Beyond the Big City--Three years ago, New York City native Gideon Elliot found himself living in rural New Mexico. There might be days when he wakes up wondering what the hell he’s gotten himself into, but I, for one, am glad he’s here. His website, New Mexico Matters (newmexicomatters.
Even if I resisted criticizing the Albuquerque Journal (but c’mon--putting the Foley story, the day after it broke, onto the very last page of the A section?), it would be fair to say that New Mexico’s biggest newspaper neglects most of the state. If I want to know what’s happening in, say, Portales, Silver City or Farmington, I have to troll through a host of websites. Sure, more often than not, local papers in some of the state's smaller towns are full of puff pieces such as those about the healing power of laughter and “Make a Difference Day” in Eddy County. But those newspapers often contain sleeper stories that can have huge implications. For instance, none of the big papers would have known that the oil and gas industry was sending teachers to summer workshops and paying them a $500 stipend--but only after they submitted new industry-friendly lesson plans--unless they’d read the feel-good piece in the Artesia Daily Press.
Anyway, now that I’ve discovered New Mexico Matters, I can choose not to read all those little papers every day and still know what’s going on beyond Bernalillo County.
The 27-year-old Elliot is undoubtedly a political wonk. He’s probably one of 10 people in the state who hasn’t forgotten about the Qwest scandal (and why rural and poor customers still don’t have decent Internet service), and he’s still in a rage over the fact that during the 2004 election, Bernalillo County election officials disqualified more than 6,000 provisional ballots. Hundreds of them were rejected because they lacked middle initials, he says, and “90 percent of them came from Hispanic, low-income precincts.” That incident is actually what prompted Elliot to start New Mexico Matters. That was, he says, just one of the issues ignored by the mainstream press.
He’s also obsessed with why New Mexico’s lawmakers do so little to help New Mexicans--for every state legislator, he points out, there are seven lobbyists. And he can explain in two sentences why New Mexico will always suffer political corruption: “It’s a diverse state, but where we live in our communities are pretty homogenous,” he says. “People don’t look to see what’s happening elsewhere, and they get exploited that way.”
Don't be exploited. Check out his site.