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By Senator Pete Campos
As a younger man, I used to view this time of year with great hope. As leaves start to fall, days get shorter and nights colder, and it's time to plan for new opportunities. As an educator, I learned to see the promise that late September holds — classrooms full of new faces beginning to grasp new lessons and concepts. As a state senator, I view this time of year through hopeful eyes — elections will soon give way to new faces and a chance to make good on the promise that we as elected officials make to the people — that their values will be reflected through our actions and that their voices will be projected through us.
This year, that hope is especially bright, as we find ourselves with multiple opportunities to come together and shape New Mexico's future in a way that hasn't been possible in a decade. New members of the legislature, a new governor and, yes, over $1 billion in new, nonrecurring money mean that we have an opportunity to address some of our most pressing challenges in creative new ways, all with the goal of improving life for all New Mexicans. How we navigate these decisions and spend taxpayer dollars will define us, both as policymakers and as a state, for years to come.
By: Rep. David Adkins / Albuquerque Republican
Recently, Albuquerque reached a regrettable milestone when officers recorded the 50th homicide of the year. In three years, the number of homicides in our city has more than doubled, going from 30 homicides in 2014 to a record 75 homicides in 2017. Now we are on pace to surpass last year’s record total.
The situation around the state is hardly better. Earlier this summer, New Mexico made headlines when sheriff’s deputies raided a Taos compound and arrested five adults after discovering 11 malnourished children living in squalor, a cache of weapons, and the dead body of one child who had been reported kidnapped in Georgia. People across the country were outraged when the state’s justice system botched the cases. Federal authorities eventually had to intervene.
New Mexico is quickly earning a reputation for being the crime capital of the country. Albuquerque leads the nation in auto thefts, and New Mexico has been named the worst state for property crimes. The Taos case has made our judicial system a laughing stock to observers throughout the world.
Meanwhile, some residents have decided they have had enough and are leaving our state to create new lives for themselves and their families elsewhere. Those of us who remain can only wonder how this has happened to the beautiful state we love.
There are many reasons for the state’s exploding crime rates. One undeniable fact is that some criminals have decided to make a business of crime in our state. So far, business for them has been very, very good.
Consider a study released by the Albuquerque Innovation Team (ABQ i-team) last year. According to its review of arrest records, 72 percent of felony arrestees had been through the criminal justice system before, and over 500 of these arrestees had been detained for other felony offenses during the seven previous years. The study showed that 35 percent of the criminals arrested on felony charges had five or more prior arrests. The ABQ i-team determined that 4.4 percent of arrestees were responsible for 36 percent of all felony arrests in seven years leading up to the report.
Law enforcement officials have long warned that the “catch-and-release” judicial approach only encourages criminals to continue their way of life. Sometimes, violent offenders are back on the street after only spending a day or two in jail. For these individuals, the rewards gained from their criminal activity far outweigh the risks of being caught and prosecuted. Many offenders in our state have learned this simple lesson: crime pays in New Mexico.
For the past few years I have worked with a group of lawmakers to change this reality and make New Mexico a less friendly place for criminals. Together, we sponsored bills designed to impose real consequences on the small group of criminals who are committing most of the crimes.
These measures, such as the “three-strikes” bill that would expand the list of felony crimes making a violent repeat offender eligible for a life sentence, have often been met with disdain by our Democrat colleagues. We were accused of having an “all-crime, all-the-time” agenda, and Democrat leaders in the Senate refused to even give some of our bills a hearing.
We made some progress during this past session. The bipartisan crime package passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year will help. I was especially pleased that my proposal to give retention bonuses to New Mexico’s law enforcement officers is now law. But we need to do more.
Although New Mexico is making some headway in reversing a few crime trends in our state, too many violent crimes are still being committed. We’ll never be able to secure real peace until we get serious about enforcing consequences for the minority of criminals responsible for the majority of violent crime in New Mexico.
By John Block Friday, September 14, 2018
As New Mexicans, we have many choices for the people who will lead our state forward, even in this age of political chaos.
I am proud to say I always have been, and always will be, a proud New Mexican. My family has been here for centuries, many of them making a difference in state politics, such as my grandfather, former Democratic Corporation Commissioner Johnny Block.
By Rep. Kelly Fajardo (R-District 7)
Antonio Gurule was a beautiful two-year-old boy who was thriving in foster care. His foster parents, who had tended to him since he was two months old, welcomed him into their family and tried to adopt him.
They were not successful. Three months ago, Antonio was returned to the custody of his biological mother. On September 3, he was found unresponsive in his crib with blood coming from his nose and a half-dollar sized lump on his head. The Office of the Medical Investigator determined he had died the night before.
Straight-party voting is bad move for state
ABQ Journal, Guest Column
By Brad Winter / Former NM Secretary Of State
Sunday, September 9, 2018
Someone told me recently that I was the least-political politician they had ever met, and I took that as a great compliment – mostly because I don’t consider myself to be a politician, even though I have served the public for years. As you know, I rarely weigh in on the opinion pages about issues. But I’m putting aside some of my nonpolitician ways to say something that I believe is extremely important for the people of New Mexico: The move by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to allow straight-ticket voting is not right and violates the sacred nature of the Secretary of State’s Office.
No, It’s Your Money
By State Auditor Wayne Johnson
“We honestly believe this is our money.” Seven words spoken by Representative Jim Trujillo to the Albuquerque Journal eloquently – if unintentionally – illustrate a shocking lack of understanding of public money and the absolute necessity for an independent NM State Auditor.
Trujillo chairs the North Central NM Economic Development District (NCNMEDD) and was explaining why a recent audit showed thousands of public dollars used for expensive parties and employee bonuses when the state faced serious budget cuts.
By Sarah Austin, Carrot Express Transit Manager
Public transit is an essential offering in our communities, creating independence for those without other means of transportation. Students, those with disabilities, and those without a personal vehicle all benefit from having a public transit system.
In Grants and Milan, community members from all walks of life rely daily upon transit. Children of working parents—including my own children—utilize the system to attend after-school events, summer events, visit the public library, go swimming, and to attend any type of event that would otherwise be impossible to get to with their parents’ work schedules. Additionally, our riders use transit to go to the doctor, dialysis, shopping, library, food pantries, and to run errands, among other things.
September 1, 2018
This past week, with less than 75 days to go before the November election, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver used her office to change the way people can vote in New Mexico. It’s called “straight-ticket voting."
Basically, instead of voting for the person running, you are placing a vote for the party. So, if you vote “Republican Ticket,” every Republican in each of the races gets your vote. If you vote “Democrat Ticket,” each Democrat in every race receives your vote. And this goes on for each of the parties identified by the Secretary of State’s office.
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