Saturday, October 23, 2010
New Ad: Stephanie DuBois for PRC in District 2
Stephanie DuBois, the Democratic candidate for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in District 2, will be airing the ad above on cable TV stations. DuBois, the only candidate in her race to be publicly funded --- meaning she is not taking any campaign donations from special interests -- is running an energetic grassroots campaign. Stephanie has been traveling her vast district for months, attending events and reaching out to voters as the citizens' candidate for the PRC. As Stephanie says in her ad, she wants to put the public back in public regulation.
Her Republican opponent, Patrick Lyons, is finishing the second of two terms as New Mexico Land Commissioner. His eight years in office have often been scandal ridden, including widespread outcries against his the secretive White Peak land swap (more here). The deal was halted after Attorney General Gary King successfully petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court for a stay. The Court has yet to render a final decision on the matter.
Lyons' dealings in the land office are also the subject of an extensive special audit being performed by State Auditor Hector Balderas’s office. Investigators are reviewing the legality of about 100 land deals.
You can read more about this race here.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Las Cruces Sun-News Excludes PRC Candidate Stephanie DuBois from Critical Voters Guide
In a statement released today, Stephanie DuBois, the Democratic candidate for the Public Regulation Commission in District 2, called on the Las Cruces Sun-News, a leading newspaper in southern New Mexico, to correct it’s omission of her November 2 electoral contest in its publication.
“I am calling on the Las Cruces Sun-News to correct the omission of my contest and any others it may have omitted in its critical voters guide," DuBois said. As a leading newspaper in southern New Mexico, and one that serves the largest county in the region, the Sun-News remains a critical part of the general public’s source of information in our region," DuBois continued.
"Many voters in our area continue to rely on the Sun-News for accurate information. Many of our citizens and voters continue to lack access to the Internet and other less traditional news sources. For this reason it is incumbent upon traditional news media in our region to continue to be accurate and diligent in informing the public and avoiding confusion among voters generally, and Dõna Ana County voters specifically. I call on the Sun News to make a printed correction” DuBois concluded."
The Public Regulation Commission second district includes a large portion of southern New Mexico, including parts of Dõna Ana County and eleven precincts in Las Cruces itself, communities served widely by the Sun-News.
Stephanie DuBois is the Democratic Party nominee for Public Regulation Commission, an elected authority that oversees insurance and utility rates in New Mexico. She is a resident of Tularosa, New Mexico. The Public Regulation Commission, District 2 includes most of south-central and southeastern New Mexico, including parts of Dõna Ana County and all of Otero County.
Photo by Stephen Jones.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Candidates Address Colonia Residents at Chaparral Forum
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Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.
Southern New Mexico candidates faced off at a well attended community forum held at the Betty McNight Multi-Purpose Community Center in Chaparral, New Mexico, a small rural community near the Texas border in south central New Mexico. About sixty residents turned out from Chaparral and surrounding communities to attend the event, which was sponsored by the Chaparral Community Development Association.
The forum drew candidates from both Doña Ana and Otero Counties. The community straddles the County line. Chaparral is designated by the State of New Mexico as a Colonia, a rural borderland community in an unincorporated area which has traditionally lacked adequate infrastructure.
The forum of both Democratic and Republican candidates was generally low key and friendly, though occasionally took on an edgy tone. “I’m an American and a God-fearing father of six,” said Tyson Murphy, the Republican candidate for Doña Ana County Assessor, in his opening remarks. The comment and tone seemed to be aimed at the largely Hispanic audience, many of whom were Spanish-speaking and immigrants.
In his opening remarks, Andy Segovia, the Democratic candidate for County Assessor responded, “I’ve come down to this community and worked to serve you. I’ve been here to support you,” Segovia said. Segovia is currently the deputy in the County Assessor’s office. Segovia and Tyson are vying to replace the outgoing Doña Ana County Assessor, Gary Perez. “Over the past eight years we’ve developed award-winning systems in the Assessor’s office,” Segovia said, “I’m bilingual and I am able to reach out to all of our communities. I’m always able to help you.” Asked what changes he would make to the office, if elected, Murphy said he would bring “fresh eyes” to the operation and “have an open mind toward changes.”
Most of the other opening remarks centered on the panel of candidates recounting their backgrounds and qualifications for the specific offices they were seeking.
The three judicial candidates on hand, Democrats Jose “Joel” Cano, Appellate Judge Mannie Arrieta, and Rick Wellborn, his Republican opponent, spent considerable time explaining the different judicial levels and functions of the Doña Ana County Court system. Cano, who is seeking the position of Magistrate Judge, termed his office “the quality of life judge.” Magistrate Judges primarily handle traffic and minor civil cases. The Appellate Court is charged with major civil and criminal caseloads.
Cano, who is a retired police officer, suggested that the magistrate court needed to make greater use of legal provisions that permit communities to develop community service programs. “I’ve worked at every level of the community,” he said, “and I intend to bring that experience to the Court.” Arrieta and Wellborn resumed their ongoing debate over experience and how best to address the backlog of legal cases pending before the Court. Arrieta has 25 years of experience in primarily civil law. Wellborn has 15 years of experience, primarily in criminal law. 68% of the cases in the Appellate court are civil cases.
Another issue raised was the pending closure of the Anthony, New Mexico Magistrate Court, which is eleven miles from Chaparral. If the court is closed, Chaparral residents will have to travel to Las Cruces, 36 miles away. All of the candidates urged local residents to work with their representatives to keep the court open.
Another contentious issue was immigration. Asked whether they would support the formation of an oversight commission to address complaints over enforcement practices in the region, all three Sheriff candidates responded they would not. Sheriff Todd Garrison, the Doña Ana County incumbent, responded that his office was the authority charged with enforcement, in coordination with Federal authorities, and he would not support a new authority to address the issue. Juan “JR” Stewart, the Democratic candidate, reminded the audience that immigration enforcement falls under Federal and not under local authority. He promised to work for fairness and coordination between all existing law enforcement authorities. Wally Anderson, the Democratic candidate for Otero County Sheriff, said that illegal immigration was caused by illegal employers and that State and Federal authorities needed to address what he called “the real issue.” Anderson has received support from the Border Patrol Unions.
Another controversial immigration issue was the New Mexico law that allows residents to acquire driver’s licenses without a Social Security number. Representative Joseph Cervantes pointed out that local law enforcement had actively lobbied for current law, and that the New Mexico policy had drastically reduced uninsured drivers and traffic enforcement issues. While New Mexico’s law has enhanced enforcement, Cervantes said, uninsured drivers and high auto insurance rates remain a major problem for neighboring states.
Representative Nate Cote (D-53) responded that he had not been in the legislature when the current statute was passed, but was willing to revisit it. “I think we can address the issue of non-citizens holding New Mexico driver’s licenses, while allowing people to drive and acquire insurance,” Cote said. “I’m opposed to it, right off the bat,” said Rick Little, the Republican candidate for the 53rd District. He said he would work to repeal the law.
The role of the legislature in economic development was also discussed. Reps. Nate Cote and Joseph Cervantes addressed the Colonia development funds that they have worked to acquire, including a million dollars in funds for Chaparral. “I was proud to get those funds for this community,” Cervantes said. Asked if he believed in “trickle-down” economics, Rick Little said “I do.” He called for a “tax break” for communities like Chaparral. Little said New Mexico needed to become a “business friendly state. Government isn’t going to spend us out of the problem,” he said.
Building Codes and Infrastructure
Local building code violations were also discussed extensively at the Chaparral forum. Code violations and substandard infrastructure are ongoing problems in the Colonias. Asked if State and County candidates were willing to act against violators, the candidates responded affirmatively. “We already have the laws,” said Janet White, an independent candidate for Otero County Board, “but if elected officials aren’t willing to enforce them they aren’t worth very much. Lack of enforcement leads to lack of credibility,” she said. L.C. Marshall, the Democratic candidate for Otero County Commission District 1, concurred, but also pointed out that he was already involved in working to insure that landowners met standards for code enforcement. “We’ve looked at a new subdivision here in Chaparral with 107 lots,” Marshall said, “and are working to make sure it meets the codes."
Members of the Chaparral Association at the forum pointed out that people who buy lots on unimproved lands have no reason to expect the seller to supply infrastructure, including roads, sewers and water. On the larger issue of code enforcement, Representative Cervantes noted that New Mexico’s Colonia law had created new code standards to protect the communities, and that residents should work with their representatives and the Attorney General’s office to ensure enforcement.
Public Regulation Commission
Stephanie DuBois was the only candidate seeking election to the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) to appear at the forum. She outlined the duties of the office, which regulates insurance and utilities in the state, and promised to be a watchdog for the public on the commission. “I’m running a publicly funded campaign,” she said. “My opponent is accepting donations from the companies that are regulated by the commission. 16% of his contributors are from Texas. I might ask what interest Texas has in your public regulation commission.” DuBois' opponent is Patrick Lyons, who currently is the sitting Land Commissioner.
Asked what the first thing she would do if elected to the PRC, DuBois responded that she would establish methods of communication for her office. “The thing I hear most often from voters is that they have no way to communicate with members of the commission.”
Photos by Stephen Jones. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.
Monday, October 11, 2010
PRC District 5 Race: Hall Admits Record of Failing to Pay Taxes; Personally Attacks McCamley
Sparks flew on Saturday in the race for New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in District 5, as GOP candidate Ben Hall admitted his failure to pay his taxes and other bills and defended his actions as commonplace. He also made several patently false statements about his opponent, Democrat Bill McCamley.
"Mr. Hall apparently thinks he can defend his 14 tax liens by saying everybody does it, but that doesn't make it right," said McCamley, speaking in front of the home he has owned since 2005.
Hall posted a letter on his campaign website carrying a stunning admission of his own failure to pay his bills over the course of two decades. Hall included a lengthy defense of less than a third of the 21 liens filed against him, but failed to explain why he had 14 tax liens, totaling over $350,000. Hall glossed over these other tax liens, writing only that, "If you were to check the records of many businesses, you would find several of them have had labor and tax problems."
According to McCamley, Hall's letter also made several patently false statements about him. McCamley called on Hall to immediately remove these personal attacks from his website.
"The last thing hard-working taxpayers want on the PRC is another ethically challenged politician who fails to pay his taxes, and makes up lies about his opponent," McCamley said.
"It's one thing for Hall to lie about me, but he should leave my family out of it," McCamley continued. "I've worked hard for everything I have, and I'm a proud homeowner who has always paid my taxes. I've done everything from manual labor in cotton fields to serving as a commercial real estate agent today to get by. More importantly, I'm proud of my public service helping to bring ethics reform."
According to McCamley, here are the facts on Ben Hall's failure to pay his taxes and other bills:
Hall accumulated more than $350,000 of tax liens from 1983 to 1998 (averaging almost one per year during that time), more than $100,000 of other liens from suppliers he refused to pay, as well as numerous lawsuits against him for reasons like "Unpaid Labor," "Breech of Contract" and "Debt and Money Due." See pages 4-7 of Fact Sheet (pdf).
McCamley also provided facts on Ben Hall's voting record.
During his time in the legislature, Hall repeatedly voted to defend big banks and insurance corporations. The most appalling of these was a vote against a bill that required insurance to provide coverage for mammograms. Additionally, he voted against regulations requiring banks to have written contracts for large loans, credit card companies to have maximum interest rates and insurance providers to engage in competitive behavior. See Hall votes sheet (pdf).
Astonishingly, he also voted against legislation that would have created criminal penalties for contractors who used funding given to them for certain projects on other things. See page 4 of Fact Sheet (pdf).
No wonder Ben Hall has refused to debate Bill McCamley face to face. There's a lot about Hall's record he'd apparently like to avoid defending publicly.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Southern New Mexico Candidates Square Off at League of Women’s Voters Forum
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Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with another report from Southern New Mexico.
Candidates for Public Regulation Commission, State Representative, and District Judge addressed voters at the Las Cruces League of Women Voters candidate forum held at the Munson Senior Center in Las Cruces on Wednesday evening. While all of the candidates for Public Regulation Commission demanded accountability and ethics on an elected board noted for its mismanagement and corruption, candidates for the State Legislature from both parties stressed the importance of education and jobs to the future of the region, and called for greater efficiencies in government services.
State Rep Candidates
When questioned about what government waste should be cut, Republican candidates for State Representative called for “lower taxes, less regulation, and less spending,” but failed to provide specifics. Debra L. White, Republican candidate for State Representative in the 36th District, said she would “cut bureaucrats.” When pressed for areas she would cut, White responded, “I got nothin’,” adding, “I’m not sure, really, I’m new at this. Give me a day and I’ll get back to you.” Terry McMillan, Republican candidate for State Representative in the 37th District, stressed his commitment to protecting education and health, which he termed “critical to our future,” but suggested we must stop “the unrestrained growth of government.” To restrain growth he said New Mexico needed to “cut the waste out of Medicare and Medicaid,” which he termed “important resources,” but the “biggest strain on insurance companies.” Medicare and Medicaid are public, not private insurance programs.
Ricky Little, Republican candidate for State Representative, in the 53rd District, said cutting taxes was the key to economic stability. “When you add up State, Federal and local taxes it comes to 63%,” Little said. Little added, “Our taxes are more than other states, like Texas.” Nate Cote, Democratic State Representative in the 53rd District, countered that our top tax income rate is 5.3%. “We had the biggest income tax cut in state history in 2003,” Cote said, “down from a top rate of 8%.”
State Representative Joseph Cervantes (D-52) said, “We have to be honest about the costs of government.” Cervantes noted that the economic downturn had deeply stressed New Mexico’s treasury, but that the state was in much better shape than most other states, including “all of our neighboring states.” Responding directly to Little, Cervantes said, “Someone here raised the Texas example. Texas is facing bankruptcy.” Besides education, jobs and health care, Rep. Cote said New Mexico had to rebuild its infrastructure in order to keep employers in the State.
In the two hotly contested contests for Public Regulation Commission (PRC) from the southern tier, all four candidates agreed that the PRC must step in and take a direct role in overseeing insurance rates and utility fees, something they found “lacking” in the current board. All four candidates agreed that the elected members of the PRC should be responsive and responsible for insurance oversight, which is currently in the hands of the Superintendant of Insurance, an office which is supposed to be accountable to the PRC, but whose decisions the PRC members, as elected officers, have no veto power over.
The long history of corruption on the PRC was also a central issue raised by the candidates. “This election comes down to two things,” said Bill McCamley, Democratic candidate for PRC in District 5, “accountability and ethics.” Bill Hall, the Republican candidate for District 5, called on the PRC to “act responsibly” in decisions made by the board, “before the legislature abolishes it and it winds up appointed by the Governor.” Poor governance from Santa Fe was another issue raised by all four candidates. Bill McCamley promised to bring meetings of the PRC out into the districts to allow the public to participate.
“I have no DWI's, never sexually harassed anybody, and haven't hit anyone in the head with a rock!” said Stephanie DuBois, Democratic candidate for PRC in District 2, referring to legal, ethical and criminal lapses that have occurred on the current PRC. She promised that she would be a full time member of the PRC. “The job pays $90,000. Voters have the right to expect a full time representative,” she said. DuBois also promised to demand that utilities prove they need rate hikes before she agreed to vote for one.
Patrick Lyons, the Republican candidate for District 2, promised to bring the PRC “up to snuff.” He pointed to his record as Land Commissioner, the only state office to have “a flat budget” during his tenure, he said.
District Judge Mannie Arrieta and his opponent Richard Wellborn vied with each other over who had the most experience. Arrieta, who is seeking re-election, has a strong background in civil law. Wellborn, an assistant District Attorney, also has a background in criminal cases. The vast majority of cases in the District Court are civil cases. Arrieta has 26 years of experience in legal practice, Wellborn has 15 years of experience.
Also presenting at the forum were State Representative Joni Gutierrez (D-33) and her Republican opponent Virginia Robertson. Representative Jeff Steinborn and Representative Andy Nunez were unable to attend due to family issues. State Senator Mary Jane Garcia is presently hospitalized due to a mugging in Albuquerque and did not appear. Other candidates on hand, but not presenting at the forum, were Andy Segovia, Democratic candidate for Doña Ana County Assessor, Jose “Joel” Cano for Magistrate Judge and Billy Garrett, Democratic nominee to Doña Ana County Commissioner.
Photos by Stephen Jones. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
PRC Candidate McCamley to Take Las Cruces Fire Department Ability Test
Now here's a candidate who values experience gained on-the-ground doing one of the important things he'd be responsible for regulating, if he wins the office. On Saturday, September 18th, Bill McCamley, a candidate for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in District 5, will attempt to pass the Las Cruces Fire Department’s Public Physical Ability Test. McCamley will make the attempt at 8:00 AM at the Las Cruces Fire Station #4 located at 2802 E Missouri.
According to McCamley, the test is open to any member of the public interested in becoming a recruit for the Department. The test consists of nine events -- such as dragging a charged fire hose 50 feet, raising and lowering a ladder, unscrewing a fire hydrant and climbing three flights of stairs with a 40-pound hose pack. A 30-pound oxygen tank is worn during the entire test, and all events must be completed in less than eight minutes to qualify for the fire fighters’ program.
“The New Mexico PRC is in charge of overseeing the State’s Fire Marshall’s office. These firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect the public and it is important that candidates and officials understand, at least to a small extent, what they go through,” McCamley said in a statement released yesterday.
According to Fire Department personnel, McCamley would be the first political official to attempt the test and, if successful, the first to pass it. I, for one, will be cheering on McCamley from afar. If you live in the Las Cruces area, by all means go on down and give him a thumb's up in person.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
PRC Candidate Bill McCamley Responds to Opponent's Refusal to Debate
Why doesn't Ben Hall, the GOP candidate for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) in District 5, want to publicly debate the issues with Bill McCamley, the Democratic candidate for the job? What is he afraid of?
On August 9th, Bill McCamley invited Ben Hall to a series of debates across Southwest New Mexico. In his letter (which can be read here), McCamley stated, “the opportunity to communicate directly with possible constituents in a thoughtful, meaningful, and detailed manner should be something we should seek with open arms.”
Sounds reasonable to me, but apparently Hall would prefer to avoid any public interaction with McCamley so voters are denied an opportunity to compare and contrast the candidates and their positions on the issues, up close and personal. Mr. Hall responded to McCamley's letter by refusing the debate invitation in a letter that can be seen here. The letter is well worth a read as it speaks volumes about Hall's difficulties with coherent communication -- which just might be a major reason he doesn't want to debate McCamley.
Hall's Failure to Communicate
In his response letter, Hall stated that, “The purpose of out two party system in this country is to allow voters at least two points of view before they elect some one to a political office, just because two opposing candidates do not interact with one another along the campaign trail that does not lead to the degradation of trust between the public and elected officials [sic].” He also stated, “I can interact with the public and inform them of my background, knowledge of issues and my experience thru my web site, e-mail and the many forms of media that are available [sic].”
Despite what he says, Mr. Hall doesn't seem very diligent about talking to the media about his views either. Michael Johnson, Editor of the Alamogordo Daily News, in a response on his blog said, “McCamley has visited with me personally -- in my office -- three times and talked with my reporters several more times at various events. Hall has not contacted me or any of my editorial staff at the Daily News -- not even through the many forms of aforementioned media he cites to McCamley.” (Full blog post can be seen here).
“It’s a shame that Mr. Hall is refusing to interact with me. A series of debates would have educated the public both about the PRC and where we stand on its issues," McCamley said in response. “If he won’t engage with me during the campaign, what does that say about his ability to be effective in Santa Fe where there is a constant need to communicate and converse in order to protect the public? I stand ready to discuss creating accountability and trust at the PRC with him should he change his mind.”
McCamley: Proactive and Engaged
A lot is at stake in the November election and McCamley has been proactively following the issues and speaking out about his views. As a serious candidate should.
For instance, PNM is proposing to raise rates on communities within PRC District 5 by more than 20%. McCamley has pointed out that he has attended 7 of 8 public meetings PNM has had within the District since June to talk about these issues (“Rate Hike Dominates PNM Forum,” Ruidoso News, July 15 2010. “McCamley Runs for PRC 5 Seat, Shares Little Known Facts,” Alamogordo Daily News, Aug 7, 2010. “PNM Executive: Rate Hike is Necessary,” Silver City Sun-News, August 26, 2010).
McCamley says he has also attended every electric co-op annual meeting, met with mayors and fire chiefs in Silver City, Lordsburg, Deming, Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Ruidoso, Truth or Consequences, Socorro, Belen and Los Lunas, and has participated in candidate forums in Rio Communities, Cliff and Santa Teresa. According to McCamley, he has driven over 10,000 miles since the beginning of June talking with constituents across the 5th District.
Hall: Hiding Out
In stark contrast, it appears that Ben Hall has been dedicated to hiding out from the public, keeping his positions to himself and -- most of all -- staying as far away as he can from Bill McCamley. Shame on Mr. Hall for denying voters the opportunities they deserve to compare the candidates and ask probing questions on their views.
I guess Hall thinks he can get away with putting up a ton of campaign signs and fooling voters with bumper-sticker platitudes and still win. Let's make sure he's dead wrong on those counts. Make sure your friends, colleagues, neighbors and family members in the 5th PRC District know the score on Ben Hall and his stubborn refusal to debate the issues.
Monday, August 09, 2010
Dem PRC Candidate Bill McCamley Challenges Opponent to Series of 10 Debates
Democrat Bill McCamley, a candidate for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) in District 5, sent a letter (see below) this morning to his Republican opponent, Ben L. Hall, challenging him to engage in a series of 10 candidate forums across the District during August and September. McCamley was critical of a lack of adequate interaction with voters in the current campaign environment, and urged Hall to join him in engaging in in-depth public discussions about the kind of complex issues with which the PRC regularly deals.
Because both he and Hall are publicly funded candidates with limited budgets, McCamley views the forums as an excellent opportunity to communicate directly with possible constituents instead of relying on expensive ads or shallow, bumper-sticker sloganeering.
McCamley suggested that Chambers of Commerce, the League of Women Voters or other neutral organizations be asked to partner with the candidates to set up and run the forums so they will be fair, orderly and policy-oriented.
It will be interesting to see how Hall responds to McCamley's challenge. Republican candidates have seemed more than a little reticent this year to engage in the kind of live, detailed discussions about proposals and policies that happen at public forums. For instance, Dem gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish has proposed 8 debates with her GOP opponent Susana Martinez, as well as 2 debates between the candidates for lieutenant governor. So far, the Martinez camp has agreed to only one debate, hosted by APS and scheduled for August 19.
See McCamley's letter to Hall below the break:
One of the problems with our current campaign environment is the lack of interaction voters have with candidates for office. Too many times people have to rely on sound bites that they get from short TV/Radio ads, limited mailers, or signs as their sole source of information about a candidate. This is one of the things that has led to the degradation of trust between elected officials and the people that they represent.
While a discussion about issues is important for any political position, it is even more so for the Public Regulation Commission. The breadth and depth of the issues that the PRC deals with, and their impact on the everyday lives of New Mexicans, means that it is vital for people to have a chance to interact with us in an environment that will allow them to truly ascertain certain things about us. These include:
- Backgrounds and experiences
- Our knowledge of the issues involved in this office
- Proactive measures we would take in fields that the PRC is responsible for
- Questions that we would ask regulated interests and other parties when cases are brought before us
- Our overall thought process involving these issues
- How the PRC should improve its ethical standing
Furthermore, since we are both participating in this election as publicly financed candidates with limited budgets for traditional campaign strategies, the opportunity to communicate directly with possible constituents in a thoughtful, meaningful, and detailed manner should be something we should seek with open arms.
Therefore I am inviting you to join me in a series of forums across the PRC’s 5th District during the months of August and September. This district encompasses all or a major part of 10 counties (plus one precinct in Torrance County). I propose that we request that the Chambers of Commerce, League of Women Voters, or other neutral organizations partner with us in setting up these forums in each of the following communities:
- Belen or Los Lunas
- Truth or Consequences
- Las Cruces
- Silver City
It has been a number of years since anyone has participated in a comprehensive series of debates like this would be, and hopefully it would set a precedent for candidates in other races.
I look forward to your response to this offer.
Democratic Candidate for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, District 5
To see our previous posts on 2010 PRC races, visit our archive.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Guest Blog by Bill McCamley: Effective Regulation and How To Get It
“In today's regulatory environment, it's virtually impossible to violate rules.” --Bernie Madoff
The word regulation means different things to different people. For some, it sparks immediate disgust as a hindrance to business. For others, the word provokes frustration as regulatory bodies are seen as inept and needing to do more. But what is regulation, and why is it important to New Mexico?
Let's start off with an undeniable fact: capitalism works. Competition incentivizes people to produce more goods and services at cheaper costs. The end of the Cold War witnessed the fall of the last large, state-owned, centrally-planned economies because they couldn’t compete. Even China has come to this conclusion and has gradually implemented policies turning its economy more market-oriented. Furthermore, competition provides accountability; if you don’t run a place that produces a good product for a decent price, possible customers will go somewhere else.
However, there are problems with unbridled capitalism. In the pursuit of larger and larger profits, sometimes companies act irresponsibly and hurt the larger community. For example, the absence of meaningful banking regulation led to the credit binges that enabled both the Great Depression and our more recent mortgage crisis. And either the lack of safety standards or the will to enforce them created problems with Chinese imports and BP’s failure in the Gulf of Mexico.
In response, our nation has placed limited regulations on the economy as a whole (e.g. minimum wage, workplace safety standards) and specialized rules for more complicated areas (like the SEC oversees for the banking industry and the FCC for communications). In addition, some economic cases make competition generally impossible. Take electricity. Electric companies in the US tend to own both the means of production and transmission lines necessary to transport power. A fully competitive electric environment would create huge costs (multiple sets of generators, transmission lines, etc.) that would make prices too high for many people to afford.
Therefore, we allow utility monopolies to exist, but accountability in this system is hard to manage. No market exists to create competitive pressure, and since many utility providers are private corporations administrations respond to attention from shareholders, not ratepayers. Therefore, prices and services are regulated through public entities to make sure that people don’t get exploited. In New Mexico’s case, this body is the Public Regulation Commission.
Problems can occur regularly with people chosen to be regulators, though. The issues involved are extremely complicated. If a regulator doesn’t have a basic understanding of the subtleties of the field they are making judgments on, bad things can happen. Forcing too much reliance on wind energy, for instance, creates transmission problems because the wind doesn’t blow all of the time. And does deregulation of phone companies in urban areas because of more competition from cable and wireless providers hurt their ability to provide affordable service to rural communities?
This leads to another problem; since having someone with knowledge of the regulated area is good, people chosen as regulators generally come from businesses being regulated. This phenomenon is called “regulatory capture.” People indoctrinated into an industry’s culture, however, will be less likely to make decisions that negatively impact a field with which they are familiar and comfortable. Furthermore, since these practices generally occur beyond the media’s attention, it is easy for regulators to develop cozy relationships with industry lobbyists and there is a danger for decisions to be made based on personal friendships rather than the community’s interests.
So what makes a good regulator? First, someone must intensely study the issues and recognize the overall impact of their decisions on the people that they represent, balancing the needs of individuals, businesses, the community, and the ability of the regulated interest to provide quality services. Second, they must use this knowledge to ask tough questions of industries that come before them. Without traditional accountability mechanisms, regulators must get all possible information from as many sources as possible. Third, they have to have the ability to sometimes say no. If this isn’t the case then the regulatory body simply becomes a rubber stamp.
For New Mexico’s PRC to be effective there are two additional issues that must be addressed. Because of the ethical problems recently afflicting many of the Commissioners the PRC has to make ethics reform, not only among the Commissioners but within the organization, a top priority. If constituents cannot trust their officials to follow basic laws then they can’t trust them on the more complicated and important regulatory matters they are supposed to be involved with.
Also, issues that the PRC deals with can be difficult to understand by the general population because they are complicated. PRC meetings are almost always held in Santa Fe and receive little media coverage, and many of the documents used by involved parties are complicated and filled with jargon. Commissioners must seek to increase transparency levels and work as hard as possible to present issues in a way that ordinary people can understand. After all, they’re the ones that have to deal with the decisions that are made.
This is a guest blog by Bill McCamley. To submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page. To see previous guest blogs, visit our archive. To see previous posts about this PRC race, click here.
Friday, July 02, 2010
Governor Bill Richardson Appoints Theresa Becenti-Aguilar to Public Regulation Commission
Governor Bill Richardson released a statement today announcing that he has appointed Theresa Becenti-Aguilar to the Public Regulation Commission. Becenti-Aguilar will fill the remaining time in the vacant District 4 Commission seat previously held by Carol Sloan. A new Commissioner will be elected in November to start a four-year term in that district in January of 2011.
“Today I am pleased to appoint Theresa Becenti-Aguilar to the Public Regulation Commission,” Governor Richardson said in a written statement. “She has the necessary experience and unique knowledge to hit the ground running to tackle issues that affect all New Mexicans.”
Theresa Becenti-Aguilar has served as the Native American Liasion for the PRC. During that time she worked with New Mexico’s pueblos and tribes to ensure that their concerns were addressed by the PRC. She also established the Tribal Working Group to work closely with tribal leaders, PRC Commissioners and the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department regarding Telecommunication and Utilities Tax exemptions for Native Americans.
Prior to her work with the PRC, Becenti-Aguilar served seven years as a constituent services representative focusing on tribal relations from then U.S. Representative Tom Udall. She also spent eight years as an executive assistant in the litigation division of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.
Becenti-Aguilar is the Democratic candidate for the District 4 seat, having bested three other candidates in the Democratic primary.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Otero County Democrats Vow to Hit the Line Running at Celebration for Liberty
This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, who is a progressive political activist and a resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico. He IS our Southern NM Bureau.
Raising the banner of education, jobs, and ethics at its Celebration for Liberty event in Alamogordo, Otero Democrats vowed to fight for change in the traditionally Republican-dominated southeastern New Mexico County Thursday night. Responding to well-known Sarah Palin’s stump speech line, “How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for you?” Dawn Provencher, Chair of the Otero County Democratic Party, responded, “Thank you, we think it’s working out just fine, and we’re working to continue to effect change!”
Headlining the Otero County 2010 general election kickoff celebration, held at the Sgt. Willie Estrada Community Center on 1st Street in Alamogordo, was Brian Colón, the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor. “It’s about education, the economy, and ethics” Colon told the crowd. Colón’s Alamogordo appearance was one of several he made on Thursday including events in Valencia County in central New Mexico, Santa Fe in Northern New Mexico and finally the Alamogordo event in southern New Mexico. Commenting on his extensive schedule that crisscrossed the state on Thursday, Colón vowed, “Diane Denish and I are not going to concede one inch of New Mexico to our opponents. Not one precinct, one ward, or one county!”
“I am a product of New Mexico Democratic values,” Colón said, “and I was the first in my family to break the cycle of poverty.” He promised to raise the bar of New Mexico’s education system, and help provide all of New Mexico’s children with a chance. Colón promised to work alongside Diane Denish, the Democratic nominee for Governor, for better schools and opportunities in the state.
Stephanie Dubois, running in District 2, and Bill McCamley, running in District 5, promised to bring new energy and ethics to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, the state board that regulates insurance. “I believe in the Democratic process,” DuBois said, “I’m here to give voters a real choice. I’m qualified and I’ll bring ethics to the commission.”
Bill McCamley charged that the current Public Regulation Commission has been rubber stamping insurance and utility rate increases without demanding written evidence from the applicant businesses. He pointed to the recent massive increase granted to Blue Cross Blue Shield. “It’s vital that we keep rates low,” McCamley said, “We can’t be afraid to say no!”
Ellen Wedum, who is running for State Representative in District 59, called campaign finance reform the key to ethics. She raised her opposition to recent Supreme Court cases that equate money with speech. “How are we going to limit the size of government, unless we can limit the money spent on campaigns by special interests?” she asked.
Sue Medina, an Alamogordo School Board member who is running for State Representative in District 51 promised that she would “take Otero County into the 21st Century.”
Sheldon Compton, the Democratic Candidate for Otero County Assessor of Otero County, said voters in the County were sick of being taken for granted. This year's election is Compton’s second try for the office. Promising a breakthrough in 2010, Compton noted that he had received 49% of the vote in his first try in the traditionally Republican county four years ago. He stressed his twenty years experience in the Assessor’s office. “I promise to be a full-time, accessible public servant,” Compton said.
L.C. Marshall, candidate for Otero County Commissioner, District 1, is making his first try for office. “My district runs to the Texas border,” he said, “We all deserve representation, not just the folks up around the Country Club.” Promising to take it to the Republican establishment head on this fall, Dawn Provencher said Otero County Democrats were “energized.”
Click on photos for larger versions. All photos by Stephen Jones. To read more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.
June 18, 2010 at 11:21 AM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, 2010 NM Legislature Races, 2010 NM PRC Races, Brian Colon, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Democratic Party, Otero County | Permalink | Comments (3)
Monday, June 07, 2010
PRC Candidate Bill McCamley Looks Forward to General Election Challenge
Bill McCamley, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary for New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in District 5, has released a statement discussing his upcoming general election contest with the successful GOP candidate, Ben Hall. The two are vying for the Southern New Mexico PRC seat being vacated by Democrat Sandy Jones.
“I congratulate Mr. Hall in winning the Republican primary," McCamley said last week after the results were in. "I look forward to a good campaign where we can lay out our principles. Keeping utility rates low, ethics reform, health care, and economic development will be my priorities on the PRC. We need a new era of ethical leadership with leaders who are focused on putting people ahead of special interests and narrow agendas.”
McCamley's campaign pointed out his strong record on ethics during his tenure on the Doña Ana County Commission. He established a new ethics ordinance and represented local governments on the 2007 State Ethics Panel. McCamley also recently sat on the state board of Common Cause.
His campaign also noted McCamley's successes in renewable energy. He pushed to establish residential solar energy districts in the state as a County Commissioner, and worked with the community of Logan on a wind energy project.
“New Mexico has a huge potential to become a leader in the renewable energy industry," McCamley said. "This is important both for the job opportunities it will bring to the state and for the interests of national security in decreasing the reliance we have on countries like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Russia for oil. New Mexico must be a national leader on new energy.”
McCamley also said he is committed to fight for accountability. “Many people don’t realize how much the PRC impacts the pocketbooks of New Mexico families,” he said. “The PRC has an obligation to ask tough questions of utility companies that want to raise rates, and to fight for policies that keeps corporations accountable and protect the best interests of people.”
In addition to his service on the county commission, McCamley has experience in the private, education and non-profit sectors. He is currently working on housing/retail development and establishing an astronomy education program for regional schools in Animas. He has degrees from NMSU and Harvard University. The McCamley campaign website is http://www.billmccamley.com, and he can be reached at [email protected]
Note: We can win this race, IF McCamley gets the help he needs. As many of you know, McCamley is an energetic and informed candidate, but he needs volunteers to help get the word out in that huge PRC district down south. Now's the time to get involved. Pass it on.