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New group to keep tabs on lawmakers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Viante, a newly launched nonpartisan organization, plans to track legislators’ attendance and how they vote on legislation – and then rate lawmakers on a scorecard.

The Thursday launching event of Viante at Glorieta Station in Albuquerque attracted more than 200 people.

The organization was the idea of Dale Armstrong, president and CEO of TLC Plumbing and Utility, and is guided by a diverse board of directors.

“I love New Mexico, and I’m afraid that my kids and grandkids will leave because of our metrics,” Armstrong said. “We’re on the wrong end of all the bad lists,” including high school graduation rates, kids enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs, poverty, crime, child well-being, food insecurity and more.

After visiting the 2017 legislative session, “I became so frustrated with party politics that were keeping New Mexico from moving forward that I considered selling my stuff and moving to Texas or Arizona,” Armstrong said. “I quickly remembered my love of the state and those I have met along the way, and instead decided to invest in New Mexico to make it the best it can be. My goal is to bring New Mexico from the bottom of national lists to the top.”

Armstrong is married to state Rep. Gail Armstrong, a Magdalena Republican.

Viante Executive Director Rhiannon Samuel, who previously served as communications director for former Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry, said Gail Armstrong was not involved in any way in the formation of the new organization.

Viante plans to use a scorecard that will measure 12 metrics in three general areas: education, crime and quality of life.

Attendance for legislative sessions will count toward 30 percent of the total score; a willingness to sponsor or co-sponsor one of 15 bills identified as crucial to moving the state forward will count for 20 percent; and the remaining 50 percent will be based on how legislators vote on key pieces of legislation.

Viante, a rough derivation of the Latin phrase “a way forward,” is open to any individual, but not to corporations or special interest groups. Membership is $10 a month.

People can subscribe to the organization through its website at VianteNM.org, which is where the scorecard for each legislator will be posted, as well as information on issues to aid members in voting.

Samuel said Viante plans to reach out to New Mexicans around the state, including in rural areas.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” she said. “We have a 30-year goal of moving the needle on each one of these metrics.”

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