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New Mexico must fund education

As our great State of New Mexico faces a serious shortfall in revenue due to the drop in oil and natural gas, now, more than ever, we need to think our next generation and  how our kids’ future is intrinsically tied with the economic investments we make today in our students, teachers and our schools.

My eyes were opened to the challenges facing our schools when I taught a third grade class as a substitute teacher, I was introduced very quickly to the complexities and challenges facing our teachers and kids as I provided instruction with limited textbooks very limited classroom supplies, and far too few computers with access to the internet for students. Every passing year it seems that schools have to do more with less. Once again our students will suffer the brunt of those cuts to no fault of their own. Our children are innocent and rely on us to provide the best foundation possible.

We have to do more for our children. I introduced legislation during the 2016 legislative session that would have brought in revenue from the taxation of tobacco products which harm our children’s health. This revenue would have helped fill some of the gaps in our budget so that our children could learn with the best resources available to them.  By raising taxes on tobacco products by just a few percentage points, our state would have brought in $50 million in new revenue, with many of these dollars dedicated to education and cancer research. Our children are worth the investment, high school students should not have to go without textbooks or pencils. It is my belief that each and every student who dreams of attending higher education, whether it be Navajo Technical University, Dine College, a state university or a trade school, should be given a fair chance to get ahead. A student’s future should be determined by their dedication and hard work, not their lack of access to resources.

Education provides limitless opportunities for our children and young people, and in return increasing prosperity for our communities. Times are still tough for too many families, and overlooking our kids – our future, is not an option.

Our kids grow fast, they desire and deserve a strong foundation in life and cannot wait any longer.

Rep. Wonda Johnson, D-Church Rock

New Mexico House District 5, McKinley and San Juan Counties

We will miss Mr. Navajo Radio

Recently, we witnessed the passing of George Werito. A tragic loss of a man who carved out a legacy through radio media. George became well known on his daily radio show on Farmington KNDN AM Navajo station. He made many friends with both Navajo people and non-Navajo people with whom he developed lifetime friendships. George had an appealing personality always with cheerfulness and ever-present smile. He is also a person who had mastered both Navajo and English languages to a level of versatility unequal to all but perhaps a few fortunate Navajos today.

Many people living in remote areas of the Navajo reservation greatly depend on AM radio as their only means of communication. Early morning hours on KNDN radio, you would hear George expressing a cheerful "good morning" greeting to his audience. The good morning greeting seemed to energize one to be more alert, ready to tackle the day’s work. Not to mention his mixture of music selections he played on the air ranging from traditional Navajo songs to contemporary American music with the likes of country music going back to earlier times when life was simple. I remember listening to George’s show and hearing music by the likes of Buck Owens, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, and many others. As I remembered those simple, but peaceful world of yesteryear, I always remember Navajo radio.

Yet, we are now in a world filled with turbulence from wars, skirmishes with terror attacks here at home and abroad; not to mention the extreme weather of freezing cold to sweltering heat in the summertime, and the crueler advent of rising crimes in our streets, and the terrible domestic violence at home where children and adults have been victimized.

The current Navajo world continues to depend on the radio to let neighbors know the happenings at chapter houses, school events, sports, traditional Navajo ceremonial events, and many others. Communication advancement has only begun with Navajos having cellular phones, but more telecommunication development has yet to be accomplished.  Having been a member of Navajo Nation Broadband Work Group, I was fortunate to work with a group of talented and skillful people. We applied for a grant from President Obama’s first term in office called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act aka: Stimulus One grant for $57.7 million that built the current Navajo Nation broadband infrastructure development to bring a 4G network and high speed internet system on the reservation. Currently, as a commissioner with the Navajo Nation Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, we are implementing ‘Next Generation 911 Emergency call system on the Navajo Nation costing around $15 million.

George is more likely to be smiling with both thumbs up from above, seeing that he is again proud to see Navajo Nation moving forward to join the world with better telecommunication system. He was always friendly and cheerful, and a hearty handshake from the likes of George we all will surely miss. A sincere condolence to his family from all of us for a fine man we will miss.

Will Tsosie

Shiprock

A mission worthy of NASA, a human on Mars

By Charles D. Walker

In era where private space companies are taking on new missions, it is important to remember that NASA also remains vital – especially for exploration missions that aren’t likely to turn a profit any time soon like a human landing on Mars.

Businesses are slaves to short-term balance sheets.  They'll back straightforward missions – like delivering cargo to the space station 250 miles above the earth using mature technologies – but true exploration is, by its nature, without calculable financial return. Only a nation can marshal the funding and vision needed to "boldly go where no one has gone before."

In fact, nearly every great exploration in history has been government-backed, from Magellan's trip around the globe to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

NASA engineers are already developing new technologies for a manned Mars mission like new propulsion systems and deep-space radiation shields needed for the two and a half year round trip to Mars.

NASA is also far down the road building the critical rocket needed to power this mission – the most powerful launch vehicle in history, known as the Space Launch System. SLS will have twice the payload mass and six times the volume of other American rockets, allowing NASA to accomplish the Mars mission with fewer launches and less risk.

We should support commercial space companies as they make spaceflight cheaper and more accessible. But we should also continue to expand the frontier. That's a job only NASA can lead.

Charles D. Walker, engineer and former space shuttle astronaut.

Tucson, Ariz.

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