Letters to the editor (02/13/14)

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Belen has backward thinkers
Editor:
For those following the request for a zone change for Mr. Noblin concerning the addition of a crematory on his property, I knew from the beginning he would have an uphill battle due to the backward thinking folks and political powers that are happy to see Belen struggle to be what it once was.
I am what I would consider to be a lifelong resident of the area, living in and around Belen for the past 52 years. I can remember when Belen was a very busy town, especially compared to Los Lunas. Belen was the place to come and shop for anything the community and surrounding areas needed — even a hospital.
And today, it’s a dead, boarded-up community that’s not supported by the backward thinkers because they go north and support Los Lunas and Albuquerque.
In the recent News-Bulletin, the front-page story titled, “Council kills zone change for crematory,” the backward thinkers and political powers killed Mr. Noblin’s request with their ridiculous concerns, such as, possible effects of lowering property values, it being placed in the center of town in a historical district next to a park and environmental concerns.
For those of you using the property-value card, look around. The boarded up and rundown buildings along Main Street promote nothing. The rundown neighborhoods promote crime and drug trafficking. Does this affect property values in a positive way?
For those using the undesirable location card, think again. I’m sure Mr. Noblin has no plans of letting the public know the building is a crematory by placing the largest signage he could use on or around the building, so who would know; and furthermore who cares if it’s a crematory.
Last but not least, there’s the environmental-concerns card, which happens to be the most ridicules of all. The rail yard, which is located smack dab in the middle of town, produces tons and tons of harmful emissions not to mention the potential of having an incident that could be catastrophic. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the many things that could happen in and out of the rail yard if you stop and consider all the possibilities.
One last comment to you backward thinkers: think again about what Belen once was and then look a short 10 miles north at Los Lunas. While Los Lunas continues to grow and attract business, Belen continues to go backwards and the further back it goes the more undesirable it becomes for business and people.
Soon it could only be full of the backward thinkers and the political powers that are so determined to see Belen continue in its downward spiral. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility the rail hub could go away and then it would certainly be curtains.
Then you backward thinkers will be screaming at the political powers and asking why they didn’t do something to prevent it when it was Belen’s worst enemy that caused it — you!

Gary Gibson
Belen

Renewable energy a plus
Editor:
I suppose Donna Crawford’s latest letter was aimed at me, since she quoted from a letter I wrote.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t recognize myself in her description, apparently drawn from far-right media’s portraits of environmental boogeymen.
Honestly, the desire to take away Ms. Crawford’s curling iron never crossed my mind. My only wish for Ms. Crawford’s electric gadgets would be that she have access to more efficient models and that they be powered by clean energy rather than fossil fuels that are degrading the planet’s atmospheric balance.
We’re in agreement that many essential items, particularly medical devices, are partly made from petroleum, gas or coal. But that leads me to the conclusion that we’re really kind of short-sighted to keep burning fossil fuels when we should be saving them to make these critically needed products.
Nor have I ever called for a ban on fracking. It’s less destructive than, say, the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport Canadian oil extracted by a very wasteful and filthy process to Houston for shipment overseas.
But I’d like to see fracking’s problems fixed — less spillage from transport, waste-disposal wells and tanks. And repeal of the Halliburton loophole, which allow drillers to keep secret the toxic materials they’re pumping into our common biosphere. And what about recoupling subsurface mineral rights to land ownership?
Ms. Crawford’s nightmare of a clean-energy future has no resemblance to anything I’ve ever seen seriously proposed. Most experts and organizations recommend that we first take advantage of ways to reduce energy waste — energy we pay for, but which brings us no health, wealth, profit or pleasure.
Then we transition to renewable power as smoothly as possible, using it first to reduce peak loads so that new coal plants are unnecessary, then retiring old, dirty coal plants, and then replacing petroleum extracted in the most damaging ways with clean fuels.
Meanwhile, we increase on-site PV generation for businesses and homes, using new, improved storage systems. And that’s about as far as likely proposals go today.
None of these steps threaten citizens’ energy supplies. They do threaten the stranglehold that utilities and fossil fuel corporations have on New Mexico’s economy and politics.

Laura Sanchez
Los Lunas

Students aren’t learning
Editor:
At a recent Los Lunas Board of Education meeting, the main topic was the new teacher evaluations and end-of-course exams, which are as of this year required by the New Mexico Public Education Department.
The presentation from the district administration did a masterful job of masking their zeal to jump on the status-quo bandwagon. After offering support for the reform measures, they then proceeded to criticize PED for all of the  facets necessary to implement these reforms at the district level with an ultimate plea to delay implementation of these reform measures and preserve at least temporarily the status-quo.
As reported in the News-Bulletin, Los Lunas Board of Education Member Shaun Gibson said “this is going to be progressively worse train wreck.”
If you look at the facts, it will become readily apparent that the “train wreck” has already occurred. According to last years SBA results, less than half of all of the students who took the test in Los Lunas Schools achieved levels of proficiency.
Only 48.8 percent were proficient in reading, 41.8 percent were proficient in math, and 44.8 percent proficient in science. As you can see, the students are already suffering.
Why in the world would the governor and education secretary try to fix education if it were not already broken and how could an effort to make reforms make things any worse?
Furthermore, the delay tactics really have to stop. As our state continues its downward spiral in virtually all measurable comparisons with other states, you can see that the need to fix public education is becoming more urgent every day.
As an example, I always like to focus on third-grade reading as a harbinger of academic progress in public education. Last year’s SBA results indicate that only 54.4 percent of Los Lunas third-graders were proficient in reading, a 0.9 percent increase from the previous year. At that improvement rate, third-graders will not surpass 80 percent proficiency for 28 years.
An editorial piece in the Albuquerque Journal stated “A report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that by 2020 there should be 335,000 new [job] openings in New Mexico but only 152,000 people who will have the education and skills needed to take them.”
There is no time left. Further delay should not be an option.

Dennis Schlessinger
Los Lunas