by Alice Wagoner, Las Vegas Optic
Feb. 27, 2018

Issues impacting San Miguel, Mora and Guadalupe counties will be discussed in the March 29 Tri-County Poverty Summit.

Rock Ulibarri, San Miguel County Commissioner, and Yolanda Cruz, coordinator for the county’s DWI Program, are spearheading the event, to be held at the United World College in Montezuma.

Organizers are seeking attendance from government agencies, non-profit agencies, community members and leaders, youth involvement, members of the business, educational and health and behavioral health sectors.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health website, San Miguel county alone had, from 2011 to 2015, a childhood poverty rate of 56 percent for children under five. During the same period, Mora County’s rate was 46 percent, while it was 25 percent for Guadalupe County.

Of course, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. There are the issues surrounding poverty and economic instability.

When one is stable economically, as defined by the website, one is confident of being “in a state or condition of having adequate money, goods, and means of support. Economic stability includes measures such as poverty, employment status, food security and housing stability.”

Ulibarri said he thought of hosting the summit after attending one in Fort Worth, where he learned of the 56 percent childhood poverty rate in his home county. The rate had been 24 to 25 percent in 2011, he said. The fact that it doubled in less than a decade shocked and accelerated the push to have a local summit to gather data on the region.

”My expectation is first of all to collect data, particularly on those who live in poverty,” Ulibarri said. “I’d like to know if the services are available to them. Are they getting the services? If not, what are the barriers?”

With the collection of data, he said he hopes to come up with a plan for community members including city, county, and other government officials, to work on a memo of understanding.

As of Tuesday, Ulibarri said, organizers have received more than 80 reservations, with whom he’s issued a challenge: if they’re not living in poverty, sponsor someone who is, to attend the summit.

“These are the people I really want to hear from. There has to be follow up, some kind of action of what’s going to happen,” he said.

Ulibarri said attendees should at least commit to a follow-up meeting; in the long run to see change in people’s lives. That will most like take a 10-year plan which focuses on the parent and child jointly.

The commissioner said he’d like to have about 150 attendees. Part of the summit will involve six breakout sessions where attendees will need to address prepared questions, Ulibarri said.

“We have to talk about waste disparity,” he said. “We have to talk about a minimum wage, a living wage, health care, drugs and alcohol.”

Invited speakers are expected to enlighten and inform the summit goers. Those speakers include NM Voices for Children, SWOP, Prosperity Works, and officials from San Miguel and Mora counties, as well as from the municipalities of Santa Rosa, Pecos and Las Vegas.

The summit will take place in the UWC campus auditorium from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. attendees are encouraged to RSVP by March 12. Call 505-617-0483 or register online at:

Sponsors include the Con Alma Foundation and MSG LC4 Behavioral Health Local Collaborative. Con Alma will provide a limited amount of travel scholarships, covering mileage and hotel if necessary, for those traveling outside of Las Vegas, organizers said.

A free lunch will be provided by MSG LC4 Behavioral Health Local Collaborative. A limited amount of booth space will be available for those distributing information.

“The county, the mayor — they need to be listening,” Ulibarri said. “I need to listen and keep my mouth shut. I challenge our leaders to see what kind of skin they are they going to put in this game. Are they doing enough for the areas we need the most?”

Copyright 2018, Las Vegas Optic