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No More Mr. Nice Guy

Dr. J.R. Damron has finally taken off the gloves in his campaign against Governor Bill Richardson. In a press conference today, he said what every New Mexican is thinking:

Good afternoon. I’m J.R. Damron, and I’m here today to prescribe a solution for ending the corruption and scandals that are running amok in our state government.

For the last three and a half years, New Mexico has had to endure the most corrupt administration in our state’s history.

In the courthouse across the street, the trial for the worst scandal in our state government’s history just played out.

Pay to play, abuse of power, and cronyism have become just the way we do things in New Mexico.

Multiple Richardson administration officials have had to resign in disgrace.

Friends, you can be blind or you can turn a blind eye, but the most hands-on governor we’ve ever had can’t use either of those excuses.

Whether by fear and intimidation, or rampant nepotism, this governor and his cronies are conducting the state’s business – the people’s business – in an irresponsible and dishonest manner.

And that’s a leadership problem.

I find it strange that this administration has to look to another task force to find its ethics. It’s been my experience that if you have to look outside for something, you probably didn’t have it at home in the first place!

Strong ethics are the backbone of good government, not something you make up as you go along.

We must seek to bring more transparency in general to government by opening more meetings and documents to the public.

Pay to play and cronyism are games that must stop.

The Governor has established an ethics task force to study what new laws or regulations may be passed. And there are steps that should be taken to restore higher ethical standards to our state government and discourage corruption. These include:

*Enforcing a rigorous merit-based system of hiring qualified state and political appointees and implementing a thorough vetting process.

*Implementing a standing nonpartisan ethics commission. We are one of only a few states that doesn’t have one.

*The commission should hold open public meetings and make recommendations to the legislature and the governor on a codified, regulated Standard Code of Conduct for all State Employees and officials.

*Ethics training, education and counseling must be made available to all state employees and be made mandatory for all state employees and political appointees who have a fiduciary or procurement responsibility.

But laundry lists of new ethics guidelines or laws are not a magic bullet. Every time an official violates the law or behaves in an unethical manner, the first impulse is to pass more new laws. But the bottom line is that ethics mean nothing to unethical people, and new laws are meaningless if the current ones are not being enforced.

Ethics laws mean nothing when those who violate them are not held accountable for their actions. And if the people do not demand that their top elected officials, such as the Governor and the Attorney General, be held accountable, no one else will.

The best and most important way to ensure our government operates in the highest ethical manner is to elect honest officials.

The headlines from over the past year show just how endangered democracy is in New Mexico. It is embedded with corruption and unethical officials at virtually all levels of government, all the way up to the Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse.

Our governor demonstrates his lack of ethical standards all too clearly, even in the legislation he chooses to sign or veto.

Let me ask you, what kind of governor — what kind of man – saddles the most vulnerable of our state with a $3200 a year bed tax, and then uses taxpayer money to buy a new $5 million jet?

What kind of man spends half a million dollars trying to get a pro-football team, but vetoes money for homeless children?

How is it that this governor couldn’t find $7,000 for school library books for our kids, even with a $1.4 billion surplus?

Not the kind of governor who puts New Mexicans first.

And here’s a headline I threw in just for fun. “Governor pays $200,000 for new ideas.”

Well here’s an idea, how about electing an honest and ethical governor to lead New Mexico.

It’s time to put New Mexicans FIRST. It’s time to make the state’s opaque government as transparent as possible in order to protect their best interests. And it’s time to throw out corrupt, dishonest officials and replace them with people who have a track record of honesty and integrity.

I couldn’t agree with you more Dr. Damron.