Vote ‘Yes’ on Constitutional Amendment and All Four Bonds

October 11, 2016

Today’s Sun-News editorial calls for YES vote on all four bonds.  I plan to vote YES as recommended.

Charlotte Lipson

The Sun-News endorses passage on an amendment to reform criminal bail procedures in New Mexico, as well as a “yes” vote on all four of the general obligation bonds.

The constitutional amendment process in New Mexico requires legislation to first be passed by a majority of members in both the House and Senate (meaning that absences count the same as “no” votes), and then by approved by the voters in the next general election.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a joint resolution that would reform the criminal bail method in two significant ways. First, it would allow judges to deny bail for felony defendants if the prosecutor can prove to the court that the defendant poses a threat to the public. Current law requires certain conditions, such as a capital felony charge or prior felony convictions, before a judge can deny bail.

The second area of reform would be for those defendants who are not a danger to the community, but are held in jail anyway because they lack the financial means to post bond. The amendment would establish that a person who is not a danger to the community or a flight risk can not be held in jail simply because they lack the financial ability to post a money or property bond.

The amendment will both make our communities more safe, and the criminal justice process more fair. Decisions on who we jail and who we set free should be based on the crime committed and the threat posed by the defendant, not the size of their bank account.

There are four bond amendments, totaling just over $186 million. Bond A would provide $15.4 million for senior centers throughout the state, Bond B would provide $10.1 million for libraries, Bond C would provide $142.3 million for colleges and universities and Bond D would provide $18.1 million for public safety. All money will go toward capital improvement projects, not daily operations. All bonds will be voted on individually.

Bond C includes $24 million for New Mexico State University in Doña Ana County, $27.5 million for the entire NMSU system. Because the money must be spent on capital projects, it can’t be used to restore cuts to program and positions that have been made in response to a reduction in funding from the state, Chancellor Garrey Carruthers said.

But, it would save the university money in maintenance costs by replacing D.W. Williams Hall, built in 1938 as a gymnasium and converted in 1972 to the home for the Department of Art. The building still has large concrete bleachers on both sides that can’t be removed because they are holding up the walls, Carruthers said.

A 2012 study showed that the building has only half the useable square footage needed for current programs and the University Art Gallery, which has about 10,000 visitors every year. More than $800,000 in private donations has been raised for the new building, NMSU officials said.

The Department of Art today includes things like lazer cutters, 3-D printers and the use of chemicals, department head Julia Barello said. Safety is a concern in the existing building, she said.

Because these bonds would replace expiring bonds, the mill levy would not change.

We think it is important that the state continues to invest in its colleges and university and other public assets. For NMSU, it is clear  that a gym built during the Great Depression is not a suitable home for a modern art department.

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