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Talk of the town

Basics ignored, but a new house is OK?

THIS MORNING (April 20), I watched the rerun of the April 14 (Bernalillo) County Commission meeting. They talked about the budget and the dire forecast, how departments needed to execute further cuts to their operating lines, and then about authorizing the county manager to pursue the sale of up to 11 properties and the purchase of Alvarado Square for the going-out-of-business price of $6 million.

An employee from public works talked about the price, the cost of bringing the building up to code compliance, of modernizing the infrastructure and the cost to rehabilitate the building to suit county requirements – over $23 million. It never hurts to talk – or shouldn’t – but is there really a broader vision for the county other than jumping from hot topic to hot topic and feeling good about what they’ve done?

Members of the commission hesitate to approve a master plan development concept that would bring jobs and tax revenue, but jump at the opportunity to increase taxes on non-municipal county residents by imposing illegal fees on utilities, increasing GRT for needed – but undefined – mental health programs and to fill budget deficits. And now, a dream of putting themselves in a new home during a period of dire economic news – that is what the budget says.

On the one hand, the county can’t cover basic expenses, but they can look for a new house. I found the April 15 article in the Journal (“County seeks new talks for building”) stating the county was “optimistic” about being able to time the sale of the 11 properties to meet the cash needs of the purchase for Alvarado Square.

Has anyone looked at the economic activity downtown? With the exception of Molina – health care is booming, verdad? – folks seem to be slow rolling the purchase of property except in a desperation sale – which may describe the county. I really don’t get it.



No tolerance here for sexual bullying

I WAS DISAPPOINTED at the level of juvenile vitriol toward Hillary Clinton expressed on the (April 19) political shows by the Republican candidates, led by Sens. (Ted) Cruz and (Marco) Rubio.

It appears these Cuban-Americans do not know enough of American history and culture to realize that we do not tolerate groups of boys ganging up on a girl in the schoolyard and, in the adult world, it smacks of sexual bullying. Further, real Americans like Scooby Doo.



Start school later and improve grades

RECENTLY, THERE have been debates about whether school should start later in the day.

High school students do not get enough sleep due to school starting too early in the morning. Some people will disagree and argue that it’s not school starting too early; it is students going to sleep too late. But in actuality, teens go to sleep later due to a delayed release of melatonin in the brain, not because they don’t want to go to sleep.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teens get eight-and-a-half to nine-and-a-half hours of sleep per night. However, during puberty, there are shifts in sleep-wake cycles, which means the best sleep is from 11 p.m.-8 a.m.

In order for teens to get the optimal sleep cycle, schools would have to start later. According to a recent study, those schools that have adjusted their start times have found it improved grades, attendance and car crash rates.

Teens who average fewer than seven hours of sleep per school night found that it caused sleep deprivation and impaired their ability to be alert, solve problems and retain information. In fact, 20-30 percent of high school students and 6 percent of middle school students fall asleep in school every day, according to health professionals.

If we want teens to improve test scores and pay attention, both in school and on the road, then we need to start school later. Teens will feel better, which in turn will cut down on chronic sleep loss some teens have, along with depression, obesity and some suicidal tendencies.

As a high school student, I understand what it is like to feel sleep deprived and have a hard time focusing in classes. APS has proposed a new high school schedule for 2015-2016 and will start the day early; meaning the demands of the students won’t be met. Chronic sleep loss will increase and success rate will drop.



BernCo should live within its means

BERNALILLO COUNTY – stop the continued arrogant assault on taxpayers’ pockets.

Raise sales tax because we just need more money. Raise property taxes when values are stagnant or falling. Buy a very old building for offices knowing that it will need major remodeling and significant infrastructure improvements, cost unknown. Ask the city to pay more for the jail when the city is already paying its share without regard for increasing taxes on the majority of county residents who live in the city.

Try this: cut spending, live within our means. Show some restraint and respect for the people footing the bill.



Thanks to my AFSCME family for help

MAINTAINING A HOME on a set income is a big challenge for my older friends and myself who’ve worked our entire careers and now get by on our Social Security and modest retirement income. It has always been my work ethic, in whatever I did in my life, to put in my all.

In the old days, our families lived closer and the communities were more tight-knit. When I was young, we had family responsibilities. Together, we were better able to do the heavy lifting and maintain a respected quality of life for one another.

I’m so grateful for the work my family does to help me keep up this house of mine. My home and my dogs are a big part of my life, and I want to remain here, but it’s a lot of work to maintain on my own.

This weekend, I met new members of my family. I want to recognize Albuquerque Senior Affairs, who have been a big help on spring cleaning and weatherproofing the house. Imagine my heart when a dozen members of the union arrived along with a Senior Affairs team on Saturday, and helped do all this work to get my garden and house ready for the summer.

They must’ve put up an acre of paint and hauled off a ton of trimmings from my overgrown garden. My home is full of light and looks marvelous.

The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Community Team were able to do more work in a day than I could’ve hoped to do in an entire Spring. I’m glad that the brothers and sisters of our unions are active in the communities, and upholding the traditions of family in New Mexico.

For AFSCME, it isn’t only about lifting up its own workers. They believe that we all stand up easier when everyone pitches in on the lifting and, this weekend, AFSCME put their muscle where their mouth is.

Thank you AFSCME community team.



No one is held accountable for wildlife

IN 2014, THE U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This also included a special rule that gave the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies one year to secure enough permanently protected habitat for this imperiled bird. My husband and I were skeptical about basing listing decisions on future promises.

Our skepticism was justified. WAFWA did not meet the requirement by the March 31 deadline. No, in another giveaway, the service has granted the states an extension for two years, or twice the length of the original time period.

We are extremely disappointed that the service fails to hold WAFWA, and oil and gas companies in New Mexico accountable. This decision threatens the future of the lesser prairie-chicken and sets a dangerous precedent for all endangered species.

New Mexico’s wildlife is a central part of our state’s heritage and identity, and it is so important that we protect it for future generations.


Santa Fe

How can a senator not know this?


So Rep. Martin Heinrich has apologized for his ” mistake” and repaid the government for his unauthorized – illegally claimed – personal commuting costs. That’s what they all do, except perhaps they are apologizing to themselves for getting caught.

If you think the New Mexico taxpayers are going to believe you that, after six years in Congress, you did not know that you cannot claim personal commuting costs, then you sadly underestimate us.

You are quoted as saying you will “learn” from this mistake. That is a regulation you should have learned on Day One, when you entered Congress.

I am betting that even low-level government employees know they cannot file for reimbursement of personal commuting costs. Who doesn’t know that?



Sen. Heinrich protects our NM heritage

I WANT TO thank New Mexico’s Sen. (Martin) Heinrich for standing up for the Land and Water Conservation Fund – the only federal program dedicated to the continued conservation of our public parks, forests, and critical wildlife areas.

The LWCF protects one of my favorite places – the Chama River Canyon Wilderness. I took my 10-year-old nephew rafting there last summer, and wanted him to experience the beauty of the river and the land it flows through. A passing monsoon drenched our group and turned the canyon walls into a mosaic of momentary waterfalls. At camp that night, dry and warm, we watched the star-filled sky and marveled that this pristine wilderness is just three hours from Albuquerque.

As my father taught me the love of fishing and being adventurous, I want to make sure my nephew has the same opportunities. My Latino heritage also inspires me to respect and cherish New Mexico’s centuries-old traditions of hunting, fishing, camping and gathering materials for healing and art. Essential to which is preserving and protecting public lands that is only possible through programs such as the LWCF.

Sen. Heinrich, thank you for standing up for the LWCF as it comes up for re-authorization this year, and working to protect our state’s land, water and multicultural heritage.



Put unions on a level playing field

CARL CONDIT’S defense of the prevailing wage law (“Promote higher wages with public projects,” April 16) is a fine example of our tax dollars at work. Laws that favor union labor on public construction projects add around 15 percent to the cost of each road, bridge and building.

Let’s follow the money. The government spends more of our tax dollars on each construction project because union workers get higher wages. Workers then hand over part of each paycheck to the union. This amounts to an indirect taxpayer subsidy that pays the salaries of union leaders like Condit.

Unions also kick back some of these indirect tax dollars in campaign contributions to politicians who support prevailing wage laws. Unions spent nearly $2.8 million in New Mexico’s 2013-14 election cycle.

If union members are more skilled and productive than open-shop workers, as unions claim, unionized contractors can compete for our tax dollars on a level playing field. Ending prevailing wage laws means government construction projects can pump 15 percent more dollars into the economy instead of subsidizing unions and politicians.



Academia’s critical thinking on show

IN HIS SYNDICATED column of April 16 (“Colleges’ sustainability obsession isn’t sustainable”), George Will makes the sarcastic comment regarding Stanford University’s divestment from coal stocks: “Evidently carbon from coal is more morally disquieting than carbon from petroleum.”

But Stanford has a point. The Dept. of Energy’s Energy Administration Site shows us that per million BTU – i.e., British thermal units – of energy, coal produces approximately 220 pounds of CO2, heating oil produces about 160 pounds and natural gas a little under 120 pounds. A significant amount of the heat produced by oil or gas comes from burning the hydrogen in the fuel to produce water rather than CO2. While water is also a greenhouse gas, it has a much shorter residence time in the atmosphere and is rapidly rained out.

Will’s column is otherwise a critique of so-called progressives in academia. To the extent that higher education should be about learning the skills needed for critical thinking rather than being indoctrinated, he makes a point. Then again, perhaps some of academia’s reaction to our continued dependence on fossil fuels is a result of that very critical thinking.

The Journal’s syndicated columnists sometimes spend more effort transmitting polemic and far less on reason. We have to do better.


Los Alamos

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