Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, cabinet secretaries and leaders from about 17 departments of state government gathered Saturday in the gymnasium at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell to bring services and information directly to residents and to introduce them to the different types of aid, assistance and programs provided by the various units of the New Mexico state government.
Lujan Grisham said that she had two goals in holding the State Government in Your Community events, with a prior one held in Albuquerque in August.
“I want Roswell residents to be clear: State government works for you,” she said. “What typically occurs in state government services, is that we’re largely in Santa Fe — you come to us. We don’t want that. We want you to know that we will come to you. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to get the things you need, like your driver’s license, or questions answered about your taxes or Medicaid or any number of things. And No. 2, if we are going to have a relationship with New Mexicans to do any number of things — improve education, improve health care and a lot of folks are talking to me about improving roads — then we need to know who you are and why you are interested in this issue, how we can be more engaged. I really want to reconnect every single New Mexican to the government that works for you.”
Lujan Grisham said she wants to hear from New Mexicans about where they would like the next event to occur. She said she learns something from each community visit.
For example, she said, she heard in Roswell that the New Mexico Rehabilitation Center needs more help recruiting and finding adequate funding for therapy staff and that road improvement is a big concern to the region, although she added that $300 million in road improvements for Eddy, Lea and Chaves counties already has been allocated, with some work scheduled to begin in February.
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She also said she planned to talk to area economic development representatives about Roswell Air Center’s needs and that she would discuss with ENMU-R President Shawn Powell her plans to ask the next session of the New Mexico Legislature to enact measures to provide free college for those eligible to attend.
During the event, people could sign up for Medicaid, food assistance or childcare assistance; receive some free immunizations; ask about environmental regulations, workplace safety, agricultural regulations or licenses; learn about unemployment compensation, job search assistance, workers’ compensation and assistance for the elderly or those who care for them. They could discuss scholarship and funding issues with higher education and public education representatives, and they could obtain birth certificates, drivers’ licenses or receive other Motor Vehicle Department services.
In addition to program representatives from the Office of the Governor, departments represented included the Department of Workforce Solutions; the Human Resources Department; the Department of Health; Taxation and Revenue; Child, Youth and Families Department; Department of Veterans Services; Department of Economic Development; Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department; Department of Agriculture; Aging and Long-Term Services Department; Environment Department; State Personnel Office; Workers’ Compensation Office; Department of Regulation and Licensing; Department of Finance and Administration; the Higher Education Department and the Public Education Department.
One group of attendees had special issues they wanted to discuss. Local members of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a statewide activist group that works through the courts and Legislature on immigrant and racial equality issues, met in a separate room with Stephanie Schardin Clarke, Taxation and Revenue secretary, and other state and local leaders to discuss ongoing concerns they have with the Motor Vehicle Department.
The group was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the MVD challenging requirements for standard drivers’ licenses or identification cards, which do not require proof of U.S. citizenship. Part of the settlement of the lawsuit included dropping the requirement for fingerprints or identification numbers and ensuring that local and state agencies, as well as public accommodations, will not discriminate if someone has a state-issued ID or standard drivers’ license, as opposed to a federally compliant Real ID.
Somos Un Pueblo Unido and other plaintiffs said the changes were needed to ensure that people could apply for work, open bank accounts, rent a place to live or obtain a hotel room.
Clarke said the group and other plaintiffs were “correct” to fight against “obstacles that were put up arbitrarily” and sought to reassure them that the MVD wants to be more responsive in the future.
“I get it,” she said. “We need to be more welcoming and service-oriented, and we are working on that.”
Some members of the group talked about continued concerns with bad service, too few Spanish-speaking staff, lack of clarity about what documents are required and being asked without reason to supply numerous documents that require more than one visit to obtain. Some said that people have learned that certain offices in the state will offer friendlier and more responsive service to Spanish speakers.
Clarke encouraged a local MVD supervisor to hire more bilingual staff as openings occurred, while the manager said she has one Spanish-speaking employee now and calls other offices for translation help when needs arise. Clarke also said that she understood the frustration with people having to make multiple visits to obtain the services they need and said she wants MVD staff to treat its constituents’ time as “invaluable.”
The day also included some light-hearted moments, including the presentation of a birthday cake to Lujan Grisham, who is a Democrat, by Tom and Tim Jennings, who are friends of the governor and are active in Democratic politics in Roswell and in the state.
Other local leaders in attendance included some Roswell city councilors, a county commissioner, ENMU-R officials and representatives of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at email@example.com.