ALBUQUERQUE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham touted her administration’s successes and laid out two of her top priorities for the upcoming legislative session during a gathering Tuesday of some of New Mexico’s key players in the commercial real estate industry.
Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection in 2022 and has been hammered by her critics over crime — including a record-breaking number of homicides in Albuquerque — told members of a commercial real estate group best known by the acronym NAIOP she was going to “lean in” on statewide initiatives that affect public safety.
“No. 1, we’re going to ask for $100 million to go into a fund that would collectively allow us to have 1,000 additional statewide officers. That’s not just state police,” she said during a luncheon of the New Mexico chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
Bail reform also will be on the governor’s call. Lujan Grisham said she’s appointed “a good number” of new judges, from District Court to the state Supreme Court, and bail reform has been a topic of discussion in every interview beforehand.
“We’re going to ask the Legislature … to define who gets held and who doesn’t,” she said. “Right now, we’re working on a bill that says the following: that if you commit a crime using a weapon ... you are not safe enough to be out of jail pending your trial. We think that’s going to be a sea change.”
Lujan Grisham, who arrived to the luncheon about 30 minutes after her 12:30 p.m. scheduled start time, spoke while wearing a mask. They were required for admittance to the ballroom at the Albuquerque Marriott.
Lujan Grisham said she wants to ensure New Mexico doesn’t reduce or eliminate “meaningful” constitutional protections.
“But we also don’t want violent offenders on our street,” she said.
While public safety will take “sort of center stage” during the 30-day budget session, Lujan Grisham said her administration is also going to pursue what she called an “economic aspect,” focusing on efforts to turn New Mexico into what she called a “hydrogen hub for the United States.”
“It is the next big sector,” she said, “and if we don’t find ways to decarbonize [transportation], all the work that we’re doing in the oil and gas industry has limited value to the entire state in terms of climate change and the environment.”
Though Lujan Grisham’s push on hydrogen has sparked concerns from a coalition of environmental groups, the governor said it could turn into a windfall for the state.
“It means billions, potentially hundreds of billions, over the course of a decade or two of revenue moving through our state,” she said.
Stuart Hamilton, who served as mayor of Angel Fire from 2008-12 and is now general manager for Goodmans Interior Structures, said the governor’s focus on hydrogen stood out in her remarks.
“It’s good that they’re looking forward to other things and not just looking at the same old thing: How do we regulate oil and gas?” he said. “They’re looking at some other opportunities.”
During her speech, the governor announced John Garcia, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association, has been tapped to serve as Cabinet secretary of the General Services Department. He said he’s scheduled to start the job Nov. 1.
Garcia said he served as tourism and economic development secretary in the Gary Johnson administration.
Lynne Andersen, president of the New Mexico chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, said the group has invited the governor to speak before its members every year since she’s been president for the last 26 years.
“It’s important to hear from the highest person in our state who controls a lot of what impacts development and economic development in New Mexico,” she said.
Andersen said many of the people who attended Tuesday’s luncheon are the owners of locally owned businesses.
“Unfortunately — I’ll add that because it is something that I think the state needs to understand — is that those businesses often go out of state to keep their business alive in New Mexico because there are rules and regulations that are very different in Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, that are much more receptive of business, private business, than sometimes New Mexico is,” she said.
Andersen said the governor’s speech touched on topics beyond the “commercial real estate world.”
“We’ve got to build more jobs,” she said. “We’ve got to build a higher standard of living for all of the state, and that’s what my guys do.”
While the governor’s remarks were generally well received by the industry group, Lujan Grisham was once again greeted by about 20 protesters outside.
“We’re sick of the tyranny,” said Kathy Carrillo, a 54-year-old Albuquerque business owner.
“We’re sick of the mandates [stemming from the coronavirus pandemic], the taking away of our freedoms. Everything that she stands for is wrong, and if we don’t stand up now, we’re losing everything.”
Carrillo wore a T-shirt emblazoned with “New Mexican Lizard People Unite” on the front, a reference to a joke Lujan Grisham made when a large group of protesters disrupted an event in June when she formally announced she was seeking reelection.
“I just have to say,” Lujan Grisham said at the time, “I’m sorry that we picked the same location that the QAnon lizard people meeting was at.”
Carrillo said some of the governor’s critics have “totally embraced” the name-calling.
“QAnon, you know, that’s something totally different, but we are the lizard people,” she said. “Keep it coming. That’s what we do. We turn what’s bad for good, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”