ABQ immigrant and refugee leaders: Relationship with next mayor is critical

As Albuquerque heads into a runoff election next week to choose its future mayor, local immigrant and refugee advocates stress that having a positive relationship with Albuquerque’s next mayor is very important to the wellbeing of their communities. New Mexico In Depth spoke with leaders of four nonprofit organizations who work with immigrants and refugees about what’s at stake as the city nears the final vote on who will be its next mayor. A range of issues were mentioned: family unity, worker’s rights and skills development, safety, and breaking down institutional racism perpetuated by city practices and policies. All stressed the need for a mayor who cares about immigrants and refugees. Andrea Plaza, Encuentro and Fabiola Bawden, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos

“The leadership in the city sets the tone for the attitude and approach to working with the immigrant community, and if that tone is a positive one, then the business community can fall in line, the educational community, the health community,” said Andrea Plaza, executive director of Encuentro, an organization that provides education and skill development for immigrants.

ABQ political groups spending down in final stretch to election day

Heading into the final weekend before Albuquerque’s municipal election on Tuesday, some independent political groups have spent most of the total money they’ve collected while others haven’t spent any, according to a review of financial reports filed today. It’s possible that an influx of money will enter the race in the final hours before the election, with associated attack ads, robocalls, and mailers. But here’s a rundown of the money to date reported by the 2017 measure finance committees — how much they’ve raised and how much they still have on hand to date. Albuquerque Coalition for a Healthy Economy and Realtors Association of New Mexico Education Public on Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, has raised $218,247, with $51,016 remaining in its account heading into the weekend. This group was created to oppose the sick leave ordinance.

Second Santolina backed group goes after ABQ council candidates

A new Santolina backed political committee popped up an electronic billboard and sent out mailers on Albuquerque’s west side late last week to support the re-election bid of City Councilor Ken Sanchez. Energize Albuquerque filed a campaign report showing a $20,000 contribution from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, the company seeking to create a massive master planned community in far west Bernalillo County that would be called Santolina. Over the past two weeks, another committee backed in part by Santolina developer Jeff Garrett, called Make Albuquerque Safe, blanketed the city with negative ads against mayoral candidate Tim Keller. Both Energize Albuquerque and Make Albuquerque Safe are helmed by Denise Romero, Chairperson, and Donna Taylor, Treasurer. NM In Depth reached out to Donna Taylor, whose email is listed on the committee report, and Garrett, to ask them why they support Sanchez.

Dark Money rearing its head in ABQ elections

With Albuquerque’s city election less than a month away, a number of independent groups have registered with the city as political committees, ramping up to make their views known. As of last Friday when the latest campaign finance reports were filed, such committees have raised a combined total of $824,441. That’s 20 percent of all the money raised so far this election cycle, that will see a new mayor elected, as well as numerous new city councilors. There is a controversial ballot measure on the ballot as well. The money will be used to bombard Albuquerque voters–and all other listeners to the big television and radio stations–with political ads for and against candidates and issues.

Fracking boom leads to tension in Navajo communities

On a windy Monday morning in May, residents packed the Counselor Chapter House. Some sat in plastic folding chairs, while others leaned against the wall, all paying attention to the speakers. Coming to the front of the chapter house, Marie Chavez Herbert introduced herself in the Navajo language. “I’m going to talk real fast OK,” she said as she took the microphone to talk about fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, in her community near Chaco Canyon. Four members of the Navajo Nation Council, Speaker LoRenzo Bates, Councilor Amber Kanazbah Crotty, Councilor Davis Filfred and Councilor Leonard Tsosie who represents Counselor as well as nearby chapters, had come to hear testimony from area residents. The listening session, which lasted about five hours, provided a glimpse into tensions in several small Navajo communities near Chaco Canyon over an uptick in fracking in recent years, pitting those who worry about the public health hazards it poses against government agencies who authorize it, as well as some of their neighbors who benefit  economically from leasing their land to oil and gas companies.

Lawmakers tackle payday lending

For the past several years efforts have been made at the State Legislature to cap interest rates imposed by New Mexico’s small-loan industry, alternately called storefront lenders or payday lenders. The lenders make loans of $2,500 or less, with often extremely high interest rates and short pay-back periods. And typically their customers are low-income New Mexicans who need quick cash to help pay bills. The issue is back in 2017, and two proposals to cap such interest rates are expected to be heard today in a House committee. The big difference between the two bills is the amount of interest lenders could charge.

Video: Rep. Jim Dines says subpoena power important for ethics commission

New Mexico is one of the few states that doesn’t have a state ethics commission, and Rep. Jim Dines, R-Bernalillo, hopes to change that. House Joint Resolution 8 proposes an independent ethics commission that oversees complaints concerning state officers and employees, lobbyists, campaigns, and state contractors. Rep. Dines says the subpoena powers contained in the resolution are important. “It gives the commission the ability to obtain records that are out there that would be able to help end the investigation of a potential ethics complaint,” said Rep. Jim Dines. Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Jeff Seinborn (D- Doña Ana), Rep Nathan P. Small (D- Doña Ana), and Rep. Bill McCamley (D- Doña Ana).

Tax loopholes are in the eye of the beholder

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez continues to say we need to tighten our belts rather than raise taxes in order to solve our current fiscal crisis. “She will not raise taxes,” Chris Sanchez, the governor’s spokesperson, told New Mexico In Depth this week. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, however, told the Santa Fe New Mexican this weekend the state can’t endure any more cuts and he is joined by lawmakers who favor raising new tax revenue to balance the budget and replenish the state’s reserve fund. On its face the two positions set up a battle over whether to cut expenses or to raise revenue. But it’s not so simple.

New Mexico Tribes descend on state legislature to oppose Dakota Access Pipeline

Each year, American Indian Day brings culture and concerns from Native Americans across New Mexico to the State Legislature, but Friday they also showed up to show unified support for the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in South Dakota to stop a pipeline that they say threatens their water and damages sacred sites. “We came here today because it’s American Indian Day and to support Standing Rock,” said Rita Blatche who drove more than three hours with her husband from Mescalero to Santa Fe. Standing Rock was the overall theme of the day, with Standing Rock Councilman Robert Taken Alive speaking as the honored guest. All 23 Native American tribes within the state unified their stance toward the Dakota Access Pipeline and signed a letter opposing the pipeline. San Ildefonso Pueblo Lt. Gov. Chris Moquino said the visit from Taken Alive “shows there is strength in numbers.” San Ildefonso is located east of Pojoaque.