Hank Hughes, the executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness
and former director of St Elizabeth's Shelter
in Santa Fe, has announced his campaign
for Public Regulation Commission (Dist. 4). SFReeper caught him on a snowy Friday to talk about alternative energy, homelessness in New Mexico and joining a scandal-ridden
First, the obvious question: Why are you running?
The behavior of the current [Public Regulation] Commission is [not] very ethical, and I think it needs a lot of improvement in that area. I'm also very interested in renewable energy, and I think the PRC needs to play a role in promoting alternative energy so New Mexico can be a leader in that area.
Don't you feel like you're stepping into an ethical minefield here?
A lot of the ideas are already out there, like having an ethics commission
. People are pretty aware of the ethical issues, so it's a pretty good time to work on that, and I think there'd be a lot of public support for it. Obviously it's not going to be easy...
How would you make the PRC ethically accountable?
I think the first step is to elect ethical people to the commission. My experience in the last few years has been in running nonprofits, which requires a great deal of attention to being ethical with your finances and with the public, so I have a pretty good understanding of how that works. Also, in my work developing green, affordable housing, in order to be successful, we have to be very straightforward and honest with everyone we're dealing with.
What's a major ethical dilemma you've faced, and how did you resolve it?
At the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, we have to decide where to invest our federal funding. On several occasions, we're faced with the dilemma of whether to invest it in the more populated areas where there's lots of resources to help develop new projects or in rural communities, which often have less resources and are much riskier. In trying to be fair, and it's often a very hard decision, we have often pushed ourselves to invest in rural areas because we know the need is there—even though it's going to be more work for everybody involved.
Has it worked?
It doesn't always work, I will admit—and that's one of the things that makes it harder, because then we get criticized for making a poor decision. We have had one really stunning success: Most recently we put a lot of effort into developing capacity to help the homeless in Gallup, New Mexico through a new agency, Care 66. They have really come a long way, and we built, with them, 30 apartments—very green, very solar apartments for homeless families that are doing quite well. Now they're working on a second project to help homeless individuals.
Will you continue your duties at the Coalition to End Homelessness if elected?
I will have to step down as executive director because PRC is a full-time job. I still want to be involved as a volunteer; I will still care about homelessness, obviously.
What are your two top alternative energy priorities?
One of the main things I'd like to emphasize is that we have a big role for small business in our energy future, because the small energy companies in New Mexico are going to create the best-paying jobs and keep the profits and the jobs local. The other thing is, we should really push the Public Service Company of New Mexico
(PNM) to increase its support of renewable energy.
What do you think of the big solar energy deal PNM just made with the Arizona company First Solar?
There's a role for the big projects, and that's important, but I think we need to have the smaller projects, like the ones the City of Santa Fe is proposing to do itself—we need to have a mix of both or we won't be able to develop the energy.
This interview originally posted the day before Hughes officially kicked off his campaign, and was later updated.