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From left, Mayor Alan Webber, candidate Alexis Martinez Johnson and City Councilor JoAnn Vigil Coppler answer questions last month during a mayoral forum.

It doesn’t really bother me anymore, but much to the chagrin of my younger self, I could not read until I was 8 years old. The next several years after that were a desperate attempt to prove I was academically competent by reading constantly.

I devoured words with definitions I (occasionally incorrectly) taught myself that described themes I was too young to grasp. I was certainly not the smartest or even most advanced 9-year-old reader I knew, but none of my peers was high school level, either. So regardless of how ready anyone is for high school — which I firmly believe no one ever is — high school classes are populated by teenagers, not full of 9-year-olds.

Almost nine years later, I’m a student journalist for The Santa Fe New Mexican Generation Next section and an intern at the Human Rights Alliance of Santa Fe. I was able to interview all three candidates for Santa Fe’s 2021 mayoral election for the paper. I drafted over a dozen questions but ended up with six — all of which had some kind of focus on Santa Fe’s LGBTQ+ youth. Overall, I was thrilled to ask the questions and write out the candidate responses ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Setting up the interviews was somehow both easier and harder than I had expected. Both Mayor Alan Webber and Santa Fe City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler (or their respective staffs) got back to me within days to set up a time to meet. Martinez Johnson all but ignored me for about 11 days. I got to interview her the week the Q&A ran, but I’m not at all upset that she’s a busy person. I’m upset about how she twisted my words to slam her opponents and benefit herself through fearmongering.

The Q&A never once mentioned the term “critical race theory,” which has become a favorite of Republican politicians, as they spit it out and get strong reactions, usually in opposition. But Martinez Johnson’s Oct. 23 newsletter featuring my piece said Vigil Coppler, if elected mayor, would advocate for “critical race theory” being taught in schools, including “LGBTQ sex-ed” to “9-year-olds” and implied we discussed the topic during the Q&A.

The questions I posed pressed candidates on the need for inclusive, comprehensive sex education and mental health care in Santa Fe.

I never specified that I was asking about sex ed in high schools, so that is my fault. Depending on what you consider sex ed, it can start as early as third grade with kids being taught how to have healthy physical boundaries, according to standards listed on the Public Education Department website. But conversations about safe sex don’t start to happen in classrooms until middle school, and I do think it’s safer to assume that advocating for LGBTQ+-inclusive sex ed would mean including queer bodies and identities in existing curriculum, as opposed to creating a new, exclusively queer class for young children.

I would like to apologize to Vigil Coppler for, unknowingly, putting her in a position where our words were used against her. I am truly sorry.

I believe Martinez Johnson only co-opted my reporting as a last-ditch attempt to grab votes and loyalty from the GOP of Santa Fe, but it was misleading to spread that false information.

When I reached out to the Martinez Johnson campaign via email shortly before the election, an unnamed spokesperson said the campaign did not feel it was appropriate “discussing these issues with minors.”

I am confused as to why a 17-year-old talking about these topics is inappropriate, but shoving words pertaining to them into my mouth is completely fine.

Emma Meyers is a junior at Santa Fe Prep. Contact her at emmawritingacc@gmail.com.

(9) comments

Russell Scanlon

Good for you Emma. Thanks for the information. Disappointing, but never surprising. . . .

Barbara Harrelson

I add my thanks to Ms. Meyers for bringing this to our attention, as I suspect that Ms. Martinez Johnson will try to stay in the political arena, and voters need to know about her tactics. It is a sad truth for all of us, at any age, to have to acknowledge that lies and distortions from candidates and officials seem to be so abundant today-- and so easily accepted without challenge by lazy or ignorant voters. That is why your role as a journalist, Ms. Meyers, is so important. Keep seeking the truth and reporting it.

Jim Klukkert

Ms. Meyers- thanks for your excellent work, and welcome to the all-the-time, no-prisoners-taken, hard ball world of Republican distortion.

It is no surprise that without substantive issues that Republicans are willing to address, such as the wealth gap, systematic racism and the fossil-fuel driven climate collapse, that the Grand OLD Party turns to important cultural issues such as LGBTQ+-inclusive sex ed for toddlers, and the teaching of college graduate level curriculum, Critical Race Theory, in elementary schools. These are obvious LIES, and have a central role in distracting the electorate from the issues that will challenge younger folks far more than us older types with shorter expiration dates coming soon.

It is perhaps a surprise that the “Martinez Johnson campaign … said the campaign did not feel it was appropriate ‘discussing these issues with minors.’” One would think that lying to young folks is beneath anyone in public life, but oh those R’s, finding new ways to lower the ethical bar!

Ms. Meyers, you did well in exposing the campaign’s hypocrisy in your last remark, “ a 17-year-old talking about these topics is inappropriate, but shoving words pertaining to them into [a young person's] mouth is completely fine.”

One hopes that you other young folks will continue your work, for you remain the last shining hope for a sustainable world.

Thanks again, Ms. Meyers!

Bill Cass

What gibberish. If you don't want to lie to young people quit telling them that gender is a false social construct, that men can have babies and that there are 57 genders. The left is anti-science and anti-truth in this area.

Jim Klukkert

Oh Good! [lol] Bill Cass winning many friends among young people with his usual foolishness! I would pay good money to see the reaction from a gathering young people hearing this kind of antique bleating. .[tongue_smile] That would be a huge laugh ..

Bill Cass

I wasn't commenting about her. I was commenting about you.

Jim Klukkert

Bill Cass– Please do share where I have told young people " that gender is a false social construct, that men can have babies and that there are 57 genders."

If there is a liar here, it is you, Bill Cass, who is the liar.

I am very pro-science, have numerous scientists in my family and among my friends, and have many scientific interests.

Most importantly, I am honest, and unlike you, do not LIE.

Bill Cass

Please show me where i have lied. I never accused you of lying. I have accused the left of lying about gender, which they do. Regularly.

Jim Klukkert

Bill Cass- you wrote in the above comment, that I have been "telling [young people] that gender is a false social construct, that men can have babies and that there are 57 genders.”

I offered you a chance to substantiate that charge, and you cannot, as I never said such a thing.

Now you post that charge was made of the Left in general, as if the Left was a well organized body with a unified perspective. [lol] Now you tell me. Earlier you posted “I was commenting about you.” [sneaky]

I am on the Left, and at this point I don’t care if your charge was directed at me, the Left or the Dark Side of the Moon. I also don’t care that your post was totally [offtopic].

If you cannot prove your charge, you are posting things that are untrue. Considering the tone in which you frequently make such charge, I feel no remorse in posting BILL CASS IS A LIAR.

This discussion is over as far as my input, as it is wrong to distract from the fine journalism of Ms. Emma Meyers. Which was perhaps the whole point of Cass’ comment. Oh well …

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