A women's conference to address national issues was hosted by Congressman Steve Pearce at five remote locations, including Western New Mexico University, on Friday morning.

Pearce said there might be technical problems, because the event was the first attempt at connecting several venues via video conferencing.

Linda Pecotte of Silver City helped plan the conference in Silver City, which she described as "not a political function, but a women's conference on economic issues. I see this as an opportunity to network across U.S. Congressional District 2, New Mexico."

Pearce opened the conference from Alamogordo. "My wife always says that the hand that rocks the cradle, steadies the nation. So I took the idea and started a women's conference. The first was held in Carlsbad."

He said women make about 85 percent of a family's decisions on health care, education and household spending.

Pearce encouraged the women, Republicans, Democrats and Independents to talk together and discuss not things they are divided on, but things they can agree on.

"It's a start for what I want to do as a Virtual Congress," Pearce continued. "I want to get the women of New Mexico talking and then go broader, and get women talking about what they love about America."

The technical problems began to appear, when a woman from Otero County spoke, but could not be understood by the others in the conference.

A woman from Hobbs said that one of her four sons has epilepsy, and won't be able to afford his medications unless he gets a job with health insurance.

"My other concern," she said, "is fulltime, good paying jobs for our young people who want to work and take care of themselves."

Pearce said his approach is through job fairs to help build not just jobs, but careers.

A Carlsbad woman said the conference in her town was held in June, and it dealt mostly with healthcare problems, as well as discussions on entitlements and welfare fraud and abuse. Another topic was the rising cost of living.

"We have low unemployment," she said, "but we have issues with employment in certain sectors. Education impacts employment opportunities."

Pearce encouraged the communities to "kickstart" themselves, as being the best way to solve such problems.

A woman from Alamogordo could not be heard.

As a small business owner, a woman said they had checks and balances, and did not spend more than they had. "Let us have control of the tax dollars in the local community. We need it back to 'what do we need?' rather than 'what do we want?'"

"I like the idea of a virtual Congress with you doing the work in our communities," she said.

Lynda Aiman-Smith of Silver City had an opportunity to speak.

She talked about the Local Investment Opportunity Network that she is working to build. It is a peer-to-peer investment, making micro-loans to local small businesses.

"We have an issue with infrastructure here, especially bandwidth," Aiman-Smith said. "We can work together locally, so we can use the skills we are developing here. The old model of economic development is bringing in big business. We have to do it ourselves with small businesses."

Through text messaging, Silver City was told that she came though loud and clear at all the venues. So thumbs up to the techs from WNMU, who were managing the local site.

Pearce suggested looking at fiber optics. "Lack of widespread broadband is one of the greatest risks."

He pointed out that people are making more on welfare than they can at low-paying jobs. "To show up to work is the first requirement. The second is to do drug screening for welfare checks."

An Alamogordo woman, working for a non-profit, said the regulatory requirements are crippling many small businesses, and even non-profits.

Pearce said local regulations should be looked at first, and then as a nation.

A Socorro woman said housing is a problem, and without housing, it is tough to bring people into an area to work.

Another speaker could not be understood.

Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments executive director in Silver City, spoke next.

"In rural areas, we have fewer opportunities," she said. "We are working on increasing vocational technology education opportunities. Broadband is an issue in the community and the region. Infrastructure, such as roads, water and wastewater, need you in Washington to continue to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

She said housing is a problem from seniors to newlyweds who are trying to tap into mortgages.

"Lordsburg has a Border Patrol Station, but no housing," Lucero pointed out.

"Most conflicts in D.C. are large communities against small," Pearce said. "Large population areas can muscle out the small. I think the states need to deal with the issue."

A participant from Las Cruces said childcare can be a problem for working mothers.

Pearce said rather than a choice of working or receiving welfare, welfare should be phased, so that stipends, such as for childcare, continue when the woman is working.

A teacher said some of the problems could be solved by starting with the education system.

She said students are not prepared for school. She alleged that home-schooled students were much more prepared.  The local education systems need to be empowered, with the teachers and parents working together to get away from teaching to a test.

"We need to fix families," Pearce said. "We need to provide block grant money to school districts to made the decisions."

He concluded by saying the conference was a first step, and asked participants to leave comments with the monitors of each site.

Live from Silver City

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