Standing with Enlace Comunitario

Photo courtesy of enlacenm.org

Photo courtesy of enlacenm.org

Growing up in New Mexico, I have been able to experience the culture and values of the large population of immigrants that contribute to the well-being of our state.  I won’t deny that many of these people include family members and close friends, and I feel being close to them has helped me understand the particular struggles they endure.

Of the many struggles that these New Mexicans deal with on a day to day basis, one that I’ve personally dealt with firsthand is domestic violence.  New Mexico has a higher rate of domestic violence than most states, and this has definitely trickled into the large immigrant population that resides here.

Thankfully, we have amazing people like Claudia Medina of Enlace Communitario who have recognized this problem of domestic violence within our immigrant community and decided to take action.

Not only does Enlace offer abused women counseling and legal services, but they also provide programs for their children in the form youth groups that help build these children skills, education, and confidence.

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3: IATSE Local 480: Greening the Film Industry (w/ video)

Picture taken from TreeHugger.com

Picture taken from TreeHugger.com

Many people would agree that two of the fastest growing industries in our state are the film industry and the renewable energy/sustainability industry. Yet most wouldn’t think that either of these industries have anything in relation to each other.

But that’s where the last stop on the Green Pathways to Prosperity Tour comes in. When we arrived at the IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) Local 480 , I thought we were at an auto repair shop.

Well it was because IATSE, with their re-use mind state, has turned an old auto shop into their facilities. We walked into the facility to see parts of old sets from movies made in New Mexico. IATSE member Bruce Weathersbee greeted us and began to show us around.

Like many unions, IATSE’s “goal is to provide benefits of safe working conditions, health coverage and retirement to our members.” Yet IATSE also strives to train their members in the growing skill sets of the film industry. Not only that, but they are also working with innovative methods to help their industry become more sustainable in regards to their set design.

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AFT-NM: No Education Cuts of Any Kind

AFT-NM president Christine Trujillo had tears in her eyes outside the Senate gallery Thursday as she talked about possible cuts to education.

The State Legislature has threatened to slash education funding since convening a special session since Saturday in an attempt to close a $650 million budget gap.

“I’m trying to keep my chin up,” said Trujillo in an interview at the Roundhouse.  “We’ve had six days of purported negotiations and the latest plan on the table would cut 2.2 percent in above the line (the operational budget), 6.5 percent in programmatic cuts and 4 percent for higher education. And that’s on top of the 9 percent cut they’ve already forced us to take.”

“As AFT, we stand for no cuts of any kind.”

Trujillo said she is angry at the legislators who are advocating for education cuts.

“I am so angry and hurt that these people who have the power will not do the right thing for kids,” she said. “They are ignoring the information from economists that show we have ways to raise revenue and they are ignoring the information from our poll that shows the people of New Mexico are willing to pay more to fund education.”

The issue of germaneness (germanity?) has been a confusing and irritating distraction, said Trujillo.

Legislators are not allowed to consider bills that are not considered germane to Governor Bill Richardson’s proclamation calling for a special session. Many legislators have interpreted Richardson’s proclamation as being prohibitive of raising taxes or generating revenues.

That’s not the way Trujillo sees it.

“I think the legislators have a lot of elasticity in their definition of what germaneness is,” she said.

Ultimately, Trujillo said Gov. Bill Richardson bears a very, very strong responsibility for the gridlock.

“When he chose to issue a proclamation that limits the other bodies from making wise decisions for his constituents, then he does bear responsibility,” she said.

The legislature continued to meet Thursday and will continue until they reach a consensus on the budget.

Special Session: Crystal Ball Edition

So here we are, smack in the middle of a Legislative special session that was supposed to last a day and has now lasted several painful and expensive days.

Remember right before the session, when some of us dared to hope it might get done quick and (not too) dirty? No drastic cuts to education and health services? With a fair shot that legislators would opt to boost revenues to close the $650 million gap?

This tax quiz from the Santa Fe Reporter takes us back to those optimistic days and provides a glimpse of the cynicism that was brewing even then.

With the terrible benefit of hindsight, enjoy! It might be the only thing you can find to laugh at.

NEW POLL: By wide margins, public opposes education cuts and favors closing corporate tax loopholes

Educators held an emotional press conference today to send a clear message to state legislators and the governor – if you cut education, you’re undercutting the future of New Mexico.

Teachers, parents and administrators from across the state gathered in the Roundhouse today in the advance of a special session designed to close the state’s $650 million budget shortfall.

The educators talked about results of a statewide poll done by Research & Polling on Oct. 12-15 that shows 81 percent of people say the state should balance the budget shortfall without cutting public school funding.

The results show that New Mexicans do not support education cuts and do support raising taxes to avoid them, said education advocates.

Other findings from the poll include:

  • 88 percent of state residents feel the state should balance the budget deficit without cutting educators’ salaries
  • 70 percent support increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol to increase revenues
  • 61 percent support closing tax loopholes for out-of-state corporations that don’t pay taxes on profits earned in New Mexico
  • 55 percent support using more of the Permanent Fund to help fund schools
  • 49 percent support rolling back 2003 tax cuts for wealthiest New Mexicans in order to increase funding for public schools
  • 44 percent support increasing gross receipts taxes
  • 43 percent are less likely to vote for lawmakers who cut school funding instead of raising certain taxes to help balance the budget

Rep. Mimi Stewart, an educator and Albuquerque Democrat, popped into the press conference to express her support.

“Thank you for spending your days mostly with kids,” Stewart told the packed room of educators.

Stewart, who was later joined by Senators Cisco McSorley (D-Abq) and Tim Keller (D-Abq), also gave educators an update on what her colleagues are thinking about education tax cuts.

“There are plenty of Democrats in the House Caucus who have no stomach for cutting education at all,” she said, to roars and applause.

A Lump of Coal for Noon

noon

(Photo credit: Peter St. Cyr)

Action started off early at the Roundhouse before today’s special legislative session with a Tea Party press conference starring discredited columnist Marita K. Noon and a lump of coal.

Noon is the executive director of the Citizen’s Alliance for Responsible Energy,  a trade industry group includes oil and gas producers.

Paul Gessing, from the anti-tax group the Rio Grande Foundation, also spoke at the rally – which many Capitol observers noted was much smaller than they expected.

Noon spoke in the Rotunda before a group of about 40 supporters who clapped and nodded as she advocated for increased oil, coal and gas exploration and more uranium mining in the state. Noon claims those industries account for about 50 percent of the state’s revenues.

To illustrate her point about the state’s abundant resources, Noon presented a huge lump of coal, which she said she had chipped out herself yesterday at a local coal mine.

Noon mocked the state’s recent designation of Mt. Taylor in Grants as a protected Traditional Cultural Property, which will make it very difficult for anyone to mine for uranium there.  Several Native American tribes consider Mt. Taylor a sacred site.

In the past, Noon has written many columns defending “extractive” industries such as oil, coal, gas and uranium.  Some of her columns have appeared in New Mexico papers, including a piece highly critical of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation that was later pulled from two websites for inaccuracies.

Stay tuned to ClearlyNewMexico.com for more legislative updates throughout the day.

Onlookers listen to Noon's speech in Capitol Rotunda (photo: Peter St. Cyr)

Tea Partiers and assorted onlookers listen to Noon's speech in Capitol Rotunda (photo: Peter St. Cyr)

Dinosaurs Agree: The Earth Loves CO2!

If some carbon dioxide is good for the Earth, then a whole lot should be great, right?

A new organization called CO2 is Green would have you believe so. The group recently placed large ads in the Santa Fe New Mexican and other local newspapers arguing that “thousands of experiments have shown that more CO2 is beneficial to plants and ecosystems.”

Leighton Steward, the geologist and businessman who heads the group of oil and gas producers and others, says, “I’m simply saying that the science doesn’t back up that CO2 has any significant impact on climate change. The planet would be much better off if we let the CO2 levels rise.”

Steward’s claims are important because they directly contradict widely-acknowledged scientific assertions that a rise in human-caused carbon emissions – i.e., pollution from coal-fired power plants and vehicles – causes global warming that is harmful to the Earth.

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The Real Enemy: Health Insurance Empire Strikes Back

An article in today’s Washington Post pinpoints the real villain in the battle over health care reform.

Who’s really holding up reforms that would insure millions more Americans and lower costs for everyone?

Big shock – it’s the health insurance companies.

Reporter Ceci Connolly identifies the real enemy of the reform process, tracing the well-funded efforts of the powerful health insurance industry to crush any effort at changing the incredibly profitable status quo.

Check it out for a depressing affirmation of what many Americans suspected/knew all along.

But don’t say we didn’t tell you.  Listen to this radio spot aired by the Center for Civic Policy a few months ago:

RADIO SPOT – Are you satisfied with your health insurance?

NMPowered Reconvening

Recently, New Mexico Youth Organized held a very rewarding retreat.  It was organized to bring back together all the original participants of the NMPowered retreat and was held at a log cabin style home located in the Sandia Mountains.

A synopsis of the first retreat: “In the summer of 2008, NMYO and Be cause Strategies (becausestrategies.com) brought together young leaders, between the ages of 18 and 35, who were all connectors and “do-ers” in New Mexico: leaders with talents, experiences, and extensive social networks outside of those already active in social change in New Mexico. Participants included event promoters, poets, video game designers, DJ’s, alternative fuels experts, professional artists, bloggers, professional dancers, comedians, sound engineers, native issues experts, custom clothing makers, entrepreneurs, sustainable agriculture experts and a range of other community leaders.”

Here’s also a documentary that the participants from the first retreat made:

For the reconvening, NMYO started off by introducing the participants to some staff they had not met and that was followed by a quick overview of the NMYO intern’s consumer responsibility initiative at UNM.

From here, everyone hiked to an open area where we had an open conversation towards what everyone was involved in currently, feedback on the NMPowered project, and how the network has benefited their work.
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Teacher Bashing RGF Style

punch and judyThe latest anti-tax screed from the Rio Grande Foundation’s Capitol Report New Mexico was built around a glaring and embarrassing error.

It came as a writer for the foundation’s Capitol Report blog lambasted the American Federation of Teachers for holding a rally on the Roundhouse steps Friday to protest possible cuts in K-12 education for the current fiscal year. The cuts could occur when legislators meet for a special session on the budget on Oct. 17.

The post took the 1,000 or so teachers who attended the protest to task for skipping out on their jobs:

For parents the events had an interesting calculus: My kid’s teacher took the day off to go to Santa Fe on a lovely fall day. My kid’s teacher taking the day off meant my kid had a substitute that day, which meant a wasted day for my kid. What is the priority here?

Hmm. There’s just one problem. Friday was APS Fall Break. No teachers skipped out on their jobs to protest education cuts – because school was out.

Apparently no one at the Rio Grande Foundation has kids in public school.  Because how else on earth did the writer miss that? It’s kind of important, especially when your whole argument is based on that “fact.”

Come to think of it, that would explain an awful lot about the Rio Grande Foundation’s unabashed enthusiasm for slashing funding for the schools the rest of us send our kids to.

What an interesting glimpse of into the minds of people who are able to see public education as merely an abstraction!