Friday, January 03, 2014

Susana Ends Fund-Raising Year With Appeal On Drivers Licenses, Plus: More Angst Over Death Of 9 Year Old Omaree, And: It's Still The Economy; Coverage From Us And Our Readers 

Governor Martinez's final fund-raising pitch of 2013 was as familiar as Auld Lang Syne. In an email to supporters she again called for the repeal of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants as she urged supporters to open up their wallets:

. . . If we continue to fight, we will ensure that all New Mexicans hear the message that we are serious about continuing real reforms including repealing the law that grants driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Liberal Democrats in Santa Fe are fighting against common sense reforms in other areas too, starting with the economy and education.

Martinez has asked the Legislature in three regular legislative sessions and one special session to repeal the licenses. 2014 will be her fifth effort and no one expects a different outcome. The point is not necessarily to pass the bill, but to raise campaign money from its failure. But you already knew that....

There are many more pressing problems facing the state than driver's licenses. The stagnant economy and population and the continuing and deepening social conditions crisis are chief among them. Read on....


It's not that our state doesn't know about its problems, it's that we just can't seem to muster the will or enthusiasm to do something about many of them. Take the tragic death of 9 year old Omaree Varela that we blogged about Thursday. His mother is in custody charged with beating him to death.

Now let's go back to June 2011 and look at what the Legislative Finance Committee had to say then about the Protective Services Division of the NM Children Youth and Families Department:

The combination of turnover, management inefficiencies, and duplicative systems has resulted in dangerously high caseloads. . .One short-term reason for these caseload increases is the executive hiring freeze. More systemic challenges, however, include worker turnover, duplicative programs, and an imbalance in the ratio of managers to caseworkers.

Caseworker turnover is costly and reduces safety.. .PSD’s turnover rate for caseworkers in 2010 was 18 percent and cost $1 million to $2 million. This turnover, along with the executive hiring freeze, has contributed a growth in the backlog of pending investigations from 38 in July 2010 to 108 in January 2011. Each of these represents a child at risk.

Clearly, Omaree Varela was "a child at risk." Now he's dead, leaving us tormented over his cruel fate.

The LFC went on to say: "The committee encourages the department to hire licensed social workers equipped to handle the unique pressures associated with protective services cases and upgrade positions for recruitment purposes."

Never mind repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. If they really want to make a difference in the life of this state the Governor and legislators will dedicate the 2014 legislative session to Omaree Varela and pursue solutions with the same vigor that they did in the Baby Brianna case. 


Mary Jean Murphy of ABQ writes:

Joe: I have been a Court Appointed Special Advocate and a long time volunteer at All Faiths Receiving Home and Safe House. People have no idea of the abuse our children are subjected to by their families.

I have written reports to the Children's Court and defended them in court, usually along with the Guardian ad Litems, and sometimes was able to keep these children away from abusive families and sometimes foster families.

I was subjected to verbal abuse by both mothers and foster mothers in open meetings. I was once accused by a foster mother of "doing the devil's work" for trying to get a child out of her house who was a predator on her other foster child.

This is hellishly bad work where you are dealing with the depths of depravity, generational incest, and lack of concern from the community who mostly do not want to know about the terrible things that go on. I finally had to give it up, but I still think about the children that I could not help and what happened to them. If a little boy gets up the nerve and desperation to make a phone call to a state agency--as Omaree did--he was desperate and he needed help immediately and to be pulled from the mother's home along with the other kids.


Why sugarcoat it? Office vacancy rates in downtown ABQ have surpassed 30 percent, the common definition for a depression level downturn:

The Copper Square office building at 500 Copper Ave. NW is now $600,000 less than its previously listed sale price. The 66,000-square-foot building is being listed for $2.9 million, or about $44 per square foot, down from $3.5 million. . . .To the south of Copper Square, the historic Sears Building at 505 Central Ave. NW is being listed for $2.75 million. About a year ago. . .the 56,000-square-foot building listed at $3.8 million. 


Joe Monahan
Readers respond to our continuing coverage of the New Mexican economy. Matt Durning writes from Las Cruces:

Joe, Thank you for doing the job reporters used to do. The truth, good and bad need to told. The bean counters are right about the neighboring states economy's. I go to El Paso regularly and the place is jumping. Here we celebrate Dunkin Donuts opening! There are so many pink elephants in the room and we've just got to call them what they are by reporting the truth. Then, we can perhaps make the correct changes and/or do something, anything to improve. Keep it up!

Longtime conservative reader Jim McClure comes with this:

Joe, Thanks for hammering away at New Mexico’s flagging economy. Neither party has all the answers. We need an all-of-the-above approach that includes investment in social services as well as a competitive tax structure, right-to-work laws and education reform. The silver lining of military cuts is an opportunity to attract more military retirees and veterans. One easy fix is to exempt part or all of military pensions from state income tax as 39 other states do. A fast-track certification program could encourage military retirees to seek second careers as teachers. (Many military folks have experience as instructors and are accustomed to being evaluated.) A similar program could encourage scientists whose jobs are being eliminated at the national labs to remain in New Mexico as science and math teachers.

Political changes also are needed. Open primaries can give the growing Independent electorate better access to the political process, and could result in a more diverse, less partisan crop of politicians.

In the long term, we need to upgrade New Mexico’s electorate by attracting and retaining people who will demand better schools and more accountability in government.

We're with you, Jim, except for that right-to-work deal. That's been a nonstarter since the 70's.

In 2014, will more business owners and conservatives agree with McClure's "all of the above" approach that includes addressing the social conditions crisis as well as taxes and education? Something to watch for and we'll do it with you right here.

Thanks for the company.

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