Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

11-14, 11-16

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Less than a month after New Mexico supplies our nation's capitol with a holiday tree, we'll be putting our first-ever float in the Tournament of Roses Parade on the opposite coast.
State Tourism Secretary Michael Cerletti says he has been trying to talk a governor into entering the Rose Parade for years. Cerletti also was Tourism secretary under former Gov. Bruce King.
After having no success the past two years with Gov. Bill Richardson, Cerletti met Raul Rodriguez at a function this past year and discovered that he is the foremost Rose Parade float designer.
Rodriguez, who has designed the last 12 consecutive sweepstakes trophy winners in the Rose Parade, was enthusiastic about doing something for New Mexico. He and Cerletti talked basic concepts for a New Mexico float based on the parade theme "It's Magical." Since we are the Land of Enchantment, it was a natural.
Armed with his new ammunition, Cerletti went back to the governor and convinced him New Mexico should have a float in the Rose Parade.
Cerletti says it is some of the best marketing New Mexico can do. California is an expensive market that is difficult to penetrate. In addition, all major networks and several minor ones cover the Rose Parade, making it a national marketing tool also.
Now this part, you're not going to believe, so you may want to skip to the next paragraph right now. Cerletti told the governor he thought it would be a good idea for him to ride the float, but Richardson wasn't so sure. I know, I didn't believe it either.
Finally the governor relented. Now you're back with me? Richardson and First Lady Barbara will ride at the front of the float, in a horse-drawn buckboard, representing early Western settlers.
When you live "Between Two Worlds," you can represent anyone you want. And he'll be in a suit that doesn't fit.
From Cerletti's description, it sounds like a float to make New Mexicans proud. He wants to overcome stereotypes and misconceptions held by those who never have visited our state.
The challenge is to portray New Mexico's complicated blend of language, history, landscapes, cultures, and cuisines on an 18-foot by 55-foot flat-bed trailer. An artist's rendering of the float appears as though it may do the job.
It is centered around a plaza courtyard depicting Old Mesilla, with a three story pueblo behind it. Characters include flamenco dancers, Indian artisans and a Buffalo Soldier. Roses and chrysanthemums will convey New Mexico's sunset hues and earth tones.
Now, all that's left is to find enough worker bees to stuff tens of thousands of flowers on the float. That job will be taken on by dozens of New Mexicans from around the state, who will travel at their own expense to Pasadena.
These volunteers will work from Dec. 26-30. Many of the volunteers represent hotels and restaurants around the state. Many others are affiliated with Jay Miller & Friends, a group that built prize-winning floats for the Hysterical Division of the Santa Fe Fiesta Parade for 25 years.
It was always the hare-brained dream of this group to graduate to building a Rose Parade float. Unfortunately, the Rose Parade does not allow cardboard, paint or paper napkins so the Thanksgiving-weekend Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena was about the only possibility.
But then came the big chance -- an opportunity to do the grunt work on a legitimate Rose Parade float. Cerletti approached the group, of which he is also a member, about the possibility of going to Pasadena and received an enthusiastic response.
On Jan. 2, 2006, when "Land of Enchantment" slowly travels down Pasadena's famed Colorado Boulevard, many New Mexicans will be lining the streets to admire their handiwork and cheer our state's entry.
The California visit will also involve other promotional activities. A Classic & Cool Car Caravan will travel Route 66 from Tucumcari to Los Angeles. And the Tourism Department's staff is planning a two-week marketing trip, featuring our 34-foot "Big Red" traveling showcase.
MON, 11-14-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Billy the Kid continues to haunt the courthouses and cemeteries of the Southwest.
For over two years, Billy has been the subject of an official criminal investigation, court suits and grave-digging efforts, one of which was successful.
And amidst all this, accusations have flown back and forth, two communities have had to spend money they could ill afford, a principal character lost an election and another was recalled.
I have recently had a book published containing over 30 columns recounting the saga of what appeared to begin as an attempt to promote tourism in Billy the Kid Country. It's called "Billy the Kid Rides Again: Digging for the Truth." In the following paragraphs, you'll learn the reasons behind the title.
The tale begins with an investigation by three sheriffs from the area, along with Gov. Bill Richardson, to find the facts about how Billy shot two Lincoln County deputy sheriffs to make his daring 1881 escape.
They also wanted to determine the truthfulness of claims that Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett shot someone else so that Billy could escape and lead a long life in Texas or Arizona.
And the investigation was to look into the pardon promised to Billy by then-Gov. Lew Wallace in return for his testimony in a murder case during the Lincoln County War. Gov. Richardson wanted to know whether he should issue that pardon.
That's a pretty big field to cover, but the governor planned to appoint people to represent all parties, who would then conduct field hearings in Billy the Kid Country and attract international media attention.
So far, so good. But then DNA entered the picture and the sheriffs and governor wanted to dig up Billy in Fort Sumner and his mother in Silver City and compare their DNA.
But the governor's own Office of the Medical Investigator pointed out that the precise locations of both graves was difficult to pinpoint.
Billy's cemetery had been flooded by the Pecos, washing away grave markers, which were later replaced from memory. The cemetery in which Billy's mother was buried was purchased and the bodies moved to a different location. And even if the bodies could be located, 120-year-old bones don't yield usable DNA.
So without the approval of the medical investigator, it was necessary for the sheriffs and governor to go to court to secure approval to dig up the bodies.
Silver City and Fort Sumner both owned the cemeteries in which the bodies were buried. And both communities had misgivings, not the least of which were concerns of descendents that the remains of their loved ones' in nearby graves would be disturbed.
And when the sheriffs went to court, they made it part of an official criminal investigation. That's when an earnest effort at promoting tourism turned into a Keystone Kops circus, complete with three rings.
In one ring was Billy's escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse. In another was Pat Garrett's shooting of Billy. And in the third ring was Gov. Wallace's failure to pardon Billy.
It's difficult to get a criminal case out of that. Who was the criminal? Billy the Kid was a co-petitioner, asking that he and his mother be dug up. Pat Garrett is the champion of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, whose picture appears on its shoulder patch.
When the going got tough, Richardson appointed Texas attorney Bill Robins to represent Billy. Never mind that the law doesn't give governors the right to appoint lawyers for individuals. It also doesn't allow dead men to speak in court. But Billy did.
It didn't help, however. Neither court gave permission to dig. But forensic scientist, Dr. Henry Lee, of Court TV fame, volunteered to find DNA somewhere and the sheriffs easily managed to dig up Billy pretender John Miller in Arizona.
So get ready to hear many more revelations of questionable acts and misdeeds. It ain't over yet, because Billy refuses to ride into the sunset.
WED, 11-16-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)

Double whammy. I got behind and had computer problems. Here are columns that evidently didn't get through directly to newspapers and didn't make it to my Web site.


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