How’s this for big news, Alibi news section readers: By the time you pick up this first issue of the year 2019, New Mexico will have a Democratic governor, her mostly Democratic administration and a Legislature full of real donkeys as well as their pale, conservative imitations running the Land of Enchantment.
That’s pretty dang exciting for our progressive editorial staff as well as just about everyone else in the state who has grown weary for real progress while under the direction of one Susana Martinez, a governor who will, in perpetuity, be referred to as La Tejana, as the cheese-laden source of a thing called Pizzagate.
Well, before the snow stops falling and circumstances get heated up here, there and everywhere in New Mexico—before the latest generation of progressive lawmakers even contemplates climbing aboard the Rail Runner for Santa—let’s take a look at some of the new forces binding and building back our wonderful state.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, as you may recall, was elected on a platform and promises directly related to what George H.W. Bush called “The vision thing.” Though 41 didn’t have it—and the Martinez’ vision was encumbered by a number of factors, including her attachment to the wrong-headed policy initiatives of a Republican party driven by Jay McCleskey—Grisham has what it takes to take New Mexico to the next level.
In case you’re unclear about what that vision entails, here’s a brief, Alibi-ized rundown of what the candidate Grisham hopes her elected official dopplegänger and contingent of new cabinet secretaries have in store for our citizens. And though their plans are well-developed and will bifurcate in many directions as we all work to build sustainability into our homes, jobs and the surrounding environment, we believe there are three essential posts bearing the weight of the lintel of progress here.
• Economic development is at the core of Lujan Grisham’s plan for bringing a successful future to the land of mañana. As one of her last acts as a member of the US House of Representatives, the new governor supported passage of the Farm Bill, which included funding for a broadband grant program—modeled on separate federal legislation drafted by our new governor—that she says will, “help transform the economies of rural New Mexico … Expanding broadband access will grow New Mexico’s economy, create jobs boost wages, improve health outcomes, support small business growth, help our students learn, increase crop yields and so much more.” Way to keep your eyes on the prize, Madam Governor, even before your term at home begins!
• The implementation of clean energy models and the economic growth such new methods will yield is also a cornerstone of Lujan Grisham’s plan. Eventually, Lujan Grisham sees New Mexico as a leader in renewable resources, capable of profiting from exports of that sunny and windy produce to places like California. But let’s face facts: Moving from oil and natural gas—whose industries drive the state during the boom and bust economic cycle such volatile commodities engender—is going to take some doing, as well as some strong legislative and cabinet level moves. Recall that the huge budget surplus that legislators will face when they dock in the capital city two weeks hence happened because of oil and gas production in the northwest and southeast corners of New Mexico. To her credit, Lujan Grisham already sees this writing on the wall, telling centrist political siteThe Hill a fortnight ago, “If there was ever a state that could export renewable energy, it’s us.”
• Of course the success of the first two of these sea changes to New Mexico’s way of doing things is contingent upon the third pillar, education. It’s easy to observe the aftereffects of an education system that went off the tracks during the Martinez administration. Lujan Grisham proposes rebuilding the system from the bottom up by making pre-K education a priority. Under her aegis, the state would spend $285 million during a five year period to grow such programs. Of those funds, $175 million would come from the state’s permanent fund; the remaining money would come from income streams that might include taxes on e-cigarettes and methane mitigation. We also heartily suggest looking into profits derived from legal recreational cannabis to bring such educational cornerstones into a sustainable reality for our state’s young ones.
As Lujan Grisham prepares for her tenure with several cabinet, administrative and college regent positions up for grabs, it’s clear to see a progressive wave building, headed for the long-placid, even complacent roundhouse. Among Lujan Grisham’s notable picks—all of which must still be confirmed by the Senate during the legislative session that begins on Jan. 15:
• Former director of the N.M. Board of Finance and current member of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s budget team Olivia Padilla Jacksonwas named to be the director of Finance and Administration.
• Dr. David Scrasehas been called upon to head the Department of Human Services, one of La Tejana’s favorite targets. With a background at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in the field of geriatrics, Scrase will be indespensible as the state looks into state-funded insurance programs like Medicaid as well as mental and behavioral health services.
• Sustainable energy sources, methane emissions from the natural gas industry and the stewarding of our state’s natural resources in general will be the job of newly named Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary, Sarah Cotrell Propst. Propst works with the progressive Interwest Energy Alliance and was an environmental advisor to the last donkey in the governor’s chair, Bill Richardson.
• Former state representative Bill McCamley (D-Las Cruces) will take charge at the Department of Workforce Solutions. Previously McCamley has been a proponent of legal cannabis. As the newly appointed secretary of a state agency the Santa Fe New Mexicanreported “has struggled with various problems in recent years … including questionable financial management,” the appointee plans an overhaul. That remodel job includes producing new jobs via apprenticeships, an ideas whose time has come, according to McCamley, who told KVIA-TV news, “ There’s a lot of states around the country that are doing apprenticeship programs that are a lot more advanced than we have here in New Mexico. We’re going to be looking at doing better in that regard so that people who want to get a two year degree or a certificate can do so easily and get paid for it, and then go out and get a good job.”
• At the Department of Aging and Long-Term Services—a state organization tasked with taking proper care of our state’s elders, which was found to be understaffed and in possession of substandard facilities by investigative reporters—a lawyer from Disability Rights New Mexico, Alice Liu McCoy, will take the reins. McCoy told media outlets that her priority as a cabinet secretary her prime job will be one of advocacy for our state’s most vulnerable citizens.
• The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will now be headed by Jackie White who is currently a captain in the Albuquerque Fire Department. White will be tasked with planning for and resolving emergency responses for the state. As the manager for emergency responses at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Lujan Grisham clearly believes in the new secretary’s practical experience safely managing citizens and big-population events.
• ABQ Film Office head Alicia Keyes will now head the Department of Economic Development.
• Ken Ortiz, a former director of the MVD, will be in charge of the General Services Department.
• Marguerite Salazar has been chosen to be the new Superintendent of Regulation and Licensing; he currently holds a similar position in Colorado.
The next thing you ought to know is this: We’re going to press a bit early this week, so as to ensure a happy New Year’s holiday for our estimable staff. That being the case, here are the latest Lujan Grisham cabinet appointees. They came down the pike on Wednesday afternoon—Boxing Day is Dec. 26 by the way—and our new gov. hopes to have all 26 cabinet secretaries in place when she is sworn in as New Mexico’s 32nd governor on Jan. 1, 2019.
• Debra Garcia y Griego: Department of Cultural Affairs
• Vincent Martinez: Department of Information Technology
• Kate O’Neill: Higher Education Department
• Michael Sandoval: Department of Transportation
Stay tuned to Weekly Alibi’s award-winning news section for essential news about la politica in Albuquerque, the state of New Mexico and our great nation, a republic called the USA.