This story is part of a collaboration from the Institute for Nonprofit News Rural News Network in partnership with INN members Indian Country Today, Buffalo’s Fire, InvestigateWest, KOSU, New Mexico In Depth, Underscore and Wisconsin Watch, as well as partners Mvskoke Media, Osage News and Rawhide Press. Series logo by Mvskoke Creative. The project was made possible with support from the Walton Family Foundation.
Uranium mines are personal for Dariel Yazzie. Now head of the Navajo Nation’s Superfund program, Yazzie grew up near Monument Valley, Arizona, where the Vanadium Corporation of America started uranium operations in the 1940s. His childhood home sat a stone’s throw from piles of waste from uranium milling, known as tailings.
When coronavirus cases started popping up in New Mexico, Cherie Montoya and her team came up with a plan to adapt. Farm and Table owner Cherie Montoya and her partner, Danny Lopez
They came up with a Plan B, Plan C and all the way to Plan F, she said. It was important that her employees knew what would happen next as New Mexico began to follow other states into the pandemic crisis. So when the governor ordered that all food-service establishments should move tables 6 feet apart from each other, Montoya moved to Plan B, even though that meant her Albuquerque-area restaurant, Farm and Table, couldn’t seat nearly as many people. When the governor ordered all restaurants to close to dine-in customers March 18, Montoya switched to Plan C and began offering family-style dinner packages to-go.
Seated on the floor of First Christian Church on a recent Sunday morning, Pastor Dave Rogers pierces the heart of a debate in Carlsbad as it adapts to a historic oil and natural gas boom. Rogers recounts to three children the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man from a despised group helps a traveler beaten, robbed and left for dead after religious passers-by ignore him.“I wonder what it’s like to be a neighbor to somebody we don’t know and that needs our help,” Rogers asks his young listeners as a dozen or so adults, mostly senior citizens, look on. This story was produced by New Mexico in Depth in collaboration with the Carlsbad Current-Argus, Las Cruces Sun-News and Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.
Welcoming strangers and helping neighbors are values many in the small congregation – and broader community – identify with Carlsbad. The hub of Eddy County in southeastern New Mexico, Carlsbad is home to a 21st century version of a gold rush in the Permian Basin that straddles New Mexico and Texas, where hydraulic fracturing is enabling companies to access an ocean of oil reserves.
From her office in Questa, New Mexico’s Visitor Center,
Lindsay Mapes can walk out the door, cross a vacant lot and peer through the
windows of several empty houses. Some look ready for their residents to return,
with photos still on the walls and chairs at the table. In others, the ceilings
have begun to sag. A cream-colored house with a peaked tin roof and a wooden
porch gazes eastward toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. With its dramatic
views and architectural charm, it has what real estate agents call great
Samantha Sanchez, 10, reads for 20 minutes in Sharon Scarlott’s class at Gonzales Community School in Santa Fe on Dec. 20, 2013. The Martinez administration had proposed $13.5 million for remediation and intervention for students struggling to read in kindergarten through third grade. The easiest number to understand in the just-released 2019 Annie E. Casey Kid’s Count report is that New Mexico ranks 50th overall in child well-being. That’s a stark ranking, the second year in a row New Mexico earned that distinction.
In the wake of the 2019 legislative session, people across New Mexico are taking stock of how much Legislature-approved money to fund infrastructure will end up in their communities. There’s a lot of it–$933 million in the main capital outlay bill and an additional $60 million in “junior” spending bills drafted after lawmakers realized how flush the state is in oil money. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has until April 5th to sign legislation. Before she signs off on the infrastructure spending, called capital outlay, it’s possible she’ll use her line item veto authority to strike some of the projects. She asked state agencies to “vet” projects, according to an email sent last week to potential recipients by the Department of Finance and Administration.
It’s like cruising along in a refurbished airplane, which works well enough, but isn’t shiny anymore, then looking down at a new plane and deciding to jump out to ride in that one instead. And you’ve got all the parts in your hands to make a parachute, but you’ve got to put them together on the way down. That’s how one coal miner says the planned shut down of the San Juan Generating Station and its associated mine feels right now. He was one of a trio of miners who drove the three and a half hours Thursday to tell lawmakers in Santa Fe not to forget their communities as the San Juan Generating Station is taken offline. Already, he’s transitioned his kids through a recent divorce, he told House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee members, and now he faces the end of his job sometime before the generating station shuts down in 2022 and the possibility of moving if he can’t find work.
The state land commissioner manages 9 million acres of surface land, and 13 million acres of mineral estate, with a mandate to maximize revenue from those acres through leases to pay for public schools and universities. Fossil fuels accounts for 92.7 percent of the revenue generated the office. Commissioner candidates talk about where renewable energy fits into the picture.
A couple of years ago a mother came to Ray Jaramillo, director of a childcare center in Las Cruces. She worked for minimum wage at Burger King, but was offered a supervisory position with better hours and a wage bump to over $9 an hour. She worried the extra money could cause her to lose childcare assistance for her two little girls. Between her and her spouse’s salary, their new earning power would push her family over the line for government-subsidized child-care. She had to figure out whether to take the promotion and risk paying thousands of dollars more each year for childcare, or forgo the extra family income.
In case you missed it, you should check out Heath Haussamen’s five-part series on Spaceport America that ran on nmpolitics.net last week. It’s informative, especially the revelations about how much Spaceport America staff is keeping from the public in violation of state transparency laws.
A gaping revenue shortfall and lack of reserves have New Mexico’s legislators worried about short-circuiting the progress of large investments made in early childhood and safety net programs in recent years. A steep decline in the price of oil has contracted an industry on which New Mexico relies heavily, leading to broad layoffs, sales of oilfield equipment, foreclosures and bankruptcies. That, in turn, has gutted the cash from tax revenues state leaders counted on to pay for state operations. State leaders emptied out the state’s reserve fund to balance last year’s budget. Now they must close this year’s shortfall — projected at $69 million — without a pot of money that has cushioned economic pain in previous economic downturns.