2020 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY COUNTY COMMISSION CANDIDATES

 

Realizing that there are many national and state level issues right now, what would you say is the most important issue or challenge related to your particular district?

Sam Bradley– With the financial devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery will be THE priority for District 4, Doña Ana County, and New Mexico.
-District 4 needs and will continue to need employment support, comprehensive unemployment support including health insurance and retraining, and support for our children who will one day return to in-person education, and protection from eviction. We reached unemployment numbers in three weeks that took 18 months in 2008-09. -New Mexico lumbered out of the last recession. Now West Texas Intermediate prices have fallen from $66 per barrel to the high teens. This spells economic devastation. -Public health experts place a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus more than a year away. This economic recovery likely will be slower and more painful. This illustrates that the economy was not working for many in Doña Ana County before the pandemic. -Experienced leadership is crucial. We need county commissioners that understand science and data. We need leaders who focus on innovation and collaboration rather than kudos. -Locally we must begin building toward a Green New Deal. We need to train mid-career workers to switch industries geared at clean energy production. We must seize this opportunity to insulate our county that is insulated from the fossil fuel booms and busts.

Irma Susana Chaparro– In my opinion, the most important issue in County Commission District 4 is the lack of infrastructure.

Debra Ann Hathaway– The impact of the coronavirus is reflecting the racial and socioeconomic disparities of the states where it’s spreading and the health care system that’s struggling to contain it.
The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate, but minorities and low-income families in New Mexico are bearing the brunt.
⦁ Lower-income areas have less access to health care services and the quality of that care is often worse than what wealthier parts of the state receive.
⦁ Lower-income workers are less likely to have health insurance. They’re also less likely to be able to work from home, and therefore more likely to have to keep going to work and putting themselves at risk.
⦁ Substandard housing, multiple families living together, and homelessness all facilitate the virus’ spread. In New Mexico, health disparities can mean decreased quality of life, loss of economic opportunities, and perceptions of injustice. For society, these disparities translate into less than optimal productivity, higher health-care costs, and social inequity. Advancing health equity will improve health for New Mexico overall, as well as provide economic benefits to the state. But we cannot rely on individual-level interventions to make gains in health equity. Instead, population-based approaches that reduce poverty, improve the health care safety-net, and address racial discrimination will be necessary to reap the health and economic benefits of health equity in New Mexico.

Do you support or oppose private prisons and detention facilities?

Sam Bradley– I wholly oppose private prisons and detention facilities – including all youth facilities. Mass incarceration tarnishes this nation’s reputation with our share of incarcerated individuals greatly outpacing our share of the world’s population. Private detention facilities fuel mass incarceration, a system data show to be deeply racist.

Privatizing corrections ties a profit motive directly to incarceration. On its face, this should be sufficient to condemn a system that incentivizes incarceration and longer sentences. It then funds lobbyists to advocate its expansion. -Much of our Bill of Rights and subsequent Supreme Court case law address how we treat the most vulnerable among us, and the incarcerated are vulnerable. Balancing individual Civil Rights with the profit motive is destined to fail. Countless auditors and journalists have documented routine rights violation in a private system. -In addition to those incarcerated, corrections workers in private facilities have been shown to be paid less and face greater dangers than their public counterparts. -Finally, recidivism rates show that our penal systems are ineffective at best. We need a comprehensive effort to end private corrections.

Irma Susana Chaparro– As County Commissioner, I would oppose private prisons and detention facilities.

Debra Ann Hathaway– I oppose privatizing prisons and detention facilities because:
1. Private prisons experience 50% more violence against employees from inmates when compared to the data from public institutions.
2. The average length of time a prisoner served in a public prison is less than half that of the average prisoner in a private facility. The average cost of housing a medium security inmate in a public prison in 2010 was $48.42 compared to $53.02 in a private prison. 3. Private prisons achieve lower operational costs because they reduce their labor expenses. This means lower pay, unsafe working conditions, meager benefits, higher turnover, and lack of job security. Correctional officers and their administrative support personnel receive fewer training opportunities to enhance their skills.
4. The government has overall accountability to a community when a facility fails to provide safe housing to the offender population. Since the right to inspect a business is different in some jurisdictions, there might not be any way to determine if people receive ethical treatment during their stay in the facility.
6. Since for-profit companies need prisoners to make money, they lobby legislative bodies to change how the implementation of laws occurs. Private prisons ask for more extended standard sentencing guidelines because that will help their profit margin while providing revenue security.

Assuming that the economy is not going to grow significantly in the next 2-3 years – and that reducing fraud, waste, and abuse will not provide any significant savings – what percent of County funding should come from property taxes and what percentage of funding should come from gross receipts taxes? — And why?

Sam Bradley– With the economy in free fall, oil prices below $20 per barrel, and the stock market resembling a lottery, too little data exist to affix percentages today. The relative merits, however, can be meaningfully addressed. -Sales taxes (including GRT) are regressive taxes by nature. That is, sales taxes place a greater burden on those with low incomes compared to the wealthy. Any family at or near the poverty line likely spends much of its income on items subject to gross receipts tax. -During recovery from this recession (likely to become a depression), working families will be hardest hit. “Nonessential” workers may have been laid off, and essential workers are far more likely to have been exposed to COVID-19. Our priority must be getting Doña Ana County families back above water. Suffering families will pay far more GRT than property tax. -The only “wealth” most Americans will ever possess will be whatever equity they accrue in their home. Housing prices will fall but not at the rate that unemployment rises. This suggests that property taxes will be a more stable source of revenue. -At present, Doña Ana County takes in $10 million more in GRT than property taxes ($53 million vs. $43 million). I believe that ratio should be reversed. During an economic recovery that will take time to implement, but we must begin.
-During the recovery, property owners, too, are likely to be suffering from rent forgiveness and vacancy. Real recovery will include them, too.

Irma Susana Chaparro– At present, the County receives approximately 27% of its total revenue from property taxes and approximately 32% of its total revenue from gross receipts taxes. Other funding sources include grants and administrative fees. In the near future, the County will have to rely more heavily on funding from property taxes and other funding sources. Overnight, we have seen businesses close. This has caused a significant reduction in payment of gross receipts taxes by our businesses.

Debra Ann Hathaway– How can I address the question without having a 5 – 10 year strategic plan in place? I think you should be asking when will you develop our County’s long-range strategic plan. Our county government is making short term decisions without long-range plans in place. How can you go forward without a formalized road map that describes how our County will function over the next decade? A strategic plan guides our decision making to:
-Build a 21st Century infrastructure for a 21st Century economy
 -Strengthen educational opportunities and programs within our county for grades 1-12
-Protect our environment and wildlife
-Fund a sustainable jail diversion program
– Focus on mental health issues as part of our overall health care strategy
-Ensure the safety and security of our county
-Expand/promote economic opportunities within our county to the business community as well as to state and federal agencies
-Address the needs of our colonias 

But if the County focuses only on short-term needs, we will never reach our true potential. Therefore, we must develop a well-thought-out strategic plan grounded in reality. The plan must be revisited and updated every year to prioritize our strategic choices according to our current situation.

How many colonias are in your district? What taxes would you raise, or other budget items would you cut in order to help them?

Sam Bradley– Officially, five: Butterfield Park, Cattleland, Moongate, Mountainview, and Organ. The needs of our neighbors in these areas have been uprooted this in 2020.Previous needs of clean water, flood control, wastewater, sewage, and infrastructure remain. Now these economically vulnerable residents face more immediate challenges.
-During the recovery, we must ensure that students, workers, and those on fixed incomes have their nutritional and basic safety needs met. Paving impassable roads remains a priority; however, basic survival as human beings comes first. Rather than expansion of programs, we soon will face calls for austerity. Colonia residents have been living a life of austerity too long.
-Having scarcely recovered from the last recession, few easy decisions await budget cutters. Together we must work to build new revenue sources.
-The five colonias in District 4 are along U.S. 70. I believe the county should actively pursue a special economic development zone similar to what was accomplished downtown.
-The East Mesa is home to many big boxes. These national brands can survive by laying off workers and blocking organizing efforts by employees. Unemployment may be especially high in the already economically challenged colonias. Flood control, road paving, and other infrastructure work may have to be tabled as we work to return the East Mesa to full employment, retraining workers for clean energy development and for the infrastructure work itself.

Irma Susana Chaparro– There are 5 colonias in County Commission District 4; Moongate, Mountain View, Organ, Butterfield Park, and Cattleland. At this time, I would object to raising taxes or cutting budget items until the County has a better idea of what the revenues will be in the next fiscal year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Debra Ann Hathaway– There are 5 colonias in District 4. I agree with the Doña Ana County Colonia Infrastructure report: Significant investment is needed to address deficient infrastructure in Doña Ana County’s 37 colonias. The current approach to infrastructure development is entirely inadequate if the public roads, water supply, wastewater systems, and public facilities in these communities are to be brought up to acceptable standards.Tax policy and public programs—at all levels—must ensure that the fundamental responsibility of government for colonias is fully understood, acknowledged and met.

1.) Develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy equal to the size of community needs.
2.) Secure active buy-in and increased financial support at all levels of government.
3.) Urge creation of a Federal initiative for colonias based on multi-agency partnerships & substantial appropriations.
4.) Increase annual appropriations to the Colonias Infrastructure Development Fund.
5.) Revitalize Doña Ana County’s
“Colonias Initiative.” 6.) Expand the County’s capacity to develop and complete projects in a timely, responsive, and cost-effective manner.
7.) Actively engage residents, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations in colonias projects. I would place this issue as a high priority in our new Strategic Plan.

Under previous County Commissions, the County has lost a $15 million lawsuit over conditions in the detention facility and paid several millions in settling discrimination lawsuits. What would you do to prevent this disgraceful waste of the taxpayer’s money?

Sam Bradley– This pattern must end. An organization as large as this county has countless rules, ethical standards, and codes of conduct. Yet these settlements continue to recur due to poor individual judgment. If all employees were held to the policies and procedures in place, then there would be little opportunity for legal action. This falls upon leadership and on the hiring process.
-Being a supervisor in the public sector is rarely enjoyable in the details. However, when seemingly mundane tasks such as performance evaluations are taken lightly, the opportunity for abuse increases. “Writing someone up” is unpleasant at best. Yet if initial small infractions are overlooked, it makes termination of an employee difficult when a larger infraction occurs. Moreover, it silently excuses those infractions in the eyes of colleagues.
-Commercially there are many vendors that provide training tools for maintaining a safe, tolerant, and cordial workplace. During the annual review process, countywide data should be compiled and analyzed to determine where more training could be beneficial. Hopefully small transgressions can be corrected, and the employee can continue toward a successful career with the county.
-Standards exist. Supervisors must stick to them, and employees must be given a work environment where they feel safe reporting improper behavior from a supervisor. From the first day on the job, a no tolerance environment must be clear.

Irma Susana Chaparro– The Board of County Commissioners has the responsibility to set policy for the county. Providing constant training, defining expectations and setting an example of professional conduct are some of the ways of preventing the paying of taxpayers’ money to settle lawsuits.

Debra Ann Hathaway– The County Commission establishes policy for the county and the County Manager and county staff implement policy and are responsible for day-to-day operations of county government. If the County is repeatedly sued, (There are two pending) then it’s time to reevaluate the status quo. Two Commissioners held an inspection in January of the Detention Center which has been ground zero for lawsuits. While this is a great start, is it enough? While I am not privy to what is currently being done behind closed doors, I can express my observations in what has proven successful during my career.

1.) I found character is often demonstrated in how closely our actions, decisions, and relationships adhere to ethics and values. Character counts.
2.) We must hold leaders and ourselves accountable to create, nurture, and promote a culture of integrity so peers push others to act appropriately.
3.) It’s important to encourage employees to report wrongdoing. When serious incidences occur and no one steps forward to report it, the Leadership is accountable. It may be staff aren’t clear where to go and/or how to file a report or, more seriously, there is an atmosphere of fear of retaliation in the workplace. The ethics and whistleblower program must be improved and used effectively. I believe it is a Commissioner’s duty to ensure proper policies are in place and County leadership and staff are adhering to these policies and protecting the citizens of our county.

In anticipation of some capital money cuts from the legislature in a special session, what would be your top 5 projects you would advocate for your District?

Sam Bradley– If I am elected, every priority will be the economic recovery of the people of District 4 and the county. Looking toward a lengthy economic recovery with high unemployment, every project must be judged by whether a dollar spent will have a multiplier effect in the county. That is, if the county spends a dollar, will that dollar be paid to a worker to spend again in the county, or will it quickly go out-of-state?
-This is where I believe I can make the best connection to my neighbors. I’m not retired. I still work, and I have school age children. We work together, literally, in this recovery.
-The New Deal provided needed infrastructure while putting Americans to work. Our county’s infrastructure needs are immense. However, if we have roadwork and flood control work desperately needed, and we have unprecedented unemployment, then county leaders must work with the state to try to solve both problems simultaneously.
-Every single resident of District 4 represents an equal top priority to me. During this unprecedented crisis, I cannot place pavement before people. The county is its people. A person suffering outranks a road suffering.
-As we emerge from the pandemic, cooperation is key. During the 2020 legislative session, area legislators carved out capital outlay cooperatively. These experienced individuals already grappled with the relative merits of so many county needs, any ranking of projects begins with our local caucus.

Irma Susana Chaparro– The top projects that I would advocate for in District 4 are as follows:
1) Provide stronger law enforcement presence.
2) Plan and design storm water & improvements in the East Mesa to prevent flooding.
3) Provide better equipment for firefighters and first responders.
4) Help businesses reopen.
5) Work to create new jobs and help build a more resilient economy. We are facing hard times in our county. Working together, we will get through this.

Debra Ann Hathaway
1 . Dragonfly Channel: This project is an outfall channel for the Brahman Dam. This project can be constructed in multi-phases and by multi-year funding. The Brahman Dam and Dragonfly Channel are key elements to the East Mesa Master Drainage Plan. These facilities will be the backbone of future flood control facilities and need to be constructed prior to most other major flood control facilities in the area.
2. Brahman Dam: Construct a flood control dam that ties into the northern end of an existing channel known as the Dragonfly Channel.. The Brahman Dam and Dragonfly Channel are key elements to the East Mesa Master Drainage Plan and will be the backbone of future flood control facilities.
3. Higgins Lane: Roadway reconstruction project aimed to protect area residents susceptible to overland storm water flooding due to existing roadway conditions. The project will provide access and edge of pavement fraying control, with inclusion of curb and gutter.
4. Butterfield Blvd- Construct a road within the Butterfield Park Community in Doña Ana County.
5. Organ roads- Provide safe and efficient conveyance of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, while providing separation of both and conveying storm water flows to reduce erosion and flood susceptibility to the adjoining properties and roadway features.