Most governmental entities in southeastern New Mexico drafted resolutions and plans to reopen their respective communities after doing what Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered to “flatten the curve,” and seeing no plans from the state level to get New Mexico moving again. So far, those resolutions and plans have received nothing but the sound of crickets from the governor’s office.
“Not a peep,” Lea County Commission Chairperson Rebecca Long said about whether the governor’s office has communicated with local officials on the matter.
But, not hearing a “peep” from the governor’s office isn’t much of a shock, Long said.
“I was president of New Mexico Counties last year and I moderated a conversation between her and seven sheriffs (on the Red Flag laws), trying to see if there is any kind of common ground,” Long said giving an example of past dealings directly with the governor. “When it was over, she said to me, ‘You county commissioners can pass all the resolutions you want. I don’t care.’”
Tatum mayor Marilyn Burns said it is possible the governor hasn’t even looked at any of the resolutions or plans sent in by communities from around the state.
“You can send all these resolutions in, but they can be applied into a pile and nobody ever looks at those,” Burns said.
Tatum did not send a resolution to the governor’s desk, but Burns said the is following along with what Lovington and Lea County are doing.
“We’re basically going to go with what the county is doing,” Burns said. “I haven’t heard anything (from the governor’s office). I don’t think anyone has.”
Lovington mayor, David Trujillo said officials have not heard back from the governor’s office regarding Lovington’s resolution and reopening plan.
“No, we haven’t,” Trujillo said. “We’ve been coordinating our efforts with some of the local mayors throughout southeastern New Mexico and getting their feedback. We’ve been trying to figure out what the next step is with everything.”
“We have not,” Hobbs mayor Sam Cobb also said about hearing back from the governor. “The documents were delivered to John Bingaman, the chief of staff for the governor, along with our reopening plan.”
Jal mayor W. Stephen Aldridge said, like other Lea County municipalities, officials there have received no word either.
“We’re in the same spot as everybody else down in this part of the world, and across the state. We’ve all got friends and neighbors in business and those businesses are being hit hard. It concerns us,” Aldridge said. “I would like to think they are capable of responding, at least with a ‘thank you for your plan and consideration.’”
“Not that I know of, no sir,” said Eunice mayor Billy Hobbs about any response from the governor. On Monday, Eunice reopened city services and buildings under the same criteria the governor said big national chain box stores could operate under, and told businesses each could make their own decisions to open under the same guidelines.
“She (Gov. Lujan Grisham) has absolutely no regards for small business. Why in the world can’t two or three people be in a small business? Why is that so wrong, and why is it so OK for 200-300 people to be in a large business?” Long said, then emphasized, “It’s. The. Most. Absurd. Thing. I’ve. Ever. Witnessed.”
Trujillo agreed with the sentiment small businesses can operate safely under the same guidelines.
“People are running out of patience. I’m really worried for the small business people in our community. I don’t want to see them fail due to this virus,” he said, indicating he was speaking for himself and not other members of the Lovington city commission. “All due respect for her and her administration, but you’ve always got to have an exit plan, and she (Lujan Grisham) has not explained an exit plan. It continues to be ‘protect yourself and allow the virus to control us.’ This virus is controlling the outcome for the state of New Mexico and that’s the wrong direction.”
And, it’s not just Lea County resolutions getting the cold shoulder from Lujan Grisham’s office. Various communities from around the state, including Carlsbad, the largest municipality in neighboring Eddy County, have sent plans and resolutions to the governor’s office, only to receive no feedback.
“Yes, we’re very disappointed that we haven’t received any response. All we’ve been asking for all along is a program that is reasonable and fair to local businesses. One would think that the Governor would strive to be more attuned to the voices of her constituents and the well-researched resolutions and proposals they are putting together,” Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway told the News-Sun.
Community leaders are frustrated with Lujan Grisham, because of the disconnect the governor seems to foster with most rural communities.
“She’s (the governor) not listening to us,” Long said. “I don’t know why she doesn’t understand that we know our communities.”
“She continues to compare us with northern New Mexico,” Trujillo said. “Our outbreak is minimal compared to northern New Mexico. She cannot just do this blanket health order throughout the whole state. The strategy is just wrong. I don’t want to disrespect her or any elected official, but it comes to a point you’ve got to start standing up for your community.”
The News-Sun also spoke with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales Wednesday morning, and asked about the various resolutions and plans to reopen sent to the governor’s office from most of southeastern New Mexico, including Lea, Eddy, and Chaves Counties.
“I know that the governor, and her team, meets weekly with county leadership across the state as well as mayors, so I know there is communication, but specifically they started a task force last week to revue all of those possibilities that local communities are saying to open up,” Morales said. “So, as far as any who have said they haven’t heard anything, or not any response, I would be happy to speak with them directly. … Those are being reviewed and every task force that is in place is headed by one of our cabinet secretaries, so all of those have been reviewed. So, whether there has been feedback, I don’t know. But, I do know there’s been reviewing of that, which helps us determine what steps we could take as far as when we made the changes May 1, and lifted some of the restrictions.”
The longer it takes to reopen the state, proponents argue, the more money the state is losing. This coupled with the fact that since the January Legislative session, under the guidance of Lujan Grisham, New Mexico has gone from having the largest budget surplus in history to falling to the largest deficit.
“We’re surrounded by states that are open,” Long said. “We’ve got Texas on the south and east of New Mexico, you’ve got Colorado to the north, and you’ve got Arizona to the west. People are simply going across state lines to do what they want to do, whether it’s sitting in a restaurant for a meal, or going to stay at a hotel just to get out of their house. All of that GRT (Gross Receipt Tax) money is going to three other states. This is the most absurd thing I have ever seen.”
And, other officials say most of rural New Mexico is used to social distancing, and it should be easier to open this part of the state, as opposed to the northwest.
“When it comes to distancing, we’ve got so much territory, we’re used to being six feet apart,” Trujillo said. “We’re not like Albuquerque or other areas that are so congested — that’s just their way of life. Ours is, everybody likes their open space here.”
Morales again pointed out that some parts of various resolutions have been considered by the governor’s office, even if they did not respond to the elected officials who sent them to Santa Fe. But, if any city or county commission has not heard from state officials, Morales said he would be happy to speak with members of the commission personally, if they contact him.
“Is it going to change things? Is he going to override the governor?” Long asked.
Blake Ovard may be reached at .