Decision on Sunland Park Landfill Imminent

By Tracy Dingmann

What’s going on these days in Sunland Park, N.M., home to the controversial Camino Real landfill/environmental park?

Last time we wrote, New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry was scheduled to decide by Nov. 10 whether to grant the sprawling landfill a 10-year extension.

But earlier this month Curry announced that he would give himself up through Dec. 1 to issue a decision (that’s tomorrow.)

The Camino Real landfill (its owners call it an “environmental park”) sits near one of the largest aquifers in the Southwest and takes in 90 percent of its trash from Mexican maquiladoras and the nearby city of El Paso.

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Thanksgiving Wishes From Clearly New Mexico

A Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

To our wonderful Clearly New Mexico community, we want to thank you for your support and energy. Far beyond this site, it is the work we are dedicated to, making our state healthier, safer, more equitable, and more democratic that is worth giving thanks for this holiday. Whether your efforts are improving our schools, ethical reforms in our political systems, or speaking on behalf of the most vulnerable populations that are too often forgotten, thank you!

As you can see from the stories on our site, it is exactly those efforts that inspire the writers of Clearly New Mexico. Often, these are the stories not deemed “newsworthy” elsewhere – youth working to beautify their communities, conversations about keeping the internet accessible to all, and Indigenous efforts to protect water are not the things we see much of in the media, but which have made it to our site in just the last week!

A few thoughts as you enjoy your time with family and friends this holiday, given in the spirit of Clearly New Mexico’s community:

* First, a medical fact – yes, turkey does have an amino acid called trypophan which causes sleepiness. So, get those important political, philosophical, and spiritual conversations out of the way before the turkey-induced daze!. And before you ask, NO, this does not give you lisence the next day to blame something you say to the in-laws on the trypophan!

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A Very Corporate Thanksgiving

Someone out there has something to be thankful about.

NY Times: American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or noninflation-adjusted terms.

While others aren’t so lucky.

Even amid the most turbulent economic conditions since the Great Depression, US corporate profits are at an all time high, according to a Tuesday report (PDF link) by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.At the same time, America’s poor and middle classes are under siege, with a mostly stagnant job market that has shown only marginal signs of improvement.

In spite of meager growth in some sectors, the real unemployment rate remains high, at approximately 1 in 5 Americans.

Somehow it’s hard to square these stats with the picture in my head of all those who made off like bandits in this economic crisis, a catastrophe largely of their making, and watching them look up from their Thanksgiving feast to say, “pass me some more tax breaks and deregulation.”

Can’t they even say, “please”?

Chris Farrell in Business Week: “The rise in income inequality is well-documented. Median income began stagnating in the early 1970s, and income inequality started to surge in the early 1980s. The benefits of America’s economic growth since then have mostly gone to a wealthy minority, while the majority of workers have seen their earnings stagnate at best and decline at worst. The long-term trend is toward a small group of financiers, chief executives, professional athletes, entertainers, and other earnings titans pocketing much of the wealth generated by society.

Happy Thanksgiving to the rest of us!

Navajo President Joe Shirley Approves Controversial Water Settlement

By Tracy Dingmann

On Nov. 19, as expected, outgoing Navajo Nation president Joe Shirley approved a settlement that gives Navajo and Hopi tribes limited rights to water from the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers.

Many members of the Navajo tribe had vehemently opposed approval of the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement, saying the agreement didn’t go far enough in securing water rights for Navajos. Critics also said that the the question of whether to approve of the settlement should have been decided by all Navajos, not just Navajo politicians.

Clearly New Mexico guest poster Anthony Fleg gave good background about the actions leading up to the Navajo Nation Council of Delegates vote on the settlement on Nov. 4.  Shirley signed the agreement days later, following the council’s approval.

For even more background about opposition to the settlement,  here’s a link to a locally-made film about the settlement and the struggle for equitable and fair water rights on the Navajo Nation. The film was made by Concerned Citizens For Dine Water Rights, a grassroots effort for and by Dine people.

Youth Shine at Community Pride Day!

A Clearly Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

Albuquerque – In the heart of the International District, one-hundred and fifty people gathered for “Community Pride Day: Our Food, Our Community” Wednesday evening at Van Buren Middle School.

Though many community leaders and elected officials were in attendance, it was an evening for them to listen, an evening to celebrate youth as they presented the projects they have worked on through the Citizen Schools afterschool program at Van Buren.

One group worked on understanding the stories and meaning behind the foods we eat. Kathy Rojo, a 6th grader at Van Buren, presented to the crowd on the importance of understanding new cultures through food. “We are trying new things, learning about all of the foods eaten here in the International District,” she said proudly. Her group provided and served a potluck for the celebration.

Laura Musumi, the teacher for the class and a staff member at Citizen Schools, said that her idea for this class started with a love of food. “We have so much diversity in this community, and we tried to show how you can find common ground with others through something as simple as food.”

A second group worked on community outreach, and after walking the neighborhood, decided that they would do something about the conspicuous piles of large trash items (e.g. furniture).

“Tonight, we are asking everyone here to join us in launching the Clean Community Campaign,” said Van Buren student Michael Rodriquez. The Campaign asks citizens to pledge that they will work hard to keep the community clean, including a promise not to pile trash in public spaces.

And if that wasn’t enough, the youth also created an “Inner Beauty Pageant,” with collages reflecting their unique talents and showing off their families.

One of the Citizen Schools teachers, Joanne Landry, explained, “There is so much inner hatred, so we wanted to create an opportunity for the youth to see their inner beauty…for some, I think this was the first time that they saw themselves in this way.”

Citizen Schools is a national organization that provides free afterschool programs for students in Title I schools, schools where many of the families live at or below the poverty line. Many of the teachers are volunteers from the community who have a desire to share a specific skill with students.

Joanne Landry, who also serves as a minister at the Interfaith Bible Church and as president of the Trumball Neighborhood Association (both of which served as co-sponsors for the event) says that the community outreach class was a way for her to share her passion for public service with the youth.

Alayna Bowman, serving as a teacher liaison for Citizen Schools, was all smiles as she helped the youth clean up after the event.

“The teamwork and leadership we saw here tonight was something special,” she beamed, noting that she and her staff are already looking for more volunteers to teach this spring’s classes.

Maybe the evening was summed up best by City Councilman Rey Garduno’s comment, amidst the chatter of excited students preparing their presentations and families meeting one another.

“The noise of inclusiveness…you can see it, you can feel it here tonight,” he said.

If You Missed It: The Future of the Internet Town Hall

By Tracy Dingmann

If you missed Tuesday’s town hall in Albuquerque with Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Copps on the Future of the Internet, you can catch up right here with these links.

The event was sponsored by the organizations The Center for Media Justice, Media Literacy Project and Free Press.

Writing at NMFBIHOP.com, Claus Whiteacre said:

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps spoke to hundreds of supporters about the need for net neutrality Tuesday evening at the Albuquerque Journal Theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Net neutrality is the principle that all content on the internet should be treated equally, and that internet service providers cannot discriminate between different types of content.

“When broadcast came about the corporation said ‘trust us.’ When previous FCC commissions removed limits on media consolidation we were told ‘trust us.’ With this new medium they are saying ‘trust us,'” Copps said.

Andrea Quijada, the Executive Director of the Media Literacy Project, served as the MC for the evening. She shared how an open internet is needed for the most basic of services.

“With 30 of our 33 counties being medically underserved, we know that the internet is not just about civic participation,” Quijada said. “With a state poverty rate at 19 percent we know that the internet is not just about access.”

“America cannot have a digital divide, this is an injustice for those that have been too long denied,” Copps said in his speech.

George Lujan of the SouthWest Organizing Project gave his account at ElGritoNM.org:

Perspectives from the community included single mothers explaining how the internet allows them to provide a strong sense of family; students detailing how far they have to drive just to finish nightly assignments; local artists and slam poets offering a cultural perspective; professionals trying to bring the online world to offline communities.

The point was clear- we need an open internet, we deserve an open internet, and now we demand an open internet.

Finally, those who would like to see an accounting of the entire event can visit this link to the webcast at SaveTheInternet.com.

A Report From The National Congress of American Indians, Meeting This Week in Albuquerque

A Clearly Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

Albuquerque – How can we advance the rights of the world’s Indigenous Nations through treaties?

This was the central question Monday evening as Indigenous leaders from Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. gathered at a special session of the 67th Annual Convention of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Central to the discussion was the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). More than simply the sum of its 46 Articles that affirm the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous Nations, this document sets an important precedent by recognizing these groups at the level of the United Nations.

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Canada were the only countries not to sign the declaration initially. As of last week, when Canada added their signature, the U.S. is now the only country who has not signed.
“We expect President Obama to sign this declaration on behalf of the United States in the near future, and it is important that there is not a group of non-Indian people telling us how it is going to be implemented,” said Frank Ettawageshik, Executive Director of the United Tribes of Michigan.

Indeed, attention at the session was more focused on steps needed once the U.S. signs, with sentiment hopeful that Obama will reverse the Bush Administration’s position on the document. At the NCAI meeting, a resolution being proposed calls upon the president to create a commission of Indigenous leaders to implement the UNDRIP once it is signed by the U.S.

Andrea Carmen from the Yaqui Nation (Mexico), and the Executive Director of the International Indian Treaty Council reminded those gathered the long road toward United Nations recognition. In the 1920s, various Indigenous leaders arrived at the UN’s predecessor, The League of Nations, only to be turned away.

“Finally, in 1977 we were invited to Geneva for the UN Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, but it took another three decades before we had the support in place to talk seriously about the rights of Indigenous peoples,” she noted.

Even as the UNDRIP was being drafted, there was tension around the voice given to the Indigenous voices involved, with the Indigenous delegation walking out of negotiations in 1996 and then staging a hunger strike in 2004 to show their disproval with the process.

Carmen added, “Remember that our rights, the rights of our Nations, are not set by treaties or declarations. Our rights can be affirmed or violated, but they are not something that can be given or taken away.”

To some at the gathering, the talk of treaties left doubts. An elder from the Tanana Tribal Council (Alaska), Curtis Sommer, voiced his concerns.

“To me, I don’t hear us addressing colonialism…we need our countries to be held accountable for the enslavement, murdering, and genocide, and I am not sure that begging for a small slice of what we are owed through treaties is the way to get this accomplished.”

Electronic Bootstraps: A Local Town Hall on The Importance of Keeping the Internet Free and Accessible to All

By Tracy Dingmann

Making and keeping the Internet affordable and accessible to all people is now the great equalizer in a world that increasingly depends on online communication.

People in New Mexico’s many rural and underserved communities know far too well that keeping the Internet free and open is crucial if people are to get the same educational, health, and business opportunities as everyone else.

The Internet is essential, and all of us need access to these new “electronic bootstraps” in a world where such crucial things as job applications, governmental forms and even filing a complaint with your local police department MUST be done online.

Right now, big cable and telephone companies are trying to dominate the conversation on the future of the Internet. They are trying to convince Congress and the American public that private, corporate control of the Internet is needed to insure the viability of this now public medium.

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In Other News: NM’s Environmental Victory on Nov. 2

By Tracy Dingmann

On Nov. 2, an important environmental victory occurred that was almost – but not quite – eclipsed by Election Day news in New Mexico.

Perhaps those of you who worry about the specter of manmade climate change heard that the state Environmental Improvement Board met and approved a regional cap and trade program to cut carbon emissions in New Mexico.

The decision puts New Mexico in the forefront of the necessary movement to control carbon emissions, which scientists agree are the major cause of global warming.

In an interview with the New Mexico Business Weekly, Mariel Nanasi of the Santa Fe nonprofit New Energy Economy praised the EIB for approving the most comprehensive greenhouse gas emission reduction rules in the nation.

“It puts New Mexico ahead of the curve,” Nanasi said. “It offers opportunities for clean energy investment and development in the state, which translates into jobs, jobs, jobs.”

From the Business Weekly story on the ruling:

The decision will require about 63 facilities in New Mexico that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually to start cutting emissions by 2 percent per year below 2010 levels, beginning in 2012. The rule applies to stationary sources of emissions, rather than transportation or other sectors. In New Mexico, such stationary facilities mainly include coal- and gas-fired power plants, and oil and gas operations.

The EIB’s decision also authorizes New Mexico’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative, which includes a cap-and-trade program for affected industries. Under that system, businesses that lower emissions faster than required will receive credits that can be sold to industries in other WCI states. The credits could be used to help the slower-moving businesses comply.

Before approving the plan, which was designed and proposed by the New Mexico Environment Department, the board voted unanimously to adopt a cost-containment amendment. Under that clause, if the costs of adopting the rule reach $45 per ton of emissions, the Environment Department must come back to the board with additional cost consideration options, said Sandra Ely, the Department’s energy and environmental coordinator.

The board voted down two other amendments, including one that would have exempted the city of Farmington from the rule. “I’m really impressed with the thoughtfulness of the board–its consideration of industry’s concerns and the cost issues involved,” Ely said. “Each and every board member understood the importance of addressing climate change, but they split on how it should actually be addressed.”

In December, the EIB will meet to consider a carbon cap proposal brought forth by New Energy Economy. That proposal asks the state to implement a statewide cap – you can read more about it here.

It’s not known what the EIB will decide on the NEE proposal. But it’s clear that yesterday’s decision places New Mexico in a much-needed role as a leader in not just climate change awareness – but also in taking real action on climate change.

An Election Report From Campus

Clearly New Mexico

In this Clearly video extra, New Mexico Public Interest Research Group advocate Erin Eccleston talks about her groups efforts to engage and involve students in voting yesterday at the University of New Mexico.

We at the Center for Civic Policy are proud and excited to work with Student PIRGS, because getting and keeping young people civically engaged is critically important!

A word of caution – the visual aspect of the video is a bit blurry….but the audio is good and the message is inspiring!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ7bLuJmc-8