Take back our coop!

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On the eve of Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees elections, let us consider a performance evaluation for incumbents. After all, we are their employers, and now is the time to give them a grade. Did they earn our votes for the next four years?

July 20, 2017 — A well-known character returns to the BOT. With his ongoing litigation against his former employer in full swing, John Tapia knew he would not win an election, even with a little help from his friends. So, he simply helped another likely suspect “win” by one vote and got himself re-installed as the at-large trustee. The challenger to this trustee asked to canvass the election, but oops, our cooperative DESTROYED the records

October 5, 2017 — The general manager that greatly improved JMEC’s bottom line resigned, ostensibly because he was running for a state legislative seat. He won. He is now running to be your next US Congressman.

November 30, 2017 — The “new” board quickly tried to prevent their actions being scrutinized, especially the process to hire a new general manager

December 21, 2017 — The board killed a well-thought out plan for a solar array negotiated by the former GM. We would only find out much later why (see entry on December 22, 2018).

February 15, 2018 — The BOT chooses a new GM

May 3, 2018 — Owner/members asked the board to put bylaw changes to a vote by owner/members. The reaction of the BOT was to change the meeting location last minute to Cuba, three hours from most of its membership.

July 26, 2018 — The BOT insists on holding a general meeting in a far, far away place,and it turned out to be a dud

August 30, 2018 — When member/owners continued to speak out about bylaws and meter issues, the board adopts a policy to simply severely limiting outside communications to members by cooperative employees and trustees.

December 15, 2018 — JMEC deals with insurance hikes following the CA fires. A number of job-related injuries don’t help matters.

December 22, 2018 — Only because of his own litigation against his former employer did we find out that the cooperative’s new solar array project was really a sweetheart deal for the trustee-at-large, now an unelected member of the board. Member/owners requested he resign due to this conflict, but six of your trustees decided to ignore their request, in direct violation of their bylaws.

February 15, 2019 — A ray of sunshine emerged as a piece of New Mexico legislation, HB300, was passed and signed into law. It allows for cooperatives to reach a quorum by mail and vote by mail. Unfortunately, the legislation is at-will, and the JMEC board rejected the idea immediately. The Board’s attorney actually claims this bill was never passed.

February 22, 2019 — Trustees continued to pay themselves handsomely for their work in 2018.

May 8, 2019 — Four trustees submitted member-supported bylaw reforms to the board asking that special meetings be noticed to put them to a vote. In direct violation of their bylaws requiring this notice, the board refused.

Do you think they deserve another four years? If you fail to show up and vote for districts 4, 5 and 6 this month, you implicitly hire them back. While the staff writers at the Rio Grande Sun may appreciate the regular fodder for their newspaper, I believe it is time to send some trustees a pink slip

To fire the current board members that were involved in silencing members and turn the page to ensure real reform, please vote (all elections are from 7AM-7PM):

District 4, Patrick Herrera vs. Lucas Cordova. June 21st @JMEC headquarters/Hernandez
District 5, Stanley Crawford vs. Victor Salazar. June 24th @Espanola Valley High School
District 6, Bruce Duran, June 26th @Pojoaque Middle School*

*Bruce Duran is an incumbent, but also one of the trustees that submitted bylaw changes for the member/owners that were ignored by the majority of the BOT (including Lucas Cordova and VictorSalazar).

You own this cooperative. You are the boss. You only need to show up and vote to enforce this personnel action. Vote for Patrick Herrera, Stanley Crawford and Bruce Duran as your JMEC trustees this June. Let’s take back our coop!

When Progressives Fight for the Status Quo

A quick Roundhouse roundup:

HB4 — Ethics Commission has passed the House and is now stuck in the Senate Rules Committee

Unfortunately, the commission will only handle cases involving the Gift Act and campaign finance issues. The dismal process for handling harassment claims is still in the hands of the legislature. This legislation does have a blackout near elections, confidentiality up to the point where probable cause is found and real teeth in the form of subpeona power. It also requires a complaint to be made under oath.

HB300 — Allow mail-in votes to form a quorum for rural electrical cooperatives

This too passed the House, and it is stuck in Senate Rules

Find the names/emails of the Senate Rules Committee Members here.

Now we will talk about House Memorial 63.

Recently, the governor signed Senate Bill 11, titled “Gross Receipts for Non-Profit Organizations” into law. Don’t let the name fool you, it isn’t really about non-profit organizations. It specifically carves out an exception to the usual tax-exempt status of non-profit entities for two specific businesses, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. I will skip the part where I explain how dumb I think creating exemptions from exemptions to the tax code is as a policy. I now turn you to the smiley photo op moment published on the governor’s Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/GovMLG/photos/a.2265811537078391/2305286606464217/?type=3&theater, accessed 3/5/2019.

Pictured are Senators Cisneros and Martinez, the governor, and Representatives Chandler and Romero.

The caption reads “This important safeguard will ensure lab-adjacent New Mexico communities maintain a crucial revenue stream.

Again, don’t let this fool you. “lab-adjecent” means Los Alamos County and City, who will reap the benefit of the $20M local portion of GRT paid by Triad, the new contractor for LANL. While Senators Cisneros and Martinez have constituents in Los Alamos County (Cisneros in White Rock and Martinez in Los Alamos proper), and Chris Chandler represents all of Los Alamos in the House, Andrea Romero has precisely ZERO constituents that will directly benefit from this GRT bill. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

Under state statute, local portions of the GRT collected are collected by the County and City in which the payer is located. In this case, Los Alamos is both city and county and grabs 2% of the tax. The remaining 5% and change goes into the state of New Mexico’s general fund, which gets spent, well, on “stuff”. So, I was curious about how the communities surrounding LANL that are not Los Alamos might benefit from this tax. The answer is, they mostly don’t, except tangentially.

Now enters House Memorial 63. It asked that the legislature fund a study to determine the most equitable way to allocate GRT taxes collected from a place like LANL. You see, Los Alamos is a town of 18,000 residents, and 55% of the workforce at LANL don’t live there. They live in Santa Fe city and county, Rio Arriba and Sandoval. No doubt some also make the long commute from Bernalillo. Additionally, the Department of Energy really likes to keep its employees happy, and it grants Los Alamos schools an additional $8M/year to make sure it stays that way.

Joseph Sanchez, representative of House District 40, in the northern parts of Espanola and farther reaches of Rio Arriba County, and incidentally a staff member in Los Alamos, wanted to know if there was a way to quantify the impact and equity in this tax code. There was only one problem. His “progressive” representative colleague Susan Herrera would not just refuse to cosponsor the bill, she would sit in committee and work to kill it. The smiling face of Andrea Romero, representative to the northernmost parts of Santa Fe County which are also “lab-adjecent” was nowhere to be found on the issue when it got to committee.

Today, I got to see progressives fight AGAINST social and economic inequality. Yup, you heard it here first.

I wrote and had published an open letter to this committee, which you can read here. It lays out the great disparity in Los Alamos and its neighboring communities in the areas of education and in income. It begs the question of whether the United States’ second most wealthy County should receive 100% of the benefit of this local GRT. The answer for progressive Susan Herrera seems to be that yes, Los Alamos deserves this cash influx and that they act as good stewards and neighbors to surrounding communities. I whole-heartedly disagree that the issue is that simple.

I would like to thank Joseph Sanchez for taking on this issue and advocating for his constituents (and Romero’s and Herrera’s). I would also like to thank Mayor Javier Sanchez of Espanola, who spoke of losing money when students flee to the much more superbly funded district of Los Alamos, and for Ohkay Owingeh and Santa Clara Pueblos, who stood in support of the bill.

Before the committee started, I noticed a fist bump between a gentleman and Susan Herrera. That gentleman is the lobbyist for Los Alamos.

After the committee ended, a Bernie delegate (self-proclaimed progressive) from Los Alamos approached me to suggest we talk to their superintendent to “see what they are doing that Pojoaque and Espanola are not”. I calmly told him “You mean besides getting $8M/year from DOE?”

A stammer and a rationalization followed.

Well done, progressives. Well done.

To weigh in with your local reps on this issue, feel free to contact them here:

Susan Herrera susan.herrera@nmlegis.gov

Andrea Romero andrea@andrearomero.com

Susan Herrera susan.herrera@nmlegis.gov

Richard Martinez richard.martinez@nmlegis.gov

Carlos Cisneros carlos.cisneros@nmlegis.gov

I’m baaaackkk!

It has been a while since I offered content, but I am now rested up and ready to go. First a couple of announcements.

I have joined the Board of Directors for New Mexico Open Primaries!! We have a bill in the New Mexico Legislature to allow our independent and minor party voters to participate in primary elections. Please read HB93. Please attend the first committee meeting for this bill on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at 1:30 PM in room 317.

I am also working on uploading my old blog posts. Stay tuned on that.

Today, however, I have a very important update on the Regional Water System that is part of the Aamodt Water Settlement.

As most of you know, we House District 46 has a new state representative and the 2019 session is in full swing. Starting in October of last year, many of us in the Nambe/Pojoaque/Tesuque (NPT) basin were hearing rumblings of drastic changes to the budget estimates for the Regional Water System (RWS) proposed as part of the federal legislation for the Aamodt Water Settlement. Carl Trujillo and I presented an update to the community on October 30, 2018, and I contacted our federal delegation with some questions about the water system and the rumors we had heard. Here is the text of my original email written on October 24, 2018:

Per our telephone conversation, I send these questions about the Aamodt Settlement Agreement.

Background: Rumor had it that the price tag on the Regional Water System (RWS) had grown to $404M. Since the initial federal, state and county costs were tied to the original estimate and indexed to 2006 dollars, my understanding is that much more federal money will be required. According to BOR, I was not wrong about this rumor, although they seemed not to have a straight answer as to the detail of the estimate. The project manager said “it is a mess”. They also informed me that the federal delegation (BRL, Udall, Heinrich) had been briefed on this matter.

Given that, I would like the following questions answered by Ben.
1. Is the delegation supportive of more federal funds for the RWS, and if so, how much more money will be/has been requested by him or our Senators?

2. If the answer to the first question is YES, will that legislation also change the deadlines for completion for the RWS, since the original timeline has the system starting construction in fall of 2018 (now)?

3. If federal funding is increased as described above, will Santa Fe County also be responsible for a larger contribution to the funding of the RWS, and have any maintenance estimates been created in light of the extra cost? Typically the more expensive a system is to build, the more expensive it is to maintain. I would like to know if there has been any consideration given to this factor.
I did not receive a response from Congressman Lujan or Senators Udall and Heinrich on the matter. In fact, with the exception of Senator Udall’s office, none of their offices admitted to any knowledge of this new estimate at all.

On November 17, 2018, I was at the New Mexico Acequia Association’s Congreso, and I spoke to Congressman Lujan regarding the matter. He advised me that he did not have the new estimate and had no comment on it.

What I didn’t know was that on November 15th, the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) had issued its 2018 Indian Water Rights Settlement Fund Report and it contained the new budget estimates in black and white.
Here is the excerpt from pages 6-7 of the report.screenshot 2019-01-27 at 7.45.40 am

The cost was not $404M as we had thought. It was $421M. I set out to find out what this money would buy and how it would be funded. I have still had no response from Congressman Lujan or Senators Udall and Heinrich about this matter. The report, however, highlights a shortfall of >$200M for the system, and no real plans for how the $53M of “non-federal funding” will be provided.

Imagine my surprise then, when our new state representative for House District 46 presented the water system to the Democratic Socialists chapter in Santa Fe as a “debt-free project” for Santa Fe County and the Pueblos. (go to 14:50 of the video below). To my HD46 residents in Espanola, note her comments about a similar settlement coming for you!!

Because this statement seemed at the very least slightly ludicrous, I attended Andrea Romero’s coffee meetup in Pojoaque, and questioned her about the statement. I also visited our state senator, Carlos Cisneros at a townhall to ask questions.

According to senator Cisneros, the state of New Mexico will be more than happy to fund the shortfall, and $18M of funding for the water system is currently included in the 2019 budget.

I have also requested that Andrea Romero (I will follow up with senator Cisneros by email) provide some capital outlay funding to help NPT basin well owners meet the metering requirements imposed by the settlement. These water meters will cost a few hundred dollars to install, a huge financial burden on many low income residents of the Valley.

In her defense, Andrea did provide me with correspondence between our federal delegation and Bureau of Reclamation.

Letter from Lujan/Udall/Heinrich to BOR

Response from Alan Mikkelson

This exchange tells me a few things. First of all, the letter about the higher construction estimates for the RWS was written on August 30, 2018, well before I asked my questions, and certainly before I saw Congressman Lujan in November. He told me in November that he did not have those estimates. That was clearly false.
The RWS is ostensibly being built to give the residents of the Valley access to clean water and to reduce the demand on subsurface water. If this system reached all the residents of the NPT basin (it does not and will not), that would be about 10,000 men, women and children. The $421M estimate does not complete phase 3 of the RWS, which allows county residents to hook up to the system. The estimated amount completes 90% of phase 1, 60% of phase 2 and 30% of phase 3, so we can only assume the number of residents reached is much lower than the entire population. 923 well owners responded recently somewhat favorably to Santa Fe County about hooking to the RWS.

Indexed to 2024 dollars, the price tag for the RWS will reach $500M. This amount of money will buy roughly 28,000 whole home reverse osmosis systems, or roughly three times the number of men, women and children in the Valley. What part of this project makes any sense?

I encourage residents of the NPT basin to begin asking questions about the viability and the long-term impact this system will have on them.

Here are your state rep and senator’s email addresses:

andrea@andrearomero.com

Here are the local contacts for your federal representatives:

Sonya Lopez at Ben Ray Lujan’s Santa Fe office

If you would like to email them all at once, just press this link for a group email blast:
That’s all for today. More on the legislative session coming soon.
Heather