A health professional speaks out
In a letter to the editor in the Sunday, May 9 edition of the Sun-News Catharine Walkinshaw wrote the following open letter to county commissioners and the county manager:
“As a county resident I am appalled at the way the meeting was conducted without any adherence to our state’s requirements for limited public gatherings, social distancing, and mask wearing in public. And then to have the county commission vote to re-open businesses prematurely without any concern for county residents’ heath and safety. Finally, to conclude with taking a picture of people standing in close proximity to each other again most without masks shows a complete disregard for anything but political motives.
I would have expected more from my elected officials and fully support what is being done at the State level. I, myself, work in the healthcare field and am extremely concerned with the wellbeing of my colleagues as well as my neighbors here in Mesilla. It is only because of the aggressive early moves by our Governor and State officials that we are experiencing low numbers of infection and death, but 1 death is too many in my mind. New Mexico’s progress in this pandemic has earned us accolades from health experts across the US. I am glad to live in a State where decisions are being carefully made based on data, science, and economics.
However after yesterday’s meeting, I don’t feel the same for living in a county which is doing just the opposite. To blatantly disregard simple measures, such as video conferencing and mask wearing, and 6-foot social distancing is not only against our State’s laws, but also incredibly selfish and inconsiderate.
Rest assured I will remember this behavior, when I vote in the next election. And I will be sure that my circle of influence does the same.”
For more information, email Catharine.
Make a public comment for the Mexican gray wolf
Peter & Jean Ossorio are longtime advocates for recovering the Mexican gray wolf. They have tent camped in AZ/NM wolf country 400+ nights and seen over 45 of them. In 2015, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service published a formal management rule which failed to provide for Mexican gray wolf recovery and was arbitrary and capricious. (That’s not their opinion; that’s what a federal judge said in her Order directing the Service to drastically revise its rule by November 2021.) Part of that process is taking public comment. This link contains the official announcement, the deadline, and how/where to send your comments. This link leads to a home page with a button (upper left) to find several talking points which might help you form comments. Peter and Jean recommend stressing that: the service should commit to monitoring and maintaining specific measures of genetic diversity and reducing excessive inbreeding in the wild population. Their idea of putting new-born pups in wild dens and seeing how many survive for two years might or might not be sufficient to improve the genetics of the wild population but the service refuses to establish a specific result on the ground, let alone stop killing and removing wolves until the genetics improve. Peter and Jean thank you for your support of New Mexico’s native lobo. For more information, email Peter and Jean.
Veterans’ access to services in Las Cruces
Violet and Ron Cauthon wanted to spread the word about the VA facility on North Del Rey. “Ron and I feel many veterans in Doña Ana County are unaware of the facility… If you have a family member who is a veteran or a neighbor who has been making the trip to El Paso’s VA Center, please inform them about the Center on 3401 N. Del Rey, Las Cruces. Ron has had professional and kind assistance from everyone at the Center. During the pandemic, you must have an appt. and be masked.” For more information, email Vi and Ron.
Don Apodaca is angry that in the end of February the President of the United States insinuated that the coronavirus was the Democrat’s new hoax. He asks, “Hey, Stable Genius, how many people has your hoax killed today?” For more information, email Don.
Debra Hathaway’s vision for the county
Asserting that the county needs a long-range strategic plan (or, a formalized road map, if you will), county commission candidate Debra Hathaway said that she envisions creating such a plan with the help of Doña Ana County citizens, businesses, and government entities. This strategic plan would include such things as environmental protection, funding for a sustainable jail diversion program/Triage Center, building a 21st century infrastructure for a 21st Century economy, and ensuring the safety and security of our county, to name a few. Says Debra, “We must develop a well-thought-out strategic plan based on measurable factors. The County currently focuses only on short-term needs and the yearly budget. If this continues, we will never reach our true potential as the leading county in New Mexico. As stewards of our county, it is our duty and privilege to ensure a brighter future for those who follow us. Doña Ana County residents deserve a County Commission leading us with fairness, opportunity, and respect for all.” For more information, email Debra or visit her campaign website.
How has the pandemic affected the NM economy? Plus, life on the virtual campaign trail
Senator Joseph Cervantes let us know that Senate Democrats are video caucusing to plan a necessary special legislative session and balance this year’s budget ending in June. Our revenues are projected down $400 million for just March-June. Revenues for the fiscal year beginning July 1 (FY21) are projected down approximately $2 billion. Our entire general fund budget is $7.6 billion, so these shortfalls are staggering. Fortunately we cautiously resisted overspending pressures back in February, and held savings reserves of 26%. Those reserves will get us through June. How we get through the coming year, with those reserves spent down, is something never before confronted by our state. Despite this, Joseph says he is committed to this difficult task (and is reminded about working through the “Great Recession” beginning in 2008).
In campaign news, Joseph informed us he has been endorsed by Governor Lujan-Grisham, Mayor Ken Miyagishima, all teachers unions and Planned Parenthood as well as many other groups and elected officials; Joseph said he received these endorsements because he is capable of the hard work ahead, and because of his commitment to shared progressive values. “But campaigning without being among voters is unsettling,” he added, “and those robo calls and text apps are no substitute. So please help me reach you by going through my Facebook page @joe4nm. There you will find town halls, radio and TV interviews. Please also follow the advice of President Obama – Vote.” For more information, email Joseph.
Rep. Rudy Martinez encourages you to vote safely. When you go to the early voting center or election day polling place, please wear a mask and gloves and practice social distancing. If you have requested an absentee ballot, you might consider hand delivering it to the clerk’s office, to make sure it gets there in time. Finally, “thank you for being an active participant in our Democracy,” says Rudy. For more info, email Rudy’s campaign manager, Rick Lass, or visit Rudy’s campaign website.
Reminder: Our friends in Sierra and Grant Counties can write in Karen Whitlock for State Representative
As a candidate for State Representative District 38, Karen Whitlock, needs 106 Democrats to write in her name on the Democratic primary ballot so that she can appear on the general election ballot in November. Otherwise there will be no Democratic candidate in that race. Karen’s campaign manager, Rick Lass, asks that we please drop a quick email to friends who live in those counties urging them to pledge to write in Karen. You can also do this by going to the website www.karenwhitlock38.com or by emailing Rick with “pledge” in the subject line. Please stay safe and stay healthy. (And fill out the census!) For more information, visit Karen’s campaign website.
Concerned about colonias
Candidate for State Senate, District 31, Melissa Ontiveros, said that in the countless hours she has spent campaigning in the district she has found some common themes. The people of District 31 have expressed a need for improved infrastructure: paved roads, clean/drinkable water, broadband, gas, renewable energy, and a place to connect as a community. Melissa feels especially concerned about the lack of safe and clean drinking water in the colonias. “Polluted water isn’t just dirty, it’s deadly. Water is a basic human right, and an essential step towards improving living standards,” Melissa said, adding that these communities also desperately need improved broadband access. With teachers and students working “from home” because of Covid19, broadband is crucial. Melissa tells of a teacher she spoke to who had to teach her classes from McDonald’s. “If we want to thrive as a state, we need to address structural racism and produce strong and reliable frameworks for successful and sustainable community change and development. New Mexico is a system, we need to treat it as a system and work together to make change for all communities of New Mexico. I will bring my extensive education, experience, and knowledge to Southern Doña Ana County!” Melissa asks for your vote and support. For more information, email Melissa or visit her campaign website.
DACU wants to collaborate!
Doña Ana Communities United (DACU) is a community-based organization that works to advance health equity. They do this through three main initiatives: Mesilla Valley Timebank, Social Equity Mapping, and Just Community Radio Show (every Thursday from 8 to 9 AM on our community radio station, KTAL-LP 101.5 FM). DACU continues to unite the community, now in virtual settings. The timebank is still in full swing (we encourage virtual exchanges and following CDC recommendations when in-person exchanges do occur). Now is a great time for your organization to join the timebank! You can spread the word about your organization to residents, and also get help with services your organization needs. To participate, send a representative from your organization to the next virtual timebank orientation.
DACU Timebank Orientation (Virtual)
June 9 from 2 – 3:30 PM
Click here or call (346)248-7799, then dial 97234827432# to join.
New Mexico leading the nation!
Jim R. Moore reported that Covid Exit Strategy, a group of national health experts, on May 20 rated New Mexico as the only state in the union to have met gating criteria for entering phase 1 of a phased re-opening of society and the economy (see map below). This apparently can change daily, and is part of Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s daily press conference. For regular updates on state preparedness, go the group’s website. For more information, email Jim.
Preparing for the next round
Don Kurtz said that he has been heartened by the opportunity to share a single global goal and mindset in taking on the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes that the shared experience of taking on an invisible, complex systemic threat, and greater mindfulness of our roles within a larger ecosystem will help us as we confront the enormous challenges of climate change. The cartoon below reflects those sentiments. For more information, email Don.
Here is an update on El Paso Electric (EPE) and the Public Regulation Commission (PRC):
The PRC has approved EPE’s application for a 100MW solar purchased power agreement (PPA), and a 100MW solar plus 50MW storage PPA. They did not approve a 50MW storage agreement that would have had a cost of electricity more than 6 times the price of the solar plus storage PPA. This is exactly the outcome we wanted. Thanks are due to the City of Las Cruces, Dona Ana County, and individual interveners Merrie Lee Soules and Phil Simpson. Ongoing is EPE’s request for approval to buy a new 228MW gas fired generator. Interveners oppose EPE’s request because any new fossil fuel generation will unnecessarily contribute to air pollution, fracking damage, and global warming. It also does not make economic sense; EPE claims it will have a 40 or 45 year life, but New Mexico’s share of this proposed gas plant would become useless in 25 years when EPE will be required to get 100% of the power sold in New Mexico from “non-carbon” (nuclear or renewable) resources. Remember Merrie Lee’s battle cry – (Say it out loud!) NO MORE FOSSIL FUEL GENERATION. For more information, email Allen.
Looking for something to read? Yup, we knew it!
Ann Gutierrez recommends Letters from an American. The author is history professor Heather Cox Richardson. Each day she writes a very good, in-depth political column about a particular subject and provides a wonderful historical context. “I look forward to reading it each day,” Ann said. For more information, email Ann.
COVID-19 reveals the need for health security
Dr. Davena Norris said that the COVID-19 pandemic is raising many crucial questions. One is: should health coverage continue to be tied to employment? Because of the pandemic, millions of people are losing their jobs, and along with this, their health coverage. This is a tragedy not experienced in most other countries. How can New Mexico lead our nation in creating a more effective and just health care system? The Health Security Plan would allow our state to set up its own non-profit health plan, run like a cooperative, to ensure health care coverage for all New Mexicans. It would include freedom of choice of health care providers, comprehensive benefits throughout our lives, and fair premiums. If you lose your job or change jobs, your health coverage stays with you. Visit www.nmhealthsecurity.org to learn more, sign up for alerts, and get involved. Davena encourages you to speak with your elected officials about ensuring passage of the Health Security Plan in 2021. It is time to guarantee health security for all New Mexicans! For more information, email Davena.
Update from the Martinez-Parra campaign
Neomi Martinez-Parra, who is running for State Senate in District 35 (which is currently held by John Arthur Smith) has been busy reaching out to voters via: phone calls, digital ads, mailers, newspaper ads, and social media. She thanks her “amazing staff and friends throughout the state,” and hopes the whole team will experience victories in both the primary and the general elections. Neomi has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Conservation Voters of NM, Maria’s List, Ole’, Working Families Party, Free Thought Equality Fund, Planned Parenthood, Congresswoman Deb Haaland, and NEA-NM. For more information, email Neomi or visit her campaign website or Facebook page.
Should the county reopen completely? You be the judge…
County Commissioner Shannon Reynolds keeps track of the COVID-19 cases in Doña Ana County, by commission district. Here is his latest summary (using zip code and registered voter data):
The number in District 2 jumped quite a bit because no one was counting the 80 cases at the Detention Center and Immigrant Processing Center in Chaparral. Shannon states, “Suffice it to say, we are not yet ready to open completely yet. We still have only tested about 5% of our population and El Paso, TX has tested less than 3%. Someone asked me why we can’t open, if we’re safe about it? The indicators the Governor and most Medical professionals are tracking are the 7-Day and 14-Day increases. As you can see from above, our 14-Day increase is 146% for the County and our 7-Day increase (71%) suggests we are doing better. However, they both show the trend and cases going in the wrong direction.” Shannon contends that since almost 34% of Doña Ana County’s registered voters are over the age of 60, opening completely says that we are willing to risk their lives to reopen. “Financial Forecasters say that, unfortunately, the jobless rate will not recover for over 2 years and the wages, maybe 5 years. So, we have to decide is it worth the risk of the lives of friends and family members to try and shore up a dam that is already hemorrhaging water?” For more information, email Shannon.
“I hope I’ve earned your trust these last 4 years”
Eric L Rodriguez, County Treasurer, advises that, “Voting by mail this year will not only be the safe and responsible thing to do, but it will also give us all the opportunity to make better informed decisions on the ballot. You can take your time while enjoying a cup of coffee and research your candidates. For most PVA members I am sure that I am preaching to the choir, but sometimes the races further down the ballot may not be that important to voters. I encourage all voters to take their time and review the importance of an administrative official like the County Treasurer.” A County Treasurer is responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars that our community depends on. Important funding to local schools and municipalities is distributed and the treasurer’s office invests the rest. “Experience and qualifications are very important,” said Eric, further pointing out that, “During my term as the current Treasurer I have been able to successfully safeguard your taxpayer money and improve many of the functions within the office. My heart has always been in the right place and I have never given my community any reason to doubt my commitment. I am now asking voters to take a serious look at who they will trust to navigate their tax dollars during this economic storm of spending cuts, investment compression, and revenue shortfalls for local governments. My track record speaks for itself, and I hope I’ve earned your trust these last 4 years.” For more information, email Eric or visit his campaign website or Facebook page.
Shirley reveals her vote for State Senate, District 38
Former State Representative & PRC Commissioner, E. Shirley Baca says Senator Mary Kay Papen is a “real” Democrat. Shirley says that Sen. Papen has been a stellar supporter of progressive issues such as mental health services, gay/lesbian/transgender (LGBTQ) rights, Colonias development, early childhood education, Katie’s Law, and Roe v. Wade. “As progressives,” Shirley said, “we need to look at the total picture and not just one or two votes that an incumbent has made. Doña Ana County is well served with her leadership, knowledge, and experience. Vote to keep Senator Mary Kay Papen, who is a real Democrat.” For more information, email Shirley.
Sierra Club endorses Southern NM senate candidates + Action on the Gila River
Antoinette Reyes announced that the Sierra Club has endorsed the following candidates for NM Senate: Carrie Hamblen (running against incumbent Mary Kay Papen), Neomi Martinez-Parra (running against incumbent John Arthur Smith), and Siah Correa Hemphill (running in SW New Mexico against incumbent Gabe Ramos).
She also asked PVA members to take action to protect the Gila River and its tributary, the San Francisco River from harmful water diversion and storage projects. The Gila is New Mexico’s last free-flowing river, home to seven threatened or endangered species and a centerpiece of Southern NM’s outdoor recreation and tourism economy. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) are taking public comment on four diversion/storage alternatives and a No Action Alternative. Antoinette asks us to quickly make a comment favoring the No Action Alternative — which would prioritize community water projects and create a secure water supply for 60,000 people — here. Comments are due June 8, 2020. For more information, contact Antoinette.
Voting absentee and selecting NM Delegates to Democratic National Convention
Doña Ana County Democratic Party Chair Mona Trempe reminded us that all absentee ballots must be received by the County Clerk by 7 pm on Tuesday June 2, whether by mail or by dropping the ballot off at the county clerk’s office or any voting location. You can check the status of your absentee ballot at NMVote.org.
Mona also urged us to be involved in the Democratic National Convention as an Elector, Delegate or Standing Committee Member. (Yes, you can be all three!) Due to the pandemic, the process for selecting these positions has been streamlined and converted to an online format. Here are links to the full delegate selection plan and all application forms. For more information, contact Mona.
Char reveals her vote for State Senate, District 38
Char Ullman, university professor and wife of candidate Carrie Hamblen, said, “As I continue to support my wife, Carrie Hamblen, in her campaign for the District 38 Senate Seat, I reflect on her accomplishments as a true leader in the community. From advocating for Domestic Partner Benefits to Marriage Equality for the LGBTQ community, being a voice for local businesses, protecting our public lands and open spaces, and defending a woman’s choice for her reproductive needs, I know what it means to be a “real” Democrat. Carrie follows the party platform, listens to her community, and moves forward to create change. I was proud to vote for her in the primary and I know you will be too.” For more information, visit the campaign website.
Speaking of State Senate candidate Carrie Hamblen
On behalf of the Committee to Elect Carrie Hamblen, Connie Chapman sends out a “huge thank you” to all who contributed in the way addressing/stuffing/stamping letters; also, thank you to people who wrote LTEs, which were submitted to the Sun News, Bulletin, and KRWG (even though few were chosen to be published, she mentions); finally, she thanks those who emailed personal endorsements of Carrie to their PIN list, sent money, made phone calls and put up yard signs. Connie says no stone has been left upturned and the campaign will continue full speed ahead until 7:00pm June 2nd. “This race is winnable, if people will just go vote.” For more information, email Connie.
Some reminders about COVID-19 & shout-out to a hard working woman
State Rep. Joanne Ferrary says that she hopes everyone is doing well with our Stay At Home orders and also wearing a face mask any time you do go out for groceries, food to go, appointments, or other essential errands that puts you in close proximity to other people. “Please keep in mind the 6 foot social distancing that will keep you out of harm’s way of the virus!” said Joanne, adding, “I want to publicly thank Pat Aguirre and all the volunteers who have worked the past few months to make calls to people of District 37, making sure they are doing well and/or asking if they need any help. We are now calling to make sure people who requested their mail in ballots have received them and offer help to make sure they get to vote.” No matter which district you live in, Joanne will be there to help. And, finally: vote! For more information, email Joanne.
It’s in your hands
Luis Guerrero commented that it is hard to believe that we have another election around the corner – in 5 days to be exact. “Primaries are a fun time for those of us working campaigns. We work hard for people that we believe in. In New Mexico, and more specifically in Doña Ana County, we have several contested primaries and I believe we are being watched. A lot of the state of not just New Mexico, but of the Democratic Party lies in the hands of voters. I want to encourage you to take a moment and really think what you want our leadership to look like. Please vote if you haven’t. From my own experience, this cycle has been like no other due to COVID-19, but the campaigns I am working on have gone above and beyond to (safely) talk to voters and I am hoping the hard work pays off. Please stay safe and exercise your privilege to vote.” For more information, email Luis.
Rich Renner wants to alert us that the latest COVID relief bill in the House of Representatives fails to include any international funding to fight coronavirus and its fall out. “It’s clear that a global pandemic requires a global response, so it now falls to the Senate to make sure that happens. The U.S. can and must play a role in slowing COVID-19’s spread globally, and protecting access to other health services and education. American leadership on global health and education has been vital to the advances that have been made over the past 30 years, and it remains critical given the pandemic threatens to reverse the incredible accomplishments as limited resources are drained from these life-saving programs to address the pandemic.” Rich asks us to take a few moments and write, call or email Senators Udall and Heinrich, and Rep. Torres Small: urge them to support funding for programs including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, maternal and childhood survival, and global education. To read more about this request, go to RESULTS.org, then “Current Volunteers”, then “Monthly Action.” For more information, email Rich.