full of Excuses

RE: “N.M. Spaceport At Risk” in Nov. 16 Journal

A cynical observer might suggest Virgin Galactic would very much like an excuse to pull out of Spaceport America.

Nearly six years after the company published slick brochures and shot a flashy video touting its WhiteKnightTwo/Spaceship Two horizontal launch/suborbital tourist passenger rocket, all Virgin Galactic has done of note, short of some media-heavy dedications of the runway and terminal hangar facility, is come back to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to ask for a runway extension.

The futuristic promotional material about commercial space travel was released by Virgin just ahead of the 2007/2008 bond issue elections in Dona Ana/Sierra counties to help finance construction of the spaceport.

While the Virgin Galactic group has been busy calling attention to the importance of having a liability waiver in place to attract other aerospace companies, and while Virgin’s charismatic founder, Sir Richard Branson, is occasionally spotted in the international media posing with a toy version of Spaceship Two, the company remains mysteriously vague on its official launch timetable, continually citing safety as the main concern.

If and when the Legislature passes informed consent legislation, one can only wonder what new issue anchor tenant Virgin Galactic will raise when it’s still nowhere close to getting Spaceport America off the ground.

In 2013 there is only one group that needs to act faster than Santa Fe lawmakers, and that’s Branson and company.


Truth or Consequences

N.M., Let’s Support Gay Marriage

ON NOV. 6, the residents of Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington stood up for our nation’s founding principles of freedom, fairness and tolerance by voting to support marriage equality. I support marriage equality not only because marriage is a civil right but also because my daughter, a medical resident at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, can now marry the woman she loves, and her family and friends can joyfully celebrate their future together.

Like all parents who want to share their children’s lives, I would love my only child to live and work in New Mexico. However, I will encourage her to practice medicine in a state where she enjoys the same rights and responsibilities as her patients and is treated with the respect that each of us deserves.

Inspired by a long history of diversity and tolerance, New Mexicans can join the majority of Americans in support of marriage equality. Mahatma Gandhi understood that “all through history, the ways of truth and love have always won.” I urge New Mexicans to join me in support of what is right and inevitable.



You Get What You Pay for in Life

APS BOARD member Dave Robbins questions what kind of message is sent to the public by awarding a contract to the highest bidder. The message it sends me is that Mr. Robbins apparently does not know the difference between eating Mexican food at Taco Bell or El Pinto. Awarding contracts to the lowest bidder is not always the best move on the chess board. Basically, you get what you pay for.



APS Bid Evaluations Questionable

RE: ARTICLE ON “Highest Bidder Gets APS Contract”

I can’t believe that a bridge for construction workers over a ditch is worth a million dollars in a bid contract. When Gerald Martin had the low bid and is eminently qualified to build that project, it seems obvious that the rating system is flawed. Either the committee is not experienced enough to evaluate bids properly, or the system values being able to fill in the blanks in a way to get the best outcome, rather than who can do the job!

New Mexico taxpayers end up losing.


Los Lunas

JetBlue’s NYC Flight Times Seem Odd

RE: JETBLUE’S new service to NYC. I hope the city doesn’t spend to much money on a marketing agreement to get on a flight at midnight for travel to New York. If you want to attract new customers, wouldn’t an 6 a.m. flight arriving by noon make a little more sense?



Having To Choose: Doctor or Insurer?

RE: THE separating of Albuquerque Health Partners from Lovelace

Lovelace sent us a letter letting us know we would no longer be able to see our well-known doctors unless we found another insurance plan. It was the first we heard about such a problem and we were devastated. We are in the middle of long-term care following two cancer recoveries with another problem looming.

We not only have had strong confidence in our doctors, we have gained emotional support through their care. At the same time, we have had a long history with Lovelace, since 1948, and have been extremely well treated by our Lovelace Senior HMO Plan.

Abruptly we were faced with the truly agonizing decision to choose between leaving our doctors or leaving an insurance plan that has overwhelmingly met our every need. The ironic part of our dilemma was the fact that our main primary care physician, who has been of especially great support, had been a Lovelace doctor when we first started seeing him before Albuquerque Heath Partners was formed. … Another letter from Lovelace assured us of continuing coverage if we chose to stay with their plan. Two letters from Albuquerque Health Partners sounded angry and confrontational, tipping the decision toward staying with Lovelace.

We had hoped the legal details now prominent in the news would have been resolved in time to enable us to keep our doctors, but that didn’t happen. With true sorrow, thank you but goodbye notes were sent. We are fortunate among the thousands who have had their lives turned upside down to have found a new doctor, covered by Lovelace Insurance, who we like very much.



Why Do We Keep Voting Democrat?

IT WAS INTERESTING to open up my Nov. 15 Albuquerque Journal to the Metro page and find the headline “NM Shows Largest Rich, Poor Gap.”

Now why is that? After 45 years of Democrat rule and as an entitlement state, that just should not be. We have consistently and faithfully voted in Democrats. Our Senate and House at the Roundhouse are ruled by Democrats.

During my time spent auditing the House, Senate and committee meetings in Santa Fe, I have found overwhelming support for every restrictive regulation and tax you could think of by the majority. So why should we still have the poorest and richest in the country? Are they not distributing the wealth?

I think this state has a terminal case of long-term amnesia coupled with wild insanity, because we keep voting for the people hoping for a different result. Maybe we should try it Susana’s way, with more work and industry, less regulation and taxes.

Guess what? Then we could actually put everyone to work and bail ourselves out of our economic problems, so we wouldn’t have to fight each other for a job and money Wait a minute! It’s too late! We already voted for four more years of poverty for most of us and wealth for those voting themselves raises.



Put Ethics Back Into Lawmaking

ROBERT SAMUELSON’S recent column on our “welfare state” would have been more likely to change some minds if he had anticipated the obvious counter-argument: for Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance at least, people feel that they paid in advance for these benefits through paycheck deductions over many years. Hence they feel “entitled.”

Although some will die young and many will stay healthy until the end, the reality, of course, is that the government will pay out far more for the average recipient than he or she has contributed in total. This imbalance eventually will insist on being rectified; the upcoming “fiscal cliff” pales in comparison to what we will need to confront as time passes.

I am disappointed, too, that even Americans who are concerned in other regards that the “separation of church and state” is keeping ethics out of lawmakers’ decision-making equation aren’t raising an obvious ethical question about our nation’s finances: how do we justify forcing onto our children and grandchildren an enormous debt obligation that they have had no say in taking on, and may not benefit from in any apparent way? I’m not saying that such a moral case cannot be made. But so far I’m not hearing anyone make it, or even try to make it.

For conscientious Christians, “What would Jesus say?” about our doing this would seem to be the obvious question that requires a thoughtful response. The answer for most people is not one they’d feel comfortable with, I suspect.



Don’t Weaken the Pit Rule

THE ISSUES surrounding the Pit Rule are vital to the conservation and protection of our natural resources. Improper disposal of oil and gas drilling wastes can cause irreparable damage to natural resources as well as to the citizens of our communities. The weakening of the Pit Rule is not only detrimental to New Mexico’s livelihood but is severely irresponsible. Public support of the Pit Rule is strong and active already providing positive progress by reporting zero cases of groundwater contamination. As a member of the community and as a representative of my community, (I) urge decision-makers to provide safety and protection not only to our community members and future generations but for our natural resources as well.



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