By Jo Anne Roake
Mayor of Corrales
As your mayor, I want to bring you a message of hope and encouragement in these difficult times. It’s been five weeks since the governor directed us to stay home in order to slow the spread of the disease and save lives. Although new cases are being reported everyday, the stay at home methods have been working to flatten the curve.
What should we do now? You’ve been seeing calls for businesses to reopen. As an elected official, no one is more eager than I to see our economy go back to normal. However, our first priority is public health and safety. The Village wants to open businesses as soon as possible. But make no mistake. Corrales takes its responsibilities seriously and will continue to follow the governor’s health directives.
As you can imagine, I’ve been in contact with many government agencies on local, county and state levels. We are all working on finding just the right balance. At this time the stay at home order remains in place until the end of April. I know I can count on you to continue to follow the directives. In the meantime, we are working with other municipalities to forge a future that is open and safe for all of us.
Corrales is in a good position to stay safe. Unlike those living in cramped urban conditions, we have space to enjoy our own properties and our ditch banks, trails and Bosque Preserve. It’s easy to get outdoors when hacienda fever hits. Plus, we’re smart enough to limit our interactions to those that are absolutely necessary.
Corrales has another advantage: committed and competent employees. Our fire and police first responders are there for you and your safety every single day.
Public Works and Parks and Recreation employees are working hard on improvements to greet you when the stay at home is lifted. Administrative staff are working daily and preparing for the future. The Governing Body is fully engaged in safeguarding our Village government.
However, the biggest part of making it though this pandemic depends on you and me as individuals. Every action we take is important: social distancing, staying at home, shopping alone, wearing a mask when out and washing our hands. The health of our community also depends on actions we take to help local businesses survive.
If you are able, please order food from our local restaurants, purchase items on-line, pre-order fresh produce, pay for future services with gift cards, or get yourself a Corrales Love T-shirt to support restaurant workers. On a human level, I learn everyday of acts of kindness and offers of help coming from our citizens. Our Corrales community values are up there front and center.
This is why, as your mayor, I know we can stay the course, keep each other safe, and remain prepared for the next phase. Like you, I can’t wait to be back out in the world standing shoulder to shoulder with everyone. Soon, I hope we will be able to take first steps to get us out there, without undermining the weeks of hard work we have put in so far. Thank you, Corrales, for being such a great and smart community. We will emerge, stronger, better and together, Corrales-style.
By Daymon Ely
N.M. House District 23 Representative
Why We Need a Session of the N.M. Legislature Soon
I am a state representative. I have been pushing for an immediate special session and I hope in this article to explain my position.
The corona pandemic is confronting us with severe challenges. If we don’t control the spread of this virus, the results will be truly catastrophic. And it should be indisputable that protecting the health and well-being of our people takes precedence over all other concerns. Science should dictate our decisions so that, once under control, the virus does not come back.
That being said, we should not —and cannot— forget about what will take place after the virus subsides and we are faced with restarting a state that might look drastically different. I am very concerned that the longer we wait to have a special session, the more likely it will be that we face not just a recession, but a depression, that could last for several years.
I have talked to business owners and business leaders around the state. They are worried. All kinds of businesses are about to go under. Businesses can be expected to have 30 days of reserve funds on hand. If we don’t have a special session until June (the current proposal) it will be too late.
Businesses that might have been saved will be gone as well as the jobs they provide. Instead, we should have two special sessions —one now on an economic stimulus package and one in June when we have a better idea of the budget situation and just before the budget goes into effect on July 1.
On the economy, the argument has boiled down to two competing positions: (1) follow the science and open businesses when the data supports it; or (2) ignore science and open up now to save the economy. I want to be clear, I support the first option: we have to follow the science.
But we also can provide small businesses and their employees with the resources allowing them to hang on during the crisis and make that re-opening possible when it comes. We have to give the public hope.
Our state, unlike most, has so-called “rainy day funds.” We currently have well over a $1 billion in these funds. These funds are separate from the permanent funds which have billions more. Why not use some of the rainy day funds right now to help small businesses and their employees?
Per the State Constitution, monies can be invested to help the “sick and indigent.” This dovetails perfectly with what we should be doing.
To help the “sick” we should give the governor the means and the money to secure immediate and widespread testing for all New Mexicans. We can’t let people go back to work until we know who has the virus and the anti-bodies to temporarily fight it. The sooner we have this information, the sooner we can start talking about reopening businesses.
To help the “indigent,” what better investment can we make than getting our businesses back on their feet, putting their employees back to work and restoring the tax base for our local cities and counties?
Any substantial amount of money from these funds will not go far if we are not careful. We cannot create a corporate welfare program that rescues failing businesses. Our objective should be to strengthen companies that are poised to grow and employ New Mexicans. Next, we hope that when federal funding finally arrives, it can be used with a State stimulus and have a multiplier effect. We could, for example, advance funds for the federal payroll protection plan, supplement such funds or fill in the gaps created by the program.
We also must be sure that any stimulus funds are managed by professionals accustomed to evaluating business prospects. However, that cannot prevent money from being disbursed quickly to save as many businesses and jobs as possible.
There are other things we could do like providing the insurance commissioner with emergency powers to deal with insurance companies on things like business interruption coverage. But doing “nothing” is not an option. If we do nothing and expect businesses to simply “turn back on the lights” when the public health crisis is over, it won’t happen.
Already, we are looking at projections of 20 percent unemployment for the foreseeable future. There will also likely be devastating poverty, skyrocketing bankruptcies, foreclosures and increased homelessness. The cost to New Mexico families will be unimaginable.
We are asking our first responders, health care workers, grocery store attendants and others to put their lives on the line every day. Surely we can figure out a way to have our legislature work to assist these heroes. If we work in a bi-partisan and transparent way, we can safely have a special session right now when the money could still make a real difference.
Let’s get down to business to put New Mexico back in business.