From (His)story to Ourstory – Youth Lead Mural Art Project to Tell the Story of This Enchanted Land

By Anthony Fleg, Native Health Initiative

Albuquerque – Empowered youth, hot summer sun, paintbrushes and the north-facing wall of the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice. These are the ingredients of an ambitious mural art project that contrasts iconic images and struggles with their modern-day counterparts. The goal is to tell “ourstory”, the heroes, events, and cultures of New Mexico often forgotten in textbooks.

Liz Carrasco and Lillian Fernandez, two college-bound youth interns with the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) came up with the idea of the project through conversations with fellow SWOP youth.

Taking a break from the mural work being done outside, I had the chance to sit down with both students on the first day that the project began.

We envision the art as a space to come together as a community and represent  who we are,” says Liz, a graduate of the South Valley Academy who is headed to UNM to study political science.

Lillian sees the project as an extension of her love for art. “I think that this project, led by youth activists and artists, shows the power art has to improve our world.” A graduate of Nuestros Valores High School, she will be attending La Sierra University in Riverside California, planning to become a veterinarian.

“The mural is going to have images that you would not normally see together – the Virgin de Guadelupe reaching down to help a mother in need, an Aztec dancer who is break dancing…we will have freedom fighters from the past such as Dolores Huerta, Jeanne Gauna, and Geronimo alongside our struggles of today, such as the Statue of Liberty and a family on their knees, both detained by immigration,” says Liz.

Curious to hear about how the project got started, I asked them to explain.

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Join Prosperity Watch in Publicly Shaming PNM’s Overpaid Execs

By Tracy Dingmann

Outrage over the Public Service of New Mexico’s plan to raise rates on New Mexico customers while paying its top executives millions has prompted one local group to form a “Shame Campaign” against PNM.

Prosperity Works, a nonprofit that works to bring energy efficiency and economic stability to New Mexico families, recently launched the campaign after the Albuquerque Journal reported that PNM’s new top executive, CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn received a $1.22 million bonus in addition to her $550k salary, for a total compensation of $1.7 million.

The company’s other top four officers received bonuses ranging from $166,466 to $525,466, and the chairman of PNM’s board was paid $1.2 million, for a total of about $ 5 million in bonuses.

This news comes approximately one month before PNM’s hearing before the Public Regulation Commission regarding its request to raise New Mexico’s rates by $85 million, as well as charge an additional $20 million in fees and riders.

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Important EPA Hearing Tomorrow on the San Juan Generating Station!

By Tracy Dingmann

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing in Farmington tomorrow to determine the scope of a plan to force cleaner operation of the San Juan Generating Station in the Four Corners area.

The San Juan Generating Station is known as one of the dirtiest coal-burning power plants in the nation. The massive 1,848 megawatt coal-fired power plant is owned primarily by Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM. The plant, which consists of four coal-fired boilers, is located in northwestern New Mexico near the town of Waterflow.

The power plant is the second largest source of air pollution in New Mexico (right behind the Four Corners power plant). Every year, its air pollution contributes to 33 premature deaths, 600 asthma attacks, 31 asthma-related emergency room visits, and other health impacts, at an estimated cost of more than $254 million.

Its air pollution affects indigenous communities in the region, a number of National Parks and Monuments, and regional smog levels, the nearest being Mesa Verde National Park, which is 30 miles north.

One of the best hopes for cleaning up worsening air quality in the Four Corners region is for the owners of to clean up air pollution from its smokestacks by installing proposed pollution-control upgrades.

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Down Low Dealings at PNM Regarding Rate Hikes

By Tracy Dingmann

Six local watchdog groups have filed statements in opposition to PNM’s plan to raise rates for electric service in New Mexico, saying the company negotiated the rate hikes in secret and without input from customers and other parties opposed to the rate hike.

The state’s largest electric utility had announced recently that it would seek a rate hike of as much as 25 percent on residential customers.

Subsequently, executives from PNM, along with members of the Public Regulation Commission and staffers from the office of the New Mexico Attorney General carried out negotiations regarding the rate hike and came up with a figure that appeared much lower.

Now representatives from six citizen’s advocacy groups say the groups negotiated the hike behind closed doors and did not take input from the people who will most be affected – the customers. The groups also say the negotiated agreement contains measures that will make it very easy for PNM to charge customers more again in a few short years.

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Rally at Roundhouse Shows Real Faces of New Mexico

Immigration rally Monday at the Capitol

By Claus Whiteacre

On Monday, several hundred people gathered at the State Capitol in Santa Fe to protest Gov. Susana Martinez’s recent executive order mandating that state police officers ask criminal suspects about their immigration status, and her stated intent to take drivers licenses from undocumented immigrants.

The crowd was a mixture of ages, ethnicities, and walks of life. I noted a friar carrying a sign, lawmakers, activists and people with bundled-up toddlers. There were speeches and chanting and improvised noise-makers made of plastic cups filled with rocks.

A lone counter-protestor holding a sign stood apart from the crowd during the entire rally. While it was balmy compared to last week, it was still a brisk day.

A lone counter-protester

One of the organizers approached the young woman and asked whether she would like a cup of hot chocolate or tea. The offer was declined.

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Camino Real Decision Shows New Mexico is Open For…Out of State Trash?

By Tracy Dingmann

Environmental groups and residents of Sunland Park, N.M. were swift to express their keen disappointment today at the state of New Mexico’s decision to grant the Camino Real landfill a 10-year permit.

Residents of Sunland Park have long said they don’t want the landfill in their midst and say they are worried about known and unknown factors affecting their health and quality of life. The landfill sits atop one of the largest aquifers in the Southwest and is suspected of affecting the purity of the drinking water it provides.

“We are extremely disappointed that Governor Martinez and Secretary-designate Martin chose to side with corporate polluters instead of protecting families in Sunland Park,” said Michael Casaus, a senior field organizing manager with the Sierra Club. “Elected officials should step up their efforts to protect New Mexico’s precious clean water supplies, instead of increasing profits for out-of-state corporations.

“Over 90 percent of the waste that ends up in this landfill comes from outside New Mexico, primarily from Texas. This ruling sends a clear message that not only is New Mexico open to business, as Governor Martinez proclaimed in her recent State of State Address, but is apparently open to out-of-state trash as well,” said Casaus.

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NMED Approves 10-Year Permit for Camino Real Landfill (w/Document)

By Tracy Dingmann

Word comes from Santa Fe today that the New Mexico Environment Department has approved a 10-year permit for the Camino Real landfill in Sunland Park, N.M.

The decision by the Martinez Administration caps a decades-long struggle by the people of Sunland Park against the landfill, which takes in most of its trash from Mexico and the nearby Texas city of El Paso. People who live in the community say they don’t want the landfill in their midst and fear it has adversely affected their health. For more background on the landfill, go here.

Clearly New Mexico will have more information on the story, including comments from some of those involved, later today.

Here is a copy of the decision made today by Environment Secretary designee F. David Martin.

Citizens Coalition Sues Governor In NM Supreme Court Over Printing Of New Dairy Rule

By Tracy Dingmann

Late today (Jan. 13) came news of the second suit filed in New Mexico Supreme Court against Gov. Susana Martinez over her move to halt printing of a regulation designed to protect New Mexicans from groundwater contamination.

What follows is the word, straight from the Citizens Coalition, a local group made up of Caballo Concerned Citizens, Citizens For Dairy Reform, Rio Valle Concerned Citizens, the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, Food And Water Watch and Amigos Bravos:

SANTA FE, N.M. – The Citizens Coalition filed suit today in New Mexico Supreme Court against the State Governor, Susana Martinez, the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, and the New Mexico State Records Administrator, in response to the move to halt printing of the adopted dairy regulation in the State Register. Papers were served on the above offices this afternoon.

The Citizens Coalition, represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), petitioned the court for a writ of mandamus to compel the Governor and NMED Secretary, F. David Martin, to comply with existing law, and to compel Sandra Jaramillo of the State Records Center to codify and publish the dairy regulation in the State Register.

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Environmental Rollback, Gov. Martinez Style

By Tracy Dingmann

“But you knew she was comin’!”

That’s one of my favorite lines from an otherwise forgettable movie by Spike Lee, uttered by a character played by Ruby Dee to her husband when he expresses surprise and walks out after being offended by a dinner guest he invited to his table.

I thought about this line when I heard about the swift actions of new Governor Susana Martinez, who – as promised – has spent her first couple of days in office dismantling or putting on hold a number of key environmental decisions made during the Richardson administration.

Those of us New Mexicans who care about the environment and who know we need to regulate corporations to keep them from befouling our state all knew this was gonna happen, but it still doesn’t ease the offense.

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EIB Decides on State Carbon Cap; Helena Chemical Air Permit

By Tracy Dingmann

Two long-awaited decisions emerged from today’s meeting of the state Environmental Improvement Board in Santa Fe.

By a 4 to 1 vote, the board voted to adopt a petition by New Energy Economy that will create a new state carbon pollution reduction program that will lead the rest of the nation in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and create living-wage jobs for New Mexicans.

The new state pollution limit will require the state’s largest polluters to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 3 percent per year from 2010 levels starting in 2013, an effective date amended by the EIB.

“This new policy makes New Mexico the nation’s leader in carbon pollution reduction while at the same time stimulating our economy and creating jobs for New Mexico families and communities,” said NEE senior policy adviser Mariel Nanasi. “The board understands that the same technologies that can reduce carbon pollution can also make New Mexico more competitive in the clean energy economy, which means more long-term, well-paying jobs for New Mexicans.”

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