Friday, January 1, 2010

10 New Years Wishes for New Mexico

Some nice, local, sentimental New Year's Wishes...

As the "terror and stench" of the years of the 2000's pass into history, MeanMesa is experiencing the common sentiment of considering exactly what could be well-reasoned hopes for a better future. Of course, the recent history of the nation presents some inescapable and obvious choices. It would be nice indeed if the USA were to more carefully avoid being hurled into reckless and costly military adventures, not be subject to catastrophic "greed tantrum hangovers" from the financial sector and to begin healing from the GOP's crazy addiction to divisiveness and fear mongering.

But those are national matters. What about New Mexico? What wishes might one have for the State of Origin of MeanMesa? After all, our Galactic Headquarters are here.

But first, for both our international visitors and even our fellow Americans who live elsewhere in the country, a few words to introduce our state. New Mexico has a population of about 2 million souls. It was the 47th state to enter the union (next door Arizona was the 48th) in 1912. Politically, New Mexico has a generally populist state government which includes a few crusty rural ideologues, a corporatist liberal Governor and a remarkably "common sense oriented" electorate, most likely a predictable result of traditionally durable but low end economy.

A cursory review of names for everything from streets to schools to cities betrays a strong Spanish influence. That European "tribe" arrived en masse around 1550 with a well heated obsession for colonialism, oppressive religion and more than a few other, violent bad habits. What was to become New Mexico became an Imperial Spanish Viceroyalty. Although the locals successfully recaptured the place a few times, they were no match for a European colonial power in the end.

Naturally, the "totals for the day" showed that these locals also did most of the bleeding.

Ancient history-wise, there was a significant Clovis culture here around 9,000 BC, followed by a Folsom culture a thousand years later. The state is littered with artifacts from these periods along with substantial desert pueblos from later times. Many MeanMesa visitors may have heard of the famous ruins at Mesa Verde or the cities of the Anazasi.

Modern New Mexico has the largest Hispanic population of any U.S. states, and around 80% of New Mexicans speak English. (MeanMesa visitors who would like to know more details about this beautiful, high desert place can consult Google/Wikipedia:

for all sorts of additional information.)

Ooops. New Mexico is the place where MINORITIES are the MAJORITY.

So, with that short introduction complete, what ten wishes for the New Year will MeanMesa settle on for this posting? The introduction was necessary because one's wishes for a home state such as New Mexico might be rather different from one's wishes for a more developed or heavily populated place. Likewise, the pivotal cultural issues for New Mexico are also somewhat unique.

MeanMesa's Ten New Year's Wishes for New Mexico

1. An end to the "patrone" cultural structure

New Mexico's history of colonial elitists laid an enduring foundation for the idea that decisions about social directions would be a permanently "top down" affair. Even New Mexico's most egregious crooks are desperately unsophisticated. Hardly any effort is spent to conceal even the most outrageous corruption, much less impose limits on its scope based on a criminal's well reasoned self-preservation instincts. Civilizing statutory structures ranging from landlord tenant laws to dependable, uniform prosecution of drunk drivers which are well established in other places seem to always fall short here in the New Mexico desert.

The collective bishops of the Roman church just finished savaging the state legislature's attempts to secularize marriage to a new form which would be out of their control.

The man on the street has been groomed by local history to simply accept his "class status" and to abide by relentless insults from others who believe they have escaped its entrapment.

MeanMesa's first wish: That the population could become actively enfranchised in the decisions of the State. That community organizing might embolden and inspire New Mexico's common folk to firmly take charge of directing their state government.

2. More sophisticated labor unions

We're not referring to the importation of East Coast Union Thugs, but organized labor in the state is disturbingly toothless. Of course, there are unions for state employees, teachers, policemen and firemen, and a limited number of unions exist around in the famous laboratories at Sandia and Los Alamos. However, the class system has remained a suffocating burden on most of the state's workers. The local economy is centrally comprised of smaller businesses, creating another obstacle for advances in organized labor.

Wages are low, benefits are sparse and opportunities are limited. At the same time, the quality and education of New Mexico's labor force is low compared to other states. The remants of the old class (Patrone) system are apparently locked into the idea that all is well so long as they have more than anyone else.

MeanMesa's second wish: That well structured labor unions might organize and focus on developing a better educated and better trained work force along with better pay and benefits. Higher wages would mean more money in the local economy, better business and more prosperity.

3. More brave, new development ideas

To its credit, the state government has done a remarkable job of implementing news ideas for the local economy -- especially when one takes into account the fact that New Mexico is a very poor state. We have subsidized movie making, built a small light rail train between some population centers and even made significant loan money available to the nation's first space port. These are -- at the time of this posting -- all successful, innovative development projects which have provided good jobs and improved the possibilities of a more prosperous future.

MeanMesa's third wish: More thoughtful, modern, well designed ventures which will contribute to the state's economic development. The old "trickle down" oligarchy of the past can dies a well deserved, lonely death. New ideas can capture the imagination and energy of New Mexicans who dare to think ahead!

4. A New Mexico State Bank

Most MeanMesa visitors, being pretty darned savvy about national politics, are familiar with the incredible advantages the State Bank of North Dakota provided its state's residents during the latest GOP economic blunder. (If you are not up to speed on this great idea, chase down the following links:

MeanMesa's fourth wish: Found and fund a New Mexico State Bank which can provide a similar independence and durability for our own economy!

5. State wide water and renewable energy projects

New Mexico probably has some of the highest quality solar and wind resources in the country. Even a short visit to this beautiful place on a windy summer day will erase any doubt about the availability of incredible amounts of renewable energy resources! However, like most states with oil and natural gas reserves, New Mexico developed some remarkably durable bad habits early on. We can do much better -- we could even export clean, renewable electricity to other states if the national grid were improved. For a recap of existing energy resources in the country (including New Mexico):

MeanMesa's fifth wish: Engage renewable energy development in a big way -- starting NOW! New Mexico can benefit with jobs and promising infrastructure improvements right away, taking advantage of the stimulus grid projects and funding opportunities.

6. More modern and sophisticated race relations

If a visitor to New Mexico didn't know any better, he would arrive at all sorts of incorrect observations about what is going on here. To him, we might look like a slightly less vicious version of slavery in the South -- at least a slightly less destructive form of the Jim Crow era! Far too many of the Hispanic population is poor and under employed with only the most lack luster hope for improving their condition. There are plenty of desperately poor white folks, too. Wages are awful. Most jobs have neither benefits, much job security or much a chance to advance (see "patrone" above...).

MeanMesa sat on jury duty here a couple of months ago. Every trial was another sickening case of a young Hispanic screw-up facing a devastating judicial onslaught. The tragedy went far beyond "guilt or innocence." It was heartbreaking. The most awful part was that all the "players" (cops, judges, defendants, jurors, attorneys) simply accepted the social meat grinder as their inevitable lot in life. It seems as if there is not even a dream of a better state socially.

MeanMesa's sixth wish: Fire up an in state civil rights campaign! Begin programs which will eat away at New Mexico's passive race inequities and don't relent until things get evened out!

7. Radical improvements to public education

MeanMesa seldom embraces the concept of a "clean sweep" as a good idea when it comes to reforming failed institutions, but this might be an exception. The rate of high school students failing to graduate is over 50%. The streets (and the courts and the prisons) are a dismal march of hopeless gang members and other hopeless sorts who would consider a job at McDonalds both a "sell out" and an "unbridled career opportunity." Step one might be a good public flogging of every teacher in New Mexico public schools followed by an opportunity to either go into exile somewhere else or change professions.

Let's see, now. Perhaps this little rant has "tipped our hand." Nah. Public education costs represent half of the state budget and cannot be characterized -- even on a good day -- as anything besides a nightmarish social menace.

About the changes Washington DC is making in public schools:

MeanMesa's seventh wish: New Mexico needs to import an all new staff of everyone needed to run its public schools from some place where the system is working -- even a little! Washington DC has a school "Chancellor" determined to improve public education there. New Mexico needs a "State Chancellor" with the same kind of guts. Nothing changes until the young ones change.

8. An exciting new image

Aside from the slums, the drug addicted teenagers and the forlorn, drunken survivors of this crippled classist economy, there is nothing permanently wrong with New Mexico! This is a magnificent place absolutely chuck full of beautiful scenery, resources and hopeful, energetic, ambitious people. Yet, say the words "New Mexico" in Los Angeles or New York and people begin to think of cruddy western movies they saw in their youth.

Sure, we have problems, but life here has qualities that folks on the coast only dream about.

MeanMesa's eighth wish: Reveal our state! Not just to potential tourists, but to new residents! We have both the space and the opportunities for many exciting new neighbors, and we need fresh ideas and ambitions to move our home into the 21st Century. Rustic and free are great ideas, and when they are coupled with wide open frontiers, reasonable living costs and lots of fresh air, who could resist?

9. A state cooperative

New Mexico has traditionally been prey to out of state "box stores," but it doesn't need to remain that way. In fact, most of the Chinese "one size fits all" merchandise crap for sale around here doesn't even meet the needs of local conditions. This complaint can be made for everything from swamp coolers to boots, rain water cisterns to camping tents, agricultural crops to affordable housing. It's time to think local! The state has suffered long enough with stuff made for somewhere else.

MeanMesa's ninth wish: Start a state cooperative -- the state bank might be a great first step. Then foster local manufacturing of locally designed products in a price range accessible for local consumption. The cooperative idea, once matured, can offer us a way out of our total dependence on outside jobs, products, companies and out-of-state profits.

10. Look at state ownership of oil and gas reserves

Private ownership of New Mexico's energy reserves has not served us well at all. The basic idea seems to lead unavoidably to concentrated legislative powers, half-hearted environmental compliance and unpredictable fluctuations in state income. Even if the price were high, state control of local natural resources would constitute a great improvement over the way things are presently -- one which would pay for itself over time. The local economy needs to be served by a state run energy system in place of the current set up. What we have right now is an unhealthy mix of the "patrone" idea married to the normal avarice of lease holders who think they are above any local responsibilities or, in some cases, even local laws.

MeanMesa's tenth wish: Formulate a plan for the state purchase and management of all underground hydrocarbon reserves. Everything can be planned -- without the profits or influence -- to serve the residents of the state, lower their energy costs, share the profits and better meet their needs.

There you have it. How about making some New Year's wishes for your own state? Happy New Year from MeanMesa!

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