10. Oh, Susana!
On Dec. 3, Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren posted a question on her blog: “Sec Hillary Clinton v. Gov Susana Martinez in 2016? Two women?” Maybe it was a web-hits ploy, but since Martinez’ primetime speech at the Republican National Convention, her name has come up as a potential VP pick and future GOP leader. While Martinez says she’s not interested in national office, she polls well and is kinda fashionable. We’ll see.
9. A Whole New PRC
The Jerome Block, Jr. debacle brought light to serious problems at the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Kudos to think tank Think New Mexico, state lawmakers and voters for turning corruption headlines into real reforms. Once responsible for everything from utility regulation to insurance, the PRC now has a narrower mandate, and commissioners must have minimum qualifications (yet to be specified) before taking office.
8. High and Dry
In some places, people still think global warming is fake. Not so in Santa Fe (and not just because we’re a bunch of liberals). Ski Santa Fe opened more than two weeks after its target date; in southern New Mexico, dairies have closed due to drought. Data predicts a warmer, drier Southwest in the future, with more fires and fewer snowstorms, so enjoy the snow while it lasts.
7. Not Just Band-Aids
Obamacare calls for states to expand their Medicaid programs; according to the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research, doing so could pump more than $8 billion in economic activity into New Mexico over the next six years. Some Republican governors have opted not to expand the program, which provides health-care services for low-income people; Martinez hasn’t decided yet. But she has moved forward with a state-sanctioned health insurance exchange—which, if it works, could make finding a health insurance plan much easier…and maybe enrich some of her political allies along the way [news, Nov. 20: “Martinezcare”].
6. Mikes and RE:MIKEs
Reform isn’t just about government. This fall, MIX Santa Fe and its collaborators kicked off RE:MIKE, a revitalization effort aimed at turning St. Michael’s Drive into somewhere you actually want to hang out (!). Equally exciting is the new Santa Fe Music Alliance, which hosted a holiday party last weekend and is poised to jumpstart local nightlife. And local arts collective Meow Wolf formed a PAC. Who says art and politics don’t mix?
5. Drugged Up
Other states legalized marijuana; New Mexico considered culling people with post-traumatic stress disorder from its medical cannabis program. More worrisome, though, is the state Department of Health’s report that overdose deaths are rising, particularly among prescription drug users. Northern New Mexico’s oxycodone sales are among the highest in the state. Despite the need for more treatment, not less, the Bernalillo County jail recently announced plans to curtail its methadone treatment program for opioid-addicted inmates. It later backtracked, saying it would only audit the program—all of which suggests the need for a smarter, more comprehensive approach to New Mexico’s drug problem.
4. Learning Curves
Education reform was a big deal on the state level this year: Schools will now be graded (using a still-murky algorithm) on an A-F scale, and teacher evaluations are in the works. But it was an even bigger story in Santa Fe, where the public school board voted to buy out former Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez’ contract and, in her place, hire the young, ambitious Joel Boyd. Boyd has big ideas—some unpopular ones, but at least he’s starting a conversation.
3. It’s the Stupid Economy
New Mexico’s economy continues to limp along, and the looming “fiscal cliff”—still unresolved as of press time—threatens draconian cuts to the federal programs on which many New Mexicans rely, including unemployment benefits. So far, no state or local politicians seem to have come up with a meaningful jobs plan—except, possibly, for the very sensible idea of starting with early childhood education.
2. Money for Nothing
In the aftermath of Citizens United, 2012 brought an election flush with cash, even in once-sleepy state and local races. But all that money flying around wasn’t always good: Incoming state Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, says the money that Republicans threw in against his primary opponent, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, did more harm than good. The results were mixed on a larger scale, too (see page 7). And where did the roughly $20 million spent on New Mexico elections end up? Let’s just say local TV stations might be doing some remodeling.
1. The Year in Closed Government
We think this issue is so important that we wrote a whole cover story on it (see page 15). So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.