Thursday, May 29, 2008

Word is: Lt. Governor Surveys Mexican Border!

Lt. Governor Diane Denish flew in a NM National Guard helicopter along the Mexican border in Southern New Mexico on Tuesday, May 27, 2008. She says the troops and border guards are doing a good job patrolling the area, but the Federal Government needs to continue funding the operation and the state needs to provide housing assistance.

General Kenny Montoya, Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman and Col. Richard A Clark Jr showed Denish new ground surveillance systems they are using to apprehend immigrants caught crossing the border illegally.

In this TELEPHONE INTERVIEW (via cell phone) Denish told me that the drug-cartels are responsible for more than 266 violent murders, south of the border, this year alone. She says many critically injured indigents come across the border for treatment and leave without paying their bills. She hopes Governor Richardson calls a special session in August to deal with health care issues like this.

Denish also says the soldiers and border agents assigned to the area still need affordable housing in Deming. Currently, most personnel commute from El Paso and Las Cruces. Denish says she'll ask the Mortgage Finance Authority to provide resources in Deming and Columbus.

Meanwhile we've learned the Lt. Governor will receive the top honor from the volunteer service commission. The award recognizes her for being the "architect" of the state's Blueprint for Civic engagement. On Saturday, May 31, Denish will be recognized in Atlanta as the American Service Commission’s “Friend of ASC” awardee. It is the major honor given by the group, which oversees 52 state commissions on volunteerism, the largest administrators of AmeriCorps funds in the nation.

Tom Brannen, executive director of the Commission, said the Lt. Governor was nominated by the chair of its board, Bill Basl, executive director of Washington State’s volunteerism commission.

“This award goes to leaders who have done things to benefit our sector,” Mr. Brannen said. “Lt. Governor Denish, as chair of the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism, has been the architect of the Blueprint for Service. We wanted to honor her for showing leadership on what our state governmental leaders are doing. Lt. Governor Denish is blazing the trail for that.”

The Blueprint for Civic Engagement, published in 2006, provides a framework for engaging New Mexicans of all ages and backgrounds in community-based activities that address the state's human, educational, environmental, public safety, health, housing, and other needs. Thanks in part to the document’s guidance, New Mexico has been one of the few states in the nation to see an increase in federal volunteerism money that support programs like AmeriCorps.

“We know that when people are engaged in their communities, they become healthier, happier and more committed to the public good,” Lt. Governor Denish said. “That’s especially true for our youths, who are otherwise at risk of truancy, dropping out and other illegal behaviors. Civic engagement is good for everyone.”

Past winners of the award are Robert Goodwin, past president and CEO of the Points of Light Foundation; Eli Segal, the founder of AmeriCorps; and Rosie Mauk, former director of AmeriCorps, the domestic version of Peace Corps.

Gregory Webb, executive director of the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism said: “Lt. Governor Denish's leadership in the development of the Civic Blueprint has served as a roadmap not only for New Mexico, but for other states as well. Recently, the State of Colorado sent a delegation to meet with me to discuss how Colorado could emulate a similar plan for their state. This is a theme I am hearing more and more from other states from across the country."

Photos: MG Bralley

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