Thursday, March 15, 2012

Librotraficante Caravan Stops in New Mexico Bringing Free Speech to Arizona

From our Southern Correspondent Stephen Jones.

Lt_002

The Librotraficante Caravan made a stop at the Mesilla Cultural Center just off the Mesilla Plaza in Thursday morning. The Caravan was in southern New Mexico to bring awareness to the attempt by Arizona politicians to wipe out Hispanic cultural studies in its schools and ban books relating to Mexican American culture and history in Arizona’s second largest school district. The Caravan is transporting “banned” book titles, dubbed by the group “wet books,” back into Arizona to be distributed through makeshift cultural libraries.

Chavez_diaz    Diaz_garrett

“They tried to erase our history, so we’re making new history” proclaimed Tony Diaz, a writer from Houston, who is the chief organizer the effort. Denise Chávez, director of the Border Book Festival, and over a hundred other New Mexicans, including Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, were on hand to greet the caravan as it passed through Mesilla on its way to Arizona.

The Librotraficante Caravan was organized to protest the decision of the Arizona State Legistature and the Tucson Unified School District to abolish Mexican American cultural studies programs and remove Hispanic literary, history, and civil rights titles, along with other works deemed “objectionalble” by Arizona politicians, from Tucson, Arizona area schools. Among the titles removed from Arizona schools were The House on Mango Street by Sanda Cisnero, a MacArthur Grant Literature award winner, Bless Me, Ultima by famed New Mexico author Rudolpho Anaya, the The Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History, and even such classic works as Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Lt_001    Lt_005

The Librotraficante Caravan launched its travel from Houston, Texas, to Tucson, Arizona, carrying a payload of contraband books with the intention creating networks of “Underground Libraries” and leaving community resources in its wake. One of many responses to Arizona’s unconstitutional laws prohibiting Mexican American Studies, the Librotraficante Caravan has captured the imagination and hearts of activists, writers, educators, and students from all walks of life who want to preserve freedom of speech.

“Every great movement is sparked by outrage at a deep cultural offense,” said Tony Diaz, founder of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, which has led the charge, “When we heard that Tucson Unified School District administrators not only prohibited Mexican American Studies, but then walked into classrooms, and in front of young Latino students, during class time, removed and boxed up books by our most beloved authors – that was too much. This offended us down to our soul. We had to respond.”

Lt_006

“With their record of anti-immigrant legislation, politicians in Arizona have become experts in making humans illegal. We did not do enough to stop that, thus that anti-immigrant legislation spread to other states such as Alabama and Georgia. Now, these same legislators want to make thoughts illegal. If we allow this to happen, these laws, too, will spread. Other branches of ethnic studies will be prohibited, and other states will follow suit” Diaz added.

A large group of writers have embraced the caravan, many participating along the route, including Sandra Cisneros, and Rudolpho Anaya. Others include Guggenheim Fellow Dagoberto Gilb, whose work recently appeared in the New Yorker and Harpers simultaneously, best selling author Luis Alberto Urrea, with multiple titles found on the banned book list, Other literary giants participating in the Librotraficante Caravan. Mesilla’s Denise Chávez, author of Face of an Angel. Chávez, who hosted the caravan in Mesilla, organizes the Annual Border Book Festival; Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the syndicated comic La Cucaracha, and who coined the phrase “Self Deport”; and Rene Alegria, founder of Boxing Badger Media, who attended one of the impacted high schools in Tucson. In addition to southern New Mexico’s Border Book Festival, institutions hosting the caravan along the way include the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, Texas, and the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

March 15, 2012 at 05:31 PM in Books, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Hispanic Issues, Immigration | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hispanic Leaders Call for Wilderness Protection for Organ Mountains

Democracy for NewMexico Southern Bureau contributing writer Stephen Jones attended an event regarding the protection BLM's Tortugas Peak recreation area last week.

Wilderness_01
With the iconic Organ Mountains as a backdrop, Hispanic leaders came together in Las Cruces at the BLM's Tortugas Peak recreation area Wednesday to call on President Obama and Congress to permanently protect the Organs and surrounding desert treasures in southern New Mexico. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act has been stalled in Congress since 2009.

Taylor_munozSpeaking on behalf of an Hispanic coalition that has come together as Nuestra Tierra: Our Land, Our Future,  John Muñoz of the Hispano Chamber of Congress called for permanent protected status for the fragile natural areas located primarily in Dona Ana County. "Today we call on President Obama and Congress to support the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act. This land connects all of us here in southern New Mexico; all of us of different backgrounds and different cultures. This land brings us together"  Muñoz said.

Mayor Nora Barraza of Mesilla also urged protection of the Organ Mountains and other desert landscapes for historic and cultural reasons, as well as their environmental value. She also noted the importance of the surrounding areas to the area economy, particularly that of the historic community she leads. "As a Barrazaperson who was born and raised in the wonderful town of Mesilla, and a lifelong New Mexican, I can attest to the importance of historical preservation" Barraza said. "If we lose these wonderful landscapes, we can never replace or recover these beautiful natural resources that we have. Is this not why we are are known as the land of enchantment?" she said.  "We know that growth is inevitable, but we need to take action now to protect our open lands and mountains. As a Hispanic I know the deep importance of these places. They have served as a part of our historic cultural and religious traditions; traditions that we hope to pass on to our children and grandchildren. Once they are gone they can never be replaced" Mayor Barraza said.

Former State Representative J. Paul Taylor, a long lime legislative leader who represented the Mesilla valley in the New Mexico House of Representatives, and a native of nearby Chamberino, also stressed the critical historic importance of the landscapes surrounding the valley, often on a personal basis, as well as its its fragile environmental value.  Taylor's family ancestors include Pedro Robledo, a member of the 1598 Oñate expedition for whom the Robledo Mountains near Radium Springs, one of the desert peaks included in the Wilderness Act, is named. "Naturally I have a great affection for those mountains" Taylor said, "I also have a great affection for those mountains you see behind me now [the Organs]. Juan de Oñate called these mountains ' Sierra del Olvido,'" Taylor said, "the forgotten mountains. Who could ever forget these beautiful mountains.

ChavezReading a poem she wrote for the occasion, Mesilla poet and playwright Dolores Chávez spoke of the critical importance of saving the rich historic landscape that marked the northbound passage of the El Camino Real, and that once was home, among others, to the great Chiricahua Apache, Geronimo, and to the face of the mountains where generations of Hispanic worshipers in the area have come to venerate Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Chávez, whose poem spoke to the rich heritage of the area she said "grounds" the regions's culture, also has an personal ancestral context to the land. She is the great-grand niece of the first Hispanic U. S. Senator, Dennis Chávez.

TrejoSpeaking for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Ray Trejo stressed the environmental, sporting, hunting and educational value of the land. "As a young Latino growing up in Deming, our Disneyland were these outdoors, and the vast richness of these natural areas" he said. "I'd also like to say, as an educator, not to take anything away from books, but all learning can't be gained in the classroom" Trejo said.

Speaking from an economic perspective, John Muñoz of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce said that communities that protect their natural areas are better for business. "Our Chamber has a long history of supporting protections for these lands" Muñoz said. "We feel, particularly in the current economic situation, that businesses in these areas adjacent to lands that are protected do better. Absolutely that has to do with a better quality of life." Muñoz noted that happier employees and a thriving commercial environment that comes from that quality of life both boosts economic activity and encourages new businesses to put down roots in places like Doña Ana County.

Wilderness_02

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act, first introduced in 2009, is sponsored by New Mexico Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall. The bill has been endorsed by both Democratic candidates seeking retiring Senator Bingaman's seat, State Auditor Hector Balderas and Congressman Martin Heinrich.

January 22, 2012 at 07:18 PM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Environment, Land Issues, Las Cruces | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Stephen Jones: Progressives Win Big in Las Cruces

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Silva_small_miyagishimaSilva, Small, Miyagishima 

Mayor Ken Miyagishima handily defeated both of his challengers, and two incumbent City Council progressives, Councillors Miguel Silva and Nathan Small, were easily re-elected in the Las Cruces municipal election on Tuesday, crushing their Tea Party-backed rivals by lopsided margins. Joining Tuesday's rout over conservatives, Gregory Z. Smith, another progressive candidate, appeared to have narrowly won his contest as well.

Leading the sweep, Mayor Miyagishima won a second term as Las Cruces Mayor, garnering a landslide 60% of the vote against Councillor Dolores Conner, his closest rival, who took only 29% of the vote despite far outspending Miyagishima, and Michael Ray Huerta who captured 11% of the vote.

Miyagishima_001Silva_010Small_001

In Las Cruces City Council District 1, Councillor Miguel Silva hammered  Natalie Chadborn, a leader of the Tea Party in Las Cruces. Silva beat Chadborn by a lopsided 69%-31% margin. In Las Cruces City Council District 4, Nathan Small was re-elected by an even wider margin against his Tea Party-backed rival Aaron Diaz, 71% to 29%.

In the District 2 City Council contest to replace Dolores Conner, who vacated the seat to run for Mayor, Gregory Z. Smith, a local architect and one of two progressive candidates in the district, had just over 40% of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff against the second place candidate, Scholz, who also has a progressive base. The third candidate, conservative Fred Espinoza trailed the top two candidates badly.

Councillors Gil Sorg (Las Cruces-5) and Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Thomas (Las Cruces-6) who hold staggered terms were not up for re-election. Sorg and Thomas are also part of the progressive caucus in the Las Cruces City Council. With the sweep on Tuesday night, progressives now hold all seven of the elective municipal offices in the city of Las Cruces. Tuesday's big wins were among the widest winning pluralities in Las Cruces history.

To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive 

November 9, 2011 at 11:13 PM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Las Cruces City Elections | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Democrat Evelyn Madrid Erhard Rallies Supporters in Quest for CD 2 Seat

Erhard_002 Erhard_004

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

Evelyn Madrid Erhard ramped up her campaign to recapture the 2nd Congressional District on Sunday at the home of Delia Narvaez in Las Cruces. The fundraising house party was one of several planned over the next two months. Erhard, a Democrat who announced her candidacy for Congress a few weeks ago, promises a spirited grassroots campaign to recapture the Congressional seat now held by Steve Pearce (R-CD2). In her remarks to the gathering, Erhard promised a tough issue-oriented campaign that would focus on jobs, strengthening public education, affordable health care, and protecting Social Security and Medicare.

"I am a lifelong New Mexican and have lived in this community for thirty six years. I'm sorry to say that for thirty of those years we have been represented by only two people, Steve Pearce and Joe Skeen, and neither of them has done anything for the people of southern New Mexico," Erhard said. "You know, I also have to say this, because it's true, and because it has a lot to do with why I decided to run for Congress. The Republicans have gotten all these people to be against other people; they pit people against other people, and that is just wrong. You know those Republicans, like us, who are '99%-ers' too, they really need the same things that we need. They really do. So it's sad, really sad, that they fall into the trap of being pitted against other people who are just like themselves," Erhard said.

Erhard_001 Erhard_007

"I'm running for Congress because for too long we have been ignored," she said, referring to her opponent, Congressman Pearce. "I've heard people say, 'well, he's tough.' You know he's not tough. He's really just mean," she said, "and there gets to be a point in time, like in a children's story, where the kids get fed up and say 'Boo!' back. So I just want you to know, I want to tell you now, I'm not afraid of him. We've seen that play before. So when he comes around with his attacks, like he always does, I plan to say back to him, you know you've been around a long time and you've never done anything for anyone in our district. I plan to say, you backed the people who took us to the brink, then stood back while the whole economy went down the tubes. You voted for two unfunded wars, you backed the Ryan budget that would strip our seniors of their Medicare. You are responsible for the situation that we're in," Erhard said.

Erhard_003

"I've been to the neighborhoods and to the communities in this district and I've heard the voices of people who live and work here," she said. "People are hurting here. I want you know that I've heard what people have to say, the challenges that they're facing, and I want to say here, right now, I'm the one who is going to go back to Washington and speak for them, speak for the people of this district. I plan to be a voice for all of New Mexico, and I hope, with your support, that I will be the person who speaks out in Congress for the things that we need. First and foremost, we need good jobs!"

Erhard also promised to work hard to protect and strengthen the Affordable Care Act, and to support legislation that protects consumers against the abuses of the insurance industry. She stressed the importance of a good public education system as the foundation for growing economy for the region.

"Jobs are the number one issue," she said, "and we need to protect Social Security and Medicare. Pearce and the Republicans have signed on to the Ryan budget bill, so it's real important we elect someone with a priority to stand up for health care and to work for our seniors," Erhard said. "After that we need to be looking to protect human and civil rights. Those seem to always be under attack from the Republicans." Erhard said she supports collective bargaining rights "absolutely," and also will work to protect the landmark Voting Rights Act, which is again under attack from the right. She also supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would protect the LGBT community nationally against employment discrimination. "It's important to speak out for human rights and civil rights more than ever, because the Tea Party and the Koch brothers have made such an effort to use people's fears to encourage hate among people, and cause great division to cover up their own political and economic failures," she said.

Erhard took aim at her opponent's cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry. "Oil and gas are important to the economy of this District," she said, "but we need to support the job-creating new energy industries in solar and wind, and in biofuels that we in this area should be the economic leaders in," she said. "Southern New Mexico is blessed with so much sun, it needs to become the engine of a strong, renewable economy in New Mexico." Erhard also hopes to enlist New Mexico State University, which she termed "a world-class institution in the field," in helping to train workers, and to develop and add research skills to the emerging renewable economy of the area.

Erhard also promised to support wilderness protection for the iconic Organ Mountains near Las Cruces. "We are blessed with such incredible natural beauty here in New Mexico," she said, "we need to do everything we can to be good stewards of our wild lands."

Evelyn Madrid Erhard is a lifelong New Mexican who grew up in Española and is a resident of Mesilla, New Mexico. She earned a Master's Degree in Communications Studies. She has worked as a technical writer, and teacher at Doña Ana County Community College and at New Mexico State University. She also owned and operated a small storefront shop for six years.

Photos by Stephen Jones. Click images for larger versions. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

October 17, 2011 at 06:15 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Events, Las Cruces, NM-02 Congressional Race 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Las Cruces Mayoral Candidates Spar at Tech Debate

Miyagishima_Huerta
Ken Miyagishima, Michael Huerta

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

All four Las Cruces mayoral candidates faced off at a public forum sponsored by the High Tech Consortium of Southern New Mexico (HTC) on Wednesday morning at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum auditorium. The candidates responded to questions related to bringing high tech jobs into New Mexico's second largest city. Wednesday's event featured Mayor Ken Miyagishima and his three challengers, Las Cruces City Councillor Dolores Connor, community activist Michael Ray Huerta, and newspaper reseller Michael Fleming. It was the first event in which all four of the candidates participated on the same stage.

Panel

The four candidates stressed the proximity of New Mexico State University, White Sands Missile Base and the Spaceport USA as potential engines of new business growth in the tech sector for Las Cruces. "Every year we see more and more businesses that are looking at Las Cruces" as a potential place to locate, Mayor Miyagishima said, "Once the Spaceport is up and running, we are looking at a $500 million dollar economic boom per year," he said.

"There's so much research wealth here in our County," Dolores Connor said. "You're going to hear a lot about the Spaceport and White Sands Missile Range. I have been a supporter of the Spaceport since day one and continue to be," she said. Connor also pointed to White Sands, NASA and the area testing facilities as engines of business growth. "People from all over the world travel here to work with those facilities. It is our opportunity to engage those businesses and work with them to make them a part of our community," she said. Connor also talked about the importance of working with secondary schools in building bridge programs in science education.

Conner Fleming1
Dolores Connor, Michael Fleming

Michael Ray Huerta said the city needed to do more to address quality of life issues to get and keep good paying technical jobs. He pointed to Austin, Texas as the model he would try to emulate in that regard. "The Brookings Institute came out with a study that said diversity of human capital is the key indicator of whether or not cities can maintain a workforce," Huerta said. "What does that mean for Las Cruces?" he asked. "We've done a lot in the last few years to address the quality of life for retirees and seniors," he said, "but what we need to do to retain people in high tech business, is to address their quality of life." Huerta singled out development of the arts and entertainment, music and outdoor recreation as areas that needed to be addressed.

Michael Fleming concurred that the City needed to partner with NMSU and the aerospace facilities. "We need to strengthen education, especially at the lower grades, so that they have the three 'R's' down and can successfully complete their college educations," Fleming added.

Addressing the expansion of solar and broadband in Las Cruces, each of the candidates agreed more needed to be done in the City. However, Miyagishima pointed out that once solar facilities are completed they do not leave behind large workforces. Connor agreed, adding that the private sector needed to do more, particularly in the area of broadband. "We simply don't have the public dollars to address the deficiency," she said. Huerta said more could be done to educate the public on the use of internet technologies to generate greater demand from the private sector in building out broadband in Las Cruces.  

Miyagishima Huerta
Ken Miyagishima, Michael Huerta

Connor called for a lower tax rate and reform of the State Goods and Services Tax to help drive economic development. She said she strongly supported Governor Susana Martinez's efforts to reform the tax. Mayor Miyagishima pointed out that, under his administration, he had built "a healthy business environment," and noted that the City had "twice the financial reserves" that are required by the state, putting the city of firm economic ground. He noted that, through the direction of the current administration, Las Cruces has not overbuilt speculative housing, and has avoided many of the economic problems of its competitors.

While Miyagishima pointed to good planning as an engine of future job growth, Connor said that it was the private sector that needed to create the jobs. "Once we've built the streets and sewers, we've done our job," she said. In one late exchange between the candidates, Huerta called on the Mayor and City Council to slash their own salaries. Huerta said that -- in real terms -- there was a 15% unemployment rate in the city. "It's time the Mayor and City Council make some sacrifices, too," he said.

As each of the candidates pointed out, Las Cruces has a weak-mayor form of government. While the Mayor holds a key vote on the seven-member City Council, that individual has no administrative duties, but does set the agenda for the Council. Las Cruces has a full-time City Manager who reports to the full City Council. 

The Las Cruces municipal election will be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. In addition to the Mayoral race, three City Council seats and the Municipal Judge contest will be decided in the 2011 municipal election.

HTC, which sponsored the forum, is headquartered in Las Cruces. It is a non-profit membership organization made up of tech-oriented individuals, small business owners, corporate leaders and educators that has come together to promote a positive business atmosphere conducive to growing the high-tech sector in southern New Mexico.

Photos by Stephen Jones. Click images for larger versions. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

September 28, 2011 at 07:58 PM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Events, Las Cruces, Las Cruces City Elections | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Doña Ana County Democrats Come Out Big for Labor and to Cheer on Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich


Click for photo album

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

Nearly four hundred southern New Mexico Democrats and area Union activists joined together on Labor Day morning to celebrate the heritage of organized labor and to rally support for Doña Ana County Democratic candidates and officeholders. The event was keynoted by U.S. Senate candidates State Auditor Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich. It was the first public event in New Mexico that has featured both candidates for the 2012 Democratic U.S Senate nomination together in the same venue.

Message From DPDAC Chair Christy French
"Today we come together to celebrate the both the rights and accomplishments of the American labor movement," said Doña Ana County Democratic Party Chair Christy French. "We do this at a time when labor and the right to collective bargaining is under attack as never before. We caution those who would deny the rights of labor against the dangerous path they have chosen. As John L. Lewis, a mineworker the founder of the CIO said, 'Workers have kept faith in American institutions. Most of the conflicts, which have occurred have been when labor's right to live has been challenged and denied.' We couldn't agree more," she said.

"As Democrats we choose a different path. We promise to keep faith with working people, because we understand that labor represents the great backbone of the nation and the path to prosperity for all of us. Make no mistake about this. To the working people of our county, our state, and our nation, we want you to know that we stand with you. We will always stand with you," Christy French said.

Both Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich echoed Doña Ana County Chair French, outlining the strong labor backgrounds of their families and promising to keep faith with America's working people and to champion the rights of labor in the United States Senate. 

Remarks by Hector Balderas
In his speech Hector Balderas outlined the kitchen table family values passed down from his grandfather, a decorated World War vet and local plumber from Wagon Mound, a small rural community in northern New Mexico. Balderas promised to take the fight to and his "home grown" values into the general election and answer the call to "fight those who would go so far as to question whether a Ben Ray Lujan is a 'real American?'" "I'm willing to take that fight to them," Balderas said.

"Fiscal responsibility is a progressive value. Why wouldn't we stand by those values? I'll be happy to debate Heather Wilson on those values," Balderas continued. "The ugly truth is that corporate America has been driving the bus in Washington for quite a while. We've been giving away the farm now for quite some time now. I'm advocating restoring some kind of fairness and equity in our economy. If you are a school teacher you should be taxed the same as anyone else. Just because somebody wants to call you a "jobs creator" shouldn't mean you pay less taxes than a school teacher. Fairness is very simple really," Balderas said.

"I'm also ready to debate Heather Wilson on why she squandered the largest surplus in recent  U.S. history and why we can't now be relying on that surplus in these difficult times to invest in schools and school children, teacher pay, roads and infrastructure," Balderas stated. "She has actually been unaccountable to you as taxpayers and citizens. She's worked and advocated for only one group of Americans while turning her back on the vast majority of citizens. She should be called out for that."

Balderas continued, "I think Washington D.C. needs to hear from people who actually know how a water system makes all the difference in places like Wagon Mound or Chamberino. Those things matter. When we're talking about $2.1 trillion dollars to provide water systems and infrastructure to those kinds of communities, we really ought to have leaders who understand the importance of how those funds are spent, and where those resources need to go to make an impact. Washington D.C. is a little out of touch. They've forgotten how those issues actually effect the everyday lives of people in places like New Mexico."

"If you actually come from a place where people hold you accountable, where people's lives and livelihood are at stake, like Wagon Mound, the place my grandfather raised his family, then you aren't going to engage in fiscal recklessness like Heather Wilson, because you know that your neighbors and the local school teacher are going to call you out. These Washington programs make a real difference. That's the kind of politics I will take to Washington, D.C.," Balderas concluded.

Remarks by Martin Heinrich
In his address, Martin Heinrich also talked about the values his family passed on to him. "I want to talk about the importance of this holiday," he said. "Labor Day is not just another three-day holiday. I want to talk about the importance of Labor to this country and our families," Heinrich said.

"My dad was in a union, he was IBEW," Heinrich continued. "He was a lineman and a local electrician. My mother was a seamstress for many years, back when Levi's were still made in America, and she finished her work in an auto factory, one of the few plants that was a non-organized auto factory in the United States. It was in a right-to-work-for-less state. It was in a plant that openly hostile to organized labor, and I saw just what that meant to an individual family. My dad worked hard, but he was treated with respect. He had a good contract. He had access to organized collective bargaining. My mom didn't have that where she worked. So when demand hit hard and they were looking for a cheaper place to produce some of these parts, her factory -- instead of adding more workers -- just added more time."

"So when they went to seven days a week, one day off every three weeks, it really took a toll," Heinrich explained. "I remember when the carpal tunnel hit and she had to wear braces to work every day. The only good thing I can say about it, is I learned to cook. I saw what a toll a workplace took on my mother that, frankly, did not respect her. That respect is what organized labor has brought to working people in this country. So, for me, Labor Day will never be just another three-day weekend," Heinrich stated.

For his part, Heinrich said he was tough enough to stand up to Heather Wilson and the Republicans. "We went through a pretty tough cycle last year," he said. "They said I came in on a wave and I was going to go out on the last wave. We proved them wrong last year. I've seen a lot of good Democrats try to win and yet lose that seat," he said, "but we were able to keep it -- in the toughest election cycle year for Democrats in decades."

"On Tuesday night, after we had won," Heinrich continued, "and so many other Democrats had lost, the news media asked me what was the difference. I told them I had to subscribe to the idea that we had stuck to our convictions. I think I won and others lost because too many of my colleagues had run from the things that they had believed in," Heinrich continued.  "They took tough votes, like on health care, but when they got rattled by the Tea Party they began to run for the hills, change their positions and apologize for votes. We never did that."

"I never apologized for holding Wall Street accountable at a time they were putting our mortgages and our retirements at risk, and I never apologized for taking on the health insurance lobby in this country," Heinrich stated. "That is the kind of race that we're going to run for the United States Senate."

"If you want to know what kind of Senator I will be, look at my votes in the last two sessions of Congress," said Heinrich. "Whether I voted for the community. Whether I sided with the corporate lobbyists, or whether I sided with New Mexicans. I'm proud of every one of my votes, and if you knew my family and how we grew up, you could have predicted every one of those votes," Heinrich concluded.

Other Prominent Dems Present
Other prominent Democrats at the event included Attorney General Gary King; State Senators Mary Jane Garcia, Steve Fischmann and Mary Kay Papen; State Representatives Joseph Cervantes, Mary Helen Garcia, Joni Gutierrez and Eleanor Chavez. Rep. Chavez made the journey south from Albuquerque for the Doña Ana County event. 

Others included Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins; County Treasurer David Gutierrez; County Commissioners Billy Garrett and Karen Perez; Probate Judge Alice M. Salcido; and former State Representative J. Paul Taylor. Candidates Evelyn Madrid Erhard, who is running for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District, and Mark DiAntonio, who is running for Doña Ana County District Attorney, were also on hand to seek support.

Anthony Mayor Ramon S. Gonzales and Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, along with mayoral challengers Michael Ray Huerta and Dolores Conner of Las Cruces, and Councillors Miguel Silva, Olga Pedroza, Nathan Small and Sharon Thomas, were also in attendance.

Honored at the event was Randy Moncrief of the American Federation of Teachers.

Photos by Stephen Jones. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

September 6, 2011 at 01:42 PM in 2012 NM Senate Race, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Democratic Party, Hector Balderas, Holidays, Las Cruces, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Otero County Democrats Kick Off Labor Day Weekend (With Photos)


Click for photo album

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

Otero County Democrats gathered for their 7th Annual Labor Appreciation Breakfast at the Alamogordo Women's Club Saturday morning. The gathering brought out a large mix of organized labor rank and file union members and local Democrats.

"They told me there weren't any Democrats over here," said keynote speaker State Senator Mary Jane Garcia, "obviously they were mistaken." Garcia, who represents a district in neighboring Doña Ana County took on a wide range of topics in her address to the group ranging from legislative redistricting, to social promotion in schools, and her unwavering support for issuing drivers licenses to undocumented workers. She also stressed her work against domestic and community violence, and talked about the killings of women south of the border in Juarez.

Also addressing the group was Evelyn Madrid Erhard, who has recently announced she is running for the New Mexico 2nd Congressional District seat, and whose appearance at the Alamogordo event marked an important rollout for her freshly launched campaign outside her home county. Erhard is a long time neighborhood leader from  Mesilla. "For all but two years of the past thirty years we've been represented by Republicans in this district, first with Joe Skeen and now with Steve Pearce, and we've gotten nothing in return from them," she said, "I promise to change all that."

Other speakers included Carter Bundy of AFSCME, Otero County Chair Wally Anderson, and Stephanie DuBois who has organized each of the past seven Otero County Breakfasts. In addition to raising funds for the Otero County Democratic Party the group raised money for the ongoing efforts to turn back attacks on organized labor in Wisconsin.

Photos by Stephen Jones. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

September 4, 2011 at 06:16 PM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Democratic Party, Events, Labor, Otero County | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Hector Balderas' Senate Campaign Comes to Las Cruces


Click for photo album

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

On Saturday State Auditor and U.S. Senate candidate Hector Balderas was in southern New Mexico and spoke to a packed house of local residents and area campaign supporters at Roberto's, a local restaurant in Las Cruces, for a campaign "meet and greet." Balderas, who announced his candidacy for the Senate just over two months ago, made the trip south to bring his campaign and introduce his candidacy to New Mexico's second largest city, and ask for support.  

"I'm here today, because there are things in this country are not going well," Balderas said. "If each of you and your families had to sit around the kitchen tables in your homes and look honestly at what's going on in our country, you would agree that something needs to be done urgently. If you think of what's going on in Washington, you should be worried about your future, and the future of your children. Unfortunately partisan politics is not solving the problems in our nation that you and I would be working on in our households, to solve if you were in the same situation," he continued.

"I'm here, to ask for your support, as an underdog in this contest, because there are people in this country who don't want to invest in our future and our public schools," Balderas said. "They don't want to invest anymore in the environment. They don't want to invest anymore in consumer protection. They don't want to invest anymore in the poorest Americans or the elderly. They don't want to invest anymore in our health care. They want to pass that on to the states, and if the states run out of money, so be it."

Throughout his speech Balderas stressed his campaign themes of fiscal responsibility and what he termed "New Mexico values." He said, "I'm running for the United States Senate, because I believe we need someone from outside of Washington. I'm running because I believe we need a voice of reason, and because I believe you want to elect a person who will tell it to you straight."

"Imagine a U.S Senator who will come back home to work with the public schools," Balderas stated. "A Senator who will sit down with school boards across this state to solve our education problems. Imagine a U.S. Senator who will sit down with parents, with families, and with taxpayers, so that we can really begin to talk about the American dream. For me it isn't about politics. Some of you may not know much about me because you haven't seen me on T.V., but I want you to know that in every job I ever had, I went home. I went home to work for good schools, for the environment, for health care, for clean rural energy," Hector said.

Balderas also pointed to his background as someone who grew up and represented a small rural community in the legislature, before his election as State Auditor five years ago. "I grew up poor, and I went to public schools in Wagon Mound before going off to college in Albuquerque, but I went home again, Balderas said. "When that small rural community in Mora County sent me off to the legislature as the first young lawyer to ever serve them in Santa Fe, I was proud to give back. I was so humbled, at the age of 29, to be chosen by that community to serve in our New Mexico citizen Legislature, for no pay, and to work to protect the environment, to work for our schools, and to come together to work with others in the legislature to solve common problems, to make my community better, and to work to do the same for other communities, like mine, in our remarkable diverse state," he said.

"I can guarantee you, as a U.S. Senator, in one of the most influential elected offices in our nation, I will make you proud. We're going to make history in this state, and I promise, we're going to make you proud," Hector Balderas said.

State Representatives Antonio Luján (D-Doña Ana) and Mary Helen Garcia (D-Doña Ana) also addressed the gathering. Both Luján and Garcia have endorsed Balderas.

Photos by Stephen Jones. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

August 1, 2011 at 11:16 AM in 2012 NM Senate Race, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Events, Hector Balderas, Las Cruces | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Southern New Mexicans Gather to Discuss Local "Kitchen Table" Values

Maury_local_meeting
Activist Maury Castro at his Sunday house meeting

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

Dozens of local neighborhood meetings were held across southern New Mexico this past weekend to discuss the nation's “kitchen table" values and to rebuild the American dream. Nearly 1600 "American Dream" house meetings were held in every Congressional District in the U.S., including the well-attended house meetings in New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District. The meetings focused on how the current economic downturn has affected average Americans lives and how local neighborhoods can begin to push back against the radical right-wing agenda of the Republicans and Tea Party extremists.

The meetings were sponsored by the American Dream Movement (Rebuild the Dream), a growing coalition of seventy-two progressive community, environmental, political and labor organizations including Moveon.org and ColorofChange.org. Community and environmental leader Van Jones launched the national grassroots agenda that led to this weekend's neighborhood meetings last month, urging local grassroots neighbors to find ways to rebuild what Jones termed the "American Dream" and make it more accessible to all Americans.

Long-time local neighborhood activist Maury Castro of Doña Ana, New Mexico led one of the local meetings on Sunday night at his home in the rural southern New Mexico community, which is just north of Las Cruces. Twenty two area neighbors came together at Castro's home on Sunday to introduce themselves to each other, and to help hammer out a community-driven issue agenda that common Americans, like themselves, can rally around.

At Castro's grassroots house meeting in Doña Ana, local neighbors heard a brief welcome via the Internet from Van Jones and from other national coalition organizers, then broke down into smaller groups to discuss the issues that they felt were most important to their neighborhoods, and to rank those they felt should be prioritized over the coming months, nationally. The group then sent their recommendations back to the national coalition.

Photo by Stephen Jones. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

July 18, 2011 at 09:11 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Economy, Populism, Events, Las Cruces, Rebuild the Dream | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Doña Ana County Seniors Call on Steve Pearce to Oppose Medicare Cuts

Pearce

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

A determined group of Doña Ana County senior citizens and retirees called on Congressman Steve Pearce (R-CD2) at his Las Cruces office on Thursday morning. They were there to protest Pearce's vote for the Ryan budget plan, which would end Medicare, and to state their opposition to efforts by Pearce, southern New Mexico's representative in Washington, to slash funding for Medicare and Medicaid. The group met briefly with Eric Layer, Pearce's press secretary, and presented him with a large "return receipt" presented for Pearce's signature. The so-called "return receipt" asks Congressmen who voted for the Ryan plan to return their own government paid health insurance and join seniors on their own "in the private insurance market."

Layer also read a press release, issued by Congressman Pearce to the gathering, which states that claims that "this year’s revenues will be more than enough to cover Social Security and Medicare" even if the debt ceiling is not extended.

Evelyn Erhard, a Las Cruces resident who helped organize Thursday's group, told Layer that she and her husband "would love to support local business," but are unable to do so due to high health care costs. "Even with Medicare we pay $17,000," Erhard said. "I'm glad Congressman Pearce has done well in the oil business," she added, "but I want him to know we are not all in that situation."

"Social Security and Medicare are not part of the deficit problem," said Deanna Barshinger. "They need to be treated separately from the deficit issue. I'm not even speaking for myself here," an emotional Barshinger added, "but I'm thinking of all my neighbors and fellow citizens who depend on Social Security and Medicare to live. We need to have people in Washington stop thinking politics and party and start thinking about people," Barshinger said.

Pearce3

After the meeting, the outsized "return reciept" was presented to Eric Layer by Chris Cervini, a community activist from Albuquerque who was in Las Cruces as part of an effort to acquaint voters in New Mexico with the national Affordable Care Act. Cervini stressed the importance of protecting Medicare and Medicaid from cuts in Congress. Layer promised to forward a photo of the oversized document to Congressman Pearce, who is in Washington.

Photos by Stephen Jones. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

July 14, 2011 at 06:48 PM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Economy, Populism, Healthcare, Las Cruces, Senior Citizens, Steve Pearce | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Las Cruces City Council Passes Redistricting Plan

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

The Las Cruces City Council passed its redistricting ordinance on Tuesday, adopting Plan "F-2" (see below) by a vote of 5-2. The new districts represent the first time that New Mexico's second largest city has adopted a redistricting and reorganization plan by implementing a recommendation of a citizen's committee, which was empowered to draft redistricting options early this year. Redistricting of district boundaries is mandated under law in every state and local jurisdiction following the publication of U.S. Census figures every ten years. The new council districts will remain in effect from today through the November 2021 Las Cruces municipal election.

F2

In the occasionally contentious process of adopting the new plan, the Las Cruces City Council left existing city council districts largely intact, while adjusting for the recent growth of the Las Cruces municipal population. To incorporate the largest growth in population, Las Cruces City Council Districts 5 and 6 lost most of their territory west of Interstate Highway 25. The two districts will divide the so-called "east mesa" area of Las Cruces with District 5 primarily north of Highway 70 and District 6 south of Highway 70.

Because of faster population growth in the east mesa area, the four other districts were shifted to incorporate additional precincts that were previously held by districts directly to the east of them. Of the original ten draft redistricting plans submitted by the citizens committee, the Council previously had rejected eight of them, narrowing the choice down to draft plan "F-2" and "F-3." While the Council ultimately adopted plan "F-2," Alameda-Depot Historic District residents supported plan F-3, hoping to keep the north Alameda neighborhood in the same district as the south Alameda neighborhood.

Push for Alternatives
Local Republican and Tea Party activists had earlier demanded adoption of plan "G," which radically redrew the existing council districts based on future growth projections in the more affluent, and conservative, east mesa area. Under law, however, districts can only be drawn on actual Census figures, by even population numbers,  plus or minus 0.5%.

The most contentious exchange of the day occurred between Ron Camunez, a conservative community activist who supported the ill-fated "G" plan, and Mayor Ken Miyagashima during public testimony. "Five and Six are too big," Camunez said, pointing out the large geographical size of the two eastern districts. "This Council needs to start over from the bottom up," he said. "What will it take, a law suit"? Camunez asked.

"We can only go with the our population that actually exists," Miyagashima shot back. "We have to go with the information we have at hand!"

Nathan Small, City Councillor of District 4 who supported Plan "F-2," praised the work of the citizen's committee and called for institutionalizing citizens into the process in future redistricting processes. City Councillor Miguel Silva, who backed Plan "F-3," called on the City to heed the wishes of Alameda neighborhood residents and keep the historic community together. Silva opposed the winning plan.

The Vote
Councillors Olga Pedroza (3), Nathan Small (4), Gil Sorg (5), Sharon Thomas (6) and Mayor Miyagashima voted to adopt plan "F-2." Councillors Miguel Siva (1) and Dolores Conner (2) voted no.

To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

July 6, 2011 at 09:04 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Las Cruces, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 04, 2011

Progressives Illuminate the Las Cruces Electric Light Parade (with Photos)


Click for photo album

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with more on-the-ground coverage from Southern New Mexico.

 Over eighty local progressive activists and volunteers joined forces to greet parade-goers at the annual Las Cruces Fourth of July Electric Light Parade on Sunday night. Gathering under the banner of the Dõna Ana Democratic Party, the group rode the three-mile-long parade route that drew over 15,000 Las Cruces onlookers and neighborhood residents who turned out to see the festive light parade pass by, including the colorful progressive contingent.

Joining up with the Democratic Party of Dõna Ana County were County Commissioner Scott Krahling, Las Cruces City Councillors Miguel Silva and Gil Sorg, Obama for America, the Hector Balderas U.S. Senate campaign, and Michael Ray Huerta, who is running for Mayor of Las Cruces and turned out a large contingent of supporters.

In addition to showcasing the local Party and their respective political campaigns, members of the large contingent combed the crowd for volunteers for the upcoming election contests. Deputy voter registrars also worked tirelessly along the parade route to sign up new voters.

The annual Las Cruces Fourth of July Electric Light Parade is one of the largest parades held yearly in the State of New Mexico.

All photos by Stephen Jones. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

July 4, 2011 at 09:52 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Democratic Party, Events, Holidays, Las Cruces | Permalink | Comments (1)