KRWG

Local Viewpoints

KRWG welcomes you to join our community discussion.  E-mail your comments to:  feedback @ nmsu.edu  Comments included here represent the views of the individual writers and do not necessarily represent the views of KRWG or New Mexico State University.  Submissions must adhere to these guidelines.

New Mexico Senate Adopts New Transparency Rule

20 hours ago
Sen. Jeff Steinborn

Commentary: On Saturday, Senator Jeff Steinborn passed Senate Rule Two (SR 2) on a unanimous vote of 42-0 to allow the media and public to film and take pictures during Committee meetings of the State Senate.  The previous Rule which SR 2 replaced required someone to have to seek and obtain permission of Senate Committee Chairs in order to film.  In previous years citizens and members of the press and public have been occasionally denied the opportunity to film or take photos during committee meetings. 

Commentary: Spaceport Claims Don’t Add Up

Feb 16, 2020
Spaceport America

Commentary: A study released recently by the consulting firm Moss Adams made headlines with the rather implausible claim that Spaceport America began producing net economic and fiscal benefits for New Mexico as early as 2013. Since its anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic, has yet to launch a single manned space tourism flight, the Rio Grande Foundation undertook a detailed critique of these claims, relying on the audited financial statements from the Spaceport Authority and Capital Spending Records. 

Using these publicly-available data along with information from the Moss Adams report which were not previously available (such as estimates of Virgin Galactic’s spending on employee relocation), we estimate the Spaceport project has cost taxpayers roughly $275 million while generating just $54.3 million in income over the last 12 years. The Spaceport’s audited financial statements do not list any revenue other than taxes and transfers from the State government before 2015, making the 2013 breakeven date presented to the media especially egregious.

Commentary: Yes, Trump Poses A Real Danger

Feb 16, 2020

Commentary: Because many who voted for Donald Trump love our country and the ideals of freedom that made thirteen colonies revolt, I can’t help but try to articulate the danger Donald Trump poses to what we all love.

He sounded great on radio recently, smoothly mocking Democrats by complimenting them on creating the impeachment case “from nothing.” You’d never realize that the non-partisan Government Accountability Office investigation had concluded that Trump’s Ukraine fiasco broke the law. Trump spoke persuasively of his “perfect” conversation with the Ukrainian President – although his own people immediately tried to hide the phone call’s summary to protect him. The call was part of a months-long effort to force Ukraine to announce a baseless “investigation” of Trump’s then-major political opponent. 

I admit I’ve never liked Trump. But even if a president stood for policies I liked, and values I embraced, I hope I’d reject him or her wholeheartedly if s/he were endangering our judiciary, our Separation of Powers, our Bill of Rights protections, and so much of our government, including the State Department and FBI. 

Commentary: House Republicans are standing with their colleagues, Representative Gail Armstrong (R-Magdalena) and Representative Cathrynn Brown (R-Carlsbad), in their effort to repeal New Mexico’s tax on Social Security income. The entire House Republican caucus signed and delivered a letter urging Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to take up the matter and rally lawmakers to send House Bill 29 to her desk for signature. New Mexico is one of a handful of states that forces Social Security recipients to pay income tax on their benefits. This tax has led numerous national publications to label New Mexico as being unfriendly to retirees, which often discourages seniors from retiring here. Additionally, this tax is a significant burden for the many New Mexico seniors who rely soley on their Social Security income in retirement.

Commentary:  U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), senior member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, joined all committee Democrats to condemn the Trump administration’s transfer of $.3.8 billion in congressionally-appropriated military funds to pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall. The reprogramming takes much-needed funds from the men and women of the National Guard, in addition to a variety of defense programs funded by Congress, to address critical equipment shortfalls identified by military leadership.

 

The latest action by the Trump administration continues the president’s violation of the separation of powers, subversion congressional appropriations laws, and abuses of the National Emergencies Act in an unprecedented way to divert money from the Department of Defense to border wall construction for political purposes.

 

imagebase.net

  Commentary: Last Wednesday the State House of Representatives passed House Bill 2,  their budget proposal for FY 2021. As last year, it again contains a hodgepodge of pay raise recommendations for state funded public employees. And, in spite of numerous campaign promises, it still leaves thousands of public workers earning less than a living wage.

 

On this Valentine’s Day, our heartfelt thanks go out to the Hon. George K. Munoz, Vice Chair of the NM Senate Finance Committee. He had the courage, and the commitment to working families, to sponsor an  amendment to HB 2, which would provide parity, in a fair raise of 6%, to the public employees who have faithfully served the public interest through a decade of brutal austerity, and downsizing. More, it would provide that no state funded public worker would continue earning less than $15 per hour.

 

We call upon all of our State Senators, especially those who serve on the Senate Finance Committee, to support your workers, first. We are the infrastructure of governance. Given our current surplus, and projected revenues, it’s really just a matter of priorities. Show us where your lie.  

KUNM

 

  Commentary: Under Senate rules and the Open Meetings Act, the committee was permitted to set the restriction. Yet the senators did not stop at turning Knapp's camera off. After a brief and polite exchange, Sedillo Lopez asked Knapp to leave the room altogether. The reporter was not only prevented from doing her job, but deprived of her right, as a member of the public and a constituent, even to watch her own legislators conduct a public meeting. 

For that, Knapp deserves a prominent apology. 

The offense here was not partisan or regional in origin: Woods is a Republican from Broadview, and Sedillo Lopez is an Albuquerque Democrat. 

Office of the Governor of New Mexico

Commentary: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday issued the following statement after Senate Bill 115, a measure that would have created a well-regulated legal recreational cannabis industry in New Mexico, was tabled in the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“Legalized recreational cannabis in New Mexico is inevitable. The people of New Mexico have said they want it. A diversified state economy demands it. Poll after poll has demonstrated that New Mexicans want a 21st century economy and want cannabis to be part of it: New Mexicans want more chances to stay here and build a career here; we want justice for those convicted of low-level, harmless cannabis-related offenses; we want an industry with firm and clear regulations that will keep our roads and places of business and children safe.

”I am disappointed but not deterred by tonight’s committee motion. The door remains open. We will keep working to get it done. And ultimately we will deliver thousands of careers for New Mexicans in a new and clean and exciting industry, a key new component of a diversifying economy. We will deliver justice to the victims of an overzealous war on low-level drugs. We will protect our medical cannabis program and the New Mexico patients who rely on it for their medicine. I will keep working hard every single day to enact and serve the will of New Mexicans – on this and every other issue.”

Walt Rubel

Commentary:  Progress at the New Mexico Legislature tends to come incrementally, and often takes years.

The system would seem to be intentionally designed to frustrate rapid change.

Dozens of bills in this year’s 30-day session will never get heard because they are not directly tied to the budget. Hundreds more will die without an up-or-down vote when the clock strikes noon on Feb. 20.

The effort to legalize marijuana sales began eight years ago, in 2014, when former Rep. Bill McCamley of Las Cruces introduced a House memorial to study the effects of legalization. That passed, and I assume the study was done.

Commentary: When I first moved to southern New Mexico, a few things struck me almost immediately: those gorgeous mountains that provide the backdrop to the equally stunning Mesilla Valley, a strong connection between these mountains and our people, and a community immensely proud of the place they call home. It’s what inspired me to start Organ Mountain Outfitters. I wanted to share with the world what locals have known for a long time: our community, history, people, and landscapes are worth celebrating.

As I became increasingly involved in public lands advocacy, including participating in a trip to Washington, DC to educate elected officials on why our monument designation needed to remain intact, I also came to learn about the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). What especially struck me was the role LWCF had played in protecting the very places that inspired me to start my business.

Commentary: Spaceport America has released a new economic impact study projecting revenue through 2029. The report, done by Moss Adams, seeks to put a positive spin on space activity in southern New Mexico.

As these sorts of things go, the Moss Adams study is typical. A lot of factoids jumbled together. Add to this a fair amount of economic jargon, and it makes a narrative difficult. But if you slog through the thing, there is good information.

Travel to adjust those false perceptions

Feb 10, 2020

Commentary: When first traveling to an unknown country, everybody has pre-perceptions of what they are going to encounter. This has certainly been the case for me, even if I have done a lot of background research on countries that I am traveling to for the first time. Pre-perceptions can be totally wrong, and are quickly washed away once first-hand experience is obtained. It is human nature to fill in the gaps about the unknown by making assumptions, and oftentimes a person is kicked in the head by reality.

Udall Statement on "Devastating" Trump Budget Cuts

Feb 10, 2020

Commentary: Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, issued the following statement on President Trump’s budget request:

 

“After lavishing tax cuts on massive corporations and the ultra-wealthy, President Trump has released a budget that takes direct aim at many of the programs and funding that New Mexicans and Americans rely on for clean air, clean water, public health, and thriving public lands. His budget also eviscerates the health and economic safety net for working families, and directly contradicts his own promises by proposing to cut Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by $700 billion—a program that over 735,000 New Mexicans rely on. And his budget would harm the economies and natural resources of Western states by slashing the Interior Department’s budget by 16 percent—effectively eliminating the Land and Water Conservation Fund and shortchanging the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program which supports rural Western counties. In the face of climate change, President Trump directs one of the largest cuts in his entire budget to the Environmental Protection Agency—showing yet again that clean air and clean water are the lowest priority of this administration, especially when compared to polluter profits. And the Trump budget makes major cuts to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education, threatening our ability to live up to our trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal communities.

 

Peter Goodman

Commentary: New Mexico’s proposed Emergency Firearm Protection Act, raises some tough questions and some easy ones.

Easy is whether or not the 2nd Amendment prohibits it. Nope. From 1789-2008, the U.S. Supreme Court read that amendment as not protecting individual (non-militia-related) gun ownership. When the Supreme Court (wrongly, I’d say, but it’s done) created an individual right, striking down an extremely strict prohibition on guns in Washington, D.C., the Court made clear that the right was not unrestricted. The Court stated that restrictions based on mental health or felonies, or on the types of weapons involved, would still stand. 

 

Commentary:It is both a great honor and tremendously humbling to serve seven counties and the diverse communities within them as a state senator. Traveling the district, meeting with constituents and constantly educating myself on their needs and the issues they face is the most rewarding and fulfilling task that I do, and I take this job very seriously. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve people throughout northeast New Mexico. Above all other issues, the health, safety and well-being of every community member is always at the forefront of my mind and in my heart.

Years ago in a letter to constituents, I wrote that there can be no debate on whether government’s top job is to protect its citizens from harm. Whether at the national, state or the local level, government’s goal must be to prevent people who would do us harm from carrying out their plans, punish them when they are caught and help their victims recover.

Commentary: Twenty-six organizations and more than 12,000 individuals submitted hundreds of pages of comments and supporting documentation in opposition to the Air Force’s proposal to expand its Holloman Air Force Base (AFB) F-16 pilot training airspace over the Gila Wilderness. [Comments can be accessed here.]

“Communities throughout southwest New Mexico strongly oppose F-16 training over the Gila. It doesn’t make sense that the Air Force wants to fly an additional 10,000 F-16 training flights every year, when it acknowledges that it already has adequate airspace to fulfill its training mission at Holloman,” stated Allyson Siwik, Gila Conservation Coalition Executive Director and partner in Peaceful Gila Skies.

   Commentary: The New Mexico Senate today passed the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, or Red Flag bill, legislation that violates our 2nd Amendment rights, allows for no due process and violates search and seizure practices. 

The revised legislation would allow law enforcement officers to petition courts to take away a homeowner's guns if authorities believe that person poses a threat to himself or others.

The Senate approved SB5 by a vote of 22-20. 

New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops Support Red Flag Gun Bill (SB 5) for Extreme Risk

Feb 7, 2020

  Commentary:  With more than 500 parishes and missions across New Mexico, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is confronted just about every day by the ravages of gun violence: we bury the victims and console the families.

Nearly 400 New Mexicans were killed by firearms in 2017, and the problem is getting worse.

Nothing is more valuable than a human life, therefore, we support legislation to try to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a threat to themselves, their families or others.

Commentary: All involved parties thank the Attorney General for providing quick clarification that the Child Protective Services Task Force is not subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act because of its advisory-only nature.

Leadership with the Children, Youth & Families Department met with Representatives Dow, Fajardo and Gallegos within hours of those lawmakers’ public request that the Attorney General’s Office intervene.

 

Photo by: Nathan J. Fish

Commentary: “So long, democracy. It was nice while it lasted.”

Confirming social media's function as the back room porn shop of outrage, Friday was a day of catastrophic tidings on politically oriented Facebook and Twitter as people took to the web to vent dismay (while others gloated) after the U.S. Senate voted against hearing witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.

Paying for a retirement we’ll never share

Feb 6, 2020
Walt Rubel

Commentary: Is it fair to ask workers who will never have access to a defined-benefit pension plan to contribute to the fund for other workers who do?

Defined-benefit pensions were fairly common back when my father was working for Mountain Bell in the 1960s. They ensure that longtime employees will get a certain percentage of their salary each month for the rest of their lives after they retire.

Most employers switched over to 401(k) plans at about the time I entered the job market in the 1980s. Instead of being guaranteed a monthly income, workers were told to play the stock market. Employers made matching contributions at first, but fewer do now.

PIRG: The state of the union should be stronger

Feb 4, 2020

Commentary:  President Donald Trump’s third State of the Union address at the Capitol this evening highlighted what he considers his major achievements. However, his rose-colored view of the United States in 2020 misses some problems that Americans should no longer tolerate. 

In response, U.S. PIRG President Faye Park released the following statement:

America can do better on many fronts -- and not just on those President Trump is neglecting.
 
How can we improve the state of our union? We have a list of concrete ideas that would make a positive and tangible difference in the lives of millions of Americans -- with or without President Trump.

Udall Statement on President Trump’s State of the Union Address

Feb 4, 2020
U.S. Senator Tom Udall D-NM

Commentary: U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) issued the following statement on President Trump’s State of the Union Address:

“The president’s State of the Union speech was an affront to New Mexicans who have watched his administration stack the deck for the wealthy and the special interests while attacking the health care and economic security of working families. President Trump has filled his administration with millionaires and billionaires and lobbyists, pushed through tax cuts for the super-wealthy and big corporations, and presided over historic corruption to benefit himself and his special interest friends.

Commentary: President Trump tonight electrified the nation as he delivered his 3rd official State of the Union Address, highlighting a string of accomplishments that prove his "Promises Made, Promises Kept" pledge is being fulfilled. The President told the country that under his leadership, America is more prosperous, stronger and more secure. 

"In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline, and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny," said Trump. "America's future is blazing bright. Our values are renewed. Our pride is restored. The state of our union is stronger than ever before."

Commentary: The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) had the following reactions to the President’s State of the Union Address:

“It is preposterous for the President to assert that his administration has built a secure wall, when just five days ago the wind blew down parts of his wall down along the California-Mexico border, and a major tunnel was found underneath it,” said Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President. “Using immigrants and refugees as scapegoats-- to point of saying he wants a law to stop sick immigrants from getting medical care-- is a new moral low for this President when the bar was already hell deep. Presidents should bring people together instead of engaging in the politics of hate and demonizing the ‘other.’ Not long ago the ‘others’ were Italians, Poles, Irish, Catholics and Jews. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.”

“The American people will not be fooled by the President’s fake news generalization of undocumented immigrants as violent criminals,” said Sindy Benavides, LULAC CEO. “These depictions only fuel the increase of hate crimes against Latinos which have been on the rise. The facts are clear: undocumented immigration did not increase violent crime but was in fact associated with slight decreases in it, according to the American Society of Criminology. America has always been, and always will be, a great country because of our immigrant heritage.”

Rep. Jim Townsend

Commentary: House Republican Leader Jim Townsend (Artesia) presented in committee today, House Resolutions 2 and 3, part of the House GOP effort to bring more transparency and public participation in the New Mexico legislature. HR 2 would repeal the so-called “rocket docket” change that was made in 2019 to fast-track legislation. HR 3 is a resolution that would require 24-hour’s notice to the public of legislation scheduled to be heard in the NM House of Representatives.

Distortions About The Current State Of Our Economy

Feb 4, 2020

Commentary: Trump and his supporters claim the economy is booming for everyone. They constantly tout the stock market and the low unemployment rate.

Actually, most American families earn their income from wages and there has not been meaningful wage growth in 50 years. Most of the benefits of this economy have gone to the top 10 percent--especially the top 1.0 percent. About 84 percent of American stocks are owned by the top 10 percent.

James Jimenez

Commentary: Over the last decade, New Mexico has grown increasingly dependent on oil and gas revenues to fund our schools and classrooms. Yet, in the coming years, those revenues are expected to decline, and we must prepare for a future that is less dependent on fossil fuels. That is why we need to take full advantage of this brief window of high oil and gas production, and ensure that we are setting our children and grandchildren up for long-term success. Unfortunately, the federal government’s outdated fiscal rates for drilling on public lands are standing in the way and, as a result, communities across our state have lost out on billions in revenue over the past ten years that could have helped fund education for decades to come. 

facebook.com (donald trump)

Commentary:  Late last week, President Donald Trump announced that his Administration added six new countries to the growing list of nations facing travel restrictions on people from predominantly Muslim countries. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National President Domingo Garcia and LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides issued the following statements following the news that President Trump added Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania, to the restricted travel list. The total number of countries included in the ban is now 13 and includes Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela, and North Korea.

 

Lessons From Giovanni And La Cueva

Feb 3, 2020
Peter Goodman

Commentary: Sunday we visited La Cueva, where Giovanni Maria Agostini (“el Ermitario”) lived 150 years ago.

Giovanni apparently was born to Italian nobles, studied for the priesthood, did not take vows, and spent many years walking through Europe and the Americas. He arrived in New Mexico at 62, after walking with the wagon train of Eugenio Romero (related to J. Paul Taylor, soon to be 100) and lived on a hill (now called Hermit’s Peak) northwest of Las Vegas. 

 

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