State of the City
Mayor Ken Miyagashima reflected on the 17 months he has served as mayor of Las Cruces, declaring it the most enjoyable job he’s ever had. He noted that sustainability was the focus of his State of the City address, which can be read here and heard here. He spoke of the need to decrease expenses during this economic crisis when city revenues are down and new revenues are difficult for cities to generate. As an example of innovative savings, he cited a “purchase power agreement” being negotiated with El Paso Electric. The agreement would provide clean solar energy for selected city buildings and at the same time reduce utility costs for the city.
Several concerns were raised in a brief question and answer period.
- Police review board. The police department is currently undergoing an independent evaluation which will provide recommendations for improvement including ways of redressing citizen complaints. The mayor favors an independent ombudsman approach, which would allow rapid response to concerns and operate without political pressures.
- Level pay plan for utility bills. You are apparently ineligible if you have not always paid your bills on time. The mayor favors having anyone eligible, as long as they start when bills are lower than the level pay amount. He said that he would talk to the Utilities Department about implementing this change.
- Red light cameras. The cameras are about improving safety, not about raising money for the city. No one will be fined for speeding a mere one or two miles above the speed limit.
- Rail commuter line between Las Cruces and El Paso. April 15 is the meeting date for discussion of this topic. Mayor Miyagashima, Mayor Cook of El Paso, and Governor Richardson are all in support.
- Public participation at City Council meetings. Concern was expressed that placing this item far down on the agenda creates a hardship for citizens, who must often wait for hours before they are allowed to speak. Placing citizen participation at the top of the agenda, after the formalities, would remedy the problem. Mayor Miyagishima stated that this change would be in effect “within two meetings,” which means that the April 20 City Council meeting would see the new agenda.
Senator Fischmann’s Report from the Legislature
Senator Steve Fischmann was on hand to give his impressions after his first legislative session as senator from District 37. Steve described the session as “hectic” and “brutal” but a positive experience nonetheless. As a freshman he worked to learn procedures and cultivate working relationships on both sides of the aisle. The top three successes from Steve’s point of view were the following:
- Defeat of SunCal TIDD. A 33-33 tie vote (twice!) in the House of Representatives stopped the SunCal TIDD (Tax Increment Development District). SunCal is required to make public its contributions to legislators in the second week of April.
- State Land Office. A bill that would have allowed the SLO to engage in the kind of value-added contracts that the Attorney General recently called illegal was defeated. A bill to require competitive bidding for sale of state lands is waiting for the governor’s signature.
- Green power grid. The Research Applications Act that Steve sponsored will promote clean energy solutions and jobs in the state and has as one of its goals that New Mexico become the first totally green grid state in the U.S.
Some of the issues raised in a question and answer segment were as follows:
- Q: What is the best way to give our input to legislators, to make sure they listen?
A: Provide them with top-notch information on the issues that matter to you.
- Q: What happened to the Domestic Partnership Act?
A: The main factor was the opposition of the Catholic Church. Some language in the bill was problematic and it is reasonable to expect that a rewrite could make the bill acceptable to the church without watering down the rights extended to domestic partners.
PVA’s Own Legislative Response Team
Theresa Westbrock, able coordinator of this effort, summarized the work of the PVA’s Legislative Response Team. She reported that lobbyists in Santa Fe soon noticed the degree of citizen input from Las Cruces and called her often to ask for help from the LRT. Theresa identified some major successes:
- A very good bill creating policy for off-road vehicle use
- Defeat of the SunCal TIDD
- Repeal of the death penalty—replacing it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole (New Mexico is now one of 15 states that bar the death penalty)
Theresa asked that suggestions for improving the LRT be emailed to her.
Roger Turner of SWEC thanked all those who participated in the February Unified Action by contacting President Obama, Secretary Napolitano, and Senator Bingaman about the Border Wall. He assured us that it is not too late to send them your views. For more information about SWEC activities and the Border Wall, contact Roger at email@example.com.
To give our hard-dialing and emailing fingers a break after the legislative session, there isn’t a Unified Action for March.
NAACP Open House
The NAACP welcomes everyone to attend an open house on Saturday, April 4, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. The event will be held at their new headquarters in AFSCME Union Hall, 138 S. Water Street, directly opposite White’s Music Box. The open house will celebrate the group’s new location and introduce their new president, Lola Lestrick.
For more information send email to Tim Reed.
MoveOn.org in Las Cruces
A power-up launch meeting will be held Sunday, March 29, at 5 p.m. You can join community members who are interested in discussing local possibilities for supporting President Obama’s plan to create millions of green jobs and switch to a cleaner energy economy.
For details and directions to the meeting visit http://pol.moveon.org/event/poweruplaunch/92532.
Employee Free Choice Act Needs Your Support
Donna Hill of AFSCME spoke in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, federal legislation with three major provisions:
- removes current barriers that prevent workers from forming unions
- strengthens penalties against companies that interfere with labor organization by intimidation or other illegal practices
- guarantees workers a contract when they form a new union.
To support the legislation, call Senator Bingaman toll free at 1-866-207-2060. Full coverage of the issue is available at EmployeeFreeChoiceAct.org.
A Conservative Approach
Greg Sowards invited us to consider the application of conservative philosophy and principles to issues of interest to PVA members. For more information, or to get a copy of an article Greg made available, “Why I Am a Conservative,” send email to Greg.
Hillard Williams presented information about the campaign to support a single-payer national health care plan, HR 676, introduced by Rep. John Conyers. Extensive information is available at http://www.healthcare-now.org/. If you have questions, send email to Hillard.
Representative Steinborn Reports
Representative Jeff Steinborn, District 37, reported that the legislative session was productive as well as frustrating and that he is glad to be home. He asked that we call Governor Richardson at 505-476-2200 and ask him to sign the State Land Office reform bill (SB 540) that is now on his desk. Jeff reminded us of the good news that federal legislation to protect 2 million acres of wilderness is about to be passed and signed into law by President Obama.
To contact Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fifth Annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium: Justice for Youth
Al Kissling encouraged everyone to attend this year’s symposium, which will bring together local, state, and national experts and scholars to address the interrelated problems in education, health, and juvenile justice that are affecting New Mexico’s youth.
Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish will deliver a keynote address on Wednesday, April 15, at the NMSU Corbett Center Ballrooms. Denish will present the overall vision of the juvenile justice system and the challenges, obstacles, and improvements needed in New Mexico.
Full details are here: http://jpts.nmsu.edu/. All events are free and open to the public.
FAD—Fight Against Dust
Carol Reynolds announced the formation of a citizens’ organization committed to stopping construction practices that exacerbate the problem of blowing dust. The group aims to find solutions that will improve health and help preserve the natural beauty of Las Cruces.
For more information call Carol Reynolds at 575-373-1188.
National Department of Peace and Nonviolence
Vickie Aldrich asked for supporters to sign a petition requesting that our city council support HR 808, which would create a National Department of Peace and Nonviolence. More information about this national movement and its gathering momentum is here.
The local peace group meets the third Saturday of each month at noon at the Mountain View Market. For more information, call Vickie at 575-541-9093.
Obama Cruces Connection: Community Service Contingent
Lloyd Covens announced that one goal of the Obama Cruces Connection is to promote community service, in keeping with President Obama’s call for community service. This Saturday, March 28, at 9 a.m., volunteers will meet at the Community of Hope for a morning of yard work and housework. A service activity will be organized each month. For more information or to participate, send email to Bill McCamley.
Message from Representative Nate Cote
Cheryl Frank brought greetings from Representative Cote who regretted that he was unable to attend tonight’s meeting. She confirmed that Nate had his usual extraordinarily busy legislative session. (A list of Nate’s sponsored bills is here.) One especially noteworthy accomplishment: the passing of a bill to ban bias-based profiling. When the governor signs this bill, New Mexico will be the twenty-third state to ban profiling practices by law enforcement officers and agencies. You can contact Nate by emailing him at email@example.com.
SWEC at Work and at Play
Roger Turner reminded us that, even in this difficult economy, SWEC is intent on raising money to continue their worthy projects. Toyota Prius raffle tickets at $100 each are still available and the drawing will be held on Earth Day, April 22. To buy your ticket, contact Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Twelfth Annual Raft the Rio, a raft race and festival at the river, will be held Saturday, June 13. For more information, call SWEC at 575-522-5552.
This is the centennial year for Aldo Leopold and SWEC will be holding a celebration of his life in August. Details will be coming soon.
Good News for Chicken Lovers
CLUCK (Citizens for Legalizing Urban Chicken Keeping) will be presenting their case for backyard chickens (no roosters!) at the City Council Work Session (City Council Chambers) on Monday, April 13, at 1 p.m. The public can speak at this meeting, and CLUCK invites all interested parties to join them and let the councilors hear your views. For more information, send email to Mark Westbrock. There is, of course, a wealth of backyard chicken information available on the Web.
Amy Goodman Coming to Las Cruces!
Steve Klinger, editor and publisher of the Grassroots Press, announced that Amy Goodman will be speaking at the Border Book Festival on Sunday, April 19, at 11:30 a.m. Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program. Her talk is entitled “Standing up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times.” You can listen to podcasts of her program at the Democracy Now! Web site.
Tickets for Ms. Goodman’s talk can be bought on-line at http://www.borderbookfestival.org/festival_schedule.php.
Steve reminded us that even though Grassroots Press is only printed every other month, it is on the Web 24/7 with regular updates. Steve also offered to post announcements from PVAers on the Web site’s calendar of events, which will provide constantly available information about local progressive activities.
To have your event posted, send information to Steve at email@example.com.
Kathy Sowa of AFSCME asked that we call Senator Bingaman and urge him to be a cosponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act legislation. Senator Bingaman says he has heard from businesses opposing the bill, but not from those favoring the bill. The toll free number to call for Senator Bingaman is 1-866-207-2060.
For more information, send email to Kathy.