Today we update you on how Rethink is working with stakeholder teams to prepare for the Interim Committee Hearings and how you can plug in: public banking, worker cooperatives, predatory lending, K-12 education, public safety, public power, Green Amendment all working to advance bold initiatives. We also offer a short guest post from frequent contributor Adam Wasserman on the implications of the alarming rise in the murder rate. Finally, our Retake Conversation with two Maine energy activists, as they laid out their efforts to resist Avangrid and form a statewide public utility. Read on!
Rethink Behind the Scenes:
Rethink Working the Interim Committees with Ally Teams
Since the last session Rethink has conducted interviews with over 20 legislators and from those conversations we have begun to better understand how the legislative process and the Interim Committees (IC) are linked and how proactive conversations with legislators and IC staff can result in legislators achieving a deeper understanding of complex legislation well in advance of each regular session. Through this process, we are also cultivating a different kind of relationship with legislators, more personal, and collegial. For now, the process is more educational and collaborative than advocacy focused work and so we are not encouraging letters to legislators to support initiatives. We want to lay the groundwork for that support in a non-advocacy environment.
We are working in several policy areas:
State Public Banking: I meet with leadership from Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity on about a weekly basis, sharing information and insights gleaned from conversations with legislators and sharing ideas about the kind of panelists and information AFLEP will want to organize for each of the ICs before which they will present. At present, we are uncertain, but hopeful, that legislation to advance public banking will be introduced in 2022. Fingers crossed.
Green Amendment: The Steering Committee for this effort is statewide and diverse. It meets weekly to plot strategy. Since the GA is a constitutional amendment, the Joint Resolution to put it to a statewide vote does not have to be on the governor’s call and so it will certainly be reintroduced in 2022. as it will certainly be reintroduced.
Sustainable Economic Democracy for NM (SEDNM) and Worker Owned Cooperatives. The goal for this team is first to come to a better understanding of the variety of alternative business structures that foster increased worker involvement in management decisions. A rotating facilitator guides a small team that is organizing research on the efficacy of worker owned cooperatives and other structures. Members of the team include leadership from Cooperative Catalyst, Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity, Prosperity Works, Earth Care, Fast Forward Strategic Consulting (Eric Griego) and P-Brain Media, a small business consultation firm. The group has met with national cooperative affiliates and has created a survey to be circulated among small business operators. It is not likely that legislation for this work will be introduced in 2022, as bills must be on the governor’s call, but this is one effort that, with a good education effort, should achieve bipartisan support from urban and rural communities.
Public Power Partners. This partnership is comprised of leadership from the Land Office, Renewable Taos, and New Energy Economy with significant consultation offered from various utility experts, lawyers and environmentalists. The group is almost finished with a position paper and pro forma that outlines the public benefit from a variety of energy generation and distribution models appropriate to NM. It is unlikely that this effort will result in a bill in 2022, but the IC appearances will cultivate a better understanding of the potential of public power and the experience with different structures in other states. As part of the education effort, Rethink has organized a zoom webinar with advocates from Maine who are advancing a bill to create a statewide public utility and seek a divorces from Avangrid on July 8 (see below).
36% Small Loan Rate The small rate lending effort is actually being led by an NGO team comprised of ThinkNM, New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty and other legal and economic justice organizations. Rethink has been meeting frequently with Fred Nathan and Kristina Fischer to hone IC regular session strategy. We are told that the Governor will place this on the call in 2022.
Each of these groups is initiating contact with IC chairs and staff, and scheduling expert panels throughout the summer and fall. The intent is to share information in a much less formal setting than during regular sessions. In ICs our expert panels will present for 15 minutes and then engage in questions and answers with legislators for 45 minutes to an hour. This kind of explorative discussion will help inform legislators and help advocates identify strong allies and those with concerns.
How You Can Be Involved
Rethink has been organizing twice monthly Zoom Huddles to keep volunteers informed and to organize their participation in aspects of this work and in researching other transformational initiatives that can be translated into legislation going forward. In truth, the work we are doing now is very different and it has taken us awhile to figure out exactly how best to utilize volunteers and we really don’t want to waste their time. But we are now getting our arms around the process and how volunteers can plug in. We have a small number of individuals and teams already working on initiatives related to tax and revenue and election reform, public power, and we have learned from that process. Now we feel ready to expand that work to other areas. For example, we know we want to conduct research into:
- K-12 Education. Exploring mechanisms through which the state could invest its reserves and increase its revenues to better support public education, energy generation and transmission, broadband and other infrastructure;
- Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform. See today’s feature below for an outline of the concern we hope to address;
- Infrastructure in rural and tribal NM.
- Local food systems; and
- All of the initiatives for which we already are involved in collaborative teams (above).
While we certainly need researchers and writers, we also need volunteers to perform more administrative tasks and we need ideas and input. If you would like to explore getting involved, click here to complete a 1-minute survey to indicate your interests and then participate in our next Huddle on Tuesday, July 6 at 6pm. Click here to register. Stay tuned! Better yet, get involved.
Zoominar Featuring Maine Leaders Opposing Avangrid Seek to Form a State Public Power
Thursday, July 8, 6pm-7:30pm In Conversation with Maine Energy Activists. We get to hear it straight from Maine residents who are fighting Avangrid as if their lives, power and forests depended upon their winning the battle. Hearing from the “Mainers” will be more than enough to convince you that NM must be nuts to even be considering the Avangrid merger. PNM has been bad enough, but why would we accept a mega corporation from Spain that has a truly terrible track record of exploitation, avoiding regulation, failure to pay fines, and manipulation of legislatures in the US, UK, Spain and the Global South? And now Iberdrola CEO is being beinb investigated for fraud. Find out what is at stake and find out how Avangrid’s offensive corporate behavior has caused Mainers to seek an alternative to for profit monopoly utility. Hear from:
- Vaughan Woodruff. Vaughan’s experience within the local and national solar industry is broad. He was chair of Maine’s solar industry trade association during the height of policy battles, and was lead instructor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Instructor Training Network in New England and New York. Vaughan has been an outspoken advocate for renewable energy in Maine and has extensive experience implementing solar power within the Central Maine Power/Avangrid/Iberdrola utility territory. He has testified at the Public Utility Commission and is a powerful advocate for new legislation in Maine that would create a public power utility, Pine Tree Power, to protect the people of Maine from Avangrid’s incompetent, unreliable service and obstruction of distributed solar power.
- William Dunn, President of Sunset Point LLC Bill Dunn specializes in electricity market design and implementation, ancillary services, utility and power pool/market operations, inter-utility coordination, contractual power supply arrangements, and transmission access and pricing. Bill has over 49 years of experience in working with electric utility organizations of all ownership types (i.e., public, private, local and federal). He has held senior positions in utilities and on power pool/market committees. Bill is a leading advocate and lobbyist for the newly proposed public power legislation in Maine and has testified extensively about the failures of Central Maine Power, Avangrid and Iberdrola to serve the public interest in Maine.
Click here to register.
And Tell Your Friends
Maine Energy Activists on Public Power and Avangrid, a Rethink Zoominar
Thursday, July 8. Hear from William Dunn and Vaughan Woodruff and ask questions about their experience battling Avangrid and fighting to create public power in Maine. We will have far more time for discussion than in the Conversation above, so if this sounds interesting, please register by clicking here.
Skyrocketing Murder Rates Offer GOP a Message to Run On. This is a Problem
The murder rate across the nation is skyrocketing. Adam Wasserman, one of our Rethink researchers became alarmed as he considered how during the 80s and 90s escalating violence throughout urban America had been used by the GOP to mount fear-based campaigns that led to huge GOP election victories and a war on drugs and mass incarceration campaign that has decimated communities of color. More recently the same kind of fear-based campaigns has fueled opposition to most any immigration or refugee resettlement. Adam is concerned that the rise in the murder rate could translate into a messaging effort to GOP voters that could result in disaster in 2022. Thank you, Adam. Read on!
Adam Wasserman: The Implications of the Increases in Murder Rate Across America
I am deeply, deeply worried that any progressive agenda is about to be derailed by the recent rise in crime (murder to be specific—other types of crime are not going up). The research I’ve done on policing makes it clear that the jump in violent crime that started in the mid-60s was absolutely central to the success of Republicans (Nixon, then Reagan) and the decades long repression of African Americans under the guise of the ‘war on drugs.’ Crime was seized on by conservatives and racists and weaponized to win over frightened white voters. Liberals lagged but largely went along. I don’t think any other issue was as important to the realignment of American politics in this period.
No one really knows what caused the rise in crime from the mid-60s to the 90s. But that didn’t really matter then and it won’t matter now either. The perception that crime is going up, that the streets aren’t safe, and that ‘they’—black and brown people—are out of control will be widespread, and will be exploited and magnified on the right.
The 60s crime rise was blamed on civil rights and black people getting uppity, egged on by crazy hippies and students who called all police ‘pigs.’ Today’s crime is easily connected to BLM and post-Ferguson, post-Floyd activism, egged on by woke liberals who want to abolish the police.
The NYC mayor’s race apparently turned on fears of rising crime, with the winner being a former policeman while progressive candidates fell behind. This is where I’m afraid the whole country is headed.
Biden I’m sure sees this and is trying to get ahead of it, emphasizing he never supported de-funding the police and now rolling out a big anti-crime package. He will get flack from the left for favoring police hiring and more money for policing. From a strict policy standpoint there are things to criticize. But it’s vital not to let this issue be monopolized by the right.
Progressives must have a coherent response. Clearly ‘de-funding’ is a terrible message, but the underlying idea of putting money into community programs and support services that free the police to do their core job of stopping violent crime, is a message with some potential traction. Connecting the rise in murders to easy access to guns, has potential traction. Making police more trusted in minority communities—who desperately want more police protection, not less, but don’t want more of the kind of policing they get now—has potential traction.
But these things take time. When people get scared, they want action right away. This is hard to deliver in a way that doesn’t make things worse.
Not sure what we can do but making the progressive community more aware of this dynamic is a start.
Thank you, Adam. I share your concerns.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne
Categories: Criminal Justice