Return of the Balloon Fiesta

Pictures and Story by

Salvador Zambrano

Staff Reporter/Graphic Designer

2020 was the year COVID-19 began. During the year lots of events were canceled to protect people from outbreaks of the virus. One event affected was The famous Balloon Fiesta. After taking the year off Balloon Fiesta made it’s return for the 2021 season.

Balloon fiesta park was filled with many spectators waiting to see the many balloons take off into the sky. This year 866,414 guests made their way to the park during the 9 day period.

The Balloon fiesta picked up right where it left off with a total of 588 balloons making an appearance this year. 671 pilots also made the trip from around the world for this years event. The Albuquerque community seemed full of life after the return of the Balloon Fiesta.

Duggan’s Refill

Story and Media by

Mark Graven

Staff Reporter

Continuation of Duggan’s Coffee

Kevin Scanlan, says that, at the suggestion of his wife, and co-owner of Duggan’s Coffee Shop, Mary Scanlan, they gave their coffee shop a newspaper theme, which shows up most certainly on the menu, with sandwiches with names like “The Editor, “or “The Publisher.”  
Mary, who is head of Facilities Management at CNM, was an admirer of Kevin’s father, who was a newspaper publisher in the Midwest, and whose nickname was Duggan.

Kevin says one of the main purposes of the shop has been to encourage folks to read the newspapers–not just settle for the internet– and then exchange ideas, on whatever topic, in a civil manner.  
In its nearly seven years of existence Duggan’s has been a place where CNM presidents, deans, administrators, faculty, and students could meet, and talk over the news of the day. 
It has also been a popular place for UNM athletes and scholars to congregate.  So that you might easily someone from the women’s track team and someone working on their Master’s thesis at the same sitting.
In today’s edition, we give you a refill from the coffee pot of Kevin’s ideas, including his thoughts on the future of Duggan’s.

The Elections and CNM: What a Vote for Bond D Means

bond.png 

Audrey Callaway Scherer/Chronicle photo

Students stroll past the L Building on CNM’s Main Campus on Nov. 5, the day before Election Day in N.M. A sign on the building advocates for passing Bond D, which would raise $7.5 million in projects for CNM, if approved.

 

Eighth in an occasional series

The Chronicle has been running a series of articles on the Nov. 6 elections and how they might affect CNM. This package is about Bond Question D, authorizing $136.2 million in general obligation bonds for higher education, special schools, and tribal schools across New Mexico. Of that, $7.5 million would be set aside for projects at CNM. The Chronicle offered Marvin Martinez, executive director of the CNM Physical Plant Department, an opportunity to discuss the bond and its impact on CNM, if passed. 

 

By Staci Bostic-Baros

Chronicle reporter

As voters work their way through their ballots Nov. 6, they will see a full page of bonds up for consideration. Higher Education Bond D has the potential to create some exciting changes for CNM, said Marvin Martinez, executive director of the CNM Physical Plant Department.

“The GO Bond D for Higher Education has funded many capital improvement projects at CNM and higher education institutions across the state,” Martinez said. “Bond D is extremely important in helping CNM keep its facilities and infrastructure up to date, as well as providing high-quality learning environments for our students.

Voting yes on Bond D does not increase taxes, and these funds, allocated in years past, have fueled many student-centered projects across CNM campuses.

Martinez said recent improvements at CNM funded by general-obligation bonds include the recently completed J Building Renovation on Montoya Campus, and the building now called Richard R. Barr Hall.

Richard R Barr Hall includes a new library, tutoring center, computer labs and dental assistant and cosmetology programs, he said. The Science Lab, in L Building on Main Campus, includes new state-of-the-art biology and chemistry labs, as well as modernized classrooms.

The Westside Phase I Building includes a library, tutoring center, earth and planetary science lab, computer lab, art studio, bookstore and a café. The JS Building on Main Campus houses various high-tech labs and classrooms for CNM’s health care programs, from nursing to respiratory therapy.

The current renovation of Max Salazar Hall on Main Campus, once completed, will have 118,000 square-feet of space, a 25,000 square-foot increase over the current building that will allow for more spacious classrooms, he said. Max Salazar will house 53 classrooms, three computer labs and several “agility spaces” where students can study or relax.

The Rio Rancho Campus building will house classrooms for various general education courses, facilities and labs for the Nursing program, he said.     

If the bond passes, Martinez said, CNM would use the funding to relocate and improve facilities for the Art Department on Main Campus. Art Department facilities on Main Campus are currently located in the N Building, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2020.

If the bond does pass, CNM will relocate the facilities to Max Salazar Hall and Ken Chappy Hall. CNM will create an art display area for art students in MS. In KC, CNM would create three to four art studios, a new kiln room and some art supply storage space.

“These upgrades will be great for our art students and our art program,” Martinez said.

“In New Mexico, art is a major economic driver, and we feel this is a great opportunity to support our art students and the art community in New Mexico.”

Other projects this year’s approval of Bond D funds would enable renovation of some of CNM’s aging infrastructure, including re-roofing several buildings that are in need and replacement of several HVAC systems that are outdated with more energy efficient and environmentally friendly HVAC systems.

Bond money would be used to upgrade parking lot lighting, too. CNM would begin installing LED lighting in our parking lots. LED lighting would be brighter than the current lighting, and the light would be dispersed better to cover more area, making the lots safer. LED lighting is also more energy efficient.

“We encourage all CNM students to exercise your right to vote in the General Election, and all upcoming elections. Please make your voice heard and participate in our democracy,” Martinez said. “In terms of Bond D, it’s the primary source of funding for capital improvements that allow higher education institutions to make much-needed renovations to aging facilities and to upgrade technology infrastructure. These important projects help ensure that students have access to the high-quality learning environments they need to succeed in their chosen fields.”

A Look at the Elections and After: CNM’s Anip Uppal

By Audrey Callaway Scherer

Chronicle reporter

In a political environment with an undertone of economic anxiety and identity politics, CNM political science Instructor Anip Uppal wonders if constituents, particularly the bases of each party, will push elected representatives to work across the aisle to pass consequential bills.

One of the silver linings of the past two or three years is that more people are energized and paying attention to politics – yes, it could be partisan, but you want more people in a democracy participating, he said.

They are not just paying attention to the federal level but also state and local levels and are voting not just for the top of the ticket but also the rest of the races and ballot provisions. They may be running for office themselves, participating in campaigns, or at least paying attention to who they would prefer to see in what capacity across all levels of politics, he said.

“And there’s nothing wrong with being a partisan, so in this case, I think that was the silver lining. That more people are energized, more people are mobilized, more people are participating,” he said.

The problem with campaigns today is that candidates don’t run on policy or their own track records, they run on the other person’s track record or lack thereof, he said.

“So then, you’re moving into this particular direction in politics but you would hope, certainly at least on paper for the sake of democracy, that the two entities would actually work together in a bipartisan way,” he said.

Both parties tend to blame the other. As opposed to running negative ads about their opponents, they should work to pass sizeable important bills based on policies and run on that track record in a positive way, he said.

Negative ads have been gaining political traction and more attention because of people being more charged up, but it’s also because the ads work, he said. People tend to remember negatives of personnel, especially of a president or representative, as opposed to the positives and what a person accomplished.

“If you look at the language, and the degree of which it is used in today’s ads, it is just … it’s very, very extreme in nature,” he said.

It makes sense for Republicans to run negative ads because they are finding it difficult to run on their accomplishments, he said. Barring the mainly corporate tax breaks, quasi-repeal of Obamacare and the Supreme Court appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, people would expect more from them being a party that controls the House, the Senate, and the White House.

For the Democrats, it makes complete sense, because they don’t control anything, he said. They run negative ads to point out that Republicans were put into office and have a lack of accomplishments. Based upon that, give them a chance again. He said the filibuster is on a slippery slope, and more so it is dying in a very gradual way. It’s being watered down extensively.

In this heightened political environment, he thinks more and more people are choosing far left or far right candidates, but that there is still plenty of space.

“The question also is, honestly, will the base of each party push the elected representatives to work across the aisle?” he said.

Data suggest that the people in office reflect what the constituents and electorate want. If the electorate is putting into office hard-core right and left of the spectrum representatives because they don’t want the elected representatives to cross party lines and work with the other party, then the likelihood of getting anything accomplished is remote and the only entity that loses is us, the people, he said.

The likelihood of important bills being passed is also low in a divided Congress.

“Not impossible, because both will have to also take into account that they cannot be simply an entity that does not get anything done,” he said.

He said that recent Congresses have included the worst performing in U.S. history in terms of passing bills that have consequence.

The Republicans passed roughly 70 bills only to repeal Obamacare that passed the House but not the Senate, despite that they controlled both chambers, he said. A watered-down version did eventually pass each House, negating the filibuster in the Senate – hence, the quasi-repeal, but not the one promised on the 2016 campaign trails. He noted that the initial rebut was courtesy of the late Sen. Jon McCain.

It’s difficult to state that the parties would work together more often than not – he thinks they would work together, but not as much as we would hope for as a citizenry, as constituents.

In order to go beyond party lines and pass substantial bills, the people will have to vote for centrist candidates, he said.

In choosing a centrist candidate, one should look at the track record of an individual, in the respect of party lines, and then believe that based upon their track record, the individual has the capacity and capability to cross party lines, he said.

The Senate has always attracted centrist candidates, even historically, as opposed to the House and particularly contemporary House.

He used Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, two center-left incumbent senators, as examples to prove that if they win their seats again, people are still voting for centrist candidates and in general still believe that center, center-left or center-right candidates are important for the art of compromise and that there is plenty of space for them to perform, especially in the Senate, he said.

“In that case, that would be a second silver lining that people are still crossing party lines and supporting these so-called centrist candidates,” he said.

His initial prediction is that the number of votes cast for the midterm will be higher compared to the average, and recent data show early voting is increasing across the country. Georgia and Texas are beating their old records.

“You see a lot of enthusiasm coming out of people lining up for hours to vote before election day,” he said. “So enthusiasm is definitely increasing, mobilization is increasing.”

It’s good that more people are voting, and he thinks there is plenty of motivation from both sides to vote.

“I think there’s plenty at stake,” not only with the midterm, “but also in 2020,” he said.

Historically, the majority of people who tend to vote early and absentee vote democratic.

Although there is more mobilization of people intending to vote within the Democratic ranks than the Republican ranks, it is pretty energetic from both sides. A couple months before the election, Democrats had about a 10 percent lead, which he said had closed to about 4 percent within a couple weeks of election day.

The discarding of early and absentee votes is happening now to some extent and will have effects primarily in Democratic circles, he said. He noted that in North Dakota, some initial ballots were being thrown out because of technicalities. A Georgia federal court just ruled that people whose ballots are being thrown out must be informed before election day so that they have the time to recast their ballot, he said.

The problem with provisional ballots is that you may cast them, but you then only have a few days based on state law by which you must prove your identity or eligibility to vote, and this is often not enough time for people to do so. In these cases, in essence, their votes have not been counted, he said.

“Which obviously goes against the fabric of one person equaling one vote,” he said.

It’s still very important to pay attention to state and local politics, because although they don’t have as much traction as presidential or Congressional elections in terms of getting people excited, they have a huge impact, he said. This is especially true with state attorney generals becoming more partisan and with legislatures having the right to gerrymander.

“People tend to pay more attention to what’s happening on the federal level, even though what happens in Santa Fe and Albuquerque has a bigger impact on them,” he said.

The media to a large extent contributes to the focus on national interest because it is simpler to talk about Congress as a whole and the president, as opposed to 50 different state legislatures.

If people want local and state political news, they should subscribe to local newspapers and stations. Sites we look at, such as Google and Facebook, are plucking the stories from somewhere, and if local outlets go out of business because they don’t have enough subscribers, those stories won’t be plucked because fewer people will be writing them, he said. Less of that feed will find its way to social media platforms. Although some of these platforms may have people who fact-check, they don’t have journalists who do original reporting.

“I think it’s obviously an important election, to say the least,” he said.

There are only two examples in modern day presidential and congressional history in which a president comes into office and his party actually gains seats in the House two years later in the midterm elections – Clinton and the Democrats in 1998, and Bush and the Republicans in 2002, he said. Mostly the opposite is true: He noted Clinton and 1994, Bush and 2006, and Obama and both 2010 and 2012.

Taking this into account, the momentum is definitely on the side of the Democrats.

However, if you look at the demographics of who come out to vote in the midterm elections, they’re primarily older, rural and Caucasian, and in that case, they tend to support the Republicans more than the Democrats.

He thinks that it is vital for the Democrats to energize their millennials and ages 35 to 55 to turn up in voter droves, otherwise it will be difficult for Democrats to have a sizeable majority in the House.

It is difficult to predict what will happen with the Independent voters, because looking at the history of midterms compared to the presidential election, it is usually more so about driving the base because the bases give each party a better chance at winning a house or both houses.

From the international perspective, he doesn’t think there will be a lot of change, because the likelihood of the Republicans or the Democrats controlling both houses is small. It will likely be a split Congress, whereby the Republicans control one house and the Democrats control the other, he said. Based upon polls, which have been wrong, it seems the Democrats will take control of the House, but not the Senate.

Even if the Democrats controlled both post November 6th, there would likely be plenty of vetoing because of Trump being in office through 2020 – just as Bush vetoed from 2006 to 2008, he said.

From the domestic perspective, he said the midterms are pretty much a referendum on Nancy Pelosi and Trump, even though Trump is not on the ballot and Pelosi is likely to win her reelection. Republicans say that if you don’t want Pelosi in that capacity or believe Trump is doing a good job, vote Republican. Democrats say if you are unhappy with Trump and 2016, vote Democrat. He added that Trump has said plenty of times that a vote for the Republican Party is not a vote for Republicans, but for him.

“The problem is that the parties in particular are not talking about policy to that extent,” he said.

According to polls, education is the most important rationale for Millennials voting one way or another, and for most other people it is primarily health care, he said.

In terms of New Mexico’s races, the results aren’t likely to have much impact nationally because not much would change in the House. Districts 1 and 3 are likely to go blue, although 2 is interesting, because it would be a change and is presently a toss-up, he said. He referenced the Web sites fivethirtyeight.com and nmpoliticalreport.com.

 In the case of New Mexico’s gubernatorial election, it is being contested in a big way. It is possible that the Democrats take control of the governor’s seat away from the Republicans. He noted that Grisham said that if she becomes the governor, she would legalize recreational marijuana, which would allow New Mexico to have national impact as it continued the trend of legalizing recreational marijuana across the country.

It is too early to predict what will happen in the election of 2020, and to simply say that one person is the front-runner means nothing because plenty will change in the next couple of years, he said.

Although history basically suggests there are very few one-term presidents, giving Trump a good shot at being reelected, we have no idea what is going to come out of the Mueller investigation, how the economy will fare in the next two years, or how immigration will play in the next couple of years. We also don’t know if another Republican or a slate of Republicans will challenge him in the primary, although we do know that the Democratic contingent is likely to be very broad – a reverse of 2012, when Obama was unopposed, but a number of Republicans ran against him.

“So I think it’s too early to predict, even though the media, I’m pretty sure, Nov. 7 will start predicting,” he said.

He listed other elections that he said showcase that populism is on the rise around the world – Duterte in the Philippines, Modi in India, Erdoğan in Turkey, Orban in Hungary, Brexit, Trump and the U.S., and Bolsonaro in Brazil. All are populist leaders, he said.

“I wouldn’t say nationalism yet, but populism definitely is on the rise across the world,” he said.

Particularly in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro won the recent presidential runoff election with 55 percent over Fernando Haddad’s 45 percent. Bolsonaro believed that the military who controlled the country for a very long time did not kill enough people, he said. He is an openly homophobic individual and positioned himself as Brazil’s Trump.

 “I think it’s economic uncertainty, economic anxiety that is fed by immigration, lack of jobs, lack of opportunities, lack of good paying jobs,” he said. Opportunities are not just being taken by the export of jobs, but also from automation, mechanization and artificial intelligence.

In addition to economic anxiety, the rise in populism has a lot to do with race and ethnic politics – identity politics. Its undertone, along with that of gender in the case of 2016 America, has a lot to do with populism’s rise in the U.S., he said.

“I think it’s difficult to prove and disprove because, let’s be honest, people are going to lie to a pollster, but you cannot ever take that out of the equation,” he said.

How do you basically play identity politics? he asked.

Across the world it is ethnic, he said. In the case of Brazil, it’s the difference if you are European Brazilian or African Brazilian. In the case of India, it’s religious politics. In Britain, it’s class struggle – class politics. In the E.U. today, it’s fascism and Nazism and immigration. In the case of the U.S., it is racial, ethnic, and more so after 2016, gender.

“Plenty of ways to divide and rule, right?” he said. “Even today in 2018, it somehow is working. It’s working well, actually.”

It is very important for students and people in general to vote, and people’s votes do count, he said. It’s the simplest way they can give back to the country, and it is their civic duty.

“What better way to express your opinion, either your like or your dislike … of politics,” he said.

“You, rightfully so, expect a lot of benefits given to you by the most powerful country to-date in history, but on the other side of the spectrum, you also have a lot to give back to the country,” he said. “It has to be a two-way street.”

Uppal is an instructor of the writer.

The Elections and CNM: Auditor Race

Seventh in an occasional series

The Chronicle has been interviewing candidates on their thinking about community colleges, specifically CNM, and how their ideas would translate into their jobs following the Nov. 6 general elections. This package offered candidates for New Mexico Auditor an opportunity to respond. Their responses are listed in the order of their positions on the ballot: Brian Colón, Democrat, and Wayne Johnson, Republican, the incumbent.

By Audrey Callaway Scherer

Chronicle reporter

 

Colón: How CNM Will Help

Colon

Brian Colón

Courtesy of Colón

Brian Colón wants to continue to fortify the Auditor’s Office beyond its use of subpoena power and obtaining transparency reports, by engaging the public now that they know the office exists, and he thinks that CNM’s new CFO training program will help the new auditor do better at the job as it raises the standard for financial officers, he said.

“What I think needs to happen with that office now, and I’m optimistic that this will be part of my legacy given the opportunity to serve, is that the majority of people now know that there is a state auditor, but what they don’t understand is what the state auditor does,” he said.

The job of the state auditor is to make sure that taxpayers and students aren’t being abused through misspent tax or tuition dollars, while maintaining an approach that doesn’t encompass waste, fraud, abuse, or corruption, he said. Auditors identify any of those issues and do a full investigation, and if fraud or corruption are confirmed, they work hand-in-hand with the state attorney general to continue the investigation and prosecute.

Essentially, independent public accountants who report to the auditor are looking for needles in a haystack of roughly 1,300 entities. He wants to go into communities to educate and engage taxpayers, showing them that if something doesn’t seem right, they should let the auditor know or can call the fraud hotline in the Auditor’s Office: 1-866-OSA-Fraud. This would allow his auditors to have more capacity and bandwidth to identify areas where there may be waste, fraud, abuse or potentially corruption, he said.

“Because then, you take me from a needle in the haystack with my auditors to actually saying, hey – there’s the bale of hay you need to be looking at,” he said.

In the primary and now in the general election, he has traveled to all 33 counties, and as auditor, he said he would to do it again to encourage people to talk to him with concerns or questions.

Because he is a community-minded, extroverted person who wants to increase the office’s effect and help it come into its full being, he said he thinks his personality is a good fit and that the timing is perfect.

No one really knew there was an auditor until about 12 years ago when New Mexicans elected the first attorney to the office who understood its subpoena power rather than just the financial audits, he said. This subpoena power was Hector Balderas’s legacy. Balderas served as auditor for eight years before becoming attorney general, he said.

Tim Keller, with his background in finance and public policy as a state senator, took the office to the next level. He created a fifth division called the Governmental Accountability Office, which for the first time got the office engaged in public policy conversations, and he introduced the collection of transparency reports from all 33 counties that could be presented to the Legislature and the governor if the auditor felt something should be done, he said. The best example is the rape-kit backlog – New Mexico has 5,400 on shelves in evidence labs waiting to be processed.

So, looking at the last 12 years in that office, auditors had a law background and then a finance background, and Colón said that he brings both. He added that he has been practicing law for 17 years, so he has the credentials to know what is important and not as important.

“For me, it’s a perfect alignment of an attorney general that clearly knows the value of a state Auditor’s Office and clearly understands that it should be a close working relationship,” he said. “I’m really excited about how the timing has all worked out in that regard.”

The first substantial cases of fraud and corruption were in education in northern New Mexico, he said. Most recently, Keller began an investigation of what was potentially inappropriate in the athletics department at UNM.

“I think now more than ever, we have a real understanding that with these very large institutions of higher learning – that are fee-based for students but are also highly subsidized by taxpayers – we have to always ensure that there are proper internal controls and that there is real clear oversight,” he said.

Smaller governmental entities have been bringing on less than highly qualified professionals, such as accountants and chief financial officers to manage their finances, because they don’t have robust enough budgets for experts, he said. This may not be caused by corruption or fraud but from sheer lack of bandwidth or capacity because of budget constraints.

CNM has rolled out a fantastic chief financial officer licensure program generally geared toward smaller entities that can’t afford paying $75,000 a year for an accountant, he said, and is trying to partner with the Municipal League and governmental entities to show them that it can help their financial officers meet minimum standards.

The Auditor’s Office is also trying to make sure that leadership that handles money has at least a basic understanding of financial transactions, particularly in smaller municipalities and government agencies, he said, and he thinks this is great.

When these small entities are hiring, they will be able to include people with less experience, because the certification ensures a strong understanding of financial transactions, internal controls, and security measures, so that things don’t fall through the cracks, he said.

In the next 10 to 20 years, he thinks CNM’s program will have increased the capacity of the workforce as places employ certified people who maybe don’t want to be accountants but want to get into public accounting at a level where they can be financial officers, he said.

 “There is a great CNM piece to this that I think is going to help the auditor do a better job of protecting New Mexican citizens,” he said. There is an intersection between the auditor protecting students and taxpayers and CNM helping the auditor do a better job.

The Auditor’s Office is basically the one office that should be completely independent of the Governor’s Office, he said. The governor shouldn’t be able to appoint his or her own auditor, and the Auditor’s Office should be the last target of a budget cut.

He noted that in the last four years, the Auditor’s Office went from $3.8 million to about $3.3 million and change, reducing the budget by about 15 percent. There is also a 10 percent vacancy rate. It is one of his goals to hold the governor accountable, he said.

“How are you going to protect the taxpayers without a robust auditor?” he asked. “I’ve been very public in saying that, look, I’m going to hold the next governor accountable to appropriately fund that office, because its independence is required to protect New Mexico’s taxpayers, and in order to do that, we need to be appropriately staffed,” he said.

His political philosophy for this office is that job No. 1 is fighting corruption, waste, fraud and abuse, he said, but when he does that, he must always be mindful of if his work will generate trust between the citizens of New Mexico and their government.

“If it is, I’m doing a good job, and if it isn’t, I need to figure out what I’m doing wrong. And if I make a mistake, I’ve got to own up to it, just like I did ten years ago under the hot, hot cameras,” he said.

He said that his long history has not always been positive. He was chair of the Democratic Party during a very difficult time ten years ago and ended up on international television getting fileted, he said.

“But I stood there at the podium, and I took the heat, because I think that when you’re in a public position, that’s what you have to do, and that’s what I want to bring to the Auditor’s Office,” he said.

He feels that as an elected official, one has an obligation to make oneself available, to be transparent and to answer questions. That is why he is always excited to connect with the press, he said. Philosophy-wise, transparency also means access, and both are paramount to him.

“It’s critical to rebuild a damaged relationship between citizens and their government,” he said. “They deserve better!”

He is motivated by his thought that the Auditor’s Office is perfectly positioned to rebuild the trust between the electorate and the political landscape of New Mexico.

“Because they’re fed up!” he said.

He points to a convicted felon from each party, another person convicted of driving under the influence now under investigation for using her political position for leverage, and a secretary of Taxation and Revenue having her former clients treated favorably, he said.

“We wonder why taxpayers no longer have faith in government,” he said. “As state auditor, I’d get to try and restore that faith by holding people accountable who abuse their positions of authority.”

Part of why he is pursuing this opportunity to serve New Mexicans is his story, he said.

“I always tell people that in order to decide who you want to be as leaders, they have to understand the lens they look through,” he said. The lens we look through is the one that is created by life experience and the journeys leaders have been through.

He grew up like many New Mexicans – with a journey in poverty. With two disabled parents, he used every single form of government assistance possible, he said. Once his father passed when he was a teenager, he had no blood relatives left in New Mexico.

“Being an island to myself, all I had was my parents’ dream that I’d be the first in my family to go to college,” he said. He was able to go with the help of scholarships and everyone putting together patchwork to make sure he could pursue the dream, he said. But, even when he went, it wasn’t a straight line – it took him ten years to get his bachelor’s degree. Since he was an entrepreneur at heart, he did a little bit of everything to provide for himself and make it, he said. That included couch-surfing when things were really tough.

“I tell you that to help you understand what motivates me, because I come from a place of real deep gratitude,” he said. “The community raised me. I should have fallen through the cracks, but I didn’t. And a lot of people stood and helped me.” His gratitude is why he serves on many non-profit boards and is running for office, he said.

His wife, whom he met 23 years ago, helped get him focused like a laser beam, so that he could work full-time and go to school full-time, graduate, and then go to law school, he said. Their son is now 21 and is one generation out from that poverty on a presidential scholarship studying biomedical engineering.

“I always tell my son that our story should be the story for every New Mexican family,” he said. “And what drives me, I always tell Rafael, is that deep debt of gratitude to the community that I’m never going to be able to repay fully – but I’m going to die trying.”

He wants to make sure that other people don’t fall through the cracks and are also able to break the cycle the poverty, get an education or get trained for the workforce, he said. CNM does a phenomenal job of this, he noted.

“I think everything I’ve done up to this point has put me exactly where I need to be to do a good job by the citizens of New Mexico,” he said.

 

Johnson: Transparency, Experience

John

Wayne Johnson

Courtesy of Johnson

His long track record of addressing transparency and his understanding of small governments are both part of the experience that he brings to the Auditor’s Office, where he has served since being appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez to the position in 2017, said Wayne Johnson.

The auditor is in charge of transparency for all levels of government – the Chief Transparency Officer, he said. Being an auditor is like being a reporter, because they gather facts and report them. The only difference is that the auditor can subpoena if the entity doesn’t want to give up the information. He noted that he has a background in the media and on television.

“My commitment to transparency is well established,” he said.

He has a reputation for uncovering waste, fraud and abuse, and in 2012, while serving on the Bernalillo County Commission, he wrote the toughest transparency ordinance and made it a standard model, he said.

For students, the No. 1 issue is when dollars are misappropriated for CNM – when it happens, it concerns all of us, he said.

His background and experience in government has led him to understand the challenges of small governments and most importantly how they work, he said – what they’re supposed to be doing and how to operate. He especially has experience in the transparency aspect of government and understands how relationships and written charters are supposed to work.

Even before he considered running for auditor, he has had a long track record of addressing transparency as county commissioner, he said. It’s part of his responsibility.

He said that in 2014 and 2015, the county treasurer was investing in financial instruments with significant interest risks to the point where a government equivalent of a payday loan was used for payroll. These investments may have been permissible in other instances, he said, but this person, as treasurer, had flipped the priorities to go for return over liquidity and security.

The treasurer is first supposed to make sure the money is there – security. Second is liquidity, so the money is there to pay the bills. Return is the third priority, he continued, but not as important as the other two.

He worked to dump the investments and create an internal compliance policy, he said.

He referenced a special audit his office conducted of the Village of Tijeras, in which it was found the village had made overpayments in pension reimbursements to public employees.

He said that there are a number of entities that have not been audited for compliance or financial stability, including little organizations created by other governments.

 

The Elections and CNM: Treasurer Race

Sixth in an occasional series

The Chronicle has been interviewing candidates on their thinking about community colleges, specifically CNM, and how their ideas would translate into their jobs following the Nov. 6 general elections. This package offered candidates for New Mexico Treasurer an opportunity to respond. Responses are published in the order of their positions on the ballot. Tim Eichenberg, Democrat, the incumbent, did not respond. Arthur Castillo is the Republican candidate.

 

By Audrey Callaway Scherer

Chronicle reporter

 

Castillo: Spend on Learning, not Administration

Castillo

Arthur Castillo

Courtesy of Castillo

Arthur Castillo’s concern for education is of how much taxpayer money goes to students’ learning, rather than administrative costs, which are already way too much, he said.

For decades, the mentality in New Mexico has been that it is lowest in education and highest in poverty because nobody really bothered to analyze it or look at it from a different perspective, he said.

“I’m not a politician, so I see things differently. If this stuff isn’t going for books, then I cannot go for it,” he said. “Politics and reality are two different worlds and I’m coming from reality.”

As skeptical as he is, he would want to look through everything with a fine-toothed comb to see what is done with the money and why, he said. Because he doesn’t have the complete picture, it’s hard for him to answer how the spending is done, and he has seen no analysis of it.

“I see way too much unnecessary spending in the educational system,” he said.

A lot of times, when new administrators are proposed for schools, there are associated costs, he said. Administrators don’t need increases; way too much money is already going to administration.

“There’s enough of that. How much would actually go to students?” he said. “How they’re spending that money is a big concern of mine, unless I saw what the budget is.”

Many years ago, when colleges needed to hire somebody for a program, the person would need equipment and supplies, he said. Now, we also must hire someone to pick up after them, and when they do budget cuts, they get rid of the janitors rather than fix the program.

“When a project is over, they get rid of all the support staff in the wrong direction,” he said. In his opinion, they are not looking at how to fix the system, but just using the old system and pulling more and more money out of it.

Another issue of major concern is wanting to tap into the permanent fund for education.

“It’s a real heartburn for me. It really should not be touched, but they’re using education to get into it,” he said.

He noted that when he thinks about all the brand-new facilities being built, he wonders who they are going to house.

When opening a paint can, he said, one cannot open it from the same point or one will damage the can. One must go around and work from one point to the next.

“Education is important, and the system is broken,” he said. “If you’re going to throw money into a broken system, it won’t do the students any good, and that’s the most important – the students and the faculty.”

            When he was teaching in New Mexico as a long-term substitute for two-and-a-half years, he said he was told to pass a student who came to school maybe once a week, never turned in any homework, and miserably failed the test at the end of the grading period. He said the school wanted the student’s grade changed, because if he did not pass, it would not meet its quota.

He said no, he would not change this student’s grade.

When people look at schools and their great teachers, they must also look at the demographics, he said. When the students do badly, it reflects on the teachers, but a lot of students don’t speak English or have the support to succeed by themselves, and it is impossible for teachers to tutor students when they have 20 to 25 students per class.

            “It’s not equal and it’s never been that way,” he said. Some of the schools had better curriculums and everything was better, and because of the environment in others there was not enough support to pass the students, he said.

            On the other hand, when he was teaching, they gave more tests than he could remember himself taking when he was in school, and because of this, teachers are teaching how to pass the test rather than educating the students, he said.

            “When kids are not getting educated and are being taught to pass the test, that disturbs me,” he said. “I’ve been a politician since January, but I can’t give a politically correct answer.”

He was not endorsed by the National Education Association, probably because he is a loose cannon, he said.

He is not pleasing to the Legislature, because they don’t want to hear what he has to say and because he is not afraid to speak out, he said.

“I know I’m going to be fighting an uphill battle all the way, and if I fix just a little portion of it, it’ll be worth my time,” he said. He is not promising that he can fix the world and all these problems, because alone he can’t – it’s going to require teamwork, he said.

“I’m not your normal, typical politician. I love to hear from the people from the outside, and I want to be approachable,” he said. “I would prefer to listen to my constituents than anybody else.”

His whole platform is based on the office itself. The state treasurer is the bank, he said.

            “Safety, liquidity, investments – in that order,” he said.

Part of the reason he got into this race is that he doesn’t owe any political favors, he said. He added that he is a retired chief financial officer.

“I don’t owe anyone anything except my wife. I owe her a lot,” he said.

“When you walk into a legislature, your political party should be left at the door,” he said. “If you start to vote party lines, … then you’re not doing your job or what you’re getting paid for. It’s about doing the right thing for the state.”

He added that he doesn’t back down because of how his father taught him to box. He has lived in Albuquerque his whole life and said he has had an uphill fight all the way with no political correctness, as people called him “Shorty.” His parents told him to blow it off, so he did, and he moved forward through graduating from high school, joining the military, being a clerk, and then using his G.I. Bill to get a degree.

“I would like to see voters find out who they’re voting for. Don’t let anyone else sway their minds. I would encourage people to look at your site and your opponents and make a decision from there,” he said.

He said he learns a lot from his campaign manager and feels that people can learn from anybody regardless of their age.

The Elections and CNM: Commissioner of Public Lands Race

The Elections and CNM: Commissioner of Public Lands Race

Fifth in an occasional series

The Chronicle has been interviewing candidates on their thinking about community colleges, specifically CNM, and how their ideas would translate into their jobs following the Nov. 6 general elections. This package offered candidates for New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands an opportunity to respond. We are publishing their responses in the order of their positions on the ballot: Stephanie Garcia Richard, Democrat; Patrick Lyons, Republican. Michael Lucero, the Libertarian candidate, did not respond.

By Audrey Callaway Scherer

Chronicle reporter

Garcia Richard: Renewable Energy, Environment

Garcia

Stephanie Garcia Richard

Courtesy of Garcia Richard

Higher education for CNM students who plan to transfer is the most important issue for them directly concerning the State Land Office, but students should note that the office also covers protecting the environment, access to public lands and determining the pursuit of energy sources, said Stephanie Garcia Richard.

She and her opponent have significant differences on how they would run the office; she would like to use the land for renewable energy, she said.

“It is a race that has become a referendum on New Mexico’s past and future. We can either continue on as we have, or we can pursue new, sustainable energy sources,” she said.

There are 9 million surface acres under the office’s authority and 13 million subsurface acres. Part of the surface land has been sold, but New Mexico still has the rights to the minerals underneath, she said. The office can use the land in any way it sees fit, and the revenue from the use of the land goes to the beneficiaries, she said.

The land can be used for lease agreements to develop it, or to drill for oil and gas as it has been used in the past, she said.

The office has also become known to make deals in the dark, behind closed doors, she said.

“I would like to open that up to public input … and provide different uses of the land – renewable as compared to oil and gas,” she said.

The land office funds higher education around New Mexico, but not CNM directly. Because of this, CNM students who transfer to other colleges around the state are affected most by the land office, she said.

In addition to funding for schools and moving toward renewable energy, it is crucial to protect the quality of our fresh water, air, and environment, and access to public land, she said.

 

Lyons: Support, Land for Schools

Lyons.png

Patrick Lyons

Courtesy of Lyons

Even though community colleges are not funded from the State Land Office, more money raised for K-12 leaves more money for them from the general fund, said Patrick Lyons.

The Commissioner of Public Lands raises money for education, and the Legislature figures out how to spend it, he said. Community colleges are not directly one of the office’s 22 beneficiaries.

School expansion is a priority, he said, and in 2008 he helped get the land for CNM’s Rio Rancho campus. The office tries to get land for schools at a minimal cost.

“When they needed it, we made it happen,” he said. “Community colleges are very important.”

He noted that many community college students don’t want a four-year degree but want a trade. He fully supports community colleges and wants to make sure they are funded well, he said.

The Elections and CNM: U.S. Senate Race

Fourth in an occasional series

The Chronicle has been interviewing candidates on their thinking about community colleges, specifically CNM, and how their ideas would translate into their jobs following the Nov. 6 general elections. This package offered candidates for U.S. Senate an opportunity to respond, in the order of their positions on the ballot: Martin Heinrich, Democrat; Gary Johnson, Libertarian; and Mick Rich, Republican.

By Audrey Callaway Scherer

Chronicle reporter

 

Heinrich: Opportunities in Education, Jobs

Hein

Martin Heinrich

Photo courtesy of Martin Heinrich           

Martin Heinrich is focused on building a New Mexico where all students, no matter their background, have the opportunity to get world class, highly marketable degrees in anything from art to engineering and to graduate with no student loan debt, he said.

He has worked to strengthen the ladders of opportunity by modernizing student loan repayment and investing in apprenticeship and workforce development programs, he said.

He introduced the Degrees Not Debt Act to significantly increase the number of families who qualify for Pell Grants and increased the grants’ value, so they could cover the cost of attending any of New Mexico’s public colleges and universities.

He also partnered with CNM in creating legislation to support apprenticeship programs for the tech sector, to continue to strengthen the STEM pipeline and help New Mexico develop its vibrant technology economy, he said.

“By connecting students, training programs, and community colleges in New Mexico to the growing tech sector where jobs are opening up every day, we can create a more prosperous future for our state,” he said.

 He has also advocated for a two-generation approach to support programs that provide opportunities and meet the needs of parents and their children together – helping families as a whole, he said.

 “We need to make sure that earning a college degree isn’t a luxury and that we prepare students for jobs of the future,” he said.

 

Johnson: Reforms in Schools, Spending

Johnson

Gary Johnson

Photo courtesy of Gary Johnson

Having to pay for the country’s rising debt and for programs they won’t be able to participate in should be important issues for students, said Gary Johnson, discussing what he would address in the Senate.

He linked much of what he would address to the rising debt of the country, saying that he would at least like to look to reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, reduce military spending and adjust infrastructure spending to be more efficient. He also argued that bringing competition to the public sector of education would revolutionize the education system.

“Spending is always the bottom line,” he said.

He questioned whether degrees result in jobs and said that more students have been enrolling simply because tuition is covered by guaranteed loans. They have no excuse not to go if they know it can be covered, he said. In addition, colleges raised their tuitions because they knew the loans were guaranteed. He said he would argue that if government-guaranteed loans never existed, tuition would be half of what it is today.

“The most important issue is relevancy,” he said. “What’s the degree going to be worth, and is it relevant?”

He thinks that education should wake up, rather than be made more affordable, as the majority of people running for political office would say, he said.

Colleges have been immune to relevancy, but students are making it more relevant right now, he said. Young people are taking it into their hands and saying they’re not going to school unless there is a benefit. The downturn in college enrollment is a positive thing for education, compared to increases in enrollment based on supply and demand.

“I applaud young people, who will inevitably bring cheaper tuition,” he said.

Adding competition and allowing educational entrepreneurs into the public education sector would dramatically improve education, he said. He speculated that offering alternatives to public education by allowing a private section with vouchers would bring a revolution unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime. Improving the education system is proving not to be relevant to spending; he said he would argue that school choice would be better than putting more money into the system.

“The curriculum needs to match today,” he said.

If elected, he would potentially be the swing vote in the Senate, in which case he would like to get a position on the Senate Budget Committee so that he could submit a balanced budget to Congress, he said.

“My priorities, they also should be important to students,” he said.

We incur $1 trillion in debt to pay for ongoing government programs, he said. When interest rates go up on the debt one point, it adds $200 billion of interest alone. If interest rates return to historical norms, it would add $1 trillion plus in interest, affecting everybody responsible for paying it back, he said.

In addition, if not reformed, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid won’t be around for the young people strapped with paying for it, he said.

“It’s going to catch up,” he said.

Borrowing money without the ability to repay it back does not lead to success.

He argued that the Constitution does not justify certain U.S. incursions into other countries and that the nation can cut military spending if it recognizes that.

“I’d get out of Afghanistan tomorrow,” he said. There would be many consequences, but he would argue that the same consequences will still be around 40 years from now. “Didn’t Afghanistan bankrupt Russia?” he asked.

He added that military assets uniquely belong in New Mexico because things don’t rust, and we have plenty of ground and air space for practicing maneuvers. We also have the only supersonic corridor in 48 states.

He advocates for the U.S. to utilize existing infrastructure in New Mexico for more labs, rather than spending more money for new infrastructure in other parts of the country.

“Spending that money in New Mexico would be most efficient,” he said.

Johnson said he was influential in protecting military assets in New Mexico during a federal Base Realignment and Closure process that slated New Mexico for cuts and outright elimination.

He differs with Heinrich on the issue of opening the biggest F16 base in the world at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Johnson welcomes it with open arms for the thousands of jobs, while Heinrich opposes it because it would negatively impact the Gila Wilderness experience.

 

Rich: Family, Community, Future

Mick

Mick Rich

Photo courtesy of Mick Rich

Rather than telling students what they should be concentrating on, Mick Rich used his experiences to share what was important to him when he was looking toward the future: considering his personal life in addition to his career, looking to help his community and family along the way, and getting engaged and active in the political process.

First, students are attending school here at CNM not because of where they want to be today; it’s where they want to be tomorrow, he said. When he looked at his future, he looked at both where his career was headed and his personal life.

“The career isn’t the goal in itself. The goal for me was always to be a great dad, meaning to give my kids what contractors would call a good, solid foundation to follow their pursuits and what they want to do,” he said. His oldest daughter is a physician’s assistant and second-year medical student at UNM. His son got his Associate’s Degree from CNM and is finishing his degree in construction management at UNM. His second daughter ended up with a Ph.D. in physical therapy and his youngest daughter is in college now, he said.

Forty years ago, he came here for a good-paying job with the construction company he worked for, but he fell in love with the people of New Mexico and decided to start his family and construction company here because of the sense of family and community here that wasn’t in other places, he said.

Second, when students get out and look to the future, they do it for themselves but also their community and family and to help others along the way, he said. He has always done that, and he thinks it’s true for students no matter where they are in the world, graduated or in school.

Since he moved here, he has been committed to improving New Mexico communities and the state, he said. As a commercial industrial contractor, Rich and his company, Mick Rich Contractors, build and contribute to communities throughout New Mexico.

He helped start one of the first construction apprenticeship programs in New Mexico that didn’t require union membership, a joint effort between CNM, back then TVI, and Associated Builders and Contractors, he said.

He’s helped multiple projects and training programs get started since then, including HelpStar, one of Albuquerque’s first charter high schools, and the bandshell at the zoo. He did the renovation of the Old Town Church for the Tricentennial and has done construction at all the military bases, including at Los Alamos labs for 25 years, he said.

He’s been on the board for Catholic charities, Albuquerque Economic Development, and Associated Builders and Contractors as the chairman of the board.

He has also always helped people with their careers, he said. Everyone who comes to work for his company is in better shape when they leave than when they came because of the training and education opportunities that he gives his staff. Those who joined with no real career or future, he helped get on track, he said.

One example was a young man who was two courses short of getting his Bachelor’s in construction management but was unable to finish it where he worked before, because taking time off for school wasn’t an option.

“I said, ‘Look, you need to finish school. The difference between having a degree and not having a degree is huge; you’re two courses away. Take the time you need and go to class,’” he said.

He made it work for him, and he got his degree and is now working for another company.

He has helped friends of his youngest daughter get into college, too, he said.

So education is important, and he’s spent a lifetime advancing education in our state, he said. He has also written construction-related eBooks and blogs, one of which addressed getting New Mexico green chile certified, and another that brought up how important it was that the Department of Tourism put out information on where all the artists’ studios and galleries were across the state to lead tourists into rural New Mexico.

Last, it’s important that students get engaged and active in the political process, he said. He went to his first legislative hearing when he was in high school and was surprised by what he discovered within two hours of attending the hearing, he said. It seemed that the decision was made behind the scenes before all the people gave their testimony.

“It didn’t seem democratic to me. … That’s not right,” he said.

“But to your readers, I think it’s important that they vote. … And if they don’t vote this election, then vote the next one, but at some point, get engaged, because they can make a difference,” he said.

He added that with politics, people should listen to everybody.

“I have gained so much by sitting down with people who didn’t agree with me, to hear what direction they want to go in,” he said.

If people are unhappy with the partisanship that goes on in Washington, then it starts with us – by looking at the candidates, not the party, he said. It surprises him how many people say they are not voting for Republicans because they are tired of the partisanship. He tells them to investigate, look at it, and choose who they want to vote for based on the person and what he or she stands for and believes in, he said.

“Never get too worked up; the world is not going to come to end with this election, one way or the other.” He said people hear it every election: This election is the most important election you’ll ever participate in. But, like in the movie Men in Black, there is always going to be another catastrophe, he said.

 “It’d be nice if they voted for me, I’m asking for their vote, but most importantly is that they get engaged. It starts with voting, but it doesn’t end with voting,” he said. “Just get active in the political process. Go and see it.”

When he looked around at what was going on in New Mexico, he saw people leaving the state for jobs and safety, he said. One daughter still calls up to say that more friends have left for good-paying jobs, while another daughter calls saying there are gunshots near UNM campus. She was also given two personal canisters of mace by visitors who were leaving town, he said.

“Security, safety shouldn’t be a matter of being able to afford living in a gated community so you can walk your neighborhood at night,” he said. As a private citizen, he makes sure his family is safe and taken care of, but people need to do more than just that, he said.

“I decided that we needed a senator in Washington that was focused on good paying jobs, safe communities, and schools that work,” he said.

He’s a Catholic, so the sanctity of life is important to him, he said.

He also thinks it’s important to have a secured border so that people come here through the border crossings rather than an open border. This also ties into the drug trade, which is killing our city and state, he said.

“We need to keep the drugs out, and we need to make sure that the physicians aren’t prescribing where it isn’t appropriate, and that the federal government has provided guidelines for prescribing where it doesn’t make sense for pain management,” he said.

He said the things important to him – good-paying jobs, safe communities, and schools that work – are not important to the current senator he is running against, because his family doesn’t have to personally worry about those issues. He said that his opponent is dialing it in and disengaged and has become another Washington politician who votes as the Democratic leadership tells him he’s supposed to.

“If you’re not in the middle of it, you don’t see the challenges,” he said.

It is important for people to be engaged with New Mexico, and giving New Mexicans a voice is why he is running, he said.

“I care about the people of New Mexico. They deserve a voice,” he said.

He does support the president’s policies, because he believes in open and fair trade and thinks what we’ve had over the years has been open, but not fair. He said the NAFTA renegotiation will leave all people in the U.S. in fairer shape, especially in New Mexico.

He said that it’s unnerving how the president negotiates, but when it all comes together it looks OK, and that this was true for North Korea, for Israel and for Palestine agreeing to move the embassy, and NAFTA, he said.

Lastly, when it comes to Kavanaugh, he said, he is a Catholic and believes in redemption and that one mistake doesn’t mean your life is over.

“As a dad, as a husband, as a human being, it’s that if you stumble and make a mistake, you brush yourself off and you get started again. … Whether it’s during a day, a week, a month or a year or a lifetime, if you stumble, pick yourself up and get moving again,” he said.

The Elections and CNM: U.S. House District 1 Race

Third in an occasional series

The Chronicle has been interviewing candidates on their thinking about community colleges, specifically CNM, and how their ideas would translate into their jobs following the Nov. 6 general elections. This package offered candidates for U.S. House District 1 – in which CNM is located – an opportunity to respond, in the order of their positions on the ballot: Debra Haaland, Democrat; Lloyd J. Princeton, Libertarian; and Janice E. Arnold-Jones, Republican.

 By Audrey Callaway Scherer

Chronicle reporter

Haaland: Affordability, Opportunity

d

Debra Haaland

Courtesy of the Haaland campaign

The cost of college and the ability to pay off student loan debt are students’ most important issues, said Deb Haaland, and she plans to find better ways to help students achieve their dreams.

“I can identify so much with the struggle that students have,” Haaland said.

She would work to increase grants such as the Pell Grant, take out fees and costs that allow a “middle man” to make money off students and find as many ways possible for job-related loan forgiveness.

She said she also wants to see more jobs with programs to pay off loans such as with the Indian Health Service, and for students to have more job opportunities in underrepresented communities.

Making sure everyone has access to education is important because it is important in this country, and she is going to Congress to fight for students, she said.

She said she hopes to see the U.S. House flip and is working very hard with other candidates to have a Democratic majority: “This is the most important election of our lifetime.”

Everyone should make sure they’re registered and plan it out – know their voting location, put it on the calendar. If you schedule it, you are more likely to keep the appointment, she said.

“Flag it, and don’t let anything interfere,” she said. “I’d like to see every student vote. We all have a stake in our future.”

Princeton: A Libertarian Approach

l

Lloyd Princeton

Courtesy of Princeton

Elements of the two-party system and the big, convoluted state of our governments have had negative impacts on students, but higher education and informed voting can help in multiple ways, according to Lloyd Princeton.

The two-party system has become a tug-of-war at citizens’ expense, fueled by money coming in from out of state to put candidates in office with the expectation of their votes on certain issues. These elected officials don’t get to vote their conscience; they vote based on the party line. New Mexico is in the mess that it’s in because of the two-party system, he said.

In addition, from getting into the student loan business to creating safety cages that affect students outside of school, the government has created a system that people can’t get out of.

“It’s a shit show. And I think you should print it that way because that’s exactly what it is,” he said.

Getting a college degree increases your lifetime earning potential an average of $1.6 million beyond what someone who dropped out of high school would earn. Your earning potential is roughly $600,000 if you drop out, $1 million if you graduate high school, and $2.2 million if you graduate with a four-year degree, he said.

The problem is that these statistics are not being messaged to the community; people aren’t being told it’s their responsibility to go to college.

One of the biggest problems for students was when the federal government stepped into the private student loan industry and guaranteed loans to students, because it caused institutions to increase their tuitions under the assurance that each student would be funded, he said. In addition, more students enrolled in programs that weren’t pragmatic when it came to finding a career, which affected students’ abilities to pay the loans off.

As a result, today we have 4 million students with $50,000 or more in student loans and another 2 million with $100,000 or more who have not started paying on them four years after graduation.

With the intention of creating safety nets, the two main parties have created safety cages – things that people cannot get out of, he said. Especially with student loan debt and food stamps, or EBT.

“You’re telling the person: Do you want to feed your family, or do you want to be self-sufficient?”

He said he thinks that the poverty in New Mexico can be alleviated by taking a communicative approach to teen pregnancy and parents in the welfare system. New Mexico has one of the highest national averages of 15 to 19 year-olds with children: 33 of 1000 while the national average is 20, he said.

Personal responsibility and self-sufficiency before having children should be messaged through the schools, airways and media. Support, like daycare, should be provided for parents to get schooling and training and work, but not for additional children that they cannot afford themselves, he said. He does not see the logic in the current system.

“No one talks about sequence of success: study hard, work hard, marry, then have a kid. Or if you don’t want to marry, that’s fine too,” he said. He added that a partner may be helpful.

It can ruin a life by preventing someone from graduating high school or getting a GED, and it can seriously affect the lives of family members, as the new parent must rely on them and the system for support, he said. Raising a baby is a $200,000 endeavor; where will the money come from if you’ve dropped out of school and won’t make $600,000 in your lifetime?

“I don’t want to run in and cut everyone off at the knees and say you’re on your own; you shouldn’t have had that kid so you’re not going to get help,  . . .  but you’ve got to draw a line in the sand,” he said.

Parents should also be personally responsible for getting involved in their children’s education, especially before blaming teachers and the educational system for their kids’ failures.

He thinks we should focus on restorative justice and provide exiting inmates with technical skills and GEDs instead of dropping them off at 2 a.m. on Central, and rehabilitate rather than incarcerate non-violent drug offenders. The war on drugs clearly didn’t work, he said.

“You cannot expect somebody to provide for themselves if they can’t provide for themselves.”

One of the best parts about CNM is that in addition to providing an affordable education, CNM provides apprenticeship programs so that students can segue directly into careers.

“CNM has been on my radar for a while, now,” he said.

He used a quote attributed to Frederick Douglass to parallel his belief in personal responsibility and self-reliance. People deserve the tools to provide for ourselves, and he wants to see all New Mexicans have access to them, he said.

Success in life is a continual series of failures, until eventually you succeed. But if people have the tools and fail because they don’t apply themselves, it’s their fault, and other things should be looked at, he said.

Libertarians are very much based in the Constitution, and it does not guarantee happiness, but rather the pursuit of happiness. Not everyone will be happy, and he’s had his dark days,” he said. “Thank God I have a cute dog that I can hang with.”

He said that although he is a white male and sometimes discredited for being privileged, anything he has, he’s made, and things have happened in his life, too.

“It’s that experience that I want to bring to the table,” he said.

In addition to studying hard to finish their schooling, he recommended students start looking now for recession-proof jobs to insulate themselves from the impending financial cliff caused by state- and federal-level shenanigans in retirement programs, deficit spending and the rest of the programs across the board.

Considering the great economy in New Mexico right now, most people could be working in any kind of job they wanted, many with only minor training. Film, technology: Pick one, even if it’s not your career choice, he said.

Many of the 67 million Generation Zs are forgoing student debt and not going to college, because they see how critical it is to get recession-proof work before reaching this financial cliff.

It’s going to happen; interest rates are already starting to rise, and next, credit will freeze up, and once people can’t borrow, stuff will hit the fan, he said.

“It’s going to be monstrously bad,” he said.

This time will be worse than the housing crisis recession of 2008-2009, especially with what Trump is doing with the tariffs and trade wars, he said.

In the meantime, those who plan to vote should really look at their alternatives.

“Because you do have an alternative, and I am one of them,” he said.

Princeton said he is going beyond the two-party system and running as a Libertarian. Rather than having a political background, he has owned his own business for over 20 years, he said.

He sees that students seem to be expressing concern about the direction of our country and political system – what mess awaits them as it becomes their turn to do something.

Quoting John F. Kennedy, he said that it’s very easy for us to do what our forebears have done, like supporting who our parents voted for, and that we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

But, you can’t vote for the same people who delivered this mess, Republicans and Democrats, and expect a different outcome, he said.

“I am begging your readers to think, and really look at what I’m talking about by the power dynamics here,” he said.

Libertarians and Independents are not beholden to either party and would be able to caucus with both parties based on the issues and make decisions supportive of New Mexicans, he said. They would also be called upon in cases of close votes between Republicans and Democrats, putting New Mexico on the map as a pivotal state. Plus, it would be historic for a Libertarian to represent New Mexico in the House.

“I’m running on a platform of principles that basically say do no harm unto others; stay out of my business and I’ll stay out of yours. The less government, the better,” he said.

He thinks he’s been successful in his career because he likes to find simplified ways to do things: “If you want to smoke a doobie, if you want to mess around with a girl or a guy, whatever you’re doing as long as you guys are consensual, who cares?”

Libertarians also tend to be very pro-choice, he said. He pointed out that he has 7 sisters.

Libertarians are fiscally conservative and agree on creating a good business environment so that private practice can prosper. This includes entrepreneurs and small businesses like the food trucks at CNM.

With less government, we can have lower taxes, which puts more money in our pockets that we will spend, and the economy gets better, he said.

“Super simple.”

“If you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore, then you’ve got to do something different,” he said, referring to the movie Network. “You owe it to yourselves.”

Arnold-Jones: Jobs, Perspectives

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Janice Arnold-Jones

Courtesy of Arnold-Jones

CNM students can go to work almost tomorrow and are needed desperately, according to Janice Arnold-Jones, and ensuring jobs for graduating students and New Mexicans is one of her top three priorities.

Apprenticeship is particularly important because CNM and the state’s community colleges have prepared students for successful careers, she said.

“I want students to succeed but also to create a path so that our children and our children’s children can have great opportunities in our beautiful state of New Mexico,” she said.

As a member of Congress, she would make sure local businesses know about the expanded funding for apprenticeships so that the CNM-to-work path is shortened and more productive.

She added that people should pay special attention to writing classes because anyone who can write has a job.

Although she listed her top three important issues as jobs, immigration, and health care, from her experience working in the N.M. Legislature, she said it’s frustrating that members of Congress can never really work on just their three top issues.

“You need to be prepared to deal with everything.  . . . You must have an understanding of what these issues are about or go find out,” she said. “I’m fortunate to have a broad background.”

She noted that part of her experience is over 30 years of being in business and entrepreneurship.

Arnold-Jones said she seeks out voters she doesn’t know and who likely think they do not agree with her based on the color of her skin or party affiliation – Republican – so that she can gain many perspectives to help her make the best decision.

“What you see depends on where you sit!” is her mantra, she said.

“What I find at the door are core values that we share: faith in God, devotion to family, love of country. I am always amazed and grateful that, while at the door, New Mexicans will tell you the problems and how to fix them,” she said. They are usually right, and she works to act on that information.

 “We are very successful at giving people confidence that while we may not agree 100 percent on every issue, they know I will listen and work to make the best decision for all New Mexicans and all Americans,” she said.

Arnold-Jones added as an end-note that she will stand against the concept of “guilty until proven innocent,” in the law and in the media, at every opportunity.

The Elections and CNM: Attorney General’s Race

First in an occasional series

The Chronicle has been interviewing candidates on their thinking about community colleges, specifically CNM, and how their ideas would translate into their jobs following the Nov. 6 general elections. This package features responses from candidates for the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, in the order of their positions on the ballot: Hector Balderas, Democrat, the incumbent; A. Blair Dunn, Libertarian; and Michael Hendricks, Republican.

 By Audrey Callaway Scherer

Chronicle reporter

Balderas: Safety, Access

N.M. Attorney General Hector Balderas

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Photo courtesy of Hector Balderas

In addition to improving college opportunities and campus safety for students, District Attorney Hector Balderas will continue to protect vulnerable children from violent crime, combat corruption and work to recover restitution from fraud, he said.

The Attorney General’s Office is committed to strengthening the lottery scholarship and improving campus safety across New Mexico to provide students with safe spaces to learn.

“We are aggressively committed to . . . providing greater opportunities for students to attend college,” said Balderas.

He said he will work with local and federal authorities to target Medicaid fraud, fraud against taxpayers, and human trafficking to recover millions of dollars in restitution.

“I will protect hard-working consumers by combatting political and corporate corruption,” he said.

Dunn: Transparency, Accountability

  1. Blair Dunn

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Photo courtesy of A. Blair Dunn

As he addresses corruption in government and holds officials accountable, A. Blair Dunn encouraged CNM students to do their research and vote for the candidates, not the party in this fairly historic election.

“Students at CNM and across the country, young people in general, are looking at broken system- red versus blue, tribalism,” he said. The way to break that up is to do their research.

“I strongly encourage everyone to do their research on what each candidate is concerned with and not vote per party or a philosophy that may not give them what they want,” he said.

He wants to ensure that the government is more transparent and thinks that is the chief job of the attorney general, he said.

But when we do see examples of officials who abuse their power, the job also means making sure they’re held accountable regardless of their party or whether they’re your friend.

“The most important thing I’m doing is addressing the corruption and holding officials accountable to the law and the constitution,” he said.

“In order to thrive, we need an economy that works and to get government under control,” he said. This will allow New Mexico students to make a living, be entrepreneurs and have a future in New Mexico.

Hendricks: Crime, Jobs

Michael Hendricks

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Photo courtesy of Michael Hendricks

Crime is a central issue for CNM students because it affects the availability of jobs, students’ safety on campus, and parent-students’ peace of mind while in class, according to Michael Hendricks.

“It all starts with crime and trickles down to everything else,” said Hendricks.

CNM students have trouble getting jobs out of college in the fields they studied for when the crime rate affects businesses coming to New Mexico, and without jobs, people can’t pay back student loan debt, either, he said.

Jobs are especially important for CNM students, because four-year degrees are not always necessary or better and people are often pigeonholed into a home they don’t belong in, he said.

“We have cheap land, great weather, lots of people; there’s no reason for people not to come,” he said.

Students’ ability to move around campus freely is important, he said.

In addition, parents shouldn’t have to worry about their kids when they are in class.

“If people don’t know if their kids are safe at home, how are they supposed to do well?” he said.

Without stress, people are more able to succeed, he said.

Helping addiction, addressing the actual mechanisms and helping people come out of those issues rather than throwing them behind bars or letting them walk free, is important to getting them what they need to have successful jobs, Hendricks said.

He said he wants to establish crime-fighting coalitions, including coalitions to protect children, and believes that currently there is no support from the Attorney General’s Office and local law enforcement.

Coalitions would lower the crime rate and more businesses would come to New Mexico, he said.

With more people paying taxes into the system, we could lower tax rates, too, he said.

As attorney general, he would have the resources needed to share expertise in certain areas where people lack.

Hendricks asks readers, “It’s been over three years, do you feel safer today?” Doing the same thing over again and expecting different outcomes is the definition of insanity, he said.

He said he would like to move forward to a brighter future.

“I would like to be that change.”