New Mexico is facing a multi-million dollar budget crisis. According to financial watchdogs, the State needs to plug a $150 million hole in the budget year completed June 30, 2016 and is on track to overspend by another $300 million in FY 17. Worse, the State’s $700 million Reserve Account has already been depleted, virtually guaranteeing a Special Legislative Session. What’s confusing is that New Mexico’s economy is growing, albeit at an anemic pace. Joining host Stephen Spitz to explain the reasons for the budget shortfall and why New Mexico has been so slow to recover from the financial crisis is Dr. Jeffery Mitchell, Director of UNM’s Bureau of Economic Research, who advises State policy makers on these very issues. Produced with assistance of Roman Garcia, Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.
Four Conservation Groups recently sought to join in a lawsuit brought by New Mexico Game and Fish. The suit is against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and concerns the release of two Mexican gray wolf pups in the Gila National Forest in Western New Mexico. The State and Federal governments have been at odds over the wolves’ presence in the Southwest since the onset of the Martinez Administration. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service twice proposed to release Mexican wolves in New Mexico. Each time, the State objected, arguing that the impact the wolves might have on the land and residents was incomplete. Ranchers have also vehemently objected to the federal plan, saying the wolves hunt livestock at a high cost to ranchers and allegedly have been known to stalk children. Joining host Stephen Spitz to discuss the restoration of the Mexican Grey Wolf in New Mexico is Michael Robinson, a representative for the Center for Biological Diversity and author of Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West. Produced with assistance of Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.
It was Paul Tough’s NYT-bestselling HOW CHILDREN SUCCEED that first introduced listeners to the research that shows that character strengths like grit, perseverance, self-control, and optimism play a critical and often overlooked role in children’s success. After that book came out, Tough spent months on the road, and after each talk, as he writes in his new book, he would often get the same question: “O.K., now that we know this, what do we do?” Tough spent the last year and a half trying to answer that question, and the result is HELPING CHILDREN SUCCEED. His conclusion: We should stop trying to “teach” qualities like grit and self-control to our kids. Instead, he argues, we need to recognize that these capacities are the product of children’s environment, in the home and in school. If we want to make kids more motivated, engaged, and productive in the classroom, we have to find innovative ways to change those environments. Please join host Stephen Spitz and author Paul Tough as they discuss helping children succeed. Produced with assistance of Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.
Use of force continues to be an issue with the Albuquerque Police Department. Between 2010 and 2014 APD shot and killed nearly 30 of our fellow citizens. Everything changed on March 16,2014 when video footage captured the police shooting and killing James Boyd, a mentally ill, homeless man, in the back. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Justice, issued a comprehensive report finding that the APD had a practice of violating a suspect’s civil rights through the unjustified use of lethal force. In response, the City entered into a Federal Court Consent Decree with the DOJ and a Monitor, James Ginger, was appointed to “monitor” APD’s reform. Now, the Monitor has issued his 2nd Report to the Court on this reform, and he is “anything but pleased”. For example, only 8 of 277 reforms have achieved “operational compliance”. Why is progress so slow? Joining host Stephen Spitz to answer this question is former City prosecutor, Public Safety Director, and City Council member Pete Dinelli, who believes that the only way to truly reform the APD is by replacing its top brass. Produced with assistance of Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.
New Mexico’s behavioral health system was upended in 2013 when the Martinez administration froze millions of dollars in payments due 15 behavioral health nonprofits after an audit supposedly raised questions about $36 million in fraudulent Medicaid billings. Now one of the Arizona companies, brought in to replace the nonprofits, after leaving the State in disgust, has charged that the real fraud was committed by the company charged with overseeing and paying for the behavioral health services, United Health Care. Moreover, the nonprofits, which were forced out of business by the freeze, have recently been cleared of fraud by Attorney General Balderas. However, they are still owed millions of dollars and behavioral health services have yet to recover. Joining Host Stephen Spitz to discuss these developments is Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, who has chaired hearings around the State on the controversy. Produced with assistance of Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.
New Mexico is the only state that divides up its infrastructure budget based on a political formula unrelated to State priorities; one-third of our Capital Outlay budget goes to Senators for earmarking, one-third for House earmarks, and one third is reserved for the Governor. This Friday host Stephen Spitz will sit down with Fred Nathan, founder of the non-profit Think New Mexico, to learn about a House Bill designed to change that. This legislation would establish a planning council to prioritize, vet and monitor the way New Mexico funds its infrastructure projects, which this year will come from about$123 million in severance tax bonds. We will find out how this reform bill fared, what infrastructure projects were actually funded, how these decisions were made, and whether they were in New Mexico’s best interests. Produced with assistance of Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.
Our 30-day legislative session begins this month with Republicans having the upper hand, namely a Republican Governor, a Republican House, and Democrats holding a shaky majority in the Senate. So will the 2016 Session have a decidedly Republican outcome? Host Stephen Spitz will put this question to Joe Monahan, the author of the State’s go to political blog, New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan. Under discussion will be all major budget items, along with specific legislation, including: 1) repeal of drivers licenses for “illegal” immigrants; 2) anti-crime legislation; and, 3) a proposed Constitutional Amendment which would distribute 1% of New Mexico’s $15 billion Permanent Fund to early childhood programs. Produced with assistance of Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.
From reducing crime to increasing educational and economic outcomes, the go-to answer seems to be “early childhood education”. But why, what is the need for outside, early intervention with our young children and is there evidence that home visiting and pre-K programs can accomplish the desired results. We will put these questions to a true expert, Allen Sanchez, the head of Chi St Joseph’s Children, which runs the largest home visiting program in the United States, now in five New Mexico counties. But, what about the rest of the State? Since 80% of New Mexico’s 28,000 births are Medicaid qualified, do New Mexico’s early childhood programs meet our existing needs or do they require additional funding from our $15B Permanent Fund as advocates contend? To learn more about the substance and financing of our early childhood programs please join host Stephen Spitz and guest Allen Sanchez. Produced with assistance of Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.
Seven years after the Great Recession our economy, previously a solid performer (2.8% growth in 2007), continues to struggle with very modest growth (1%) forecast for the next five years. Meanwhile, healthcare, and specifically the Medicaid expansion, is one of the few economic bright spots, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the State to provide medical care. But, since there was a doc shortage even before ObamaCare, are Medicaid recipients actually getting the care they need? And, when the Federal share of the Medicaid expansion drops from its current 100% to 90% in 2020, will New Mexico be able to able to afford the bill? Please join host Stephen Spitz and special guest, Dr. Lee Reynis, the former Director of UNM’s Bureau of Economic Research, as we learn why the New Mexico economy continues to underperform and how the Medicaid expansion is working. Produced with assistance of Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.
Following the just completed changes to Albuquerque’s 4th Street Mall downtown, we ask urban designer Jeff Speck what else could be done to make Downtown more vital and pedestrian-friendly? Speck recently prepared a walkability analysis of our Downtown for the City, focused on what he terms the 4 components of walkability, namely is the walk useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting. Those four criteria form the basis for how a relatively small number of planning interventions, mainly slowing down traffic by eliminating and narrowing driving lanes, could influence the livability and vitality of downtown Albuquerque. So, if you are interested in how the heart of Albuquerque’s downtown can be quickly changed, at minimal cost, while still having a major impact on the amount of walking and biking Downtown, please join urban planner Jeff Speck and host Stephen Spitz this Friday morning. Produced with assistance of Jefferson White and Lynn Schibeci.