UP — People attending a San Juan County Commission meeting on Tuesday to comment on a proposed tax hike seemed to understand the stakes. Due to a combination of factors the county is facing a more than $6 million deficit. The blame has been spread far and wide. One county official blames the federal government for what appear to be ham-handed efforts to end deceptive practices used to apply for funds meant to help provide health care for the uninsured. Others say New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez's line-item veto in a bill creating a new statewide program that also helps pay for uninsured health care imposed long-term financial obligations on the county. Whoever is responsible, the outcome is that the county is between a rock and a hard place. The commissioners must decide whether to raise taxes, cut services, layoff staff or find some combination of those options. With one exception, the nearly 100 people who spoke at the commissioners meeting supported — although reluctantly — the tax increase. One person spoke of the positive impact on her life of a program that could be axed — the DWI Alternative Sentencing Division, which meets a vital need in this region. Lawmakers from Washington, D.C., to New Mexico's Roundhouse have been adhering to a rigid tax-cutting and budget tightening dogma that provides no flexibility to fund things that should be supported with tax dollars. It seems some people have forgotten that the amenities providing the high quality of life we enjoy in this country aren't free. It may not be politically correct, but the people at that commission meeting were willing to accept the responsibility of supporting the community with their hard-earned dollars.
DOWN — Farmington police have referred charges of criminal damage to property against seven 16-year-olds who were members of the Piedra Vista football team to juvenile court. Those charges are related to a case that involves the flipping of two vehicles onto their sides earlier this month. The case is still in the early stages, but Coach Jared Howell decided to drop those players from the team. We think that sends a strong signal that the district will not tolerate hooliganism. However, we don't think the punishment should ruin these young lives and we were glad to hear that they can try out again next year, if they show remorse. We think the coach's decision is appropriate. If they are guilty of the charges, we think appropriate consequences would also include paying for the damage and public service.
UP — Farmington police and staff at the city's Sycamore Park Community Center have teamed up on a series of safety classes that could save lives, protect children from predators and bullies, deter youths from crime and have other positive impacts on the community. It's easy to dismiss these kinds of efforts as squishy "feel-good" activities. We strongly disagree. The classes appear to hit some major areas of concern and help create a positive momentum that could save families and potential victims a lot of grief. It's hard to measure the impact of programs designed to prevent bad outcomes because you don't know what might have happened. Nonetheless, we believe these efforts are part of what makes for a healthy and safe community.