Sunday, November 2, 2008

Elections in the South Valley: Part III

At the local level all incumbents—Dolores Caviness-Saldana, Mary Helen Garcia, Joseph Cervantes, Cynthia Nava, and Mary Kay Papen—have no opposition in the general election, and only Caviness had any opposition in the primary. In most cases this is due to the generally solid performance of these elected officials, but it is also due in part to the weakness of the Republican Party. The lack of incentive to campaign, however, should not lull representatives into complacency. The South Valley is changing. The old formulas for representation—capital outlay money for a swimming pool here, a building there, funding for a program in this community or that, running interference for a business being hounded by the bureaucracy, etc.—may not be robust enough to cover the kinds of challenges that lie ahead. Perhaps most important, given the growth that is exploding from Texas, leadership needs to view the South Valley as a single comprehensive unit, and plan accordingly. It is no longer enough to view the Valley as a collection of 12 communities relatively isolated from one another. What happens in one corner will affect another. This calls for forging a deeper region-wide identity, rather than 12 separate local identities. It is hard to imagine this happening without strong leadership from the incumbents listed above: without them exercising their considerable convening powers to get the right people at the table, without their insisting that local governments conduct themselves in a transparent fashion, and without their keeping the public informed about realistic options at critical moments of decision.
The incumbents have something extraordinary going for them: people trust them. And in an era in which “pay to play” politics in New Mexico is on the front pages of the newspapers almost daily—the Metro Court Building scandal that took down Manny Aragon, the Housing Authority scandal, the State Treasurer’s scandal, the Land Office scandal, and who knows what other scandals might be coming down the road, this is a major asset they have going for them as potential catalysts for positive change. If they set their minds to doing what needs to be done in the South Valley, they have what it takes to get it done.

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