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COUNTY REJECTS STRAIGHT- PARTY VOTING BALLOT

 

September 7, 2018

M.P.Schildmeyer

by David Edward Albright, TALON

The ‘Resolution to Encourage the Secretary of State to Rescind her Directive Authorizing Straight-Party Voting’ was the topic of interest at the last County Commission Meeting, September 4, 2018. After CEO Kim Carpenter corrected the wording of the Resolution, County Attorney Doug Echols, explaining the background, said, “Sometime... on the 29th, publicly the Secretary of State announced that she was reinstating straight-party voting, which had been the rule until 2012, when then Secretary of State, Diana Duran, administratively determined we wouldn’t have straight-party voting.” He explained, a lawsuit was filed “By an interesting mix of folks, including the Republican Party of New Mexico, the Libertarian Party of NM...a group called Unite New Mexico and others, filing in the (NM) Supreme Court, seeking to have the Secretary of State’s determination over-ruled. That case is moving along at a rapid pace.”

Echols said that---after reviewing the lawsuit---the Commission does not have to make a determination---the Supreme Court will rule whether or not all the County Clerks can put straight-party voting on their ballots. “All this took place during a three-day weekend,” Echols said, so their recommendation now is to pass a resolution requesting the Secretary of State to rescind her decision on straight-party voting. The lateness of that declaration on her part leaves us with a bunch of unanswered questions...we are...less than 75 days away from the general election.” The issue is complicated by write-in candidates---when straight-party voting is allowed. County Clerk, Tanya Shelby, said, “When we had straight-party voting years ago, one of the main things that confused voters was that it did appear at the top of the ballot.” She said confusion resulted because many thought they were simply being asked to declare their party affiliation. In the case of those who did not want to vote for any presidential candidate, they automatically did so, if they checked the box at the top of the ballot.

Chairman Pro Tem Jack Fortner motioned to approve the resolution. M.P. Schildmeyer, Chairman of the San Juan Democratic Party, said, “For us...the issue is one of accessibility...people with certain disabilities, and...people for who English may be their second or third language.” She referenced their basic difficulty in understanding the ballot and, also, those with physical disabilities---in getting to the polling sites. She asked for a vote against the resolution. Darci Moss said, “As a worker of the election the last two years, I can tell you, anyone with a disability---we help---we will read to them.” She asked for a vote to approve---based on her 15th Amendment Rights. All Commissioners voted in favor.

Carol Taulbee, Chief Deputy Treasurer, reported, “County investments earned $581,952.22 interest for the twelve-month period ending June 30, 2018; this is a 7.8% decrease from the FY 2017 and a 13.22% increase over the same period in 2016...interest rates are rising, but our total investment dollars are down.” The Commission approved the ‘Resolution Waiving the $5.00 Minimum Penalty on Delinquent Property Taxes and the ‘Health Care Assistance Claims’.

County Subdivision Review Officer, David Barnett, presented item 2, ‘Variances for Caston Beckstead Austin Terrace Subdivision Replat A. Commission Beckstead asked to be recused from the vote, as his mother was one of the requesting party. It was approved.

‘Consideration of Request for Adoption of Americans with Disabilities Act Service Animal Policy and Procedures’, to guide staff interacting with service animals in San Juan County buildings, was presented by Joe Sawyer, Deputy County Attorney. He said, “A service animal...is a dog or a miniature horse that has been trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability...if an animal has not been trained---it’s a pet not a service animal.” The policy will not allow pets in county public buildings. Fortner asked, “If I train a monkey to bring me a glass of water, does that make it a service animal?” “First of all, a monkey cannot be a service animal---it can only be a miniature horse or a dog...monkeys used to be,” Sawyer answered. “You can ask two questions: do you have a disability and is this animal trained to assist you,” Sawyer stated, regarding County employees. “The problem we’ve had...is that people will bring in all kinds of different pets...and they’re not trained and potentially-dangerous.” Fortner said, “You take someone’s word, that’s it?” “Yes, you have to---under the Disabililities Act,” responded Sawyer. “The animal has to be under voice command,” he said. The Sheriff’s Office will be called, if necessary, to remove a problem animal. The item passed.

Emergency Manager, Mike Mestas, requested approval of ‘2018 State Homeland Security Grant Program’, stating, “As you can see we’re asking north of $700,000---being pretty bold because we have the best program in the state---we’re asking for the money to sustain our team.” Approval ensued.

Fran Fillerup, Public Works Administrator, received Commission approval of ‘Application for Fleet Replacement through Volkswagen Settlement Beneficiary Mitigation Plan. Volkswagen settled a case for falsifying vehicle emissions, which resulted in funds being available from the state environmental department. Two heavy trucks at $130,000 each were requested---with older vehicles with over 400,000 miles being replaced. Fillerup also requested and gained approval for the ‘Glade Run Recreation Area Recreational Trails Program Grant Application’. Nick Porell, Deputy Public Works Administrator, received bid approval for ‘Kirtland Schools Walk Path.

Echols reminded the Commissioners of their annual duty for at least three of them to inspect the Detention Center. ‘Supporting the 2019 Legislative Priorities of the New Mexico Counties’ was covered by CEO Carpenter. He received full approval. Under Sheriff Ferrari presented and received approval of the ‘Consideration for Budget Increase to Pay Benefit Costs of Criminal Justice Training Authority Director’. The County will only pay the benefits for the position to be filled by a County employee, with the salary covered by the Criminal Justice Authority. “This is a great opportunity for the Sheriff’s Office...for our personnel to hold more leadership positions,” he asserted. The position will be filled by “Candace Mitchell, the first female director ever in CJTA history”.

In the ‘Report from CEO’, Carpenter said, “I was alerted that we just got word of a confirmed West Nile Virus case Road 2900, near Sutherland Farm.” Commissioner Jim Crowley reported that he and Fortner met recently and began working on the Mental Health Symposium guidelines. “We discussed access to care, treatment availability, continuum of care, communication and collaboration among stakeholders, the issue of provider reimbursement, community needs assessment, the HIPA concerns...compiled a list of about 18 individuals or groups that would need to be at the table,” he said.

Chief Operations Officer, Mike Stark attended the Homeland Security Conference in Albuquerque and said, “First off, I just want to say hats off to our Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management Department---they represented the County extremely well down there in conveying the tragic incident that took place here last December.” He took the opportunity to visit with Bernalillo County Behavioral Health officials. In 2015, they passed a tax which they used to fund mental health initiatives. Thus, funding was in place before organizing the community for mental health programs and solutions.

County Fire Chief Craig Daugherty said, “I come before you with some good news...the Insurance Service Organization did an audit of some departments...we dropped in our ISO classification---for the Cedar Hill and Centerpoint Fire Departments...both their ratings dropped from a six to a four.” He said some constituents may see lower insurance rates as a result. The meeting adjourned with no public comments and no closed session followed.

 

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