Statement to the LEFC
November 17, 2016
I am Mary Ellen Gonzales. I am a member of the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County. I monitor meetings of the Board of Education of Santa Fe for the League.
I was monitoring a meeting last Tuesday evening when representatives from the New Mexico High School for the Arts approached the Board and asked it to include $15 million to help remodel the facility which NMSA recently purchased with the help of community members. The NMSA Board has diligently worked with its community to raise money to cover expenses not covered by the money it gets from the State, but it needs a little help. There were several lawyers and financial advisors there to explain things to the SFPS BOE and answer questions. It was quite obvious that there were many legal and auditing issues which needed to be worked out. All of them could have been worked out, but not in the time available before the Election Proclamation needed to be sent to the County Clerk.
Obviously, there exist statutory methods for solving the thorny facilities issues faced by Charter Schools, but they are complex and cumbersome. They put the needs of charter schools in direct competition with the needs of “regular” public schools and the administrators and board members of each at odds with each other. Would it not be simpler to simply allow Charter Schools to go directly to the voters? If this were to happen in conjunction with regular school board and bond elections, it would not add much cost, and it would be more true to the competitive relationship between them set up by the Charter School law.
Thank you for considering my request.
Mary Ellen Gonzales
Santa Fe, NM
Statement to the Santa Fe New Mexican
My View: Yet Another Important Vote
by Mary Ellen Gonzales, League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County Action and Advocacy Committee
On February 7 voters in the Santa Fe Public School District will be asked to approve a General Obligation Bond of $100 million to build, improve, repair, and maintain facilities. Since there is a need for $280 million, the Citizens’ Review Committee, the Board of Education and the staff worked diligently to prioritize these projects. They developed a plan which will begin to bring the Milagro Middle School, Early College Opportunity technical /vocational school, and Mandela International Baccalaureate School up to 21st century standards. There are additional projects left over from the last two bond elections which are not finished. There is money in this bond budget to complete these. Funds will also be spent on sustainability projects that are both environmentally sound and also save the District operational money. Schools will get new roofs, new HVAC systems, new classrooms, upgraded kitchens, etc.
All schools within the District will benefit in some way. Details are available on the SFPS website, http://www.sfps.info If the bond passes, property taxes on a $300,000 house will increase about $80 per year, or $6.67 per month.
The League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County urges all voters to cast their ballots either through early voting or on election day, February 7. Early voting has already begun at the Santa Fe County Clerk’s office, the Santa Fe Community College, the Educational Services Center (610 Alta Vista Street), and Nina Otero Community School at 5901 Herrera Drive.
Mary Ellen Gonzales
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Transparency in Government
Letter to the Governing Body re transparency
(copied to the New Mexican and the NM Foundation for Open
Dear Members of the Governing Body:
The League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County believes that the work of the public needs to be accomplished in public. We have followed the recent secretive actions of the governing body with increasing alarm. Not only do the city’s residents not know what our elected representatives voted on with respect to our most precious natural resource, water, we don’t even know what was considered.
The New Mexico Open Meetings Act requires that most of the business of governing be done in the open. There are a few exceptions, but it is difficult to understand how this recent session and vote could be included among them.
In our Transparency Position, the League urges local governments to hold an executive session only when absolutely necessary, include an explanation of the purpose of the session in the public meeting agenda, and keep and release a record of all attendees at such sessions. Further, when important matters of wide public interest have been discussed in executive session, the League believes the public body should publish a draft motion based on what was discussed and allow public input on it before a vote is taken. This position, in its entirety, is incorporated into the city’s Resolution 2011-056, and thus should provide guidance in all of the city’s undertakings.
Nevertheless, the governing body’s recent actions concerning (apparently) water and The Nature Conservancy rise to none of these standards. The League agrees with The Foundation for Open Government and The Santa Fe New Mexican’s editorial, that this does not pass the smell test, and that the action of the governing body needs to be specified, in public, and a new vote taken – the League believes, only after open public discussion.
Suzanne Schmidt, President
League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County
Cc: Santa Fe New Mexican
Susan Boe, NM Foundation for Open Government
Letter to Santa Fe County Staff Regarding the Draft Hard Rock Mining section of the SLDC
The League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County is pleased to have been included in the stakeholder meetings on the proposed Mining and Resource Extraction Regulations to be incorporated into SLDC Chapter 11 - DCIs. This letter is to convey our comments on the discussion at the June 9 stakeholder meeting.
We appreciate the invitation to attend the June 9 meeting; it was extremely informative. We are not subject-matter experts in mining issues and therefore defer on technical matters to those who are much more knowledgeable.
That said, our local, state and national positions support strong protections both for the health and well-being of residents and for all aspects of the environment. Such protections must cover short-term effects such as dust control, noise, and traffic as well as long-term effects such as water supply and quality, soil quality, wildlife corridors, and preservation of views and archaeological sites.
With hard rock mining, we are especially concerned about long-term effects on the environment from abandoned mines; therefore we support requiring bonding sufficient to cover remediation and, if appropriate, perpetual care of mine sites. Specifically, we support bonding on mining and drilling activities that is adequate to fund clean-up operations in the event the company abandons the mining or drilling site. We believe that self-bonding will not provide the County with sufficient protection; a requirement for a bank letter of agreement that will guarantee the funds in case of bankruptcy will better protect the County.
We understand that several participants at the June 9 meeting will be submitting detailed wording and content changes to County staff as the focus of the meeting was not at that level of detail. In general, we agree that all terms should be clearly defined and that wording should be unambiguous. The level of specificity within this chapter should be consistent across sections and comparable to existing SLDC regulations.
A major topic of discussion at the June 9 meeting was the organization of the mining DCI section. The organization of the current draft is consistent with the existing chapters of the SLDC. The alternative suggested by some participants is to model this section after the existing Oil and Gas Ordinance. The LWVSFC believes that keeping the structure of the mining DCI section consistent with existing DCI sections is preferable to having this one set of DCI regulations organized differently from the rest. If there are provisions in the O&G ordinance that are appropriate to include in the mining DCI regulations, it seems that it should be possible to incorporate them in the existing structure. Topics in the ordinance that are covered in general sections of the SLDC can be referenced in the mining section rather than being repeated. We believe that a consistent structure across the entire SLDC will not only provide clarity to applicants but will also make administration of the code more transparent and efficient.
At the June 9 meeting, there was also considerable discussion about how contracts for required studies, reports and assessments (SARs) should be written. An argument was made that, although the applicant will pay for the SARs, the County should be the client of the consultant company hired to conduct each project. We support this approach because it would minimize the risk of the applicant influencing the outcome of the study. However, we believe that the contract process should be consistent throughout the code.
Finally, we are concerned about the timeline. It appears that many of the same issues that were raised early this year when the initial draft of the mining regulations was distributed are still unresolved. With only about one month remaining until staff plans to present a revised draft to the BCC and then hold public hearings on that draft in August, it appears that there is much work still to be done.
Thank you for your attention to our concerns.
League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County
cc: Susan Mertes, Action & Advocacy Chair
Jody Larson and Chris Furlanetto, A&A Committee Member
Mental Health Care
Below are communications from the LWVSFC to public officials in 2016. Letters and comments are listed in reverse chronological order.
Comments to the BCC on 10/11 re a proposed ordinance to proclaim Mental Health Week:
Mr. Chair and Commissioners:
My name is Chris Furlanetto; I am speaking on behalf of the LWVSFC.
The League supports the proclamation recognizing Mental Illness Awareness Week in Santa Fe County. Thank you, Commissioners Chavez and Stefanics, for bringing this before the Commission.
The proclamation refers to two items on the November ballot: a bond issue to generate funds for behavioral health services and an advisory question where the public can weigh in on a possible gross receipts tax increase, also for behavioral health services.
The League does not- can not - endorse nor oppose bond issues without study, but we do expect state and local governments to provide the following:
1) Adequately funded mental health care systems that provide comprehensive services to the acutely, chronically and seriously mentally ill of all ages, including children and the homeless.
[NOTE: This sentence is an abbreviated version of the LWVNM position.]
2) Implementation of a master plan that:
3) Centers for the seriously and chronically mentally ill apart from the County system.
4) Regulations that provide an adequate length of time for evaluation and treatment of involuntary holds.
5) Model mandatory outpatient care programs with adequate supervisory staff.
Should the bond issue pass and/or the advisory question be approved by voters, we ask the BCC to keep these goals in mind in your decisions on allocating the new funds generated for behavioral health services.