“You missed the point of my presentation”

by George Szigeti | October 21, 2020
4 min read

Editor’s Note: Last Friday, the Sun published a story reporting on George Szigeti’s presentation to the Truth or Consequences City Commission on alternatives to the direct transfer of utility enterprise funds to the general fund.

Chief reporter Kathleen Sloan sent former city commissioner Szigeti the following follow-up questions. His response is printed verbatim below her questions, which are presented in their entirety here.

Sloan’s questions

You did not include in your evaluation any city-management, cost-benefit analysis or cost-savings analysis. One can either cut back expenses by $1.5 million or find the money elsewhere, but your presentation only gave one cutting-down-on-expenses option, which was dismissed as no option.

For example, a cost-savings option might examine how much the city would save by fixing the nearly 20 percent transmission loss of electricity. Since the city makes over $7 million in fees, 20 percent energy saving is about $1.4 million.

Or how much would the city save if it let the recycling function go at the transfer station, letting private business pick up that service? The solid waste utility costs have risen astronomically to over $2 million. The service has also not been put out to bid by the city since the transfer station was built.

Your only cost-saving option was to suggest that 30 staff members would have to be cut to make up $1.5 million. You said you spoke with city staff and they said they are short staff now, therefore this option was not feasible.

Please comment on why the options were narrowed to finding money elsewhere, with no cost-savings options.

Please also correct me if I am wrong. What I think you said was the current electric adjustment charge is currently .0412 cents per kilowatt hour. You would call .0037 of this charge a “use tax,” which would generate how much a year? $340,000? And there would be no change in the electric bill?

Szigeti’s response

I can see by your questions that you totally missed the point of this presentation. It was not a suggestion, but rather a quantitative analysis of the problem and of the most obvious solutions.

The first part, which you have focused on, was not directed at the commissioners, but rather the residents of T or C. It was not meant to be a list of cost-cutting measures, but rather an illustration of the magnitude of the budget deficit to help the citizens understand how difficult it is to reduce expenses by this amount. City managers and department heads have been working on this for years, and former City Manager Fuentes had already shaved over $500,000 off the city’s budget.

Also, I made it clear at the beginning of the presentation, that the city’s operational budget of $6,000,000 does NOT include the utilities, as they pay their own expenses and salaries. Therefore, none of the suggestions you list would have any effect on the city’s operational budget.

The remainder of the presentation showed alternatives to the direct transfer of funds from an enterprise fund to the general fund. I have heard constant protests about how this practice is illegal, yet no one has brought forward any practical suggestions, only vague generalities. And, as I illustrated in the first part, further cutting of the budget is not practical. If you think it is, I challenge you to investigate the budget and find $1,500,000 in waste.

I also summarized our significant sources of revenue and illustrated what would have to be done to generate this additional revenue. I thought that part was easy to understand. The commissioners got the message. An important take-away is the fact that T or C’s property tax mil rate is far below any other municipality in this area, and comprises only 5.8% of the total property tax bill. Under-sized tax rates, like inadequate utility rates, can affect the city’s ability to obtain grants and loans for large projects. And, as I also noted, people who complain about high property tax bills should go to the county and school district to complain, as they collect the lion’s share of the property tax. There’s something else to investigate:  What do city residents get for the $2,000,000 Sierra County collects from property tax?

Now I will end this with a warning. Do not attempt to misquote anything in this email, or in my presentation, nor take it out of context in order to make a false assertion. Although others may not take this seriously, I do. And I will not hesitate to contact a lawyer if I believe your reporting to be libelous.

George Szigeti
Truth or Consequences

BTW: Look at what the residents of Elephant Butte pay for their trash collection if you think going to a private service is a good idea.

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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

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