Four New Mexicans have been selected by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG) to receive the organization’s top honor for open government – the Dixon First Amendment Award.
Given since 2002, the award is in memory of FOG co-founder and longtime board member William S. Dixon, who was an Albuquerque attorney and leading defender of the First Amendment and the state’s sunshine laws.
This year’s recipients and the categories for which they were selected are Terri Cole, Business; Steve Terrell, Journalism; Dr. Annette Marie Rodriguez, Education; and Norm Gaume, Citizen. They will be honored at FOG’s annual “Your Right To Know Luncheon” on Wednesday, October 5 at the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque.
“Transparency is more than a slogan, but an ongoing commitment to open the doors of government,” Gregory Williams, FOG president, said. “When you’re in it for the long haul, you’d better have a sharp intellect and a great sense of humor. Bill Dixon had both. We celebrate his memory and celebrate these Dixon winners who continue to shine a light on public business in new and innovative ways.”
Terri Cole, president/CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, was one of the first members of the New Mexico business community to make the link between government transparency and a strong business climate. Cole served on the FOG board of directors for many years, and during her tenure, was president of the organization for three years.
Throughout his 29 years as a reporter at The Santa Fe New Mexican, Steve Terrell has been an advocate for open government, always demanding transparency from public servants and government entities. In 2015, he successfully overturned a government order that would have prevented the publication of information legally obtained from a public records request.
Dr. Annette Marie Rodriguez, an instructor at Northern New Mexico College in Espanola and at Santa Fe Community College, used both the Open Meetings Act (OMA) and the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) to shine a light on mismanagement at Northern New Mexico College. Her efforts under IPRA, along with the work of fellow concerned citizens, eventually lead to sweeping changes within the college administration.
Norm Gaume, a resident of Albuquerque, is a citizen activist who has been relentless over the last two years in using IPRA and OMA to shine a light on controversial decisions by the government to divert the Gila River. Gaume continues to insist that public officials discuss the issue in front of the public and even sued to open up subcommittee meetings of the Interstate Stream Commission.
“These individuals recognize that secrecy is inconsistent with democratic ideals, and with access to information citizens can hold their public officials accountable,” Williams added.
This year’s speaker at the Dixon Award ceremony will be Columbia University professor Ann Cooper. As a foreign correspondent with NPR, she was an eyewitness to the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union and to the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. Upon her return to the United States, Cooper served as executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. It is headquartered in New York City.
The luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Embassy Suites, 1000 Woodward Place, NE, in Albuquerque on Wednesday, October 5. Individual tickets are $60, and sponsorship opportunities are available. All proceeds benefit the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, a 501(c)(3) New Mexican nonprofit corporation. For more information, call (505) 663-6401 or buy tickets online.