This month’s Unified Action is to contact the Doña Ana County Commissioners and ask them to support a Solar Financing District for our county. The financing district was enabled by legislation passed during the recent legislative session and would give significant help to homeowners by reducing the upfront costs of installing solar systems. As always, please send a message saying “I did it” to firstname.lastname@example.org when you have completed the Action.
It has become a tradition for April to be a lookback at the New Mexico Legislative session. The following legislators were present to share their views of the highs and lows of the 2009 session:
- Representative Joseph Cervantes, District 52
- Representative Nate Cote, District 53
- Senator Steve Fischmann, District 37
- Representative Mary Helen Garcia, District 34
- Senator Mary Kay Papen, District 38
- Representative Jeff Steinborn, District 37
Senator Joseph Cervantes stressed the importance of opening the legislative process to the public. Activity on the floor of both houses can now be watched free on the internet during the annual session. He sponsored a bill to create a constitutional revision commission, which was not successful in this session but will be introduced again. Our New Mexico Constitution has not been revised in a meaningful way since its adoption in 1912. The 100-year anniversary is approaching and seems a fitting time to review and update the document.
Representative Mary Helen Garcia outlined her work on the Education Committee and the efforts to adopt a new funding formula which would be fair to all districts—rural and urban—and would take into account the costs of serving students with high mobility, special needs, English as a second language, etc. The revised funding formula is on hold because of the economy.
Representative Nate Cote allowed that he may have been overly ambitious in sponsoring 38 bills and memorials—but 4 bills and 5 memorials passed, which was a very good result. Successes included electronic voting for overseas citizens and the ability for them to vote in local elections. Nate noted that his bill preventing racial profiling passed and will provide orientation and training for law enforcement officers and a process for dealing with complaints. He commented on the importance of this bill in a diverse state like New Mexico. Nate also noted that Joseph Cervantes made progress on ethics reform measures and that Jeff Steinborn worked to assure that the New Mexico veterans’ museum will be in Las Cruces.
Representative Jeff Steinborn summed the session up as “challenging.” He gave credit to Janice Arnold-Jones who brought her own camera to begin webcasting of the legislative sessions, which led to legislation requiring live internet webcasting of legislative activities. Legislation that Jeff sponsored now requires that the State Land Office engage in competitive bidding before selling state lands.
Senator Mary Kay Papen noted that “Doña Ana County has one of the best contingents of legislators in the entire body.” She reported that funding for the new aquatic center was a concerted group effort. She expressed her disappointment over the failure of the Domestic Partners Act and reiterated her past and future support of the bill.
Senator Steve Fischmann noted the integrity of the Doña Ana legislators. He was pleased with greater regulation of the State Land Office and the defeat of the Sun-Cal TIDD. He felt that the constitutional convention proposed by Joseph Cervantes could be an excellent way to improve the functioning of the government, cutting down—as just one example—on micromanagement by the legislature.
‘Democracy Now!’ Here
After hearing Amy Goodman speak at the Border Book Festival, Ann Gutierrez is ready to start a campaign to get KRWG to broadcast Goodman’s independent news program, “Democracy Now!” One action would be a call to the director of development and request the program.
For more information or to join forces, send email to Ann.
‘Democracy Now!’ Now
Judy LaPointe announced the currently available ways to listen or watch Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!” The program airs Monday through Friday. Locally, the options are:
- KRUX radio, 91.5 FM
- DISH Network: Link TV, Ch. 9410
- DISH Network: Free Speech TV, Ch. 9415
Visit the “Democracy Now!” on the Web for broadcast times, real audio stream, real video stream, podcasts, and more.
Lomas de Poleo
Charlotte Lipson introduced Father Bill Morton who has been working for many years on behalf of the people of Lomas de Poleo, a small village just across the Mexican Border from Sunland Park, who are holding on against overwhelming odds to land they have occupied since 1974. You can visit pasodelsur.com for information about this David and Goliath struggle.
Presently the group needs donations to cover lawyers’ fees, travel expenses (to court in Chihuahua), and an engineer’s survey of the land in question. To contribute, make checks payable to Fr. Bill Morton and send to him at 816 Magoffin Ave., El Paso, TX 79901-1559. Put “Lomas” on the check subject line.
The PVA audience wanted to know much more than Father Morton could fit into a two-minute segment and many ceded their own two minutes to him. Peter Ossorio started it and others followed suit.
Here is an excerpt from Fr. Morton’s email sent after the meeting:
Thanks, again, for the invitation to speak at the PVA. I thought to myself “It’s only 2 minutes, but who knows what can happen in 2 minutes or who we might meet there that could help the Lomas residents?” So I WENT. Little did I know. The whole evening was a great experience. I think you could change the Las Cruces welcome sign to say “Welcome to Las Cruces: The City where Democracy is Actually Practiced!”
I really was deeply moved by the creativity of Peter Ossorio, Cliff Pelton, Jeff Berg and others who ceded their time for the sake of Lomas. The generous action garnered people’s attention and gave a sense of urgency and importance to the struggle that I could have never achieved in 2 minutes. I’m hopeful a lot of those people will do some research, write Hillary Clinton a letter and that several more will make donations. I already received $525 dollars in donations, right at the meeting. There were two checks and someone stuck two hundred-dollar bills in my calendar, as well as several other cast donations. . . . Pass on my gratitude on behalf of the residents of Lomas to all those who supported us last night.
Father Bill urged everyone in attendance to send handwritten letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to investigate the Lomas de Poleo situation. Address your letters to
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Banishing the Plastic Bag
Connie Richardson announced her personal campaign to rid her home of the plastic bag. In addition to carrying her own bags to market, Connie is using a compostable, biodegradable garbage bag. The bags are available online and locally at Mountain View Market.
Health Care Reform
Tony Holzman summarized the work of the Health Care Reform Committee, which is part of the Las Cruces chapter of Organizing for America (which grew out of the Obama campaign). He emphasized that there is a need for grassroots input for health care policy. The committee has made recommendations to address three main problems: the lack of primary care, the high cost of health care, and the high cost of health insurance.
The committee welcomes new members. To request a copy of the committee’s full draft document or for more information, send email to Tony.
Energy and National Security
Peter Ossorio encouraged everyone to participate in the current Unified Action and pointed out that decentralized energy is hugely important for strengthening national security.
Peter then, in a move he described as ‘unprecedented for a lawyer,’ yielded the remainder of his two minutes to Father Morton who used it to tell a bit more of the Lomas de Poleo story.
Gary Camuñez announced the third annual Local Solutions event to be held Saturday, April 25, at the Branigan Library. Visit Local Solutions on the Web for the agenda, which includes such familiar names as Steve Fischmann, Mark Westbrock, Jim Graham, Sherry Thomas, and Miguel Silva. The Web site provides a great list of ways (local and beyond) for using fewer resources.
For more information, send email to Gary.
Update from Mayor Miyagishima
Trey Williams, newly appointed assistant to the mayor, was on hand to follow up on issues raised at the mayor’s visit to the March PVA meeting.
- Police Review—Public meetings have been completed and the consultants will be giving their recommendations in the near future.
- Red Light Cameras—Tickets will not be issued for drivers exceeding the speed limit by a trivial amount. A public report detailing the speed ranges at which drivers have been cited will be issued in a few months.
- El Paso-Las Cruces Rail—The mayors and city councils of both cities met on April 15 and agreed to continue serious consideration and study of a commuter rail system connecting the cities.
- Public Participation at City Council Meetings—Public participation has been moved to early in the meeting and mayor, councilor, and city manager comments have been moved to the end of the meeting. Proclamations and ceremonial activities at the beginning of the meeting will be limited to fifteen minutes.
- Level Payment Plans for Utility Bills—At the March PVA meeting there was a complaint that people who had been late in utility bill payment in the past couldn’t participate in the fixed payment plan. The mayor is still working on this, and asked anyone having this difficulty to contact him at email@example.com.
People who would like to bring items to the mayor’s attention can also send email to Trey or call him at 575-640-6536.
League of Women Voters
Johnnie Aldrich announced that the League’s “2009 Who’s Who” is now available. The publication lists contact information for elected officials including President Obama, our U.S. senators and representatives, state representatives and senators, judges, commissioners, and every elected official in Doña Ana County.
Representative Teague Meets Constituents
Lloyd Covens announced that Harry Teague is continuing the practice of meeting with individual constituents. He will be holding 10-minute meetings Friday, April 24. For more information send email to Lloyd.
Tim Reed announced this upcoming celebration of human rights. Details will be forthcoming, but for more information you can email Tim.
Since its beginnings in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and become a worldwide celebration.
Mexican Gray Wolves Have Their Own Web Site
Jean Ossorio announced the launching of a new Web site devoted to the protection of the Mexican Gray Wolf. The site includes videos, photos, history, ring tones (!), and calls to action. A letter writing campaign (to Senators Bingaman and Udall and Representative Teague) is currently underway.
The group is working to update the wolf recovery plan, which was written in 1982 and is no longer adequate. For more information, send email to Jean.
Eric Hilberg announced that a celebration of Obama’s first 100 days will be held May 1.
Day 100 Summit
Friday, May 1
8 to 10 a.m.
Branigan Cultural Center (on the Downtown Mall)
The meeting is open to all, but seating is limited so you will need to RSVP to Obama-Cruces Connection. The meeting is free, but you are requested to bring a food donation of $10 to $20. Donations will benefit Community of Hope and the Alice King Memorial Food Drive. For more information call Eric at 575-541-0378.
The Obama-Cruces Connection service committee will hold a food drive for El Caldito and Casa de Peregrinos on May 2 and 3. To participate or for more information send email to Bill McCamley.
The Peace Alliance
The Las Cruces City Council will consider a resolution in support of the creation of a U.S. Department of Peace (H.R. 808) at one of its May meetings, but the date has not yet been decided.
If you favor the resolution, please plan to attend the council meeting and show your support. To be informed when the council date has been set, send email to Jim Moore. To learn more, visit the ThePeaceAlliance.org.
Ask Harry Teague, our Congressman, to cosponsor this bill, H.R. 808, by sending email from his Web site: http://www.teague.house.gov/ or by a phone call to 202-225-2365.
A Conservative Point of View
Greg Sowards emphasized the value of a conservative philosophy and approach to current issues, especially the value of personal giving to others. He also pointed out the importance of conservation as a factor in the new energy environment.
For more information, send email to Greg.
Las Cruces Academy Celebrates
Lou Ellen Kay announced that the academy will open in August 2009 with students in kindergarten through grade 3. The academy, a private school for gifted and advanced students, will hold an opening celebration on May 30 and all are invited to attend.
For more information visit LasCrucesAcademy.org or call Lou Ellen at 575-521-9384.
Roots & Shoots
Former State Land Commissioner Ray Powell spoke on behalf of the Service Learning Program of the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research Education and Conservation. He promised monthly updates on the group’s work in our region.
Criminal Justice Task Force
Al Kissling announced that the Criminal Justice Taskforce of the Progressive Democrats Alliance will be discussing the pros and cons of the decriminalization of marijuana. They meet on Tuesday, May 12, 7 p.m., at the Democratic Headquarters (Foster and Solano).
A ‘No Kill’ Approach to Animal Shelters
Alice Anderson spoke about the possibility of implementing a “no kill” policy at our animal shelter. She is not opposed to the “no kill” policy but raised questions about the steps for implementing the plan locally. For more information send email to Alice.
Update from Councilor Sharon Thomas
Sharon Thomas, City Councilor for District 6, announced that Vision 2040 meetings will begin soon. It is also time for developing a new strategic plan for the city. You can give you input on the Web at M3Planning.com/lascruces. (Click on the small yellow headline: “Take the community survey!”)
Thanks to the efforts of PVA members Vi and Ron Cauthon and others, the city will hold a dust abatement workshop on May 19 and 20.
Update from Representative Jeff Steinborn
Jeff reminded us that Sharon Thomas is running again for city council and that we would be hard pressed to find a more effective elected official.
Also on Jeff’s mind was the possibility of commuter train service from El Paso to Las Cruces. He is encouraged that the issue is still alive and getting serious attention from elected officials. He noted that strong community support will be needed to make the rail a reality.
Jeff continues his longstanding work on recycling. For more information about either of these issues, send email to Jeff.
Information Sources for Lomas de Poleo
Jeff Berg, a freelance writer whose work often appears in Desert Exposure and other regional publications, recommended the following independent news sources with excellent coverage of the Lomas de Poleo issues.
- newpapertree.com El Paso’s online newspaper
- eileenwelsome.com a 3-part piece published in December 2007 (Here is an article about EileenWelsome and her Pulitzer-winning articles about plutonium.)
Al McBrayer brought good new about recycling for Las Cruces. In spite of the economy, recycling efforts are moving forward. As the economy recovers, the city and county will be ready to increase recycling efforts.