Lawmaker: Marijuana needs debate in New Mexico

NewsNM:Swickard I agree with Representative McCamley that the debate on legalizing marijuana needs to be done in a professional manner and the idea looked at from all angles. From - (AP) – The conversation about whether New Mexico should join other Western states in legalizing marijuana is cranking up as state lawmakers prepare for the 2015 legislative session.
       Rep. Bill McCamley, a Democrat from southern New Mexico, took his case for legalization to fellow lawmakers Tuesday during a meeting of the interim health and human services committee. McCamley dismissed the stoner humor of 1970s comics Cheech and Chong and said this should be a serious debate.
       “Let’s talk about the facts,” he told the committee. “Let’s talk about what’s actually happening in terms of public policy, and let’s not get caught up in stereotypes about what this is or isn't.”
       McCamley has yet to craft the legislation, but he’s looking at Oregon as a model. Voters in that state, Alaska and the District of Columbia approved ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana earlier this month, joining Colorado and Washington.
       In New Mexico, the push for legalization follows the success of ballot questions in two of the state’s most populous counties that gauged voter support for decriminalizing marijuana.
       “If you look at prohibition, it’s basically a failure both in terms of alcohol in the 1920s and the drug war now,” McCamley said during an interview. “We’re spending all of this money enforcing marijuana laws and prosecuting people for smoking marijuana. That can be used in other law-enforcement efforts like prosecuting rapists and murderers – and that’s important.”
       McCamley also estimates that the state could save over $33 million in costs associated with police, courts and corrections if marijuana is legalized.
       The New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association has yet to develop a position on the matter. Gov. Susana Martinez has been an outspoken critic of decriminalizing marijuana, and control of the state House of Representatives swinging to Republicans will likely make for a challenge in getting legislation passed.
       “We don’t want to get people’s expectations up, but it’s very important to have this conversation,” McCamley said. More

Marita Noon: Dear Northeast, How’s that solar working out for ya?

Commentary by Marita Noon - A couple of months ago, effective in November, National Grid, one of Massachusetts’ two dominant utilities, announced rate increases of a “whopping” 37 percent over last year. Other utilities in the region are expected to follow suit.
       It’s dramatic headlines like these that make rooftop solar sound so attractive to people wanting to save money. In fact, embedded within the online version of the Boston Globe story: “Electric rates in Mass. set to spike this winter,” is a link to another article: “How to install solar power and save.” The solar story points out: “By now everyone knows that solar power can save homeowners big money on utility bills.” It claims that solar works even in New England’s dreary winters and cites Henry K. Vandermark, founder and president of Solar Wave Energy in Cambridge, as saying: “Even snow doesn’t matter if your panels have a steep angle. It just slides right off them.”
       Solar is not the panacea it is promoted to be, though it is true that—after a substantial investment, heavy government subsidies (funded by all taxpayers), and generous net-metering programs (that raise costs for non-solar customers)—solar systems can save money on the typical homeowners’ monthly bill. (An unsubsidized system averages about $24,000.)
       New England has seen one big power plant close within the past year—Salem Harbor Power Station in Salem, Massachusetts went “dark” on June 1, in part due to tightening federal regulations. Another major closure will take place within weeks: Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.
       A new, state-of-the-art natural gas plant on 18 acres of the 65-acre Salem site will replace the Salem Harbor plant. The remaining 47 acres will see redevelopment, including renewable energy. But, that plan has received pushback from environmental groups that want it fully replaced with renewables. TheBoston Globe states: “A decade ago, replacing the aging plant with a far cleaner natural gas facility would have thrilled environmental and public health advocates.” 
       The Conservation Law Foundation filed a lawsuit against the project’s approval, claiming the state “failed to adequately consider its own climate change law when state energy officials approved the Salem plant.” In February, the group settled the suit after it caused construction delays and reliability concerns. Read the full column


Parents and teachers take standardized practice test to better understand what students are facing

From - By: Stephanie Claytor, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - There is a lot of controversy surrounding standardized tests that all New Mexico public school kids take. On Saturday, some parents and teachers gathered at the Los Duranes Community Center in Albuquerque to try the practice tests. They wanted to get a firsthand look at what our students are facing.
      This year, New Mexican students in grades third through eleventh, will have to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC. They’ll have to take it in March and April. This test is different from previous standardized tests because it’s digital and only offered in English.
      The parents and teachers at the meeting found the exam troubling. "I don't think that I could pass that test, despite the fact that I have taught for two decades,” said David Wilson, a bilingual interventionist for Albuquerque Public Schools.
      In many cases, teachers’ evaluations will be heavily based off of their students' scores. Many of the teachers who took the practice tests said they've been discouraged from talking to parents about the exams.
      On the PARCC New Mexico website, it says "The PARCC assessment measures real world skills that colleges value, like critical thinking and problem solving. New Mexico's college and universities will use those assessments as one of the indicators of a student's readiness for entry-level college courses." More

Swickard: Schools becoming vast educational wastelands

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. I cannot understand why when people become educational administrators they forget the enterprise of education is supposed to be centered on children. It is not in today's world and educational administrators are unable to grasp why schools have become vast educational wastelands.
     Question: should students enjoy school? Like most discussions the problem is understanding the word, "Enjoy." Research to the contrary, most modern administrators are afraid of being criticized for students enjoying the day.
     I was at an elementary school some time ago where there were two types of teachers. One type was the kind gentle teachers who looked at and thought about each child individually. They try to make the educational experience the best it can be for each student.
      Balance that with the new breed of teachers who are just trying to show off to the administration by proving that they teach with RIGOR! That is the new buzz word, rigor. It means teachers use what some people call "Tough Teaching" and do not worry in the least that students may not like what they are experiencing.
      The teachers who center on rigor make sure no child enjoys any moments during the day because if they do then the teacher is being too easy on them. These rigorous teachers, supported by rigorous administrators never consider the feelings and emotions of students. The more students hate every moment of school, the better these educators feel. But that is completely contrary to research.
     At this school during Christmas time one teacher's class was singing songs while the teacher helped the students make presents for their mothers. In short, this classroom was buzzing with interested students. The other classroom was silent and very depressed because often they did not even get recess since to show rigor that teacher, with the support of the administration would skip recess.
     As I was standing there in the gleeful classroom a student from the other classroom walked by, looked in and spoke mournfully. He said, "Hi Mr. Snowman," to a full-size Frosty the Snowman. I wanted to go bring him into the circle but I was just an observer of instructional practice.
     Every teacher this year says that they are instructed to keep students pointed toward cheating the accountability tests by practicing the specific answers. Students do not find this interesting. They detest school and everyone in it. A few teachers keep trying to blow life into this aberrant style of education and they are uniformly smacked around by the administration who only care that their schools score better. Read full column


Tolar, NM to get historical marker where bomb-loaded train exploded during WWII

From - By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Tolar, New Mexico has the distinction of being the only town in the US to be bombed out of existence in World War II. This week, 70 years later, the state will install a historic marker on a lonely stretch of US 60 between Fort Sumner and Clovis where the little town once stood.
      It wasn’t the Germans or the Japanese who bombed Tolar. In fact, there wasn’t even an airplane involved. It was an all-American self-inflicted railroad disaster – an accident that miraculously killed only one person.
      Even before the blast, there wasn’t much to see in Tolar, but after 160 bombs went off in a freight train fire, the town was pretty much obliterated. We’re talking big bombs here - 500-pounders - enough to fill four B-29 bombers.
      Railroad historian Randy Dunson grew up nearby. He’s the one who convinced the state Transportation Department to put up a marker for Tolar. “The train derailed right in the middle of Tolar,” Dunson said. “The cars in those days were mostly wooden and the wreckage caught on fire. I do know there was a tank car of naphtha involved in it. The fire reached this boxcar that was loaded with these 160 or so 500-pound bombs.”
     They blew up. Shrapnel killed a local man named Jess Brown, but the train’s rear brakeman was even closer. “He was about somewhere between two and six cars from the fire when this explosion went off and it blew him under the train,” Dunson said. “He was okay – he didn’t break a bone!”
      The explosion left a crater about 20-feet deep and 60-feet across. The town of Tolar was pretty much toast. The dedication for the historic marker is scheduled for 2 p.m. this Friday, at mile marker 344 on US Highway 60, way out on the prairie between Fort Sumner and Clovis. More

APD shooting lawsuits have cost city millions

From - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The city of Albuquerque has spent millions of tax dollars on lawsuits involving officer-involved shootings and it’s not over. Many of the shootings involving police officers end up in court with members of the family of the person shot seeking money. Since 2012, the city of Albuquerque spent $11,455,991 in settlements, judgments and legal fees.
      “We defend police officers like every city employee, vigorously and zealously,” city attorney David Tourek said. Some of those cases turned out in favor of the city, but most have not.
      A big payout went to the family of Alan Gomez. In 2011, police got a call that Gomez was holding his brother and another woman against their will. Officers thought he was armed when they shot and killed Gomez. Police later discovered it was a spoon. The cost of that lawsuit was $1.048 million.
      The most expensive case involved the estate of Kenneth Ellis. He was pointing a gun to his head when he was killed in a January 2010 SWAT standoff. The lawsuit cost the city $8.305 million.
      Then there’s the case of Christopher Torres, who was a mentally ill man with a violent criminal history. Police were serving a warrant for a road rage case. Officers shot Torres during a confrontation. In June, a district court judge ordered the city to pay the Torres family $6 million. The amount was later reduced to $400,000.
      With nearly $12 million already spent on officer-involved shootings, it’s not over yet. There are still some major cases coming down the pike, including the case of homeless camper James Boyd. More

Marita Noon: Six energy policy changes to watch for in a Republican-controlled Congress

Commentary by Marita Noon - Now that the dust has settled on the 2014 midterms, we can get a sense of how things will change in Washington under a Republican controlled Senate—and energy will be front and center.
      Republicans and Democrats have very different views on energy development and policy. The past six years have seen taxpayer dollars poured into green-energy projects that have embarrassed the administration and promoted teppan-style renewables that chop-up and fry unsuspecting birds mid-flight and increase costs for consumers and business. Meanwhile, Republicans have touted the job creation and economic impact available through America’s abundant fossil-fuel resources.
      Voters made their preference clear: Republicans won more seats, and with bigger majorities, than anyone predicted. The day after the election, the Friends of the Earth, wasting no time, sent out a dramatic fundraising pitch, opening with: “The election’s over—the planet lost.” (You may not have even known that the planet was on your local ballot, but apparently it was.)
       The email’s proclamation, once again, exposes the environmentalists’ agenda: “President Obama hasn’t always done the right thing for the environment. He should have denied the Keystone Pipeline years ago, he should be rolling back unchecked fracking, and he should have taken stronger action on climate both at home and in international negotiations.”
       Gratefully, though ideologically aligned with them, he attempted to appease and didn't take the extreme level of action Friends of the Earth would have liked.
      The Keystone pipeline remains a strong possibility, though the Canadians have nearly given up on us. Fracking is regulated at the state level, which, mostly, allows it to continue to increase America’s energy freedom—resulting in lower prices at the pump. Because more than 96 percent of the wells drilled in America today use the decades-old, but new-and-improved, technology of hydraulic fracturing, a federal fracking ban, like environmental groups have been trying to pass through city and county initiatives, would virtually shut down our booming energy economy. President Obama tried, but couldn't pass a cap-and-trade bill—even when his party controlled both houses. Nor could he get a new Kyoto-like international treaty ratified. Most of the western world is now retreating on the climate pledges made in a different political era.
       Friends of the Earth is correct, though. The email states: “Now, with both the Republican Senate and the House salivating and ready to sink their teeth into our most basic environmental laws, the President’s environmental legacy is truly at stake.”  Read full column

Ski season in New Mexico is now underway

From - The lifts at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort in northern New Mexico opened Saturday. It is the first ski area to open in New Mexico for the 12th consecutive year.
       Lifts are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
       Lift tickets are $25 for adults, $19 for teens (ages 13-20) and $15 for kids (ages 7-12) and seniors (ages 61 and older). Kids 6 and younger, 4th graders, 5th graders, and guests ages 40, 60 or 70 years and better receive a free lift ticket every day. More

Would someone get ready to run for office?

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. - Why would anyone run for office in today's world where outright lies and personal attacks are the currency of the political kingdom? We Americans have just endured months upon months of one candidate calling their political opponent everything but smart and handsome. The lies and innuendos have flowed throughout our towns.
       The non-stop attack advertisements sound like middle-school kids shouting, "You're a poo-poo head." Followed by the rejoinder, "No you're a poo-poo head." Mostly I am very sorry for the family members of the candidates who had to listen to attacks upon their loved ones for the purpose of politics. Some even were the targets in some communities.
       Worse, there is a price to pay for business people who run for office since the first step is to declare a party. Often members of the contradictory party then boycott that business such that the business suffers because someone wants to do their civic duty.
       Why, oh why, would anyone with any kind of sense put up with such shabby treatment? More so there is the concern that the people we would like to get into public service will not submit to this kind of treatment. The business leaders of our communities support people running for office but often will not tolerate those personal false attacks, therefore, will never run for office.
       The First Amendment question: can people knowingly lie but hide behind the Constitution's protection of free speech? Yes, they can and do. This does not mean there are no consequences for those who campaign by falsehood. We who value truth will remember falsehoods and act accordingly.
       Even though an election has just ended if someone was thinking about running next time, that decision must be made soon to get all of the things done to have some kind of chance against an incumbent. But the sting of the false statements and insults are still ringing in our ears. We may forgive but never forget the lies told. Read full column


Intense football rivalry leads to post-game brawl

From - LAS CRUCES - A New Mexico high school football rivalry escalated into an ugly brawl, and now both teams learned there will be consequences just as they enter the playoffs.
       The Las Cruces vs. Mayfield game quickly became an example of bad sportsmanship Friday night. Five players from Las Cruces and four players from Mayfield have been suspended for their next games, the first in the playoffs.
      The post-game fight erupted in front of a crowd of more than 20,000 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The Mayfield Trojans had just beaten the Las Cruces Bulldawgs, winning the District 3 6-A Title. The final score was 28 to 27.
       Right after the game ended, all the chaos erupted on the field. “It’s an intense rivalry. Everybody knows that. Tempers flare. Things happen, but that being said, that’s no excuse,” said Jim Miller, Las Cruces High School coach.
      Mayfield’s coach, Michael Bradley, said, “This is one of the top rivalries in the nation. We’re under the eye of everybody, I tell our kids all the time is everybody’s watching you.” Las Cruces Public Schools superintendent Stan Rounds said the district holds its athletes to high standards and expects them to live up to those expectations.
       “For 48 minutes we had good football,” Rounds said. “For 35 seconds we had bad decisions made by athletes,” he added at a Wednesday news conference. Both teams are entering the class 6-A playoffs. Some of the suspended students are starters, but the district hasn't identified them.
       They won’t be allowed to participate in their next games, can’t travel with the team and can’t sit on the sidelines, Rounds said. Las Cruces will play Atrisco Heritage in Albuquerque Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Community Stadium.
      Next weekend, Mayfield will face the winner of the Sandia-Clovis game. More