Martin Heinrich: Is Job History the Real Issue?

NOB HILL--About the only issue that has come forth in the Democratic contest for the 1st Congressional District seems to be whether or not Martin Heinrich has had a full-time job in New Mexico. It all started with a piece my friend Jim Scarantino wrote for the Alibi. It centered on electability. Oh, he quotes old polls. He trots out the Too Liberal For Us banner. And he resurrects the Heinrich-supported streetcar idea for one last libertarian guffaw.
But the biggest issue seems to be Heinrich’s employment record. His job as executive director for the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation gets special attention. Scarantino quotes an unnamed source, “A former Democratic Party chair calls this ‘Heinrich’s camp councilor job.’”

That’s pretty snotty.
Especially for a “former Democratic Party chair.” Damned snotty, in fact. So I called up Martin Heinrich and he agreed to meet me for a cup of coffee. I asked him about being the director of Cottonwood Gulch for 5 1/2 years.

The Cottonwood Gulch camp is based in the Zuni Mountains. It is an 80-year-old institution. The primitive cabins were designed by Kurt Vonnegut’s father and built during the depression. It serves teens and pre-teens, offering personal growth through wilderness and other outdoor experiences. It emphasizes local history, scientific and cultural discovery as well as an environmental ethic.

Heinrich discussed some of the program’s alumni. Colorado Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Udall participated. “He called it the seminal leadership experience of his life.”

A Digression About Being a Camp Counselor
I know the phrase ‘camp counselor’ brings either National Lampoon or John Belushi to mind. But working with children and teens has always been diminished by some, especially those who are so very important in their own a former party chair. But it is not an easy or empty life.

I have my own story to tell. I worked as a camp counselor at the Hull House Association work camp in Sylvan Lake, Wisconsin about 1970. It was not a job I applied for. I had to be talked into it. And it was hard.

I was in charge of 10 teens, gang refugees from the south side of Chicago. Kicked out of school and with no safe place to live, they signed up for the out-of-town work camp. They got room and board, minimum wage, 2 hours of school every day, recreation, and art lessons. I was the first one up in the morning and the last one to bed at night, and supervised everything except their schooling.

Some were Puerto Rican, most were Black. The gangs? How about the Blackstone Rangers, Disciples, and Latin Kings. I lasted less than a year. A fellow counselor was fired after joining the Black Panthers. I took that as an opportunity to quit with a clear conscience.

So when I hear a party official talk about “Martin’s camp counselor job” I get a little pissed on behalf of all of us who worked so hard for so little and got laughed at for doing it. Besides, Martin Heinrich was the Executive Director, not a counselor.

Meanwhile, Back at the Flying Star

Heinrich was talking about getting his degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in mechanical engineering. He met his wife Julie there. She was a broadcast journalism major. One day she was reading Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima, looked up and said, “What do you think of New Mexico? What do you think about moving there?” That was 1995.

As for many of us, moving to New Mexico sent him off in new directions. He worked for a contractor with Phillips Labs for a while. He worked as an AmeriCorps Educator/Field Technician with the Mexican Wolf Recovery Project. He served as director of the NM Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee for a couple of years. He had his own consulting firm. Then the 5-6 years with Cottonwood Gulch. And in 2003 he was elected to the City Council, eventually serving as its President. According to Heinrich, the City Council position turned out to be a full-time job without full-time pay.

And Back in Missouri, Piece Work

We talked about our growing up in similar circumstances. Both of Martin Heinrich’s parents worked full time, as did mine. His father was a lineman; his mother, a garment worker. She worked piece work. So did my a hardware factory. If you don’t know all that is involved with piece work, just know this: it usually involves women working through their breaks and lunch period just to “make out”...that is, have enough work done so that they cover the minimum work required to make piece-work money and even keep their job. The amount of work required is constantly being rewritten upwards as the women manage to make out and take home a little extra money...pennies, really.

It is quite an education to watch your mother come home from work totally exhausted every day...too tired to do anything except lay down in the bedroom before supper. My dad did all the cooking in our house. My brother and I did the dishes.

Martin Heinrich’s folks both worked as they held their ranch together in the little town of Cole Camp, Missouri.

Principles Matter

Given this background it is no surprise to see Martin Heinrich leading the fight for a minimum wage here in Albuquerque. It is so easy for big business to take advantage of poor people who desperately need a job. In the case here in Albuquerque, it was the hotel/motel industry, restaurants, and even hospitals that opposed the minimum wage bill most vehemently.

And it is no surprise to see Heinrich work to make city services support those who need public transportation. One only has to look at the corner of San Mateo and Central to see dozens of people waiting for buses at almost any time of the day.

Does any of this show up in Martin Heinrich’s work history? Quien sabe? But it certainly shows in his values growing up. There is more to being a person than one’s resume. As Michelle Obama so famously said, “My job does not define me.”

A Man on a Horse
Meanwhile, Darren White, former member of the “heralded 82nd Airborne” sits on his white horse ready to chop Heinrich to bits come election day. At least this is the fear 7 months before the election according to Scarantino.

But here’s a piece of news: Darren White won’t be riding a horse, he’ll be atop that Republican elephant that has dragged us into disaster after disaster for the last 7 years. And this election won’t be about anybody’s job history except that of G.W. Bush...with the possible exceptions of the “hard work” done by Brownie during the Katrina debacle and yesterday’s reference by Bush to the Treasury Secretary having to “work over the weekend” in bailing out Bear Stearns.

No...I have had enough of false issues, diversions, sex scandals, name-calling, gotchas, litmus tests, ethnicity and race insinuations, poll-driven labeling, messages from God, flags as props for speeches, and dividing up America like sorting out the contents of a 12-bean soup. Let’s look for those things that unite us...truly unite us. Like living on one planet. Like getting away from petroleum. Like safe toys and food. Like an education that is good for more than tests.

Maybe then politics will be more than entertainment. Maybe then we could figure out how to live in peace, with enough to eat and be comfortable. For everybody.

Views: 809

Comment by Tricross on March 18, 2008 at 11:11am
>>No...I have had enough of false issues, diversions, sex scandals, name-calling, gotchas, litmus tests, ethnicity and race insinuations, poll-driven labeling, messages from God, flags as props for speeches, and dividing up America like sorting out the contents of a 12-bean soup.

Were you refering to something else or the Obama/Clinton camapigns?
Comment by bleve on March 18, 2008 at 11:41am
I found the Scarantino article to be a blatant hit job. Apparently the work history accusations, which happen to be false, have been found to be effective for a certain voting demographic in some sort of right-wing smear tabulator.

Its important to note that being on the City Council, especially as President, is in reality a full-time job. With the pay that the Albuquerque council gets its a blow to one's personal finances to take on such a position and is the reason why relatively affluent people aim for those positions in the first place... because they are in a position to do so financially.

Heinrich could of been making a very good living with his Mechanical Engineering degree and it speaks volumes that he has taken on a bit of a financial burden to serve the community and to serve in positions that he thinks are meaningful to NM society. That is actually a plus in my book and it needs to be used as a positive in his campaigning.

There is another forum that touches on Darren White's involvement in the 2003 violent provocation of non-violent war protesters around UNM campus. The county was not within their jurisdiction and to date only 5 law enforcement officers have even been identified in that ruckus. I hope that Scarantino and other writers are grabbed by some journalistic ethic to get these issues out to the public and hold candidates responsible for their actions as opposed to their falsely-perceived inactions.
Comment by statler and waldorf on March 18, 2008 at 12:03pm
I can't find it online, but the Alibi ran an extensive correction the week after that awful Scarantino piece was published.
Comment by SoyJames on March 18, 2008 at 1:01pm
Comment by statler and waldorf on March 18, 2008 at 1:03pm
Comment by Mike Weber on March 18, 2008 at 1:20pm
I think his executive director job for nearly six years at Cottonwood Gulch is one of the best reasons to vote for Martin Heinrich. First, it shows how cool he is. But more importantly, it shows six years of vital management and leadership experience before he ever got to the City Council.

Martin Heinrich is a conservative on crime and gun rights and a moderate on national security. He's liberal on things 70% of the American people are liberal about: a higher minimum wage and doing something real about the global warming crisis. And he's pragmatic and innovative in coming up with policy solutions (even though he doesn't mention any in website issues pages).

I've voted for Heather Wilson in every election since 1998 cuz she was smart enough to handle a district with Sandia Labs, Kirtland AFB, a great medical school, Intel, a high-tech corridor, etc. From Phil Maloof to Patricia Madrid, the Democratics put up one nominee after another who was dumb as a doornail.

Martin Heinrich is smart enough to represent this district, and of course he now faces not Wilson but Darren White, who is not as smart as Wilson.

There are issues where I disagree with Martin Heinrich. But I think he is a moderate-progressive who is cool, smart, innovative in policy, experienced, incredibly ethical and honest, and committed to the common good. What more could we possibly want in our next Congressmember?
Comment by Jim Scarantino on March 18, 2008 at 1:24pm
The Alibi ran a "correction" adding that I had not mentioned the two short jobs Martin Heinrich had at Philips Labs (about five months) and with AmericaCorps (about 6 months). I have only learned from reading Johnny's post that Heinrich's AmericaCorps job had something to do with wolf reintroduction. The information that he had these jobs had not previously been disclosed by the Heinrich campaign and was not available on their website. Those were the only "corrections" to my column. Heinrich and his campaign manager had demanded a retraction about my statement that his opponents, both Dem and GOP, were looking into "his ties to radical environmentalists and eco-terrorists." I shared with the Heinrich campaign the basis for this statement. The Alibi did not retract that statement and Heinrich in the "correction" acknowledged accepting campaign contributions from two founders of EarthFirst, the first eco-terrorist group, and further acknowledged working with a founder of EarthFirst for a number of years. Heinrich did add he doesn't share their philosophy. Heinrich did not state that he condemned their philosophy and tactics. You can find this in the letters section a couple weeks back.

On Heinrich's job at Cottonwood Gulch, which is the job he has held the longest, Cottonwood Gulch is a farily small summer camp, however you look at it. It caters mostly to children of wealthy families.

The point of the article was to raise the vulnerabilities in the Heinrich campaign Democrats can expect to see if Heinrich is their nominee. These vulnerabilities were being discussed in political circles and I decided to go forward with the column. I stand by what I wrote and invite people to revisit this topic in October.
Comment by bleve on March 18, 2008 at 1:44pm
Darren White has directly participated in a systematic pattern of disenfranchising the constitutional rights of the citizens for which he serves.

Sheriff White's willful disregard for the constitution of this country should have reporters asking why he is against the Constitution of the United States. Does he running on an anti-Constitution platform?

Sheriff White has expressed support for the current administration... he has not condemned illegal wiretapping or torture and has never gone on record stating that the death of innocent people caused by this administration is wrong. Neither has he condemned the stealing of tax-payer dollars and military salaries by crony no-bid contracts supported by members of his party. Scarantino logic applies both ways.
Comment by Kelsey D. Atherton on March 18, 2008 at 2:23pm
I'm a fan of technocracy, especially when I agree with the technocrats, so I'm perfectly happy with the City Council job having been Martin' Heinrich's main employment. If he was willing to work on the council's meager wages, wasn't buoyed by some hidden vast fortune, and didn't have a business the could present conflicts of interest, all the more power to him. Plus, summer camp councilors are awesome, and given the anti-youth sentiment some city politicians have expressed, all the more power to him.

Oh, and ditto pretty much everything bleve said
Comment by Johnny_Mango on March 18, 2008 at 2:25pm
Mike Weber,
I deleted your last two comments because I considered them to be too personal an attack on Mr. Scarantino. The point of your second comment, guilt by association, was a good contribution to the discussion if you would care to restate it more tastefully.


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