As your County Commissioner, I am committed to addressing the issues of the residents in the entire county, not just a select few. We must be strategic in determining how to use our resources cooperatively and collectively to accomplish the most value for our residents and the community at large.
#1 Develop a Comprehensive, Cooperative Plan to Address Our Countywide Fire and Emergency Services.
The county cannot continue to just respond to the latest emergency. We need leadership and proactive planning that will stop doing our government work crisis by crisis. The county does have a Strategic Plan that includes goals for Fire and Emergency Services. Why has the commission not insisted on the implementation of that planning?
I have lived in seven states over the past 60 years. In every location, there were sufficient police, fire, and ambulance services. In our case, we rely on a volunteer fire department. There are over 3200 such organizations in the U.S., who successfully provide the needed fire and ambulance service to their community. We can also have a successful volunteer fire service. There is no excuse for the current failure of the fire services in Doña Ana County.
We should bring the Strategic Plan back to the commission, review it, revise it, and implement it. In addition, we should consider the following:
1) Collaborate with the City of Las Cruces Fire Department to enhance our cooperative agreement that is already in place.
2) Consolidate all fire districts into one, so we have the flexibility to assign personnel where we need them. Our goal should be to have a minimum of eight people able to respond to each fire.
3) Hire full time employees sufficient to have a minimum of two people available (a driver and paramedic) 24/7 for as many stations as possible.
4) Provide health insurance through the county for all the volunteer members of our fire service. This policy will give us a pool of candidates that are already invested in the community and will save us 80% or more compared to hiring a complete full time staff.
#2 Limit the County’s Liability for Lawsuits
The county has lost millions to lawsuits. That approximately $13M would fix a lot of roads, provide more transit, increase fire and safety protection, and fulfill many needs in our county. The county commission is responsible for enacting policy to limit the risk and liability to the county. I have considerable experience managing behavior and risk in the workplace. I led a team of 30 professional engineers for five years. I was responsible for managing behavior on that team.
I am suggesting a two-pronged approach.
· Provide and require appropriate workplace training for all elected officials and employees.
· Document that training so that those who deviate from stated policies and training are responsible for their actions, not the county.
Spending $13 Million settling lawsuits over five years has cost the residents of Doña Ana County far too much. It also suggests a lack of responsibility in leadership.
Only when people feel safe in our workplace will we be able to improve the county’s reputation as a great place to work.
#4 Protect Our Natural Resources
Public parks and public lands should be available to everyone.
One of our challenges, of course, is to balance the desire for access to these lands with the need, at the same time, to protect them
Last year, we saw the Organ Mountain Desert Peaks (OMDP) National Monument under attack from Washington. Attempts to open up public lands to greater access are a constant threat. During the 15 years that local leaders worked to secure protection for the lands that are now the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, the clash between access and protection was constantly an issue.
Planning of the OMDP Monument included moving the boundary back from the border with Mexico several times (to discourage unwanted border crossers) and making sure access roads for ranchers remained viable. Fear that local ranchers would lose grazing rights was also a concern. Currently,
no changes have been made to livestock grazing requirements in the OMDP.
The proclamation for the OMSP calls for BLM to develop a management plan. To date, that has not been done.
We need a reasonable plan and management strategy that serves the needs of most everyone in Doña Ana County. Let's commit to work together and with the BLM to develop a plan that will serve the needs of everyone in the county, while preserving and enhancing our natural resources we all love.
In 2017, the OMDP monument brought 24,246 visitors from out of the county. The economic impact of these visitors was $1,703,585.
#3 Be a Leader in the Development of Better Economic Development and Workforce Planning
We need jobs. We need businesses. We need to create an environment where business and people are welcome and can flourish.
The county has an economic development strategy—the Border Area Economic Development Strategy (BAEDS). The goals of that plan are to recognize the tremendous economic growth and development that is occurring on our borders with Mexico and Texas and to take advantage of that opportunity. However, the consultant who developed this strategy repeatedly pointed out that the county MUST take a leadership role if economic conditions in our region are going to improve. The county has not done so.
According to the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, the Borderplex is the 7th largest manufacturing center in North America with total manufacturing employment exceeding 230,000. The New Mexico Borderplex is adjacent to over 300 maquilas in Juarez, who manufacture a wide variety of products ranging from electronics to automotive parts. Mexico is the leading export destination for the state of New Mexico, and third in value for imports.
The consultant also suggested the county look to the San Diego/Tijuana border zone for an example of a two countries, three states major border industrial area. El Paso has now done that.
I know how to recruit companies. During the last 12 years I worked at EMC Corporation, I spent seven of those years recruiting businesses to partner with EMC.
Building a workforce requires a comprehensive cooperative effort between everyone and every company in our community.
In order to help our local companies grow and to recruit new companies, we need a skilled workforce. Over the past two years, the Joint Regional Workforce Talent Collaborative has developed a strategic plan to transform our economy. This collaborative is led by leaders from business, government, education, utilities, transportation, non-profits, chambers of commerce, workforce programs, and STEM programs, among others. They have identified eight target industries that could become much larger in our region.
These are industries for which we already have some of the resources. We need a skilled workforce that can drive and grow these target industries in Doña Ana County and the region.
· Digital Media
· Advanced Manufacturing
· Transportation and Logistics
· Value-Added agriculture
The collaborative has also developed pathways for the occupations found in these target industries. Currently, they are working with educators, policy makers, and businesses to expand these industries, to provide the infrastructure needed to support these industries, and to develop the skilled workforce these industries will need. The county needs to participate in these efforts. So far, the county has mostly been absent.
Infrastructure and Funding
Putting in place the infrastructure we will need requires increased funding.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has funds for these kinds of major, regional projects. However, the county will have to partner with a large number of both public and private entities from across the region in order to submit a request that will be competitive. The county needs a greater focus on obtaining grants. The City of Las Cruces has hired a professional agency to do their grant writing. The county should consider doing the same.