Inside the Capitol

Monday, July 09, 2007

7-11 Telecommuting, Tiguas and Smokestacks


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Should state employees be allowed to telecommute? Normally, telecommuting is reserved for special cases of valuable workers who need to be at home.

      Businesses use telecommuting more often than government does. There is a worry that taxpayers will figure they aren't getting a full day's work for a day's pay.

      But telecommuting can save money too. Much is spent on transporting employees around for meetings, consultations, and other purposes. The streets of Santa Fe are full of state cars going to and fro among state office buildings about town.

      Many of these state employees sit in front of a computer most of the day. All of our new telecommunications technology could keep these employees where they are instead of running around.

      Not only can the state save money, it can reduce traffic and pollution. The state has instituted a Park & Ride system to encourage employees to leave their cars at home.

   And now there's the RailRunner, on which we've spent $393 million hoping to encourage state employees to take it to work. Letting them stay at home in front of a computer would be a lot cheaper.

   Telecommuting would be a benefit for state employees. And considering the benefit it would be to the state, maybe it maybe it should be considered.

   *  *     *

   Speaking of reducing costs, the Legislative Finance Committee has released a report revealing that New Mexico pays twice as much per inmate to operate its private prisons as Texas does.

   The LFC says the cost to operate private prisons in Hobbs and Santa Rosa is around $70 a day per inmate. In Texas, it is $35 a day per inmate. Other states in the area are Colorado at $50, Oklahoma at $41, Idaho at $42 and Montana at $55.

   It appears that our chief negotiator, Gov. Bill Richardson, should turn his attention from North Korea, Darfur and the Middle East and start doing some tough bargaining with New Mexico's private prison operators.

   *  *     *

   Another gambling request is on the way. The Tigua Tribe, from the El Paso area, is trying to replace its shuttered casino with one on 10 acres in southern New Mexico.

   The Tiguas aren't the first out-of-state tribe to try to get into New Mexico. An Apache tribe in Oklahoma is trying to put a casino in the Deming area where they once roamed.

   The Tiguas made national news last year when it was revealed that convicted con man Jack Abramoff was taking money from interests trying to close the Tigua casino, in Ysleta, Texas, east of El Paso, while also taking money from the Tiguas to keep it open. The casino was closed so the Tiguas are seeing if they might stand a better chance in New Mexico.

   The Tiguas really aren't foreign to New Mexico. They are a Pueblo tribe, originally from Isleta, south of Albuquerque. They accompanied the Spanish out of the state during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and reestablished at Ysleta del Sur, near the present El Paso. They speak Tiwa, the language of Isleta, Sandia, Picuris and Taos pueblos.

   Abramoff also took a reported $2 million from Sandia Pueblo to help it gain title to some disputed land. Sandia won, but it was revealed that Abramoff had nothing to do with the victory.

   *  *     *

   I'll miss the two huge smokestacks at Hurley. Yes, they were eyesores and polluted the skies terribly. But they were a landmark during the time I grew up in Deming and Silver City.

   We drove by them often. Silver City had the closest mountains to Deming so we'd go their often to escape the summer heat. The smokestacks were a sign that we were about to reach the foothills.

   El Paso was the shopping center and medical center for much of southwestern New Mexico so we'd pass by those smokestacks on our way to the big city.

   We're better without the stacks. But a fond good bye.

WED, 7-11-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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