Saturday, July 24, 2010

House Races 2010, First in a Series, "The New Spirit of the Old West"

Over the last few months I have gotten to know Melinda Joy Russ. Melinda was passing through Roswell last Sunday and stopped in to visit my wife and me. Carol actually met Melinda first when we were in Santa Fe during the session. While Melinda took a break from her travels we had a wonderful conversation.

Melinda Russ is the candidate running for Joe Campos’ old seat in District 63 (Santa Rosa, Vaughn, Ft Sumner, part of Clovis).

Some of you may know Melinda as Hoyt Pattison’s daughter. Hoyt served over twenty years in the House and was the Republican leader for many terms. He was a crucial part of the “cowboy coalition” back in the early 1980’s. Hoyt still comes to Santa Fe to help voice the concerns of New Mexico Agriculture. He is a real gentleman.

That said, Melinda is not resting on her pedigree. I like her focus on creating opportunity – feels like a breath of fresh air in an election cycle that’s mostly been about doom and gloom. “We are a nation of entrepreneurs, not employees,” Melinda told me. “Working for yourself is as much part of the American dream as homeownership. We need to make it less intimidating and less costly for anyone who has an idea and a work ethic to start a business. That's what New Mexico -- and America -- are all about.”

Check out Melinda’s website and photo-rich campaign blog at

This is an important race but a tough one. I’m supporting her and I encourage you to do the same.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Urban Legend

This had previously been posted as an essay on Heath Hausssamen's web site. This whole subject came up again in the Courts, Corrections and Justice interim committee meeting on July 1st. We spent half a day on this. This is an issue on which I part ways with my Libertarian friends. They are nice people but they have not seen what I have seen.

Urban legend: An apocryphal, secondhand story told as true and just plausible enough to be believed, about some horrific, embarrassing, ironic, or exasperating series of events that supposedly happened to a real person.

It is interesting, and a little troubling, how certain misconceptions get a grip on the public’s mind. One glaring example of this is the widely repeated claim that the state prisons are full of people who have been convicted of simply possessing drugs.

As someone who spent 24 years carrying a gun and a badge, most of that time working drug cases, including 14 years in Southeast New Mexico, I have known this was completely false. People don’t go to the pen for simply holding some dope.

In New Mexico simple possession of up to a half pound of marijuana is only a misdemeanor which does not allow for a prison sentence, only time in the county jail, if that.

One of the most recent manifestations of this myth was in September 2009 when a New Mexico “think tank” published a report damning the State’s drug laws because 853 people were supposedly sitting in prison for only a drug possession conviction. That report motivated me to write a letter to the Corrections Department because the Department was the source of that statistic. The written response I received showed that the 853 number was for inmates who had a Drug Possession Conviction plus other criminal convictions. In fact the number of people incarcerated for simple drug possession was 92. That is 92 out of almost 6,000 inmates.

However, even the 92 number is misleading. The Corrections Department sent me the names of the 92 inmates. Through the internet I was able to review the cases for these individuals. Randomly checking their cases revealed what I already knew. Even though they were listed as convicted of a simple drug possession they were, in fact, in prison because of probation revocation or for being a Habitual Offender.

What is a Habitual Offender, you might ask? Well that is someone who has already been convicted of at least one felony and is now convicted of another felony. The first subsequent conviction requires a mandatory one year sentence even if the sentence of the subsequent conviction is suspended. The second subsequent conviction results in a mandatory three year sentence. The third one requires an eight year mandatory sentence. All of these habitual offenders who are convicted of drug possession are in fact repeat offenders.

The individuals who are incarcerated because they have had their probation revoked had to work at getting into prison. In case after case judges have sentenced individuals to re-hab or drug court and they have failed to comply. Finally these persons are sent to prison because they have refused the second, third and sometimes even fourth chances offered to them.

One new thing I did learn is that some of these drug possession inmates are in the Corrections Department system because a judge has ordered a 60-day psychological evaluation at the facility in Las Vegas, NM. After the evaluation, they come back to the court for final disposition.

People just do not go to prison for simply having a bag of weed. Those who advocate for eliminating incarceration as an option fail, or refuse, to recognize that fact.

The effort required to turn drug lives around is huge. It requires a change of heart that must come from deep within. The threat of incarceration has been, for some, the crucial motivation necessary to start down the long and difficult road to recovery. Without that threat they would never begin the journey to true freedom. Instead, they remain a prisoner to their self destructive life style. Where is the compassion in that?

As I said we spent half a day discussing this Non-problem. At the end I made the public request of ALL the supporters of this issue to provide the names and case numbers of ten (10) inmates in the Corrections Department (out of over 6000) who were serving time simply for drug possesion, not probation violation, not habitual offender not psychological evaluation, just possesion. I still have not received any names. I am waiting....

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

This blog has been silent for way too long. There are many reasons for that condition. Some are valid such as the marriage of a daughter, a 30th wedding anniversary trip, and watching four grandchildren under the age of nine. Some are not—busy, lazy, or not sure what to say. In any case, an “inertia of silence” sets in, and as any engineer will tell you, inertia requires much energy to overcome.

The Fourth of July is a great day to overcome inertia. If you have not read the Declaration of Independence (there are certain phrases we seem to know by heart), it is worth your time to read it completely. One portion jumps out at me today.

…to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

We are in an election year, and this is our opportunity to alter the government (note I did NOT say abolish).

It was powerfully pointed out to me this morning by a young student pastor (out of the mouth of babes…) that the Declaration did not make us free. It was a simple statement of principle. Inspiring, but without the focused efforts of men and women, powerless. It is important to remember that concepts, principles, and beliefs have no impact of and by themselves. We must act.

If you, as I, feel the State of New Mexico has been misgoverned, then I urge you to join me in the effort to revise, revamp and reform the State. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of the candidates running for office on the Republican ticket. I will endeavor to introduce as many as possible to you. I urge you to examine them and, if you feel led, to support them in as many ways as possible.

The road ahead is long and difficult, but I can think of no better day to begin than July 4th.