Inside the Capitol

Thursday, December 15, 2005

12-19 Bonehead Politicos

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- When it comes to bonehead moves by New Mexico public officials, Gov. Bill Richardson probably doesn't deserve all the criticism he gets.
Ranking at the top of the bonehead list, no doubt about it, comes the state treasurer's office. Former treasurer Michael Montoya has admitted his culpability for demanding payoffs and explaining that's the way we do business in New Mexico.
Robert Vigil, Montoya's successor, maintains his innocence but is currently in a very uncomfortable spot. We'll hold our fire on that issue because enough has been said already.
So let's turn our attention to the state Capitol Building and its latest trauma, a big time water leak that will cost taxpayers $100,000 before insurance starts kicking in.
Apparently it was caused by low temperatures, but not lows that set any records. So how come nothing happened to other big buildings in the area with similar plumbing?
And how come frozen pipes don't blow every day in buildings in northern states where the highs often don't get above zero? The answer, of course, is design. Architects and engineers allow for such things, along with a considerable cushion, just in case.
But sometimes that doesn't happen around our capital city. The state Taxation and Revenue Department had similar problems a few years ago, as did the state Printing Office.
When a walkway was built between the Capitol Building and the remodeled North Capitol Annex a few years ago, water poured from the Capitol into the walkway for months before a design error was corrected.
Who's at fault? Not surprisingly, no one wants to take the blame. Could it have been that margins of error were reduced in order to make design plans come in within budget? Insulation of pipes isn't showy, so maybe that took a backseat to the cherry wood that highlights the public areas.
Proper maintenance is also a question. If the Capitol was built with pipes that weren't well insulated, timely draining or added insulation was in order.
State officials aren't the only ones with problems in Santa Fe. The city's multi-million dollar Genoveva Chavez Community Center began leaking like a sieve within days of its completion.
The north annex to our state Capitol Building was a poorly-conceived project from the beginning. It first was the state Library, built at the same time as the Capitol in 1966. The Capitol went through a complete renovation 25 years later, but the library wasn't touched.
The library eventually got a new home and the old building was completely renovated to remove all the killer asbestos that had been taken out of the Capitol years before.
Since the remodeled library was to be used for housing an overflow of legislative offices, it was in for some special treatment. To soften the blow on junior lawmakers who would have to walk from next door, a block-long enclosed walkway was constructed.
The walkway is very pretty and provides a great venue for display of the Capitol Art Foundation's magnificent collection. But state payrollers say the money could have been used more efficiently on additional office space.
So too, with the annex itself. Much needed office space was taken there to build a mini-rotunda for the lawmakers displaced from the Capitol Building.
So now, Gov. Richardson is getting socked for using the state police helicopter to fly around the state an average of twice a month. I just can't get too upset about that. And I'm not one to go easy on the governor. I don't need a job. Neighbors of the governor's residence say all governors for many years have used helicopters.
Richardson did talk the Legislature into a $5.5 million jet airplane for his use -- along with other state agencies. And he did speed around in a Lincoln Navigator. But he traded that in for a gas-saving hybrid.
So pick on him for something else for awhile.
WED, 12-6-00

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



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