Legislators Sum Up the 2015 Session—“Disgusting and Disheartening”
We were honored to have four legislators present to give their views on the legislative session that ended at noon on March 21 and take questions from the floor.
Senator Mary Kay Papen, District 32, President pro tempore
Representative Doreen Gallegos, District 52
Representative Bill McCamley, District 33
Representavive Jeff Steinborn, District 35
There was very little good to report. Representative Steinborn’s Rio Grande Trail Commission bill was passed as well as a bill to allow farmers to grow hemp to determine if it’s a suitable commercial crop for this region.
Everyone agreed with Senator Papen that this was the most difficult session ever. “It’s a frustration,” she said, “but you fight harder next go-around.” When the discussion turned to record low voter turnout last November, she observed wryly: “If only 38% of voters voted … you didn’t win by a landslide.”
The question and answer discussion focused on a wide variety of questions including predatory lending (praise for the efforts of former State Senator Steve Fischmann but Representative John Zimmerman (R, 39) skipped the vote); unfulfilled need for an ethics law; confirmation of Hanna Skandera as education secretary (confirmation doesn’t change her role, but now we can focus on the policies instead of the person); the failure to fund capital projects; bad bills (right to work) tacked on to good ones (minimum wage); and Governor Martinez’s plan for roads.
Rodriguez-Johnson Runs for County Democratic Party Chair
Liz Rodriguez-Johnson asked for support in her run for chair of the Doña Ana County Democratic Party. She spoke of deep roots in the county, long time commitment to community service, and determination to get out the vote and elect Democrats.
For more information send email to Liz and call her at 575-312-5677.
Scott Krahling Runs for County Clerk
Scott Krahling explained that the city clerk’s office is currently conducting a purge of voter rolls. The list is 17,000 names long. But don’t worry! They are carefully reviewing each case and no name will be unfairly removed.
On a different note, Scott announced that he will run for county clerk in the 2016 election. He praised Lynn Ellins, our current clerk, who is prevented by term limits from running again. Scott vowed to continue the excellent practices that Ellins has brought to the office.
For more information send email to Scott, call him at 575-640-6205, follow him on Facebook, and check out his campaign website (coming soon).
Senate Did Right by Coyotes
Kevin Bixby spoke of his time in Santa Fe, where he monitored the fate of environmental legislation. He was pleased that the bill to ban coyote killing contests passed in the Senate and dismayed that it died in the House Agriculture Committee. Kevin thanked Bill McCamley and Jeff Steinborn for their unfailing support of environmental legislation. He noted that Bill gave eloquent dissents for all the bad bills. On the other hand, Representatives Andy Nuñez (R, 36) and Bill Gomez (D, 34) consistently voted in favor of all the bad bills and against all the good ones.
For more information send email to Kevin.
Art on a Grand Scale
Bob Diven announced a jaw-dropping project currently in the works. AdobeHenge would occupy 100 acres on the north side of the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. The project involves a major art installation called AdobeHenge (use your imagination—you won’t be wrong) and a series of hiking trails for study and recreation.
They are currently raising money for the project and would welcome your tax-deductible donation. Drawings, models, and details are on their Facebook page.
Bob also announced the fourth annual Avenue Art Street Painting Festival, which takes place April 25 on Main Street.
For more information and how to make your tax deductible donation, send email to Bob and call him at 575-642-7445.
Panel Will Shine Light on Officer Shootings
Peter Goodman invited everyone to a panel presentation reflecting Sunshine Week’s theme of public access to information. The panel will explore the freedom of information process as it related to officer shootings and law enforcement’s interest in keeping information secret. Peter will moderate the panel. Walt Rubel is looking forward to participating.
For more information send email to Peter and call him at 575-521-0424.
Adiós, La Frontera
Earl Nissen brought news from the Health and Human Services committee to which La Frontera appealed for funding. Earl asked them the basic question: “Can you guarantee that you will stay in Las Cruces?” La Frontera was unable to answer “yes” and therefore did not receive the funding they were requesting.
For more information send email to Earl.
TLC and Vigilance Needed for National Monument
Ben Gabriel, executive director of Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, advised us that the monument is in need of ongoing vigorous support. He warned of people who are ardently opposed to this use of public lands and to the president who used his legitimate powers to create the monument. OMDP is an appealing target because it is so large and so recently designated.
For more information send email to Ben and call him at 575-323-1423.
Oscar Butler Runs for Senate District 36
Oscar Butler announced that he is running for New Mexico Senate District 36, the seat now held by Lee Cotter-R. Oscar spoke of his degrees in Public Administration, his terms on the County Commission and the New Mexico Association of Counties, and his extensive community service. Most recently he canvassed in support of Olga Pedroza and against the recall effort.
For more information send email to Oscar and call him at 575-202-9534.
Democratic Party Precinct Chair
Mary Ann Hendrickson came to PVA directly from the District 37 precinct meeting where she was elected chair. She allowed as how Democrats are fired up and ready to get ready for the 2016 election.
For more information send email to Mary Ann.
Don Kurtz started by asking if we liked the national monument, the increase in the minimum wage, and a City Council promoting smart growth over short-sighted development that squanders our resources. If our answer is yes, we can thank Councilors Pedroza, Sorg, and Small. Don brought us up to date on the work being done by Las Crucens Against the Recall and invited us to join in canvassing. An astounding number (80 to 90%) of people who have been contacted thus far have asked to have their names removed from the petition because they were misled about its purpose.
For more information send email to Don.
8,000 Years of Climate Change
In a continuation of her efforts to expose us to the best of climate change science, Alice Anderson recommended “Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate” by William F. Ruddiman. Ruddiman traces human warming of the climate back to the very beginnings of agriculture, some 8,000 years ago. The book (363.75/Red/2005) is available at Branigan Library.
For more information send email to Alice and call her at 575-523-5179.
Board Amends Teacher Absences Rule for Evaluations
Ed Frank, newly-elected school board member, explained that the board has voted on a change to teacher evaluations. Teachers will now be allowed to use 10 days of sick leave and 2 days of personal leave (as specified in their contract) and will not be penalized for that use. [Its’ complicated! The Sun-News has a helpful article on the change including the heated response of Ellen Hur, Public Education Department spokesperson.]
For more information send email to Ed.
$4.5 Billion—That’s Billion with a “B”
Peter Ossorio made us aware of the state’s 4.5 billion in unspent funds. “We have very real unmet needs,” he said, “and we may have money that could go toward meeting them.” The state auditor’s website provides a summary as well as all the supporting documents. Auditor Keller’s op-ed column for the Sun-News is here.
In a side note, Peter worried that predatory lenders may be giving a bad name to the Mexican Gray Wolf and other exemplary predators.
For more information send email to Peter and call him at 575-522-3112.
Predatory Lending—¡Qué Vergüenza!
Patti Rangel-Cobb, speaking from her 25 years of experience in banking and finance, urged us to keep pushing for a stop to predatory lending. She warned that it’s not a trivial matter, more like a crisis waiting to happen.
For more information send email to Patti and call her at 575-680-2551.
Rudy Martinez Vows to Reclaim House District 39
Rudy Martinez announced that he is determined to regain his seat in the New Mexico House. He lost to John Zimmerman in November in a hard-fought race. Rudy thanked the Democratic legislators who stood up for Democratic values in a difficult legislative session. He reminded us that the predatory lending bill was approved when he was on the regulatory and public affairs committee, the committee that killed it this year.
For more information send email to Rudy and call him at 575-534-7546.
Great Conversation at the Co-op
Theresa Westbrock spoke on behalf of Randy Harris, who will host another of his great Great Conversations. The topic is “Why the Co-op Matters.” The event takes place Saturday, March 28, 4 to 5:30 p.m., at Mountain View Market Community Room.
For more information send email to Randy.
Your Friendly Assessor’s Office
Paul Ponce, chief deputy assessor, assured us that the property assessment letters will be mailed April 1. He referred us to downloadable forms and other helpful information on the county assessor’s website. The public is invited to a general information session on April 9, noon to 1 p.m., at the County Government Building.
For more information send email to Paul.
Opposed to the Recall? Be Part of the Solution!
Beth Bardwell invited concerned citizens to oppose the effort to recall City Councilor Olga Pedroza by canvassing in her district and identifying people who wish to have their names removed from the recall petition. Here is your chance to stand up for Olga, who has stood up for the minimum wage and countless other progressive issues.
For more information send email to Beth and call her at 575-478-0288.
Who Wants Higher Electric Rates?
Allen Downs said he misspoke at the February PVA meeting—the City does hire an advocate for the EPE rate hearings before the Public Regulation Commission. Nevertheless, we pay more than EPE’s Texas customers, and the difference amounts to a whopping 15 million dollars a year.
Allen asked that we contact the city councilors and the county commissioners with the following message: “Please ask the city and county interveners before the PRC to support lower rates and a Time of Use with Curtailment pilot rate to help reduce the need for additional capital expenditures [4 new power plants!] and future rate increases.”
You can read all the details about the capital expenditures and the time of use curtailment here on Allen’s website.
For more information send email to Allen and call him at 575-915-6969.
Debra Haaland for State Democratic Party Chair
Roberta Gran spoke in support of Debra Halland, candidate for chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Roberta will be happy to accept donations for the campaign.
For more information send email to Roberta and call her at 575-650-8490.
Look for Buses in September
Sharon Thomas brought the very good news that the South Central Regional Transit District has funding for starter routes. Bus routes are expected to start in September. Sharon thanked the state legislators and the county commissioners for their support.
For more information send email to Sharon and call her at 575-644-2517.
It Makes a Difference When You Show Up, Part 1
Billy Garrett spoke of his vision of Doña County–A good place for everyone—and the need to build safe and healthy communities and infrastructure that brings good jobs. He urged us to show up at the County Commission work sessions and let the commissioners know what you value and how you think the budget should reflect those values. “It makes a difference when you show up,” he said.
For more information send email to Billy and call him at 915-5755.
It Makes a Difference When You Show Up, Part 2
City Councilor Nathan Small invited everyone to the City Council meeting on March 30, when the agenda will include spending priorities for the hold harmless funds and opportunities for greater use of renewable energy.
Nathan thanked the against-the-recall volunteers who have canvassed in his district and welcomed others to join the effort, which continues until Sunday, April 5.
For more information send email to Nathan.
Help Wanted in Precinct 19
Billy Garret, wearing the hat of newly-elected Democratic Party chair of Precinct 19, announced two job openings in his precinct: a vice president and a secretary are needed. Billy’s goal is a vibrant and effective Democratic Party, and he can’t do it without you.
For more information send email to Billy and call him at 915-5755.
PVA Pep Talk
Jeff Steinborn gave a stirring pep talk, reminding us that PVA has always been about getting out and doing the work, and there is plenty of work to be done now.
For more information send email to Jeff.