Duelling Roundhouse Rallies: Occupy and Tea Party at Session’s Opening Day

By Matthew Reichbach

The Tea Party has been a force in politics, especially among conservatives, since it gained prominence in 2009. The New Mexico groups gathered for their third rally at the Roundhouse on Tuesday — but this time, the Tea Party had company.

Occupy groups from around the state gathered on the east side of the Roundhouse — and outnumbered the Tea Party protesters on the opposite side of the Roundhouse.

The two rallies had similarities — crowds of New Mexicans holding signs and cheering on speeches from speakers. But the similarities were superficial.

The Occupy crowd was filled with signs calling for the end of corporate involvement in campaigns and signs in Spanish opposing Martinez’s proposal to repeal drivers license for undocumented immigrants. The Tea Party signs were in support of the drivers license repeal and called for mandatory voter identification at the polls.

What the crowed responded to was different as well. The largest applause line at the Tea Party rally was when Lt. Gov. John Sanchez said, “The first thing we need to do is elect a new President.” At the Occupy rally, a large cheer went up when state Sen. Eric Griego said, “money isn’t speech — we need corporations out.”

Griego also signed the 99 Pledge in front of the crowd.

The Democratic state Senator, who is running for Congress in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, said he would support a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizen’s United, the controversial Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money in support or opposition to a political candidate.

At the Tea Party rally, Marita K. Noon, head of the energy group CARE, railed against the possible listing of the Sand Dune Lizard as an endangered species. Opposition to the listing of the lizard has become cause célèbre for conservatives, especially Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM).

The Occupy group ultimately received more media attention for an attempted — though unsuccessful — “mic check” of Martinez at the beginning of her State of the State address. The Occupy protesters involved were quickly ushered out of the room.

Odds and Ends

  • The two candidates with major presences at the Tea Party rally were Rick Newton, a Republican running for Congress in New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, and Greg Sowards, running for U.S. Senate.
  • The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that there “were no major confrontations between the two groups.”

Green Jobs Bills Signed: Moving to a sustainable tomorrow

richardsonbillsigning1Yesterday Governor Bill Richardson signed a number of great “green” bills.  By so doing, he helped New Mexico take many steps towards more sustainable economic growth in the future.

New Mexico Youth Organized had the honor of working with outstanding groups like New Energy Economy, Conservation Voters New Mexico and others to help enact two key pieces of legislation.

Senate Bill 318, sponsored by Senator Eric Griego, earmarks $1 million dollars of the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) fund to go towards supporting and bringing in green businesses, such as solar manufacturing, wind technology, bio-fuels production, and energy retrofits.

House Bill 622, sponsored by Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, has many components of the Federal 2007 Green Jobs Bill. It will provide support to the Department of Higher Education for implementing green jobs training programs in colleges throughout the state.  Not only that, it also prioritizes many local populations (single mothers, unemployed, at risk youth) to provide them with new opportunities in the emerging green economy.

Environmental leaders across the state also worked with state legislators to enact the following policies:  add a 10% state tax credit to the 30% federal tax credit to help people install solar power systems (SB 257), provide tax credits for production of utility scale solar and geothermal plants (SB 237), and form financing districts (SB 647) or use a special property tax assessment to also help New Mexico residents install renewable energy technology.

New Mexico is beginning to move in a direction where we can begin to use our vastly underused resources of solar, wind, and geothermal.  Significant federal support exists to help take us in this direction, and, from what I saw at yesterday’s signing ceremony, we are beginning to gain a great amount of state support as well.

With the enactment of these policies, we are creating opportunities for residents of New Mexico to become part of the green economy.

A big round of thanks goes out to all the great individuals and organizations that played a part in this success. A thank you as well to Governor Richardson, Senator Griego, Speaker Lujan, and all the other legislators who are helping to create a more sustainable New Mexico.