Pillar Four: Economic Development and Infrastructure
New Mexico Democratic Party position:
” Every American, including women, people of color, and other marginalized communities, has the right to a job that earns enough to provide adequate food, housing, clothing, healthcare, recreation, and protection from the economic fears of old age, illness, or accidents, while ensuring adequate resources for future generations to provide equally for themselves. And businesses have the right to operate free from unfair competition at home and abroad. We support a progressive tax system where all businesses and individuals pay their fair share.”
As you read through pillars 1-3, it should become fairly obvious that what the southeastern corner of New Mexico desperately needs are economic options. We need investment in the region. We need to work aggressively toward divestiture from the extractive industries which have this region in a chokehold.
In the meantime, O&G among others comprise approximately 42% of the entire income of this state. We have an opportunity right now to take the money we have from this industry and invest in technologies to replace it. We have an opportunity right now to lead the way in creating excellent jobs, reduce or eliminate pollutive industry, and move this region into a stable, clean, prosperous economy.
The reality, however, is that we are more or less stuck with the extractive industries for the time being. To this end, as mentioned in the environmental pillar, we need to be aggressive in crafting regulations to force the industry to behave responsibly. We need to work with them to craft infrastructure in the towns and villages where the oil patch workers live. We need to create proper roads to reduce exhaust emissions and save vehicle maintenance cost. We need to be strict about what we allow these companies to get away with. This is where WE live.
I propose that we increase regulation and impose stiff penalties on extractive industries for pollution.
I propose we use the money gained from the industry to heavily invest in low polluting industry in southeastern New Mexico.
I propose we heavily court and incentivize the tech industry, green manufacturing, hemp manufacturing, solar, wind and other renewable energy industries to come here. We have plenty of sun and wind here in the high desert. We can court battery technology companies, green electrical industry, even environmental remediation companies would do very well here. Carlsbad has the 2nd highest number of Ph.D. holders in the state eclipsed only by Los Alamos. We need to take full advantage of the existing workforce.
I propose we refuse the Holtec project as the investment benefit does not outweigh the cost.
We all know that the economic success of any region depends on adequate infrastructure. The opposite is also true. One does not exist without the other. Southeastern New Mexico has been sorely neglected for many years in this arena.
The roads here are abysmal. Throughout the district, we have more miles of dirt road than paved which puts a tremendous strain on not only the population, but also industry. Poor roads cost citizens money in extra fuel, tire wear, additional maintenance and repair to their vehicles. This in turn produces more pollution, slows everything down and puts more strain on an already overburdened system. I met with NMDOT for this region. Apparently, this bureau has been operating at half budget for many years. They have not been provided the tools necessary to properly maintain existing roadways much less construct new ones.
It costs $1 million dollars in this state per lane mile for a new road. This includes ripping up and rebuilding damaged roads. So, for a 4 lane highway with a divider, the cost is $5 million per mile. At this point, we will need an injection of funds totaling hundreds of millions of dollars simply to bring the roads in this district alone up to minimum standards.
I am not just talking about roads in the oilfield communities either. We have crumbling ranch roads in Chaves County. These are primarily dirt roads. The tourist-driven mountain communities in the west are suffering greatly. Cloudcroft and Timberon alone need many millions of dollars of work done on the major arteries into and out of the communities. Roads inside the village limits themselves are so full of potholes, or unpaved, that it is an off-road adventure every time you leave your home. If we expect to grow our communities, attract new business, or keep the population we already have, we MUST improve our transportation methods and modalities.
We have got to do better by our rural citizens. Every part of this district is struggling with water deliverability and processing issues. We need to properly evaluate the resources in each community, no matter how small, and retool the water and wastewater infrastructure. This is most critical in our rural areas. We need to make sure that wells are tested, or if on a co-op water system like I am, that minimum water quality and deliverability standards are met and maintained.
I got curious as to who the oversight body is for rural water districts at the state level as our co-op frequently runs out of water. Come to find out? There isn’t one. At all. There is no regulatory agency whatsoever in New Mexico that monitors rural co-op water. This is not acceptable. Clean, healthy water should be available to every citizen of our state no matter where they live. This is basic, folks.
As our electric grid and delivery structures age, utility delivery becomes more difficult, more expensive, and less efficient over time. We have a huge issue in this district with reliable delivery to the rural and mountain communities. Storms are beginning to be more widespread and more intense leading to repeated downed lines, damage to power substations, and increased maintenance pressure on our utility networks which are generally co-op. Small co-ops cannot and should not bear the economic brunt of New Mexico’s failure to invest in properly engineered and maintained power systems. Every citizen should have efficient, reliable electric service to their homes no matter where they live.
Internet is a utility. We all use the Internet in some form or another to work, socialize, educate ourselves, find employment, etc. There are many households in this district who either do not have access to Internet at all, or cannot afford the steep cost of internet access in their home. We need to either build our own citizen owned network, or make for-profit ISP’s provide a minimum bandwidth access point to every home in their coverage area. Free. There is no excuse for school children being unable to complete homework or study due to lack of basic Internet access. We are setting them, and ourselves up for failure.
Outside of the cities of Carlsbad and Artesia, there is not a single bona fide grocery store in this entire district.
We have an enormous issue with food deserts here. I live in Cloudcroft. The only food stores available are Family Dollar and Allsup. There is little to no fresh food available year-round. We have to make the 2 hour round trip to Alamogordo for any kind of fresh food. It’s worse in even more rural areas in Otero and Chaves counties.
I propose we begin investing in community markets. Invest in small farms and ranches with small business stimulus packages. Work with communities to create co-op markets or year round farmer’s markets. Encourage our communities through investment to create and maintain sustainable fresh food supply.
We need to work with federal and state agencies to bolster availability of fresh, affordable food no matter where we live.