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Community leaders turned out in force to discuss issues close to their hearts with Gov. Susana Martinez during a 90-minute gathering Wednesday afternoon at Los Alamos National Bank.
The governor tackled questions pertaining to education, taxes, pay to play corruption, drugs, New Mexico's First Born Program, economic development, film industry incentives, immigrant drivers licenses and more.
Seizing the opportunity to discuss local education issues with the governor, Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt, Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean and Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe attended the event and expressed their concerns.
Schmidt called on the governor to curb the adversarial tone she’s used recently when discussing New Mexico school districts.
In an effort to put more money in the classrooms and retain and reward top performing teachers, the governor has made it her mission to cut waste and identify fraud among the state’s educational institutions.
“There are a lot of world class educators in our community who would be happy to help you move forward,” Schmidt said.
The governor agreed that there are districts “doing fabulous things.”
“What’s challenging to me is when you have someone from a very large district putting fear into employees … ” Martinez said, referring to embellishing student counts and threatening cuts.
Acting County Attorney Randy Autio honed in on environmental issues that have plagued the county as well as Los Alamos National Laboratory for years. Autio told the governor that Los Alamos is, “truly the most tested piece of property on the entire planet.” He suggested the state work in partnership with the county and lab to develop a very clear understanding of what constitutes fair clean up measures and to determine exactly what needs to be cleaned up.
Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Holsapple approached the governor about regulatory reform and tax reform in terms of helping small business owners.
“The situation here needs to be as good or better regarding regulations for businesses than it is for any of our surrounding states,” Holsapple said.
Martinez said she is working on the issue and had just received an economic development analysis for New Mexico. She also said she has an individual who will be looking at the tax situation as a whole for the state.
“The previous administration was amazing … the rule today did not apply tomorrow,” she said. “Our goal is not to just talk about it but to lay out the plans … we have a ton of interests that have been regulated without analysis.”
LANB President Steve Wells encouraged the governor to recognize the fact that New Mexico is primarily made up of rural communities and to create initiatives to attract needed professionals such as doctors and the legal system that supports it.
“Texas has great tort reforms and a long list of doctors waiting to get into Texas,” Martinez said, adding that her administration is working to find solutions to resolve the issue.
LANB CEO Bill Enloe facilitated the question and answer session between local community leaders and the governor and expressed his concern over New Mexico’s widely publicized corrupt business practices.
“In regard to the state’s ‘pay to play’ issue, what would you like to see done to eliminate this practice?” Enloe asked.
As a former prosecutor, Martinez’s answer clearly came as no surprise the people gathered in the bank’s second floor conference room.
“What I would love to see is that all of the people involved go to prison — I think that’s a great deterrent,” she said.
The U.S. Attorney requested more than one million documents involving suspected wrongdoing, which Martinez released shortly after taking office, she said.
Enloe asked whether the public would ever see any indictments.
“I think you will see things begin to unravel in terms of ‘pay to play’ now that no one’s hiding it anymore,” Martinez said.
Enloe told the governor that Quality New Mexico is very interested in getting the state on a quality practices path.
“I’m all for quality and would be very happy to have my office be the first one, (to earn the Quality New Mexico Award),” Martinez said.
Martinez vowed to revisit several vetoed and defeated bills during the special legislative session scheduled for September. In closing, she paid tribute to longtime legislator Jeannette Wallace who died from illness April 8.
“Her courage and tenacity to keep going during the 60-day session was amazing,” Martinez said.
See more video of the governor’s visit in the multimedia section at lamonitor.com.