Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

April "Inside the Capitol"

Why Newspapers Matter
SANTA FE – Surveys reveal that newspaper readers are the best informed and most likely voters. I know you’ll like that information because we’re talking just among ourselves right now.
Rush Limbaugh proclaims that his listeners are the best informed people on the planet, but somehow newspaper readers perform better than his listeners on survey quizzes about current events.
The beauty of newspaper readers is that they are independent folks. You are the boss when you read a newspaper. You read what you want and skip what you don’t want. You can read rapidly or slowly, skimming until you find the nuggets you can study closely and enjoy at a leisurely pace.
It doesn’t matter when you are ready to read a newspaper, it will be waiting for you. There’s no need to watch the clock, waiting for an electronic media report. And there’s no need to twiddle your thumbs while waiting for the news reader to get to the subject that interests you.
If the phone or doorbell rings, if the baby cries or junior needs help with homework, no matter what the interruption, you won’t miss the part that matters. Your newspaper will always be there waiting for your return.
Sure, you have to take the initiative to do the reading yourself, rather than having it spoon feed to you. But it is a quality experience with no worry about only a fleeting mention of your favorite topic on the air waves. There, before you, is much more information on a far wider range of topics than radio or television can ever offer.
And it’s all yours. You can save it, re-read it, copy it, frame it, enlarge it, or mark it up with stars, underlines and highlighting pen. And when you finish, you can file it, send it to a friend or stick it in your pocket to back up an argument at your office or club.
Personally, I like to spread a newspaper on a table in front of me. None of this leaning back on a sofa, reading a section at a time. I want to get the total feel of a page layout. That’s not for any intellectual exercise. I never took Journalism 101 or any other such course. I do it for the esthetic experience. Since I read many newspapers a day, I like to compare styles, fonts, layouts and editorial page placement from a purely eye-pleasing point of view.
It is unfortunate that politicians and their highly-paid consultants haven’t realized the advantages of newspaper advertising. A few candidates have gotten the idea.
Mike Foster, a long-shot who was elected governor of Mississippi a few years ago, ran a series of newspaper ads formatte4d and sized as opinion columns. While other candidates were investing heavily in television, foster enjoyed a direct and unfiltered access to average voters, as well as political, civic, business and media leaders.
Some candidates also buy newspaper space so they can run the full text of the statement announcing their candidacy. Then, they don’t have to worry about a reporter and various editors deciding what they will and won’t print.
Other candidates even go so far as to buy space to print their entire campaign platform. These candidates have spent much time and effort writing a detailed platform and they want to be sure as many people as possible read it. There are people who read such things – people who have grown weary of sound bites and want some substance.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of newspaper advertising is for timing last-minute messages to voters. Typically, candidates try to do that with direct mail, but the vagaries of the U.S. Postal Service mean the message will not hit in a uniform or timely manner. Many candidates and all consultants have stories of catastrophes inflicted by the U.S. Mail.
With a newspaper ad, a candidate can decide the exact date voters will read that final appeal – even on a Sunday, when mail isn’t delivered.


SANTA FE – Gov. Bill Richardson should disassociate himself from the effort to dig up Billy’s bones. A project that this column strongly supported, when it began last summer, has taken on a touch of the macabre with an almost complete fixation on digging up bodies.
Last June, when Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan and Deputy Steve Sederwall, who also is the Capitan mayor, announced they were reopening the case of Billy the Kid this column applauded the effort as a boon to tourism. Soon they had lined up De Baca County Sheriff Gary Graves and all came to Santa Fe to see Gov. Richardson.
The governor, actually, was already on board, so they had a big media event in the cabinet room. The sheriffs were dressed in their best cowboy sheriff attire. Life-size pictures of Billy and former Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett adorned the room. Those pictures now hang on the walls of the State Police security office just inside the doors to the governor’s inner sanctum of offices.
The sheriffs allowed as how there still were some loose ends to tie up in a 122-year-old criminal investigation. Pat Garrett hadn’t done much of an investigation of Billy shooting his two deputies, because Billy already was sentenced to hang for murdering former Sheriff Brady.
And then, of course, there was that little matter of guys in Texas and Arizona claiming they were Billy and had escaped when Garrett shot someone else and said it was Billy. For his part, the governor said he needed to know if he should fulfill then-Gov. Lew Wallace’s promise of a pardon for Billy.
They all denied the investigation was a cheap publicity stunt to promote tourism but there seemed to be a great amount of winking going on. And no one interested in promoting tourism appeared to have any complaints about the plan.
Digging up bodies was mentioned, but so was digging bullets out of the Lincoln County Courthouse walls and the centerpiece of the effort, from listening to the governor, was to be a series of hearings to be held in Silver City, Las Cruces, Lincoln and Fort Sumner. The governor said he would appoint a prosecutor and defense counsel to present evidence from Billy’s various encounters with the law. They would be great media events and would draw attention to various areas of the state.
But the only appointments Gov. Richardson has made so far are two defense counsels to represent Billy in actual courts of law. And here the situation becomes absurd. Only the court can appoint an attorney, but not for someone who already is dead. The dead have no standing in court, but the attorneys are speaking for them. Preposterous.
This now has gone from a tongue-in-cheek romp through New Mexico history to a dead serious matter. These sheriffs really want those bones and at this point, the governor is right in there with them.
And what happens if this ghoulish exercise results in finding matching DNA in the graves of Billy and his mother? We will know what history already has told us. There will be some publicity at the time. Tourists will still come look at the graves, as they did before. And what happens if a DNA match isn’t found? Since media prefer the negative, we’ll get substantial coverage and who will want to come look at the graves anymore?
The odds of the latter are extremely high. The state Office of the Medical Investigator says the probability of finding useful DNA is so unlikely after 120 years that the exhumation request should not be granted. In addition, the OMI points out, the cemeteries where Billy and his mother were buried both were ravaged by floods that carried away headstones and some bodies. And subsequently, Catherine Antrim’s gravesite was moved.
The governor and sheriffs should realize that overriding the OMI, on which all New Mexico law enforcement depends, is extremely ill-advised and precedent setting. So why are the governor and sheriffs still so intent on digging up bodies, even if it is likely to hurt tourism? I can’t imagine, but we’ll look into it. And while we’re looking, we’ll also check out the assurances from the sheriffs that no taxpayer money is being spent on this adventure.


SANTA FE – The state GOP gathers in Albuquerque tomorrow, hoping to settle its biggest rift in many years. Is it the party’s biggest crisis ever? Maybe not quite.
Just 10 years ago, the party received a major surprise from its right flank, as Christian conservatives took over a March 1994 pre-primary nominating convention from party regulars.
Greg Zanetti, of Albuquerque, a leader of the movement, won the top spot for lieutenant governor on the June GOP primary ballot from party favorite Walter Bradley. Colin McMillan, of Roswell, who had worked hard to get Christian conservative support, swamped his two opponents, Robin Dozier Otten and Bill Turner, both of Albuquerque.
In short, the new group had its way with the convention, having turned out its troops for the precinct and county meetings a month before that choose delegates to the state convention. So what would happen next?
There were state GOP meetings coming up to set the party platform and elect state party officers. It appeared the new folks had positioned themselves to take over the party leadership and draft a party platform that would be very difficult to defend in a general election.
Democrats could hardly wait. This was going to be the easiest pickings ever. But riding in from the east, on their big white horses, came the posse, led by the white knight, Sen. Pete Domenici, with Reps. Joe Skeen and Steve Schiff and former Rep. Manuel Lujan at his side.
At the post-primary nominating convention , three months later, the theme was party unity. Very little had appeared in the news about what might be happening behind closed doors. At the meeting, party officials acted as though nothing had happened.
A very brief, compromise platform was adopted that wouldn’t hurt anyone. And Republicans moved on to capture the governor’s office from incumbent Bruce King in November.
So what happened this time? Joe Skeen and Steve Schiff no longer are with us. Manuel Lujan and former state GOP Chairman Edward Lujan have stepped back from the limelight, leaving Sen. Domenici and two relatively new members of the U.S. House to put down the latest uprising.
Former party chairman John Dendahl, who had done much to build the party in the past decade, couldn’t heal any wounds because he was part of the problem. It may have been that Domenici felt the situation had gotten so far out of hand, it would just have to play itself out.
So it became a job for the Republican National Committee and the White House to patch up. After the resignation of Party Chairperson Ramsay Gorham, one of the main challenges became one of finding a new chairman who could work closely with the president’s reelection committee and be acceptable to party leaders loyal to Gorham.
For awhile it appeared that person would be Albuquerque car dealer Ken Zangara, one of the few people close to both President Bush and Sen. Gorham. But then, from out of the blue, came Col. Allen Weh, a name not well known outside GOP fundraising circles.
Col. Weh had not been involved in the intra-party squabbles because he has been out of the country since about the time Gorham ousted Dendahl from his chairmanship last spring. In fact he arrived back on the scene just this week from serving as chief of staff of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team that is training Iraq’s armed forces.
The strong hand of the White House appears to be behind this move. Zangara and Dendahl both have voiced support for Weh. It appears the GOP state central committee meeting Saturday now will be a unity show.
The president’s New Mexico reelection team looks to be in great shape. The only question may be how strong an effort can be put together for the Republican legislative and statewide candidates, who also will be running in November.


SANTA FE – Former Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung committed an unpardonable sin early this month. It was on April 1, but it wasn’t a joke. Hornung was dead serious, but he also was a fool.
The former Notre Dame great said it is time for his alma mater to ease up on its academic standards in order to get the black athlete. Hornung’s statement makes two assumptions: that blacks are better athletes and that they aren’t as smart. The latter assumption is forbidden territory for discussion. And even the former is not allowed because it suggests blacks are different.
The following day Hornung rescinded his comments, saying he should have said it is very tough for all athletes to get into Notre Dame. Evidently there’s no problem saying all jocks are dumb.
Notre Dame is known for having extremely high academic standards and very good football teams. Despite having to sign only intelligent football players, it has had very few losing seasons and has won many national championships.
But frustration is setting in because the Irish have not won a national championship in 15 seasons and have had three losing seasons in the past five years. It is not that Notre Dame doesn’t have any black football players. Of the 68 on scholarship, 35 are black and 33 are white. Of next year’s incoming freshmen, 12 are black and five are white.
So the problem, if there is one, seems to be that high academic admission standards are screening out too many athletically talented football players.
We had this discussion a year ago when Rep. Dan Foley of Roswell introduced a bill into the 2003 Legislature proposing that New Mexico higher education institutions lower their admission requirements to the levels of other schools in their conferences.
Foley’s bill didn’t pass, but it got people talking about student athletes, the extra tutoring they need and whether there should be a double standard. It is a discussion that should take place, but the buzz over Foley’s bill died quickly and Hornung’s faux pas will be swept under the rug as soon as possible.
Nothing is likely to ever change. Although the problem is difficult for universities to deal with, they are willing to put up with the bad in order to entertain their communities and alumni with the good shows they expect.
Many schools have football stadiums that seat 100,000 and they want to keep them filled because it is great revenue and great for the reputation of the university. And the same thing happens with men’s basketball.
Actually, not all athletes struggle academically. Men’s basketball and football players are about the only ones that do. But they are the ones bringing in the big bucks for their schools. The rest are true student athletes, chalking up better grades than the campus average. And that is true of some football and basketball players.
Last year, this column proposed a solution in the form of football and basketball minor leagues, similar to what baseball always has had. If a player coming out of high school has no desire to hit the books another four or five years when he could spend full time perfecting his athletic skills, he should have the opportunity to try out for a team and go through its minor league system, just as baseball players can do now.
It is time for the “student-athlete” charade in these two sports to end. It lowers academic standards and it is an embarrassment to American higher education.
After making similar comments a year ago, I was told by a pro basketball official that the only problem was unions. But if the baseball players union can deal with it, football and basketball should be able to follow suit.
Maybe we are headed that direction. More and more high school players are going directly into the pros. And now we hear of a 14-year-old playing major league soccer.


SANTA FE – Casino gambling continues to be the primary economic development focus of New Mexico’s Indian tribes and pueblos. It has done them some good but gambling also has a dark side. It would be good to see some creative thinking about other areas in which Indian sovereignty could produce an economic advantage.
Casinos have helped tribal governments improve their communities and provide programs and employment for many of their members. Sometimes this has been to the detriment of surrounding communities. Bankruptcies have increased, as have problem gamblers. My tours of casino parking lots reveal what seems to be a higher percentage of New Mexico license plates in visitors lots than in employee parking lots.
Very troubling is the fact that some casinos aren’t willing to accept the responsibility of being good neighbors or of living up to their agreements. The Mescalero Apaches and the Pojoaque pueblo refuse to pay the state anything on their gambling proceeds. The commitment of every casino to pay into a fund for the treatment of problem gamblers has not been observed. And Isleta casino continues to air very questionable advertising.
Recently I wrote about Isleta advertising it has “certified loosest slots.” I wondered how those machines could be certified to be the loosest when no casinos are willing to report such information. Then the ads changed and claimed “looser” slots. Now they just claim “lose” slots. But they still are “certified.” Commendably, however, Isleta Pueblo officials have apologized for ads encouraging people to get out of debt by gambling.
For years this column has opposed any expansion of gambling in New Mexico. That included opposition to the state signing gambling compacts with tribes and pueblos within our borders. Whenever a bill to expand gambling passed the Legislature, Govs. Garrey Carruthers and Gov. Bruce King would veto it.
But with the election of Gov. Gary Johnson, everything changed. His libertarian notion of limited government led him to sign gambling compacts within days of assuming office. During his term, gambling at race tracks and private clubs also increased.
But there are opportunities available to tribes other than gambling that should be entertained. Some already are branching out. Many have built resort hotels, with restaurants, spas, horseback riding and golf courses. Some have hunting lodges. Many have gas stations and smoke shops that avoid New Mexico taxes.
The Pojoaque Pueblo has a shopping center, museum and visitors center. Tribes and pueblos along major highways have an advantage in the aforementioned tourist attractions. The others must be more creative if they are interested in economic development.
Members of the Navajo Nation, the biggest reservation in the country, have voted on more than one occasion against allowing casinos. But now a casino pilot project has been permitted at To’hajiilee, just west of Albuquerque. It is one of the outlying “checkerboard” portions of the reservation that has had many problems, including very high unemployment.
Recently an Indian governmental entity quietly sought ideas from economic developers about opportunities that might be pursued as a result of their status as a sovereign nation. I’m not privy to everything they came up with, but some of the suggestions that leaked out not only were wild, but very creative. And they address some unmet needs.
How about discount drug sales? Drugs could be purchased from outside the country and resold at considerably less than our pharmaceutical companies charge. The eventual effect would be to bring down U.S. drug prices.
Stem cell research, which is impeded by federal government restrictions, could be conducted on tribal land. That likely would lead to cloning laboratories, too.
Offering same-sex marriages could create a bonanza of ancillary services. Casino hotels could go into the marriage business similar to Las Vegas. A three-day waiting period with a stay at the casino hotel could be required, along with meetings with counselors and financial planners, employed by the tribe.
I’m not advocating these possibilities, but some would be better than gambling.


You must be a New Mexican 1

SANTA FE – Back in twenty-aught-two, we had a contest for best original entries in a “You must be a New Mexican if…” competition. The following are some of those entries, with a few additions and revisions. We promised more later but never got around to it. We aim to do that this time.
These are all submitted from Las Cruces. The first is from Mel Taylor, who calls himself “a proud citizen of Southern New Mexico.”
You know you're a Southern New Mexican if:
…a Mercedes Benz is not a status symbol; but a Ford F-350 4x4 is.
…you know exactly what goes into menudo, and like it anyway.
…you had to postpone your wedding because the date conflicted with hunting season.
…you've been excused from school because it snowed a quarter of an inch.
…you couldn't go to your sister's wedding because you didn't have a baseball cap to match your tie.
…you understand that attending a cockfight is the ideal family activity.
…you understand that that when a man willingly allows a woman to drive his pickup, he has just signaled his intent to marry her.
The next come from John C., whose email address is "easyliving." I like that.
You know you're a Southern New Mexican if:
…several streets in your area are named after breeds of cattle.
…you can't control your car on wet pavement.
…formal dining means tucking in your shirttail.
…local radio stations play both kinds of music – Country-Western and Mexican.
…you've gotten in a discussion of whether a cowboy should remove his hat in a restaurant.
…you figure that people with a house full of Kokopellis and coyotes are NEW New Mexicans.

Billy 2

SANTA FE – The Case of Billy’s Bones has not made big news in New Mexico thus far, but among many Billy the Kid historians and aficionados around the world, it is an unfathomable defiling of sacred ground. And there is very big news still to be uncovered.
To historians, the effort to dig up the bones of Billy and his mother is an insult to history. Billy’s life and death have been carefully researched over the years. To them, there is no doubt that Sheriff Pat Garrett shot Billy at Pete Maxwell’s house.
Billy’s body was laid out all night in Fort Sumner, while women from the community conducted a vigil for someone they had come to admire. There was no doubt in any of their minds that it was Billy lying on the carpenter’s table. The coroner’s jury arrived the following morning and reached the same conclusion.
Billy was subsequently buried beside his pals Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre and has remained there ever since. As Frederick W. Nolan, the world’s preeminent Billy the Kid historian puts it, the legend of Billy rests on a “delicate balance.” If that balance is tilted by doubt about whether he was killed that night and whether he was buried where his gravesite stands, then the legend decays.
And that is exactly what is at risk if a DNA match between Billy and his mother cannot be established after all these years even if the correct bones are found. Then the claims of other pretenders, such as Brushy Bill, of Hico, Texas, make it plausible that Billy escaped and lived an uneventful life elsewhere.
How did this homeless, drifting, juvenile delinquent turned outlaw, who died at 21, end up in Webster’s International Dictionary alongside Alexander the Great, Napoleon and George Washington? Why does he have one of the highest name recognitions throughout the world of any American historical figure? Why is his grave site one of the few in America identified on state maps and some national ones?
Gale Cooper, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist and amateur historian, has some answers. She has just completed what she says is the most extensively researched historical novel on Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War ever written.
Dr. Cooper says the Billy the Kid legend is the epitome of the West. Like all great legends, it resonates with all generations and cultures and retranslates depending on who you are. It can be the epic hero journey of the boy Billy, dying as a martyred freedom fighter, a rebel with a cause. Or it can be a terrifying morality tale of an outlaw whose murderous rampage was ended by the righteous power of a lawman.
Fort Sumner residents report that people come to their village from all parts of the world to visit his grave. Those from countries who have known oppression are especially attracted to the grave site of someone who was a freedom fighter in the Old West of America. Some will even wear cowboy clothes they’ve obviously just purchased, so they can share more deeply in the emotion of the moment.
They also report a following that reveres Billy’s grave. Some visit his grave at night to pay their regards, lighting candles and leaving gifts, flowers, love notes, bullets and unopened cans of beer. Often, on July 14, the anniversary of Billy’s 1881 death, a vigil is held, remembering a similar vigil by many of the ladies of the community 122 years ago.
Scholars say Jesse James and Wyatt Earp, who both inspire big followings, don’t produce the passion among their followers that the legend of Billy does. Somehow it resonates with stronger vibrations to create a subculture of Billy worshipers worldwide.
The test of great epics is their ability to transcend time. It is quite clear that the passage of 122 years since his death has only increased the fame and fascination of Billy the Kid.
Let’s not do anything to destroy that.


No Child Left Behind

SANTA FE – The federal No Child Left Behind Act is leaving liberal arts behind, according to a survey by the Washington, D.C.-based Council for Basic Education.
The council surveyed over 1,000 principals in four states. New Mexico was one of those states because of its cultural and geographic diversity. The purpose of the survey was to determine the effect on school curricula of the reading and math testing now being required of all students.
So it wasn’t too surprising to learn that the amount of time being spent on reading and math is increasing and the time spent on everything else is decreasing. “Everything else” includes science, history, geography, social studies, civics, foreign language, art, music and physical education.
Whether that is good or bad is a matter of individual opinion. Nearly everyone would agree that reading and math are the two most important elements in a child’s education. As for the so called “liberal arts,” in any group of fifty people, one can find ardent supporters of every subject listed above and just as many people who are lukewarm about those same subjects.
Learning researchers claim that the liberal arts help students develop critical thinking skills. And there are sure to be those who would contend that anything classified as a liberal art must not be very important because it contains the “L” word.
A debate has been in progress for years about the role of schools in our society. Should the role be to teach the basics, the “3 Rs” we’ve heard about since childhood? Or should it be to prepare a child to live in our society by including all those subjects that we would hope the family, church and youth groups would teach?
At this point, it appears we may be moving away from using the schools to cure society’s ills and moving into a back-to-the-basics era. Most people would applaud this but there will be supporters of each of the subjects listed above who will advocate that their area of interest is really one of the “basics.”
New Mexico saw the beginning of that development last year when the 2003 Legislature appropriated $4 million for arts education. The argument was that the arts were disappearing from school curricula at all levels and that the arts actually are “core” classes in any curriculum.
Gov. Bill Richardson wasn’t a major supporter of the appropriation, but he did sign it. In succeeding months, as supporters of other areas of the curriculum advocated for their interests, Richardson wavered to the point he indicated he might not support a special appropriation for the arts again.
But supporters of the arts appropriation came to the 2004 Legislature armed with a proposal to double the funding to $8 million. By the time they got through with the governor, he “clarified” his position by saying his only problem was that the $4 million wasn’t enough to spread among all districts and that he wanted $9 million for the programs because “art education is a critical part of learning and should be in every school curriculum.”
The final result was a $5 million appropriation. It is just a matter of time until advocates of other interests organize to squeeze their subjects into the curriculum. The Colorado Legislature currently is considering a bill to require that civics be taught again at all levels.
The effort to assure school “accountability” has led to a nationwide testing mania. It started during the Clinton administration when the president sensed that was what parents and politicians wanted. People like to be able to compare schools within a community, throughout a state, across the nation and around the world.
The national tests concentrate on reading and math, so it is logical that is what will be taught. It is especially true for schools listed by the state as “needing improvement,” because the penalties for remaining on that list are severe.


Circular Non-Events

SANTA FE – “A circular non-event.” That’s how Billy the Kid historian Frederick Nolan describes the mad chase about the state by three sheriffs to find someone, anyone, who will let them start digging up bodies.
So far, Silver City and Fort Sumner have declined to let them dig in their cemeteries. So has the state Office of the Medical Investigator, whose permission is required. A Silver City district court judge has passed the buck to a judge in Fort Sumner. If the sheriffs try to dig in Hico, Texas, they are sure to be rebuffed by the folks pretending that Billy is buried over there.
So we continue to go ‘round the mulberry bush, not only in this instance, but in many other facets of current life.
Take, for instance, what we’re supposed to eat and not eat. The current fad is to turn the food pyramid upside down. Fruits and grains, which were once so good for us, have been replaced by protein and fat. The morning paper says coffee is good for us, but just wait six months and it will be unhealthy again.
In the world of economics, federal budget deficits have now become desirable. And job losses are good for the economy. You know those arguments will circle back around and be bad again before long.
The solution may be to never again listen to a politician, economist or nutritionist, because they’re all “non-events.”
And while we’re on the subject of absurdities, why is it that a slight tax increase ends up costing me $200, while a substantial tax cut saves me 30 cents?
And how come no excuse is too small for gasoline to shoot up 50 cents a gallon overnight, but when everything stabilizes, it inches down a penny at a time?
And another thing I don’t understand is why it is that most terrorists seem to have entered this country legally, but managed to hang around on expired visas for years until they got their dirty work done. But when I’m a day late returning a movie to Blockbuster, they’re all over my case. So why don’t we put Blockbuster in charge of immigration?
And why is it that Republicans complain about government inefficiency and how much it is costing the taxpayers, but when Gov. Bill Richardson proposed two programs this year to increase efficiency and save taxpayer money, Republicans fought them both.
One of the programs was to create what is called “e-government,” a consolidation of all information technology functions across state government. It would eliminate duplication, standardize rules for handling information and allow the state to recoup some of its costs for obtaining information by selling data, which it currently almost gives away, to companies that make millions with it.
The other program would centralize purchasing and seek the best deals through bulk buying. It’s the big box concept, which isn’t universally popular. The Wal-Marts sometimes run mom and pop operations out of business. But do taxpayers want to see their money used to shop at Wal-Mart or to buy from higher-priced corner markets?
And why is it always a “security” issue when the governor is caught speeding or when he wants to be secretive about expenditures, staffing, travel and sources of revenue to finance his trips?
When Sam Donaldson was reporting 10 years ago on spending habits of governors, he became enchanted with Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, who sent his state police security staff back to their real jobs because the state budget was tight and the police were understaffed. He used his own car, did his own driving and answered his own phone. And he moved out of the mansion into a small house to save money.
One might surmise Richardson’s lifestyle comes from a career in Washington, where he was a cabinet member. But Andrus was President Carter’s Secretary of the Interior.


SANTA FE – Two months ago, I wrote a column seeking answers to why a promising piece of legislation that appeared to be good for state government and good for those of us who use its services died in the recent Legislature.
I have received some answers but still don’t have the entire picture. The following is a progress report.
Gov. Bill Richardson and his Chief Information Officer Moira Gerety want to tie all state computerization together on one Web site that will allow all of us who use government services to one-stop shop anytime, day or night.
This digital infrastructure for state government would provide capabilities for substantially reducing the cost of government operations and increasing service to constituents and should relieve staff from tedious and time-consuming administrative activities to make them available for more mission-critical work.
Many other states are operating integrated e-government systems very successfully, but New Mexico is struggling, with each state agency working on its own to handle information and set policies for providing that information to the public.
During the 2004 Legislature, a measure that would have provided the governance framework for e-government was defeated by an unusual coalition of organizations that pulled out all the stops to kill it, even though the bill’s sponsors were amending their measure to meet every objection.
Two lobbyists appeared to be orchestrating the opposition. John Chavez, a former secretary of the state Taxation and Revenue Department led the effort.
Sources inform me that in the summer of 1998, Chavez approached then-Gov. Gary Johnson with a proposal to provide his Motor Vehicle Division’s database to companies for the purpose of reformatting the information and selling it to insurers and other businesses that needed the data.
The companies receiving the information from the state would pay a reasonable fee to reimburse the MVD for its costs for copying and providing the records in electronic format. That fee turned out to be a mere $36,000. That data is being resold for many millions of dollars each year.
Subsequent to an agreement being signed on September 9, 1998, with a company called Samba, Chavez left state government and went to work for Samba.
State ethics guidelines provide for former-employees to wait one year before lobbying departments for which they worked. Chavez may have done that. We don’t know at this point because the date when Chavez terminated state employment still has not been provided by the State Personnel Office. I was put on hold , then promised a call back several times, then told the press couldn’t have such information.
Finally the director’s office consented to provide the information, but only upon written request and written response. After two weeks, I’ve received nothing. One of the purposes of the defeated bill was to end such unlawful practices.
One of the national companies that Samba sells New Mexico MVD records to is ChoicePoint, which is represented in the Legislature by lobbyist Mickey Barnett, who also is New Mexico’s Republican national committeeman. Some Republican legislators say they were threatened by Barnett with primary election opposition this year if they supported the e-government bill.
Samba’s opposition to the e-government bill is understandable. It’s current cost of securing state records is less than one percent of what it likely makes from selling the data. Under the proposed legislation, it could still buy data, but it would be charged an amount that reflects some of the cost of producing that data, not just for copying charges.
There can be a legitimate debate over whether data generated by the state should be provided at almost no cost or whether the state has the right to charge for business use of data that could offset state expenses in generating it. One method helps one company. The other helps all taxpayers.
It is unlikely Choice Point would have to pay more than it already is under the proposed system, so its opposition is somewhat more difficult to understand.
Next time: Who killed the e-government bill?

You must be a New Mexican 2

SANTA FE – Here are some more entries in our “You Must Be a New Mexican if…” contest. These came from Bill Gillespie, formerly of Cerrillos, New Mexico, but now living on a lake in the hill country of Texas. It appears as though he remembers New Mexico quite well. Or at least northern New Mexico. The first entries we printed on this subject featured southern New Mexico.
You must be a New Mexican if:
…you can correctly pronounce Tesuque, Cerrillos and Pojoaque.
…you expect to pay more if your house is made out of mud – and even more if it is on a dirt road in Santa Fe.
…you can order your Big Mac with green chile.
…you buy salsa by the half gallon.
…you still use the paper license tag that came with your car five years ago.
…your Christmas decorations include a yard of sand and 200 paper bags.
…most restaurants you go to begin with “El” or “Los.”
…you hated Texans until the Californians moved in.
…the tires on your roof have more tread on them than the ones on your car.
…You have an extra freezer just for green chile.
…you know how to spell chile.
…you think a red light is merely a suggestion.
…you believe using a turn signal is a sign of weakness.
…you think six tons of crushed rocks makes a beautiful front lawn.
…you ran for the state Legislature so you can speed legally.
…you pass on the right because that’s the fast lane.
…you have read a book while driving from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.
…you think Sadie’s was better when it was in the bowling alley.
…you know they don’t skate at the Ice House and the Newsstand doesn’t sell newspapers.
…There is a piece of a UFO displayed in your home.
…your swamp cooler was knocked off your roof by a dust devil.
…you can hear the Taos Hum.
…All your out-of-state friends and relatives visit in October.
…you know Las Vegas is a town in the northeastern part of the state.
…you iron your jeans to “dress up.”
…your other vehicle is also a pick up.
…you are relieved when the pavement ends because the dirt road has fewer potholes.
…you see nothing odd that the conversation at the next table alternates between English and Spanish several times in every sentence.
…you know the lobo fight song isn’t “Louie, Louie.”
…you know whether you want red or green.
* * *
And here’s a few from an “Anonymous in Algodones.” Normally we don’t accept anonymity but in this case, no one gets hurt, and I guess, no one gets embarrassed.
You must be a New Mexican if:
…you’ve been around long enough to say Cruces, Silver and T’rC.
…you buy your firewood by the pickup load, not the cord.
…you’ve been on TV at least once telling about your alien abduction.
…you know the punch line to at least one Aggie joke.
…you begin gardening with plastic flowers.
…you ask your friends to visit the washroom before they leave home because you don’t want them using your water.
…you know the difference between a farolito and a luminaria.


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