Today’s elections for Soil and Water Conservation Districts are important for NM| by Dr. Teresa Smith de Cherif

[box]Teresa K.E. Smith de Cherif, M.D., M.I.A. The writer has served on the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board since 2008; was the 2014 Democratic Candidate for New Mexico House District 7.[/box]

Public Editor’s note: Elections for positions on a number of soil and water conservation district boards are being held today.  

If concerned citizens vote today, the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District (DASWCD) could begin to fulfill the conservation mission envisioned under President Franklin Roosevelt, instead of the pursuit of narrow, partisan interests of the current DASWCD Board.  I write as an elected board member of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District, because Doña Ana voters should know that the way forward is through the ballot box. Last year, in April 2014, voters rightfully slapped down the DASWCD effort to pass a mill levy to support its work, having discovered their District was undermining conservation efforts and engaging in partisan politics that can best be described as religious and ranching favoritism.  An examination of the mission of the DASWCD reveals a contradiction of both “developing and conserving” the natural resources of New Mexico, which should be addressed by a new Board. In addition, a new Board should eliminate the new geographic zones implemented just prior to this vote, before this disenfranchisement is referred to the Justice Department as voter suppression.  Moreover, the rules governing New Mexico Soil and Water elections are sufficiently convoluted and merit reexamination by the Soil and Water Conservation Commission of the State of New Mexico. Protecting the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and land that we love is possible when leaders keep their mission in the forefront of action, always.  As an example, the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District provides education, technical assistance and recognition to current and future stewards of the land in natural resources conservation.  In this manner, we may be Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, but because we have been steadfast in our mission, and only our mission, we have a track record of accomplishments.  We have nearly 350 acres under conservation in the heart of the Rio Grande, where the public can observe nature, bees can pollinate our alfalfa, and students can undertake the only hands-on science programs outdoors in our county.  We passed a Quarter Mill Levy in 2013, because the public knows that we are true to our mission.

‘Albuquerque Journal is a mouthpiece of the Republican Party’ | by Deb Haaland, new chair of Democratic Party of NM

[box]Debra Haaland is the newly elected Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico[/box]

The Albuquerque Journal has long been rumored to be a right wing newspaper, and the editorial board’s decision to attack only two prominent Democrats certainly seems to confirm that assertion (New Mexico’s AG, Auditor should take high ground, April 29, 2015).  

As former state legislators who now serve in statewide office, Tim Keller and Hector Balderas have enjoyed impeccable reputations as committed public servants who have represented all the people of New Mexico with an eye towards doing what’s right and not what’s politically expedient. Apparently the Journal has now chosen to become the judge of what is proper in political discourse and in the process attempted to besmirch the reputation of two men who have served their constituents and this state with honor.  

Attorney General Balderas and Auditor Keller are also leaders within the Democratic Party. They have stated clearly and consistently where they stand on the issues impacting New Mexicans.

New Mexico’s civil asset forfeiture success | by Paul Gessing

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]PAUL GESSING is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.[/box]

They say it’s better to be lucky than good. Of course, it’s even better to be lucky and good! That is exactly what happened in New Mexico during the 2015 legislative session with regard to reforming the process of civil asset forfeiture. To recap, during the 2015 legislative session, New Mexico’s deeply-divided Legislature unanimously supported significant reforms to the State’s civil asset forfeiture laws. That bill was signed by Governor Susana Martinez, a former prosecutor.

How corporate tax loopholes compromise our future | by Don Simonson

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]DON SIMONSON, PhD. is an Emeritus Professor of Finance at the University of New Mexico and the Treasurer for the Board of Directors of New Mexico Voices for Children. [/box]

The notion of “paying it forward” is a popular one, and while we may not think about our income taxes as a form of paying it forward, that’s exactly what we’re doing. The public works that we all depend upon today—roads and highways, schools and parks, telecommunications and electrical grids, even courts and prisons—were made possible in part by taxes paid by past generations. And the taxes we pay today won’t just go toward keeping these systems and infrastructure in good repair, they will also be needed to plan for our future and address unexpected issues and opportunities. This kind of long-term vision is the foundation upon which the United States was built.

Our public works and infrastructure don’t just improve our quality of life, they also make our modern economy possible.

Online voter registration for NM is real progress | by Common Cause NM

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]COMMON CAUSE NM is the state affiliate of Common Cause, the citizens lobbying organization that works for open, honest, and accountable government. Common Cause NM is currently working on campaigns to limit the influence of money in politics and make voting free, fair, and accessible to all eligible voters.[/box]

Governor Susana Martinez signed the Online Voter Registration Bill, SB 643 sponsored by Senator Lisa Torraco (R-Bernalillo). This has been a long time priority for Common Cause New Mexico as well as our numerous partner organizations we work with in our Election Administration Coalition. We so appreciate the hard work so many folks put into making this a reality, and a special thanks to Governor Martinez for signing it! Online Voter Registration modernizes our Election System for all New Mexicans:The traditional voter registration update methods are increasingly out-of-step with 21st century advancements.

Recall petition against Sorg fails – for now! | by Peter Goodman

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]PETER GOODMAN is a Doña Ana County resident who writes, shoots pictures, and sometimes practices law. Visit his blog, “Views From Soledad Canyon,” by CLICKING HERE.[/box]

Local business interests who hired people to collect signatures to recall City Councilor Gill Sorg failed to collect enough signatures to trigger a recall election; but the recall proponents may file suit. The bar was low. They needed only 10% of the district’s registered voters. Their cause was so unpopular they had to lie about what the petition was for.

Tax cuts, a special session, and the budgetary storm that’s brewing | by Bill Jordan

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]BILL JORDAN is Senior Policy Advisor/Governmental Relations for NM Voices for Children. He can be reached at[/box]

Since the legislative session concluded without the passage of a capital outlay bill—money for public works projects like building community centers—there have been rumblings about the need for a special session. Amid this din, the Executive Office has indicated that it would also want tax cuts to be considered. A special session should be called, but the Legislature should limit their agenda to passing the public works projects and not even consider handing out more tax breaks. How much more evidence do we need that tax cuts are a failed economic development strategy?

How education fared in the 2015 legislative session | by Betty Patterson

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]BETTY PATTERSON is President of the National Education Association, New Mexico, a statewide union for educators.[/box]

Several of the Governor’s highest priorities for this recently completed legislative session were on education issues.   We agree emphasizing public education is appropriate.   It is the single issue  with the greatest impact on New Mexico’s overall future: public education.   We wonder why education is given short shrift in coverage of legislative outcomes. Promoters of the wrongly-labeled “right to work” bills distracted legislators from the important work at hand to improve our schools.  If passed, it would have increased the impact of poverty on the readiness of many students to learn, and it would have lessened the impact of teachers and other educators when raising our collective voice on education issues.   Teachers and other education professionals should be heard. We applaud legislative champions who defeated the  “Right to Work” bill, and laud those who made strengthening public schools their top priority in the  first session of the 52nd New Mexico State Legislature.  If next year’s session is also distracted by such unneeded and harmful legislation, we will rise again. Elections have serious consequences; the loss of a pro-public education majority in the House meant a great deal of effort defeating other very bad ideas  such as vouchers and a budget that falls short. The budget has no salary increase for school employees other than new teachers and merit pay for teachers tied to the highly-flawed PED evaluation system.   When teachers compete with each other for higher test-score results this hurts students in many ways.  These negative impacts are compounded when schools are also “graded” based on standardized tests.  Unfortunately, the Merit Pay plan remains in the budget.

Bad year for wildlife at NM legislature | by Mary Katherine Ray

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]MARY KATHERINE RAY is the Wildlife Chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.[/box]

The 60-day New Mexico Legislature has concluded for 2015. Last November, a majority of Republicans were elected to the state House of Representatives, which turned the leadership of the House over to the Republican Party for the first time in 60 years. The consequences were not good for wildlife. Every single bill on the subject of wildlife had to go through the House Agriculture committee, which became the House Agriculture/Water/Wildlife committee when the newly elected leadership reorganized and shuffled the committee structure. Placing wildlife issues under the control of agriculture interests was not unlike placing hens under the control of foxes.

Two views on the capital outlay and special session drama

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]EDITOR’S NOTE — Excerpts from two recent editorials about the failure of the capital outlay bill in the last minutes of the legislative session (and the looming possibility of a special session) are below. Links to the full editorials can be found at the end of each excerpt.[/box]

What Really Happened to the Capital Outlay Bill | by Sen. Michael Sanchez (Democratic Floor Leader)
Following the governor’s press conference at the end of the 2015 Legislative Session, residents of New Mexico may be excused for being confused about what actually happened to spending on infrastructure projects across the state. Governor Susana Martinez did not help matters when she levelled false accusations against Senate Democrats. On Saturday, at a widely-covered press conference, the governor ripped into Senate Democrats for “killing” projects and jobs. This is nonsense that she knows to be untrue.