KUNM, New Mexico's public radio station, has been soliciting "State of the State" commentaries, following Gov. Bill Richardson's last State of the State address to the New Mexico Legislature last month.
Mine aired Feb. 12, and proposes a 12-step program for the state to deal with its addiction to secrecy.
You can listen to it here, or read it below.
State of the State
As I look back on the last year, it's clear to me that if New Mexico is going to improve in 2010, the state needs to enter a 12-step program.
The state of New Mexico, by which I mean its politicians, is addicted to secrecy. It has become powerless to overcome secrecy's siren call to cover up wrongdoings, deny the public access to public information and to come clean about its problems. Granted, I'm a journalist with a certain attachment to transparency in government, but I think even critics of the media would agree that New Mexico's secrecy has done nothing but harm all of us.
We've got multiple federal pay-to-play investigations, a $6 million and rising legal bill for the State Investment Council and a governor's office hostile to any journalist who dares to ask for public documents.
The 12-step program seems as good a method as any to deal with these issues. Plus, it's free--we don't have money for expensive rehab this year.
Step one: New Mexico needs to admit it is powerless over its addiction to secrecy and that its life has become unmanageable.
New Mexico: You're being investigated by multiple federal agencies. There are grand juries. There are people in other states pointing fingers at you. Your legal bills are mounting. No one trusts you. Your life has become unmanageable. Admit it.
Step two: New Mexico needs to come to believe that a power greater than itself will restore it to sanity.
Remember, New Mexico, the citizens of the state have more power than you do. And they get to exercise that power--on election day.
I should note at this point that several of the remaining 12 steps invoke God. Since I'm a firm believer in the separation of church and state, I'm just going to substitute "lawyer" for God.
As I was saying, in step three, New Mexico needs to turn its will and life over to a lawyer.
Preferably an honest one who's a registered Independent.
In step four, New Mexico will make a searching and fearless oral inventory of itself.
This is an important step, but stick to the highlights in your inventory, New Mexico--we don't have all year.
In step five, New Mexico needs to admit to its lawyer, itself and another human being the exact nature of its wrongs.
And when you're ready to get specific, feel free to call me. I'm happy to listen. And take notes.
Step six, be ready to have your lawyer remove all these defects of character.
And by ready we mean available to subpoena.
In step 7, you'll need to humbly ask your lawyer to remove your shortcomings.
In writing--and yes, that's a public document.
In Step 8, you need to make a list, New Mexico, of all the people you have harmed and be willing to make amends to them all.
The Department of Taxation and Revenue should be able to print you out a list of all New Mexico taxpayers. In alphabet order, even.
In step 9, you need to make amends wherever possible.
We take Visa.
In step 10, you will continue to take personal inventory and admit it when you're wrong.
A daily 10 am press conference is probably a good time for that.
In step 11, it's time to seek through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious contact with your lawyer.
Don't roll your eyes, New Mexico, you're headquartered in Santa Fe, there are probably plenty of lawyers willing to communicate via meditation.
By step 12, New Mexico, you'll have had a spiritual awakening as a result of the previous steps and you'll try to carry the message to other addicts.
For this final step, I'd like to change the word "spiritual" to "ethical" and the phrase "carry the message" to "pass meaningful ethics reform laws."
I know it's a lot, New Mexico, but look at it this way: Today could be the first day of the rest of your life--and ours.