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New Mexico Funds World Peace

Doesn’t it just make you feel warm and fuzzy all over? It’s good to know that our state has so much money to burn that we are able to use it in such a constructive manner:

More than 400 people will attend the sold-out World Peace Conference this week to listen to speeches from Nobel Peace laureates and participate in five “peace councils.”

The conference, dubbed “Building a Culture of Peace,” is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at the Hilton Santa Fe. Although registration for the conference is full, a limited number of tickets will be available at the door beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday for $65.

Tickets remain available for a concert Thursday by the Indigo Girls and Richie Havens at the Santa Fe Opera, with prices ranging from $20 to $49.

State Tourism Secretary Michael Cerletti said he hopes the conference will spur participants to talk about ways of achieving peace. “What we’re trying to do here is create a dialogue,” Cerletti said.

The state Tourism Department organized the event, and Cerletti said the conference should stay well under its budget of $280,000 in state funds.

Anyone here doing the math? $280,000 divided by the 400 attendees means the taxpayers have ponied up to cover the cost for this event at a whopping $700 per attendee. That’s one expensive dialogue.

In other news (subscription):

Tax breaks for people who buy affordable housing in Santa Fe County have disappeared under the new county assessor, Domingo Martinez.

Martinez, the former New Mexico state auditor who was elected assessor last November, said in an interview that the tax breaks given on affordable homes by his predecessor, Benito Martinez, were illegal under the state tax code.

Meanwhile, property tax bills have arrived in mailboxes and affordable housing officials say Domingo Martinez’s new way of doing things could seriously hurt low-income residents who have purchased homes through city and county affordable housing programs.

Mike Loftin, executive director of Homewise, a non-profit that helps administer affordable housing programs, said tax bills for those who have purchased affordable homes could go up from $20 to $60 a month.

Daniel Werwath, of the Santa Fe Community Housing Trust, said calls have been flooding in from clients whose bills have risen steeply from last year. In one extreme case, Werwath said, an elderly, disabled woman on a fixed income saw her property tax bill rise from roughly $50 a month to more than $200 a month.

“These are people with extremely low incomes. It’s a huge issue,” Werwath said.

I wonder if the elderly disabled woman on a fixed income will get recognized as a sponsor at the World Peace Conference event.