Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Constitution Guarantees a Speedy Trial

[Update [1Jun2015]: The Attorney-General has filed papers asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to take a look at this case.  Word should come down within 60 days or so on whether or not the court will do so.  I suspect the decision is more likely to stand than not; but it remains just plain wrong that this fellow would walk free after doing about a month and a half of jail time.  He killed an infant.  Didn't mean to, apparently, but damned sure did -- and afterward, out of fear and perhaps inebriation, apparently didn't immediately call 911 then told a couple of different stories about how the girl died.   The Court of Appeals sort of had to do what it did; but my heart goes out to the rest of the girl's familyShe deserved better.]

Many here are outraged that Robert J. Flores, convicted after his daughter died through his inexcusable neglect, will not be jailed. A Soundoff said his daughter, Kalynne, deserved better.

I agree, and would hope former DA Susana Martinez is apologizing in her heart to Kalynne and will some day do so publicly.

It's not the court's fault: our constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial protects us. Despots can keep someone in jail for years pending trial. Our Founders said no to that practice, and meant it. If you get falsely accused used of some crime, you deserve to be heard in court soon. Not five years later, when the DA and her successor have moved on to other jobs.

Is it shocking that a fellow who killed his infant daughter by leaving her in a hamper so he could go out for beer without having neighbors hear her cries won't be jailed? You betcha!
But the speedy trial laws are no secret.

The appellate court had no real choice. The court examined a well-known set of four factors. This delay was extreme and unjustifiable. The Court of Appeal even gave the State the benefit of one big doubt: it classified as “neutral” sixteen months' delay traceable to the DA's unsuccessful appeal of a pre-trial order. (Details on my blog.)

(You can't blame the current D.A. Trial started within a month of his taking office. ADAs Jacinto Palomino and Roxanne Esquivel got a conviction, and an eighteen-year sentence.)

A closer look reveals additional problems.

Had there been no such delay, the courts might have had to free Flores because of other mistakes or misconduct. Law and Order fans know police must give a suspect Miranda warnings. Flores was allegedly taken into police custody (without probable cause, the police reportedly admitted), not “Mirandized,” and subjected to six hours of custodial interrogation. By then, many suspects would be ready to sign whatever you handed 'em, just to stop the interrogation.  (That's particularly true of one who was young and confused, perhaps a bit inebriated, and had just lost his daughter through his own negligence.)

The appeal alleged additional misconduct which the decision doesn't address because the speedy trial issue was sufficient to resolve the appeal. Thus we don't know how those issues would have come out; but appellate specialist Caren Friedman, who helped with the appeal, said “Robert's conviction was obtained through numerous Constitutional violations.” (The Governor's Office hasn't called me back to comment.)

This case seems sadly symbolic of how Martinez ran the office: much “tough on crime” talk, but some sloppy lawyering. Here, part of the delay occurred because the prosecutors said they couldn't prepare for trial in two months. But was this such a complex case it couldn't be tried with two months' preparation? Palomino had only a month.

I wonder now about the decision initially to seek a possible life sentence.

Apparently Robert was a normal young man, who was perhaps too young to be a father and proved it by doing something indefensibly dumb that had horrendous consequences. He was WRONG. His daughter DIED. But did he intend that? Was the clothes hamper obviously life-threatening? If not, what's the right punishment? I don't know, and I don't know all the facts of this case, so I won't speculate. But I doubt it's life imprisonment.   (I know that in my youth I did a host of dumb things that could have killed people, including me, but was luckier than I deserved.)

Generally, New Mexico courts are moving away from treating parenting decisions as criminal matters.

Martinez made a lot of noise and unsuccessfully sought a much longer sentence; but her office failed even to get this kid to trial and may well have ignored basic constitutional rights.

If Martinez runs for national office Flores might get famous; but that won't help Kalynne.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 31 May, and will appear today on KRWG's website.]

[You can read the New Mexico Court of Appeals decision for yourself.  The court seems almost angry -- at the DA's conduct and perhaps at the pliability of the local courts I tried to ascertain whether or not Governor Martinez had anything to say to defend herself.  Wednesday, a very pleasant young man returned my call and said he would look into it and get me her response, if any, that evening or Thursday.  No one called me with any such response.  So maybe I did ascertain whether she has anything to say in her defense.]
[It's easy to say the court should have ignored the abuses and stuck the guy in jail for twenty years because a child died.  But another factor is what happens throughout this country when DA's can get away with this sort of misconduct.  There are abundant examples of kids who never did a damned thing but got picked up and charged, sat in jail, and had a wonderful choice: sit in jail for perhaps years and then probably get convicted in an unfair trial or plea-bargain, pleading to a lighter sentence (years in jail) for a crime you had nothing to do with.  DA's shouldn't get to use time as a weapon that way.  Defendants -- who are presumed not guilty and sometimes actually are -- have a right to get into the court and fight the charge if they choose to.]

[Finally, for those interested in the nature of the actual delays but not so interested as to read the Court of Appeals decision, I summarize below the basic reasons for delays and how the Court of Appeals viewed those:
Many appellate decisions outline the system reviewing courts in New Mexico use to appraise a delay. Factors include length of delay, reasons for different portions of the delay, complexity of the case, and prejudice to defendant. The court analyzes whether portions of the delay were prosecutor's fault, defendant's fault, or no one's fault.
A delay of 12 months in a “simple” case and 18 months in a “complex case” is “presumptively prejudicial.” The greater the delay, the more presumptively prejudicial it is. Here, the courts accepted, over Defendant's objection, the prosecutor's (the State's) argument that this was a complex case. 

Breaking down the length delay, the Court of Appeals held:
12/2007 to May 2008 was negligent and weighed against State. (“The record shows no activity initiated by the State to prosecute this case other than a request to review Defendant's conditions of release because he was seen at a local basketball game.” Defendant did not file initial witness list until May 21, 2008 – and only after four letters from Defendant's counsel requesting disclosure so he could interview witnesses.
5/2008 to 1/2009 was classified as administrative delay that weighed against the State. (The first trial was set for June 3, 2008; May 22, State filed motion to delay six months, up to and including Jan 2, 2009 because prosecutor had another jury trial during the period.)
1/2009 – 3/2009 was “attributable to and weighed against the State. (Court rescheduled to February, State filed motion to extend six-months, S.Ct granted ext to May 2 2009. Defendant made certain motions a month before trial, but did not move to continue; three weeks later the State successfully moved for an extension of time to respond to the motions. The trial court granted the extension, necessitating trial continuance. The Court of Appeals said the three motions were filed “well within the time allocated by rule for the State to respond.” The State's cited reason was need for more time to research and respond.)
4/2009 – 7/2009 weighed against State. (State moved on June 18, a month before trial but 3 days before hearing on suppression motion, to exclude D's expert, whose testimony was expected to be offered at suppression hearing. Trial court ran out of time to respond, necessitated new trial continuance.)
Mid-July to late November 2009 was weighted neutrally. (Defendant moved for change of venue, which the court initially denied then granted, and this was weighed neutrally because the change-of-venue motion was meritorious.).
Dec. 2009 to Sept. 2010 was a six-month negligent delay against the State. (On Dec 18 State petitioned to extend trial to July 2 (8 months after venue change) stating re-set would require special arrangements with Court in Bernalillo County. This ten-month delay was judged significant, particularly in context, and the Court of Appeal noted that the prosecutor hadn't done much to start making those arrangements.)
Then on Feb 16 2011 State moved to continue April 6 2011 setting because prosecutor assigned to the case appointed to the judiciary. (Note that the new prosecutor would have had almost two months to prepare, more than the single month ultimately available to the folks who actually tried the case and won it.) The trial court denied motion to continue, but then granted a defense motion to exclude evidence that the reason Flores had left his daughter alone was to buy beer. The State appealed. This caused a further 16-month delay, which was weighed neutrally by the Court of Appeals even though the appellate court upheld the trial court's decision that the evidence more prejudicial than probative and should be excluded.
July 2012 January 2013 further administrative delays that were weighed against the State.
The cumulative delays were so long that although Defendant's counsel argued prejudice, the Court of Appeals held that it didn't have to find actual prejudice because the three other factors weighted too heavily against the State.]

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Doings at Dusty Desert Spaceport

Another week, another tidbit of desperate hope that the Dusty Desert Spaceport will pay off soon.

Start-up Exos Aerospace Systems and Technologies has bought Armadillo Aerospace's assets and supposedly will develop and launch its new gizmo from Dusty Desert.

Armadillo, founded and financed by video game honcho John Carmack, spent years building a sub-orbital craft, then went “into hibernation mode” in 2013 following a crash and other reverses. (Armadillo deserves credit for a game try and for its unusual honesty with the public about its failures.) One story was headlined “Pipe Dream Meets Reality.” But Exos COO John Quinn says that the craft was so near “commercial viability” that Armadillo would have succeeded with one more launch. (Carmack appears not to be involved in Exos.)

The new gizmo, SARGE, would be basically the old STIG-B with a few modifications. The STIG-B crashed last time they flew it; but Orville and Wilbur had plenty of early screw-ups too. Quinn says that the problem has been addressed and that a redundant backup system has been added to ensure success. If SARGE flies, we'll find out.

One report quoted Quinn that Exos “was examining both raising money from investors and seeking strategic partnerships with other companies to fund development of SARGE.” Exos's recent crowd-funding campaign to raise $125,000 to support design work raised only a fraction of that. Quinn acknowledges that that was as much for media relations and publicity as for funding, and says it helped. He says ample financing exists.

I'd read that SARGE would be ready for its first test flight as soon as March 2016, would launch monthly during 2016, then move to a weekly schedule in 2017. Quinn said that was “still the plan,” calling it “an achievable goal.” Exos's website (glowingly) describes its activities in the present tense. Quinn conceded that “maybe the present tense isn't literally true, in that we're not out there flying every day” but insisted that “the capability is there” and mentioned examples of Armadillo accomplishing things in very short time-frames.

David Mitchell, Exos's co-founder and president, is a fourth-generation Texas oil man and a Christian pastor. He runs both the family business, and “NeUventure on Wall Street,” a series of seminars that purport to teach beginners in two days how to make humonguous returns through the stock market. Most professionals would laugh at some of his basic advice, which reportedly includes avoiding diversification, buying stock in only one or two companies you know well, and “timing” the market.

Critics say the seminars mix familiar basic advice with a lot of upselling of additional training. For thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars you can become an “Insider” or even a “Top Gun.”
Quinn, who credits Mitchell with saving him after he lost much of his retirement money, says the program works, and that none of the critics are “Top Guns.” (He said it takes a lot of hard work to reach that level.) He adds that Mitchell, who wouldn't take a salary as a pastor, conducted the seminars free for church members for years before trying to help a wider audience.

I wouldn't sign up for NeUventure, and I hope Spaceport folks haven't fronted any money to Exos. I see a wide gap between present reality and promises. The gizmo crashed last time they tried it and we're halfway through 2015. I hear the promise of regular launches in 2016 in the context of ever-shifting Virgin Galactic's timetables. But I'm pretty ignorant, and will watch with interest.
But Quinn speaks passionately of his hopes for Exos.

Will Exos will help save the Dusty Desert Spaceport? Tune in next year.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 24 May, and should also appear on KRWG's website shortly.]
[Before providing websites readers can visit to learn more and read things for themselves, let me make sure I'm real clear on this: I started by looking at the claims made by Eros and the known facts and remarking on the vast gulf between them; further research tended to widen that gap; and then some research into David Mitchell's "NeUventure" business blew away, for me at least, his last vestige of credibility.  I do not say he's a con man.   I don't know him.  Instinct tells me that a man whose pitch is so involved with his Christianity and his desire to help others is a man who has at least some amount of sincere belief in what he's doing, even if it appears a bit dubious to observers.  But at best he's a man who inherited a good deal of wealth, and runs his family oil company, and preaches some, and collects a pretty penny from desperately hopeful people for "secrets" of making vast wealth by timing stocks and such.    None of that tends to help an already not-too-credible story.  Rather, he's found another set of desperately hopeful people in the Spaceport officials, and is telling them what they so want to hear.]

[But how did this get to be front-page news?  I've wondered.  I don't think I blame the young man who wrote the story.  Young reporters aren't well paid and tend to be over-worked, so give him a pass on not researching this one a little more.  But if he didn't just pick this story out of cyberspace based on its reference to the Spaceport, and someone put it in front of him?  If it was someone with Dusty Desert Spaceport, that person (paid by us) should have recognized the reasons to be skeptical about Exos and either didn't know (sad, because s/he has a responsibility as a public official for doing at least reasonable research and having at least a modicum of good sense) or knew and passed on the story without alerting the reporter.  
But I readily concede that I can't see the future and this thing might somehow turn out wonderfully for all concerned.]

[Websites and sources: Monday's Sun-News story is here; the on-line Space News story quoted in it is at ; this is an earlier story on Armadillo going into "hibernation" mode; this is Exos's website, which uses the present tense to describe a bunch of schedules and launches that I presume exist only in some remote and uncertain future plans, and the Biographies are worth a glance too; the Kickstarter pitch  ,  with indications that it's failing miserably as a fund-raising mechanism; this is the website for "NeUventure on Wall Street."  And here are two web-sites -- a review of a "NeUventure on Wall Street" seminar and an expert analysis of a Mitchell handout on investing -- from which I'll quote liberally below.  I think the material as a whole would lead one to be concerned that "Neuventure" might be a scam, and by extension to avoid relying too heavily on Exos's plans and promises.]

[In fact, logic would tell us that if Mitchell's methods could consistently make the huge returns some of his supporters claim, he'd be more famous than Warren Buffett (whom he apparently quotes, a little misleadingly, as supporting his anti-diversification view).  If he had shown through his performance that diversification wasn't a pretty good idea long term, there'd be a lot written about it; and, as someone pointed out, if his methods were as sound as claimed, and he were so intent on helping everyone, he could help a great many more people by opening a mutual fund folks could invest in.
Still, Exos is not NeUventure.  Maybe something good will happen.]

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Water We Should Use

Stormwater-harvesting expert Van Clothier, who spoke here a week ago, says things so just-plain-sensible that most of us (and most of our local leaders) – don't quite get 'em.

We live in a desert. We're in a drought that could last awhile. We need water.

Stormwater is water.

It falls on our roofs. If we have rain-barrels, or have prepared our land properly, we catch it and use it to grow vegetables, flowers, and trees. Trees help shade us and cool us; veggies feed us; and flowers lift our spirits.

Rain falls on our streets and sidewalks, too. Storms can create a bit of a safety hazard, as water rushes along our streets and into our storm drains and out of town as fast as possible. Doing us no good. Needing water, we watch water rush past.

We could use that water. With little or no extra cost. So says Van, along with Brad Lancaster, who spoke here last April. Van spoke at a City-sponsored Lush N Lean workshop, one in a series on water-related topics.  "Stormwater harvesting could save Las Cruces thousands of taxpayers money and water, while keeping our city beautiful and attractive," City Councilor Gill Sorg commented. 

Under the right conditions, just cutting into the curb so that some of that storm-water runs into your yard, could give your trees or garden abundant water. Free. (Don't ignore “under the right conditions”: if your land is higher than the street, it won't work, 'cause water flows downhill; or if your house is lower than your land and the street, you could draw the water right to your house.)

Cutting into the curb is illegal, in most places. You can get a permit now in Tucson, where Brad lives, largely because of how well his methods have worked. I think that's true now in Silver City, too, where Van lives. His company, Stream Dynamics, Inc., consults with people – and with cities and towns.

Van starts by observing the land very, very carefully. His method features diverting water early, into places where it can sink in rather than flow past or pond extensively (and evaporate). You start at the highest point you can, because water flows downhill, and has smaller force and volume at the top.

Tuesday, Stream Dynamics received exciting news: the New Mexico Environmental Department has given it the okay to proceed with a $138,000 grant involving 80 water-harvesting projects in and near Silver City. Van was stoked, saying that the work could serve as “a practical model for other urban streams in New Mexico.”

“Turning nuisance storm-water into a community resource, through innovative water-harvesting techniques, will improve water quality and riparian health, reduce flood and fire dangers, and modernize storm-water infrastructure,” he added.

I've wondered whether these methods could help with the problem of decrepit dams and resultant floods in our County. Could ancient and more natural principles be used to slow down rushing arroyos at their sources?

It's an inviting idea. By starting at the top, could a finite group do work within a reasonable time that would make a significant difference in flood control? It wouldn't cost that much to find out. Meanwhile local governments are nowhere near having the budget or funding to repair or replace dams, a much more expensive (and sometimes environmentally undesirable) solution.

Van was guardedly positive, saying that in theory I was on the right track, but that this sort of work “is extremely site-specific. It's like asking me how a dress would look on a woman I've never met and know nothing about.”

If you missed their talks, check out Van's and Brad's web sites. (URL's on my blog today.) More importantly, urge your city councilor or county commissioner to implement some of what Van and Brad have done.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 17 Mary, 2015, sub nom Stormwater Harvesting Makes Common Sense -- and will also appear today on KRWG's website.]
[ As promised, here are Van Clothier's website and Brad Lancaster's.  Too, here's the column I wrote last year introducing Brad.  The column summarizes how Brad happened to get started doing what he does. ]
[ Glancing at the column on Brad takes me back a year.  Dael and I had somehow taken on the chore of making it all happen -- procuring a venue, scheduling it, coordinating with Brad, trying to get the word out, etc.; and since the venue was the Rio Grande Theater (thanks to the City), with plenty of seats, getting the word out seemed all the more important.  Ultimately, it was a great event -- all thanks to Brad, who was both informative and incredibly funny -- and we heard a lot of praise for him from people who'd attended and some lamentations from people who hadn't heard about it or hadn't been able to make it.  I remember the effort (Dael's more than mine!) and how much we enjoyed Brad's talk.  And we met Van that night. ]
[By the way, the Lush N Lean series runs programs 6-8 p.m. at the WIA Building on the East side of Pioneer Park.  Free.  The next topics include Trees (21 May) and Irrigation (28 May), but I think that may be the end of the program this year.]

Monday, May 11, 2015


  It is the kind of peaceful day we used to have, before our lives here became insanely busy.   The whole day we do not leave our home.  Dael spends much of the day outdoors.  Even I get time to plant a couple of things and wander around shooting photographs, before the day meanders toward a close with that unhurried, thoughtful sluggishness days should adopt far from cities.
  This is our place, our home.  At first, for months, we enjoyed just such long, slow, magical days and nights.  Now we are blessed by too many wonderful friends, too many tasks we can't ignore, too many paintings to see, too much music and poetry to hear, too many openings of too many fine shows by people we often know and like.
  Today is different.
  We sit outside eating a late breakfast with a friend.  Toward sunset, we sit outside again, listening, watching, writing.  We speak in whispers so as not to frighten the quail.  We marvel at the deep red glow the fuchsia take on, back-lit by the setting sun.  We remark on how peaceful it is -- if you don't count the white-winged doves squabbling with the quail, and both squabbling among themselves, and the bees frantically raiding the bird-of-paradise blossoms.
  I even try my hand at a quick poem, but the best I can manage right now is:

The western mountains are yellow ghosts.
The setting sun paints the peaks East of us
a deep, royal red they have waited
all day to wear.  Quail venture nearer
as the shadows lengthen.  A hummingbird
visits ocotillo blossoms, silhouettes
against a clear sky.  Cactus blossoms
fold themselves delicately
against the night air.  Soon
coyotes and the horned owl
will sing up the moon.

Cholla Blossom


Ocotillo Blossom
Ocotillo Blossom 01

The western mountains - approaching sunset

Doves at Sunset

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Things We Take with Us -- two encounters with local creativity

A week ago we attended two inspiring events at MVS Studios: a reading by Claudette Ortiz Franzoy from her new book and the annual benefit for J. Paul Taylor Academy.

Claudette is a fine writer and we love J. Paul.

Common Ground, is a collection of Claudette's Sun-News columns about life in the Hatch Valley. Claudette is the best columnist I've seen at the paper. The book reminds me why.

It's a very human, personal collection. She makes some perceptive observations, but always in the context of her village, her valley.

The reading was fun. She reads as if she were telling us a story around a table in the Pepper Pot. Flipping to one column she's marked, she exults “Oh, this was a difficult time!” or “Arturo, remember . . .”

Here is an excellent writer who happens to live in a place most of the world has never heard of. In an old-fashioned community, a network of inter-connected families up and down the valley, many earning their livings from the Earth. A true community the like of which most of us will not experience.

She is candid, even where it hurts. Two columns deal with the rape of a middle-aged woman named Claudette. She writes of the rape openly, candidly. Her unique take on the situation had so struck me as I read them that I marked the pages to share. Describing a difficult personal experience, she retained perspective to portray everyone fairly and with empathy.

After reading a short passage, Claudette revealed that other, younger women had been raped, presumably by the same man before he was caught, and that her candor and openness may have helped them deal with the trauma, helped them speak up.

She sees her village as one who is embedded in it by a strong web of family and friends and by the years. But she was also a successful journalist Wyoming. She has the journalist's eye for detail, and the poet's skill in selecting which details will pull more than their weight in a short portrait of a man, a woman, a situation.

I recommend the book highly. The $15 price goes to the Hatch Library, to help educate and inspire future Hatchlings.

Claudette will read again on Saturday morning, May 30 at Coas Books, 10-12.

At last year's JPTA benefit I'd shot photographs of Paul and of the young students in Mexican dress dancing in the street.

This year I arrived early and wandered through the Studio. The silent auction featured marvelous, colorful bowls, made by Russell Mott after Kate has placed on them images drawn by the kids.

What fascinated me were three dozen small framed self-portraits hanging together on one wall.

The 4th and 5th graders varied in their artistic skills, but each portrayed not only a face but the fears and feelings behind it. This boy's head a bit misshapen but with a mischievous and defiant look, that boy jaunty and a bit cool. Girls who supposed themselves women already and pretty; girls who seemed modestly courteous and neat; and girls whose faces seemed to express the terror of being ten, in a confusing world and a clique-ish school.

Undoubtedly I read more in them than was there. But each had captured some essence. I wished I knew the kids and could watch how closely their growth over decades would match that essence.
I think the portraits also spoke to me of the creative spirit, in ways I haven't yet translated into words. I spent more money than I should have, so that they could keep speaking to me from the wall as I write.
                                                    - 30-
[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 10 May.]

Sunday, May 3, 2015

VOTE MAY 5TH and make a difference in our future

This week we have a chance to make a difference.

On Tuesday, May 5, we'll decide three contested seats on the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District Board.

The what? 
Most folks learned about the DASWCD last year, when its board put on the ballot a measure calling for a tax increase to help fund the group. We learned that it spent much of its time passing resolutions against “Agenda 21” and against various measures to help protect wildlife. It opposed the new Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Monument.

SWCDs in other states, and even elsewhere in New Mexico, are active, useful, important agencies for conservation. SWCDs have a mission to “conserve and develop natural resources . . . provide for flood control, preserve wildlife, protect the tax base, and promote [people's] health, safety and general welfare.”

Our SWCD's Chairman, Joe Delk, has written that conservation districts can be a vital force in the battle between solid Christians and the "environmental cartels" he blames for “diminishing the presence and importance of Christian men and women.” (My blog post today will include links to some of Mr. Delk's comments, so that anyone can read them directly.)

The DASWCD should be cooperating with other government agencies to work on conservation and flood control; but the current Board doesn't like the government very much, and go out of their way to fire ideological attacks at the agencies it should be cooperating with.

Change is needed. Additional skills are needed. Balance is needed. Opening up the DASWCD to our diverse community is needed.

Three seats are up this year.

The challenger in the “at-large” seat is Dr. Roger Beck. He's a former NMSU professor of Agricultural Economics with more than 35 years' experience in sustainable economic development and long-term management of land and water resources. The incumbent [correction!]: is Melissa Gorham, a local realtor.   Everyone in the District can vote on this seat. Beck has the deeper pool of relevant experience and is less focused on representing just one segment of the community. Schickedanz is an ally of Chairman Delk.

The challenger in District 1 is Kurt Anderson. A retired NMSU Astronomy Professor who's lived here for more than forty years, he has a long-time interest in sustainable water use in our region. He serves on the board of the Doña Ana Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association and on the Steering Committee of the Lower Rio Grande Regional Water Planning Committee. He has also served on the board of the New Mexico Rural Water Association. (He's opposed by Dr. Jerry Schickedanz, dean emeritus of NMSU's Ag Department, who was recently appointed by Governor Susana Martinez,.)

The challenger in District 2 (Southwestern Doña Ana County, including Mesilla) is Sally Williams, a retired executive who owns a small alfalfa farm in Mesilla. She's particularly interested in developing a long-term sustainable relationship between agriculture and domestic water use here.

I hope we put some new folks on the board. While agricultural interests should be represented on the Board, a Board consisting solely of ranchers and Tea Party folks can't serve the needs of our County. Our water and conservation needs are too pressing for “business as usual.”

In this election, each vote matters. The three polling places are open 7 a.m. To 7 p.m. Tuesday: County Offices on Motel Boulevard and the Anthony and Hatch Community Centers. Anyone can vote at any of the three.

If you feel that Agenda 21 is hamstringing local government and the BLM is a danger to our freedom, vote for the incumbent in your district.

If you feel DASWCD should fight for soil and water conservation and wildlife, then vote for the challenger.

But however you decide, please do vote.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, May 3, and will also appear on KRWG-TV's webpage today.]

[I should reiterate: (1) anyone can vote at any polling place; and (2) everyone can vote, in that (a) everyone can vote for Mr. Beck and (b) voters in Districts 1 or 2 can vote for the candidates from those district plus Mr. Beck.

The district system is very new by the way.  It would be interesting to know if the Board chose it to minimize the chance outsiders would capture seats.  If folks in Mesilla and Las Cruces could vote in all three races, things might be tougher for the incumbents.

As mentioned, here's my column from a year ago about these folks.  It has a cite to Delk's long comments about environmental cartels, which I'll insert here for everyone's convenience.
Among his points are that what he terms "environmental cartels"  are "working to control and expand measures that elevate a secular spiritualism while suppressing and diminishing the presence and importance of Christian men and women. They seek domination … they seek a monopoly of direction and policy."         
By contrast, "Conservation Districts, by their direct ties to the land, have not yet been altered or corrupted to become an arm of the progressive environmental cartels. They are a bastion of conservative leaders who are more closely aligned with traditional values that start with the sovereign individual and family units."
I just don't agree. I keep thinking a conservation organization ought to have at least some interest in conserving natural resources, including soil and water, and protecting wildlife.  I'm not understanding why a supposed conservation group should be focused mostly on fighting cultural wars about whether people are Christians or not -- let alone attacking most conservation measures.  Or, as Win Jacobs says in the only on-line comment on Delks's talk: 
Darn it, Joe! The district needs dam upgrades, a lot more than the world needs saving by any one creed (or screed!)
Win Jacobs
She added that his view might offend a lot of farmers she knows who see themselves as stewards of the land -- and as environmentalists.  
But then, Delk also credits our country's Founders with a concept (as he chooses to interpret it) then adds that unfortunately "too few of them understood the concept."  Our Founders didn't understand what they were doing, but Joe Delk does?  I sure don't!  I thought they painstakingly implemented a new concept, that the government of the people should be separate from any religion -- theirs, mine, yours, and even Joe Delk's!]