Inside the Capitol

Friday, August 11, 2006

8-16 World Peace Conference

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- If I were Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign manager, I would be scared, very scared, about the upcoming, state-sponsored World Peace Conference.
Originally scheduled for next month, it now will be held next May. That lets Richardson escape any embarrassment that might ensue during his gubernatorial campaign.
But let's just assume the governor wins reelection in November. He'll have his presidential campaign cranked into high gear by nine months from now. So what could happen during New Mexico's attempt at a World Peace Conference?
Maybe Richardson could get United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan back to Santa Fe -- assuming Annan also wins reelection. His term also ends December 31. And maybe the governor can get some other prestigious figures here.
But who else might come? Some grassroots peace groups already are complaining about being left out of the conference planning. In case you hadn't noticed, New Mexico has more than its share of peace activists.
There are the groups that descend on Los Alamos in early August every year during the anniversaries of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There is the group that strung a banner across Taos' main street urging the firing of Donald Rumsfeld, a part time Taoseno before being tapped by Dick Cheney as secretary of Defense. Those folks make the news every time Rummy visits. The biggest demonstration was when the vice president accompanied him.
Santa Fe has peace events all the time and Albuquerque has its share. The largest and most dignified peace event is a Sikh retreat in the mountains of northern New Mexico.
But Sen. Shannon Robinson of Albuquerque felt all this wasn't enough. He got $420,000 out of two legislative appropriations to put on a world conference in Santa Fe to promote what he calls "peace tourism."
Peaceniks seem to be willing to travel a long way to promote their worthy cause, but I'm not sure how much money they drop into the local economy once they get there. Will New Mexico recoup its $420,000 from this event?
There are sure to be prominent invited guests to bring some international esteem, but what about the uninvited guests? Won't New Mexico's shunned peace activists bring in their own Cindy Sheehans and Michael Moores to take advantage of the media attention?
How's that going to look for a likely presidential candidate who doesn't want to lose the peace vote, but always has run as a centrist?
Maybe it will turn out well for Gov. Richardson. Maybe Sen. Joe Lieberman's defeat in Connecticut will embolden Democrats' anti-war stance. But it�s a big risk.
This really isn't Richardson's conference. An influential legislator came up with the idea and sold it to his colleagues. But the governor signed the bill and if anything goes wrong, he'll get the heat.
The conference planning is well away from his office. The money was allocated by the Legislature to the state Tourism Department, which has contracted with an "event production specialist" to do the planning.
Marjorie Mann, who moved to New Mexico last fall, describes herself as working "indirectly" for the governor's office. Don't be surprised to see that become more direct as the event nears.
Mann took over the conference when it was on the ropes. Only one speaker had been confirmed with less than three months remaining. The Albuquerque Journal said she was "taking the reins of a wild horse."
But Mann said she likes making "order out of chaos." Ironically, that was the campaign slogan of another popular New Mexico governor.
Clyde Tingley campaigned for office during the Depression. The previous governor had recently died and the lieutenant governor had been summoned from Clovis to take over.
"Order out of chaos" was an appropriate campaign slogan, except that "chaos" was a little outside the colorful Tingley's somewhat limited vocabulary. He pronounced it to rhyme with Taos.
WED, 8-16-06

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



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