Lack of affordable housing is a national, state and local crisis and this blog describes how Buffalo has given residents control over development, dedicated land and other resources to allow development without promoting displacement. Also, an update on Dark Money in NM primaries.
Dark Money & Democracy in Action
New Energy Economy Reveals Dark Money from PNM Supporting Incumbent PRC Commissioners’ Re-Election Campaigns
New Energy Economy learned that PNM Resources gave $440,000 to “New Mexicans for Progress” an Independent Expenditure steered by Jay McCleskey, to support New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioners Sandy Jones and Lynda Lovejoy. This fundraising vehicle has attacked challengers Stephen Fischmann and Janene Yazzie.
For years, New Energy Economy has challenged the impartiality of Commission review of various Hearing Examiners’ recommended decisions. Unfortunately, for the public, Commissioners Lovejoy and Jones have consistently overturned the well-reasoned and legally based decisions of the administrative law hearing examiners to the detriment of the public and to the benefit of PNM. Indeed, since 2015 the PRC Hearing Examiners have ALWAYS sided with New Energy Economy only to have Lovejoy, Jones and Lyons disregard the Examiners and side with utilities. This has cost New Mexicans millions of dollars and has negatively impacted New Mexico land, air, and water and resulted in obscene profits for PNM. And now we learn that PNM funnels almost half a million dollars into independent efforts to support their campaigns. What kind of pay-to-play scheme is this?
Gas & Oil Dark Money Floods Trujillo (Dist. 46), Rodello (Dist. 41) and Muñoz (Land Commissioner) Campaigns.
According to the most recent Secretary of State’s campaign finance reports, over $270K in dark money from two oil magnates (Chevron $224,000 and Mack Energy $50,000) has also flowed into campaigns supporting George Muñoz (Land Commissioner), Carl Trujillo (Dist. 46), and Debbie Rodella (Dist. 41) to fund last minute hit pieces against their challengers, candidates whose grassroots campaign budgets are dwarfed by this last minute flood of corporate money.
It is ugly my friends, ugly. So let’s change gears and look at more inspiring news.
The Las Cruces Sun News has endorsed Steve Fischmann for the Public Regulation Commission!
The Sun News editorial board notes that incumbent Sandy Jones “is a defender of the status quo – a complex, byzantine…process…that incentivizes investment over conservation.” Sun News columnist Peter Goodman says: “Fischmann recognizes the urgency of doing all we reasonably can do to diminish our collective energy footprint – and give ratepayers a fairer shake.” And “If I’m right that we’re on the cusp of real change, I think Fischmann has the vision to help us get there.” You can read the full endorsement here.
Buffalo Uses Community Land Trusts to Develop Affordable Housing Citywide
Buffalo’s Fruit Belt community was feeling the threat of a sprawling Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the development surrounding it. Gentrification beckoned, but that community fought back, organized a Community Land Trust and then began lobbying with the Buffalo Common Council to fight against displacement. The alliance’s work with the city led to the launch of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, giving the residents negotiating power in working with developers. As reported in Next Cities: “Buffalo Common Council partially lifted a two-and-a-half-year moratorium on the sale of city-owned property in Buffalo’s historic Fruit Belt community, reported the Buffalo News. The action paves the way for the transfer of up to 20 vacant lots to the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust.”
“If we control the process of who purchases those lots, we will be able to control rents, we will have development without displacement of our residents. That’s what’s key,” Annette Lott, who has lived in the Fruit Belt for more than six decades, told Next City. “We want development, we want businesses, we need businesses in our community, but we don’t want to do it at the expense of dismantling what has been a viable, community spirit that we have built for many many years.”
“It empowers people to vet development in the community,” said Buffalo Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the Fruit Belt neighborhood. “This is one of my crown jewels in my term as councilmember. To save some of the city-owned land in the Fruit Belt for low-income and working class who want to stay, it’s a good day.”
It took three years of grassroots organizing in East Side Buffalo to achieve this victory. According to Next Cities: “It’s expected that moratoriums on the sale of some 200 more city-owned lots will be lifted as well. Prospective developments, which include both commercial and mixed-income residential projects, will be reviewed by a Fruit Belt Advisory Committee, which will then make recommendations to the city, Pridgen told the News. Click here for the full Next Cities report. It is remarkable what people can do when they work together with a common purpose.
In our research for our planned Listening Tour of the US, we have uncovered many instances of low-income communities organizing to establish Community Land Trusts and then advocating
Paul & Roxanne