Letters to the editor (10/20/12)

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County vote was abuse of the voters’ wishes
Editor:
“We don’t want to get into the hospital business,” said Valencia County Commission Chairman Donald Holliday, as he voted on Wednesday, Sept. 22, to put the county into the hospital business.
The joint powers agreement with Belen, approved by the same three commissioners who had killed the imminent hospital in July 2011, commits our mill levy money to Belen rather than to the first hospital to reach substantial completion.
It also commits the county to participate in the construction and development of the facility there. This is a blatant act of corruption, in my opinion, emphasized by Holliday’s confession that he had not read the JPA before he voted.
The voters mandated that the $20 million in mill levy funds are to be used for the operation of a hospital 24-hour emergency facility. Now the money is being set aside just in case the Belen hospital is pronounced feasible.
The explanation for this outrageous action by the three commissioners, to approve this without a public hearing and without revealing the content of the JPA to the citizens, has to involve the deepest kind of betrayal of the public trust.
When these commissioners terminated the Health Commons hospital contract last year, without notifying the Health Commons and without a public hearing, the red flags of suspicion came up. Now they are waving brightly again.
There had to be a secret conspiracy with Belen before the 2011 termination, and one that was so compelling that it is still providing extremely high motivation for the three to risk their reputations and their careers to continue it.
My own assessment is that we are seeing a most egregious example of corruption. My challenge to everyone in the county, and especially the three commissioners, is to provide the readers of the News-Bulletin’s letter to the editor a non-corruption explanation.
If there is any way to excuse denying the Valencia County Regional Medical Center underway in Los Lunas the full use of the mill levy funds, please do us all a favor by submitting it.
Otherwise, we are observing a horrible … abuse of the voters’ mandate, another item to add to the growing list of the county commissioners’ catalog of misfeasance.

Clarke Metcalf
Belen

Passive response creates a great danger
Editor:
Webster’s definition of hope is “to cherish a desire with expectation of fulfillment,” but hope is not a plan.
Regrettably, this country’s foreign policy has been largely based on hope during the past three plus years, and it shows. People can desire this, and hope for that, but without good policies these things can never be fulfilled, and the recent violence in the Middle East reinforces this indisputable truth.
The brutal murder of our ambassador and three other Americans in Libya by radical Islamists, along with the assaults on our embassies worldwide, are the tragic result of leaderless American foreign policy and ineptitude.
In the late 1700s, North African pirates began to capture American merchant ships, claiming the Americans were “infidels,” and demanding a tribute for their return.  A newly elected American president named Thomas Jefferson rejected their ransom demands and directed our young Navy into the waters off North Africa to solve the problem.  The Navy was effective with a force of arms.
Since then, not a whole lot has changed in this part of the world.  Today, as in 1801, the strong horse still prevails, but right now Americans aren’t looking very strong.
The United States certainly shouldn’t be engaged in every conflict around the globe, but we must defend ourselves, and we must be a stabilizing force internationally.  We have no choice, and most Americans understand this.
Was Ambassador Stevens a Republican or a Democrat? I don’t know, and I don’t care. He was our senior American in Libya and he was one of us. The attack on our nation, through the torture and murder of our Ambassador to Libya, and the violence directed against our embassies in Egypt and elsewhere, can’t be ignored. Nor should it be.
The absence of a realistic U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and the passive response to these attacks on our nation, creates even greater danger for the future.
An effective strategy to deal with this region can be accomplished — it requires respect, strength of purpose and continuing to eliminate the radical Islamists who declared war on the United States.
Operating on hope clearly isn’t working.

Allen E. Weh
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque

Stimulus money helps the U.S. economy
Editor:
The way the (Tea Party) complain about President Obama’s stimulus program is laughable and shows a great deal of naiveté about politics and history.
I swear, it seems like these people did not learn anything in any U.S. history class they may have taken.  Of course government stimulus helps the economy and President Obama’s stimulus saved this country from what would have been the worst economic disaster in world history.
Every economist, conservative and liberal, knows this; save for the ones that work for Fox. As a matter of fact, they all feel that it was not big enough.  I agree.
The (Tea Party) reminds me of a drunken sailor who spends wildly (2001-2009, two unpaid for wars and deficits that don’t matter) and gets put in jail  (The Great Recession).
Along comes a responsible brother (President Obama) to bail him out.  Once out of jail, the sailor complains that the responsible brother should not have used good money to bail him out. It would have been so much better to have stayed in jail because he knows that the spending debauch that got him put in jail in the first place would eventually by some miracle get him out.
Let us look at the greatest stimulus program in modern history. This was the government stimulus during World War II. That stimulus program brought this country from the Great Depression with an almost 30 percent unemployment rate to an affluent society with an unemployment rate of just 4 percent by 1946.
Just think of it. The World War II stimulus was used for destruction, to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan, which was necessary.  How much better would it be to have an even larger stimulus program now for building infrastructure in this country.
This stimulus would not be used for destroying, but for building. We could build bridges, highways, schools, take care of natural parks, better manage our forests, build high speed rail systems, upgrade our antiquated air traffic control system, build renewable energy systems, retrofit our homes and businesses, etc. The list goes on and on.
This would eliminate unemployment and the money that these workers would make would be used to stimulate the economy. All wages would rise.  It is a win-win scenario.
But alas, we have the (Tea Party). They believe in Santa, supply side/trickle down economics and the Easter Bunny.  They all long for a past that never was.
They look at this country in archaic terms and not as the super power, militarily and economically, that we are.  Wake up!
Stop listening to Grover Norquist, a man who is so unpatriotic in his beliefs that the Constitution cringes every time he walks by it.
Get rid of your funny little 18th century hats and your phony patriotism and try putting on a construction hat and have some modern American patriotism for a change.
See the country as it is and how it can be. It is a pretty great place!

Antonio Flores
Los Lunas

Commission can’t pass the buck
Editor:
I was fortunate enough to be present at the Sept. 19 meeting of the Valencia County Commission; fortunate to be there but, unfortunate to hear a very disturbing piece of information contained in the joint powers agreement between Belen and Valencia County, approved on a 3 to 2 vote by the commission.
At the end of the meeting, under public comments, I asked the commission to clarify for me if, indeed, I had heard correctly that as per the JPA, the county had committed to financing the construction of the facility to be built in Belen.
A straight answer was never forthcoming.
Subsequently, I obtained a copy of the JPA to confirm what I had heard at the meeting and read in the Sept. 22 issue of the News Bulletin, that is that, indeed, the possibility exists for the county to “issue revenue bonds for the project, including the expense of constructing and equipping the hospital,” in addition to committing the current mill levy proceeds for the operation and maintenance of the proposed facility.
To my way of thinking, if the county sponsors the financing for construction and equipment, it, effectively, becomes the owner of the enterprise. If I am mistaken in my analysis, I stand corrected.
Regardless, needless-to say, I, along with many of my friends and neighbors from the northern part of the county, am flabbergasted and angry, especially after hearing rumors that some Chicago style back room deals were cut in order to arrive at the 3 to 2 vote.
Much of the battle over the Health Common’s proposal, in addition to some questionable motives, centered on the location and appropriate expenditure of mill levy revenues. We were opposed because the location, in our eyes, was not sufficiently centralized whereby maximum benefit would accrue to a majority of county residents.
We had some problems with the Belen proposed location, however, although not ideal and with the knowledge that many of us would probably never use the facility, it was somewhat more accessible because of its proximity to Interstate 25.  Given this fact, we were reluctantly willing to go along with the Belen proposal.
In the meantime, on Sept. 12, I attended a work session of the Los Lunas council wherein Miller Architects, although in my mind a day late and a dollar short, reviewed a proposal for the construction of a regional medical center somewhere in Los Lunas. A possible site was located close to the Walmart Distribution Center.
Frankly, I was very impressed with Miller’s presentation and felt that if, indeed, the facility was constructed off I-25 in the area of the distribution center, conceivably it could become the anchor health care provider in a system with all other health care sub-systems in Valencia County including the Belen facility if it ever comes on line, feeding into it and, very importantly, with ties to the larger and more advanced provider system in Albuquerque via technology, agreements and land and air ambulance services.
Be that as it may, I, personally applaud the Belen council’s initiative and drive. They saw an opportunity to respond to a county need and, equally important to them, an opportunity to ignite an economic development engine.
What we the residents of Valencia County are faced with, however, is not what many of us envisioned when Belen stepped up to the plate. We were, naturally, curious as to how Belen, not the most financially secure local government in the area, would fund the construction phase, never for a moment thinking that Valencia County residents could get hit with another tax in order to bring the project to fruition, a proposition the county is financially ill prepared to undertake today.
On occasion, I personally spoke in favor of the need for the county to take more ownership in the project when it looked like the Health Commons’s proposal was going to fly. By no means was I at that time speaking in favor of total ownership.  Too much water had already flowed under the bridge!
I was strongly suggesting, however, that the county insure that in a JPA or other documents, language be included to insure that through provisions and conditions noted therein, the residents of the county would be protected given that we were already paying a mill levy tax that likely would come back to us for renewal, as well as paying a tax to support the indigent fund.
Now, if after review and approval of all due diligence documents and the JPA as approved at the Sept. 22 meeting stands, it would behoove the commission to come forth with an addendum or amendment to the JPA wherein a provision would clearly and legally direct county administration to present any proposed county sponsored construction financing scheme, i.e., general obligation, revenue or industrial bonds, special district, etc, in referendum form to the voters for approval or disapproval.
We do not want to see a repeat of the Richardson Rail Runner fiasco wherein many of us who will never use the service are being forced to pay for a black hole operation.
Short of this, the commission would be derelict in its fiduciary and moral obligations and, I can guarantee you, would be faced with a revolution that would make the Health Common’s controversy look like a cake walk!
Do the right thing commissioners! Don’t pass the buck!

John Lopez
Bosque Farms