A fair and equitable recovery starts with supporting women of color

New Mexicans share a belief that all of us – no matter where we live, how we look, or what we believe – deserve access to the same opportunities that help us achieve our unique potential. These opportunities – receiving a quality education, and having access to affordable health care, jobs that pay family-sustaining wages, and safe and affordable housing – are often referred to as social determinants of health and they impact everything from the conditions surrounding our births to the length of our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic made it apparent that these opportunities are not universally available and their lack has led to lower-quality social determinants of health for some communities. Clearly, communities of color and those earning low incomes were hardest hit by the pandemic as well as the economic aftermath. But another aspect that hasn’t gotten as much notice is how the pandemic and recession have hurt women more than men, with women of color being hurt the most.

New Mexico has opportunity to learn what works best from two years of extraordinary innovation

The 2022 regular legislative session will be the second under the persistent shadow of COVID-19. For those of us who focus on child and family well-being, the situation is simultaneously dire and hopeful. The dire: Families with children, especially those with lower incomes, have been slammed by the simultaneous impacts of school and child care closures, job losses, and the anxiety and grief that have characterized this time for many. 

The hopeful: The sudden loss of in-person schooling and child care has renewed public focus on the importance of these sectors. States have received federal funding to stabilize them from the impacts of COVID, allowing new resources to flow into schools, child care, internet connectivity and other longstanding needs. 

During the session and in the coming year, our team at the University of New Mexico Cradle to Career Policy Institute will watch to see what New Mexico decides to keep from the pandemic, and what the state casts aside. In our policy and personal lives, the pandemic has offered a complex mix of things we are eager to lose forever, alongside those we hope to maintain. 

In the child care sector, COVID-19 has brought great instability for providers faced with decreased enrollment, family and provider fears about COVID exposure, and unpredictable closures and quarantines.

Diversify New Mexico’s Economy Using Oil/Gas Surplus

Recently, it was announced that despite repeated attacks by the Biden administration, New Mexico’s oil and gas industry had a record year. It generated 35% of all general-fund revenue for the state budget in FY 2021 (which ended in June) – a share exceeded only once in the most recent eight-year period. In raw numbers, the industry generated almost $5.3 billion in revenue for state and local governments in the 2021 fiscal year. In other words, the industry that New Mexico has long (over) relied on and the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party, in particular, would like to eliminate entirely, continues to prop up the State economy and budget. Ironically, the massive oil-and-gas-generated budget surplus available to legislators this January is also the ticket to the diversified economy that everyone of both political parties realizes New Mexico must have.

Hydrogen is a false climate solution

Indigenous communities in New Mexico have long dealt with the negative impacts of experimental energy projects promoted by state and federal governments. 

This legislative session, as the state faces a climate crisis that is already disproportionately impacting Indigenous, low-income, and communities of color, the stakes of energy policies are higher than ever. 

Why, then, is New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham touting the hydrogen fuel industry, which is nothing short of a scheme to subsidize oil and gas companies and keep the state dangerously reliant on fossil fuels? 

Related:

Striving toward net zero, New Mexico grapples with role of hydrogen

The governor’s proposed “Hydrogen Hub Act” promotes hydrogen as a clean energy solution. But 96 percent of hydrogen production in the U.S. requires fossil fuels, and burning hydrogen is worse for the environment than burning coal. 

Hydrogen development will only exacerbate the climate crisis the state is facing, while distracting state agencies from investing in meaningful climate solutions and renewable energy projects, like solar and wind. 

As leaders in an Indigenous organization whose members and communities would be directly impacted by hydrogen development, we have taken a stand against all false climate solutions in New Mexico, including hydrogen, and are calling on the Governor to stop sacrificing our lands, waters, and communities. 

Hydrogen is currently produced using methane gas – the “gas” in oil and gas. Converting methane to hydrogen promotes more fracking in our communities and releases carbon dioxide in the process. To boot, converting methane to hydrogen requires enormous amounts of energy, energy that today mainly comes from the burning of fossil fuels. Where will these fossil fuels come from?

To create opportunities tomorrow, NM must embrace its strengths today

New Mexico’s oil and natural gas industry is growing again, which is welcomed news to lawmakers, communities, and all people across the land of enchantment. Through challenges and changing times over the past two years, our dedication to New Mexico has been unwavering and we’re committed to doing our part to help New Mexico succeed. New Mexico’s oil and gas industry is proud to be the foundation of the state’s economy, providing thousands of jobs across our state and supporting the budget and public schools with billions in revenue. Teachers, students, first responders, and many others depend on our industry for critical resources to support learning, develop the next generation of leaders, and keep our communities healthy and safe. Our state’s role as an energy producer and leader was underscored earlier this year by our ascension to the second-largest oil producer in the United States while remaining the eighth-largest producer of natural gas.

Senate “buddymandering” meltdown

The New Mexico state senate approved a map last night for how its own districts will look for the next 10 years. The vote came after days of hurry up and wait, as lawmakers negotiated behind closed doors in an untransparent process. I’d give senators an “F” on two counts: they didn’t do their work in public, and they focused way too much on preserving seats for incumbent lawmakers. More on this in a moment. 

Many are calling what happened last night on the Senate floor a debate. I’d call it a meltdown.

New Mexico In Depth renews partnership with ProPublica

ProPublica has selected New Mexico In Depth as part of its Local Reporting Network for the second time in as many years, a huge distinction. 

You might remember New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica teamed up in 2020 and 2021 to work with reporter Bryant Furlow as COVID marched across the globe.The year-and-a-half partnership proved extremely impactul, with Bryant’s stories:• Forcing one of New Mexico’s largest hospitals to stop automatically testing and segregating Native American pregnant women after we exposed the practice, which was based on whether women lived in Native communities. We discovered the hospital’s practice through rigorous and lengthy relationship building with clinicians within the hospital. 

• Documenting that New Mexico provides almost no oversight of the care provided by neonatal intensive care units even though the tiniest, most premature babies died at up to twice the rate at one of the state’s largest hospitals compared to the rate at another major maternity and newborn facility only a few miles away in Albuquerque; and despite 31 states having laws or rules requiring oversight of neonatal intensive care hospitals.• Showing how the nursing home industry fought to water down safety requirements in the years before COVID stormed across the globe, leaving them and the clients facilities cared for vulnerable to the devastating virus. 

Bryant is known for reporting that leads to change. 

His reporting has exposed off-label sedation of jail inmates with prescription drug cocktails, embezzlements, and lax oversight by the state’s insurance regulators — reporting that prompted new state legislation on insurance rate-setting transparency. 

With New Mexico In Depth over the years, he was the first reporter to challenge the state’s decision to cut off Medicaid funding to behavioral health providers through rigorous, thorough reporting. 

He’s authored hundreds of health care and medical research news stories for medical journals, including The Lancet journals’ news desks, where his recent reporting has spotlighted neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, vaping injuries, the seizure by the US Border Patrol of children’s medications and volunteer health care efforts at migrant shelters along the U.S./Mexico border. Since 2008, New York-based ProPublica has become known for rigorous and thoughtful journalism, winning six Pulitzers, five Peabody Awards, nine George Polk Awards, two DuPont Columbia Awards and four Emmy Awards.  

Our partnership with ProPublica, which begins in January, is part of New Mexico In Depth’s core mission: to collaborate with national and local news organizations to bring resources, new skills, and more journalism to New Mexico communities, where investigative reporting is in short supply. 

We look forward to continuing to strengthen our capacity for investigative reporting in years to come. 

NM COVID surge spurs emergency public health meeting

At a normal meeting Friday between state health officials and representatives of local and tribal health councils, a hastily changed agenda signaled the urgency of the worsening COVID situation in New Mexico. More than 100 people across the state attended Friday afternoon’s ZOOM call. Despite nearly 74% of New Mexico adults being fully vaccinated, which is relatively high, New Mexico appears headed toward another crisis stage of COVID. The rolling 7-day average of COVID cases in New Mexico apexed a year ago and waned during spring and summer of 2021, as seen in the image below. But the cases have crept upward since August and now seem to be hitting worrying levels.

New Mexico In Depth wins state awards

New Mexico In Depth won awards competing against New Mexico’s largest newspapers this weekend at the annual New Mexico Press Association contest, earning top honors for education writing and second place in investigative reporting. In the education category, Shaun Griswold and Trip Jennings’s award-winning story drew upon government reports, court documents and data — as well as interviews with teachers in rural school districts serving mostly Indigenous students — to chronicle the devastation wrought by the pandemic.COVID-19 hit New Mexico, which perennially ranks low nationally in education outcomes, as the state had begun to beef up public schools spending to address historical inequities identified in a landmark 2018 court ruling. That year, a state judge found New Mexico had violated its own Constitution for not adequately supporting education for at-risk students for decades. Three of every four public school students in New Mexico are considered at-risk.The pandemic turned back the clock on that hard-won progress.As our reporting showed, one of every 10 students enrolled in public education statewide was referred to a state-sponsored coaching program, many for being disengaged, regularly missing classes, or in danger of failing one or more classes. And according to surveys, nearly half of families with children in kindergarten through fifth grades reported struggling with a computer for learning and one of every five students in sixth through 12th grades reported having to take care of younger siblings.

Trying to understand fear of critical race theory and diversity programs

I’ve been watching school board races across the country — in places like Southlake, Texas and Guilford, Conn. — because of the debate over  “critical race theory” and growing opposition to diversity and equity programs.

These are mostly white, affluent communities near big cities. Imagine my surprise this week to discover the debate is happening in my town, too. Patrick Brenner, a vice president of development for the Rio Grande Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank in New Mexico, is running for the school board in Rio Rancho, New Mexico’s third-largest city composed mostly of Anglos and Hispanics. According to Brenner’s personal blog, he believes the district’s teachers are being trained in critical race theory, which will result in “All white people” feeling guilty “for being white,” including his 8-year-old daughter.