Local Viewpoints

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Commentary: The events held last week at the Field of Dreams to honor local high school graduates sure felt like graduation ceremonies. But they weren’t.

They were senior celebrations.

The reason for that is school officials want to give the class of 2020 a proper graduation. 

The celebrations were a lot of fun.


Peter Goodman

Commentary: Thursday morning I did something new: Walt Rubel and I were the commentators as hundreds of Mayfield High seniors experienced the first drive-by Senior Celebration [not “graduation,”], pulling up in beautifully decorated vehicles to get certificates [not “diplomas”] from Principal Eric Flass. 


A first for all of us, with plenty of good energy. An arduous but pleasant way to serve the community. Many beautiful, happy kids. Two stretch limousines, a lot of jeeps, and a big yellow Hummer. Very cute little dogs in laps. Us reading graduates’ words about their fondest memories and their plans. It all moved at a challenging pace, two hours of kids’ smiles, parents’ pride, and loving words about friends who’ll be missed – and then it was over.

Voting has never been more important, and it’s never been easier

May 22, 2020

Commentary: New Mexico has not escaped the disastrous impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. To date, we’ve had nearly 5,000 cases and 200 deaths. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham didn’t wait on guidance from the White House that never came.  She proactively halted most of our economy in an effort to save lives.  Reopening New Mexico is in its early stages.   The carefully considered economic shutdown starkly revealed the inequalities that were already threatening to crush our neighbors living on low incomes. More than 125,000 New Mexicans have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began.

Making matters worse, the fall in oil prices has left cities and the state short on revenue needed for critical services that keep many of our neighbors afloat.

Commentary:  The COVID-19 pandemic has brought heartache and pain to all.  In New Mexico alone, cases of COVID-19 have exceeded 6,000, with nearly 300 fatalities and close to 2,000 cases officially designated as recovered.  The state is short nearly $2 billion in next fiscal year's budget.  Thousands of New Mexicans are unemployed or working without necessary personal protective equipment. Unemployment, isolation, extreme work environments, illness and death have created a sense of uncertainty and surreality.  But New Mexicans are resilient.  We have the mental strength and resourcefulness to both weather this storm and learn from it.


Student Loan Debt Forgiveness to Public Servants Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

May 22, 2020
U.S. Senator Tom Udall D-NM

Commentary: U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined a group of 10 Senators in introducing the Strengthening Loan Forgiveness for Public Servants During the COVID-19 Crisis Act, legislation that would provide student loan debt relief to public health workers, police officers, and others who dedicate their careers to public service. Many of these public servants have been playing a central role in helping communities in New Mexico and across the country respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.


New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham / Office of the New Mexico Governor

Commentary: The Republican Party of New Mexico organized and supported a lawsuit filed by New Mexico businesses against Gov. Lujan Grisham, NM Secretary of Public Safety Mark Shea and NM Secretary of Health Kathyleen "Kathy" Kunkel. The lawsuit, filed in the Ninth Judicial District Court in Curry County, calls for declaratory and injunctive relief in the wake of illegal closures and fines imposed on New Mexico businesses. The governor's order has crushed thousands of small businesses and impacted constituents' livelihoods.

Steve Pearce

Commentary: Today RPNM Chairman Steve Pearce issued the following statement after Gov. Lujan Grisham's press conference updating her public health order:

"Gov. Lujan Grisham continues her piecemeal solution to our serious problem of treating constituents fairly. We've now learned it will be at least June before dine-in restaurants, salons, gyms and other establishments can be considered for a partial reopening. The continued shutdown is killing livelihoods while other businesses are partially opened and national chains take in New Mexico dollars. This is unjust and unfair. The inequitable order is forcing hundreds of restaurants to close, bankrupting other establishments and collapsing our state's economy."

Masking Our Humanity

May 20, 2020

Commentary: I've been feeling a wide pendulum of emotions this week. At the beginning, I've had sharp pangs of missing humanity, especially, and perhaps strangely, while standing masked at a checkout line. Here's a secret: I'm an introvert who used small talk as a way to break out of her shyness.

Cowboys for Trump Facebook Page

Commentary: Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin on Sunday claimed that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat” during an event in Truth or Consequences. His comments have been widely condemned by elected officials, candidates, and political groups, who have called on him to apologize and resign. GOP leaders, however, have remained silent on the incident. 

Commissioner Griffin is resisting calls for his resignation, but this threatening language is the latest in a long history of violent political speech. 

Otero County Processing Center

  Commentary: Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) released a letter announcing that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) will conduct a review of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) efforts to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities.


Following reports that ICE detention facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were operating without processes to protect both staff and detainees such as providing protective gear, ensuring detainees have access to hygiene products, and practicing social distancing, Udall led a group of 26 Democratic senators in calling for the DHS IG to conduct a full assessment of ICE detention facilities nationwide to evaluate whether the facilities’ operations, management, standards, and conditions have adapted to address the threat of COVID-19 to both the staff and detainees.

New Mexico Joins Lawsuit Fighting Trump Rollbacks Of Clean Water Act

May 19, 2020

Commentary: Attorney General Balderas today joined a multistate coalition in filing a motion for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful final rule redefining the “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The coalition argues that the rule should be enjoined pending the court’s decision on the coalition’s lawsuit in order to prevent widespread harm to national water quality and to avoid disruption to state and local water pollution control programs.

“New Mexico’s heritage, economy, and family safety relies on access to clean water in our State,” said Attorney General Balderas. “This attack on one of our most valuable and vulnerable resources is unacceptable, and I will continue to fight to protect New Mexican families.” 

Tough Times Ahead For Local And State Governments

May 19, 2020
Walt Rubel

Commentary: One of the big differences between state and federal governments is that states are required to balance their budgets every year.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear a congressman bellyaching about the fiscal irresponsibility of the states.

The federal debt was just under $23 trillion at the turn of the last fiscal year, before the Covid-19 pandemic. The last time Congress passed a balanced federal budget was in 1996.

Unprecedented recession makes forecasting difficult

May 19, 2020

Commentary: One thing taught to every young economist is that forecasting outside the sample is dangerous and that such forecasts are often little better than guesses. The problem with COVID-19 is that it is outside the sample. We have no historical precedent for the current situation. So, we are flying blind as we seek to develop policies.

Our lack of understanding of COVID-19 is reflected in the wide variety of predictions. Various economists have predicted recessions that are “V”, a “U” or even a “W”, by which is meant a sharp decline followed by a quick recovery, a prolonged recession, and a double dip recession timed to each wave of the disease. As it turns out, according to a recent survey of economists, the current consensus is a “swoosh”, so called because the hypothesized recovery is shaped like the Nike trademark—sharp decline followed by slow steady recovery.

Commentary: I was fumbling through my old columns last week when I came across one that was published on September 8, 2008. Going over what I wrote nearly 12 years ago unnerved me greatly, in the sense that it provided an exact roadmap to prevent and be aware of what is happening today during the coronavirus crisis. In that piece, I wrote about touring a maquiladora in Mexico and observing several people with the sniffles waiting to be seen at the in-house clinic. I made the observation about how people routinely cross the border, and how in the modern world, “the spread of disease has no boundaries.” I continued writing in the column about a conference called “The Economic Consequences of Pandemic Influenza: Protecting Your Business and Employees,” that I attended in Sunland Park, New Mexico, held on July 30 and 31, 2008, and hosted by the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Economic Development Department. In retrospect, this conference, which I barely remember attending until I saw my old column, is one of the most spot-on conferences I have ever attended.

Las Cruces Virtual Celebration of Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument 6th Anniversary

May 18, 2020

Commentary: On May 21, the Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks will be marking the 6-year anniversary of the designation of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument with a virtual celebration via Facebook. We will be debuting a new video as well as special messages from Senator Martin Heinrich, Representative Xochitl Torres Small, Lt. Gov Howie Morales and many other community members.

Our cherished public lands have been an inspiration and beacon of hope for many during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Our vast, open and accessible public lands have provided countless community members with an avenue to find relief and peace during troubling times. The Friends are excited to celebrate the 6th anniversary of the monument’s designation with a thank you to both our community and the public lands we all love.

Science...Not Politics...Must Drive COVID-19 Policy

May 17, 2020
Peter Goodman

Commentary:While watching Governor Lujan-Grisham’s two-hour press conference discussing science-based efforts to reopen New Mexico safely, I felt this weird dissonance.

On one screen, the administration discussed opening New Mexico without a disastrous increase in COVID-19 cases, by working carefully to balance science, economics, and human nature. They were working out details most of us would miss. 


On another screen, FB friends and strangers insisted that the pandemic is grossly exaggerated, even that unspecified elites have ginned this up to control us better. I don’t agree, but hope to talk to those folks further. (Meanwhile the comment-thread during the Governor’s presser was pretty wild. See my blog for samples.)

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham / Office of the New Mexico Governor

Commentary: Today RPNM announced that a team of attorneys has been assembled in preparation to file a lawsuit against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The specifics of this legal action will be made once the suit is filed.

“We have heard from jobless workers and businesses across the state, and they are all saying the same thing –‘Without immediate relief, our livelihood will be lost for good’.'" said House Republican Leader Jim Townsend. “The outpouring of support to fund this legal effort has been overwhelming. The Governor’s orders have put our state in such a position that our only recourse now is legal action. Hundreds of businesses across the state have already gone out of business. 210 restaurants have closed their doors for good - that represents over 4,500 employees who have lost their jobs."

Q&A on Voting in the Primary from Common Cause

May 14, 2020

Commentary: The upcoming June Primary has left many voters with questions about how to cast their ballot safely.  The Covid-19 pandemic should not deter voters from making their voices heard. Absentee balloting is the safest, surest way of participating in the upcoming election.  But there are other avenues as well.  Here are a few of the questions Common Cause has heard about voting, along with some answers.

The State of Open Government Amidst the Crisis

May 14, 2020

  Commentary: Whether it’s projected tax revenues or emails from constituents to County Commissioners, the Rio Grande Foundation is passionate about open government and regularly files public records requests. New Mexico has solid sunshine laws on the books and good case law to support our right to know: “Recognizing that a representative government is dependent upon an informed electorate, the intent of the […] Inspection of Public Records Act is to ensure […] that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government.”


PRC approves job-creating, low-cost renewable/storage projects

May 14, 2020

 Commentary:  A Wednesday decision by New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioners means New Mexico will get new investment, jobs and some of the lowest-cost renewable energy in the world with solar at 1.5 cents per kwh.  

The commission approved two renewable projects to serve El Paso Electric’s New Mexico and Texas customers. The 100-MW solar Hecate project will be built in Santa Teresa, N.M., and the Buena Vista hybrid project, which has 100 MW of solar plus 50 MW of battery, will be built in Otero County. 

About Those Virtual Meetings During The Pandemic...

May 14, 2020
Photo by: Nathan J. Fish

Commentary: The other day I had a lovely conversation with seven strangers who shimmered and bobbed on my laptop computer with the queasy effervescence of unsteady WiFi.


When I signed up for the conversation, I was skeptical. For one thing I was not sure about the topic – “How to choose a life partner” – and even less sure of the likelihood that strangers could engage in a thoughtful and satisfying conversation, much less given the awkwardness of an online platform like Zoom.

Commentary: U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined 25 colleagues in a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calling on the Trump administration to issue comprehensive guidance on safety measures to keep voters, poll workers, and election workers safe during upcoming elections, both for mail voting and in-person voting.


New Mexico’s primary elections are scheduled for June 2, 2020. To increase awareness of voting options, the New Mexico Secretary of State has sent absentee ballot applications to every New Mexico voter eligible to vote in the state’s primaries in order to facilitate a safe election and protect voters and poll workers voting methods amidst the pandemic. Of the nearly 980,000 primary-eligible New Mexico voters, 91,000 have so far requested absentee ballots. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is May 28, 2020. Early in-person voting for New Mexico’s primary elections will begin on May 30, 2020.


New Mexico Lions Operation KidSight

May 13, 2020

Commentary: The New Mexico Lions Operation KidSight is a NM 501c3 non-profit organization that wants to share some very important information with you that you may not be aware of regarding children’s vision.

Did you know:

  • 86% of children entering the 1st grade have never had an eye exam
  • 20-25% of those children will have a vision problem
  • A child’s vision development is complete by the time they are 7-8 years old
  • Children with vision issues do not know they have a problem as they think everyone sees like they do

The Scents Of Time

May 13, 2020

Commentary: With the excessive hand sanitizing that extends to clutching a Clorox wipe as I do my quick shopping runs, my hands have started to get excessively dry. I don't normally use hand lotion, so I pulled out an older lotion that I bought on a whim when I was in Germany two years ago.

The scent is sea buckthorn, not a terribly common ingredient here but one that reminded me of my oma when I stood in front of brands I didn't recognize. She had passed almost two years previously, and it was the first time going back to our family home without her. Fortunately, and unfortunately, my grandfather had changed nothing, and it felt a bit like a tomb. It also felt like she would come around the corner at any minute.

Commentary: The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, challenging Texas’ restrictions on mail-in ballots.  As it stands, Texas law restricts access to mail-in ballots to voters who are over 65, people who are in jail and not convicted, people who will be out of the county, and people who are sick or disabled.  Texas officials have threatened criminal prosecution of voters who attempt to cast mail ballots who do not meet these specific criteria, including those who would prefer to vote by mail due to fear of contracting or spreading COVID-19.  Long wait lines during the primaries, if repeated in the November general election, could lead to thousands of voters of both parties getting sick and possibly dying. Additionally, most poll workers are retired, elderly, and the most at-risk portion of the population.

Udall Welcomes Inspector General Reviews of Tribal Data Breach

May 11, 2020
U.S. Senator Tom Udall D-NM

Commentary: Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, welcomed news that the Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) for both the Department of the Treasury and the Department of the Interior are conducting official reviews into two concerns raised by Tribal governments in New Mexico and across the country related to the Trump administration’s handling of COVID-19 relief funding for Tribes: the improper release of sensitive Tribal data and a senior Trump administration official’s potential conflict of interest in determining the federal distribution process for the CARES Act $8 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund set aside for Tribal governments.

Commentary: How do candidates running for office for the first time introduce themselves to the public at a time when public introductions can be deadly?

That is the dilemma faced by not just first-time office seekers, but all candidates running in this year’s election, which has already started with early voting for the primary.

You can’t squeeze people into a community center for town hall meetings. You can’t walk the neighborhood knocking on everybody’s front door. You can’t hold swanky meet-and-greets in the backyards of wealthy donors. You can’t post yourself at busy pedestrian crossings, wearing a campaign T-shirt and hat as you force people to take unwanted campaign flyers as the cost for passage.


Commentary: As more states and cities “reopen” for business, health experts are warning there could be a spike in both cases and deaths caused by novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Simultaneously, many hospitals still lack adequate supplies needed both to protect their staff and to treat and test patients. On Friday, U.S. PIRG, Get Us PPE and Doctors for America co-hosted a panel on which leading physicians and U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (N.J.) from the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis discussed how we can keep health care workers safe, so that they, in turn, can treat the general public.

“The lack of national and state guidance on how to manage COVID leaves every hospital, clinic and health department on its own in setting policies. Who in our workforce gets tested? How often? How do we get PPE (personal protective equipment) and supplies? When do we open up?” said Dr. Julie Parsonnet, a Stanford University professor of infectious diseases and epidemiology. 

Peter Goodman


  Commentary:  Chevron Oil is putting its heavy finger on the scales in some of our state senate races – to protect Chevron’s bottom line, not us or our environment. 


A conservative Super PAC that spent big on Republicans in 2018 is misleading Democratic primary voters with progressive-sounding communications that give the false impression that our Governor is endorsing state senate candidates it favors. “Stand with Michelle and Candidate X.”


Even the name “New Mexico Strong” is misleading. It should be “Petroleum Strong.” Top 2018 donors were Chevron ($2.5 million+), Occidental Petroleum ($100K), Mack Energy ($50K), and Devon, Marathon, and Hillcorp Energy. 



  Commentary: If there was a point to last week’s County Commission meeting, it has escaped me.

The commission violated the state’s social distancing guidelines in order to pass a resolution in support of the state’s social distancing guidelines.

Sort of. It’s complicated. Or, as Commission Chairman Lynn Ellens put it, “whether or not we pass this is relatively irrelevant.” 

The meeting started with a political argument during the invocation, which was given by Pastor Doug Cowan of the Cornerstone Baptist Church.

“Lord, there are some that are suffering, in many cases almost needlessly, because in some cases they can’t get some medical treatments because of things being shut down across the country,” Cowan argued in a debate disguised as a prayer.

People need hope and encouragement, Cowan insisted.