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The Year in Public Policy, Part I
Twelve months of NM government flops, flubs, and follies
10. Jack Welch she ain’t
After three years in office, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has lost 26 senior staffers.
That’s not a misprint.
In 2021, the slaughter-fest quickened its pace, with a dozen evacuees. Many — including the heads of the Department of Health, Public Education Department, State Personnel Office, Department of Workforce Solutions, and Children, Youth and Families Department — were in charge of key bureaucracies.
No example of Lujan Grisham’s management ineptitude is more illustrative than the man she picked to head the department that provides “an array of prevention, intervention, rehabilitative and after-care services to New Mexico children and their families.” Announcing her appointee in 2019, the governor was “excited about his tenure,” because Brian Blalock represented “a fresh set of eyes, a sharp set of eyes, and we need leadership that’s prepared to take a holistic view and start rebuilding from the ground up at CYFD.” Two and a half years later, the “reformer” was off to “support his wife’s pursuit of new work opportunities in California.”
“Personnel is policy,” it’s been said, and if the aphorism is true, it’s easy to see why Lujan Grisham’s “leadership” has been so disastrous. People don’t seem to want to work for her, which serves to confirm the oft-made accusation that the governor is both disorganized and petty. In 2022, her Republican opponent would be wise to ask why so many top officials have fled her administration.
9. Wokeness on your dime
During 2021’s regular legislative session, lawmakers approved HB 43, sponsored by then-Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque) and Sen. Harold Pope (D-Albuquerque). The bill created the “Black education liaison” and “Black education advisory council,” tasked with “improving public school education for Black students, increasing parent involvement and community engagement in the education of Black students and increasing the number of Black high school graduates who succeed in post-secondary academic, professional or vocational education.” Unsurprisingly, “anti-racism and cultural sensitivity training and professional development programs for all school personnel” will be mandated, with “equitable and culturally responsive learning environments” the goal.
Taxpayer-funded wokeness manifested itself in other ways in 2021, but nothing matched the ugliness of HB 43. Worse still, not a single Republican in the Roundhouse voted against the bill. History will not look kindly on the gutless GOPers who refused to stand against the poison that is critical race theory.
8. Holtec’s momentum continues
We will soon learn if the federal regulators responsible for oversight of atomic “waste” approve of Holtec International’s proposed facility, to be located about halfway between Hobbs and Carlsbad. In 2021, the siting process quietly progressed, with a license decision expected early in the new year. In April, the Land of Enchantment’s attorney general filed a specious lawsuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It was a desperate move, and is unlikely to succeed.
7. Branson flies, Virgin Galactic dies
It was a triumph for public relations — and a tragedy for taxpayers.
In July, Richard Branson finally made it to “space,” riding a rocketship from Spaceport America to just below the Kármán line. The trip was a long time coming, particularly for New Mexico, which handed Branson over $200 million in public funding for a launch facility in Sierra County.
But it didn’t take very long for some inconvenient facts about the “historic achievement” to emerge. Branson did not ride a bicycle to Spaceport America that day, and the flight itself experienced “a problem that caused it to stray from its restricted airspace.” The company then initiated its “planned maintenance period” early, delaying its next manned mission until late 2022. Meanwhile, Blue Origin’s high-profile journeys roll on, and other competitors lurk.
Source: Yahoo! Finance
From its 2021 high, Virgin Galactic’s stock price has dropped 75 percent. Branson himself bailed twice during the year, dumping shares in April and August. Twelve months from now, Virgin Galactic could be in bankruptcy. Rest assured, the company’s New Mexico enablers will still claim that success is just around the corner for Spaceport America.
6. Planning for failure
Given its dismal economy, New Mexico sure spends a lot of time and resources on “economic development.” The central planning intensified in 2021, with the state and Albuquerque issuing blueprints that corporacrats claim will boost jobs and incomes.
The Duke City’s “new comprehensive five-year strategic plan” targets “six key clusters.” The state is more ambitious — its “20-year strategic plan” seeks to develop “nine industries with strong growth potential and high private sector wages.”
Predictably, neither document includes anything about a right-to-work law, school choice, elimination of New Mexico’s income tax, sweeping reform of the gross receipts tax, an end to rampant welfarism, a stronger legal climate, or a revenue/spending limitation.
As long as the men and women who claim to promote economic development in New Mexico refuse to address the state’s deeply dysfunctional culture and immensely destructive public policies, the Land of Enchantment will remain unattractive to entrepreneurship and investment. Their dereliction of duty — preferring cowardly happy talk to tough love — is inexcusable.