November 14, 2019

San Juan Haze Plan Will Cost Ratepayers

Posted on 27. Jun, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment, Uncategorized

PNM has already invested $320,000 in environmental upgrades at the San Juan Generating Station (SJGS).  This upgrade, completed in 2009, has significantly reduced pollutants and improved visibility in the region by reducing haze-causing emissions like Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) by 44 percent, Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) by 71%, particulates by 72%, and mercury by an industry leading 99%.

But, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that’s just not enough to address visibility in Federal Class I parks and wildernesses.  Notice we’re talking about visibility and nothing more. The state of New Mexico, along with PNM, developed a plan for the installation of Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) that included Selective NonCatalytic Reduction (SNCR) technology.  The SNCR will further reduce emissions at SJGS and improve regional visibility with NOx reduced by an additional 20%.  This would be a total combined NOx reduction of 73% from 2006 levels.  The SO2 will additionally be reduced by 20%.  The State Implementation Plan (SIP) is estimated to cost $77 million or approximately $11 per household.

The EPA designed a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology plan that would cost from $870 million to $1.0 billion dollars to install, or approximately $85 per household with very little increase in reduction.  With computer generated modeling of how the two systems (the state’s recommended SNCR and the EPA’s recommended SCR technology) would affect visibility in the area, the unaided eye can detect no difference! The SIP was unanimously approved by the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) on 6/3/2011 after two days of hearings in Santa Fe and Farmington.

It’s important to consider also that the San Juan Generating Station and the San Juan   Coal Mine that supplies its fuel are major employers in the Four Corners region and contribute to the economic health of the region and the state.  Some of the facts:

●  SJGS employs 394 full-time workers, 20% of whom are Native American

●  The San Juan mine employs 526 people, of whom 46% are Native American

●  The plant pays millions of dollars a year in government taxes, including $54.8 million in coal royalties and taxes paid to governments and tribes and $6.4 million paid to in property tax to San Juan County.

●  San Juan also purchases about $30 million in materials and supplies each year and holds approximately $122 million in contracts for outside services. The plant pays $280 million each year for coal and ash removal.

The final decision lies with the EPA, and it will rule no later than August 2011 on which BART must be installed at San Juan Generating Station.  It can decide to allow New Mexico’s SIP for the installation of SNCR technology or require the installation of SCR equipment as developed in its own BART plan.

The cost of either retrofit will be an incremental cost to the state and its citizens. When utility rates increase, the costs of all services and goods produced in the state will also increase. The SCR technology provides an insignificant difference in visibility over the SNCR, but the cost difference is about 12 times higher. Average New Mexicans simply cannot afford the EPA’s recommended SCR technology. The NMUSA believes the state’s SIP plan for installation of SNCR technology at SJGS on is the best alternative and supports this plan as a more cost effective method of addressing the regional haze regulations.

NMUSA encourages you to write to EPA representatives and members of Congress expressing your view on the pending decision.  Contact information is as follows:

Ms. Janet McCabeDeputy Assistant Administrator 

US Environmental Protection Division

Ariel Rios Building

1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC  20460

 

Mr. Al Armendariz

Regional Administrator

EPA Region 6

1445 Ross Avenue Suite 1200

Dallas, Texas  75202

 

Senator Tom Udall

219 Central Ave NW Suite 210

Albuquerque, NM 87102

 

Senator Jeff Bingaman

625 Silver Avenue SW Suite 130

Albuquerque, NM 87102

 

Congressman Martin Heinrich

505 Marquette Ave NW Suite 1605

Albuquerque, NM 87102

 

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan

3200 Civic Center NE Suite 330

Rio Rancho, NM 87144

 

Congressman Steve Pearce

570 N Telshor Blvd

Las Cruces, NM 88011

 

Carla Sonntag is Head of Governmental Relations for the New Mexico Business Coalition. She can be reached at govrelations@msn.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Mexico Real Estate Market Still Sliding

Posted on 26. Jun, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

The number of reported home sales in New Mexico during May 2011 is less than May 2010 numbers (by nearly 20%), but is 3.5% higher than the number of sales reported in May 2009.  Year to date numbers for January through May 2011 show the same trends – lower than year-to-date 2010; higher than year-to-date 2009. There were 1,158 sales reported to the REALTORS Association of New Mexico (RANM) during May 2011.  1,098 sales were reported in April 2011.  Half the reporting counties showed an increase in numbers comparing April to May and half showed a decrease.

While the May 2011 median price of $167,000 is just over 1% higher than the April 2011 median, it is lower than both the May 2009 and May 2010 median.  The median is where half of the properties sold for more and half sold for less.  According to Teresa Ramos, 2011 RANM President, “Prices have been weakening in recent months because of lower demand in relation to supply and because of tight lending.  ‘The cliché says that there has never been a better time to buy.  The hard data in the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS’ (NAR) housing affordability index confirms that.”  The affordability index, which takes into account median income, median home price, and mortgage rates, has been bouncing around in the 180 to 200 range since the beginning of this year – the highest reading since the index was first used in 1971.

M. Steven Anaya, Executive Vice President of RANM, says “The summer months traditionally are the most robust time of the year for home sales.  New Mexico sales and prices, while still fluctuating market by market, are beginning to level out and we are not seeing the wild swings experienced over the past year.  Continued low interest rates will help maintain sales numbers in the upcoming months.”  The trends and numbers reported are only a snapshot of market activity.  If you are interested in buying or selling, consult a REALTOR familiar with your market area; he/she can provide information on specific trends in your neighborhood.

Statistical information and trends are based on information furnished by New Mexico Member Boards and MLSs to U. S. House Stats.  Current reporting participants are: Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS, Las Cruces Association of REALTORS MLIS, New Mexico Multi-Board MLS (Artesia, Carlsbad, Clovis/Portales, Deming, Gallup, Grants, Hobbs, Las Vegas, Sierra County areas), Otero County Board of REALTORS, Roswell Association of REALTORS, Ruidoso/Lincoln County Association of REALTORS, Santa Fe Association of REALTORS, San Juan County Board of REALTORS, Silver City Regional Association of REALTORS, and the Taos Association of REALTORS. Reports represent single family residential data only.  Information does not necessarily represent all activity in any market/county.  Figures based on reports run 6/20/11.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

The REALTORS Association of New Mexico is one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing over 5,500 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate market.

 

Why We Need a Manufacturing Renaissance – Economically and Ethically

Posted on 21. Jun, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

Anyone deeply concerned about the current almost unprecedented real unemployment rate of more than 18% and about the ongoing jobless recovery must first focus on resuscitating our depleted manufacturing sector.  Especially given the current political mood in Washington concerning new federal expenditures, this focus will necessarily require the Obama administration to seriously rethink its approach to trade, particularly toward China.  There are many economic imperatives behind this conclusion.  At the same time, the ethical imperative for (again) having a robust manufacturing sector is central to our national well-being.  Yet just as the economic imperatives are often overlooked, so is the ethical imperative very often dismissed out of insensitivity or otherwise put aside in deference to our culture of greed.  Structurally speaking, no economy as large, complex and geographically far-flung as ours can prosper over the long term with less than 20-25% of its workers being in manufacturing and without the sector contributing a similar percentage of GDP.  Yet as it is, only around 9% of Americans now work in manufacturing, and as a percent of our GDP, the sector provides just 11% of the total.

The proof of this conclusion is found in history, starting with the forty years leading up to the Second World War, when the percent of U.S. employment in manufacturing was a fairly consistent 30% or so, and followed by the three decades thereafter, when, despite the introduction of new service sector jobs as post-War manufacturing incomes rose, such percent still consistently hovered at around 25%.  These seventy years of robust manufacturing were – it’s no coincidence – generally robust years for the middle class as well, hallmarked by wide-scale new home construction and new car ownership, quality public school education for the nation’s youth, and fair salaries with relatively little income inequality.

Beginning in the early 1980s, however, five Presidents in a row have actively in some cases or passively in others presided over a dramatic decline in the number of workers in our manufacturing sector.  Today only nine out of every hundred American workers earn their living in manufacturing.  So it is – again no coincidence – that in the last twenty years, wages for 90% of our workers have been stagnant, we have more income inequality than ever before, and we buy from overseas $260 billion more manufactured goods than we export.

America’s trade imbalance alone is now so great that, as the economist Peter Morici of the University of Maryland has calculated, the U.S. economy, measured over just the last ten years, is a staggering $1.5 trillion smaller than it would have been otherwise.  As Morici has written, so long as imports to the U.S. of manufactured goods substantially exceed our exports of such products, Americans “must consume much more than the incomes they earn producing goods and services, otherwise the demand for what they make is inadequate to clear the shelves, inventories pile up, layoffs result, and the economy goes into recession.”

Nineteen members of the G-20 have very precise national manufacturing & industrial policies – call them what you will – which in each case has the support of all branches of government and the big business community.  America alone does not.  And among these nineteen countries, Germany, Japan and China most stand out for comparison with the U.S. because they are the countries that every day are excelling in global trade while we are losing out.

Germany, with 22% of its employees working in manufacturing and 25% of its GDP coming from the sector, is renowned for understanding the unique role that government must play in a globalized market economy; for encouraging strong partnerships between labor unions and business; and for balancing its foreign trade by essentially demanding that each shipload of imports scheduled to come into Germany have a corresponding shipload of German exports scheduled to leave the country.  The result of all of this, as David Leonhardt of the New York Times has written (6-07-11), is that the German economy consistently grew faster than ours since the middle of the last decade and it recovered much more quickly from the financial crisis of 2007.

In contrast with Germany’s rules-based industrial policy, much has been written about how China has gained unfair trade advantages through its lack of meaningful environmental and labor standards, currency manipulation and other subsidies, highly restrictive limitations on foreign goods purchases, and demands that countries seeking to do business in China first make massive transfers to it of their intellectual property.  These actions and practices of China under its industrial policy – albeit very often illegal – have, nonetheless, been highly effective: China just a year ago passed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy and passed Germany to become the world’s biggest exporter, and as early as 2030, it will likely pass the U.S. to become the world’s biggest economy.

By not having our own manufacturing & industrial policy and by persisting with corporate tax policies that are in conflict with the objective of having a robust domestic manufacturing sector, between 1998 and 2010 we lost approximately six million manufacturing jobs overseas, with more than two million of these occurring from 2007-2009.  In just the years between 2002 and 2006, China added 11 million manufacturing jobs to its rolls, which are as many manufacturing jobs as we now have left in total in America.

Even the Obama administration, despite countless promises to the contrary during the ’08 campaign, quickly fell into the “a job is a job” fallacy while at the same time it’s failed to hold China responsible for its illegal trade practices.  Just six months after the Inauguration, on June 19, 2009, Larry Summers, the administration’s Director of the National Economic Council, said that to make up for the millions of offshored manufacturing jobs, all we need to do as a nation is focus on exporting “computer software, movies, university degrees and management consulting and legal services.”  This is an absurd conclusion – and unachievable by any measure – yet it has seemingly informed the Obama administration’s jobs policy since day one.  And as for its failure to move against China, the Obama administration, despite professing to recognize the need to address unbalanced trade and rebuild U.S. exports, has in practice done little more than hope quixotically that a combination of green energy efforts, ever more services and new free trade agreements will magically revitalize American exports.

And then the administration wonders why workers and voters in towns like Flint, Dayton, Wichita and Buffalo are having conniption fits.  In sum, America, with just 9% or so of its employees working in manufacturing, suffers economically in multiple ways when it competes against large-scale trading partners which, percent-wise, have multiples more workers in the sector.  We suffer in the magnitude of our trade deficit, the progressiveness of our average wage, the extent of income inequality, the amount of our federal indebtedness, and the pressures put on our nation’s state and municipal budgets.  But every bit as critical as the economic imperatives for having a manufacturing & industrial policy of our own is the ethical imperative.

Exceeded only by the responsibility to defend itself, a nation must seek to create an economic environment that give its workers employment opportunities that provide fair compensation, safe working conditions and an absence of discrimination and are compatible with their skills and capabilities.  Taking these objectives in order, for at least the last twenty years the average wage of 90% of America’s workers has been stagnant, which means we are clearly failing this obligation.  As for safe working conditions, we should be pleased where we are generally, excepting only in coal mining.  And as for non-discrimination in hiring, going all the way back to the Kennedy-Johnson era we can generally be proud of what we’ve accomplished as a nation, excepting only fair employment of the LGBT community.

Where I would contend we are truly falling down in major way on a nation-wide level is in not better reacting to the other form of discrimination plaguing the American workforce, which is the decades-long elimination of millions of manufacturing jobs that would better meet the skills and capabilities of workers who have instead been shoved into low-skill, low-reward service jobs.  Last year in a moving and sobering documentary produced by HBO called “The Last Truck”, we watched the shutting down of a General Motors truck plant in Dayton, Ohio.  When the last light in the plant was shut off, which is literally how the film ended, thousands of highly-skilled manufacturing jobs were eliminated – jobs which had provided fair wages and benefits, matched well individual skills with job requirements, and instilled a sense of camaraderie throughout the community.  Let me elaborate.

Individual dignity and national interest align on the desire to reduce economic inequality and in matching education and skill sets to jobs.  And communities and a nation are in trouble when people feel they are being left behind.  But right now in America, unless you are in the top 10% of the national economy, this feeling is becoming all too common. There are many proven predictors of performance in all occupations.  For example, we know that the aptitude required to be successful as a professional or technical worker is much higher on average than the aptitude of the average unskilled worker.  We also know that the aptitude required to be a successful skilled manufacturing worker or craftsman is much higher on average than the aptitude of the average semi-skilled or standard service worker.  While one needs to be extremely sensitive and careful when trying to correlate jobs with aptitude, three conclusions can be drawn:

·  First, it is irresponsible to tolerate a national employment picture that, according to a recent Pew Research study, has 40% of Americans reporting that they have more qualifications than their job requires.

· Second, it is irresponsible to tolerate a national employment picture that has room for only 9% of workers to be employed in skilled manufacturing, since by inference this means that millions of American workers have been and will continue to be shoved down into service jobs far below their aptitudes and capabilities, with all the attendant frustrations and unwarranted lower standards of living which this carries with it.

· Third, it is irresponsible to have as a stated national goal seeing every high school graduate in turn graduate from college, which is both unachievable in fact and cruel in the false expectations it engenders in young people whose long-term employment would be better found as skilled workers and craftsmen.  A college degree is not the only path to success, especially a degree from a college with low admission standards and given the reality that among high school students who graduate in the bottom 40% of their classes, two-thirds will still not have earned diplomas eight and a half years later (Office of Texas Workforce Commission, 5-26-11).

America’s economy, social cohesion and dignity, and Americans’ optimism – in short, America’s traditional strength – all rest on a thriving middle class which in turn rests on a thriving manufacturing sector.  We have benignly and actively neglected this sector for far too long, and regardless of who wins the 2012 election, we need to focus on these manufacturing, trade and education-related issues if we want to have a healthy, vibrant, ethically sound nation moving forward.  Today millions of American workers are suffering otherwise.  Tomorrow, the very idea of America will suffer.

Leo Hindery, Jr. is Chairman of the US Economy/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Currently an investor in media companies, he is the former CEO of Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI), Liberty Media and their successor AT&T Broadband. He also serves on the Board of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put Jobs and the Economy first

Posted on 19. Jun, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

Last week’s New York Times announcement: “Sen. Cornyn’s Amendment Would Pre-empt Listing of Southwestern Lizard,” has received little attention as the media has been more focused on Congressman Weiner—but this is big news, too. For those in Southeast New Mexico and West Texas who’ve been working to draw attention to a little lizard with the potential to kill jobs and hurt the region’s economy, Senator Cornyn’s (TX) actions represent a giant step toward rational thinking.

For the past few months, since around Christmas time last year the Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposed listing of the sand dune lizard as an endangered species, Permian Basin residents have been up in arms about the potential economic damage the listing could have on the area’s two major sources of jobs and revenue: ranching and oil and gas development. The feared impact would be especially hard hitting in the current fiscal crisis and could increase the price of gas as the Permian Basin accounts for about 20 percent of our domestic production.

In late April, citizen rallies were held in conjunction with Fish and Wildlife Service hearings in Roswell, New Mexico and Midland, Texas. Spearheaded by Congressmen Pearce (NM) and Conaway (TX), hundreds of people showed up in each city to express opposition to the lizard being listed as an endangered species. Fox News and ABC did several stories spotlighting the rallies and hearings. Texas Governor Rick Perry talked about the lizard listing on Sean Hannity’s radio program.

The unprecedented attention the little lizard is receiving is representative of both the economic uncertainty and historic fact. Previously, critters such as the spotted owl or the delta smelt have been listed as an endangered species with no fanfare. Pushed by environmental groups, studies were done and decisions were made declaring them as “endangered,” which creates regulations limiting activity that might hurt the habitat. As a result of the spotted owl’s endangered status, the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest is all but gone. Central California’s delta smelt gained recognition in 2010 when it was used as a bargaining chip in the healthcare debate. Meanwhile, water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley—who produce 50 percent of America’s fruits and vegetables—was severely restricted. Fertile farmlands became dustbowls and thousands of jobs were lost as a result of the delta smelt’s endangered status. The handwriting is on the wall for those whose jobs depend on economic health in the Permian Basin.

The grassroots response has created a political environment that made Senator Cornyn’s actions possible.

The New York Times states, “Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn has filed an amendment to stop the Fish and Wildlife Service from offering Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection to a 3-inch lizard, saying the agency’s action would cripple the oil and gas industry in West Texas.” The amendment to the Economic Development Administration Authorization Bill (S782) specifically exempts the sand dune lizard from the Endangered Species Act. While Senator Cornyn’s comments about the potential impact of the lizard listing only address Texas, the same could be said for New Mexico. It is doubtful that Cornyn would have taken such a stand two years ago, but now the public has become aware of the danger these ESA listings pose to jobs and the economy. They have fought hard and have garnered the attention of the senator.

Environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians, are behind many of the ESA listings. According to research conducted by the Budd-Falen law firm of Cheyenne, WY , from 2000 to 2009, just nine environmental groups, including WildEarth Guardians, filed 3,313 cases against the federal government for “enforcement” of environmental statutes.

About the lizard, Center for Biological Diversity ecologist Jay Lininger says: “Oil and gas activity and their associated roads and infrastructure—as well as ranching activities—that convert habitat to grasslands, destroy places where the animal can live, and it really has nowhere else to go.” Yet, he also claims that the lizard listing will not “affect the oil and gas economy whatsoever.” John Horning, from WildEarth Guardians states: “The lizards don’t have a problem with pumpjacks.” So, oil and gas—plus ranching—is the problem, yet, it isn’t? Senator Cornyn’s amendment brings the job-killing economic impact of endangered species listings to the forefront. The Senate is expected to vote on the amendment this week. An attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity thinks: “It is highly unlikely Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will allow a vote on the amendment.” Public pressure prompted Cornyn’s amendment in the first place. We the people can encourage our senators to support the Cornyn Amendment (397) “to prohibit inclusion of the sand dune lizard on the list of threatened species or the endangered species published under the endangered species act of 1973.” It is time to put the needs of America’s citizens—jobs and the economy—first.

Marita Noon is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy. www.EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.

War on Drugs Turns 40

Posted on 17. Jun, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

Some anniversaries provide an occasion for celebration or reflection, others a time for action.  Today marks forty years since President Richard Nixon, citing drug abuse as “public enemy No. 1”, officially declared a “war on drugs.” A trillion dollars and millions of ruined lives later, the war on drugs remains a miserable failure.

The Land of Enchantment has not been spared.  Local headlines tell us that the war on drugs continues to threaten New Mexicans’ health and safety:

“Friend Abandons Toddler After Mom Overdoses”

“New Mexico Family Loses Relative to Juarez Violence”

“Overdose Deaths Among People Under 21 Increasing”

“Medicaid Axes Inpatient Program for Drug-addicted Mothers”

“Martinez Has High Hopes for Repeal of Medical Marijuana”

On this anniversary, it’s time to reflect on why New Mexico’s overdose death rate has increased 150% in the last 4 years; why the state is spending upwards of 22 million dollars each year to incarcerate nonviolent drug possession offenders; and, why we are incarcerating our mothers because of their addictions who then leave behind hundreds of babies and young children.  It’s time to admit that the war on drugs is a failure and agree to turn instead to dealing with drugs as a public health problem. Wouldn’t it be better to spend the money on clinics that might treat illnesses instead of on locking up nonviolent people?

We know a lot more things than we did 40 years ago, and it’s time to revise our strategies for combating drug misuse based on that knowledge.  We know that 4 out of 5 drug arrests are for possession only, mostly for marijuana. We know that the average cost of putting someone behind bars is about $30,000 a year, whereas the average cost of treating them is about $3,000.  And we know that most communities in New Mexico lack access to quality drug treatment.

So let’s celebrate this anniversary by crafting a new drug strategy for the 21st century.  A strategy designed to get us to a place where politics no longer trumps science, compassion, common sense, and fiscal prudence in dealing with illegal drugs. A place when marijuana legalization is no longer a question of whether but when and how. A place when people are not more likely to be arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated for violating drug laws because of their ethnicity and culture.  And a time where reducing over-incarceration is broadly embraced as a moral necessity.

Let’s work with legislators who dare to raise these important questions. Let’s organize public forums and online communities where New Mexicans can take action, enlist unprecedented numbers of powerful and distinguished individuals to voice their dissent publicly, and advocate for policies that focus less on obtaining convictions and more on preventing addictions.

Let’s transform this anniversary into a year of action.

Emily Kaltenbach is the New Mexico state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. She can be reached at ekaltenbach@drugpolicy.org

Welcome to the neighborhood: Sandia Tea Party

Posted on 16. Jun, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

A new Tea Party Group is being formed in the East Mountains. Christened the “Sandia Tea Party” by its founders, the group’s initial goals will be to promote voter education and conservative causes in the heretofore untouched area bordered by Cedar Crest/Tijeras in the West and Moriarty in the East.

Sandia Tea Party has already had an election of officers and filed documents for incorporation with the state of New Mexico.  Richard Loomis, a local radio personality, has been elected as the group’s temporary chairman. In a recent interview he stated that the group will adhere to national Tea Party principles.  Sandia Tea Party has already received support from members of the Albuquerque Tea Party and pledges to assist other like-minded organizations in areas where their interests coincide.

For those readers who have not recently opened an American History book, or done research into its activities, the current tea party movement patterns itself after those Boston patriots who took direct action against the taxation policies of the British Government and the British East India Company.  The East India Company had a virtual monopoly on all tea being sold in the colonies. The company was in the process of having three ships, anchored in Boston Harbor, prepare to return to England with their cargo of tea not having been unloaded. Harbor officials in Boston refused to process the cargo, as a form of protest against a tea tax that had been levied by the English Parliament. The colonists were not objecting the actual tax as much as the fact that the colonies had no representation in Parliament. Finally, shortly before the ships were to set sail, a group of colonists boarded the ships and threw the tea into the harbor. While others had used it 0ne of the key slogans of the day became “No taxation without representation!” The  December 16th,1773 incident remains an important event in the history of our country. This action predates the actual American Revolution by two years and reflects how a governmental “abuse of power” can bring around a major change in power.

Tea Party members, believing there have been many abuses of power by the present and recent twentieth century American governments, identify with the earlier patriots like Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Ben Franklin. These patriots were the ones who sacrificed much to give us the Constitution and our way of life.  Tea Party members believe that much has been given to us, as citizens.  Now it is up to us to focus on our Constitution and insure that it remains intact, and not violated by the sophomoric classroom theories of long dead nineteenth century European socialists.  We believe that our representatives in Washington, as well as Santa Fe, must be constantly monitored to insure they are doing the will of the people and we have the “representation” for which we elected them

Now, down to business.  Just what is the tea party?  I find that the best description is that it is a group of concerned patriotic Americans who promote a strict reliance on the Constitution, with no strict allegiance to any political party. The movement has no political candidates or incumbents. Instead, the Tea Party monitors our elected representatives  and actively supports those who pursue political issues consistent with the Constitution, whatever the party.  While the Constitution is the document that brings all Americans together, the Tea Party makes us stronger.

In line with its goals of promoting voter education,  it should be noted that while the Tea Party caters to persons who support Conservative issues, they do not endorse any specific party. If you happen to be a member of a political party and support the U.S. Constitution, You are welcome to attend and participate in our meetings. Over the next few months you may expect to hear from speakers from many political venues. If you are a representative of the people and have a message on relative issues, you may wish to consider auditioning for our speakers pool.

Some Sandia Tea Party Goals.

If one sentence were to summarize our basic philosophy, it would be the Sandia Tea Party wants to protect the Constitution and our American Way of Life.

The Party wants to unite citizens from all political venues, who profess to be conservative.

We want to promote voter education and registration.

We welcome all citizens regardless of race, creed, religion, or political affiliation, as long as they support the Constitution.

Without endorsing any political faction, we want to identify political figures whose personal conduct reflect high ethical standards and are against further government encroachment in our daily lives.

We want to maintain regular communication with elected representatives to insure they are aware of the wants and needs of their constituents.

While not part of any official agenda, It might be a good time to also look at the following local issues:

1.  Holding governmental leaders accountable for their failure to do anything about the energy crisis. For example, Senator Bingaman is in charge of the senate energy committee,  yet what, if anything, has he done? Why are foreign countries allowed to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, while U.S. companies cannot?  What about drilling in so-called easily-accessable “protected areas” like Otero Mesa.  For those politicians who are not aware of it, we do have energy problems!

2.  What about the seemingly “Get Out of Jail Free” attitude of the courts in our state,  as regards Drunken drivers.  How many more people have to die because of inaction  by our state’s judiciary.  Is it not time to treat repeat drunken drivers, as felons?

3.  Training persons to man and staff voting registrar booths at community events. Providing poll watchers to monitor activities at polling stations to lesson the posibilities of fraudulent voting.

The Sandia tea Party is proud to announce that Jon Barela, the Governor’s  secretary designate  for economic development, has accepted our invitation to speak at the organization’s first general assembly (open meeting). He will present the Governor’s economic plan on June 12th at 3:00PM at the Vista Grande Community Center, next to East Mountain High School in Cedar Crest. If you want to see how the administration plans to implement its new economic plan, don’t miss this event! See how Mr. Barela responds to “We the People.” If you have questions, want to help support, or join our organization, please remain after the meeting on the 12th and  a member will assist you.  Our new website will be operational in approximately two weeks.

Bob Steiner, a Tea Party Supporter in Edgewood

(Editor: We received this editorial after the actual event took place. Those interested in learning more are advised to contact Mr. Steiner at steiner123@q.com)

The “Debt Ceiling” versus “Jobs Creation” Debate: Not the Time for a Mistake

Posted on 11. Jun, 2011 by Administrator in Economy

A U.S. Senator friend of mine suggested that the ongoing ‘Debt Ceiling’ versus ‘Jobs Creation’ battle underway in Congress – that began in spades within hours of the polls closing last November – can be best understood if you envision Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Paul Ryan sitting on a settee – think of the opening scene from the movie “Animal House” – and President Obama sitting in a chair opposite.  McConnell/Boehner/Ryan are the nation’s “Budget Cutters” and the President is the “Jobs Creator”.  The ‘Rs’ invite the President to slide his chair forward in their direction, and in a spirit of reconciliation he does so – again and again and again….  Of course, throughout this ‘negotiation’ the Republicans haven’t moved an inch and only a de minimis number of jobs have been created.

This one-way negotiation has to cease – it should never have started – yet each side’s core objective is imperative and appropriate. It’s indisputable on the one hand that as Gretchen Morgenson has written, the “U.S. Has Binged [and] Soon It’ll Be Time to Pay the Tab” (NY Times, 5-28-11).  Ms. Morgenson writes compellingly of a new report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics which states plainly that “government debt will grow to dangerous and unsustainable levels in most advanced and many emerging economies over the next 25 years – if there are no changes in current tax rates or government benefit programs in retirement and health care.”

Without a long-term plan to reduce fiscal deficits in the future, our nation’s “net federal deficit” (i.e., the government’s financial liabilities minus its financial assets), which is now at 65% of gross domestic product, is forecasted, under a best case outlook, to rise to 155% by 2035 and, under a more pessimistic view, to 302%.  This is despite the fact that “debt ratios of around 200% of GDP are at the extreme limit of what advanced economies can experience without becoming destabilized.”

And what would this “destabilization” mean for the United States?  According to the authors, it would mean the combination of “a drift into ever-higher inflation and interest rates, ever-lower growth or deeper recession, and eventually hyperinflation along with rapid currency depreciation.”

So, address the debt crisis we must.

However, given that we are today so obviously mired in a jobless-recovery with a “Jobs Gap” at the end of May of 21.3 million jobs before we are back to full employment in real terms and given that the two most impactful immediate drivers of the U.S. economy – the housing market and oil prices – offer little in the way of near-term recovery, now is not the time to adopt blanket fiscal austerity that throws babies out with the bathwater.  The unprecedented massive overhang of foreclosures and vacancies has driven home values back to 2002 levels, and now that this latest massive Wall Street-made bubble has burst, any real recovery in employment will be obstructed for years to come.  In turn, oil prices, which are fully 40% higher than a year ago and putting untold pressure on auto-dependent workers, are unlikely to materially decline any time soon. We have no choice but to act, and we’re running out of time.  Our political leaders must figure out how to create jobs and cut our deficit simultaneously.

Even Christina Romer, who headed President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors until late last year and whose finger prints, along with those of Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, are all over the grossly undersized and misdirected early 2009 stimulus plan, said recently in a speech that “no part of the government [today] is addressing unemployment with sufficient urgency or hope” (NY Times, 6-02-11).  Since it was Ms. Romer and the President who said that with the stimulus plan in place the official unemployment rate would never get above 8%, it is more than sobering today, when real unemployment is a staggering 18.2%, to hear her excoriate her own plan.

But as we can’t abandon job creation, we also can’t allow attacking the deficit to ever become a mauling of the middle class and a further enrichment of the extremely wealthy, which is what many of the recommendations of the Republicans in Congress and some of Mr. Obama’s own Deficit Commission would trigger. To find the proper balance between “deficit cutters” and “job creators”, the White House and Congress first need to abandon the three false economic premises that now dominate the thinking of too many in Washington.  These unsupportable premises are that:

  • Near-term large-scale job creation and long-term deficit cutting are somehow mutually exclusive.  In fact, jobs-based stimulus, because of the large multiplier effect of high-quality job creation, is a much more responsible and effective way to reduce the deficit than is slashing spending for slashing’s sake.
  • The income inequality that is increasingly defining our economy and society – now the most extreme ever  – can continue without destroying our long-term economic growth and the vibrancy of our society.  In fact, even though a vibrant American middle class growing from the bottom up has always been the very best thing for America, we are now living in a nation where the top 1% of American earners make about 25% of the nation’s pretax income and enjoy much lower tax rates than ever before.
  • The very small-government agenda of the “cutters” is somehow compatible with our being the world’s largest economy, our global defense responsibilities, and our large population and its mature demographics.  In fact, this agenda is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing, with its inevitable result being even more wealth transfer to the already extremely wealthy, by eviscerating Social Security and Medicare and from sharp reductions in the top marginal individual tax rate and the corporate tax rate.

Once everyone is back on a level intellectual playing field, where honest premises trump false ones, and the commonly agreed objective of negotiators on both sides is to responsibly cut the budget in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, meaningful job creation initiatives, and equitable tax reform, it’s important for the Obama White House, the ‘Biden Group’ and Democrats on Capitol Hill to stand firm for a deal that meets the demands of the middle class, who, by a margin of two-to-one, favor aggressive jobs initiatives over a long-term deficit reduction program.

What is concluded in this deficit/jobs negotiation and in the intimately related negotiations over the FY 2012 budget will set the course of the 2012 elections.  If the Obama administration’s negotiators and their allies on Capitol Hill conclude a deal consistent with the goals Candidate Obama laid out in ‘08, ideally there should be four winners and at least three losers.  However, if these ideal winners and losers are somehow juxtaposed, then the fabric of our society will be further torn asunder and our leadership position in the global economy further eroded.

The WINNERS of the upcoming deficit-versus-jobs debate and resultant deal must be:

  • The unemployed, plagued as they are by a real unemployment rate of 18.2% – which is exactly twice the “official” rate reported by the BLS of 9.1% – and by the damage from an ever declining manufacturing sector.
  • Middle class workers, who, on average, have experienced in real terms stagnant wages for the past twenty years.
  • Retired workers and the sick and elderly, whose Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are now under constant attack by the Republicans in Congress.
  • Deficit hawks, who are entitled to see inefficiencies in government spending eliminated and unwarranted tax breaks for big oil companies, tax breaks for millionaires, and carried interest taxation of money managers done away with.

The LOSERS should in turn be:

  • Any individual, multinational corporation and oil company that’s been sucking off the teat of unfair, inequitable and non-progressive tax code provisions.
  • The so-called “Ryan Budget”, which more cruelly than any House-passed federal budget in memory would, with its focus on slashing social programs across the board and the social safety net of the country writ large, gut every progressive principle upon which our nation was founded.  The Ryan Budget’s devotion to preserving the discredited “trickle down” philosophy of the Reagan administration and every Republican president and Congress since is simply obscene.
  • The six recommendations of President Obama’s own “Deficit Commission”, which, if ever embraced, would constitute their own mauling of the middle class.  Ranging from raising the Social Security retirement age to 69 (when life expectancy for the bottom half of the income distribution hasn’t budged for 30 years) to eliminating deductions of health benefits and interest on certain home mortgages to blindly cutting the federal workforce by 10% by 2015 (without carefully taking into account whether important functions would be disrupted), these recommendations, without once talking about cutting the myriad tax and economic advantages now going to the wealthiest individuals and multinational corporations, are the height of irresponsibility, and little more than the “Ryan Budget” wrapped up in different bunting.

The esteemed Paul Krugman wrote last week (NY Times, 5-29-11) that: “Inventing reasons not to put the unemployed back to work is neither wise nor responsible – it is, instead, a grotesque abdication of responsibility.  And those of us who know better should be doing all we can to break that vicious circle.”

With an unprecedented Jobs Gap at the end of May of 21.3 million jobs, and with responsible solutions in hand for both the budget cutters and the job creators if we would only embrace them, Mr. Krugman couldn’t be more right.

Leo Hindery, Jr. is Chairman of the US Economy/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  Currently an investor in media companies, he is the former CEO of Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI), Liberty Media and their successor AT&T Broadband.  He also serves on the Board of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

Is the Pickens Plan wrong once again?

Posted on 10. Jun, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

He’s baaaack. T. Boone Pickens. In 2008, his “Pickens Plan” sounded like the solution to our energy problems and would have filled the Midwest with wind farms—backed up with natural gas-fueled power plants. At the time of his self-promoted plan, the price of natural gas peaked. He likely did quite well with his natural gas investments. He went away, and his idea of farms filled with wind turbines was forgotten.

But he’s back with a new spin: television ads and media appearances promoting, once again, natural gas use—this time in America’s fleet of trucks. With high prices at the pump and Middle East unrest, the 2011 Pickens Plan sounds good. Using natural gas for transportation fuel is, as the Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVA) ad posted on his website states: “clean, less expensive, and right here.” It seems hard to argue with and dozens of congressmen have signed on to the plan known as the NAT GAS Act (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions) or HR 1380.

There are many pluses to his plan. Natural gas is good. Natural gas is American. Natural gas is comparatively cheap. Pickens deserves some credit. He is willing to take a bold step and make our dependence on foreign oil part of the national debate. Replacing foreign oil with American natural gas as a transportation fuel may be a good idea. Even benefiting personally from his own idea is laudable and is the foundation of capitalism and innovation.

Pickens’ new plan might be a good idea if, as a country, we were still “living large,” as we thought we were in the nineties. Then, we could maybe afford to give a billionaire his next billion. But now, in the middle of the worst economic crisis most Americans have ever seen is not the time to be adding to the deficit by giving away more subsidies to fix a system that is not broken.

If the idea of converting diesel trucks to natural gas and installing new fueling stations along the interstates is so viable, Pickens should be courting private industry such as Mac and Kenworth. He should be working with the network of truck-stop owners and trucking companies. Instead he is tempting Congress with what appears to be a juicy apple. Sadly, with subsidies for wind energy, solar power, and ethanol, the playing field is not level—a true visionary cannot compete as government deals favors for its friends (like Jeffery Immelt and GE).

The NAT GAS Act takes advantage of high oil prices with natural gas, low. With the exception of a blip during Pickens’ last plan promotion, the decline in natural gas prices tracks the discovery of new shale gas reserves made available through a process known as “fracking”—supply is now higher than demand. However, if a switch to natural gas vehicles was forced to take place, suddenly more would be used. At the same time, environmental groups want to stop the use of hydraulic fracturing, which would cut future supply. Rather than coal, the carbon-crazed culture supports natural gas-fueled electricity generation. The low-cost benefit could easily disappear as use increases.

While natural gas uses and costs could climb—we do have lots of it. If exploration was encouraged, we may well have even more. Recently, Germany announced plans to shut down their nuclear plants and replace them with natural gas. Their natural gas use will go up—but they have very little. Most of Europe’s natural gas comes from Russia—which wields the supply like a weapon. Shale gas discoveries in Poland and the Ukraine have lowered prices. In an effort to maintain control of the market, Russia’s Gazprom is in support of France’s recent ban on hydraulic fracturing.

A potential EU-wide ban on fracking, coupled with rising demand for natural gas, could tighten the global market for something America has in abundance. Instead of replacing foreign oil with American natural gas and borrowing more money for new subsidies, we should limit our exposure to price volatility and lower transportation costs by encouraging exploration and extraction of our own oil. Natural gas is great for the generation of electricity and a growing population requires more energy. America’s, Europe’s, China’s and India’s needs will expand. If natural gas-powered vehicles can survive in an open market—fabulous! But let’s not borrow trouble by forcing ideas that don’t naturally work. Instead, let’s take a step to solve our economic crisis and sell something we have that everyone else wants. America could be baaack—on solid ground, with news jobs and foreign money pouring in to purchase our natural gas!

Marita Noon is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

Green Building Council pushes to maintain 2009 NMECC (New Mexico Energy Conservation Code)

Posted on 06. Jun, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

The US Green Building Council New Mexico Chapter strongly urges the CIC to maintain the 2009 New Mexico Energy Conservation Code. The 2009 IECC is a template, intended to be used as a base for the creation of a locally appropriate code. For this reason, CIC undertook a two-year open, democratic process to develop a code that works for New Mexico.  A diverse group of professionals from around the state volunteered their time, analyzing the template in an open process of comment and revision. Their discussion, negotiation and compromise developed the current New Mexico Energy Conservation Code, a regional overlay for the template that responds to the specific climate and building techniques unique to our state. Reverting to the 2009 IECC template does not make sense for New Mexico.

Fear of challenging economic circumstances should also not be the basis to retreat from the New Mexico-specific energy saving code. The New Mexico Energy Conservation Code offers opportunity for our communities to lead by example. The long term benefits include reduced building operating costs and cleaner, more comfortable, indoor environments for building occupants. These benefits accrue to our entire community: our natural environment, our children, our families, our employees, ourselves.  The financial savings help offset the pending utility rate increases and allow New Mexicans to choose how they spend their hard-earned money.

We accept the imperfections of a document generated by open and honest discussion about the effects of the code. Rather than make hasty changes behind closed doors, we urge the CIC to accept the open process for revision and improvement already embedded in the code. We challenge opponents of maintaining New Mexico’s Energy Conservation Code to identify specific technical problems and present solutions through the existing revision process.

Other regions and states are preparing to adopt more progressive codes, Maryland, California, Washington, New Jersey, Oregon, New York and Vermont. New national codes are already pushing beyond IECC 2009, to IECC 2012. . As you can see, NMECC is not the most progressive energy

conservation code and it will quickly require ongoing evaluation and updating to remain current. USGBC NM offers its expertise to provide technical assistance and to help assist small businesses develop energy models and reach code compliance. The USGBC—NM remains committed to changing the built environment within a generation – this requires building codes like the NMECC 2009, which require increased building performance and energy savings for our communities.

For more information, contact the organization at: execdirector@usgbcnm.org.

 

Waterworks Survey Conducted

Posted on 06. Jun, 2011 by Administrator in Energy/Environment

By Nancy Gordon and Kathy Whiteman — What do you know about the historic Silver City Waterworks?  Do you know where Silver City’s water comes from today? Students from Aldo Leopold High School and staff from the Gila Conservation Education Center recently conducted a phone survey to find out how many people could answer these questions. The Silver City Waterworks was established in 1887 and provided the Town’s first municipal water supply.  Located on Little Walnut Road, the stone building had rooms for the pumping equipment and a 2-story residence for the engineer.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Despite numerous studies, plans and attempts to secure large grants over the past 25 years, little has been done to rehabilitate the building other than emergency roof repairs.  The cost of the total rehabilitation is now estimated at about $1 million. In March of this year, the Town of Silver City was awarded a grant from the Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold Foundation which has re-energized efforts to restore the Waterworks building.  The grant, for $39,200 with a $35,140 in-kind match, will pay for surveying, grading and drainage plans, structural engineering and historic architecture assessments, masonry repair as a community service learning project, evaluation and outreach.  Nancy Gordon, a volunteer for the Town, is managing the project.

The Gila Conservation Education Center (GCEC) was contracted to conduct a pre- and post-project evaluation to assess the effectiveness of outreach efforts related to this project.  Kathy Whiteman, GCEC Director, arranged for Aldo Leopold High School students in Harry Brown’s Year 4 Interactive Mathematics class to participate in data collection.  During March and April, students Milagre Coates, Camille Dalton, Caleb Kalisher, Miriel Manning and Dhante Stroud phoned 142 Silver City residents and had 70 responses.  In May, GCEC AmeriCorps members and three Youth Conservation Corps interns made 50 more contacts.  A surprisingly high proportion of people contacted, 45 percent, knew something about the Waterworks, either what it was historically, or where it was located.  One person guessed that it was on Gold Street and another said downtown.

More than half of respondents knew where Silver City derived its municipal water, correctly citing the source as wells, groundwater, or underground aquifers – but when asked where the Town’s wells were, only three people mentioned Franks wellfield and only one knew that the Town had other wells.  One person thought the Town’s water supply came from Lake Roberts.

The Town of Silver City obtains its municipal water from the Franks and Woodward wellfields and the Anderson and Gabby Hayes wells, all located southwest of Silver City between highways 180 and 90.  Some of these wells are over 1000 feet deep.  Future water demands for the Town are uncertain, but one study indicates that the Town’s wells will be capable of meeting domestic needs (under a 1.45 percent population growth rate) for the next 40 years.  However, well levels are declining and additional sources of water will eventually be needed.  The Waterworks, once the Town’s only water source, has water rights of 18 acre-feet per year compared to the Town’s current water use of about 2,800 acre-feet per year.  It was disconnected from the Town’s water system at some point (the date is uncertain), although it was used as a non-potable water supply (e.g. for construction) up until the year 2000.  Rehabilitation of the Waterworks building and well will allow the facility to play a small part in Silver City’s water future, by providing landscaping water on-site and at the Silva Creek Botanical Garden.  GCEC will be giving presentations on the Silver City Waterworks until the end of the year, at which time a post-project evaluation survey will be conducted.  The same questions will be asked – and if you’ve read this article, you’ll have all the answers.

If you would like to schedule a presentation on the Waterworks for your organization, or are interested in participating in September’s mortar repair project, please contact Nancy Gordon at 538-3969 or aqua@zianet.com.


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