Think “Expulsion” Sounds Harsh? It’s Where We’re Headed

University of New Mexico Political Science Professor Gabriel R. Sanchez

By Tracy Dingmann

“Expel” isn’t a word we hear often in these United States.

It’s a harsh, ugly word that literally means “to force out.”

For people like me who love words and appreciate their every connotation, “expel” brings to mind vermin or trash – something so vile that it must be hurled violently away.

But I was forced think about that unpleasant word the other day when I came across this story, headlined “France To Seek Support For Roma Expulsion.”

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Native Youth Lead The Way At Local Health Conference

Youth presenters at the AAIP meeting. Back row (L to R): Leon Paquin, Nick Felipe, Emmit Yepa, Mark Panana. Front row: Tiffany Faustine, Leroy Paisano, Lindsey Toya and Tianie Toya

A Clearly Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

SANTA ANA PUEBLO, NM – A week before the school year began, a group of American Indian youth in New Mexico were not only working hard, they were teaching the class!

Earlier this month, the 39th annual conference of the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP) featured nationally known speakers, including Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, the current director of Indian Health Services.

Alongside such speakers were three groups of local youth presenting on their efforts to create healthier, more sustainable and empowered communities.

The Walatowa (Jemez) Green Stars talked about their activism to create a full-scale recycling program in their community, with group member Lindsey Toya pointing out that “we know that our trash will be here for the generations to come, and it is our job to teach the elders in our community as they have taught us.”

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Cross Post: 10 Ways New Mexico Is Taking Advantage of Health Care Reform

By Tracy Dingmann

New Mexico Sen. Dede Feldman

We at Clearly New Mexico can talk and talk and talk about health care reform and what it means to New Mexicans – but for now, we’d like to turn you over to an expert.

For years, Sen. Dede Feldman, a Democrat representing District 13 in Albuquerque, has fought on a statewide level to obtain fair and affordable health care for all New Mexicans.

Last year she was selected by the White House to join State Legislators for Health Reform, a national group of local leaders tasked with coming up with a health care plan that makes sense for all states.

Currently Feldman is Vice Chair of the Interim Legislative Health & Human Services Committee and serves as a member of the Interim Health Care Reform Working Group.

As such, Sen. Feldman knows better than almost anyone else what New Mexico is doing to implement historic and necessary health care reform at the state level.

That’s why we want you to read her guest post at Democracy for New Mexico to find out what’s already happening here.

Salud!

New Mexico Could Be A Leader In Capping Carbon Emissions

By Tracy Dingmann

People who care about the global effects of carbon emissions are looking with great interest at what’s happening here in New Mexico, as the Environmental Improvement board considers a proposal that could jump-start a nationwide effort to implement national policy on climate control.

Hearings began Monday in Santa Fe on the New Energy Economy (NEE) proposal to implement a statewide carbon cap. It’s been almost two years since the local advocacy group filed the petition, which has been revised and held up in legal proceedings as it has made its way through the state process.

If the proposal is approved, New Mexico could stand as a leader in the fight to beat back global warming and serve as a model for similar legislation at state, regional or national levels. It could also become a hub for the renewable energy industry, with an increase in investments from the clean energy industry and a plethora of clean, well-paying jobs across the sector.

Unfortunately, in the words of Environmental Improvement Board chairwoman Gay Dillingham, Monday’s hearings on the long-delayed proposal got off to a “cumbersome” start. Continue reading

The Demise of Desert Rock

This is a must read by Laura Paskus at the High Country News:

This March, after seven years of planning and with millions of dollars poured into attorneys, consultants and travel junkets, Sithe Global not only delayed the (Desert Rock) project once again — beyond 2015 this time — but said it is considering changing it extensively. In June, the company gave up the only funding it had secured for construction of the project, when it allowed a $3.2 billion industrial revenue bond and tax break from San Juan County, N.M., to expire. And now, with its champion (Navajo Nation President) Shirley stepping down because of term limits this fall, Desert Rock’s days are likely numbered.

The life and death of Desert Rock

A New Mexico “Happy Birthday” to Social Security!

Seventy-five years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

In April of that year, at a meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Roosevelt and his Social Security plan were roundly condemned – it was declared that this was all part of FDR’s attempt to “Sovietize” America.

Senator Dennis Chavez

Senator Carl Hatch

Despite the hysterical fear-mongering from the Chamber and its allies, on June 19 the U.S. Senate had gone on to pass the Social Security Act by a vote of 77 to 6 – with New Mexico’s two Senators, Carl Hatch and Dennis Chavez voting with the majority.  In April, the House passed the measure the previous April by a vote of 372 to 33. Our single congressman at the time, John J. Dempsey (who went on to become Governor), also cast his vote in the affirmative.

Never knew those guys were all a bunch of Bosheviks.

Yet somehow, seventy-five years later, the Republic has survived. Indeed it reached its greatest heights of prosperity, and built the greatest middle class in the history of the world — thanks to programs like Social Security and the G.I. Bill.

An American Success Story

Here are just a few key facts about the importance of Social Security today, courtesy of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

  • Social Security is more than just a retirement program. It provides important life insurance and disability insurance protection as well.
  • Children have an important stake in Social Security.
  • Social Security provides a guaranteed, progressive benefit that keeps up with increases in the cost of living.
  • Social Security provides a foundation of retirement protection for nearly every American, and its benefits are not means-tested.
  • Almost half of the elderly would be poor without Social Security. Social Security lifts 13 million elderly Americans out of poverty.
  • Most elderly beneficiaries rely on Social Security for the majority of their income.
  • Dependence on Social Security increases with age, as older people are less likely to work and more likely to have depleted their savings.

This last point about elder poverty is worth pondering. Today, without this social insurance program that we all pay into throughout our working lives, almost half of the elderly (13 million) would be living below the poverty line if it weren’t for Social Security. That had been the fate of a majority of elderly Americans in first part of the twentieth century.

Included in that number are the 129,000 New Mexicans (77,000 elderly) who escape poverty thanks to Social Security. This includes 46,000 women over the age of 65. (Here’s some more New Mexico Social Security facts.)

And according to the Census, about 6 million children nationwide under age 18 lived in families that received income from Social Security in 2008. Over 3 million children received their own benefits as dependents of retired, disabled, or deceased workers.

Social Security in crisis? Consider the alternative.

We still hear the drumbeat to “privatize” Social Security by putting the trust fund into the hands of Wall Street. But those drums have been muffled since the stock market meltdown of September 2008 and the collapse of home equities.

There is no question that the stock market can, if funds are invested wisely, yield a better return.  But — and that’s a really big “BUT” — when used to build a retirement nest egg, timing is everything when betting on the casino know as Wall Street. The reality of market volatility makes privatization schemes an extremely risky proposition as a 2008 study by the Center for American Progress Fund makes clear. Looking at a hypothetical portfolio for a typical worker:

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Health Care Reform, New Mexico Style

New Mexico Sen. Dede Feldman

By Tracy Dingmann

In the wake of the intense misinformation campaign waged against the healthcare reform bill that passed earlier this year, it has taken the public some time to differentiate fact from fiction. But now that the American people are learning the truth about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will affect their lives – the support is growing and the opposition is falling away. (See most recent Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.)

New Mexico State Sen. Dede Feldman knows this well – that’s why she’s been working with other state legislators at a local and national level since June of 2009 to enact health care reform necessary to provide health care coverage for working families..

Sen. Feldman knows that things like closing the Medicare “donut hole” for seniors, allowing children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ health care policies, giving tax credit to small businesses and holdinginsurance companies accountable by not allowing them to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions are all things most people want.

And that’s why, earlier this month, Sen. Feldman joined a national group of state legislators to file an amicus (friend of the court) brief in Virginia against the Virginia attorney general’s suit to nullify the health care law. The amicus brief was filed by the Progressive States Network and the Constitutional Accountability Center to support the federal government position that it has the right to make sure everyone is paying their fair share into the health system.

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Reducing New Mexico’s Carbon Emissions = Economic Sense

Vicki Pozzebon, Executive Director, Santa Fe Alliance

A Guest Post by Vicki Pozzebon

When President Obama was elected, the spotlight turned to Washington D.C., where he promised to enact national climate change legislation. Now that Congress has passed on a climate bill, attention is shifting back to New Mexico, where steps are being taken to regulate global warming pollution.

In 2005, New Mexico established a statewide goal to reduce global warming emissions. (State of New Mexico, Office of the Governor. Executive Order 05-033.)

But the goal wasn’t enough; it didn’t require fossil fuel industries to transition to clean energy, and the fossil fuel polluters continued to emit large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Because global warming is an urgent crisis it demands immediate action to prevent climate catastrophe. The consequences of inaction are far too great, and the time remaining to reduce risks is running out.

People want solutions and don’t want to see our governments stuck in partisan gridlock. People don’t want to see our governments owned by fossil fuel interests. In response, New Energy Economy filed a Petition with the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) to set a cap on global warming emissions by levels consistent with the best climate science (EIB 08-19(R).

The Santa Fe Alliance, representing nearly 450 locally owned businesses and nonprofit organizations has supported this petition because we see that the long term economic impact from environmental abuse is counterproductive; we believe that evidence of climate change validates the need to act protectively and proactively.

The Oil and Gas Industry’s Response

What is PNM’s and NM Oil and Gas Association’s response? In their testimony, PNM and NM Oil and Gas Association have consistently opposed the cap on emission. PNM stated that “a state cap on greenhouse gasses would be costly for businesses and utility customers and that the emissions debate should be settled by the federal government.”

An overwhelming majority of mainstream climate scientists are predicting that temperatures across New Mexico have risen steeply over the past three decades, with the northernmost part of the state having warmed the most: 1.6°F since 1980. Without significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, New Mexico is projected to warm an additional 2°F by 2040 and 4°F by the end of the century.

There are health costs and environmental costs to inaction. The Program on Climate Economics of the Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI) estimate the minimum annual cost to each New Mexican household to be $3,430 by 2020 and $5,410 by 2040. With no changes in policies these costs could rise as high as $12,000 per household per year in 2080. The corresponding minimum total costs for New Mexico would be $3.2 billion in 2020, $6.3 billion in 2040 and $18.4 billion in 2080. (From “An Overview of Potential Economic Costs to New Mexico of a Business-As-Usual Approach to Climate Change,” February 2009, www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/…/021609_ClimateEconomicsImpactsReport.pdf ). As the leader of a community organization dedicated to developing a local living economy that creates greater community wealth for all, I can safely say those are numbers we cannot ignore.

Why should we listen to the advice and cries from the same industries that have caused the pollution?

What Do Investors Say?

There is another perspective:  Investors. Investors from Ceres (pronounced “series”), a national network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups worth $13 trillion have this to say: “The world can no longer afford business as usual. We must begin to reward activities that assure our future, and discourage practices that degrade our environment and society. Opportunity grows from these challenges. The breakdowns we are now seeing from an economy focused on short-term gains and growth at all costs are opening doors to revamp government, business and investment practices.” The very first measures they deem as “critical” are: “Short- and long-term emission reduction targets” and “policies that put an effective price on carbon such that businesses and investors reassess investment value and redirect their investments.” (From www.ceres.org/Document.Doc?id=520).

New Energy Economy’s regulation to cap carbon before the EIB is not a panacea. But it will put us on a path. It is commonly known that energy efficiency implementation has not achieved its technical or economically feasible potential in New Mexico, and many believe that industry could meet the targets set by the Petition if industry enacted serious energy efficiency and conservation measures.

New Mexico’s Role

Additionally, New Mexico has abundant renewable energy resources and has an extraordinary opportunity to benefit by creating a new direction for energy in America. New Mexico also can help our country become energy independent by becoming a leading exporter of clean renewable energy and new energy technologies. People believe in and are hungry to participate in building a clean energy economy.

Currently over 80 cents of every dollar we spend with PNM is leaving our state. Imagine the revenue we could capture if we increased local production of renewable energy. That money could flow into our education and health care coffers for statewide services. Imagine a New Mexico that creates its own wealth through its own energy.

Recovering and restoring local food and energy production requires a conscious transformation and set of ecological and economic leaps for our communities. In recognizing the links between health, food, fuel scarcity and poverty, energy, and green jobs, we can address the global challenge of climate change and peak oil and the economic and health challenges afflicting New Mexico.

I urge you to support the carbon cap as an effective economic and policy stimulus.

Vicki Pozzebon is the Executive Director of the Santa Fe Alliance, a non profit organization working toward building a local living economy through community, local ownership and advocacy. Visit www.santafealliance.com for more information.

Line Dance: Nonprofits, Campaigns and the Rio Grande Foundation

There’s a peculiar sidebar to the legal battle that has pitted Attorney General Gary King against New Mexico’s nonprofit organizations.  You know, that’s the one in which U.S. Tenth Circuit Court recently ruled in favor of two of the nonprofits – the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and New Mexico Youth Organized (NMYO) .

In a recent Albuquerque Journal op ed, Sara Berger, the attorney for the two nonprofits, explained the outcome of the case:

The Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling was a decisive and unambiguous decision — one that affirms the right of free speech for all nonprofits.

For the two groups involved in the lawsuit, the Tenth Circuit’s decision was a total vindication — and a firm rebuke to critics who publicly doubted any nonprofit organizations’ right to hold public officials accountable and to advocate for those they serve.

What constitutes political campaign intervention?

Heath Haussamen of NMPolitics.net also devoted an in-depth piece to the facts and issues in the 10th Circuit’s decision. In addition, he examined the specific activities that had prompted the allegations against SWOP and NMYO, and contrasted these to what another New Mexico nonprofit, the Rio Grande Foundation (RGF), has been doing.

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Welcome, El Grito!

By Tracy Dingmann

On Aug. 4, our friends at the SouthWest Organizing Project launched “El Grito: News and Views from New Mexico’s Grassroots.”

The exciting new website aims to use digital media to evoke the deep cultural traditions of New Mexico communities as well as the rich legacy of struggle through alternative media for justice, equity, and opportunity that exists in New Mexico.

In English, El Grito means “The Cry,” and in this context it refers to several things, including the traditional shouts made during cultural celebrations and dances in New Mexico, as well as to El Grito de Dolores, the battle cry of the Mexican revolution for independence from Spain.

El Grito also refers to El Grito del Norte, a community newspaper founded in Espanola in 1968 that chronicled the grassroots struggles of traditional New Mexico communities.

Writers and activists from El Grito del Norte later moved to Albuquerque’s Los Duranes neighborhood, where they founded the Chicano Communication Center to advance grassroots communication across the state.

As explained on the site:

SWOP’s roots in alternative media extend back to those days at the Center, and the spirit of grassroots powered media lives on in our work today through blogging and our magazine, Voces Unidas. We hope that spirit is embodied here at El Grito, where we’ll bring community based analysis about the burning issues we face today, as well as news of the happenings in our communities.

In an interesting nod to history, two of El Grito’s writers, George Lujan and Clearly New Mexico alum Juan Reynosa, are from families that were well represented in the Chicano Communication Center.

The site will have several sections, including space for community event notices and for short pieces on current events El Grito finds noteworthy. There will also be longer articles from El Grito writers.

Submissions from the public are encouraged and welcome.

From the site:

Our lens is critical analysis of our society, our focus is the landscape experienced by New Mexico’s traditional and low-income communities. We reserve the right to only publish those pieces that further the debate in a constructive and positive manner.

El Grito is strictly non-partisan, and will not publish any content referring to political elections or written by a person seeking elective office.

From the site:

We pledge to offer a space here for the diversity of voices that exist in New Mexico, and to continually seek out and share the stories and views of New Mexicans who may not always have access to a medium that will let their cry be heard across the state. And we sincerely hope you’ll check in often and add your “grito” to the debate.

Please join Clearly in welcoming this much-needed voice to the New Mexico blogosphere!