Learning to Lobby, Winning a Battle

emma2There’s been much talk about how the New Mexico State Legislature is truly an inaccessible place for many residents who don’t have the time, the money or the practical knowledge of how business is conducted in the Roundhouse.

I’ve written about how perplexed and cynical I was after my first up-close look at the session.

But I wanted to also share the frustration of someone who was deeply involved in a particular piece of legislation that could have affected the civil rights of thousands of young people in Albuquerque.

Emma Sandoval, 22, is the youth coordinator at the Southwest Organizing Project, a social justice organization based in Albuquerque.

As one of SWOP’s registered lobbyists for this year’s session, it was Sandoval’s job to organize opposition to SB 525 and HB 379 – identical bills introduced in both houses that would allow Albuquerque Public Schools to create their own police force.

APS said they wanted their own force so they’d have access to the National Crime Information Center, a computerized criminal database.

But SWOP opposed the bill saying it would lead to unfair criminalization of young people and to a greater drop-out rate, especially among low-income teens and students of color.

To fight the bills, Sandoval had to wage a complicated campaign. She needed to track the progress of the bills though the maze of committees in both houses and attend key hearings. She needed to speak to legislators to know which ones supported the measure and which ones opposed it. She needed to be on top of attempts to amend both bills. And she needed to be able to inform and mobilize the people back in Albuquerque who stood to be deeply affected by the creation of an APS police department for specific events in and around the Roundhouse

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Putting the Brown Back in Green

What does this statement even mean?  Mainly it’s talking of how Hispanics, Native-Americans, and African-Americans across the country are getting reacquainted with their roots in the soil.

I’m sure that most people of color are aware of these roots, but they have other issues (getting a good education, finding a good job, surviving in this crazy world) to worry about, than to think about organic farming and working on sustainability and conservation.  Yet what I’m going to be saying by the end of this is that this green thing that many of us have been ignoring is one of the simple answers to help improve our lives and our communities.

My first major act of environmentalism was also an act of survival.

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Power Shifting on Home

power shift

Juan and I have just arrived back home from Power Shift 09, where over 12,000 young people took over Washington, D.C to make their voices heard on the issue of climate change. It was both inspiring and motivating to meet such a diverse group of young people who are working everyday to make change in their communities and on the federal level.

The event consisted of renowned speakers, work shops, rallies, and an organized lobby day where young folks were able to meet, many for the first time, with their respective elected officials to talk about why we need to set new policies that support a new, clean and green economy. Other highlights from the event included a variety of amazing documentary screenings and a hyped performance by The Roots!

Power Shift 09 may have come to an end, but I know that it has only helped to promote and even stronger movement where young activists across the nation are going home with a new set of tools to move our country in a new positive direction…after a good, well-deserved nap, of course!

(Video to Follow)

An organizer’s update from Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference

Having attended both Good Jobs, Green Jobs conferences; one cannot help but to try and compare the two. I say this because the conference has grown in both size and diversity since it was held last year in Pittsburgh. Not only were there more young people and more people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, but I also saw a more diverse array of labor and union organizations.

This was an exciting sight for me (yes, I know I’m being an organizing nerd now) because last year all I saw were mainly over 40, Caucasian people all wearing suits and schmoozing all over each other. This time around people were talking more about real issues and not the status of their organizations. To be honest, I was surprised. Continue reading

Man on a Mission: Local organizer profiled in The Nation

In case you didn’t know, our man Juan Reynosa has been on a mission. Turns out The Nation chose to document this mission.

Check it out: Juan Reynosa’s Environmental Mission.

“Community Organizer”

Arturo Uribe of Mesquite, N.M. didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a community organizer.

But the man who thought of himself as “just a college student, father and husband” effectively became one after he began to suspect that emissions from the Helena Chemical Co. plant next to his family’s longtime home were making his young children sick

Uribe, 38, first noticed that his daughter, Giavanni, 12, began suffering from respiratory problems and uncontrollable nosebleeds shortly after the Uribe family moved to Mesquite in 2003.

The family had been living in Silver City but moved to Mesquite, settling in the house Uribe’s grandfather built decades ago. That Uribe family home sits 50 yards away from the Helena plant, which is believed to manufacture and blend agricultural fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals. The company is an American subsidiary of the giant Japanese company Marubeni and exact accounts of what chemicals are actually handled there and what is done with them have been hard to document, Uribe said.

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