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Sometimes, you don’t have to go to Santa Fe to get your voice heard, sometimes, Santa Fe comes to you.
At least, that was the case Thursday when Lt. Gov. John Sanchez did one of his annual “Mobile Office” visits to Los Alamos. From 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. at the Mesa Public Library Thursday morning, residents as well as town leaders showed up in the library’s upstairs meeting rooms to meet with Sanchez and tell him what was on their minds.
According to Sanchez, education and the economy were the main issues.
“My mobile office days are the best part of being Lt. Governor,” Sanchez said. “It gets me out of the state capitol and into the local communities where I get to hear directly from our bosses, which are the citizens of this state.”
According to Sanchez not only did residents compliment Martinez’ administration for introducing tax cuts, programs to help diversify the economy as well as improvements to the state’s infrastructure, especially where water supply is concerned, but they also offered “suggestions” as well.
One of the hot topics on residents’ minds was public education, and the controversies surrounding the student and teacher evaluation programs introduced by Education Secretary Hanna Skandera.
“We’re very thankful that the administration is doing everything it can to try and reform New Mexico’s education system. We talked to people today who were very supportive of teachers, and we thank the teachers for the daily instruction they provide to our students,” he said. “We want to be in partnership with everybody in public education, and we also think about the great relationship between our students and teachers.”
Sanchez further emphasized that during his visit to Los Alamos, he also made it clear that the Martinez administration also has the well-being of students and teachers as a priority too.
“The education of our kids is going to determine the long-term success of our state,” he said. “We don’t have all the answer, but if our ultimate goal is to provide world class education to our children then we’re willing to work together with people throughout the state.”
With that in mind, he noted that in order to be successful doing that, it’s important to recognize that each community is unique; with it’s own set of strengths and weaknesses.
“Every community is unique. I want to be open to what works in Los Alamos County versus what works in another county on the other side of the state,” he said. “Local ideas and local control when it comes to education is very important to me.”
Sanchez said he reports to the governor what he’s learned from his meetings as well as present the data to the appropriate legislative committees.
“That’s what drives me to come out to the local communities, so I can hear what people have to say, whether that’s about education or job creation,” he said.
While Sanchez was in Los Alamos he also took time out to visit the Farmers Market as well as attend the Los Alamos Federation of Republican Women’s 60th anniversary celebration luncheon. He also met with local leaders, including Deputy County Administrator Steve Lynne and Los Alamos County Council Councilors David Izraelevitz and Rick Reiss.
“We wanted to make sure we heard directly from the local leaders, those issues that are important to them at the local level and how we could help them at the state level,” Sanchez said. “We talked about the capital outlay that came through in this last session, and their priorities, and how these funds can help Los Alamos County create jobs.
Sanchez one of the main issues they talked about was how they could attract more tourism to the county and how to better coordinate their efforts with the state’s tourism department.
“We think Los Alamos, with its natural beauty, cultural diversity and the fact that it’s played such an important role in our nation’s defense as well as the world, we really want to tell the story of Los Alamos County,” Sanchez said. “We want to bring even more folks here so they can take advantage of Los Alamos and its role its played in protecting the country.” Sanchez also mentioned that he’s used his position as chairman of the International Committee of the National Lt. Governor’s Association to promote Los Alamos abroad.
“We made a trip to Europe, and we are planning a potential trip to Asia this summer. We want to make sure we represent New Mexico, and not only to bring in direct line investment and economic opportunities for trade, but how we can bring more tourism to New Mexico.”
Sanchez also said diversification of the state’s economy is also high on the governor’s list.
“Federal budget pressures will continuously make it a challenge for the labs, but at the same time, we consider it a good opportunity for us to diversify into areas that won’t be so susceptible to federal cuts,” he said.
While the Martinez administration is pleased they are always being considered by tech giants such as Tesla Motors and others, Sanchez said their strategy is to carefully balance that with the state’s economic “backbone,” which is small business.
“We’re going to continue to go after those big ones, but let’s not forget that the real backbone to our state’s economy as well as the country’s economy, is small business,” he said. “They comprise the majority of job creation.”
Karyl Ann Armbruster, a Los Alamos democrat running for a seat on the state’s Public Education Commission, also got an opportunity to talk with him on some key issues.
“Overall it was quite a pleasant conversation with both the Lt. Gov. and (Chief of Staff Mark (Van Dyke). They were cordial, gracious, and inviting. I felt they were open to my questions. I wanted to ask, what the Governor meant when she said she balanced the budget from the deficit she inherited...since every year there is a balanced budget by law so there could not be a deficit, but there was no time,” she said.
However, she did get to ask him a question about the governor’s tax cuts.
“ I talked to him about politics and my concern that politicians seem to tell the truth, but not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I used the example of the latest ad Gov. Martinez was airing on TV. In the ad, she says she decreased taxes 24 times. I said I knew that she had decreased the corporate income tax, she had decreased the amount businesses pay for Workmen’s Compensation, and that she stopped giving money to the counties for the lost revenue for not paying gross receipt taxes on food and medicine. Unfortunately, that made the counties increase local taxes, so that was not really a tax decrease.”