The special election for the 1st Congressional District is fast approaching. KUNM continues interviewing the candidates for the seat, and today we speak with Melanie Stansbury. The Democratic candidate shares her views on systemic racism, water conservation, and homelessnes.
KUNM: This past year with the pandemic we have seen our economy take hits, can you explain what creating more meaningful jobs look like, and how that could impact New Mexico's future?
MELANIE STANSBURY: Yeah, so it's absolutely critical right now, especially as we're working to come out of the pandemic, that we rebuild jobs in our economy in New Mexico, and really lean into our economic strengths to diversify our economy to create new and more sustainable industries. I'm particularly excited about the American Jobs Plan and these infrastructure packages that Congress is talking about, because we need to address things like broadband and clean energy, and our water infrastructure, and really lean into science and technology, and the arts and agriculture and all of our strengths here in New Mexico.
You said that you plan to fight for a minimum wage increase to a $15 an hour, what are the obstacles you're anticipating, if elected? And how would this increase impact New Mexicans?
STANSBURY: A living wage is fundamental to the dignity and well being of our communities. And so that is why I call it a $15 minimum wage. And I think some of the biggest challenges is helping our small businesses to make that transition as we're helping our people. I think the biggest impact in a place like New Mexico, where so many people struggle, is that it will help to raise the overall quality of life and well being of our people.
You said that there needs to be efforts to dismantle racism. Can you talk about your goals for racial justice? How you will go about dismantling systems of oppression?
STANSBURY: Absolutely. Well, we are in this really important conversation nationally around policing and criminal justice reform. But that's just one aspect of dismantling racism in our society. We have to do it at all levels, and across all sectors of our society. I think putting that racial equity and social equity and equity in our economic development lands on all of our policies, and is really important. So you do that whether you're working on legislation for relief and recovery, for economic development infrastructure, you have to put that equity lens on everything, but also, especially with a focus on systems of oppression.
And going off of that, what are your stances on policing?
STANSBURY: I believe that we need public safety, but we must reform the system, you know. It's clear our system is broken. So I support the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act and believe we must pass it. I think we need to end qualified immunity at the national level. And we need to be bringing resources home to our communities to address underlying causes, like behavioral health and economic opportunity and all the things that help our communities thrive.
Pivoting to your experiences in the past of working with preserving water and natural resources, What will be your policies when it comes to water management?
STANSBURY: You know, right now, much of the West is experiencing extreme drought and the impacts of climate change are really affecting our water systems. So we need smart solutions. We need investments in our infrastructure. And we need to be addressing inequalities in our water infrastructure and needs, especially drinking water systems across the country so that people have access to safe water and the water to sustain our food systems and our agriculture and all of that as well.
New Mexico was seeing a rise in homelessness even before the pandemic, how will you ensure that people have fair access to resources like health care and shelter?
STANSBURY: To help address our housing crisis here in our Albuquerque area is helping to bring more resources home for affordable housing, and for people who are experiencing homelessness, greater coordination and resources for healthcare. But there's also a need to invest in some of the infrastructure for those who are experiencing chronic homelessness to help get people back into housing and reenter the economy. So that kind of wraparound services are all critical to addressing homelessness in our communities.
Thank you for carving out the time to talk to me today.
STANSBURY: Thank you so much for having me.
The election will be held on June 1st.