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.
Many Albuquerque-area political figures are rumored to be gearing up for a congressional campaign after New Mexico Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she plans to leave the seat and run for Governor. There are still no definitive announcements or declared candidates, but the handful of people NM Political Report spoke to this week gave similar answers—that they have been encouraged to run and are giving it serious consideration. Some said they don’t want to run for family reasons, in particular because of the amount of travel that comes with the job. The state’s congressional members often travel back and forth from Washington D.C. and New Mexico. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s family, for example, lived in Albuquerque while he served in the U.S. House before Lujan Grisham.
Terry Brunner is an Albuquerque resident and these views are his own There’s a disturbing trend going on in New Mexico of major public policy issues being pursued without adequate public input and evaluation. The recent decision by the University of New Mexico (UNM) Board of Regents to bring control of the Health Sciences Center under their authority and the City of Albuquerque’s pursuit of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project are two recent examples. In both cases the public felt shortchanged. The UNM Regents rushed through a decision affecting UNM’s nationally-recognized health programs with one public hearing. A proposal of this magnitude was surely in the works for a while.
Terry Brunner is the State Director for USDA Rural Development in New Mexico. He serves in that position as an appointee of President Barack Obama. During the last seven years, we’ve heard from a veritable plethora of experts as to how best help New Mexico recover from the recession. Economic experts and economic development professionals have their place but don’t necessarily have a monopoly on ideas. New Mexicans like you and your neighbors deserve an opportunity to have your say as well. There is a growing movement in regions around the state of New Mexico to help citizens take control of their local economies. USDA Rural Development has helped establish an avenue for these efforts through our Stronger Economies Together (SET) program. The SET program is a partnership between USDA, New Mexico State University and communities that choose to take control of economic issues in their region and make needed improvements. Using a curriculum developed by NMSU, Utah State University and Mississippi State University; the SET program makes available to communities the latest economic data and tools to help them assess where their economy stands and what they can do to improve. Five regions in the state have used or are using the SET program: Southwest New Mexico, Northeast New Mexico, The Trail of the Ancients in Northwest New Mexico, the Northern Tribes of Picuris, San Ildefonso and Nambe, South Central NM, and the region of Lincoln, Otero Counties and the Mescalero Apache Tribe.
As National Homeownership Month begins, we think of the many rural families who have built their homes with their own hands – and have, quite literally, worked up a sweat as they toiled to build a better future through homeownership. To help them succeed, USDA and its partners provided the financial tool: an affordable mortgage. This year we are celebrating 50 years of the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, which has helped rural families gain a foothold into the middle class by stepping on that first rung of what President Obama calls a ladder of opportunity. USDA created this program to provide very low- and low-income families the opportunity to achieve the American Dream of homeownership. We have partnered with more than 100 non-profit Self-Help Housing Organizations and helped 50,000 rural families realize that dream.