A Sustained Community Effort Can Turn New Mexico Around

Op-Ed By Tim Keller / N.M. Senate Majority Whip 


After reading last week’s front page UpFront opinion column by Win Quigley in the Albuquerque Journal regarding the collective malaise in New Mexico, I was struck by two emotions.  The first was appreciation for his candor raising concerns that newcomers and locals alike know are deep, real issues in our state.  The second was the feeling that we simply, as New Mexicans, cannot fall victim to the sense of helplessness and lack of confidence in our future that will indeed become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We need, perhaps more than ever since statehood, an honest conversation that acknowledges our challenges. Our dialogue must get past methodologies, sources and partisan posturing, and lead to real action on our flat-lining economy, and dismal health and education rankings.

What we need is to start having real conversations about big ideas that will actually move the needle on poverty and prosperity in our state.  I believe New Mexico is one of the greatest places in the world to work, play and raise a family. We have unparalleled natural resources, technology infrastructure and hands down the most unique traditions and cultural mix in America.

Yet, no matter how you define or measure the problem, at best, our state is adrift, floating in the U.S. and global economy without a clear agenda for change. So how are we going to turn things around and break the mold of just being satisfied with the lot we’ve been cast?

It comes down to leadership, and frankly ambition, to solve the challenges we face with big, innovative ideas. Gone are the days when we could debate the merits of small, incremental changes that do little more than delay the inevitable. We must have the courage to actually develop and implement transformative ideas that can improve the standard of living all across New Mexico: from kindergarten to university; from rural health clinics to hospitals; from mom and pop stores to energy technology companies.

By championing areas where our state already excels and directly addressing areas where we fall short, New Mexico can develop a new brand and truly build a better future for our children.

We won’t get this done by tinkering around the edges, mimicking other states or trotting out that latest fad in public policy. We need a New Mexico solution for New Mexicans generated from our best and brightest, past experiences and lessons learned, and pursued beyond political boundaries and election cycles. This means creating a sustained community effort led by civic organizations and community leaders, and supported by elected officials.

It is time we get serious about what it takes to create an innovation-based economy that focuses on growth industries like energy and technology: Investments in our communities with large-scale infrastructure and water projects, and revamping our tax code to cut red tape and make it easier for all businesses to thrive in New Mexico.

Instead of debating when and how to hold our children back, the conversation must become about how we make game-changing innovations in the classroom and professional development that will transform our future workforce.

I believe we can rise above the all-too-common bottom-of-the-list rankings and achieve our full potential to be a role model for the rest of the nation. Big ideas and a pragmatic game plan should the hallmarks of dialogue in city hall, neighborhood meetings, chambers of commerce and the Roundhouse.

Let’s raise the bar and have the courage to face the big issues of our time and to hold elected officials, and each other, accountable to actually alter the direction of our state. We can each start by advocating for the big ideas that tackle the major issues facing our state head on, and by not sitting back and being comfortable with 49th, or 50th, in anything!