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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

For New Mexico It's Still "Thank God For Mississippi" Plus: We're #1 In One Category, Also: Dusting Off The Dental School Idea And More Early Scrambling For BernCo Commission Seat 

When it comes to the rate of child well-being in New Mexico, it's still "Thank God For Mississippi."

NM ranks 49th in the nation in the just released national Kids Count rankings for 2015, the same as 2014. Mississippi, as it so often does, spares us from the bottom of the barrel by coming in 50th. Some details from the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation report:

New Mexico’s child poverty rate was 29 percent (using 2012 data). That has risen to 31 percent in the new report that uses 2013. . . .The number of children living in high-poverty areas has increased by 25,000 kids, and 27,000 more children live in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment than did in 2008. “Over the last several years we’ve seen 38,000 children fall into poverty in New Mexico. That is simply not acceptable,” said Dr. Veronica García of NM Voices for Children. “Poverty has very detrimental effects on children. If we want them to succeed in life. . . we need to ensure that they have the opportunities that will put them on the right path early in life.”

The ranking is more bad news for the state's political class which for years has struggled to adequately address widespread poverty here. A proposed consittional amendment that would ask voters to tap the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to fund very early childhood education (ages 0-5) is one of the more prominent ideas in circulation to break the poverty cycle. It has been stalled in Santa Fe for several years.

Based on our visits and those of others, rural NM continues to be getting hammered worst with poverty. Political observer Hal Rhodes has likened it to a second Great Depression there. Travel around Raton and Springer, for example, and you can see for yourself.

WE'RE #1!

While NM finds itself near the bottom in the child poverty rankings it is #1 in the USA in one category: the amount of federal spending coming in here. That's according to  Wallethub, a personal finance resource website. About New Mexico, it says:

In the Land of Enchantment, residents get $2.19 for every dollar they pay in federal income tax, the fifth highest rate in the country. 37.89% of New Mexico's state revenue is supplemented by federal funding, which is the eighth highest in the country. New Mexico also has 18.50 federal employees for every 1000 residents, which ranks sixth highest in the country, and 9.03 non-defense federal employees per 1000 residents, which is the third highest rate in the country.

Thanks Uncle Sam, and please don't take too seriously those who believe all that funding is detrimental and who claim "diversifying" away from it will be good for our little isolated place. We're already feeling enough pain from your scissors.

DUSTING OFF

Sec. Bussey
Some things get really dusty around here. Like the idea of building a dental school at UNM to provide career opportunities and dentists for a state that has far too few. Former politicos Bill Richardson and Jeff Bingaman were supportive as is the state dental association. But the dust has just kept gathering. But hold on. Now comes a lady with a can of Pledge in her hand to wipe away some of it. Republican Celina Bussey is Secretary of NM Workforce solutions:

Bussey said her office is watching the physician shortage, for example, and is applauding the forthcoming medical school on the campus of New Mexico State University. For several years, health care companies have struggled to fill open positions and the medical schools here have not kept pace with demand. “It’s 2015, and I cannot believe just now we’re having this conversation,” Bussey said. “We have no dental school. We send [students] away and hope they come back.”

Welcome aboard, Celina. Now could you pass that can of Pledge on to Gov. Martinez? The dental community says a full-fledged dental school would complement the successful UNM medical and law schools that have turned out so many state professionals over the last 50 years and more (no, we don't know if Bussey is going to run for something, but it is on the Alligator radar).

COMMISSION SCRAMBLE

Steven Michael Quezada will bring star power to next year's race for the South Valley Bernalillo County Commission seat. Whether he'll be able to take political power is an open question. Quezada, an ABQ native, has joined three other contenders already seeking the seat being vacated by term-limited Art De La Cruz.

Quezada, 52, gained fame as an actor on the Breaking Bad TV series filmed in ABQ, but he also has experience acting as a public official. He was elected to the ABQ school board to a term that expires in 2017.

The race for the Valley (and West Side) commission seat always draws a crowd because it is kind of like being mayor of the South Valley. Most of the district is not in the ABQ city limits and is not represented by a city councilor, giving the county commissioner for the area special status.

One of he big issues in the race is the proposed Santolina development project for the West Side. Quezada has voiced opposition. So has candidate Adrián Pedroza.

Others in the race so far include another school board member--Analee Maestas--and retired police sergeant Robert. G. Chavez. There will likely be more. All the candidates are Democrats. No R's need apply in this heavy Dem district

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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