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Governor Lujan Grisham, where are the women? Aren’t we smart enough?

PERA pension reform task force short on women


That's not a strong enough word to express my disbelief that Governor Lujan Grisham allowed the chairMAN of her pension task force, Diego Arencon, to appoint 99% men to the PERA task force. Apparently only men are trusted to make pension decisions for 90,000 New Mexicans. Of the eighteen members of the PERA task force, only one was a woman (PERA Board Chairwoman Kolasch). This is not what Lujan Grisham promised us during her election campaign. Was the governor aware of this unequal representation? Is the governor being hoodwinked by Arencon? Why would the governor trust Arencon, whose background is that of a Fire Union President and lobbyist, to this important position?

Arencon, like most of the task force he appointed, know nothing about pensions. Most of the task force members only have a high school education! Yet Governor Grisham has entrusted them with making decisions on a $15 billion pension fund. This is insanity. Using this logic, we should just have cops and firemen making decisions on waste-water management, road building, healthcare reform, etc. What was Governor Grisham thinking appointing uneducated people to this task force?

By appointing an ex-fire union lobbyist to chair the task force, Governor Grisham showed all of us that it’s not about what you know, but who you know, in her administration. This is sad news for New Mexico. We do not have the best, the smartest and the most educated making pension decisions. We just have more good old boys wanting favors repaid.

Clearly, Arencon doesn’t think women are smart enough to make decisions related to the pension funds that serve them? PERA serves 90,000 New Mexicans, most of them are women! From retirees to the spouses of retirees, women are the majority in PERA, but it seems Arencon only wanted a bunch of good old boys on the task force. Couldn’t Arencon find any women intelligent enough to match the high school graduate public safety members that he appointed? It’s obvious that Arencon was only wanting his good old boy buddies from fire and police unions to back him up? How do we know this? Because none of the public safety men Arencon appointed to the task force have an educational background in pensions. The men making pension recommendations have no business doing so, they are out of their league.

I thought the glass ceiling was smashed at the governor’s office, but the way Grisham ignored how women were not represented makes me think the glass ceiling is alive and well in Santa Fe. Or at least in Deputy Chief of Staff Arencon’s office.

I wonder what Arencon thinks about his boss, Governor Lujan-Grisham. If he doesn’t believe women have the intelligence to be on the pension task force, does he think Grisham can handle the job as governor? Why did Grisham allow this gender inequality to happen?

More women on this task force would have stopped the secrecy and the blatant rubber stamping that Arencon needed to pass his unfair recommendations. Arencon only wanted to protect his Fire fund, which, along with the State Workers fund, are driving PERA’s insolvency.

Secret meetings are what good old boys do, not what 21st century women do, isn’t that right Governor Grisham? The recommendations by this pension task force make it clear that Arencon only wanted men who are his friends on this task force. His appointees silenced the voices of thousands of PERA women. Arencon couldn’t trust independent women to rubber stamp his proposals. Apparently Arencon fears free thinking, educated women.

This is not the change Governor Grisham promised New Mexicans. We are sick and tired of these insider, uneducated, good old boys making secret backroom deals that end up harming New Mexico women and children. Grisham was elected for new leadership, but her pension task force is just more of the same backroom insider deals that have ruined New Mexico.

I urge Governor Lujan Grisham to dismiss the recommendations from Arencon’s “uneducated, good old boys only need apply” task force. Grisham should convene a new task force, one that is chaired by a pension expert like Senator Mimi Stewart and staffed with and equal numbers of men and women, all with expertise in pensions. That would be better than the pension ignorant firemen and policemen that Arencon appointed.

It is up to Governor Lujan Grisham to fix this; I hope she does.

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