© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 10/24/22
Pay attention to how candidates vote, not just what they say
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
Reps. Yvette Herrell, of Congressional District 2, and Teresa Leger Fernandez, of Congressional District 3, were House freshmen together in 2021. Both represent primarily rural districts. Both are running for office. Herrell is a Republican, Leger Fernandez is a Democrat.
How they’ve voted tells us more than their campaign promises. Certain votes are black and white, but others require careful consideration.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed with bipartisan support – but not Herrell’s support. The bill will fund new infrastructure projects, Amtrak maintenance, bridge work, clean drinking water, high-speed internet, and power infrastructure upgrades.
Herrell said it’s “full of pet projects, Washington waste, and frivolous spending.” But she offered to help her district’s small communities apply for funding. Leger Fernandez called it a “win for every New Mexico community” and said she got $4.7 billion in to plug orphaned wells and advocated for water infrastructure like the Navajo Gallup Water Supply Project.
. Another bipartisan bill, the CHIPS And Science Act, responds to the shortage of computer chips, which has slowed production and increased prices. To relieve the nation’s dependence on foreign countries, the U.S. will invest some $250 billion over the next decade to expand domestic semiconductor manufacturing, develop new technology, and train workers. This law is a very big deal to Intel and the state’s home-grown operations, not to mention the labs.
Herrell voted against the bill, she told the Journal, because “the Democrat majority tied the CHIPS and Science Act to a massive tax hike and spending spree.”
There’s more. Last year, she said she voted against certifying the 2020 election results to “call attention to the election meddling by Big Tech and the media.” I’m going to ignore the slam on media but question her reference to Big Tech. Herrell, who reliably defends the oil industry, probably resents the term “Big Oil” but casts aspersions on big technology companies. In her eyes, one New Mexico industry is worthy and another isn’t.
Leger Fernandez, on the other hand, said the CHIPS Act will “reinvigorate the manufacturing industry here at home, lowering costs and bolstering our independence from foreign suppliers like China.”
Leger Fernandez and U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan worked hard to get a $2.5 billion appropriation for wildfire recovery in northern New Mexico into a funding bill that passed in late September. The bill had a lot of Republican votes, but not Herrell’s. She called the bill “a government spending spree,” but after it passed she said she supported adding the wildfire compensation to the bill but didn’t like the finished bill.
The Albuquerque Journal cited Herrell’s no votes on the CHIPS and fire recovery bills when it endorsed her opponent.
Now consider a more controversial bill. Congress has done nothing to reform our wretched immigration system, and the subject is hotly divisive, but polls show solid support for giving Dreamers a path to citizenship. That’s what the American Dream and Promise Act does. It passed the House; Herrell voted against it.
To the Journal she said: “We must find a common-sense solution for immigration reform that works for all, while securing our border and respecting those who’ve entered our nation legally or are in that process.” Herrell has spent a lot of time pushing Trump’s wall – even suggesting Vice President Kamela Harris tour the border with Trump – and supporting other hard-line positions.
Leger Fernandez told the Journal: “Reforming our broken immigration system would be a $1.3 trillion benefit to the U.S. economy. We should provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and hardworking undocumented Americans, uphold the rights of asylum seekers, and adopt the bipartisan Farmworker Modernization Act so our crops are harvested responsibly.”
I can only present a handful of bills here, but they say a lot. Look at the candidates’ congressional websites for more information.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 10/17/22
Rescinding proclamations offers no history lesson
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
In my other life I’m a historian. Every now and then news and history mix.
On Indigenous Peoples Day, the governor rescinded four vintage proclamations from territorial governors. The news release called them “offensive.”
Two proclamations from the first territorial governor, James S. Calhoun, aren’t offensive if you know the whole story. Which I do. I wrote a book about the man (James Silas Calhoun: First Governor of New Mexico Territory and First Indian Agent, UNM Press, 2021).
A Georgian, Calhoun had been a lawyer, judge, businessman, banker, mayor, and officer in the Mexican-American War when President Zachary Taylor appointed him New Mexico’s first Indian agent. He also spoke Spanish. Calhoun was several cuts above the appointees typically sent here by distant federal bureaucrats.
Calhoun knew nothing about New Mexico; neither did anybody in Washington. One of the first things he heard from citizens was persistent complaints about Navajo and Apache raiding. He had hardly unpacked his bags in 1849 when he accompanied an army expedition intended to punish the Navajos and make a treaty with them. If that sounds like a conflicted goal, it was. In a petty dispute, soldiers foolishly killed Narbona, the Navajos’ revered leader, which sparked years of hostilities.
From the outset, Calhoun liked and respected the Pueblo leaders. He told his superiors in Washington that the Pueblo people should be protected from settlers and raiding tribes. He also advised that a plan to relocate all of them together on one parcel of land was a really bad idea.
After becoming governor, Calhoun issued a proclamation on March 12, 1851, calling for a census. Yes, it excluded tribes, but he came to New Mexico with orders to count tribal members and report on them. In the census, the government wanted to know how many citizens it had in the new territory. Native Americans were not yet citizens. Remember, everything here was very new to official Washington.
As governor and Indian agent, Calhoun was inundated by messages from Hispanic New Mexicans and Anglo-American newcomers about Navajo raids, how much livestock they’d run off and how many captives they’d taken. Pueblo leaders came to him with the same problems. Calhoun felt he had to do something, and the army was spread thin.
Because he’d been a volunteer in the war, he saw the militia as a solution, hence the second proclamation on March 18, 1851. It suited New Mexicans, who had conducted their Indian wars that way long before American occupation. Plus, a militia didn’t have to be paid.
Calhoun would learn that New Mexicans and the nomadic tribes had carried on a bloody war for two centuries. In 1852, the Navajo leader Archuleta said: “More than two hundred of our children have been carried off and we know not where they are. The Mexicans have lost but few children in comparison with what they have stolen from us…. My people are yet crying for the children they have lost.”
Calhoun wrote his superiors: “The truth . . . is boldly stated, and must make the just man pause.” The hallmark of a great man is not that he never made a mistake but that when he was presented new evidence, he saw injustice and changed his mind.
History is not pretty. Calhoun and the other two governors served in a violent period. One of their tools was the proclamation, but proclamations aren’t laws. What are the chances any governor would reach back to 1851 to raise a militia and go to war with the Navajos? Zip. Reading a few proclamations ripped from fraught periods of time doesn’t teach us what was going on.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 10/10/22
Cops, courts and corrections
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
This year being an election year, the governor had a tough-on-crime package of bills she wanted passed in the legislative session. She’s been hounded by accusations she’s soft on crime.
Last week I wrote about decades of work by governors of both parties to wrestle crime to the ground. Nobody has been soft on crime, and we’ve seen progress. But the criminal justice system is staggeringly complicated.
In March the governor signed House Bill 68, saying, “Every New Mexican deserves to feel safe in their communities – and they are demanding action from their government.” She didn’t get everything she wanted, but she got a lot.
The bill allocated $50 million for programs to recruit and retain law enforcement officers, increased penalties for crimes involving guns, eliminated the statute of limitation for second degree murder, increased death benefits for the families of officers killed in the line of duty from $250,000 to $1 million, and created violence intervention programs. It became a crime to threaten violence to schools or other public places, operate a chop shop, threaten a judge or their family members, or cause injury while fleeing police.
And HB 68 required courts to share ankle-monitor data for people on pretrial release with law enforcement, shook up the Law Enforcement Academy Board, and added new judges in the 2nd, 5th, and 13th judicial districts to handle a backlog of cases.
The governor wanted to tighten the pretrial detention process for defendants suspected of certain violent crimes. Lawmakers resisted and instead provided GPS monitoring around the clock.
“What’s important about this bill is it recognizes that attacking the crime problem requires a multifaceted approach,” said Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, in a Santa Fe New Mexican story. Cervantes, a lawyer, helped shape the crime package.
“It requires us looking at law enforcement on the streets, law enforcement officers’ needs, and it requires us looking at prosecutors and public defenders. It requires us looking at the court system. It requires us to look at the corrections system and our efforts at rehabilitation, as well as the underlying and root causes of our crime problem,” from behavioral health issues to drugs.
Cervantes defended the package as a good compromise. Legislators increased some penalties but resisted demands for more because “there’s no data to support them as a true deterrent to crime.”
Earlier in the session, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Cervantes, heard from trial lawyer Randi McGinn, who has been a prosecutor and public defender. She told lawmakers they should spend money on the state’s underfunded and understaffed courts, as well as district attorneys and public defenders. Police here arrest some 10,000 people a year, but prosecutors charge just 3,000 of them, and judges hear 1,000 cases. The change in pretrial detention that the governor and Republicans wanted would have cost $13.8 million a year to hold some 1,262 more defendants until their trials, according to legislative analysis.
The response to violent crime has been “to hit it with a bigger hammer,” meaning bigger penalties and longer detention, McGinn said. “We are doing the same thing over and over again without really stopping crime.”
Keeping more people in jail won’t help, she said. New Mexico jails 773 out of every 100,000 state residents, compared to a national rate of 664 per 100,000, but it’s had no impact on the crime rate. Reformers must understand that the criminal justice system is a three-legged stool of cops, courts and corrections – change one and you affect the others. For years we’ve given law enforcement our attention, both carrot and stick. Cops are catching bad guys, but the other two branches can’t keep up.
When you hear politicians say the words “tough on crime,” ask them what they mean. And remember the three-legged school.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 10/3/22
Most years governors, lawmakers have been tough on crime
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
In one of the most heinous crimes in memory, little Lilly Garcia was killed while riding in the car with her father.
“My daughter was 4 years old when she was shot in the head on Oct. 20 by an individual who should not have been out on the street,” Veronica Garcia told a Senate committee. Lilly died in 2015.
Candidate Mark Ronchetti would have you believe that crime has exploded under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, but she’s only been in office four years. Crime was a major headache for Gov. Gary Johnson, then a Republican, who campaigned for office on cleaning up crime. Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, called for mandatory jail time for repeat offenders. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez pushed a crime package.
Crime in New Mexico has been really bad for a really long time. Each governor has demanded reforms, and each legislative session has passed some crime bills but rejected more. What seems to be a good idea is, on close examination, not so good.
Look at the 2016 session.
After Lilly’s killing and the murder of a Rio Rancho police officer, Martinez and lawmakers were primed to attack crime, and they were pretty successful. They produced bail bond reform, increased penalties for child porn, authorized a criminal records database, made restraining orders for domestic violence abusers and rapists permanent (Racheal’s Law), allowed judges to consider juvenile records when setting bail or conditions of release for felony offenders, and finally budgeted money to clear the backlog of rape and sexual assault kits.
But it was an election year, and that revved up political rhetoric.
Dems called Martinez’s big crime package the “all crime all the time” proposal. They suspected the old ploy of proposing tough crime bills only to use them during campaigns to say the opposition was soft on crime. That year, polling showed crime was replacing jobs as a leading public concern. It wasn’t all political. In a tight budget year, Dems were unwilling to send more people to prison when the prisons and courts were underfunded.
“Lilly’s Law” generated the most emotional debates. Sponsored by a retired police officer, it would have beefed up the three-strikes law by increasing the number of crimes included in the habitual offender law.
Sen. Jacob Candelaria, then a Democrat, decried labeling elected officials as hard on crime or soft on crime, but concluded, “Society is morally justified in imposing severe punishment on people who commit violent acts and do it repeatedly.”
Fellow Democrat, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, argued: “We’re manufacturing criminals. Our prison system doesn’t work. When we send young men to prison for 30 years, they can’t function on the outside.” He taught classes inside the penitentiary and said he’d seen rehabilitation take place.
Former Gov. Gary Johnson helped kill the three-strikes bill. In a letter to lawmakers, he wrote: “I get incensed when a guy walks out of prison and proceeds to hurt or kill someone. And I certainly understand the pressure on legislators, the governor, and law enforcement to ‘do something.’ “Contrary to their intent, mandatory minimum laws like three strikes do little to reduce crime. They do, however, help drive prison overcrowding and demand substantial increases in corrections spending.” That’s why Alabama and Mississippi had revisited their harsh sentencing policies and taken steps to reduce recidivism and prison overcrowding.
The state’s correctional officers testified that they were overworked – officer vacancies were 45 % – and said the governor’s crime bills would further strain the system. The bill died.Regardless of who’s governor in 2023, the next crime debate will sound the same. And we’ll hear more from corrections. Five of the state’s 26 jails have staff vacancy rates above 50% and the overall vacancy rate was 20%.
Roundhouse newbies will still demand, “Lock ‘em up.” And the debate will repeat.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 9/26/22
Couy Griffin still in the saddle
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
Couy Griffin, momentarily humbled by his latest court setbacks, is back on his horse. Buoyed by $10,000 in donations, he’s bobbed to the surface again as the not-so-humble leader of Cowboys for Trump.
Ever since he rode into the limelight in 2019 as a co-founder of C4T, Griffin has shown a knack for getting attention. He loves the camera even more than his horse, and the camera returns his affection. We’ve seen him riding down 5thAvenue in New York City, posing with President Trump in the Oval Office, and climbing over barricades to get into the nation’s capitol to cheer on the Jan. 6 riot.
Through it all, I’ve wondered: Does Griffin have a day job? Apparently not, which explains a lot of things.
The world knows by now that a state District Court judge recently removed Griffin as Otero County Commissioner, citing the 14th Amendment, which forbids anyone who has sworn to support the Constitution from holding state or federal elected office, now or ever, if they have engaged in insurrection. Griffin’s federal conviction for participating in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, qualifies, the judge said. He became the first elected official to be unseated in connection with the Jan. 6 attacks. Griffin plans to appeal the removal.
If Griffin, 48, had a resume it would look pretty thin: five years’ work for a wild west show in Paris, a year as pastor of the New Heart Church in Alamogordo, and a brief stint running a barbecue restaurant in Alamogordo.
Cowboys for Trump has been Griffin’s job since 2019 when he organized some fellow rodeo cowboys to join his organization. Griffin’s made public appearances with others on horseback in support of Trump’s positions on abortion, guns and the border. He also made so many inflammatory statements that I can’t repeat them all in this space, but he started in April 2020 by saying the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat. The day after Jan. 6, he encouraged people to return for the inauguration and posted, “Blood will run from the Capitol.”
Money has been intertwined with controversy for Griffin.
After the Secretary of State said C4T should register as a political committee, Griffin refused because he would have to disclose contributions and spending. That triggered an Attorney General’s investigation, which found that a C4T GoFundMe account raised at least $30,000 and that Griffin spent money for personal use, including court-ordered child support. He used county money to benefit C4T, the AG said.
Griffin sued the Secretary of State in 2020 but lost this year in federal appeals court. In March the state Attorney General charged Griffin with a misdemeanor campaign violation for refusing to register and said “no elected official is above the law.” Griffin said he would appeal.
During a meeting of the Otero County Commission last summer, Griffin asked the county to pay for his legal defense related to the Jan. 6 riot. The answer was no.
He has said that all but one member of Cowboys for Trump drifted away after the Jan. 6 riots. His political life, he told KUNM, has "cost (him) everything, from a marriage, to finances, to friends."
During a county commission meeting, which he attended as a citizen, he described how difficult it was for him to vacate his office under the gaze of an undersheriff. “Humility, brother,” he told Source New Mexico. “I know that sometimes you travel down a hard road to get to a better road, but God’s a gracious God, and I think he’s got me on that track.”
Lately, championed by right-wing activists, Griffin made his case on the podcast of election denier Joe Oltmann who steered listeners to a crowdfunding page for Griffin’s appeal. Bingo! $10,000. He’s back in business and back to his old self. This cowboy will not yet ride into the sunset.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 9/19/22
New Mexicans model compassion, thrift in helping asylum seekers
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sent busloads of asylum seekers to Washington, D. C., New York City, and Chicago. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possible 2024 Republican candidate for president, spent Florida taxpayers’ money to fly asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has also exported migrants.
In the targeted cities elected officials complain that the three governors gave them no warning. The buses simply arrived and dumped people on the street. They asked for federal help.
This is exactly what border authorities did to New Mexico. In 2019 buses just started arriving – in Las Cruces, Deming and Albuquerque. Who stepped up? Churches, a synagogue and an army of volunteers. If New York, Chicago and DC want to see how this is done, look at New Mexico.
A point of clarification: These are not illegal immigrants. Among the thousands of border crossers are people from Central and South America fleeing gangs, oppression and poverty. They turn themselves in to the Border Patrol and ask for asylum, which they have a legal right to do. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) interviews them to determine credible fear as the basis for asylum and performs a background check. Those who have relatives or sponsors here get temporary asylum status, and they’re released to wait for their court date. Churches and nonprofits shelter them for a night or two and help them reach a sponsor.
El Paso’s Annunciation House was an initial refuge. Overwhelmed, it appealed to Catholic Charities of Central New Mexico, which in turn reached out to other faith-based organizations. At that time New Mexicans, shocked by the sight of children in cages, were anxious to help, and they volunteered in droves, wrote checks, and donated mountains of clothing and toys.
Literally overnight, networks formed to receive the buses, conduct medical checks, feed and house the migrants, provide clothing, and help them reach sponsors or family members. It continues today.
In Las Cruces, Mayor Ken Miyagishima coordinated his city’s response on an hour’s notice. The city of Albuquerque later created a program, reasoning that because ICE just dumps people on the street it could be a city problem, but the faith community still leads the effort.
The small city of Deming scrambled heroically to meet this need. “We knew a lot of them left everything they owned in the world,” Mayor Benny Jasso told the Albuquerque Journal. “We were there to help them as much as we could, and we take pride in that.”
Because this has largely been a private response, the governor’s comment in June left us wondering. She asked the U. S. Homeland Security Secretary to delay transporting migrants from the border to New Mexico cities because the state was busy with forest fires. She would not allow state resources to be used on immigration-related expenses, she said.
But the state wasn’t spending money on asylum seekers. Her Republican opponent in the governor’s race, Mark Ronchetti, termed it “an election year stunt.” Immigration activists wondered why the governor suddenly sided with the far right. It turns out that in 2019 the state sent a few busloads of people to Denver when our network was overwhelmed.
As of Sept. 16, Texas and Arizona had sent at least 295 buses with some 13,000 migrants to cities with Democratic mayors, reported CBS. Texas is the big hitter, moving 10,000 people at a cost of $12 million. Arizona spent more than $4 million to transport 1,809 migrants.
New Mexico spent a little, three cities spent a bit, and volunteers helped more than 26,000 weary travelers, many of them children, reach distant destinations.
In a recent Republican political rally, U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell said, “We need more God and less government.” In New Mexico’s handling of asylum seekers, that’s exactly what happened.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 9/12/22
State Police treatment of first female pilot gives agency a black eye
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
New Mexico State Police will pay pilot LeAnne Gomez $750,000 to settle her lawsuit alleging a sexist work environment, discrimination and retaliation. Recruited in 2015, Gomez was the first female pilot hired by the State Police.
In Facebook responses to the posted news story, I noticed that men questioned whether she was a good pilot while women believed Gomez had been mistreated and sympathized with her.
I believe her, from personal knowledge of two egregious episodes involving women aviation professionals and a close reading of the lawsuit
News accounts of lawsuits like this often don’t go beyond a sampling of grievances because they lack the space. So we heard about a guy urinating outside the hangar door, guys showering in the open hangar, and guys telling her to not “break a nail” when she was refueling. Then there was her supervisor. During a conference, this married man told her she was “drawing too much of a crowd” so he was going to tell everyone she was his wife, and he invited her to his hotel room “to discuss work.” He called her flight lesson with him a “$2,000 date.”
Such behavior may strike some readers as adolescent and unprofessional but not worthy of a lawsuit.To get a sense of what Gomez actually endured you have to read the 46-page lawsuit, which conveys the daily affronts, insults and ambushes.
The men she worked with promised one avenue of training, for which she was qualified, that ended sooner with higher pay. Instead they forced her to take the longer training and the lower pay. During that training an instructor told her he intended to see her “washed out.” They passed her over for missions, neglected to provide flight time and training, and generally lacked any direction about her role in the agency. They left her out of group activities. They told her the wrong times for meetings, which caused her to miss them or get there late. If she complained, they told her she had an attitude and retaliated, again and again. There’s much more.
Before joining the State Police, Gomez was a Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy and a private single-engine airplane pilot who was certified to fly helicopters. Besides being the first female pilot in the state police air unit, she was the first female law enforcement pilot hired in New Mexico. The daughter and granddaughter of pilots, Gomez thought she’d found her dream job.
Instead, “she was harassed, demeaned, belittled, and discriminated against to the degree that another officer there compared her treatment to that of a ‘domestic violence victim,’” said the lawsuit. She left in 2019 to save her health.
LeAnne Gomez is not alone.
Last year, Desiree Horton became the first female pilot at the Orange County Fire Authority. With 30 years as a pilot, 16 spent fighting fires for the state of California, she had more aerial firefighting experience than her co-workers, and yet OCFA fired her before her one-year probationary period ended, saying she was untrainable. She has sued.
Like Gomez, she was undermined, disrespected, disparaged and made to feel incompetent, says her lawsuit. Like Gomez, she was held to higher standards than her male counterparts and not given the same training opportunities.
Worldwide, just 5% of pilots are women, and 30% say they’ve experienced sexual harassment and exclusion from the boys club, according to a recent British survey.
The state Department of Public Safety denied Gomez’s allegations and admitted no liability in the settlement. Without a trial we don’t know what the air unit’s men have to say, so their names don’t appear in news stories, although they do appear in the lawsuit, which is public information.
So nobody has been held accountable, and New Mexico taxpayers will foot the bill for this appalling disaster. The State Police are still recruiting women with a straight face, but women pilots need not apply.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 9/5/22
Thinking about investing $10 million in an abortion clinic
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has pledged $10 million to build a clinic in Las Cruces that would provide “the full spectrum of reproductive health care,” including abortions.
Yes, the need is there. Even before the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe V. Wade decision, New Mexico had become a destination for desperate women. Patients, mostly from Texas, have more than doubled, and existing clinics can’t meet the demand.
Can we hit pause? I support women’s rights but have to ask if the state of New Mexico should be in the abortion business.
As lots of people have pointed out, the state’s healthcare system is thin. We don’t have the doctors, nurses and other skilled workers we need during normal times. The proposed clinic would compete with existing facilities for these employees, although it’s possible that relocating abortion providers might augment our numbers. What is the state doing to train and attract medical professionals?
The money would come from the governor’s share of capital outlay, used to build public buildings and infrastructure. The usual avenue for something like this would be to earmark $10 million for a state entity to build a facility. Does she have buy-in from New Mexico State University’s Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine or the UNM School of Medicine? The governor mentioned having a contractor run the facility. Before spending $10 million we need to hear more about its operation?
Then there’s the question of other clinics in Las Cruces. The state’s second largest city, easily reached from Texas and Arizona, will be the new home of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the clinic at the heart of the Supreme Court decision. It relocated from Mississippi. In addition, Planned Parenthood expects to have a Las Cruces clinic, along with Whole Woman’s Health, which is raising funds to relocate from Texas, according to El Paso Matters.
Las Cruces has become the region’s new battleground for anti-abortion groups. The Mississippi group’s clinic, called the Pink House West after the original clinic, is at 2918 Hillrise Drive. The anti-abortion Southwest Coalition for Life plans to open a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) at 2908 Hillrise Drive. According to the American Public Health Association, CPCs are largely religiously affiliated centers whose primary purpose is to keep women from seeking abortions by “purporting to counsel women on their pregnancy options”; they often provide inaccurate information.
In New Mexico CPCs outnumber abortion clinics 3 to 1.
The focus of the governor and her supporters is not just abortion. Luzhilda Campos, policy co-director with Bold Futures, told the online Source NM that even with abortion access, “there have been gaps in the care that has been provided… Being able to have more, not just the abortion care, but a clinic that encompasses more than just abortion, a full spectrum of reproductive health care, is huge.”
The November election figures in this announcement in no small way. Pundits say abortion has transformed the midterm elections from a rout for Democrats to an even fight and eliminated the expected red wave. In New Mexico the Albuquerque Journal’s recent polling showed the governor seven points ahead of Republican contender Mark Ronchetti. Women favor Lujan Grisham over Ronchetti 50% to 36%.
Ronchetti objects to taxpayers funding a clinic that might provide late-term abortions. He’s painted himself as moderate because he would ban abortion after 15 weeks and make exceptions for rape, incest or saving the mother’s life. The Journal poll found that 35% of voters think abortion should always be legal, and 22% think it should be legal with some limitations.
This might be a workable idea, but the timing – mid-campaign – with few supporting details smacks of other boondoggles like the Spaceport and state-owned super computers. Capital outlay money should be part of a solid plan for women’s healthcare.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 8/29/22
Spending proposals from two sides of political spectrum
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
State number crunchers announced recently that the Legislature will have a staggering $2.445 billion above and beyond what it appropriated. But two-thirds of that gusher are oil and gas revenues, so neither revenues nor resources will flow indefinitely.
Spending suggestions come from two sides of the political spectrum – Paul Gessing, of the conservative Rio Grande Foundation, and Paul Gibson, of the progressive Retake Our Democracy. On several big items, they’re on the same page.
Gessing recently offered five recommendations:
1. Fix the state’s gross receipts tax – both pyramiding (taxes on taxes) and taxes on business input services.
3. Boost funding to the state’s underfunded employee pensions while reforming them and allow workers to invest their own retirement funds.
4. Repave roads, repair bridges and invest in water projects. “It is time to make every drop count and explore innovative approaches to improving our future water security,” Gessing writes.
5. Attract and retain medical professionals by reforming the new medical malpractice law, improving Medicaid reimbursement, and ending the gross receipts tax on medical services.
What we don’t need, Gessing argues, is “another year of massive spending growth.” Similarly, he added, it’s unwise to sock the money away.
On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Gibson has these recommendations:
1. Eliminate pyramiding in gross receipts taxes and reduce the rate but not so much that it hurts revenues to state and local governments.
2. Fix roads and dams. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said 18 months ago that 200 dams are in poor condition, and little has changed, Gibson notes.
3. Fund a 50-year water plan along with its recommendations. Fund wastewater treatment facilities to process wastewater into grey water for landscaping and agricultural use.
4. Grow broadband across the state.
5. Invest in the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund to support development of low-income housing for rent and purchase.
6. Fund a state public bank, which can partner with community banks and credit unions to expand capital available to small and rural businesses.
7. Invest in renewable energy generation and transmission.
What we don’t need, says Gibson, is doling out our surplus to taxpayers in the form of tax giveaways.” He also opposes eliminating the state personal income tax.
Notice that the two Pauls find common ground in fixing the gross receipts tax, upgrading roads and dams, and addressing water needs. This is a good starting place for lawmakers.
There are things to like and dislike in both lists.
Gessing’s suggestion to phase out taxes is tricky, especially given our zig-zag oil and gas revenues, but it’s worth study. I agree with his recommendations to shore up pension funds but question whether the average employee can manage his or her account better than the state’s investment manager. And here’s a big thumbs-up to helping medical professionals.
On Gibson’s list, we need broadband, but there’s a flood of state and federal money already flowing in that direction. Same with renewable energy. A state public bank could be a mixed blessing and needs more study. And a big thumbs-up to more funding for the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund.
Gibson observes this is no ordinary budget year: “What we do with this surplus is not just a fiscal issue, it is a moral one.” He sees a moral mandate to “use surplus revenues to alleviate suffering and address the conditions that contribute to that suffering.”
In a budget year like this one it’s tempting to try and solve all our problems with one stroke of the pen. But legislators will have to choose a course we can sustain this year and the next and the next.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 8/22/22
Ronchetti stubs his toe on transparency questions
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
Back when I was doing public relations, my standard advice to the brass was, “Never say ‘no comment’ to a reporter. It makes them wonder what you’re hiding.”
The Mark Ronchetti campaign’s decision to keep a reporter out of his big Carlsbad event with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis violates this and other rules of the game.
The focus is always on your message. By kicking out a reporter, he allowed the focus to shift. Now we’ve heard about the reporter, why he was kicked out, who he works for, and what that news outlet is all about. The reporter played it well and ended up looking like a dedicated journalist and a stand-up guy. The campaign looked petty and paranoid.
This was all detailed in a front-page story in the state’s largest newspaper, as well as many other news outlets. It also became editorial fodder.
But we’ve seen it before from Enrique Knell, the campaign spokesman, and campaign manager Jay McCleskey.
The chain of events: Marisa Demarco, editor of Source New Mexico, requested press credentials to the event for reporter Shaun Griswold. The campaign manager refused because of a critical article she published two months earlier, written by a freelancer. Griswold asked for a regular-admission ticket. At the door, security personnel, who had a photo of him, denied entry.
Undaunted, Griswold pulled a discarded poster board out of the trash and wrote a message: “Hello! My name is Shaun. I am a journalist. Why are you here? What can the news do better?” He interviewed people who came to hear Ronchetti and DeSantis and wrote his story.
Algernon D’Ammassa, of the Las Cruces Sun-News, wrote that credentialed press inside the event were discouraged from speaking with attendees.
“One of the odd things about keeping Shaun out and not letting us talk to folks was: Why exclude the voices of conservative voters?” he asked. In other words, reporters are as interested in crowd reactions as they are in candidate statements.
Knell told the Albuquerque Journal that Source New Mexico isn’t a legitimate news outlet. To me, they’ve been a good addition to the state’s news constellation. Whatever the subject, the reporting is factual. They’ve provided the best forest fire coverage, for example.
Trying to pick and choose media is old hat for Knell and McCleskey. During Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, she was whisked off stage at the end of her prepared remarks, and nobody got to ask questions. It was near impossible to get any information from a state agency. And yet Martinez campaigned on transparency.In 2013 the Santa Fe Reporter sued the Governor’s Office for failing to respond to requests for information. Knell was then communications director. He testified during the 2017 trial that his job was not to respond to inquiries from journalists but to deliver messages the governor wanted to disseminate. And whoever did that best got the favor of a response. He called the Reporter “a left-wing weekly tabloid.”
The Reporter received a $360,000 settlement.
This episode raises the question of how the Republican candidate would deal with the media as governor. The Society of Professional Journalists’ board of directors said in a statement, “Targeting and ejecting specific journalists from a political rally because their publication wrote things you don’t like bodes ill for transparency and evenhandedness in Ronchetti’s potential administration.”
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government stated: “This could be setting a dangerous precedent -- letting any prospective public servant decide who is and is not a ‘legitimate’ reporter. Reporters are the public's eyes and ears. If they can be silenced by being denied access, the members of the public are the ultimate victims.”
Griswold’s treatment is particularly troubling from a candidate who spent two decades working in newsrooms and should have a whiff of familiarity with the First Amendment.
© 2022 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 8/15/22
Southern New Mexico water grab inches along
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
Socorro resident Jim Ruff captures in one sentence what people in his region don’t like about plans of the Augustin Plains Ranch (APR) to pump 54,000 acre-feet of water a year from an aquifer near Datil: “This is a lot like COVID: Nobody wants it, it’s bad, it won’t go away, and it comes from a foreign country.”
Ruff penned his objection in a letter to his local newspaper, El Defensor Chieftain, which reported recently that APR’s case just moved a step farther.
For many familiar with this 15-year-old, attempted water grab, the first reaction was, how can this case even still be alive?
The last we knew, the State Engineer, for the third time, had said no. This was in 2018. And a district court sided with the State Engineer. That might have been the end, but APR appealed. Early this month, the ranch gained an inch.
It all began in 2007 when two residents were shocked to see a legal advertisement from a neighboring property proposing to mine an ocean of water. Ranchers and property owners in Socorro and Catron counties, along with government entities, responded swiftly with 1,000 protests to the State Engineer’s Office. And they organized the San Augustin Water Coalition, which is still active. Because APR, owned by Italian citizen Bruno Modeno, didn’t say who exactly its customer(s) would be or how water would be used, the State Engineer said no, calling the application speculative.
It violated a basic tenet of New Mexico water law called “beneficial use.” That’s the requirement that water in our desert state must be used wisely and not wasted. Approving APR’s application would “deprive the public of its right to appropriate water for beneficial use,” wrote the hearing officer. In 2014 APR tried again. APR asked to drill 37 wells 2,000 feet deep and pump 6.9 billion gallons of water per day from the San Agustin aquifer beneath the Plains of San Agustin in Catron and Socorro counties. It would pipe the water to unknown customers. Then-State Engineer Tom Blaine found the application speculative and counter to state laws requiring beneficial use.
Again, the State Engineer turned it down. APR amended its application, then revised it. The answer was still no, and the ranch sued. In 2019, a state district court judge dismissed the application, coming down on the side of the State Engineer, Catron County, some 600 intervenors, and 52 government entities. That might have been the end, but APR appealed.
Early this month the state Court of Appeals sent the case back to district court over misinterpretation of a legal doctrine intended to prevent repeated litigation of the same complaint, according to New Mexico Political Report. The appellate court is allowing APR to bring its case back because the 2014 application was a new version of the 2007 application, and it deserved the opportunity to present the updated application. Judges expressed no opinion on merits of the application or the State Engineer’s decision.
If this sounds like they’re in the weeds, they are, and from here on this case will be all weeds because unless there are some new developments, the facts are unchanged. Water attorneys will have to find wrinkles in the law.
APR still rhapsodizes about the good that could come from its project, but this is groundwater, which is finite. The aquifer will recharge, they say. Most of us know that requires rain. Most of us know we get too little rain, and that it’s going to get worse.
Which is why opponents want to leave the San Agustin water in the ground until they see a true emergency, not a race to the highest bidder. And it’s why APR will keep trying because water will only get more valuable.