CD1 Candidate Melanie Stansbury On Systemic Racism & Climate Change

May 18, 2021

KSFR's Bryce Dix sat down with CD1 democratic candidate Melanie Stansbury to talk her stance on climate change, systemic racism, and New Mexico's economy. 

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Early voting for New Mexico's first congressional district is underway and election day is June 1st. 

KSFR: New Mexico is known for its unique environment, wildlife and vegetation. With climate change on the minds of both New Mexicans and Americans alike, how do you plan to address the warming climate in our state?

Melanie Stansbury: One of the really big challenges that we're already seeing as impacts to our water system, which is what I work on professionally, I'm a water resources professional. And we're already seeing that this year with reduced snowpack, and we didn't have a very good monsoon season. It's already impacting our agricultural sector, psyches and our traditional water uses in our rivers. What is going to be really, really critical moving forward is that we redesign and rethink our infrastructure and how we manage waters so that we can meet those traditional needs. We can support our communities, we can have a thriving agricultural sector, and we can restore and protect our rivers, which are a part of our identity and who we are. That requires really a comprehensive approach on the water side of the equation. But we also have to address climate change itself. That means addressing our greenhouse gas footprint, increasing our carbon sinks, like reforesting our forests, and diversifying our economy so that there's other options for economy going forward,

KSFR: The oil and gas industry plays a huge part in New Mexico's economy. I'm wondering how do we balance reducing emissions and the economic incentives of drilling?

Melanie Stansbury: I think one of the most important things the administration is doing right now, which is working to curb greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, using various rules and statutes that we have on the books. And we have the technology to do that. To reduce methane emissions and oil and gas production, emissions from cars, to have more energy efficient buildings and things like that. I think our state administration is really leading the way under the governor's leadership and doing that. I think, to get to a net-zero economy, we really have to put into place a framework to do that. This last legislative session, I worked with colleagues in both the House in the Senate to put forward legislation that would set an overall cap on our greenhouse gases to get us to net zero. How we get there is going to be some combination of reducing emissions, increasing carbon sinks, and, and changing our economy, which is what we're going to have to do over the next several years. There's no one easy answer, we have to be working on all fronts. I think New Mexico is really leading the way, but we have a lot of work to do, especially on the economic side, to figure out how our communities can build more sustainable economies going forward.

KSFR: Another big topic recently has been racism and how it's rooted in systems ranging from police departments to schools across our nation. How are you going to address the issues of oppression and inequity, especially in a place like New Mexico?

Melanie Stansbury: Well, you know, I think when you look at the history, or the US, so much of our political and economic systems were built on inequality. The way in which you address inequality is you have to really address it systemically across all portions of our society. That means ensuring that all people have a seat at the table as you're developing policies and solutions. It means ensuring that as you're passing policies, you're creating policies, you're making changes to the economy, that you apply a racial and social and economic equity lens to that work, so that it prioritizes disproportionately impacted communities and communities that may need to be focused on in order to address equity and justice issues. Also addressing systems that have been used to oppress populations. I think our country is having a critical conversation right now about criminal justice reform and policing reform, in particular. I strongly support criminal justice reform and policing reform, including passing federal laws, like the George Floyd justice and policing act and others that will help to bring that justice and equity lens to the systems.

KSFR: One of those inequities is the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives and that's been an ongoing crisis for a long time. It seems to be that this subject has been at the back of the line when it comes to priorities for New Mexico. Can you talk about how you've helped tackle this issue, and if elected, what extra steps you would take to face this head on?

Melanie Stansbury: Well, it is truly a public safety crisis that's happening in New Mexico and across our tribal communities and our urban communities. And we passed a bill in 2019, to create a task force to start to work across jurisdictions and with survivors and families and organizations that provide services to really understand and figure out how do we not only find and bring justice for people who are missing in their families, but also to prevent these tragedies from occurring. That task force is doing really critical work. Our governor just signed an executive order to bring more institutionalization of that work. And of course, our president, just a week or two ago, also identified this crisis at a national level and our Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, has really been at the forefront of elevating these issues. As one of the co-sponsors of the state bill, I believe it's one of the top issues we have to be addressing in our state. And I will continue the work with Secretary Haaland did during her time in congress of elevating this issue, making sure that there's resources and working with our congressional delegation to pass legislation to address the jurisdictional issues as well.

KSFR: New Mexico is one of the slowest growing states when it comes to population. Now more than ever, young adults are deciding to move to other places due to lack of opportunities. What are your policies on promoting job growth and the economy here to keep New Mexicans in the state?

Melanie Stansbury: Well as the native New Mexican, who grew up here and has come back to this state and started my own business and is now of course, serving as a public official. This is something that I'm hugely passionate about. We need to grow and diversify our economy lean into our strengths, especially in science and technology, the arts, entertainment, and really build out those ecosystems. And I think also foster and create pipelines for young people so that they don't leave the state so that they have the opportunity to move into careers that are meaningful and build their lives right here at home.

KSFR: I've been talking with Representative Melanie Stansbury, she's the democratic forerunner in New Mexico's first congressional district. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.

Melanie Stansbury: Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

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Independent candidate Aubrey Dunn Jr did not respond to KSFR's requests for an interview + Republican candidate Mark Moores declined to be interviewed.