Follow Our Election Day Coverage!

By Tracy Dingmann

Stay close to this spot on Tues. Nov. 2, Election Day to catch the Clearly New Mexico team’s (non-mainstream media) reports live from various points around Albuquerque.

Through Twitter, Facebook and blogging at ClearlyNewMexico.com, the Clearly team will stream live information on topics ranging from poll site traffic to possible voter intimidation and misconduct.

The team also plans to coordinate directly with other statewide media outlets to provide voters with accurate, real-time information on Election Day.

You can follow the coverage at ClearlyNew Mexico.com, on Facebook at Clearly New Mexico, or on Twitter at twitter.com/clearlynewmexic or by following the local election hashtag #NM2010.

“We Don’t Have An Agenda – We Just Want To Be Safe”

By Tracy Dingmann

It’s been a week since the Environmental Improvement Board held a hearing in Mesquite, N.M. on Helena Chemical’s request to waive an air quality permit for its fertilizer-blending operations there. I was only there for a short time, but I gathered enough information while there to fuel a week’s worth of writing.

The window for public comment on Helena’s request closes today (July 28) – a decision on the request is expected later this summer.

An Emotional Plea

One of the most moving speakers at the last week’s hearing was Larry Sedillo, a teacher and one of the founding members of Mesquite Community Action, Committee. The group is suing Helena for negligence, alleging that Helena’s practice of blending fertilizer is sickening local children, causing asthma, chronic respiratory infections, nosebleeds and severe chronic bronchitis.

In his often-emotional testimony, Sedillo spoke of the uncertainty of living next to the Helena plant and not knowing for sure how it is affecting the health of the people in the community.

Like pretty much everything else in the town, the school at which Sedillo teaches is very close to the plant.

“We’ve got kids coming into school at 7:30 in the morning and their eyes are burning. Talk to parents at our school. These things are happening and they are going to continue to happen. Our quality of life is going to keep going down.”

The smell from the plant is sickening in itself, Sedillo said.

“We can’t stand the smell, and we are wondering why we are getting sick. I don’t know why we don’t see people in the street complaining to Helena every day.”

Some people have asked why people in Mesquite don’t just move, Sedillo said. Echoing many of the others who spoke at the hearing, Sedillo pointed to the deep roots many have in the community, living on land that was passed down to them from ancestors. Most people who live in Mesquite don’t have the resources to leave – and why should they have to, Sedillo asked.

“I’m not embarrassed or ashamed – I’m proud of Mesquite. Those lawyers have a job to do, and that is to protect Helena. We have a job to do in Mesquite, and that is to protect each other. We are standing up – we are not going to lay down and die!”

“We don’t have an agenda – We just want to be safe.”

A Question of Fairness and Safety

Sedillo also addressed what he called the “outrage” of Helena asking to be let out of an air quality permit.

The company has already shown that it will not comply with state regulations unless it is forced to, Sedillo said. Every other company that works with chemicals in New Mexico is expected to comply – how is it fair to allow Helena to regulate themselves?

“This is a company that’s had numerous violations. If I had a company or I did something at my house where I dumped chemicals in the air or on the ground or in the water, I would be liable. For me it is an outrage to say this chemical plant doesn’t need a permit,” Sedillo said.

“They were working with sulphuric acid and anhydrous ammonia, mixing chemicals,” Sedillo said. “There was a vapor in the air that caused burning of the eyes, so we contacted them. They come back and say now – we stopped the process. They only did it because WE stopped them.”

“Otherwise they would still be doing it.”

We Can All Learn A Lot From Stewart Udall

My colleague Matt Brix was lucky enough to work with and get to know the great statesman Stewart Udall, and he wrote a heartfelt essay about him for Clearly New Mexico on Sunday.

Udall, a former U.S. Interior Secretary, an ardent conservationist and the last surviving member of the Kennedy Cabinet, died Saturday at his home in Santa Fe at age 90.

I was not lucky enough to ever meet Udall, but I was struck by what a great loss the American public has suffered after I read this New York Times piece about his lifelong dedication to preserving epic American landscapes and priceless historical sites.

From the story:

Though he was a liberal Democrat from the increasingly conservative and Republican West, Stewart Udall said in a 2003 public television interview that he found in Washington “a big tent on the environment.”

The result was the addition of vast tracts to the nation’s land holdings and — through his strong ties with lawmakers, conservationists, writers and others — work that led to landmark statutes on air, water and land conservation.

Udall’s words, methods and accomplishments seem so remarkable now, as we see every effort to develop or even discuss responsible energy and conservation policies rent by ugly partisan arguments.

More on Udall from the NYT story:

Few corners of the nation escaped Mr. Udall’s touch. As interior secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, he presided over the acquisition of 3.85 million acres of new holdings, including 4 national parks — Canyonlands in Utah, Redwood in California, North Cascades in Washington State and Guadalupe Mountains in Texas — 6 national monuments, 9 national recreation areas, 20 historic sites, 50 wildlife refuges and 8 national seashores. He also had an interest in preserving historic sites, and helped saved Carnegie Hall from destruction.

“Republicans and Democrats, we all worked together,” Mr. Udall said in a television interview with Bill Moyers. But by the time of that interview, Mr. Udall added that Washington had been overtaken by money and that people seeking public office fought for contributions from business interests that viewed environmental protection as a detriment to profit at best.

In his years in Washington, he won high regard from many quarters for his efforts to preserve the American landscape and to educate his fellow Americans on the value of natural beauty, points he made in his 1963 book “The Quiet Crisis.” The book, whose aim, he wrote at the time, was to “outline the land and people story of our continent,” sold widely.

Stewart Udall is gone now, but he leaves behind a legacy of such remarkable and admirable statesmanship and stewardship of the land. It would honor his memory – and only benefit us all – if we could take a look back to emulate his words and deeds as we wrestle with the important environment decisions facing us now.

Clearly’s New Look

To Our Readers:

Today we’d like to introduce a new look for Clearly New Mexico – one that we hope makes your visits to our site a bit more pleasant visually. Don’t worry – we’ll still feature the same biting commentary and socially responsible take on the issues we’ve become known for.
We did add one little thing – a weekly question – which we’d like our thoughtful readers to answer in comments we’ll publish on the site.
Thanks for sticking with us through our redesign – and tell your friends to come check out Clearly’s new look, too!

Tracy Dingmann

Hasta la Vista, Lou Dobbs

Departed CNN host Lou Dobbs

Departed CNN host Lou Dobbs

Embattled CNN host Lou Dobbs stepped down last night from his long-running show and today Clearly New Mexico joins the chorus of voices who are saying good riddance.

With his anti-immigrant bluster and endorsement of falsehoods like the Obama “birther” controversy, Dobbs shamed the original “all news” network and trashed his long and distinguished journalism career.

In bidding adios to Dobbs, we can’t be as funny as the The Onion, who, in the fake news story  “U.S. Deports Lou Dobbs,” reports that Dobbs’ real name is Luis Miguel Salvador Aguila Dominguez and that he’s been living illegally in the U.S. since 1981.

And we can’t be as whimsical as the Columbia Journalism Review, who writes that Dobbs “has been sent to a nice farm upstate, where he will be free to run and jump and play and practice advocacy journalism.”

And we can’t be as comprehensive as the Huffington Post, who compiled a handy video treasury of Dobb’s “Most Scandalous Moments.”

But we are glad Dobbs is gone. And just to get out in front of those who might say this smacks of censorship – it doesn’t. Because, you see, as Dobbs continued his one-sided, unfounded attacks, ratings for his show and for CNN overall plunged.

“It used to be considered a really premium spot,” Gary Carr, executive director of national broadcast for New York- based media-buying firm TargetCast tcm, told Bloomberg.com last month. As the show strayed from business “into so many issues of his own, I sense that people aren’t lining up with Lou Dobbs anymore.”

So, Lou Dobbs can SAY whatever he wants.

But CNN found out that Americans don’t have to buy it.