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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Denish Takes it to Martinez in Las Cruces

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

brought her campaign to the doorstep of her opponent on Tuesday afternoon, meeting with voters and local supporters in Las Cruces. The event was held only a few steps from the Dõna Ana County building, where the Republican holds the District Attorney’s seat.

Luis Flores, a young father of two, and a lifelong resident of Las Cruces, took the opportunity to come out to meet Diane Denish. Flores attended the event to express his support for Denish and thank her for her commitment to jobs and public education, and to meet the candidate in person. Flores has been unemployed in the current economic downturn. The 24-year-old Flores was holding the receipt to his voter registration application when he spoke to Denish. He had registered for the first time just prior to the October 5 registration deadline.

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Luis Flores and Diane Denish

“I now know how important this is,” Flores said. Flores stated that he had registered specifically for the purpose of voting for Diane Denish. Flores has also returned to school. Flores told Denish that, along with his children, he was also committed to getting a better education for himself. “I have to do it so I can give a better life to my daughter and my son,” he said. Flores had his young daughter with him when he spoke to Denish at the event.

Before speaking with Flores, Diane Denish addressed the Las Cruces crowd and stressed the same themes she had raised in her powerful debate performance on Sunday night; a commitment to jobs, economic development and public schools. “My opponent will take money out of public education. I will stand with New Mexico families,” Denish said.

Denish also reminded voters of the pivotal verbal exchange during the KOAT-TV debate. “On Sunday I asked my opponent if she would be willing to close the tax loophole that allows out-of-state corporations to avoid paying taxes. You heard her answer. She stands with them. I stand with the businesses and citizens of New Mexico,” Denish said. “It is unfair for New Mexico taxpayers to carry the burden of $70, 80, 90 million dollars of unpaid taxes from out-of-state corporations.”

On the issue of campaign funding, Denish again raised the Republican candidate's source of funding. “My opponent thinks it isn’t fair for me to raise the issue of her Texas connections,” Denish said. “Now we learn that many of those Texas donors are in legal disputes with New Mexico over water and other natural resources.” Denish went on to single out several specific large donations. “She has raised over $800,000 from Texas, including over half a million from one single donor, the largest donation in New Mexico history, from a developer from Houston,” she said. “She’s also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from friends of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, the very people who drove our economy into the state it is in now.”

“Texas policy is bad for New Mexico,” Denish said. “I stand with you. New Mexicans have a clear choice. We have fourteen more days," Denish continued. "Won’t you come out and help me win on November 2?”

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

October 20, 2010 at 12:14 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Las Cruces, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tonight: Power of the Vote Rally With Diane Denish in Las Cruces

Join at a Power of the Vote Rally, on Tuesday, October 19th, from 4:00-6:00 PM outside the law office of Michael Stout, 910 Lake Tahoe Street, in Las Cruces (575) 805-9408. Click for flyer (pdf).

October 19, 2010 at 11:02 AM in 2010 General Election, 2010 NM Governor's Race, Events, Las Cruces | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Attorney General King and Matthew Chandler Debate in Las Cruces

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

Attorney General Gary King and his challenger, Matt Chandler, faced off in an occasionally caustic debate at the New Mexico State University Corbett Center in Las Cruces on Sunday. Chandler and King frequently clashed over background credentials and experience. King outlined his background in consumer affairs, protection of New Mexico’s water and other natural resources, and his ongoing prosecutions of state ethics violations. Chandler stressed his background as a District Attorney. “You need a prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office,” Chandler said, outlining a record of local criminal convictions. Chandler promised to take on political leaders “regardless of party,” in the state which he termed the “most corrupt.”

“If elected you won’t need someone who must learn on the job,” King said of his candidacy. Attorney General King noted that in his first term he had received national recognition for his effectiveness at rooting out child predators. “I am the most successful Attorney General at protecting children from Internet crimes,” King said. He also pointed out that his office was the first to win a judgment for mistreatment and lack of care against a corporation in a Medicare abuse case in which a patient in a nursing facility had been found with a bedpan fused to their skin.

Chandler charged King with travelling out of state and seeking to work in concert with other state jurisdictions and with the Mexican government in enforcing New Mexico’s laws. “My opponent criticizes me for working with other states and with Mexican authorities,” King said. “I have news for him. You can’t draw a line around the state of New Mexico and expect criminals not to cross it.” On the issue of out of state and foreign travel to address organizations on issues of child endangerment and trafficking, King said the state had not paid for any of the trips, except one, a trip in which he was invited to address illegal child trafficking at an international conference in Geneva.

Immigration: On immigration and border security, Chandler said New Mexico needed to stop making itself “friendly to illegal aliens,” and that he would act against the state issuing driver’s licenses to “illegal aliens,” a statute Chandler charged King with supporting. “My opponent tells you what he wants the law to be,” King responded. “He doesn’t understand that the job of the Attorney General is to defend the law that is on books.”

Health Care Reform: On health care reform, Chandler said he would join other state Attorneys General in bringing suit against the Federal law which he said was “clearly unconstitutional.” King responded, “First my opponent tells you he’s a great prosecutor, now he claims he’s a constitutional authority.” King pointed out that the suit of twenty Republican Attorneys General had been filed as a political response immediately after passage of the national law, an action which he termed as reflecting a lack of serious deliberation on the matter. “The Supreme Court will determine what is, and what is not, constitutional,” King said. “My job as Attorney General is to fight for what is good for New Mexico.” King added that on the issue of health reform, generally, he could support any effort to protect consumers from “denying coverage to consumers based on pre-existing conditions.”

Corruption: Chandler claimed his “most effective” prosecutions had involved “convictions for government corruption,” and termed himself “tough” for having sought the death penalty in a murder prosecution. “My desire is to stand up to corruption in New Mexico. The people have the right to expect that the Attorney General will act on behalf of the people who put them in office,” Chandler said.

“If you want to fight corruption,” King responded, “first you have to be honest and ethical yourself.”

Experience: King is the incumbent Attorney General for the State of New Mexico. Chandler is District Attorney of the Ninth Judicial District of New Mexico, representing the citizens of Curry and Roosevelt Counties. Chandler has been an attorney for nine years, and was first elected in 2004. Gary King has twenty-six years of experience as an attorney. He served for twelve years in the New Mexico state legislature and was elected Attorney General in 2006. King also holds a PhD in chemistry.

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

October 18, 2010 at 09:49 AM in 2010 NM Attorney General Race, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Las Cruces | Permalink | Comments (8)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Harry Teague Rallies Early Voters in Doña Ana County

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Note: Early voting began on October 16, 2010 and will continue through October 30, 2010. Click on your county for early voting locations in your area. Sample ballots are available here.

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

Congressman Harry Teague joined other Democratic candidates in rallying Democratic voters at a series of early vote events in Doña Ana County on Saturday. Events were held at Chaparral, Sunland Park, Anthony, Mesilla and Las Cruces.

“I want to continue to be your strong independent voice in Washington,” Congressman Teague told voters. He outlined his accomplishments of his first term and reminded voters that he, unlike his predecessor, has had an open door and engaged in frequent outreach the 2nd Congressional District. He pointed to his many Harry in Your Hometown events, his sponsorship of the national “Katie’s Law” and his initiative to slash Congressional pay for the first time in 77 years. “When I went to Washington, the nation was bleeding millions of jobs. From that difficult start, we have turned the corner,” Teague said.

He contrasted his own strong record with that of his opponent, Steve Pearce, the Republican who preceded him, and now seeks to recapture the office. “They drove us into the ditch,” Teague charged. “Now Pearce says he has ideas to turn us around. If he had so many good ideas, he probably should have raised them when he held the office.” Teague summed up the accomplishments of his predecessor with a single sentence, “He’s pretty much all hat and no cattle,” he said.

Other Democrats outlined the accomplishments of Doña Ana’s Democratic office holders including Teague. Councillor Nathan Small of Las Cruces reminded voters that many of the Republican candidates for state office are running on a platform of rolling back regulation of the mining industry. “Do you know when the last time we had new regulations on that industry in New Mexico? 1872!” Small said. “Just how many generations into the past do they want to go?”

State Representative Jeff Steinborn noted the progress that has been made in education, health, and economic development in recent years. He urged voters to get out and vote to keep the state moving forward. He reminded Democrats that this is a turnout election. His colleague, State Representative Nate Cote emphasized that Democrats from Doña Ana County have been leaders in bringing transparency and ethics to the legislature, while State Representative Joseph Cervantes reminded voters what New Mexico was like under gridlocked government. “My colleagues never experienced the government by veto and complete lack of direction that passed for a governing philosophy under Republican leadership in New Mexico,” he said.

Other candidates appearing at the Doña Ana Events were State Representative Mary Helen Garcia, State Representative Joni Gutierrez, Appellate Judge Mannie Arrieta, Magistrate Judge Olivia Garcia, Bill McCamley, candidate for Public Regulation Commission, Andy Segovia, candidate for Doña Ana County Assessor, Juan “JR” Stewart, candidate for Sheriff, Jose “Joel” Cano, candidate for Magistrate Judge, and Billy Garrett, candidate for Doña Ana County Board.

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

October 17, 2010 at 11:20 AM in 2010 General Election, 2010 NM Legislature Races, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Democratic Party, Las Cruces, NM-02 Congressional Race 2010, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02) | | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Today 10/16: Las Cruces Early Vote Rally with Harry Teague and Dems

Please join Harry Teague, Nate Cote, Jeff Steinborn,
Billy Garrett and other local candidates
for an Early Vote Rally
Meet the candidates and vote early!
The event will be held at:
Johnson Park
Corner of Picacho and Main St., Las Cruces
Saturday, October 16th, from 5:00 – 6:00 PM

For more information, contact Luke at or (575) 556-4965.

October 16, 2010 at 09:53 AM in 2010 General Election, 2010 NM Legislature Races, Las Cruces, NM-02 Congressional Race 2010, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Secretary of State Mary Herrera Rallies Supporters in Las Cruces

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

Secretary of State Mary Herrera swung back at critics at a fundraising event held in Las Cruces on Sunday afternoon, expressing pride at having professionalized her office and having effectively erased an inherited $3 million dollar debt. “That never seems to be reported in the press,” Herrera said. “When I took office the accounting systems were in chaos,” she continued. Herrera also pointed out that she had inherited a Secretary of State’s office whose electronic systems were inadequate, out of date and technologically insecure. “We are now a national model for running elections,” she said.

Citing the economic efficiencies she has brought to the Secretary of State’s office, Herrera pointed to her decision to revert to printing ballots by demand, a system by which only ballots needed on election day are generated at local polling stations. Ballot-by-demand has slashed $303,000 from the state budget. Also cut was an additional $250,000 in postage, a savings Herrera negotiated by obtaining a lower postal rate for absentee ballots and other communications sent through the post office. Herrera also pointed to an electronic record system that is being piloted in Taos, Valencia and Lea counties that she envisions being implemented statewide to further trim the budget in her office.

Herrera said she was proud to have implemented a model state campaign donor reporting system at a fraction of the cost that other states have spent. She established New Mexico’s reporting system by purchasing a software system developed by Washington state for $50,000 and scaling the software to New Mexico’s needs. She also brought the electronic delivery system in-house to further reduce costs. Previously New Mexico had outsourced its reporting system. Herrera noted that Wyoming is currently spending over $2.5 million to produce the same results, while New Mexico's system costs only $176,000 annually.

She also took pride in the effectiveness of the vote reporting and accuracy of her office. “Protecting the vote is the most important thing we do,” Herrera said. Herrera has been brought to Washington testify to Congressional committees on her effective implementation of election reform measures mandated by Congress.

On Sunday, State Senator Mary Jane Garcia strongly urged local Democrats to support Herrera and to remember the importance of less visible races like that of Secretary of State. “We need to make sure Florida never happens again,” Garcia said.

Asked what she intended for a second term, Mary Herrera promised to seek authority to permit absentee ballots from military personnel to be canvassed over an additional period. Ballots from military personnel serving overseas frequently fail to arrive in time to meet the statutory deadlines for being counted. “It doesn’t cost a thing to wait a few extra days,” Herrera said. She also outlined her plans to establish vote centers throughout New Mexico.

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

October 11, 2010 at 10:36 AM in 2010 NM Secretary of State Race, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Events, Las Cruces | Permalink | Comments (6)

10/11: Las Cruces GLBTQ Center Celebrates National Coming Out Day

From :
Since 1987, October 11th each year has been National Coming Out Day (NCOD) when thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (GLBTQ) Americans celebrate living open, honest lives. This year New Mexico GLBTQ Centers (NM Centers) will hold a “Coming Out Party” at the Las Cruces GLBTQ Center at 1210 N. Main Street in Las Cruces on Monday October 11 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Refreshments will be served.  For more information call the center at (575) 635-4902.

“The Coming Out Party will be an opportunity for members of the GLBTQ community who are out to share their stories, an opportunity for those thinking about coming out to learn from those stories and begin forming their own coming out process,” according to NM Centers Executive Director, David Stocum.

National Coming Out Day began at the 1987 March on Washington and was one of several GLBTQ organizations founded as a result of the march. NCOD was headquartered for a time in Santa Fe and is currently a program of the Human Rights Campaign. The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve GLBTQ equality. Events are held nationwide on October 11th each year to show the public that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people are everywhere.


October 11, 2010 at 08:25 AM in Events, GLBT Rights, Las Cruces, Minority Issues | |

Monday, October 04, 2010

Big Turnouts Greet Diane Denish in Doña Ana County Sunday

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

The hard-charging campaign of swept across Doña Ana County on Sunday with a series of well attended events in the Mesilla Valley south of Las Cruces. A large turnout of local residents met with Denish at Anthony, New Mexico Sunday afternoon, followed by a high-powered standing-room-only rally and fundraiser of over 300 at El Palacio’s in Mesilla on Sunday evening. “We have thirty days until election day,” Denish said at the Mesilla event. “Will you stand with me? Will you stand up for New Mexico?”

Most of the local elected officials from Doña Ana County’s south valley were also out in force in Mesilla to cheer on the Denish/Colon ticket along with local residents. Of her local running mates Denish said, “I need their coattails and their skirttails. We are your team.” Denish said she was “fighting for every vote” in Doña Ana County and everywhere throughout New Mexico. “I’m not ceding one inch,” she said.

Denish sharply contrasted her background and her platform with those of her Republican opponent. “She doesn’t have a plan that works for New Mexico,” Denish said. “She has a plan for the special interests.” Denish pointed out that Susana Martinez, the Republican nominee, has accepted over $800,000 in donations from donors in Texas with connections to George Bush, and from other right-wing interests including donors in Wyoming with connections to Dick Cheney. 

“I grew up in the southeastern part of this state,” Denish said, “but I’ve lived throughout New Mexico, and worked with our people here in New Mexico. I’m proud to be a New Mexican, and unlike my opponent, my contributors are from New Mexicans like you.” She also talked about creating jobs. “Unlike my opponent, I’ve been a small business owner. I know how to put people to work,” Denish said. “I want to be about you, about New Mexico families. New Mexico needs someone who will be on your side.”

Denish hammered the central themes of her campaign, jobs and education. She also promised to protect the water, land and other natural resources of the state. “My opponent will eliminate regulations on those who pollute and destroy those resources,” she said, “I’ll fight for them.” Denish said she would work to protect homeowners and others stressed by the economy. “I stand with our consumers, she backs payday lenders,” Denish declared.

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Big crowd for Diane Denish in Mesilla NM

Denish also addressed some of the local issues affecting southern New Mexico counties that she has been involved with as the State’s Lt. Governor, and pointed out the many community partnerships she has built with local residents and local elected officials. Among those local officials on hand Sunday was State Senator Mary Jane Garcia, who is back home after suffering a physical attack outside an Albuquerque hotel last month. Garcia told the local crowd that “only one candidate” will stand with the Hispanic citizens of Doña Ana County, “and that candidate is Diane Denish."

Prior to the Mesilla event Denish addressed local residents at the VFW Hall in Anthony, New Mexico. At Anthony she stressed jobs, education and veterans issues. “I support strong public schools; my opponent wants to give tax dollars to private education,” Denish said. “I also want to talk about our veterans. We need to give our men and women in uniform the strong support they deserve,” she told voters in Anthony, “We also need their expertise, the expertise they have gained in the armed services, when they come home. We need to support them and rely on their skills to help build new businesses here in Anthony, and throughout New Mexico,” she said. “Above all we need them to say here building strong families in New Mexico.

Appellate Court Judge Mannie Arrieta, seeking re-election, and Juan “JR” Stewart, candidate for Sheriff, also addressed the Anthony crowd. Other candidates on hand in Mesilla included State Representative Joni Gutierrez, State Representative Mary Helen Garcia, State Representative Joseph Cervantes, Andy Segovia, candidate for Doña Ana County Assessor, Jose “Joel” Cano, candidate for Magistrate Judge, and Stephanie DuBois, candidate for Public Regulation Commission, District 2.

Photos in slide show by Stephen Jones. Two photos in post by Denish campaign. To see more posts by Stephen, visit our archive.

October 4, 2010 at 11:19 AM in 2010 General Election, 2010 NM Governor's Race, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Las Cruces, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (4)

Las Cruces Sun-News Endorses Harry Teague in NM-02 Race

The Las Cruces Sun-News has endorsed Harry Teague in the NM-02 congressional race, saying Harry's "incredible work ethic" was as a major factor in their decision. The endorsement is quite a coup for the Teague campaign, because the paper endorsed Harry's opponent two years ago. The endorsement comes on the heels of of Teague, by the Alamogordo Daily News.

This year the Sun-News endorsement says, in part:

The indefatigable congressman returned to the district each weekend but four during his first two years in office. He conducted 110 Harry in Your Hometown events in towns large and small throughout the Second District, giving residents ample opportunity to make their voices heard. We doubt if Pearce held as many public events during his six years in office.

The endorsement also praised Teague for being "an effective, independent legislator," and cited his work helping to pass a number of important bills:

Among the bills Teague helped pass were the Kyle Barthel Veterans and Service Members Mental Health Screening Act, which requires all soldiers deployed overseas to undergo mandatory mental health screenings before and after their deployment, and Katie's Law, which encourages states to follow New Mexico's lead and collect DNA samples from suspects upon arrest for violent crimes. The first bill is named for Las Crucean Kyle Barthel, who committed suicide after returning from combat. The second is named for Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University student who was brutally murdered.

Comparing Teague and his rival Steve Pearce, the Sun-News gives Teague accolades for connecting with constituents and understanding the district:

Since both Teague and Pearce have served in Congress recently, this race gives voters a unique opportunity to compare and contrast their performances. We believe Teague better understands the district because he has made more of an effort to meet the people and hear from them what their hopes and concerns are.

October 4, 2010 at 09:02 AM in Las Cruces, NM-02 Congressional Race 2010, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Steve Pearce | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fiesta Spirit Sweeps Southern New Mexico (and NM Democrats)

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Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with another report from Southern New Mexico.

Congressman Harry Teague led the charge as Democrats stepped out in southern New Mexico to meet and greet voters and to celebrate the start of fall festival season. Dona Ana County residents were out in force to see the Whole Enchilada Festival Parade on Saturday morning and Democratic candidates and their supporters came out to greet them and show off the 2010 ticket up and down the ballot.

On hand seeking state office were representing the ticket, Attorney General Gary King, Secretary of State Mary Herrera, and Appeals Court Judge Robert Robles. Local officials included State Representative Jeff Steinborn, State Representative Nate Cote, State Representative Joni Gutierrez, and District Court Judge Mannie Arrietta, Magistrate Judge Olivia Garcia, along with Dona Ana County Commissioner Scott Krahling and Las Cruces Councillor Gill Sorg.

Also appearing were Bill McCamley, candidate for Public Regulation Commission in District 5, Andy Segovia, candidate for Dona Ana County Assessor, Jose “Joel” Cano, candidate for Magistrate Judge, and Billy Garrett, candidate for County Commissioner.

Democrats were also steppin’ in Alamogordo for the Otero County Democratic Party ‘meet and greet’ at the Otero County fairgrounds. Highlighting the event was a rousing line dance led by L.C Marshall and the Dog Canyon Dancers. Also on hand to meet and greet local voters were Stephanie DuBois, candidate for Public Regulation Commission in District 2, Sue Medina, candidate for State Representative, Wally Anderson, candidate for Sheriff, along with L.C. Marshall, who is running for Otero County Commissioner.

Folk Dance was center stage at the San Miguel Fiesta in San Miguel, a small community fifteen miles south of Las Cruces. The heavily attended local event featured students from San Miguel and the surrounding communities of the Mesilla Valley. 

The Whole Enchilada Festival in Las Cruces and the San Miguel Fiesta in San Miguel continue on Sunday, September 25.

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

September 26, 2010 at 11:47 AM in 2010 General Election, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Children and Families, Democratic Party, Las Cruces, Otero County | Permalink | Comments (1)

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.

PRC Candidates
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
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.

Others Participating
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.

September 23, 2010 at 10:53 AM in 2010 Judicial Races, 2010 NM Legislature Races, 2010 NM PRC Races, By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Las Cruces | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Las Cruces City Council Backs Curbside Recycling

Recycling Couple: Terri and Al McBrayer

Contributing writer Stephen Jones checks in with another report from Southern New Mexico.

After years of feasibility studies and false starts, the City of Las Cruces passed a curbside recycling program. The move now places the issue before the South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA). SCSWA is a regional governmental authority charged with waste disposal for Las Cruces and Dona Ana County. SCSWA must sign the final recycling contract and manage bi-weekly pickups. With the passage of the Las Cruces resolution, the SCSWA vote is expected to pass later this week. 

The council passed the resolution on Monday afternoon, supporting the program 6-1 with strong support of local residents, but over the denunciations of local conservatives and Tea Party activists. Passage was supported by local polling and a series of community meetings, including a well-attended public meeting at SCSWA on September 1.

The Las Cruces curbside recycling program will include bi-weekly pickups of plastics and paper throughout the city. Due to special handling costs glass is not included in the program. The recycling pickups will occur on opposite weeks from the bi-weekly “grappler” pickup that collects oversized trash and yard waste in Las Cruces. Under the plan all local residents and businesses will receive a portable recycle trash-cart which will be picked up by crews on alternate weeks. The system will replace Las Cruces' previously successful recycling pilot program that required residents to haul plastics and paper to regional recycling stations themselves.

The curbside program will add $2.59 to the monthly city services bills of Las Cruces residents, down from a projected high of $5.15 when the city first explored, and rejected, the possibility of a curbside recycling program four years ago. The reduction in costs became possible due to the economies of scale created by the participation of Las Cruces in the regional waste management authority and increased demand for recyclables in the marketplace. The added service cost is due to the need to pay for fuel and maintenance for the extra pickup by the sanitation authority.

Terri and Al McBrayer (see photo above) have led local efforts to implement recycling generally, and curbside recycling specifically. The energetic advocacy of the pair helped to keep the issue on the table and has earned them the local nickname of the “recycling couple.” 

On Monday Terri McBrayer said, “We can consciously make the decision to not pollute this land of enchantment.” She urged immediate passage of the plan, which she termed “a quality sustainable program.” She also tied the program to future economic growth. “What business would want to locate in a community that can’t manage its garbage?” Terri McBrayer asked. Stressing the urgency of immediate passage, Al McBrayer, the other half of the Las Cruces “recycling couple” added, “We are creating our future today.”

Chuck Tyler of Operation Free, a veterans organization that promotes renewable energy and an Iraq veteran, urged Las Cruces to follow the example of the U.S. Military, which has led efforts internationally to implement recycling programs. Repeating a military slogan Tyler added, “sustainability is survivability.” Bart Jones, a New Mexico State University student said, "There is no better method to protect our environment than recycling." Jones also brought up the problems posed by older landfills which he said were "choking our environment."

Strong Support for Program
Most of Monday’s public testimony at the Las Cruces city council chamber favored curbside recycling, though several residents spoke out against the program, primarily on economic grounds or because, they said, local seniors “don’t want it.” They termed recycling an unnecessary "feel good program" and urged the council to allow residents to opt-out of the $2.59 charge. 

Contrary to opposition claims, local residents have repeatedly shown strong demand for the service at public forums over recent weeks. At a community meeting held on the issue at Sonoma Ranch Elementary School earlier this month, Mayor Ken Miyagashima said that curbside pickups of recyclables was the most requested public service of his tenure as Mayor.

The Las Cruces Tea Party has also claimed that “nobody wants” recycling and has demanded citizens be allowed to opt-out of the program, which they have dubbed a green coup perpetrated by “outsiders.” Citywide polling, however, has shown that over 82% of local residents favored the ordinance. 

At Monday’s meeting Councillor Gill Sorg said 92% of constituents that had contacted him supported curbside recycling. Mayor Miyagashima added that “only 7%” of those who attended local community meetings were opposed to the resolution. A show of hands at the well attended Sonoma Ranch Elementary community meeting showed overwhelming support for the program despite a vocal filibuster of the community meeting by area conservatives. Residents who attended other district meetings also heavily favored the ordinance. 

“This is not a feel-good program” said Councillor , “The State has mandated recycling goals and this program moves us much closer to meeting those requirements,” he said.

Lone No Vote
The lone vote against recycling was cast by Councillor Dolores Connor. “I want to speak up for the minority, even if it’s only seven percent,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I recycle, but I have a problem with ‘it’s voluntary,’ but we will bill you for $2.59.” Councillor Connor also said most seniors in her district didn’t need the service. “Seniors, snowbirds, and non-resident owners can’t fill up their bins” she said. 

Councillor Nathan Small countered that “if you take the ‘grappler’ program as an example, only some of us will use it, while all of us support it. Use it or not," he said, "everyone pays for the service," adding, "this service is an important evolution.”

Conservatives On The Run
As population has grown and demographics have changed, the historic opposition to green initiatives and other quality of life issues in Las Cruces has resulted in conservatives being gradually shut out in local Las Cruces elections over the past decade. For Mayor Miyagashima and most of the Las Cruces City Council the curbside recycling program represents delivery on a central campaign promise to local voters.

The projected Las Cruces contract will cover recycling for five years. Other locations in New Mexico with curbside programs are Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Espanola, Farmington, Rio Rancho, Ruidoso, and Santa Fe. Carlsbad and Valencia County have also launched pilot programs.

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

September 21, 2010 at 02:32 PM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Environment, Las Cruces | Permalink | Comments (4)

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