Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

11-16 Don't Discriminate Against the Aliens


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE -- "Surely you must be joking." That's what 62 percent of the respondents to an Albuquerque Journal readers' poll said regarding the outer space theme of this year's New Mexico entry in the Rose Parade.

      Most of those respondents likely were from Albuquerque. If the float had balloons on it, their assessment may would have been far different.

      The Journal ran its appraisal of the float design at the top of its front page with a big colorful picture of the artist's rendering. It was the second time in a week the paper ran the picture with an article at the top of the front page.

      HmmmÂ… Do you suppose the picture is eye-catching and helps sell newspapers? Do you suppose the theme is fun and causes people to want to read the article? Do you suppose the float might have the same effect on viewers?

      It seems to have had that effect on the recruitment of volunteers willing to pay all their own expenses to spend up to a week in Pasadena helping decorate the float.

   Recruitment was running a little behind the number that worked on New Mexico's first float two years ago. But after the design appeared in papers around the state a week ago, the numbers jumped by over 20 people.

   And maybe the parade's judges will like it better too. Parade winners often are the whimsical entries, many of them sponsored by cities in the Los Angeles area that enter every year and have learned what people like.

   The Journal called it spacey. It's readers used words like embarrassing, ludicrous, obnoxious, insulting, absurd, loony and weird. Eleven years ago, when Roswell began its UFO festivals, community feelings there were much the same.

   For some, those feelings remain. But for many, it's no longer a joke. They're laughing all the way to the bank. This year's UFO Fest saw every room in Roswell booked weeks before the event. And the state has now appropriated $245,000 to Roswell to plan a multi-million-dollar UFO theme park.

   Tourism Department head Mike Cerletti says he has been getting many responses similar to those in the Journal article. Many feel New Mexico should stick to promoting adobe churches, Indian dances, Spanish senoritas and green chile.

   We do relatively well in tourism but lag far back in economic development. Maybe it's time to start thinking outside the sopaipilla and start emphasizing the future.

   New Mexico is the cradle of rocketry and atomic energy and we're still a leader in both. It isn't just Roswell that profits from a new focus. Alamogordo has the Museum of Space History. Dona Ana and Sierra counties will soon host Spaceport America. The X-Prize Cup and the Rocket Racing League will be holding their events in the area. And numerous space companies plan to move there.

   The rocket museum at White Sands Missile Range has a display of every missile it has fired since the 1946 V-2 rockets. And Roswell has the Goddard Museum with the rockets he developed in the 1930s.

   Some of the problem may be that none of this promotes Albuquerque. But it already is economically healthy. And New Mexico's previous Rose Parade float promoted the Rio Grande culture. It's time to spotlight other areas.

   Fortunately Cerletti is adept at creative thinking and is not unaccustomed to criticism of his big ideas. I'm reminded of when he made New Mexico a sponsor of Al Unser Jr.'s race car in the Indianapolis 500 in 1992. Cerletti received much heat for that but New Mexico received much publicity. And it didn't hurt that it was Little Al's first victory at Indy.

   So let's have a little respect for our aliens. They've done so much for us, let's return the favor by featuring them.

   Maybe I'm one of the weirdoes. I'm willing to grant that. But let's give 'em a chance, huh?

FRI, 11-16-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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