While tempted to write about the Governor’s veto of the Junior Bill and funding for the Health Security plan and design, I promised myself (and you) to begin focusing on big, transformational ideas and today we almost start that process. We begin with an update from our Zoom Huddle last week about future steps for Retake and how you can help. Then, I will discuss the (re)municipalization movement and restoring the benevolent role of government in our lives. And finally, a nod to Joanna Macy for helping put things in perspective.
The Future of Retake
This past Wednesday night, Retake huddled with some of our most engaged volunteers. We discussed what effective advocacy could look like in the future and how Retake can evolve to be a force in that work. We also discussed ways in which we as a community must evolve to make our work sustainable over a very long haul. Among our conclusions:
- Form a 501c3 so that contributions are tax deductible, cultivate a membership organization with ‘dues’ used to provide core support, and draw foundation grants and large donors.
- Hire a small staff to handle administrative tasks and to provide support before, during, and after each legislative session — this is in keeping with our evolving view of effective advocacy being more proactive and more of a year-round effort.
- Begin educating legislators earlier and more deeply with research briefs, webinars, and in interim hearings so they arrive at a session predisposed to support bills we’re advocating for and to educate their peers.
- Develop a team of constituent ambassadors who initiate dialog with their legislators in the spring, support our education efforts by sharing Retake research briefs, engaging in dialogue with their legislators about the issues, and sustaining that dialogue throughout the year.
- To advance this plan we will huddle every monthly on the second Wednesday from 6-7;30pm. Details at our Actions & Events Page here.
If you are interested in helping us advance this plan, please write to us at RetakeResponse@gmail.com and tell us how you’d like to be involved.
Retake Radio with former Senator Eric Griego
We covered a good deal in our talk, reviewing five key legislative primaries, crime in ABQ, Eric’s role in the Keller administration, and our shared pessimism over the failure of leadership at all levels to deal honestly with climate change. Eric’s candor and insights are always worth hearing. Watch the interview at this link.
Saddle Up, It’s Primary Time
Zoom Candidate Forum, Thursday, March 17, 6:30pm-8pm: Joe Maestas and Zack Quintero, Democratic candidates for NM state Auditor.
It is primary time. The Auditor has a critical role in holding government accountable. The Auditor can investigate state and local government and expose government failure to fulfill its mission or the Auditor can turn a blind eye to government waste or corruption. We have two excellent Democrats running for Auditor and with no GOP candidate running, the winner of the primary will be our state Auditor for the next four years. This is not a debate; it is a forum. Roxanne and I will ask question for 45 minutes and then toss it to the audience to ask their questions. If you are as undecided as we are, this is a great opportunity to find out more about our next State Auditor. Tune in to hear from these two excellent candidates. You must register to attend. Click here to register.
Discuss the Primary Over Coffee in Santa Fe
March 19, 9-10:30, at Better Day Coffee Shop, 905 W. Alameda in the Solana Center, a joint meeting of Wards 1D and 2C in Santa Fe. Ward 1D is Roxanne’s and my Ward and to be clear, we are inviting you to their meeting (with permission). We will join neighboring Ward 2C for an informal “it’s just coffee” event to begin to organize for the primary and election and to answer any questions you may have. Ward leaders will arrive early, grab a table, and put out a tent sign to welcome you. Come meet like-minded neighbors, strategize for the election, and see where you can help. There are some very important primary elections this year with at least four solid Dems facing challenges from the right: Andrea Romero, Kristina Ortez, Susan Herrera, and the newcomer running for Brian Egolf’s seat, Reena Szczepanski, all facing formidable challenges. We want all four of these strong women representing our region. You’re welcome to stay for the whole meeting, to bring neighbors who might be interested, or just drop by and introduce yourself. The lattes and breakfast burritos are awesome, so come early and order up!
Hope to see you there!
Linda Burchfiel and Pat Cruz, Chair and Vice Chair of Ward 1D
Elizabeth Romero and Jonnalyn Grover, Chair and Vice Chair of Ward 2C
Finding Hope in this Mess
Last week Roxanne and I were watching national news, seeing how, without complaint, Poland is accepting 1.4 million Ukrainian refugees, with 100,000 new refugees arriving daily. These refugees are greeted with open arms.
Flash back a few months to the southern border where far fewer refugees had fled from their own Central American horrors — they were not greeted with open arms but with open cells. The difference is worth considering.
Question: Has the U.S ever been truly welcoming and selfless? Consider that from 1900-1960, millions of largely European and Russian, i.e. white immigrants, entered the U.S., most using false documents to enter, none of whom faced deportation. “No Irish Need Apply” was one exception, and the racism against Asians coming mostly from China. On Saturday’s evening news Biden proudly boasted that the U.S. would welcome the Ukranian refugees “with open arms,” with video clips showing Ukranians who had somehow assembled at our southern border walking past Latino refugees who have been denied entrance for months. For an interesting read on the history of racism and US immigration, see “US immigration policy: A classic, unappreciated example of structural racism, from The Brookings Institute.
Admittedly, for weeks we have been bombarded nightly with unending brutality and Russian slaughter. It was and remains heartbreaking. But for years, Central Americans had been subjected to their own version of hell, a hell that was rarely featured on the evening news, but nonetheless claimed the lives of thousands of mostly desperately poor Central Americans, with right-wing militia and/or gang cartel thugs threatening families and recruiting their children. And so they fled north, hoping to be welcomed, only to be shunned. Americans saw brown faces coming for their jobs and seeking to participate in their democracy. This dual threat struck fear in middle-class white America, emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric and call for a wall.
It was with this reality drumming incessantly in my brain that I turned to my first “deep dive” into a major theme that I feel could be the foundation of a range of policies Retake will promote in the coming months: Restoring the role of government as a proactive, positive force in advancing a just transition that is as much about social and economic justice as it is about environmental justice.
As with most worthwhile journeys, there have been some unexpected, even unwelcome, twists and turns to this journey. Join me… read on!
Restoring the Role of Government
Across the US and throughout the world, cities, states and nations are reclaiming the public sector, reasserting the role of government in delivering essential goods, services, and supports and turning away from decades of neoliberal policies that ceded the role of government to the private sector. The Democracy Collaborative is my ‘go-to’ for information on creating a democratic economy. The Future Is Public: Towards Democratic ownership of Public Services is a veritable primer on all the progressive advances achieved through (re)municipalization throughout the world.
The stories in the book The Future is Public take us to new countries and introduce us to new sectors to illustrate the diversity of (re)municipalization efforts. Each (re)municipalization has its own specific challenges: from waste management in Egypt to the new public pharmacies in Chile, and to the many remote US municipalities that have delivered jobs and improved quality of life by developing broadband internet (a chapter co-written by Next System Project research director Thomas M. Hanna with Christopher Mitchell).”The Future is Public: Towards Democratic ownership of public services
The (re)municipalization movement is an international reaction to decades of neoliberal assault on the public sector, which has been decimated by tax cuts for the wealthy and for industry, resulting in budget cuts and chronic underinvestment in public goods and services and a shift from government as provider of goods and services to that of a middle man, negotiating the terms under which the private sector delivers an increasing array of goods and services. The (re)municipalization movement has been a progressive reaction to that trend.
In the 1980s, the tide of public sector expansion began to turn in many parts of the world. In the United States, the Reagan administration issued new marching orders: “Don’t just stand there, undo something.” A central tenet of the “undoing” has been the privatization of government assets and services.
According to privatization’s supporters, this shift from public to private management is so profound that it will produce a panoply of significant improvements: boosting the efficiency and quality of remaining government activities, reducing taxes, and shrinking the size of government. In the functions that are privatized, they argue, the profit-seeking behavior of new, private sector managers will undoubtedly lead to cost cutting and greater attention to customer satisfaction.Does Privatization Serve the Public Interest? Harvard School of Business
This newfound faith in privatization spread to become the global economic phenomenon of the 1990s. Throughout the world, governments turned over to private managers control of everything from mining and extraction to health, public transportation, prisons, and education. What transpired was anything but what had been promised. Unions were destroyed, bargaining agreements were shredded and customer satisfaction became an afterthought at best. Innovation was employed to generate greater private profit, not public benefit. This privatization movement was not simply a shift in who would deliver goods and services in America and the world, but also a shift in what would and would not be delivered and at what cost.
In addition to the tome The Future is Public, I have a stack of articles almost a foot high on various aspects of good government with pieces reflecting on scores of innovative models where (re)municipalization has restored a commitment to public benefit. I have articles on Spain and the Mondragon movement that has created hundreds of worker-owned and managed businesses across Spain, and articles about the scores of new projects emerging throughout the U.S., projects that center upon and lift up the importance of “the commons,” the place where the common good is prioritized over private profit. I even have articles dating back to The New Deal and the generosity of spirit that fueled the 1940s war effort and The New Deal policies that followed the war.
I have all these resources to draw upon to paint a green path to a just, sustainable future. But the enthusiasm for the task was undermined by the nightly news and a conversation with Speaker Brian Egolf. Let me explain.
Achieving a Just Transition and Creating a Democratic, Just Commons Relies on a Pervasive Generosity of Spirit and a Willingness of Those Who Have Much to Share with Those Who Have Little
Whether you are looking at:
- the long standing border crisis and our failure to extend generosity to the brown refugees fleeing their own form of terror;
- our international failure to put our common interest ahead of private profit and grapple with the obvious existential crisis posed by the looming climate catastrophe;
- most any Roundhouse hearing where a bill asking for sacrifice or offering support to the underserved encounters a torrent of opposition from vested business interests, like Chambers of Commerce raising their voices to most anything that might benefit workers, whether it be a raise in the minimum wage or paid family or medical leave.
The common theme in each of the three examples posed above is self-interest and disinterest in advancing the common good. In such a context, most any initiative advancing public benefit will inevitably be forced to defend itself for caring about people or the Earth. We who fight for the public are too frequently cast as being naive, uncompromising, or overly idealistic, as if a commitment to justice were a sign of immaturity or a failure to understand the “big picture.”
And so, as I read about the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI), I couldn’t help but reflect on the sage, albeit depressing, advice I received from Speaker Egolf. He told me it will be a very heavy lift. Business will oppose it with all its strength, saying they already have a tough time securing employees, if the State makes the unemployed more comfortable, then business will never be able to maintain a stable workforce.
I could hear the lobbyists for one Chamber of Commerce or business group after another, arguing against public benefit and the common good and ignoring research presented showing that in study after study, recipients of UBI were more likely, not less likely, to seek employment. But with UBI, they seek employment less from desperation to accept any job, and more from seeking employment that may actually resonate with them or offer a dignified wage with benefits and a management that actually appears to care for its employees.
As I read about how one evidence-based social justice initiative after another had transformed communities or lifted populations, my mind wandered to a future committee hearing, listening to a litany of excuses as to why UBI, public power, or a public bank were all ideas of merit, but that this isn’t the right time to ask the state or business or taxpayers to make the sacrifice required. To which I respond, “When is the right time?” In 2023, we will have the largest surplus in state history while still ranking 48th, 49rh, or 50th in childhood poverty. If this isn’t the time to address the needs of the working poor and the unemployed, when is?
The more I watched the news and the more I thought about our collective unwillingness to sacrifice for others, the deeper I descended into sadness and even self-pity with my brain telling me “You should just unplug and read a novel or go for a walk.” The forces of self-interest and profit are too strong to be overcome by those moved by common benefit, the Earth, and the future.
I will often write about my personal perspective or a personal experience, even if it is a bit of a downer, knowing that if I am feeling depressed by current events, others likely may feel just as mad, bad, or sad. Sharing one’s own situation or state of mind can help others in the same boat feel validated. But in this instance, writing “we are so screwed and going down” didn’t seem the right tone, as we are heading into an important primary season where I will be coaxing you to make sacrifices of time and money. So I deleted more than a little of my “downer” post, but continued to struggle to assemble something meaningful.
And then, as so often happens, someone sends me something that causes me to see some light and a path. Yes! Magazine delivers a 2008 article from Joanna Macy to the rescue…
How do we live with the fact that we are destroying our world? What do we make of the loss of glaciers, the melting Arctic, island nations swamped by the sea, widening deserts, and drying farmlands?
Because of social taboos, despair at the state of our world and fear for our future are rarely acknowledged. The suppression of despair, like that of any deep recurring response, contributes to the numbing of the psyche. Expressions of anguish or outrage are muted, deadened as if a nerve had been cut. This refusal to feel impoverishes our emotional and sensory life. Flowers are dimmer and less fragrant, our loves less ecstatic. We create diversions for ourselves as individuals and as nations, in the fights we pick, the aims we pursue, and the stuff we buy.“The Greatest Danger: If you’re really paying attention, it’s hard to escape a sense of outrage, fear, despair. Author, deep-ecologist, and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy says: Don’t even try.” Yes! Magazine
So, today I share with you the challenge of sitting at a computer trying to write something inspiring and motivating, with a pile of inspiring stores at my side of social pioneers advancing bold initiatives that need to be shared, while paralyzed by feelings of despair and futility, seeking diversion, avoiding the challenge of weaving an uplifting tale of hope when I feel far more despair than hope. But Joanna Macy helped me out of the funk.
How do we confront what we scarcely dare to think? How do we face our grief, fear, and rage without “going to pieces?”
It is good to realize that falling apart is not such a bad thing. Indeed, it is as essential to transformation as the cracking of outgrown shells. Anxieties and doubts can be healthy and creative, not only for the person, but for the society, because they permit new and original approaches to reality.
What disintegrates in periods of rapid transformation is not the self, but its defenses and assumptions. Self-protection restricts vision and movement like a suit of armor, making it harder to adapt. Going to pieces, however uncomfortable, can open us up to new perceptions, new data, and new responses.“The Greatest Danger: If you’re really paying attention, it’s hard to escape a sense of outrage, fear, despair. Author, deep-ecologist, and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy says: Don’t even try.” Yes! Magazine
My mind then flew to a quote from writer Junot Diaz, days after the Trump election, “Did any of us believe this shit was gonna be easy?”
And since the theme for today is hoping in the dark, what better way to end than with the most inspiring speech I’ve ever heard, given only a few days after Donald Trump was elected. Whatever you do, watch this video to the end. You won’t regret it.
It may be dark, but perhaps it is not the darkness of the tomb but the darkness of the womb. So it is time to breathe and to push.
Let’s push together! It is easier that way.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne