9-20 peace conference on Peace Conference
By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- To avoid further controversy, the state Tourism Department is meeting with peace groups from around the state to discuss the upcoming World Peace Conference next May.
This peace conference on the Peace Conference, if you will, became necessary when New Mexico's many peace activists complained about being left out of planning for the $420,000 Santa Fe event next spring.
Originally, the conference was scheduled to take place this week, beginning on World Peace Day, September 21. That's the most generally recognized Peace Day internationally, although there are many, depending on which group is doing the proclaiming.
There was a big Peace Day in New Mexico on the August 6 Hiroshima anniversary and there is no reason the state can't declare a Peace Day or Peace Week or Peace Month next May.
State employees weren't able to put together a September peace conference in the six months after the state legislature approved it and the governor signed the $300,000 appropriation. They even had a heads up last year when the Legislature approved the first $120,000 for the conference.
But it takes a long time to put together a world conference on anything. Supposedly this conference will include world leaders from the peace movement and they would presumably be difficult to get, whomever they might be.
So, in mid-summer, the Tourism Department contracted with a professional event production specialist to handle the conference. And that's when the trouble started.
Peace groups statewide began asking why they weren't consulted. After all they wind Maypoles and make origami cranes all the time. And think of what they could do with $420,000. That money likely would stay in the state, too.
So, in an artfully-worded news release, the Tourism Department has announced that "In response to the overwhelming interest and wide diversity of opinion expressed by New Mexicans wanting to be a part of what promises to be an incredible event," the department has scheduled a town meeting on September 25 in Santa Fe.
The get-together will be from 3-5 p.m. on Monday, at the state Land Office Building. That's not much time, but it will have a high-powered moderator. Dr. Louise Diamond, from Vermont, knows 108 ways to create peace. And being from Vermont, she also must be very familiar with town meetings.
Will this be enough to pacify the peaceniks? Tourism Secretary Mike Cerletti says, "We knew there were a lot of folks interested in taking an active role in this event and with this town meeting, we are extending an opportunity to them to help us make this a world-class event."
The May 16-17 conference comes at a watershed moment for Gov. Bill Richardson. He will be getting very close to the time when he must decide whether he really wants to jump into the presidential race or not. The outcomes of the World Peace Conference could have some effect on that decision.
Richardson can burnish his reputation as a player on the world stage, capable of successful dealing even with the world's biggest bad boys. Or he can come out looking like a typical Democrat, hosting a peace conference while ignoring our national security needs.
Presumably, he has a plan, but I can't help wonder if he hasn't had some misgivings ever since Albuquerque's Sen. Shannon Robinson, a political ally, came to him almost two years ago with his idea of a peace conference.
Richardson's United Nations experience should be a significant feather in his cap. Maybe he can attract current Secretary General Kofi Annan to the conference. But how much will that help? The U.N. doesn't enjoy the best of reputations right now.
Our governor may be able to attract some Nobel Peace Prize winners, but big names like that also attract big name peace agitators who will end up with much of the national publicity.
It's risky business.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) email@example.com