A point of light needed, not the usual politics

Guest commentary

Michael Swickard, Ph.D.

© 2011

“There is a point when you cannot walk away, when you have to stand up straight and tall and mean the words you say. There is a point you must decide just do it ‘cause it is right.” — Randy Travis

Gov. Susana Martinez must stand up straight and tall and mean the words she says. New Mexico needs someone to do what is right despite the anger it may cause. In the first year of her first term, it is time for Gov. Martinez to serve the people and not do politics as usual. She must be a point of light.

What New Mexicans saw during the recent special session for redistricting of the New Mexico Legislature was totally unacceptable. The Legislature once again met and intentionally did not reach a conclusion so they could pass their responsibility to the judiciary. There is never a time when one branch of state government is supposed to punt their responsibilities to another branch of the government.

The leadership of the New Mexico Senate and House had no intention of constructing a redistricting plan. They went through the motions. No one expected that a real plan would be sent to the governor. Perhaps some individual legislators had that intention, but not the leadership. This was the politics of the 2012 elections, where each party will say the other party failed the people. Redistricting was all style and no substance.

Everyone knew the Legislature was going to throw it to the judiciary. Such an action makes one wonder why we have a Legislature if they are just going to throw their responsibilities to another branch of the government. Likewise, the executive of the state cannot throw her responsibility to the judiciary. The governor needs to do something difficult and do it because it is right and not back away even though it will infuriate the members of the Legislature.

She must not allow the legislators to do business as usual and then go home. They must be called back into session and kept in session until they act responsibly. They will resist and posture and blame. Eventually, though, when they realize the governor will not back down, they will do their duty. The legislators will do so grudgingly and with lots of complaining. The judiciary may also complain since the power would be taken from them. The media may join them in condemning her because she is a Republican. Points of light must act regardless of criticism.

The New Mexico Legislature is tasked by the New Mexico Constitution with redistricting. The governor is tasked with accepting their work or sending them back to work. The New Mexico Constitution was not designed to allow two branches of government to shirk their responsibility to the people. The governor and the Legislature represent the people but the judiciary represents the government in the rule of law. Putting the legislative tasks on the judiciary means the will of the people vested in the legislature is thwarted.

You might say, “But Michael, you just do not understand how government works.” Perhaps, but I know how government should work. Government should work by doing the work they were elected to do. That is why Gov. Martinez should call the Legislature back into session and keep calling them into session until they pass a real redistricting plan even if the Legislature is continuously in session until Christmas and beyond.

The truth is that by opening day, Sept. 6, 2011, the heavy lifting of the redistricting had already been completed and all that was left to do was to vote on one of the plans. Instead, there was nothing but delay until a final sine die ending. Shame on the media who reported these actions but did not express editorial outrage at such outrageous actions.

How long would it take to do the mandated redistricting? Not long. The plans are ready. They have been chewed upon since last June. There are redistricting consultants and lots of advice. Yes, there will be some bruised feelings and some legislators will not be pleased.

Know this: with the new media sources people around the state, we were far more aware of the Legislature not doing what they were elected to do than in other years. The instant media was all over the story that there was little chance for a solution by and for the Legislature. What was missing is leadership. Every member of the Legislature leadership needs to be thrown out of office if they cannot get this task done. Good news, an election is coming.

Randy Travis sings: “All it takes is a point of light, a ray of hope in the darkest night. If you see what is wrong and you try to make it right you will be a point of light.”

Dr. Michael Swickard is co-host of radio talk show News New Mexico 6 to 9 a.m. Monday – Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. Email: michael@swickard.com

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