Amidst a global pandemic and economic catastrophe, we the people are coming to recognize our shared humanity, common values, and mutual interests. Rather than letting demagogues divide us, we are uniting, regardless of party affiliation and documentation status, in our fight for social and economic justice.
We are heartened by the diverse coalition that is supporting the Black Lives Matter protests and encouraged by the understanding that we must address similar challenges faced by Latinos and Native Americans. As a former Rio Rancho High School principal, I am inspired by the warm friendships I have seen between my former students who have become police officers and those who have joined the protests. Such relationships give me confidence that we can come through these unsettled times stronger and more united.
What do we mean by unity and common interests? To me, it means putting partisan differences aside and coming together for critical change. I find our present polarized politics distressing. I cannot overstate how important I feel it is to reach across the aisle in the many areas where our values are shared and compromise is possible. While my opponent, Jane Powdrell-Culbert, extolled the virtues of cooperation in these very pages on Aug. 5, her words following the 2020 legislative session conveyed the opposite message. As reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican, she asserted, “We’re declaring war.”
We have many ways to make New Mexico better for all. Here are some of my perspectives:
We can and must address the climate crisis and environmental pollution, recognizing their disproportionate effects on communities of color, low-income families, and indigenous communities. We must drastically reduce our carbon footprint. Solar and wind energy can help us accomplish these goals while generating good, green, private-sector jobs. We must also preserve the natural resources of our beautiful state for the health of our people, our planet and New Mexico’s economic well-being.
Quality health care for all and affordable prescription drugs should be a right, not a privilege.
We need healthy children who are ready to learn and an energetic workforce to advance our state’s economic development. It is almost unimaginable that efforts are being made to strip over 20 million people of their health care. This governmental malpractice is being pursued by the Trump administration and 18 Republican-led states, which are asking the Supreme Court to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
We must have a fair and thriving economy. We must reverse the 40-year decline in union membership, and we must obtain a living wage for all workers. We must protect front-line workers even as they are threatened by COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, one in four children in New Mexico faced hunger or food insecurity; COVID-19 has worsened this crisis. Children who experience poverty and hunger grow up with diminished health, economic opportunity and mobility. This is not acceptable for the children of New Mexico.
Every child must have access to a first-rate public education. Our state’s high poverty rate has been a major impediment to school quality. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Democrats in the state Legislature are working hard to address this problem through increased spending on education and on services to mitigate obstacles to learning that result from poverty.
One significant obstacle is that we rank behind all other states, with the exception of Arkansas and Mississippi, in the availability of broadband access. This puts too many of our most vulnerable students at a serious learning disadvantage, a problem again exacerbated by COVID-19 when on-line learning is essential to every child’s educational progress.
We truly are all in this together, and we must forge our path forward together. Putting our partisan differences aside, let us reaffirm our common values and work for competent and accountable government that seeks to create a strong and cohesive society and thriving economy for all people.