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Morning Word: Chummy Relations

Commissioners accused of ex-parte communications with PNM executives

Morning WordThursday, September 3, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr

Fair Vote

Are Public Regulation commissioners too "chummy" with Public Service Company of New Mexico business executives? New Energy Economy, which opposes PNM's rate increase request and plan to replace coal energy with more coal and nuclear power, thinks so and they want four out of five commissioners recused from voting on the issues later this year.

Rodella's Fines Unpaid
US prosecutors won't be allowed to seize $70,000 from former Rio Arriba Sheriff Tommy Rodella. A judge has said they have to wait until after Rodella's appeal hearing in Denver later this month. Prosecutors want the money to pay a portion of Rodella's court fines.

Impeachment Drums Begin to Beat
New Mexico House Speaker Don Tripp has initiated plans to select a bipartisan committee to consider whether there's enough evidence to impeach Secretary of State Dianna Duran. He's also asking the attorney general for a copy of the criminal case file. Meanwhile, Duran is staying in touch with members of her staff via phone. They say they haven't discussed the 64-count indictment filed against her last week and that discussions have been centered on the day-to-day operations of her office.

Common Cause
Viki Harrison, the executive director at Common Cause, says the case against Duran is evidence the Legislature needs to set up an independent state election commission and to seriously consider the way campaign finance reports are audited. Right now, only about 10 percent of candidates' financial reports get a closer look.

Sleepwalking
The corruption charges against Duran have Alan Webber, a former Democratic Party gubernatorial primary candidate, speaking out. He says state leaders needs to "stop pretending everything is okay" and acknowledge problems facing New Mexico. To start, Webber proposes a "grassroots strategy" to create jobs.

Small-Town Boost
Gov. Susana Martinez has unveiled Frontier Communities Initiative. It's aimed at helping seven small New Mexico towns (Eagle Nest, Mountainair, Santa Clara, Santa Rosa, Springer, Tularosa and Villanueva) with economic development projects in their historic districts.

Education Shortcomings
An independent review released by the state auditor's office on Wednesday shows New Mexico isn't spending enough money on special education programs. In fact, over a three-year period, we fell short of federal requirements by more than $110 million. Chris Quintana at the Santa Fe New Mexican writes, "The audit report says the Public Education Department’s failure to comply with federal spending rules could cost the state tens of millions of dollars in federal special-education funds in the future to help pay for counseling, classroom aides, diagnostics, and speech and language services for the 46,500 special-education students in New Mexico." 

Hypocrisy?
Former Gov. Gary Johnson isn't mincing words after reading SFR's "Green Rush" article revealing the names of some medical cannabis license applicants and learning that his former secretary of public safety, Darren White, is on the list. Johnson accuses White of hypocrisy since he resigned from Johnson's administration after his own conservative ideas about the War on Drugs began to evolve after being re-elected to a second term in 1998.

Busted
More than 110 people were arrested for not paying child support during an annual campaign to collect payments. KRQE reports, "The total amount of child support collected from the roundup so farcombined with collections from the amnesty periodis more than $150,000.

Death Stats
Despite some tragic shooting deaths this year, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty is down again this year.

Forfeiture Laws Debated
Despite a new state law, it doesn't look like some cities plan to stop seizing cars after DWI arrests. Nearly six months after new legislation was signed into law defining when state and local government officials in New Mexico can take vehicles and other private property through forfeiture actions, disagreement continues over exactly what limits the law places on governments, according to Daniel J. Chacón, who covered a vehicle forfeiture conference in Santa Fe on Wednesday.

Mud and Mudslinging in the Waters

Clashes over Clean Water Rule leave waters, workers, even Santa Fe builders in limbo

Local NewsThursday, September 3, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

With a federal judge ruling that New Mexico and 12 other states suing the US Environmental Protection Agency don't have to immediately comply with a recently-released federal rule, more than 90 percent of the rivers and streams here remain without clear protections aimed at limiting pollution.   

In question is the Clean Water Rule, an update designed to bring clarity to the question of which waters are covered by the to the Clean Water Act, a national landmark environmental law that dates to the 1970s. The court ruling has only muddied the waters for some.

The rule took effect on Aug. 28, yet the 13 states involved in the lawsuit—which include neighboring Colorado, Arizona and Nevada—received an injunction from a North Dakota judge that declares they won't be forced to comply with the new rule until the case is resolved in federal court. 

“The federal Clean Water Act…was this groundbreaking piece of legislation,” says Rachel Conn, interim director of Taos-based water quality watchdog Amigos Bravos. “It transformed our waters from waters that were burning to waters that are cleaned up.”

Prior to the act, which put the first water quality standards in place, multiple rivers had become so contaminated with industrial waste that they caught fire, Ohio’s Cuyahoga River perhaps the best known of these. The environmental measures, passed around the same time as the creation of the EPA and the launch of the Safe Drinking Water Act, saw bipartisan support in Congress and were signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 were tasked with resolving confusions over which waters the Clean Water Act applied to and, incidentally, called into question protections for smaller tributaries, wetlands and intermittent streams, like those frequently found in New Mexico. Nationally, that confusion carried over onto some 60 percent of waterways, potentially affecting the drinking water sources for one in three Americans, according to the EPA.

The EPA was urged to draft new rules clarifying which waters the agency intended to see covered, and the draft of the Clean Water Rule was finalized this May. The rule states that smaller and ephemeral streams and wetlands are to be covered by the Clean Water Act, but excluded groundwater, irrigation ditches, gullies, “rills” and “non-wetland swales.” 

The lawsuit from objecting states quickly followed. 

“EPA and the [US Army Corps of Engineers] forced this rule on the states with minimal state and stakeholder involvement. I am delighted that the court has halted this rule until its serious legal deficiencies can be corrected by the courts,” New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said in the state-issued press release announcing the injunction. “Regulating a state’s most precious resource, water, from Washington, DC, is both ineffective and wrong. Local oversight, local control, and local communication lead to the most effective protection of our arid state’s waters, streams, and tributaries.” 

Ephemeral or intermittent streams Flynn labeled “so-called waters” that would now be “swept under the authority of the EPA and Army Corps.” 

“A lack of clarity and internal inconsistencies in the new rule will lead to misinterpretation and confusion, making disputes more likely,” New Mexico State Engineer Tom Blaine said in a press release. “This lawsuit is necessary to protect the New Mexico State Engineer’s exclusive authority to supervise the appropriation and distribution of our State’s surface and groundwater.”

While waiting for clarity from the courts and the federal agencies, 20 percent of New Mexican species, 24 of which have been identified as in need of conservation, and an estimated 280,000 people continue to depend on those waterways, advocates say. 

“Instead of protecting our water, the Martinez Administration is spending precious state resources on gutting environmental protections and pursuing dirty water lawsuits,” David Coss, chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a press release from Amigos Bravos. 

The Clean Water Rule has been challenged as a federal power grab that poses an economic chokehold for developers, who could see changes to their responsibilities for any pollution released from construction sites or wetlands lost under asphalt, but Conn points out it doesn't even fully reinstate the level of protections American waterways had when Ronald Reagan was president—and throughout the economically bustling ’80s and ’90s. And in addition to preserving the exemptions already written into the CWA, which does not apply, for example, to irrigation ditches, the new rule adds to the list of agricultural exemptions. 

Among those expressing confusion and concern over the extent of the new rules are developers, who still don't have answers to issues raised a decade ago by EPA policy on storm water from construction sites and see this new rule just adding to the list of questions. 

“The rules look more draconian, but we'll see if they really turn out that way,” says Kim Shanahan, chief executive officer of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association, which hosted a luncheon last week focused on the Clean Water Rule. 

“Enforcement of EPA rules has been kind of spotty, especially out here in the West,” he adds. “That doesn't mean that they're not in place, but people’s adherence to them has kind of been left up to the individual discretion of builders, quite frankly.”

A builder working on a site not clearly defined as one for which the EPA requires a storm water management plan might follow best management practices for preventing dirt from running off from construction sites, employing mesh and mulch-filled tubing as barricades around the site or particularly concerning items like portable toilets and dumpsters, while not completing all the EPA paperwork, Shanahan says. That same builder might drive home down a street like West Alameda, that's adjacent to dirt roads, and see more muddy runoff coming from those unpaved roads than from a construction site and wonder just who it is that needs to protect the water.

Beyond that, builders may have to worry about affecting adjacent water-shaped geographies, now seen as contributing to the federally protected “waters of the United States.”

“Every named arroyo in Santa Fe County is considered to be ‘waters of the United States,’” he says, and therefore guilty by association with the rivers downstream. 

“The new rule talks about if it has a bank or if it has a bed, it's a waterway. Well, a bank…could be six inches, so now we’re even talking about arroyitos that could be considered a waterway,” Shanahan says. 

And could Albuquerque turn around and make demands of Santa Fe and Rio Rancho over what is sent downstream? At this point, with the injunction, he says, it's not even clear how construction should proceed  

“That gray area becomes hard for us as an industry to be compliant with,” he says. 

Morning Word: Climate Change Leadership Needed

Obama says faster action is needed

Morning WordWednesday, September 2, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Not Acting Fast Enough 
In Alaska on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said any leader unwilling to look for climate change solutions is unfit to lead. He says work needs to be done on the issue now. Meanwhile, this morning, it looks like Obama is very close to securing the Senate votes he needs to approve his nuclear proposal with Iran.

Do It Yourself 
SFR's editor, Julie Ann Grimm, took a weekend stroll through La Cienega to learn more about why residents there are raising money to pay for a high-tech water study.

Blue on Blue
The Daily Beast is telling the nation about the lawsuit filed by an Albuquerque police officer who was shot by his own lieutenant in January. Jabob Grant's lawyers claim Lt. Greg Brachle began firing before saying "freeze" or "hands up."

Headed to DC 
US Senator Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, has a new chief of staff. Michael Coleman reports longtime policy adviser Bianca Ortiz Wertheim is headed to Washington.

Pot of Gold
Despite making 10 trips to New Mexico, hoping to secure one of those lucrative new medical marijuana licenses, the former US Breeder's Cup chief is giving up after SFR reported on audio recordings where he is heard discussing his plan to sell out to a big company like Proctor and Gamble. Listen to his claims to be connected to Gov. Susana Martinez and see who else still wants to grow medical pot here.

Corruption Law
Legal analysts say if New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who has not been seen in the office since being indicted on Friday, is eventually convicted on felony charges of gambling campaign donations at tribal casinos, she could be the first elected official to lose her pension under a new corruption law.

Regrets 
Former Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, who left office after his own gambling issues led to him selling department equipment for a profit online, says he regrets backing DWI seizure laws.

Forgiveness
Pope Francis says priests should absolve women from sin if they've had an abortion.

On Track
The SunZia transmission line is back on track after a long review at the state land office to see if there was a better route. There wasn't.


One Hit-and-Run, a Bunch of Dirty Cops and a Funeral

'A Hard Day' has a fresh take on some cinematic tropes

YayWednesday, September 2, 2015 by David Riedel

Occasionally, movies surprise you. A Hard Day, a nifty little thriller written and directed by Kim Seong-hoon, gets off to an inauspicious start. It relies on some South Korean cinematic tropes—a funeral; a car accident; corrupt cops—but twists and turns and writhes and stretches into something that transcends archetypes. In the end, it becomes a wholly original thrill ride through the basest human instincts, all while maintaining a slapsticky sense of humor.

 

Gun-soo (Lee Sun-kyun), a homicide detective, is on his way to his mother’s funeral. While on the phone with his sister, going over the details of the burial, he swerves to miss a dog. But then he hits a man. Thus begins the hard day.

 

For reasons that defy explanation—probably because they’re in the script—Gun-soo decides he won’t report the incident. Instead, he wraps up the body and stashes it in the trunk of his car.

 

Just when it seems he’s getting away with it, he turns a corner near the funeral home and runs into a DUI checkpoint. Even though he’s a cop, the officers scanning IDs decide to search his vehicle. What follows is a brief, funny fight scene, as Gun-soo takes on about five uniformed police, until they’re all pepper-sprayed to near blindness.

 

The scene is full of effective quick editing and Keystone Cops-type humor, but director Kim doesn’t let things devolve into silliness. It’s almost as if the humor makes the violence even more cringe-inducing.

 

When Gun-soo extracts himself from that mess, he’s quickly into another, namely what to do with the dead body in his trunk. He’s also dogged by an Internal Affairs investigation, a sister with a deadbeat husband and a daughter he loves but doesn’t get to see often, and he’s mourning his mother.

 

All those details are front-loaded into A Hard Day to ensure maximum suspense. With all the exposition taken care of early on, Kim can keep ratcheting up the anxiety. How long can Gun-soo juggle a dozen balls (and plot threads) in the air?

 

It’s hard to imagine the picture working without Lee Sun-kyun’s performance. He looks like an everyman, albeit a better-than-average-looking everyman, and a nice guy to boot. (It makes his horrendous behavior easier to forgive.) Plus, he loads so much tension into the performance that he ends up resembling a coiled spring; one nudge in the wrong direction, and he could explode.

 

The pacing in A Hard Day is pretty sharp, too, which helps offset its dull-looking cinematography. The patina Kim and his director of photography have imbued in the film helps it in a likely unintended way: It’s easier to focus on the action when the backgrounds aren’t so pretty. It would be nice if the look happened on purpose; I’m guessing the DP just isn’t very good.

 

But in the end, A Hard Day delivers the shocks and thrills, with a couple moments (and a villain, played by the dynamite Jo Jin-woong) that are so jarring you may actually jump out of your seat. I did, and I don’t think that’s happened to me since I saw The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen in 2000. This is an impressive flick. Don’t miss it.

 


A HARD DAY

Directed by Kim Seong-hun

With Lee Sun-kyun and Jo Jin-woong

The Screen

NR

111 min.


Cold Inside

There are no big surprises in Steve Jobs: 'The Man in the Machine'

MehWednesday, September 2, 2015 by David Riedel

In Shallow Grave, directed by Danny Boyle, three friends discover a suitcase full of money in their dead roommate's room. They decide to keep their find quiet, but a couple of them go on a spending spree. When the third discovers what they've done, he screams, “£500 is what you paid for it. We don't know how much it cost us yet.”

 

In the final frames of Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, Alex Gibney asks his reflection what the existential cost of Apple is: Isolation? Terrible working conditions for those who manufacture them? Implicitly, he asks, our souls?

 

If I want to be told to look in the mirror, I’ll stick with Glen Ballard, Siedah Garrett and Michael Jackson (or Shallow Grave). While Gibney’s question isn’t irrelevant, it is pretty mundane. He spends two hours going through every rotten thing Steve Jobs did in his life (which is considerable, mind you), and that would be a revelation if all this information hadn’t been available when Jobs was alive.

 

The Gizmodo story on the iPhone 4? Here, but well-covered elsewhere. Jobs’ difficult relationship with his daughter Lisa? Here, but well-covered elsewhere. Jobs’ decision to wait nine months to have what could have been life-saving cancer surgery? Here, but well-covered elsewhere. The deplorable conditions in the factories that manufacture iProducts? Here, but well-covered elsewhere. The conceit in the movie is to uncover why so many people mourned Jobs when he died. Eh.

 

Between this documentary, The Armstrong Lie (2013) and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015), Gibney has made a trilogy that could be subtitled The Bleedin’ Obvious (with all apologies to Basil Fawlty). He won an Academy Award for the worthy Taxi to the Dark Side (2007). Did that award come with a license to phone it in?

 


 

STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE

Directed by Alex Gibney

With Steve Jobs

Violet Crown Cinema

R
128 min.


Street View

09.02.15

Street ViewWednesday, September 2, 2015 by SFR
Get ‘em while they’re young! Thanks to @emmazonian for sharing via Instagram with #SFRStreetview.


Send shots to streetview@sfreporter.com or share with the above hashtag for a chance to win movie passes to the CCA Cinematheque.

7 Days

09.02.15

7 DaysWednesday, September 2, 2015 by SFR
1

LA FONDA AND ST. JOHN’S ADDED TO HISTORIC LIST

Chicago Dog and Super 8 rejected because they have too many colors of paint.

2

JACKALOPE AND SANBUSCO HAVE NEW OWNERS

Turns out foreclosure isn’t so bad after all.

3

INQUIRY BEGINS ON SAINTHOOD FOR TERRITORIAL NUN

Keep an eye out for Sister Blandina Segale to perform miracles, such as helping you find a good parking spot for Zozobra.

4

SECRETARY OF STATE CHARGED WITH CAMPAIGN FRAUD

Casino ATMs: Best idea ever.

5

NM LOTTERY SALES SPIKE

And casino revenues might uptick too.

6

PNM RENEWS RATE REQUEST

And all the people shouted, “Burn him! Burn him!”

7

AL HURRICANE GOES ON FAREWELL TOUR

No one will ever rock the mustache quite like you did, Mr. Godfather.


Letters to the Editor

09.02.15

Letters to the EditorWednesday, September 2, 2015 by SFR

Online, Aug. 26: “Labor’s Local Legacy”


Huerta is Beautiful

What a beautiful legacy. Thank you for your unyielding support of our most vulnerable workers. It is confusing to me that business leaders want to exploit cheap labor, yet turn around and seem to want to offer nothing in the way of a reasonable path to long-term citizenship. Very immoral.

Natalie Braham
Denver


Cover, Aug. 26: “Dirty Water”


Look Upstream

Thank you very much for Elizabeth Miller’s article on the Gold King Mine disaster. It is well-researched and addresses the central issues lost in most of the media’s coverage of the spill. Yes, the EPA workers made a disastrous mistake and need to be held accountable. But as Miller points out, the real disaster is “upstream” with the legacy of unregulated mining. Were companies and individuals held accountable—rather than being coddled by Congress and state governments—the EPA wouldn’t be left with such messes to clean up.

Unfortunately, the Gold King spill is being used by such companies and their cronies to cut funding for the EPA and bolster their argument that they are far better suited to protect the public interest in environmental concerns than “the government.” Kudos to Miller and the Reporter for showing the fallacy of that “fox guarding the henhouse” argument.

Talitha Arnold
Santa Fe


Letters, Aug. 19: “No Cause for a Party”


Learn From History

It is Fiesta time, and once again it is time for Spanish hate and prejudices to come out, as seen in [Dr. Debra Rinehart’s letter about Robert Basler’s July 22 column, “The Reign in Spain”].

Dr. Rinehart and her likeminded folks, who most likely come from another state, are determined to impose their prejudices on the community, their new home.

They want to change any part of the local culture and traditions with which they don’t agree. Their motto is “If I don’t like it or agree with it then no one should like or agree with it.”

These supposedly educated folks should learn the history of their new home. They fail to acknowledge the atrocities of the English and the Dutch on the Eastern Seaboard, which brings to mind the expression, “Where the Spanish once were, the Native Americans still are; where the English once were, the Native Americans no longer are.”

An objective review of history should explain it. While at it, look at the history and policies of the American government and its use of the [cavalry] as late as the 19th century in this state and throughout the West.

George C’ de Baca
Santa Fe


News, Aug. 19: “Up in the Air”


Go Vegan

The mayor is correct: Climate change is “the biggest threat to our way of life that we have faced in generations.”

What he and many other environmentalists don’t realize is that it’s not just clean energy that is needed to thwart this enormous menace.

According to an in-depth study commissioned by the World Bank, we have to be concerned about what we eat as well. [Other reseach claims] the environmental impact of animals raised for food accounts for at least half of all human-caused greenhouse gases.

If we are to have a chance in hell of mitigating climate change, we need to act now. The easiest way is to switch to vegan choices and stop supporting animal agriculture! Plant-based food choices are delicious, healthy, compassionate and sustainable.

James Corcoran
Santa Fe


Go Away, PNM

If we are patient, PNM will go belly up because the business model is deeply flawed in today’s planet in peril scenario. Coal is not going to be the way we make power in the very near future.

Lawrence Israel
SFReporter.com


Letters, Aug. 19: “Another Deadbeat”


Don’t Kill the Gila

Jeff Sussmann’s comments [re: the Aug. 12 cover story, “Back to School Reading List”]opposing the Gila River Diversion make sense. This diversion proposal is an ecological nightmare waiting to happen.

One of the major supporters of this anti-environmental scheme is the grazing industry lobby, which not only vehemently opposes wolf reintroduction in the Gila bioregion but also has a long history of demanding the slaughter of wolves, coyotes, mountain lions and other native wild animals.

The livestock associations want wild and scenic rivers like the Gila excluded from any further wilderness designation discussions.

The Gila River is a desert river, increasingly under stress due to human-caused climate change and public lands grazing. The birds, mammals and other native species depend upon the Gila for their continued existence.

Are we going to allow taxpayer-subsidized public lands ranchers to decide the fate of this ecosystem? We taxpayers will foot the bill, but the flora and fauna and the fragile river system will pay the ultimate price: a dead river, and species extinctions.

Rosemary Lowe
Santa Fe


Food, Aug. 5: “Ah, Fogata ‘Bout It”


Separate Those Checks

This review is not bad at all. We get a bit of history and good descriptions of the food offerings. Sadly, there is also a poorly supported opinion haphazardly stapled...at the end. Where did the idea that paying one’s check separately was some kind of ethical violation come from?

In my group, we tend to takes turns buying, or one person might throw in a bit more than their share. We do this [to be] respectful to the waitperson. The problem with DeWalt’s poorly thought out rant about separate checks is that it has little to do with reality. I say little, rather than nothing, because separate checks do cause more work for the server. A considerate customer should try not to increase the work load of the waitstaff.

As someone who worked for several years doing a variety of food service jobs, I disagree with DeWalt. Just as the customer is not always right, neither is the employee, or the pundit. If the customer has been considerate up to the point of paying, appreciate that fact, and be a professional.

David Nelson
Santa Fe



SFR will correct factual errors online and in print. Please let us know if we make a mistake, editor@sfreporter.com or 988-7530.

Mail letters to PO Box 2306, Santa Fe, NM 87504, deliver to 132 E Marcy St., or email them to editor@sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

Eavesdropper

09.02.15

EavesdropperWednesday, September 2, 2015 by SFR

“Could someone, please, take the ‘whisper‘ sign around? There are Texans in the iron pool.”

—Overheard at Ojo Caliente


“You know who the new Doris Day is? Amy Schumer.”

—Overheard at Cowgirl BBQ



Send your Overheard in Santa Fe tidbits to: eavesdropper@sfreporter.com


‘As Usual’ Re-Explained

Here's the ThingWednesday, September 2, 2015 by Andrea L Mays

Communication, spoken and written, can be a tricky enterprise. Even those of us who take a small measure of pride in being effective, if not exceptional, communicators sometimes miss the mark. Based on several reader responses (thank you for reading the column), I’ll take the opportunity to take responsibility for what I detect was miscommunication between myself and some readers in my Aug. 19 column, “Business as Usual.”

As the title suggests, I made a claim that business interests often supersede those of citizens in our capitalistic society. I also wrote that the recent trend toward privatiz ing services once performed by US government institutions has resulted in unfortunate and sometimes disastrous outcomes for us taxpaying citizens.

Allowing profit-driven, private sector business to increasingly control what were once public services performed, maintained and regulated by federal government institutions has resulted in numerous negative (and often fatal) outcomes.

Some examples of privatization of state and federal businesses and services that have proven disastrous include, but are not limited to, the privatization of prisons, space travel and defense staffing (think Blackwater).

A number of politicians (beholden to business interests and their lobbyists) and critics of so-called big government (like the CATO Institute) have firmly made the case that government institutions like the US Postal Service, passenger rail (Amtrak) and electric utilities, highways, air traffic control, seaports, airports and the Army Corps of Engineers would likely perform better and be more innovative if they were privatized.

I disagree. It’s more likely, given our long- and short-term history, that if private business and its profit motives assumed the crucial functions of government, it would strike a mortal blow to our democracy. The middle class and the poor would suffer the greatest hardships, although they are also the ones who most need the protection and services of government.

While our federal agencies and businesses are imperfect and make big mistakes (the Environmental Protection Agency’s role in the toxic spill from the Gold King Mine, for example), handing over the lion’s share of our civil and civic services to private business interests is not the answer.

Consider two recent instances where business briefly held the reins of our national welfare: the Wall Street meltdown in 2008 and BP’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill. Both did the greatest damage to common folk. Homes, pensions, savings and livelihoods were lost. In the case of Wall Street, the very people business showed the greatest contempt for in its dealings—taxpayers—saved the banks (and arguable the country) through the bailout.

My point is that business doesn’t have “taking care of people’s best interest” as its first priority. Business takes care of business.

As SFR is a local paper, I chose to make this point by drawing on a local example of how I have observed the surreptitious transfer of our postal needs to the private sector. No, the US Postal Service is not privatized, it’s an enterprise fund within the federal government, which means its rates are supposed to cover costs. But the companies—its business “partners”—that have assumed the functions once primarily performed by the USPS are now profiting from them. Meanwhile, the USPS cuts staff and closes offices, often in small and rural communities, where they are needed the most.

Here’s the Thing: Many federal agencies need improvement, and some (like the US Postal Service) may need overhauling, but they don’t need to be replaced by private business. Let’s face it, if our political officials rallied to rescue the USPS with a fraction of the commitment with which we approached bailing out Wall Street—attention, financial support and forbearance—the Postal Service would be a stronger business, and its future secure. We would all be the better for it.


Andrea is an American Studies scholar who writes and teaches courses on US politics and culture. You can reach her with your thoughts at: andrea@sfreporter.com


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