Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Look at Our Local Election Ballots

Here’s how I’d vote in this year’s city council elections.

Two city council races offer clear choices: District 2 incumbent Yvonne Flores vs. William Beerman; and Becki Graham vs. Bev Courtney in District 3, where write-in candidate Gregory Shervanick is also running because, “the City, with major projects and a large budget, needs to have ethics, transparency, and accountability.”

A retired lawyer, Councilor Flores has worked hard and effectively to improve the City. She’s open to new ideas, and studies issues critically. Graham seems an excellent candidate who supports a living wage but also helps encourage businesses as a researcher and program manager at NMSU’s Arrowhead Center. Graham is in tune with Gabe Vasquez, whom District 3 voters elected in 2017; and being married to a LCFD fireman likely provides useful insights. Courtney, who teaches shooting and gun safety, cares deeply, but has done little to prepare herself for the kinds of detailed issues the council decides. Shervanick attends many council and city advisory board meetings.

If you believe Donald Trump was a fine president, cheated of re-election by some vast, conspiratorial chicanery, you may wish to vote for Courtney (a good-hearted, longtime resident making her third run for this seat) or Beerman. In our interview, Beerman played up his past work as an auditor, but also confirmed and reasserted that he considers recently-fired NMSU professor David Clements “a great American hero.” (Clements broke NMSU vaccine-and-mask rules, spouting disinformation, then encouraged hundreds of thousands of unknown sympathizers to persecute a fellow professor, about whom he lied.) As foot-soldiers in Donald Trump’s slow-motion coup Trump’s effort to undermine democracy by getting flunkies into positions to overrule voters and throw states’ tallies his way in 2024 these folks are not innocuous. If Beerman truly wants to help the City, and has good ideas, there are several advisory boards on which he could usefully serve. (Beerman also sees “socialism” as one of two “problem areas” he highlights about Las Cruces.)

In the four-way District 5 race, Becky Ann Corran is the star. She’s a Professor of Public Health who’s worked with diverse communities as an advocate, and has a demonstrated interest in solving public problems. As District 5 is a “ranked-choice-voting” race; I’d list David Telford second on my ballot.

Telford, a BravoMic radio ad consultant and marketer, is a self-described moderate for whom businesses are a high priority. Normand Robert Paquette insists he’s “a public servant,” and even ducked one substantive question I asked him by repeating the “public servant” riff instead of answering. His Facebook site hints at “conservative values,” but offers mostly platitudes and a neighbor’s endorsement.

Ronnie Sisneros says he joined the Republican Party in 2016. Likely for Donald Trump. (I do like that Sisneros says he values the Mesquite Historical District.) The County Republican Party endorses Sisneros and Pacquette.

I can and will vote to add Gill Sorg and Joshua Switzer to the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District Board. Josh is a dedicated organic farmer (whose produce we’ve bought at the Farmers’ Market since 2012) and a truly non-political person who knows this land and loves it. Josh would be a breath of fresh air. Gill ranched in Montana, and did it the right way. Gill also has a science background. (And, yeah, his years on the City Council might equip him with contacts and knowledge that could facilitate DASWCD’s work.)

Anyway, please vote!

                                                     - 30 - 


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 17 October 2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website

[Normand Robert Paquette repeatedly self-identified as “a public servant,” and has been noted for his charitable work. However, I feel it’s fair to ask candidates a little about their views beyond how they’ll handle their actual local duties if elected. For one thing, sometimes everyone says all the same things (stronger community, better police force, public safety, better service to businesses seeking permits, and “I love Las Cruces!”) about those local races. Some listeners may want to hear a little more about a candidate’s wider views. (The races are technically non-partisan, but Paquette’s, Courtney’s, and Sisneros’s candidacies are mentioned with approval by the County Republican Party.) That’s particularly so now. We have just seen (depending on your view) a very dangerous and destructive presidency OR a brief interlude in which Donald Trump pushed our country back toward old-time Christian values; Mr. Trump either got cheated out of election by a vast criminal conspiracy or is involved in a slow-motion coup attempt, using bogus claims of election fraud (rejected so far by all courts and many Republican officeholders) to justify limiting voting and setting up systems in which Republican politicians could veto the choices of their state’s voters to throw the election to their candidate. January 6 was January 6. Many Republicans and most all Democrats do not favor Trump’s efforts; but many Republicans do favor them, notably in swing states such as Georgia, Texas, and Arizona. Knowing whether or not a candidate favors that anti-democratic effort seems material to a decision on local offices. So I was annoyed when Pacquette blew me off, repeating his “I’m a public servant!” riff as a response to whatever I asked, rather than answering. He referred me to his website. His Facebook page says he’s won a mayor’s endorsement for community service, and his favorite books are Dale Carnegie and the Bible. (I should note that in election fora I try to elicit information, and rarely argue with candidates.)]

[With the Dona Ana Soil andWater Conservation District races, we talked with Gill Sorg and Josh Switzer, candidates in Positions 3 and 4. (They are in separate races, but all residents of the District can vote in both district races.) As to their opponents, who did not deign to discuss their DASWCD candidacies with us on radio, Jose F Makk apparently installs irrigation systems at golf courses and homes, while Joseph A. Skaggs owns a company that drills wells. Sadly, the Sun-News didn’t do candidate profiles on this race, nor do I see any in the League of Women Voters Voter Guide in the Bulletin. But I sure like and respect both Gill and Josh. Both truly care about conservation and the community.]

[I may discuss the school board race in my next column. I’ll be talking to the candidates on Radio KTAL [“Speak Up, Las Cruces!” 8-10 a.m. Wednesday, and specifically: 8:30, School District 1 Ray Jaramillo and Alberto Balcazar; 9, District 2 Henry A Young and Pamela M. Cort; and 9:30, District 3 Robert C Wofford  Eloy Francisco Macha Camborda, all on 101.5 FM or streaming at], Las Cruces Community Radio. (I haven’t met all the candidates, and will wait to see if the discussions alter my initial preferences or strengthen them.)]

[ALSO: “Almost, Maine” at the Las Cruces Community Theater was fun Saturday night, and likely will amuse additional audiences this coming Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon, the last weekend of the play’s run. Audience modest, and therefore fairly safe for folks worrying about COVID19.

Contact LCCT at or (575) 523-1200.]

© Peter Goodman 2021


Sunday, October 10, 2021

One fine evening

Just before dark, under a vast high-desert sky, we sit at tables around a backyard swimming pool, and Megan McQueen is singing her heart out.

Our host has lost weight, and is using a cane. Months ago, on a hot spring day, we visited through the closed window of his room in a rehab center, kidding around by phone, pandemic-style. He was lying down, weak after his stroke. Sounding like a kid whose parents had bought front-row baseball tickets, he said Megan wanted to give him and his wife a private concert once he recovered. Tonight, introducing Megan and friends, he recalls: “I needed something to look forward to.” And to share with us.

Lives, like snowflakes, look alike to the casual observer, but no two have exactly the same shape, and each affects countless other lives, in greater or smaller ways, uniquely.

To Megan, our host is a friend and fan. To his kids, he gave them life, offered an example of how to live it, and undoubtedly frustrated the hell out of them sometimes, as they did him. To his wife, he’s a huge part of everything she was unimaginably young when they met. To the fifty of us gathered, he’s a fun-loving good friend, trusted advisor, and reliable neighbor.

Across the pool, the Preacher’s kid, maybe 10, brings a smile to our lips, his fist a microphone as he silently sings along, as expressive as the star he imagines he is, his sunglasses completing the effect. I’d photograph him if I had my camera. Others do so, with cellphones. What will this celebratory evening mean to him, decades hence? Another vague childhood memory of twilight, good music, and a loving attitude in the air, that slips into his mind now and then, never quite identifiable, with a sense that there was something special, particularly to the grownups?

One guy recalls how he and our host beat the hell out of each other in Montana high school football, half a century ago, each school so small that they played both offensive and defensive line, battling each other all game. Our hostess ran track. As they sit here, appreciating this moment with a special depth, I wonder how they would explain to their younger selves feeling, a lifetime later, both diminished and much richer.

Our host puts down his cane and asks his sweetheart to dance. You can’t miss how much they appreciate each other at this moment, dancing yet again. (Most moving dance I’ve seen since watching a close friend dance at his daughter’s wedding not long after his heart attack, the stark Organ Mountains behind them.)

We enjoy chatting with two vibrant women in their late eighties at our table. They’re longtime friends. When Megan’s husband, Matt Reiter, sings “Sweet Caroline,” they recall hearing Neil Diamond at the Pan Am Center, forty years ago, with their now-departed husbands.

As Matt sings, “Stuck in the Middle with You,” I wonder what bizarre cast of “clowns and jokers” our host met on his interrupted stroll across death’s unguarded border, just before some medical magic jerked him back into this life. “I died twice,” he says. “I didn’t even know it.”

This evening he’s fully alive, and we all share in his joy and gratitude, acutely aware that life is to savor.

Most of life doesn’t turn out quite as we’d planned. Tonight does.

                                 - 30 -


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 10 October 2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and KTAL-LP. (101.5 FM, and will presently be available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[I just wanted to thank our host and hostess, and honor his recovery, without sharing names. They’re long-time members of the community. And we can all, always, use reminders to hug our kids, tell folks we love ‘em, and do what we most deeply need or want to do.]


© Peter Goodman

© Peter Goodman

© Peter Goodman

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Concerns about our Crisis Triage Center

Experienced registered nurses fear that the Crisis Triage Center is so badly run it could really harm someone and harm Doña Ana County.

It’s run by RI, specifically by Karina Diaz, a certified art therapist/psychotherapist who is not a nurse. Pre-opening, one source said Diaz “kept firing employees, amazing human beings,” including Freddy Hernandez, a highly experienced nurse whom the source called “a ray of sunshine.” RI says it did not fire Hernandez, a temp, and that it has fired no CTC staff nurse.

When contacted, Hernandez calmly discussed his experience at CTC, adding he’d wanted to contact Jamie Michael because he doubted she was aware of the depth of the problem. He’d been on committees trying to make CTC happen, and was “extremely disappointed,” particularly after that long community effort. He said Diaz lacked experience with such a facility. “She didn’t know what to order, when to order, or how things should go,” but micromanaged people anyway. “She’d sneak up on us and say, ‘Why are you talking?’ and you had to ask for permission to go to the bathroom.” He warned her, “You’ll lose your nurses. You have to treat them like adults.” Psychiatric nurses are scarce. Asked if I could use his name, Hernandez replied, “Of course. It’s very important that the County know about this.”

Another nurse who joined (then left) CTC early said that Diaz was so unkind to nurses that after one incident, another employee asked, “Why is she always after you guys?”

Another nurse said, “I’m scared for our County. They’re going to wind up having some dire thing happen. We need the CTC, but we don’t need it under this woman’s reign,” adding, “the County thinks it’s going all wonderful ‘cause that’s what Karina is reporting.”

More recently, experienced RN Pamela Field, who’s pretty well-known locally, worked with CTC. She called it “dangerously mismanaged,” and “a gross waste of taxpayers’ money. There are few “guests.” One source said most guests are either developmentally disabled persons whom “the home brings in after they’ve had a fit, mostly to give the home’s staff a break from dealing with them,” or homeless folks. It’s a safe place. They get their clothes washed and move on.” (A few are having psychotic breaks, and belong there.)

Diaz reportedly insists on admitting people whose safety requires they go into the hospital. Field said CTC tries to detox alcoholics with very high alcohol levels, without medications. That’s a serious medical situation, not merely a psychological one, and potentially dangerous, particularly without meds immediately available. CTC lacks med, but tries anyway; and some of the necessary meds aren’t easy to procure. Field said Diaz was “not qualified to be overseeing nurses. She shouldn’t be directing nurses’ discussions, or dealing with controlled drugs.” Field ultimately declined a shift because she couldn’t ethically try to detox someone with a high blood alcohol level, without meds. RI says it operates ethically and will soon apply for a license permitting storage of controlled drugs.

One man reportedly presented with congestive heart failure and serious fluid overload, and anxiety. Diaz reportedly advocated admitting him, to treat anxiety, though his situation was medically dangerous and the CTC had neither an EKG machine nor meds to treat fluid overload. (RI disagrees with this account.)

This is what I’m hearing from extremely qualified nurses who want county management and citizens to hear the truth. We should listen.

                                                      - 30 -


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 3 October 2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and KTAL-LP. (101.5 FM, and will presently be available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[First, let me clarify that the two RNs named in the story were not the only RN’s with whom I spoke, and that not every source was an RN.]

[Second, this is not about RI International’s basic mission of providing crisis services to anyone, anywhere, anytime, or about the use of peer counselors with “lived experience” in helping people who are addicted to substances. Peer counselors can be essential.  Nurses I spoke with didn’t disagree with the principle; but they were concerned about aspects of the implementation, including the tough line-drawing required between helping everyone and ensuring urgent medical needs are met. RI says that “a licensed MD Psychiatrist” who I believe operates by telehealth, from out-of-state, “oversees all the medical decision making for the CTC.” An off-site RN Site Director from another location also consults when necessary; and it’s my understanding that they ultimately overruled Diaz with regard to treating the person mentioned in the column who was suffering from congested heart failure. RI stated, “There is incorrect information about the guest who visited the CTC with congestive heart failure,” but noted that RI would not discuss “any services provided to any guest that could contain identifying and protected health information.”]

[Finally, I hope RI International and county management treat this as helpful criticism.  The people I spoke with are well-regarded nurses with no problem finding other employment.  By RI's account, none were fired.  Nor is is necessarily pleasant to speak out about these things.]   


Meanwhile, butterflies have visited the Maximilian sunflowers a whole lot, the last few days:






and someone slept through the whole show:

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Concerns Grow Regarding District Attorney's Office

An assistant district attorney’s missed deadlines in the Baby Favi case made headlines. That same fortnight, I read of three more missed deadlines, one by the same ADA. Not good.

That ADA has left, after many years with the Third Judicial District Attorney’s DA’s office. Everyone says he was a good, conscientious attorney. His resignation letter said he just couldn’t stand having such a heavy caseload that he couldn’t do his work properly. “I was shocked, given his deep commitment to the office,” a defense attorney said.

Few Las Crucens choose to move to Alamogordo, Deming, or Carlsbad. (Silver City, maybe.) A dozen ADAs from here are now ADAs in those towns. Some live here, commuting long hours. Why? Not because they love audio books.

Former ADAs, defense counsel, and folks in law enforcement, or other positions dealing regularly with our DA’s Office, are worried. Many say the DA’s Office is so understaffed that it endangers timely, competent prosecution of cases. (The Attorney-General’s Office is aware of local concern.) City detectives are taking a higher percentage of misdemeanor cases to the City Attorney’s Office for filing in Municipal Court. The Sheriff’s Department no longer runs as many arrest warrants or search warrants past the DA, saying response times aren’t quick enough. (Third Judicial District Attorney Gerald Byers says DASO has “our on-call number and my cell-phone.”)

Defense counsel complain that management won’t let ADAs make basic decisions on plea bargains. That means cases drag along, victims get no closure, and defendants wait longer in jail. Byers, whom we elected in 2020, says he tightened things up because each plea agreement goes out over his signature, and younger attorneys miss things and don’t know what they don’t know.

There are just two deputies (plus Byers) with experience trying major felonies. Byers says there are two more on the way, new hires with extensive experience in other states, awaiting New Mexico licenses.

Critics emphasize turnover. Both former ADAs and defense counsel say some cases have had six or seven attorneys in charge of them over a few years. One defense lawyer said, “What’s really shocking is, I start talking to someone and before I know it, he’s gone, or she’s gone.” One source said several young lawyers “who would have become really good prosecutors” left, partly for lack of mentoring. Byers says he has increased training and has weekly meetings to improve communications.

Morale is reportedly poor. Three women recently received settlements based on alleged mistreatment by Byers when he was chief deputy. That also sparked an effort to unionize, rare among lawyers. (Byers stresses that he treats everyone the same. My guess is that his conflict with the younger lawyers was largely generational.) To everyone’s surprise, Chief Deputy A.J. Salazar was fired recently. He’s served formal notice he may sue. Byers, of course, could not discuss specific personnel.

“I remember when I was the little guy, and I try to treat people with respect, and stand up for people. I tell lawyers, “Don’t say it to your secretary if you wouldn’t say it to a judge,” Byers said.

Byers had responses to each allegation; but because people avoid saying to his face what they say to others, he’s unaware of the extensive criticism. He’s smart and experienced. My hope is that whatever has happened, and whoever bears how much fault, Byers takes these concerns seriously and improves matters ASAP.

                                             - 30 - 


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 26 September 2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and KTAL-LP. (101.5 FM, and will presently be available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[I kind of hated writing this column, because I know, like, and respect Gerald Byers. Still, the more folks I talked to, the less able I was to duck writing it.

The consistent themes repeated in so many conversations, most with people having firsthand knowledge, was compelling. Too, judges had forcefully expressed themselves in actions and written decisions.

In Mr. Byers’s defense: the pandemic has been a tough time for everyone; and the D.A.’s Office here had been weakened by partisan changes and other challenges for years. Under Susanna Martinez and Amy Orlando, the office allegedly charged people with unreasonably big offenses to bully them into plea bargains. Mark D’Antonio ran on plans to mix vigorous prosecution with consideration of treatment and other solutions other than prison, depending on circumstances. When he beat Orlando, she reportedly left files in disarray, and many of her people fled without giving Mark a chance. Mark, in turn, was a good lawyer with good intentions, but not the greatest manager in the world; an early on he trusted some people he perhaps ought not to have trusted. During much of D’Antonio’s second term, Gerald ran things; and perhaps the unionization efforts and lawsuits should have suggested that his management style didn’t sit well with a lot of young lawyers. Byers then ran unopposed.

Byers is steering the ship now. No outsider can distinguish with certainty whether a captain is restoring order after another captain’s lax discipline, and prudently cleaning house, or is wrongly firing good folks while running others off, intentionally or otherwise. But facts, plus hearing so many firsthand accounts, generated the opinions I expressed in the column. Regretfully. 

I hope it helps.  I know folks say to me things most of them haven't said to Mr. Byers.  Few want to irritate a powerful official.  (Most of the folks I spoke with had supported Mr. Byers's candidacy.  I hope he will read this as an effort to help him improve the office.


[These guys below, got nothing to do with any of this, but just wandered in to grab some grub and lighten my week, and this post:


Sunday, September 19, 2021

Kind of a Sad Story

Dona Aña County prudently aborted its sole-source deal with Kelly Barker. (See Sunday columns April 11 and May 30, 2021.) Currently, Barker is still soliciting donations to her “nonprofit,” Uncaged Paws, but allegedly using its funds for other purposes.

Former associate Kathy Tarochione says she’s seen through Kelly. She’s apologized to people she helped Barker attack, and is now willing to talk frankly about Barker. (They bought and own a house together. Barker understandably reacted badly to Tarochione’s candor. Tarochione recently moved out, after accusing Barker of elder abuse.) Tarochione says Barker deposited a check from the nonprofit into their joint account for paying the mortgage. Barker’s bank records raise questions. People considering donating deserve to know the truth, whatever it is.

Ms. Barker didn’t respond to me in April, then told a third-party she wouldn’t talk, on advice of counsel. September 1st, I wrote her lawyer. Nothing. Five days later I wrote again. He responded asking many detailed questions, most silly, an obvious delay tactic. I quickly responded, answering the questions that were reasonable. He never offered anything to counter Tarochione’s revelations and other criticism.

Regarding personal use of nonprofit funds, Barker’s lawyer replied only, “What does ‘for personal purposes’ mean?” If neither he nor his client knows, the nonprofit might be in serious trouble. (Barker’s nonprofit is no longer in good standing with the State, perhaps for not filing required documents.)

We’d known Ms. Barker suffered a $50,000+ fraud judgment in a Michigan court. More recently, a woman alleged in detail a course of fraudulent conduct by Ms. Barker, claiming to be out more than $200,000. (There’s some evidence, including a promissory note.) A wealthy Detroit businessman told me he loaned Barker upwards of a million and got scammed. (As with the fraud judgment case, money going to Dubai was part of the story.)

Tarochione says Barker lied to the mortgage company by failing to disclose federal tax liens and the promissory note. I’ve seen the lien and note.

Tarochione also said Barker was collecting unemployment. Tarochione says when she asked Barker how she got unemployment, not having been employed, Barker said, “They don’t know that.” A “Final Collection Letter” from NM Workforce Solutions has warned Barker the Department will record a lien against her property and may take other legal action regarding the $18,274 it says was “overpaid” to her.

I believe the AG’s Office is investigating Uncaged Paws for fraud. (That does not necessarily mean Barker is guilty, but only that complaints have been received.) Barker procured a COVID-19 EIDL loan, and allegedly used some of the funds in impermissible ways. One focus of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program is protecting employees, of which Uncaged Paws has none. Bank records appear to confirm Tarochione’s charge that Barker used the EIDL loan for other purposes.

I can’t say Ms. Barker is trying to defraud donors. I’m not the DA. I can’t subpoena her records, or force her to talk to me. People are making various allegations, and various authorities are investigating her or have warned her. Ms. Barker has refused to deny or explain her conduct, and her lawyer tried to mislead me with his stalling letter, when Barker and he apparently had no intention of frankly discussing these matters.

Again, I can’t say how all these issues should come out. I hope that if Barker has explanations or defenses she shares them some time.

- 30 -


[The above column appeared this morning, Sunday, 19 September 2021, in the Las Cruces Sun-News, as well as on the newspaper's website on the newspaper's website and KRWG's website. A related radio commentary will air during the week on KRWG (90.7 FM) and KTAL-LP. (101.5 FM or, and will presently be available on demand on KRWG’s site.]

[This is the sort of column I’d prefer not to write. Writing it, I’d have liked to hear from Ms. Barker her side of events. No one knows how often, before publishing a column, I hear additional facts or a different slant and significantly modify the draft column. In situations like this, where someone either has nothing to say, doesn’t think what s/he’ll say can withstand a few questions, or thinks I’m evil, I try to make allowances. I always try to look at documents and people’s accounts critically. After Kathy “stopped drinking the Kool-Aid” and became willing to talk about Kelly, I listened critically; but most everything she said she had a document to back up. And I know few people who have suffered a judgment for defrauding people, and few people regarding whom I’ve heard so very many accounts involving carelessness or dishonesty. (By the way, for more context, see my two earlier columns: "Some Concerns about Dogs" (11April) and "Barkhouse Walks, but Sole-Source Process Raises Questions about County Management" (30 May).

The County worked on a sole-source contract with Ms. Barker to do important work spaying and neutering strays and flying puppies to other states. At first, when folks unearthed documents from her past and gave sometimes moving accounts of her conduct, county management at first seemed inclined to circle the wagons against critics, with Ms. Barker inside, but didn’t do that, partly because problems surfaced. Kathy also reports dismissing a lot of the evidence critics provided as just other dog rescuers who were jealous. (One acquaintance wrote me that Kathy was apologizing on-line on Next Door, but also that she had a lot to apologize for. At least initially, he didn’t trust her apology.  It's worth noting that Kelly and Kathy apparently had met only on line until this year, when Kelly invited Kathy to move here, work with her, and buy a house together.) By the way, Kathy Tarochione has resumed podcasting, at 

Kelly must be a terribly persuasive person. Whether it’s the intense loyalty she generated in people here in the short time she’s been here, or the apparent willingness of otherwise sensible people to lend (or invest money with) her on questionable deals, she’s got something. And I’d like to think that her repeated ventures into the non-profit world (from “Global Flying Hospitals,” which the documents say was formed to fly people from other countries to hospitals, to “Uncaged Paws,” which flies dogs to new homes are meant to do some good. Contributors say she does some good.  Although one source quotes Ms. Barker as saying, early in her time here, “I don’t care so much about dogs, I’m a businesswoman,” a county employee who dealt with her, while wishing the county had done more research before working on a contract with Ms. Barker, says “she really loves dogs, I’ll say that!”

All interesting, but sad.]