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Marisa Demarco

Marisa Demarco is a reporter and musician based in Albuquerque, N.M. She's spent more than a decade in journalism, founding the New Mexico Compass, and editing and writing for the Weekly Alibi, the Albuquerque Tribune and UNM's Daily Lobo. She covers poverty and public health for KUNM. 

New Mexico’s been fighting the opioid epidemic for decades, but it wasn’t until last year that the federal government declared it a public health emergency. Congress just pumped up the budget for fighting the epidemic by billions, including $100 million for rural areas. But none of the rural counties in our state were targeted for that money. Now that’s changing.

Congress boosted the budget for the battle against the opioid epidemic this year, and a chunk of it—$100 million—is slated for treatment and prevention in rural communities. But something about how lawmakers chose to prioritize that money caught a New Mexico health official by surprise: the funding is focused on counties that are mostly white.

Quality internet service is key to overcoming poverty, according to studies worldwide. But all over the U.S., people of color and folks with low incomes are less likely to have access to an affordable, reliable connection. Plus, big corporations are often unwilling to lay line through tough terrain without a lot of customers.

What if big telecom isn’t the only game in town for internet service? Member-owned cooperatives and community networks are springing up around the country. And what’s more, they’re making net neutrality—unthrottled access to an open net—a core value.

Funding for public early childhood programs is tight around New Mexico, and it’s disproportionately students of color who miss out. Allen Sanchez of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops sparked debate last week when he told an Associated Press reporter that systemic racism is a factor in why legislation that could have fixed the problem didn’t get a fair shake. 

After an extra long campaign season in Albuquerque, voters gave Democrat Tim Keller a big win in last night’s runoff mayoral election against Republican Dan Lewis. Keller said the high voter turnout and decisive victory constitutes a mandate. 

The state Supreme Court created a commission to look at how adult guardianship works in New Mexico, and to figure out how to improve the system. After a series of public meetings, the group released 17 recommendations, mostly aimed at accountability. 

When the oil and gas industry takes a dive, or when extractive industries tank, so do economies in rural areas, where a lot of the jobs come from drilling, or mining, or power plants. A business incubator is helping entrepreneurs on the Navajo Nation with the idea that local skills and talents—and cash flowing in and out of local businesses—are key to independence from environmentally damaging corporations. 

Oil and gas drilling and mining companies come to rural areas offering jobs and cash, but they also dig into the land, pull resources out of it and create pollution. There are some folks in these regions who say the trade off isn’t fair in the long run. One organization is working on the Navajo Nation to stabilize the boom-and-bust economy of extraction by boosting local entrepreneurs and small business.

Employers in Albuquerque will not have to offer paid sick leave to workers in the city for the foreseeable future. Sick leave opponents edged out supporters by less than 1 percent. The final tallies in the municipal election rolled in near midnight on Tuesday, Oct. 3. 

All over the country, people who signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have been speaking out about President Trump’s decision to rescind that program. And a federal judge said on Thursday that he’s going to try to rule quickly on the lawsuits filed to challenge the end of DACA, which shielded many college students.

Down in Las Cruces, New Mexico State University sits just 40 miles from the border. Former Republican Gov. Garrey Carruthers is the chancellor there. He said the university has no idea how many DACA students attend NMSU, because they don’t ask people about their status when they enroll. Trump’s decision, he said, was a violation of trust.

Two Albuquerque police officers were charged with second-degree murder for an on-the-job shooting for the first time in at least half a century. They were facing up to 15 years in prison for killing James Boyd, who’d been camping illegally for about a month in the Foothills of the Sandia Mountains in 2014. The jury announced that it was deadlocked Tuesday, Oct. 11.

District Court Judge Alisa Hadfield declined Wednesday to drop the second-degree murder charges against two former Albuquerque police officers who shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd in 2014. But she did drop voluntary manslaughter charges, leaving jurors with fewer options for their verdict.

Despite working as a home health aide in New Mexico for nearly two decades, Kimberly Jones was struggling to get the hours she needed to make ends meet. She was living in a hotel room, and every day she had to make a choice.

"Do I eat or do I pay for the room? Or how can I squeeze them both? Because, you know, the hotel wants their money," Jones says. "They don't care if you eat or not."

Jones applied for food stamps. She says the state worker she met with told her she was eligible for expedited assistance, and she'd get her benefits within a week.

Child abuse and neglect is highly preventable—according to a report the CDC just released. It also says stopping child maltreatment altogether should be a public health priority. There are plenty of people who’ve been working in New Mexico on this issue for decades who agree, like the folks at the Nurse-Family Partnership in Albuquerque.