Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sen. Mary Jane Garcia: Redistricting Process Entails More Than Meets the Eye

GarciaThis guest blog is by State Senator Mary Jane Garcia (D-Dona Ana-36), Senate Majority Whip of the NM Senate, and former member of the 2011 Interim Redistricting Committee. 

Many constituents that I represent have raised their concern that nothing was done during the recent redistricting session, and I believe they deserve a response.

This year's redistricting legislative session was expensive, contentious and has caused much disappointment to many New Mexicans—there is no denying that. I and my Senate colleagues understand the frustration that the public has with the outcome of the session, especially when our constituents wonder why it took nineteen days to develop redistricting legislation that was ultimately vetoed by Governor Martinez.

Preserving and Protecting Constitutional Rights
The true story of the redistricting session is anything but nineteen wasted days of “golfing” and time spent not doing anything. The story of the redistricting session was one of preserving the sacred rights of equal representation and voting rights granted to us through the New Mexico Constitution and United States Constitution.

It was a continuation of the fight that African Americans faced when they willfully met the gnashing of canine teeth, blasting of water cannons, burning of tear gas and pounding of police batons in Selma, Alabama—all to guarantee the right to vote. It was the fight of the Native American, which for nearly 172 years, from the inception of our country, did not have the right to vote. It was the persistence of Hispanics fighting to not have their political voice diluted by clever gerrymandering of district lines. This story was the great modern day reminder of the sacrifice leading to the approval of women’s suffrage.

The Complicated Redistricting Process
Along with the tremendous responsibility of the session went enormous effort. Preparations for the session actually began in 2010 as the federal government conducted the decennial census. As the 2010 census was being completed the Legislative Council Interim Committee met in January of this year to determine guidelines for the redistricting session. (See 2011 New Mexico Redistricting page.)

Subsequently, Senator Linda Lopez and Representative Mary Helen Garcia were chosen to serve as co-chairs of the Redistricting Interim Committee which was made up of 40 members of the legislature. In order to gain community input, the co-chairs convened five meetings throughout the state from June to August of this year.

The interim committee’s work developed into eight concepts for the House, nine concepts for the Senate, seven concepts for Congress, five concepts for the PRC and one concept for the Public Education Commission.

We were able to take the interim concepts into the session and that’s when much more technical and time consuming work began.

In the context of an individual Senate redistricting concept, we were tasked with assigning 2,059,179 people in New Mexico to 1,483 precincts that make up 42 Senate Districts.

"Dominoe Effect"
Enormous challenges were found at the precinct level. As I worked on my Senate district, I found that simply adding one precinct could require a neighboring senator to pull one or more precincts from their neighbor and a similar occurrence happening thereafter. One precinct change in southern NM would often result in a “domino effect,” eventually requiring changes to districts in Northern NM. Imagine all the different combinations possible when 42 Senators were simultaneously making changes to 1,483 individual precincts! Now, this is all in reference to only one Senate concept.

The previous complexities do not even point out the central rules that were to be followed such as: the Voting Rights Act of 1965, preservation of minority voting rights, one-man-one-vote, and sustaining communities of interest.

Look Beyond Slogans and Spin
Measuring the success of the redistricting session requires looking beyond clever slogans and glitzy sound bites. An accurate view shows that the work done during the special session was significant, heartfelt and meaningful.

Redistricting allowed many of us to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us to persist in the great struggle assuring equal voting rights for all people in New Mexico.

This is a guest blog by State Senator Mary Jane Garcia (D-Dona Ana-36). 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.

October 11, 2011 at 10:36 PM in Guest Blogger, Hispanic Issues, Minority Issues, Native Americans, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Bright Spot In NM Special Session: Jobs Bill Signed Into Law

Yesterday, Governor Susanna Martinez signed Senate Bill 1 into law, the In-State Preference bill sponsored by Senator Tim Keller (D-Bernalillo-17) in the recent special legislative session.  SB-1 was a true bright spot in the recent special session, and is expected to create thousands of new jobs in New Mexico.

Senator Keller and co-sponsor Rep. Larry Larranaga (R-Bernalillo-27) worked with the business community, the Governor’s Office and the Senate Jobs Task Force convened by Majority Floor Leader Senator Michael S. Sanchez (D-Valencia-29), to produce the legislation signed yesterday.

“The enactment of the In-State Preference bill is a shining example of how government should work for the mutual benefit of the people of New Mexico. SB-1 will now create over 3,000 jobs in our state and is the result of nearly two years of bi-partisan collaboration on the part of business stakeholders, the governors’ office and the legislature.”

“This bill will strengthen the New Mexico economy by creating a win-win situation for economic development and the private sector in our state,” said Rep. Larrañaga. “As a result, SB-1 enjoys widespread support from the legislature, governor and the entire business community,” he continued.

SB-1 corrects multiple loopholes that are in current law. The intent of the current law is to allow an advantage to in-state companies when competing for government contracts so that state tax dollars stay in New Mexico. “However, in practice, out-of-state companies have been able to abuse the system by creating shell companies that pretend to be local businesses in order to win state contracts,” said Senator Keller. The new law also extends the local preference beyond construction to all businesses that contract with the state like law, accounting, architecture, software/information technology and food producers.

Senator Keller stated he was appreciative that Governor Martinez included the bill on the agenda for the special session.  In the 2011 regular session, SB 19 -- legislation very similar to SB-1 -- successfully passed the legislature with 96 votes for and only 1 against. Ultimately, in the 2011 regular session, SB 19 was vetoed because of a “fatal” few words in the bill. After making the necessary revisions to the original bill, SB-1 was introduced in the 2011 special legislative session.

“Sometimes government can respond fast to public needs, for this measure we all put a crucial jobs policy over politics. The success of SB-1 shows us that we can work together, compromise, and create jobs,” said Senator Keller.

October 6, 2011 at 07:41 AM in Economy, Populism, Jobs, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Susana Martinez, Tim Keller | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, September 23, 2011

NM Senate Dems Urge Gov. Susana Martinez To Fund Drug Treatment Center

SSANCJust another example of GOP Gov. Susana Martinez putting politics before the pressing needs of New Mexicans? With the growing problem of meth, other illegal substances, and the re-emergence of heroin abuse -- especially among teenagers -- NM Senate Democrats say they are troubled that Governor Martinez did not include funding for a substance abuse treatment center in her list of capital outlay projects. "It's hard to understand the Governor's rationale for not considering this a statewide priority. The drug abuse problem will not get better until we get serious about fighting it," said Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-Valencia-29) in a written statement.

Unfortunately, New Mexico has few treatment options currently available. Dem Senators point out that the 2011 regular session's capital outlay bill included $5 million for construction of phase 2 of the substance abuse treatment center -- the Henry Perea Center for Wellness and Recovery, in Los Lunas. However, the Governor orchestrated a filibuster that effectively killed the bill and any chances for the project to begin.

The Governor's refusal to fund this project in her current capital outlay request comes at a critical time. “Something has to be done now or we’ll lose generations to this killer that has already destroyed many lives,” said Stacey Johnston, Vice President of the group Tears of Strength and Support (TOSS).

The Center currently provides out-patient treatment but requires additional capital outlay money for construction of a dormitory that will allow in-patient treatment. The Center serves many people from across the state who are trapped by substance abuse and are unable to get needed treatment in their own communities.

"How many lives, young or old, must be lost before this administration finds the money to help these families?" asked Senator Sanchez. "The longer she fails to recognize the need for an in-patient treatment facility, the longer it will take to win the battle against this killer," he said. "I encourage the Governor to reconsider and include funding for the treatment center in her statewide capital outlay priorities."

 

September 23, 2011 at 11:55 AM in Drugs, Alcohol, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Susana Martinez, Youth | Permalink | Comments (3)

Report on Energized MoveOn and NM Unions Rally for Jobs, Not Cuts in Santa Fe 9/17

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This is a report from the field by Elizabeth Cook-Romero one of the citizen activists of MoveOn New Mexico. The group is involved in helping to coordinate a series of demonstrations in New Mexico advocating citizen action to help Rebuild the Dream.

Their next event, in conjunction with the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), will take place TODAY, starting at 5:00 PM at the Albuquerque Civic Plaza, to counter the right-wing, astro-turf Hispanic Leadership Network that's meeting across the street. Click for details. Activities coordinated by 100 Thousand Poets for Change follow on the Plaza at 6:00 PM. On Saturday, 100 Thousand Poets groups around the globe, including here in Albuquerque, will offer more events.

A half hour before MoveOn’s September 17 rally began last Saturday, singing filled the park behind the Roundhouse. The Union Town Criers were warming up, and MoveOn organizers and their union partners sang along as they assembled the stage and arranged literature on tables. 

The event started a few minutes after one. The crowd was still small -- perhaps a hundred people. The Criers sang two old-time union songs, then guitarist Carol Oppenheimer stepped into the audience, as dozens of health care workers streamed into the space between the stage and the Roundhouse.  Protestors were arriving from every direction, and the crowd swelled to more than 300. Many held handmade signs that read, “Where are the jobs, Susana?” AFSCME members held yellow banners.  Everyone was singing and swaying as Oppenheimer, strumming her guitar, circled through the crowd.

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Sen. Peter Wirth, Mayor David Coss

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss served as MC, a daunting task since almost two dozen speakers were on hand to address the crowd. Jon Hendry, President of the NM Federation of Labor kicked off the event, then Coss turned the mike over to state legislators who needed to return to the capitol to cast votes. State Representatives Brian Egolf, Eleanor Chavez, Antonio Luján, Bobby J. Gonzales, Rick Miera, Sheryl Williams Stapleton and Luciano “Lucky” Varela made it abundantly clear that New Mexico isn’t Wisconsin. Like Scott Walker, Gov. Martinez’s campaign was funded by big business, but policies that hurt workers and preserve tax breaks for oil, gas and out-of-state businesses will not get an automatic pass here.

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Sen. Dede Feldman, Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton

Teachers, artists, nurses and communications workers stood side-by-side as State Senators Peter Wirth, Mary Jane M. Garcia and Eric G. Griego talked about the governor’s lack of proposals to create jobs. For a while, old-time songs were replaced by the 21st-century slogan of resistance: “This is what democracy looks like!” 

State Senator Dede Feldman, who was not scheduled to speak, climbed onto the stage. She had heard the rally from the Senate Floor, and she urged everyone to yell louder so Gov. Susana Martinez, in her fourth-floor office, would hear.


Sen. Eric Griego revs up the crowd

A half dozen labor leaders, including Jennifer Garcia (Northern NM Labor Council), Miles Conway (CWA), Delma Delora (NUHHCE) and Carter Bundy (AFSCME) reminded the crowd that industry didn’t agree to the 40-hour week and weekends off without a long, hard fight. A majority of those listening were union members, and their shouts proved they knew history and understood that privatization of government services would replace middle-class civil servants with workers with few rights or benefits -- so that profits could flow to out-of-state stock holders. 

IMG_3939 Cheryl A. Bumpus, president of NEA Santa Fe, shouted that she would like to talk to Susana about cheating. Loud hisses and laughter rose toward the governor’s office as Bumpus was dissing the Martinez administration’s plan to spend $70 thousand tax dollars on an erasure-analysis program to see if teachers are changing their students’ answers on standardized tests.

Santa Fe County Commissioner Kathy Holian told the crowd she would leave inspired by their courage.  And radio host Craig Barnes reminded everyone that radical conservative ideology threatens more than decent wages, workers’ rights and benefits; it threatens the earth we live on.

By the time the last three speakers, Dr. Wanda Ross Padilla (NAACP), Marcella Diaz (Somos Un Pueblo Unido) and Todd McElroy (Equality NM) took the stage, a warm bond had developed -- not only among the three human-rights workers -- but between speakers and audience. Though the fight ahead will be hard, many were smiling. The smiles expressed hope and defiance, but most of all they expressed self-respect.

This is a guest blog by Elizabeth Cook-Romero. If you'd like 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.

September 23, 2011 at 10:48 AM in Economy, Populism, Education, Eric Griego, Events, Jobs, Labor, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Progressivism, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NAACP, LULAC Denounce Gov. Susana Martinez's Extremist Allies on Driver's License Issue and Discriminatory Anti-Immigrant Agenda

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NM Governor Susana Martinez

In a joint press release issued today, New Mexico's chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said they are concerned and appalled by the involvement of the Americans for Legal immigration PAC (ALIPAC) in New Mexico politics, as well as Governor Susana Martinez's continued attacks on immigrants and her apparent abuse of power.

"It has become apparent that Governor Martinez's anti-immigrant political agenda relies on support by national organizations with no ties to New Mexico and with questionable motives," said Pablo Martínez, a member of the LULAC Board and former law enforcement administrator. "We're concerned by ALIPAC's documented ties to white supremacists and other extremist organizations."

In an article in today's Albuquerque Journal, ALIPAC President William Gheen said the group will lobby New Mexico lawmakers to fight the "illegal immigrant invasion of America."

NAACP and LULAC pointed to reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that have repeatedly labeled ALI-PAC as an "nativist extremist" group and an organization that goes beyond mere advocacy of restrictive immigration policy to actually confront or harass suspected immigrants or their employers. Click for SPLC report.

They also pointed to statements in 2009 by the Anti-Defamation League decrying actions taken by white supremacists and Neo-Nazi groups on behalf of ALIPAC: click here and here

Both organizations stated they believe Governor Martinez overstepped her authority in August, when she instituted the now-halted "Residency Certification Program" that targeted 10,000 individuals in the MVD foreign national driver's license database. The program has since been stopped by New Mexico District Judge Sarah Singleton, who ruled on September 13 that requiring re-verification based on national origin could violate the Equal Protection Clause of the New Mexico Constitution.

"LULAC views ALIPAC's attempt to influence our New Mexico State Legislature as a continuation of a national trend of racist militancy against Hispanic civil rights," said Dennis W. Montoya, LULAC's New Mexico Civil Rights Chair and District 1 Director.

"Our shared concern is the continued harassment of immigrants by the Governor's administration, as well as her apparent lack of concern for the impact her approach is having on New Mexico families," said Sam Bone, President of New Mexico's NAACP. "This constant attack on people that have abided by the current driver's license law is an abuse of power at the very least and is not at all reflective of New Mexico's values. We worry that this driver's license repeal effort is a the first step in the erosion of civil rights for all vulnerable minorities in our state."

Montoya went on to state that the Governor's approach towards immigrants represents "her lack of connection to the people of New Mexico, and a frightening display of overt discrimination. This repeal effort isn't about what's good for New Mexico, it's a part of a larger political strategy to alienate Latino communities from Arizona to Alabama. New Mexico has worked hard to foster positive and respectful race relations since statehood, and we don't appreciate these outside ideologies based on the politics of hate."

"We encourage the legislature to stand up to the Governor and support reasonable proposals that address fraud in the driver's license process, keep all New Mexico drivers insured and protect all of us from run-ins with uninsured motorists," said Bone of the NAACP.

Photo by M.E. Broderick.

September 22, 2011 at 06:59 PM in Border Issues, Civil Liberties, Hispanic Issues, Impeachment, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Right Wing, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sen. Keller's Bi-Partisan Jobs Bill Back on Track Despite Veto by Gov. Martinez in Regular Session

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Sen. Keller at labor/jobs rally during 2011 regular session

Take Action: Please contact your Representative and urge him or her to support Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference.

Senate Bill 1, a jobs bill sponsored by Senator Tim Keller (D-Bernalillo-17), moved out of the Senate on a bi-partisan 39-0 vote today. The bill is a clean-up of the original measure vetoed by Governor Susana Martinez following the 2011 regular session that ended in March. SB-1, the “In-State Preference Bill,” has been praised by New Mexico business and labor leaders alike, who said it would help create more than 3,000 jobs each year for New Mexico companies by closing loopholes in the definition of what is an “in-state business.”

The Governor rejected the original jobs-creating bill that would have put New Mexicans back to work. She said she disagreed with wording in the bill because it could subject some businesses to the state’s procurement code. That original bill, SB-19, passed with overwhelming support in the Senate 35-1, and House of Representatives by 58-0.

Senator Tim Keller said the measure corrects multiple loopholes that are currently in the law that is supposed to allow an advantage to in-state companies when competing for government contracts -- so that state tax dollars stay in New Mexico. “However, in practice, out-of-state companies have been able to abuse the system by creating shell companies that pretend to be local businesses in order to win state contracts,” Senator Keller said in a statement released today.

Senator Keller and co-sponsor Rep. Larry Larranaga (R-Bernalillo-27) worked with the business community, the Governor’s Office and the Senate Jobs Task Force convened by Majority Floor Leader Senator Michael S. Sanchez (D-Valencia-29), to revise the language in question in SB 19 and produce SB 1 for the special session.

Senator Keller said he was glad the “In-State Preference” bill passed during the special session following the veto. “People have put this important policy over their politics. We can go home and say we worked together. Through compromise, we created jobs,” he added.

“This bill will strengthen the New Mexico economy by creating a win-win situation for economic development and the private sector in our state,” said Rep. Larrañaga. “As a result, SB 1 enjoys widespread support from the legislature, governor and the entire business community,” he continued.

"The past year's employment numbers indicate our construction industry in New Mexico is having a tougher time than anywhere in the nation. Our top priority remains putting our construction companies and families back to work. We appreciate our elected leaders making this their top priority, too," said Vicki Mora, CEO of the Associated General Contractors - New Mexico Building Branch. “I think businesses in New Mexico are very uncomfortable seeing over half a billion dollars worth of projects go out of state,” said Don Power, Jaynes Corp. Chairman and CEO.

SB 1 now moves on to the House of Representatives and the Governor for their approval.

Take Action: Please contact your Representative and urge him or her to support Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference.

September 22, 2011 at 06:04 PM in Jobs, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Susana Martinez, Tim Keller | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crucial In-State Preference Jobs Bill Gaining Broad Support in Special Session

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Senator Keller, Rep. Larranaga

Take Action: Please contact your Senator and Representative and urge them to support Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference.

Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference, deals directly with the economy and job creation; and is working its way through New Mexico's special legislative session, according to a statement released by NM Senate Dems. Senator Tim Keller (D-Bernalillo-17), Representative Larry Larranaga (R-Bernalillo-27), the Governor’s office and Senate Democrats are working legislation known as the “In-State Preference Bill” during the current 2011 special legislative pursuant to item #3 in the Governor’s proclamation. 

“Better leveraging of our in-state requirements could mean the addition of more than 3,000 jobs annually for New Mexicans; unfortunately many of these jobs are currently going to out-of-state businesses,” said Sen. Keller. 

“This bill will strengthen the New Mexico economy by creating a win-win situation for economic development and the private sector in our state,” said Rep. Larry Larrañaga. “As a result, SB 1 enjoys widespread support from the legislature, governor and the entire business community,” he continued.

The In-State Preference Bill corrects multiple loopholes that are currently on the books. In theory, current law is supposed to allow an advantage to in-state companies when competing for government contracts so that state tax dollars stay in New Mexico. However, in practice, out-of-state companies have been able to abuse the system by creating shell companies that pretend to be local businesses in order to win state contracts. 

"The past year's employment numbers indicate our construction industry in New Mexico is having a tougher time than anywhere in the nation. Our top priority remains putting our construction companies and families back to work. We appreciate our elected leaders making this their top priority, too," said Vicki Mora, CEO of the Associated General Contractors - New Mexico Building Branch.

“I think businesses in New Mexico are very uncomfortable seeing over half a billion dollars worth of projects go out of state,” said Don Power, Jaynes Corp. Chairman and CEO. 

Earlier this year during the 2011 regular session, Senator Keller and Rep. Larrañaga co-sponsored Senate Bill 19, the In-State Procurement Advantage (or in-state preference) bill which passed the Senate 35-1, passed the House of Representatives 58-0, but was not signed. The Governor’s message stated that SB19 contained a few words that inadvertently could subject some businesses to the state’s procurement code. 

As a result, Senator Keller and Rep. Larranaga worked with the business community, the Senate Democrats Majority Leader’s Jobs Task Force, and the Governor’s office in the interim to revise the language in question in SB 19 and produce SB 1 for the special session.

“We need to do everything in our power to get New Mexicans back to work, now; and the In-State Preference Bill does just that,” said Senator Keller.

Take Action: Please contact your Senator and Representative and urge them to support Senate Bill 1, In-State Preference.


September 20, 2011 at 10:25 AM in Jobs, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Tim Keller | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Helen Davis Guest Blog: Stop Susana Martinez's So-Called 'Retention' Bill

This is a guest blog by Helen Davis, who is a longtime community leader and neighborhood leader from Las Cruces.

At a time when the New Mexico State Legislature is in special session to address the thorny question of redistricting for the next decade, Governor Susana Martinez has decided to load up the agenda with terrible bills that failed the regular legislative session. Among these bad legislative proposals is a bill that mandates the taking away of parental rights from New Mexico parents. The bill in question, which addresses 3rd Grade retention, is SB 23 -- sponsored by Democratic Senator John Arthur Smith and Republican Representative Nora Espinoza.

This bill, as proposed, is a governmental mandate to take away parents’ rights regarding their 3rd grade children. It mandates the retention of all 3rd grade children who don’t make a specific score on the state-mandated test on the NM Standard Based Assessments, regardless of parents’ desires.

For a governor who claims she was elected to do away with regulations and to reduce the cost of state government, Governor Martinez is working  hard to add restrictive and very expensive government regulations to the taxpayers of our state and to place an additional burden on families and schools. Worst of all, the bill does not help our children. We should not be using this special session of the legislature and be rushing to pass bad legislation that further burdens New Mexico schools and strips parents of their rights.

Demand Answers
New Mexico’s parents and taxpayers are right to question the motives behind SB 23. Among the questions we as parents, voters, and taxpayers should be demanding answers to are the following:

  • Why is Governor Martinez trying to deny parents’ rights through new government mandates?
  • The Governor says that it is unfair to children to pass them on to higher grades if they are not “proficient.” What exactly constitutes “proficiency?” Our proficiency level is set by the Public Education Department (PED) and those numbers and rubric can be changed at a bureaucratic whim.
  • Our current level of proficiency is set higher than 45 other states according to Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandara, as stated at a meeting with the Las Cruces Board of Education. Is it her intent to punish children who are more “proficient,” according to her statistics, than most children in the US?
  • Years of family and education research have shown that retention is harmful to children; and there is no research to show that it is helpful. Why is Secretary-designate Skandara insisting on pushing harmful laws onto our children?
  • If a child has been retained before 3rd grade and then is mandated, because of one standardized 3rd grade score, to be retained again, how many 10 to 11 year olds will be in 3rd grade, burdening the system?
  • Retaining older students strains the system in terms of class sizes, and contributes to other problems such as bullying.
  • Since mandated retention will mean that more students will reach age 18, the age in New Mexico when they can leave school, in their sophomore and junior year, will our efforts to reduce the drop-out rate be further compromised?
  • There is no state support attached to the bill. Governor Martinez says local school districts will pay for this. Is this yet another unfunded mandate that will cost school districts millions of dollars, already overstretched in the current economic climate, with financial demands on local budgets they don’t have?

There are far too many questions about SB 23, and far too little honest deliberation on its implications to pass such onerous legislation in this special session. Furthermore, if we know something is harmful to children, as SB 23 clearly is, and we mandate this legislation, undercutting the local parents and educators, then is our state simply engaging in a form of child abuse?

Call Legislators!
I think the answer is clear. We should call our state representatives and state senator and ask them not to support this misguided legislation. You can reach them at the state capitol switchboard (505) 986-4600. Ask for their office and leave a message with their secretary. Your elected representatives need to hear from you.

This is a guest blog by Helen Davis. 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.

September 18, 2011 at 06:41 AM in Education, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, September 16, 2011

REMINDER: Big Rally Saturday 9/17 for Jobs Not Cuts! at Roundhouse in Santa Fe

As I posted earlier this week, MoveOn New Mexico, the Northern New Mexico Central Labor Council (NNMCLC); the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and 1199 National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees are holding a big rally this Saturday to push Gov. Susana Martinez and the NM Legislature to focus on legislation designed to create jobs in the state. Click for flyer (pdf).

The event is set for Saturday, September 17, at 1:00 PM at the east side of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. Anyone and everyone concerned with the question "WHERE ARE THE JOBS?" is urged to attend. Click to RSVP.

Speakers will include:

  • Mayor David Coss, MC
  • NM U.S. Congressional Delegation, Statements from Offices of:
    • U. S. Senator Jeff Bingaman
    • U. S. Senator Tom Udall
    • U. S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan
    • U. S. Representative Martin Heinreich
  • NM State Auditor Hector Balderas (tentative)
  • Jon Hendry, President, NM Federation of Labor
  • Allen Sanchez, Executive Director, NM Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • State Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton, Bernallilo County House Majority Whip
  • Jennifer Garcia, President, Northern NM Central Labor Council
  • Cathy Townes, AFSCME
  • Carter Bundy, AFSCME NM Legislative Director
  • Robert Chavez, AFSCME
  • Miles Conway, CWA
  • State Representative Miguel Garcia,  Bernallilo County Chair Labor
  • Marcella Diaz, Director, Somos Un Pueblo Unido
  • State Representative Eleanor Chavez, Bernallilo County Vice Chair Labor Committee
  • Dr. Wanda Ross Padilla, NAACP lst Vice President
  • Delma Delora, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees 1199
  • Santa Fe County Commissioner Kathy Holian (Labor)
  • Cheryl Bumpus, President, NEA Santa Fe
  • Calloway Bastien, SFCC Student Ambassador
  • State Representative Ken Martinez, Cibolla, McKinley, and San Juan Counties, House Majority Floor Leader
  • State Representative Rick Miera,  Bernallilo County Member Labor Committee
  • Craig Barnes, Director, We Are People Here
  • State Senator Peter Wirth,  Vice Chair, Judiciary Committee
  • State Representative Brian Egolf, Santa Fe County, Chair, Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Todd MacElroy, Equality NM
  • State Representative Luciano "Lucky" Varela,  Santa Fe County, Deputy Chair, Appropriations and Finance Committee

September 16, 2011 at 09:40 AM in Economy, Populism, Events, Jobs, Labor, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Westside Albuquerque Students and Lawmakers Rally for Representation

More than 40 Albuquerque Westside high school students rallied outside the Roundhouse Tuesday to hear New Mexico Senators and House members explain the importance of re-districting for their neighborhoods, reports a statement released by NM Senate Dems. Albuquerque Sen. Bernadette M. Sanchez (D-Bernalillo-26) told the students from Albuquerque’s R.F.K. and South Valley Charter Schools that there has been unequal representation in their district for more than ten years since the last redistricting effort -- but efforts now would help solve that. “People need equal representation,” said Sen. Sanchez, “I hope that every Legislator and the Governor keeps that in mind as we work on redistricting."

Redistricting New Mexico following the last census is the primary duty of lawmakers during the current Special Session at the Capitol. Sen. Sanchez said Albuquerque’s Westside districts have seen tremendous growth, but representation has lagged and could create a problem when it comes to capital expenditures for the district.

New Mexico has seen average growth of 13.2% over the last decade, but some sections of the state like Sandoval and Valencia Counties have witnessed remarkable growth while others have lost population. Research and Polling Inc. found that Sandoval County and Rio Rancho, for example, saw population growth of more than 46% between 2000 and 2010, leaving it underrepresented in Santa Fe and Washington.

“We want someone who lives in the South Valley to represent the South Valley and we want someone who lives on the West Side to represent the West Side District,” said Albuquerque State Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Bernalillo-16). Rep. Maestas told the student group that lawmakers must work cautiously to make sure re-designed districts don’t look like a snake with someone who lives in the head representing people living in the tail. “We want them to be compact,” said Rep. Maestas, “and we want them on the west side of the River.” 

“Redistricting gives communities the opportunity to receive their fair share of resources -- resources used to improve things like infrastructure and services,” said Rep. Eleanor Chavez (D-Bernalillo-13). “The needs of communities on the west side are many and with additional representation hopefully we can meet those needs. I would like everyone to remember that the major focus of this special session is redistricting and we are spending countless hours making sure we get it right.”

Albuquerque Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Bernalillo-12) told the students cities have grown as the population has shifted away from rural areas and lawmakers must find ways to reflect that shift so urban communities have adequate representation and guarantee the principle of one person/one vote to meet their needs. “They need maximum representation to keep communities with historical, cultural, economic interests intact,” said Sen. Ortiz y Pino, “and it’s our duty to make sure those communities are structured in a district that recognizes and meets those needs.”

September 15, 2011 at 12:30 AM in NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guest Blog: Who Stands to Gain From Hanna Skandera's Faulty Approach to Education Reform?

Mikecorwin This is a guest blog by Michael Corwin, Executive Director of the Independent Source PAC of Santa Fe. It's cross-posted in the PAC's new 8-page electronic and print publication, New Mexico's Spyglass (pdf) -- which is a must-read for anyone interested in learning the facts that expose "the actions, agendas, and hypocrisy of conservative candidates, elected and appointed officials and interest groups." Great work by a new organization with a top-notch investigative team. Everyone interested in holding government accountable should check out more of their work on their website, as well as in their new publication.

The National Research Council says Hanna Skandera’s brand of “Education Reform” does not work. So why is the Martinez Administration so gung ho about an approach that is clearly not what’s best for the children? Who really stands to gain from their faulty approach?

Skandera and Martinez have begun instituting the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s (“FEE”) one size fits all cookie cutter agenda of ending “social promotion,” “incentivizing” teacher and school performance, replacing experience and training with “effectiveness,” replacing teachers with technology guides, using “proprietary” curriculum and teacher training and privatizing public school through “choice.”

The National Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences. It conducts research to provide advice to the nation’s decision makers through a congressional charter. It is agenda free.

FEE is entirely agenda driven. Well, it is also driven by its desire to enrich its friends and cohorts with taxpayer money that should be going to teacher salaries and school infrastructure.

Holding Back Students Doesn't Work
In testimony on “High Stakes Testing and Social Promotion” before congress, Robert M. Houser, who chaired the Committee on Appropriate Test Use Board on Testing and Assessment for the National Academies, stated, “with respect to retention in grade, the research evidence is overwhelming: Simply holding back students who have not achieved to the appropriate standard does not work.”

Not only does ending social promotion not work according to Houser, “but flunking them, holding them over for a repeat year, and simply assuming that this will help them overcome their educational deficits, is ineffective and may even aggravate an already untenable situation.” Houser’s research found:

  • Students who have been held back typically do not catch up.
  • Low-performing students learn more if they are promoted- even without remedial help—than if they are held back.
  • Students who are held back are much more likely to drop out before completing high school.

Relative to New Mexico, a minority majority and poor state, was Houser’s finding that “minorities and poor children are the most likely to be held back.”

Test-Based Incentive Programs Don't Work
The National Research Council has also weighed in on “incentive programs, which impose sanctions or offer rewards for students, teachers or schools on the basis of students’ test performance” in a recent report entitled, “Current Test-Based Incentive Programs Have Not Consistently Raised Student Achievement in the U.S.” The study found that school-based incentives gains occurred only in elementary grade mathematics, and are so small that claiming these incentives will help us compete internationally is a joke. In fact, incentives to test scores showed only a .08 standard deviation, improving from 50th percentile to 53 percentile versus the 84 percentile achieved in high performing countries. It will never make us competitive. The National Research Council using “low-stakes tests” that are not linked to incentives found that “the overall effects on achievement tend to be small and are effectively zero for a number of incentives programs.”

The study found that attaching incentives to test scores has several detrimental impacts:

  • They encourage teachers to focus narrowly on the material tested (teaching to the test).
  • Students knowledge of untested materials may stay the same or even decrease.
  • Test scores give an inflated picture of what students actually know with respect to the full range of content standards.

As a result the report found, “it is unreasonable to implement incentives tied to tests on a narrow range of content and then criticize teachers for narrowing their instruction to match the tests.”

Education should not be about teaching to the test. It should be about teaching how to think and provide fundamental skills that allow the student to become a productive member of society.

What Does Work?
So what really does work? According to the National Research Council, smaller class sizes, better-trained teachers and principals, challenging curriculum, high expectations, good after-school programs and summer school “can make a large and positive influence”.

In other words focus on the needs of the individual students, identify those that need assistance and provide it to them. For generations, American students that had trouble learning to read were given pull out training by remedial reading teachers.

This was a very effective approach, but then districts eliminated those positions. Why not bring them back? There are also thousands of retired teachers and other volunteers, who are happy to donate their time to do pullout remedial reading.

Skandera's Approach Benefits "Proprietary" Programs
Skandera’s approach to educational reform relies heavily on protecting the financial interests of companies and their “proprietary” curriculums and training programs … Teach for America, K-12, Inc., Laying the Foundation and of course FEE.

Perhaps this is due to Skandera’s lack of classroom experience and history of working for companies that sell training programs.

Skandera’s approach has only nominally asked those that are in the trenches -- teachers -- about approaches that will work. It is time for those who really care about education to do just that.

This is a guest blog by Michael Corwin, who is the executive director of Independent Source Pac and a licensed private investigator. Corwin has been conducting civil and criminal investigations since 1988. He has provided political opposition research and rapid response investigations in approximately 170 political races. He operates the firm Corwin Research & Investigations, LLC in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Corwin is the author of the books the "Everyday Detective" and the "Training Manual on Private Investigation." He has been a featured speaker and conferences and seminars. Corwin’s cases have been featured in the local and national media including an Edward R. Murrow award winning Dateline NBC episode. From 2006 through 2010 Corwin conducted investigations for the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission.

Note: If you'd like 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.

September 13, 2011 at 06:21 PM in Education, Guest Blogger, Independent Source PAC, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011, Right Wing, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (0)

State Senator Eric Griego Calls on Legislature to Pass Jobs Bills by Friday

Senator Eric Griego (SD-14) released the following statement today calling on the New Mexico Legislature to quickly pass and the Governor to sign two important bills that would help the state economy and create jobs. Senator Griego called on the legislature to pass the $220 million capital outlay bill and SB1, which was SB19 in the regular session, that would allow local businesses to obtain a five percent preference when bidding on state contracts.

“The local preference legislation would spur local jobs by preventing out-of-state companies from posing as local businesses and taking advantage of the incentives we have for local businesses bidding on state contracts.  SB1 (SB19) would tighten residency requirements for businesses bidding on state contracts and better enforce the existing rules. This bill has broad bipartisan support and should be passed immediately to start putting our people to work.

“The capital outlay legislation is long overdue and our economy needs it now more than ever to create jobs. There are communities throughout New Mexico that can’t wait any longer to benefit from the millions of dollars put toward rebuilding our infrastructure and creating local jobs. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put politics aside and pass this bill to put people back to work."

September 13, 2011 at 04:00 PM in Eric Griego, Jobs, NM Legislature 2011, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)