Black and voting Democratic: Not so fast

The New Mexico electoral landscape is taking shape to the extent that early indicators are suggesting a clear change of power. Republicans have ruled the state for the majority of the last eight years. However, in these upcoming elections the New Mexico Democratic Party can potentially end the nightmare here in the Land of Enchantment that is unfolding in earnest for the rest of the nation. The question swirling throughout the Black community is, does it remain loyal to a Democratic Party that is failing to champion their interests, concerns and placing the future of all Black Americans at risk? For example, since the confirmation of the new United States attorney general, the U.S. Department of Justice has relented on a commitment to reducing and preventing excessive use of force by law enforcement, reforming the justice system and reducing the number of incarcerated Blacks.

A hope that the next secretary of education will embrace real change

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, is often quoted for saying “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” This has been used as motivation in all forms of contests to gain an edge on competitors. Most people do not realize, however, what Coach Lombardi actually meant. It was not about winning at all costs—ignoring the human spirit or looking at the scoreboard as the ultimate measure of success. In an interview late in life, Lombardi said about his winning quote that “I wished I’d never said the thing… I meant the effort.

Public lands matter: BLM should protect Otero Mesa

Southern New Mexico is blessed with a rich heritage of public lands, and should have a strong voice in the discussion about how to protect and manage those public lands. Right now, we have an opportunity to guide land-use decisions so that they weigh and balance the needs of all stakeholders: a Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plan (RMP), which includes Otero Mesa. A draft RMP is expected this year, and by using our voices we can call on the BLM to use all of the tools at their disposal to create a balanced plan that adequately protects the Otero Mesa landscape. Bill Soules is a Democratic member of the Senate from Las Cruces representing District 37. Otero Mesa contains the largest and wildest Chihuahuan Desert grassland left in America.

No more cuts to our classrooms. Not one single cent.

Public education in New Mexico is surely at a crossroads today. For the past eight years our state economy has been stuck in permanent recession mode, and that resulted in constant trimming and cuts to classroom budgets. Now, a combination of proposed deep federal cuts and indifference from Gov. Susana Martinez raises real questions about the quality of future learning. Luckily, there are champions for education in the Legislature who drew the line on any more cuts to schools in the recent special session. It may be the best ray of hope for our children’s future.

Invest in New Mexico’s future

A prosperous new future for New Mexico starts with investing in education. In recent decades, our state has kept college tuition lower than our neighboring states, supported programs like the Lottery Scholarship, and made sure community colleges, branch campuses, and tribal universities can serve communities across our state. All of that is threatened, however, as the state budget process is politicized and funding for higher education is held hostage. When you look at examples of state disinvestment in higher education across the nation, you see that cutting budgets for higher education leads directly to tuition increases, which are essentially tax hikes on students and their families. At a time when we need to be investing in the next generation of New Mexico leaders and innovators, we cannot afford to make our state’s college students foot the bill for short-sighted decisions.

Budget fix coming soon for colleges, universities; time to renew efforts to create jobs

Funding for New Mexico’s colleges and universities, which was vetoed by the governor following this year’s regular legislative session, will soon be restored, ending the confusion and consternation that has bedeviled students and faculty for months. The Legislature, which will either restore funding for higher education in the special session or win in court to overturn the governor’s veto of its funding, will return its attention to creating jobs and repairing New Mexico’s ailing economy. As a retired college president and, before that, a public school superintendent, I understand the problems our colleges and universities are facing with absolutely no funding as of July 1. Students are reconsidering plans to enroll; professors, instructors and support staff have no assurance that they will have jobs after July 1; and the reputation of New Mexico’s higher education system suffers across the country. The only good news is that the Legislature is committed to restoring funding for our colleges and universities — without any strings attached.

Colorblind New Mexico

Around the hood many believe that Bill Peifer, Bernalillo Democratic Party Chair colorblind comments made last week, while very offensive and demeaning, may actually be a clue as to why a Democratic-majority State Legislature failed to provide funding to the state’s African American Performing Art Center. Although they had no problem appropriating funding from the budget for both the Hispanic and the Native American Culture centers. And it is not the first time in a session the Legislature has totally dismissed projects and/or items specific to the black community.  The center bears the name of House Majority Leader Sheryl William Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, who happens to be black. Sorry, my bad, that’s right you’re colorblind.

Guv’s cuts to summer learning hurts vulnerable children, worsens achievement gap

Recently—and very quietly—the state Public Education Department (PED) appears to have cut $3 million or more from a popular summer learning program for young children ages 5 to 8 set to begin next month. As a result, 6,100 fewer children across New Mexico will receive classroom instruction that is proven to narrow the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers, increase skills, and improve student test scores. The state-funded K–3 Plus initiative is innovative – and it works. PED’s decision to slash funding for it is morally wrong and should be reversed. K–3 Plus extends the school year for children entering kindergarten through third grade by 25 instructional days beginning in the summer before school starts, in eligible schools.

A local gas tax? Really?

The tax hikes are coming fast and furious these days in the Land of (dis)Enchantment. During the 2017 legislative session, numerous tax hike bills were considered. Several passed. Gov. Martinez vetoed them, but with New Mexico’s budget facing an ongoing crisis, the likelihood of higher taxes – including a 10 cent/gallon gas tax hike – looms large. A special session has been called for May 24 and Democrats who control the Legislature can again be counted on to push very hard for higher taxes.

Martinez tax pledge could lead to what happened in Louisiana

The governor vetoed the entire higher education budget totaling almost $3 billion, along with the entire budget for the Legislature, to force lawmakers back to Santa Fe for a special legislative session to redo the state spending plan for the budget year that starts on July 1 and to overhaul the gross receipts tax system. She says she is against raising taxes on New Mexicans but willing to allow some new revenue to support the budget. We’ve seen “no tax” pledges coupled with deeps cuts to higher education in other states and how distressing the combination has been to students, families, and communities. Patricia Lundstrom is a Democratic state Representative from the 9th District. For years, a number of governors have pitted higher education against corporate and other tax cuts to spectacular and devastating results.