PVA Meeting Recap – May 28, 2009

This Month’s Unified Action—Wilderness in Doña Ana County

Nathan Small presented this month’s Unified Action which is to email and/or call our congressional delegation and urge them to support the Citizen’s Wilderness and National Conservation Area proposal. Nathan stressed the fact that now is the time to pass this legislation since we have supportive legislators. We need to show them that citizens support the creation of wilderness areas. “People here in this room can push this over the top,” he said, surveying the crowd of over 100.

Complete information about this Unified Action and all the legislator contact information is here. You can see maps and learn more about the Citizen’s Wilderness and National Conservation Area proposal here.

State Auditor Hector Balderas

NM State Auditor Balderas began by noting that “most people would rather be mugged than audited.” He stressed the importance of accountability in government, focusing on the following points:

There are only 30 positions in the State Auditor’s office, which is responsible for monitoring 60 billion in tax dollars and 800 governments throughout New Mexico (including 120 state agencies).

The state auditor is not a bean counter. Citizens need to pay attention to the quality of auditor candidates on the ballot.
Citizen involvement is key to government accountability.

The State Auditor’s office is committed to responding to citizen concerns, and their Web site includes a hotline for reporting financial fraud, waste, and abuse of public resources.

Several issues were raised in a brief question and answer period. Some of the key points are listed below.

The cost of auditing has sky-rocketed for the Housing Authority of Las Cruces, rising by 50 to 75% in the last several months. Mr. Balderas noted plans to “tweak” the new law so audits can be more flexible and strategic, and agencies won’t have to pay for brain surgery when a basic check up will meet their needs.

Small government entities needing help with funding for their annual audits can go first to their oversight agency, second to lawmakers, and third to the auditor’s office.

An annual audit is required by every New Mexico government—all 800 of them.

New Mexico’s stimulus money is being tracked by the governor’s task force. There will be auditing, but Mr. Balderas believes it’s not adequately funded.

What’s the nature of the current dispute between the offices of the Attorney General and the Auditor? Mr. Balderas stated that New Mexico is not used to having an independent auditor. The attorney general and the auditor have overlapping jurisdictions, and Mr. Balderas is attempting to assert his audit authority in those jurisdictions.

News from the Office of Senator Jeff Bingaman

Dara Parker from Senator Bingaman’s staff was on hand to let us know about the Senator’s work on the energy bill. The broad question being addressed is “What should our energy future be?” Current legislation under consideration will cover green jobs, tax incentives, measures friendly to small business, DOE loans and guarantees, water and solar energy, and much more.

The Q and A session raised a variety of concerns.

Question: What is the status of the Organ Mountain Wilderness Bill? (See the Unified Action above.)
Answer: Senator Bingaman is still meeting with “on the ground stakeholders.” There will be a large national conservation area; there will be access to roads. The wilderness bill was delayed by work on the massive energy bill, but it will be introduced sometime this summer.

Question: How much stimulus money will Doña Ana County receive?
Answer: Competitive grants are still pending and we don’t know yet what will be successful. Senator Bingaman’s Web site has a variety of information about the stimulus plan in New Mexico.

Question:  How much money has been authorized for study of the Otero Mesa salt basin aquifer?
Answer:  Funds have been authorized for the study of a number of aquifers including the Otero Mesa. Specific amounts for each study site will not be known until monies are appropriated.

Question: Where does Senator Bingaman stand on the Fair Pay Act?
Answer: He is not a cosponsor at this point but has the matter under consideration.
Reminder: Phone calls and letters DO make a difference to the Senator and the staff keeps a daily tally of all calls, emails, and letters.

Question: Is Senator Bingaman committed to a single payer program or is he wishy-washy?
Answer: Senator Bingaman will have a pivotal role to play with regard to the health care bill, since he is on the Finance Committee (as well as other key committees). He favors a public insurance option, believes a big change is needed, and is a pragmatist.

Update on April’s Unified Action

The April Unified Action was to contact our county commissioners and urge them to create a solar financing district for Doña Ana County. Mark Westbrock, a sponsor of the Unified Action, let us know that the County Commissioners, at their May 12 meeting, directed staff to study the financing district and present a plan for implementation at the August 1 meeting. Many commissioners remarked on the public outpouring of support for this issue.

Commissioner Scott Krahling

County Commissioner Scott Krahling spoke of the current work of the commission,  highlighting a new ordinance that puts in place rigorous completion standards for builders. Scott noted as well that the commission is working to create the solar finance district (which was the focus of last month’s Unified Action). In this regard, he noted the effectiveness of receiving citizen input and urged us not to doubt the power of calls, emails, and letters. for more information send email to Scott.

SWEC Hosts Border Art Exhibit

Roger Turner announced that SWEC will have an important exhibit of photos showing the impact of the border wall on people and animals. The exhibit will be in place from June 17 to July 14. For more information send email to Roger or call him at 575-522-5552.

Roger also noted that HR 2076, the Border Security and Responsibility Act 2009, is a good bill for the borderland and needs our support.

Organizing for America/Obama Cruces Connection

Eric Hilberg issued an invitation to important upcoming events. On June 6, from 8 to 10 a.m., OFA/OCC is sponsoring a community service project: Clean Up the Rio. Volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. at the Calle del Norte Bridge in Mesilla. The project will be carried out in cooperation with the SWEC. For more information, send email to Bill McCamley.

A second event, also on June 6, is the Health Care Campaign Kickoff. The meeting will be held at 1 p.m. at the Doña Ana Democratic Headquarters, 1400 S. Solano.

June 27 is a National Day of Service and information will be forthcoming about activities on that day.

OFA/OCC is starting a task force on Border and Immigration Issues and welcomes participants.

For more information or to have your name added to the OFA/OCC email list so that you can receive information about all upcoming events, send email to Eric or call him at 575-541-0378.

State Representative Joni Gutierrez

Representative Gutierrez expressed her regrets at having been out of town for the legislative forum at the April PVA meeting and she gave a 2-minute overview of the work of the House Appropriations Committee, on which she serves. The committee began by fixing the 450 million dollar short fall for the 2009 budget and then went to work on the 2010 budget, dealing with revenues that are 6.5% below projections. Health care and education will be shored up by stimulus plan money. The committee managed to write the 2010 budget with no layoffs and no 4-day weeks, which was a major accomplishment. You can email Joni at jonig@zianet.com.

Mental Health Workshops

Al Galves announced that he will present a series of three lecture-workshops on the causes, nature, and treatment of mental illness. The series will be held at the Mesilla Community Center on June 16, 23, and 30 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.  You can also send email to Al or call him at 575-5228371 (h) or 575-571-3105 (c).

SWEC Events

Ella Nelson let us know about the following upcoming events and fundraising opportunities.

Clean up the Rio  (in conjunction with OFA and OCC)
Saturday, June 6, 8 to 10 a.m.
Meet at the Calle del Norte Bridge

Open House at Bosque State Park
Friday, June 12, 6 to 8 p.m.
Food, drink, and guest speaker Kevin Bixby of SWEC

Twelfth Annual Raft the River
Saturday, June 13

For more information, send email to Ella or call her at 575-524-0663.

Speak Out for Rail

Winn Jacobs urged us to support expansion of the Rail Runner Express service to include  Las Cruces, New Mexico’s second largest city. We also need to advocate for rail transportation between El Paso and Las Cruces. Congressman Teague sits on the Transportation Committee; let him know your views.  For more information, send email to Winn.

Church Women United Sponsor Human Rights Celebration

Ruth Moorer announced that the there will be a human rights celebration on Saturday, June 6, 9:30 a.m., at the First Christian Church, 1809 El Paseo Road. Speakers will be Pamela Angell, Director of the Community of Hope; Carolyn Scott, Regional Administrator of Probational Approval Officers; and Senator Mary Jane Garcia, New Mexico State Legislature Majority Whip. For more information send email to Ruth or call her at 575-525-2535.

Senator Teague’s Staff

Staffer Jake Redfearn brought greetings from Representative Teague. He stated that the Rep. Teague is well aware of the transportation needs in southern New Mexico and supports the expansion of rail service to link Las Cruces to El Paso and to northern New Mexico. For more information, send email to Jake.

‘Democracy Now!’ for Las Cruces

Ann Gutierrez reported that she is pursuing her goal of having Amy Goodman’s ‘Democracy Now!’ aired on KRWG. She welcomes others to join her. For more information send email to Ann.

Traditional PVA June Meeting and Party After

Don Kurtz announced that PVA will observe the tradition of a relatively brief June meeting followed by our usual rousing summer party. The June meeting will take place, as always, on the fourth Thursday, (June 25) at 7 p.m. at Munson Center. After the meeting we will adjourn to the NMSU Golf Course (map and directions) for beverages and snacks. We will have the place to ourselves. The view of the sunset is terrific. We have promised the golf course a minimum of 50 guests, so take an afternoon nap and be ready to party!!

State Representative Nate Cote

Nate announced that the southern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail is now properly identified and outfitted with signage and picnic tables. An enterprising citizen of Hatchita has begun a small business transporting hikers from the town to the remote trailhead to begin their momentous journeys. For information about the Continental Divide Trail, area hiking opportunities, or pending legislation, send email to Nate.

LC City Council Working Hard

Nathan Small gave a quick update on projects underway at the City Council. A plan is nearly ready for “complete streets,” which would be bicycle and pedestrian friendly. The city will soon hire a Sustainability Officer. The hen ordinance is coming up before a work session on Monday, June 8. For more information on any of these issues, or other city business, send email to Nathan.

Juneteenth Celebration

The Doña Ana county Branch of the NAACP is sponsoring a Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Apodaca Park. There will be lots of family-friendly games and an auction. Tickets for barbeque plate (beef, chicken, or ribs)  are $7.00—to reserve your dinner, call 575-621-0070. For more information, send email to Tim Reed.

Since 1985, June 19th has been observed as the African American Emancipation Day. Information about the celebration throughout the United States and around the world is here.

The next PVA meeting will be June 25, 7 p.m.
Munson Senior Center, 975 S. Mesquite
Followed by the 5th Annual PVA Summer Party
8-10 p.m. at the NMSU University Golf Course
Be there!


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