Sunshine needed on Economic Recovery Council
May 6, 2020
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has repeatedly said: “We’re all in this together.” Our first-term governor, enmeshed in the biggest crisis facing the state in a century, has sought to instill a collective spirit to fight the virus by encouraging, cajoling, ordering and even threatening all to stay home — save for essential errands and essential jobs.
But when it comes to reopening New Mexico’s economy, the governor has decided she and a handpicked group can do it all by themselves — behind closed doors.
A spokesman was tasked last week with saying the governor’s Economic Recovery Council is not subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act, and its deliberations will be closed to the public. No public meeting calendars, no agendas, no minutes, no nothing.
We are not suggesting in-person town hall meetings; instead, there are multiple other ways to open up this process.
For now, at least, the 2 million New Mexicans who are living with the pandemic and the economic downturn it and the oil bust have caused will not be allowed to tune in to virtual town halls or submit thoughts, questions or frustrations via an online portal.
The governor said during a news conference Thursday that her advisory council has been meeting every few days to consider economic recovery options. And she announced a phased reopening plan based on recommendations of said council that includes allowing curbside pickup at retail stores and opening state parks and golf courses on a modified basis.
There’s been no shortage of ideas about how the state should go about reopening the economy, evidenced by literally hundreds of op-eds, letters to the editor and Speak Up! submissions to the Albuquerque Journal since the shutdown in March. Democrats and Republicans, business groups and consumers, local elected officials and physicians have all voiced options on lifting restrictions.
The governor is shutting out the 141,000 people recently put out of work. Perhaps some of their stories would convince Lujan Grisham there is more to consider in reopening the economy than computer models.
There’s been a lot of pain, and little of that is going to be expressed by the council’s representatives of a renewable energy developer or a mass media conglomerate. The governor needs to hear voices from the 41,000 restaurant employees put out of work, the 340,000 schoolchildren whose education has been disrupted, and the many shuttered mom-and-pop business owners who are watching as their customers are funneled to big-box stores.
The Taxation and Revenue Department says work summaries of the Economic Recovery Council will be made public. That’s a day late and a dollar short. How would you feel if your local city council started meeting privately and issued summaries of its meetings after all the discussion and decisions had been made?
It’s impossible for New Mexicans who aren’t in the governor’s cool-kids club to affect decisions if they aren’t allowed to somehow attend and provide input before a meeting is adjourned.
— Albuquerque Journal