The kickoff of NM Political Report’s monthly News and Brews summer series Thursday night featured a candid discussion about how the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency affected New Mexicans from different perspectives. Our own Environment Reporter Laura Paskus moderated the event, which featured insight from immigration attorney and Santa Fe Dreamers Project Director Allegra Love, former U.S. Department of Agriculture New Mexico State Director for Rural Development Terry Brunner and former Islamic Center of New Mexico President Abbas Akhil. Brunner, who headed USDA grants for New Mexico for rural development under the Obama administration, described Trump’s first 100 days as “fast and scary, kind of like a rollercoaster.”
“You wake up in the morning, it’s something completely new and different every day,” he said. Brunner warned that the effect of Trump’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric combined with picking officials without traditional qualifications to run federal agencies will “spread fear throughout the bureaucracy” and cause federal workers to “hunker down” and bring government’s delivery on services to the public “to a really slow lethargic pace.”
Brunner mentioned how in January, House Republicans evoked an obscure rule allowing them to drop federal employees’ salaries to just $1, which he argued is meant to “intimidate federal employees.”
“The [James] Comey firing is a sign that nobody’s job is secure,” he said, referring to Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the FBI director earlier this week. Love, who directs the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a legal services group that helps undocumented families, said the immigrant community began to feel the effects of Trump‘s incoming presidency the day after he was elected.
The Society of Professional Journalists gave the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission the dubious honor of its sixth annual Black Hole Award, which goes to “government institutions or agencies for outright contempt of the public’s right to know.”
The nomination came from NM Political Report reporter Laura Paskus, who has reported on the agency for years. “Making these sorts of heavy decisions and citing data to back those decisions but refusing to produce this data is ridiculous. Agencies should be transparent in their effects on publicly owned bodies, land or water” Gideon Grudo, chair of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee, said. “They certainly shouldn’t be this aggressive to the press, either. Hats off to Laura Paskus for being persistent.”
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From the SPJ announcement: “The agency has been sued for Open Meetings Act violations, gives me plenty of hassles about releasing public documents, and for years now, has refused to answer my questions.
With the state wracked by successive corruption scandals involving top officials, several lawmakers seem to agree that this is the year for ethics reform in New Mexico. A committee of the state House of Representatives gave a boost to those hopes Thursday by advancing a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent ethics commission through a constitutional amendment. The commission would have the power to investigate complaints of misconduct by public officials, candidates, lobbyists and contractors. The complaints would be public, and the commission’s opinions could be appealed to the state courts. Campaign finance reform advocates and good government groups have fought for years to create such a body.
New Mexico is the sixth-fastest-warming state in the United States, with average annual temperatures expected to rise 3.5 to 8.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100, according to a report released by the Cambridge, MA.-based nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists. The report lays out many of the impacts New Mexicans may already be familiar with, including temperature rises, decreasing wateravailability, changes in snowpack, wildfire, conifer dieoff from insects and drought, and impacts to tribal communities from post-Los Conchas fire flooding. And it discusses the describes challenges posed to New Mexico culture, communities, and economic sectors–particularly the state’s agricultural sector.
Union of Concerned Scientists report: http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2016/04/Climate-Change-New-Mexico-fact-sheet.pdf Summer temperatures in New Mexico vary from year to year, but a careful analysis shows a consistent warming trend—a trend that is projected to continue into the future. Since 1970, the trend has steepened to an increase of about 0.6°F per decade.
NM Political Report editor Matthew Reichbach will be on KSFR each of the next two days. Reichbach will appear on Here & There with Dave Marash, a daily program that takes place during drive-time, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on 101.1 FM in the Santa Fe area and KSFR.org worldwide. The appearances, as with all Here & There with Dave Marash episodes, will be available as a podcast after the initial live airing. Reichbach will be discussing the recent legislative session. On Monday, the two will discuss the budget situation including how plummeting oil and gas revenues meant a much leaner budget than expect.
This week marks the start of a new, ambitious journalistic project aimed at focusing on climate change and how it affects New Mexico. Independent journalist Laura Paskus is teaming up with New Mexico In Depth, a non-profit, online publication, to take a deep look at how policy and science play into our local ecology. She seems like the ideal person to take on the project. She has been covering environmental issues in New Mexico as a freelance reporter for multiple media outlets for almost a decade. Earlier this week, Paskus took New Mexico Political Report through brush along the Rio Grande just outside of Albuquerque.
The next major water project in New Mexico could be diverting the last free-flowing river in New Mexico, the Gila River. New Mexico Voices for Children became the latest group to criticize the diversion, saying the amount of money spent on it could better be spent in other ways in the state, citing a potential $1 billion cost. The cost of a diversion plan are highly debated. Some say that it would cost $330 million, others that it would cost $1 billion. When the Interstate Stream Commission voted to move ahead on the diversion, opponents of the plan pegged the cost at between $575 million and $1 billion.