All Politics is Local

One thing that many U.S. voters can probably agree on is that we, as individuals, seem to have limited influence on our national politics. Only 62% of eligible New Mexico voters cast a ballot in the 2016 Presidential election. Nationwide, voter turnout was even lower––a 20-year low of 58%. There are many factors that affect voter turnout, not the least important of which is a perceived powerlessness, especially in states not considered to be “key” in terms of electoral college votes.

This feeling of powerlessness–that one’s vote doesn’t matter–is often misinterpreted as apathy or as ignorance. However, a feeling of powerlessness can also be seen as frustrated power. And that power can be activated and applied, with profound effect.

There is a saying that “all politics are local”. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill used this phrase to argue what might seem like an obvious idea: that a politician’s success is directly tied to his or her ability to understand and affect the unique issues of his/her constituents. According to this principle, national policies and agendas are of less importance to a politician’s career than are the concerns of the voters who put them in office.

Although Sen. O’Neill was talking from the politician’s point of view, the flip side of the idea that “all politics are local” is that voters’ concerns at the local level are vitally important to elected officials, rippling upward to the highest levels of government.

On January 17, the New Mexico Legislature will convene in Santa Fe for the 2017 Session. A list of the pre-filed House and Senate bills is available on the Legislature’s website (see below). This list contains an enormous variety of issues that directly affect our lives, from law enforcement to education and environmental concerns, from small loan interest rates to consumer protection. Whatever your position on these issues, it is important that your voice is heard. For the next two months, the citizens of New Mexicans have an opportunity to exercise their power. You can visit the roundhouse, call, email, text, or write letters. It’s time to remind ourselves–and our elected officials–that indeed, all politics are local.

List of Legislation: https://www.nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Legislation_List (you may need to hit the Go button)

Find Your Legislators: https://www.nmlegis.gov/Members/Find_My_Legislator

Youth Risk and Resiliency

Did you know that nearly ¾ of New Mexico high school youth have visited a dentist in the last six months, but those who have not seen a dentist are

  • 3 times more likely to use tobacco,
  • 2 times as likely to drink alcohol, and
  • 6 times as likely to drink three or more servings of soda daily?

The source of this (and much more) information is the 2015 Youth Risk and Resiliency (YRRS) survey of high school students. At a recent meeting I attended, Dan Green of the NM Department of Health and Cris Ortiz of the NM Public Education Department shared this and a great deal of other information with a group seeking to improve behavioral health. In addition to presenting some highlights from the 2015 high school survey, they shared information on how users can access information from the both the most recent and past surveys. YRRS data can be accessed at the YRRS website, http://youthrisk.org  The YRRS is conducted by a partnership that also includes the University of New Mexico’s Prevention Research Center.

The YRRS is one of the best resources available for planning behavioral health programs for youth. The study covers a number of areas, including substance use, resiliency factors such as parental involvement and housing stability, basic health information, and the experience of adverse events such as sexual violence.  The survey is administered every other year in school districts throughout the state, and is part of a national project: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS).

YRRS in New Mexico

The New Mexico survey is unique from surveys in other states administering the YRBSS in that it asks additional questions related to resiliency, as well as questions of specific interest to New Mexicans.  New Mexico is also fairly unique in its commitment to ensuring survey participation and large survey pools – it is one the few states participating in the YRBSS that collects enough surveys to be able to offer data on a county level.

Continue reading “Youth Risk and Resiliency”

Everyday Inspiration

It’s another gorgeous morning in New Mexico. Every day we are grateful to live here. Every day brings a beautiful moment–today’s was waking up to the sounds of crows flying over our house and coyotes yapping over the success of their morning meal.

Aspen and SkyEverywhere we look, we find inspiration. From the aroma of coffee brewing to the vast expanse of blue sky on our way to work, to interactions with our team, we are brought to new ideas and new heights of thought.

We’re able to spend every working day with people who are a joy to be around. Some days it’s Gordon and his silly antics, or Santiago’s successful shot while playing nerf PIG. A wide-ranging conversation about corporate structure with Leon and our CPA, or hearing Tracy holler across the office for the developers to come take a look at something. Maybe it’s talking provider interactions with Reba and Rebecca while looking at photos of Reba’s successful hunt and Rebecca’s husband, Mike, who is heading off to “judge school”. Or convincing Jon to watch The Princess Bride (which he very nicely quoted in a subsequent meeting). Then listening to Anthony talk about Disney in the same breath as SQL integration. Sometimes it’s wondering if Adrian really did ride around in a kangaroo pouch as a child (?), or overhearing Jen keeping the contractors in line while making them laugh at the same time. Whatever the day brings, we are inspired.

We look forward to sharing more of our inspiration with all of you.

Mindy Hale & Pamela Koster