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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Who Was New Mexico's Newsmaker Of The Year in 2013? We've Got The Answer, Plus: We Finish The Year On The Big Story; The State Economy And More Big Changes 

Lynn Ellins
To hold political power and to use it to make bold change in the lives of your fellow citizens. That's what it's all about.

In New Mexico, in 2013, there was one politician who rose above all others with daring and fearlessness to lay claim to the title of "Newsmaker of the Year."

That man resides on one of the lowest rungs of the political ladder yet his actions ensure him a permanent place in the lore of La Politica.

That man is Lynn Ellins, the clerk of Dona Ana County who single handledly implemented one of the most sweeping social changes in state history:

Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins sparked a statewide movement to legalize same-sex marriage when he independently began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Aug. 21. The move generated both criticism and applause and sparked one of the highest attendances in recent history at a County Commission meeting. The commission, in a 4-1 vote, expressed support for Ellins' move.

Only this month the NM Supreme Court ratified Ellins' gutsy move and ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, forever changing the social landscape of the Land of Enchantment.

Agree or disagree with Ellins, he did not consult the polls or try to please both sides. Without equivocation, he decided and our world changed.

KEY PLAYERS

Same-sex marriage is the latest in a long line of civil rights advancements since we became a state in 1912. There was our legislature's early approval in the 1970's of the federal Equal Rights Amendment for women, the 1948 NM Supreme Court ruling that granted Native Americans the right to vote and Senator Dennis Chavez's introduction of a bill in 1947 to prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, religion, color, national origin or ancestry. That was to become a key part of the important 1964 Civil Rights Act.

And now today Santa Fe native and NM Supreme Court Justice Edward L. Chavez, writing eloquently on behalf of his fellow justices to find in favor of same-sex marriage, becomes part of that illustrious legacy.

Their names are now sometimes met with derision, but former Governor Bill Richardson and ex-ABQ Mayors Jim Baca and Martin Chavez will be seen as ahead of their time in the advancement of civil rights for gay and lesbian New Mexicans. Without hesitation, they put the force of their offices behind civil rights for all. In any moments of despondency they may have over their political careers, they can find solace in knowing that their willingness to not just join but to lead the freedom parade made a difference.

A GLARING TRAGEDY

You can say this can happen anywhere but when your state ranks 50th in child well being in the United States, the tragedy is especially glaring:

An Albuquerque mother, who is accused of killing her 9-year-old son, faced a judge. Synthia Varela-Casaus faces charges of child abuse resulting in death. According to a police report, Varela-Casaus told police that she has an on-going case with CYFD. The police report also states that officers investigated and found out that the deceased 9-year-old boy had previously reported abuse. . . .The criminal complaint from Friday’s death of her son paints a picture of an abusive history. Varela-Casaus told officers she kicked her 9-year-old son repeatedly in the stomach.

A question Governor Martinez and the Legislature need to ask: Is CYFD properly staffed? How do cases like this slip through the cracks? What are we doing about it?

And one more angle: What if we approved a Constitutional Amendment that would tap the Permanent Fun for funds for very early childhood education and programs. Would that mean more professionals involved in watching and protecting the state's at-risk children?

THE ECONOMY

Thank you for your emails regarding our ongoing coverage of the NM economy. We have more today.

The US Census Bureau confirms what we knew was happening, Population growth in the state has screeched to a halt as jobs disappear:

New Mexico’s population growth slowed to a near standstill in the 12 months that ended July 1, the U.S. Census Bureau said. During the 12 months that ended July 1, 2013 , the state’s population grew by 1,747 for a 0.09 percent growth rate. As of July 1, the state’s estimated population was 2,085,287, up from 2,083,540 on July 1, 2012, the Census Bureau said. Since 2010, the state’s population has grown by 20,305 for a 0.98 percent growth rate. The year-to-year growth rate was the slowest in the region.

No one wants to Californicate New Mexico, but neither do we want a futureless state where tired, old blood dominates and the youth and the well-trained flee.

That New Mexico, long an up and coming Sunbelt state, has entered the no population growth zone is a shocker.

We'll say it again: This Great Recession has changed the very fabric of New Mexico and unfortunately  in 2014 we expect more startling changes.

MORE ON THIS

About NM from USA Today:

Eleven of the 15 fastest-growing states are in the West, but New Mexico barely registered growth, ranking just above Maine and West Virginia. Blame a state economy that is "still pretty weak," said Lee Reynis, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico. "We're not bounding back in a way that approaches what one might find elsewhere," she added. "If we're seeing signs of turning a corner, we're turning it very slowly."

JOURNAL'S BIZ HIT

The newspaper business has been at ground zero during this downturn, but the pain for that business is far from over.

The Albuquerque Journal will cease printing its Tuesday-through-Sunday northern edition beginning Feb. 1 in favor of a weekly publication, several sources confirmed. . . Published as the Journal Santa Fe in the city of Santa Fe and the Journal North across Northern New Mexico, the edition is headquartered in Santa Fe and has an editorial staff of about 10 employees...

Where the presumed laid off ink-stained wretches will find new employment is a mystery as news hounds struggle with the new economic reality.

But at the top of the economic pyramid, the stock market rally has fueled spending and lifestyles, We think this ABQ news reflects that:

Albuquerque’s annual Montezuma Ball netted a record $314,000 this year, nearly doubling the previous record amount. More than 600 people attended the ball. The Montezuma Ball dates back to territorial times and was revived several years ago by Jim Long, CEO of Heritage Hotels and Resorts, Inc, at Hotel Albuquerque as a fundraising event for local charities and civic organizations. The ball has raised almost $2 million dollars for local charities in recent years...

Happy New Year, New Mexico!

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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