Inside the Capitol

Monday, June 30, 2008

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

7-4 What Really Happened to the Declaration Signers

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Why does America celebrate its independence on the 4th of July? Mainly because it works.
It isn't the day we achieved our independence. That was November 3, 1783. It isn't the date of the first battle of the Revolutionary War. That was over a year before July 4, 1776. And it isn't the date of the last decisive battle.
We chose the day the Declaration of Independence was signed because that was a magical moment that unquestionably led to the foregone conclusion of American independence.
Or so the story goes. Actually, it was much more difficult than that. Members of the Continental Congress seriously debated whether there was much chance of winning a revolution against the crown.
The rebels had a rag tag army, not much of a navy and no alliance with any country that could be of help.
But the decision to proceed was made and most of them signed a document pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to each other. They knew they were guilty of treason and, if captured, were likely to be hanged.
Were it not for some free lance help by European military officers such as Lafayette, von Steuben, de Kalb and others, they would have been in serious trouble.
For the past several years, friends have sent me an essay describing the fate of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, suggesting that I use it in a July 4th column. Somehow the fate of the signers seemed too grim to be accurate.
So, this year, I googled "Declaration of Independence signers" and quickly learned that the essay has made quite an impact. No authorship is claimed but it appears to be a rewrite of an essay by Rush Limbaugh, Jr., father of the radio personality.
The fates claimed for the 56 signers all had grains of truth but all were considerably overstated. Nine of them did die during the Revolutionary War, but none of them at the hands of the British.
Many did have their homes ransacked, vandalized and occupied by the British but that was because they were in the path of the war. Theirs were mostly big homes that were likely targets for both sides to use as local headquarters or plundered for supplies.
Many lost much of their property and had to sell assets after the war in order to cover debts but none of them died in rags, as claimed.
In short, all the signers took a huge risk and had every reason to believe that they might well be hanged. Today we should all take time to honor their courageous act. And we also should honor all the colonists who endured hardships and losses, including loss of life, in the cause of the revolution.
The actual stories of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence are sufficiently compelling without embellishment. In our comfortable society of today, it is difficult to imagine the hardships they all had to endure. We easily could call that "our greatest generation."
Biographies have been written for all the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I'm sure they are all good reads. If you don't have time for that, my suggestion is a recent book by Roswell's Dave Clary, titled "Adopted Son," describing the friendship between Gen. George Washington and the young Marquis de Lafayette and the wide-ranging influence it had on themselves and their countries.
This also is a good day to pick up the Declaration of Independence and read it again. It is a brilliant and inspired argument for overthrowing tyranny that captured imaginations not just here but in Europe and the rest of the Americas.
Upon winning our independence, we became the world's first revolutionary power, making us the oldest revolutionary government on earth, with the oldest written constitution.
Americans have much to be proud of on this day. Let us not forget the sacrifices of our forbearers to obtain freedoms we now sometimes want to limit.
FRI, 7-04-08

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


Saturday, June 28, 2008

7-2 New Mexico On the Air

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Watch for New Mexico on TV this week. CW Network's "The Daily Buzz" taped five segments around the state last month and is showing them every morning this week around 7:30 a.m.
The segments were taped in Bandelier National Monument, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Albuquerque and White Sands National Monument. In addition, on Friday, July 4, "The Daily Buzz" will broadcast live from the Roswell Convention and Visitors Center during the UFO Festival.
And on Thursday, July 3, CBS Network's "The Early Show" will broadcast from Roswell. The UFO Festival runs from July 3-6 this year, featuring an alien village, guest speakers, authors, live entertainment, family-friendly activities and a light parade.
"The Early Show" is on CBS from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. We don't have word on exactly what time Roswell will be featured, but it likely will be on segments throughout the program. The show has a specially-outfitted Winnebago it takes around the country. Average viewership is 2.8 million.
"The Daily Buzz" is a nationally syndicated program, produced in Orlando, Florida and shown mostly on the CW Network. It is one of the fastest growing syndicated shows in America. It's geared toward the younger crowd and is a good way for us oldsters to pick up a little pop culture.
"I think it's outstanding," Roswell Mayor Sam LaGrone said of all the attention. "We are getting national, maybe international coverage with this. You can't buy the advertising we're getting."
Hats off to the good people of Roswell who have taken a piece of their history and created an event with worldwide interest and appeal. It is a bit uncomfortable to some in the community that Roswell has become known as the alien capital of the world.
But that's the hand Roswell was dealt, so why not play it with gusto? State Tourism Secretary Michael Cerletti says no festival in New Mexico captures the adventurous spirit of its citizens like the UFO Festival.
Cerletti says "The Daily Buzz" was attracted to New Mexico by his department's new marketing effort encouraging New Mexicans to vacation in their own backyard this summer. Considering the price of gas, it's a great idea to visit attractions that are only a gas tank away.
Back to Roswell. We'll never be sure what happened in early July of 1947. All we know is that the Roswell Army Air Force Base issued a news release saying it had come into possession of a flying disk and had flown it to "higher headquarters."
The following day, the commander of the Eighth Air Forces in Fort Worth issued a statement that an examination by the Army revealed that what was thought to be a grounded flying disc was actually a harmless high-altitude weather balloon.
Back in those days, no one questioned the Army so the subject was dropped. It wasn't until 40 years later that people began wondering how the Army could mistake a weather balloon for a flying disc, even for a day.
The Air Force then said it really was a top secret spy balloon being tested over New Mexico skies. Many who had accepted the previous explanation, accepted the new one. But others wondered if this might just be another cover up of the previous cover up.
And that's what led to where we are today. If the military can make up three different stories, let's all join the fun and make up our own stories. Let your imagination run wild. And that they have.
One of the most ambitious proposals to make something out of Roswell's fame has been an alien theme park. Bryan Temmer, a Land o' Lakes, Florida, information technology specialist, pitched the Roswell City Council on an alien apex resort. The council liked the idea enough to take it to the 2008 Legislature, which appropriated $245,000 for planning.
Gov. Bill Richardson signed the appropriation. But the state later called it back because of our state constitution's anti-donation clause that has tripped up other projects.
Why didn't anyone in Santa Fe think of that earlier? Is this a case of something else going on that we don't know about?
WED, 7-02-08

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


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

6-30 Ed Foreman and Bill Redmond Resurface

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Former U.S. Reps. Ed Foreman and Bill Redmond have been in the news lately. Foreman endorsed Earl Greer in the Republican 2nd Congressional District primary and Redmond has been asked to provide advice on how the GOP candidate in the 3rd Congressional District might pull out a victory.
Who are these men, you ask? Never heard of them? That's understandable. They were rare exceptions in New Mexico's U.S. House delegation. Foreman served only one two-year term. Redmond served just 17 months.
In the past 50 years, New Mexico's U.S. House members have been able to serve as long as they wanted. The exceptions were Foreman and Redmond, both Republicans, one from the south, one from the north and both elected under unusual circumstances.
In Forman's case, the federal government decided in the mid-1960s that states having more than one representative in Congress would have to elect them from districts.
Until then, New Mexico had elected its two representatives at large. Reps. Tom Morris and Johnny Walker, both Democrats, had been winning the statewide elections rather easily.
The question became one of whether to divide our state east and west or north and south. Morris lived in Tucumcari and Walker had lived in Silver City before moving to Santa Fe.
So either split might work. The only question for the Democrat-dominated Legislature was which split would be most politically advantageous to Democrats and which candidate should run in which district.
As it turned out, Democrats guessed wrong all the way around. At the last minute, the decision was made to divide the state into northern and southern districts rather than eastern and western districts. And it was decided that Morris would run from the northern district and Walker from the south.
Both lost. Republican Manuel Lujan beat Morris and remained in office in office until deciding to retire 20 years later. Foreman beat Walker in the south. But two years later, state Sen. Harold Runnels, who had barely lost to Walker in the 1968 Democratic primary, came back to beat Foreman in 1970.
Ed Foreman did not fade into obscurity. Born and raised in Portales and with a civil engineering degree from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, Foreman went to the West Texas oil fields and was a millionaire by age 26.
At 29, he got himself elected to Congress from Texas in 1962. But in 1964, the Lyndon Johnson landslide wiped out the two Republicans in the Texas congressional delegation.
After his 1970 loss to Runnels, Foreman held top Washington, D.C. government posts during the Nixon and Ford administrations. He then moved to Dallas where he became a hugely successful motivational speaker. At 75, he is still going strong, charging $10,000 per speech plus airfare from Dallas.
In 2006, Foreman and his brother Harold "Chub" Foreman, a longtime state senator, donated $1.5 million to the NMSU School of Engineering.
Bill Redmond came out of nowhere in 1997 to win a special election to replace Rep Bill Richardson when he was appointed United Nations ambassador by President Bill Clinton.
Redmond was pastor of the Santa Fe Christian Church when he secured the Republican nomination in that special election. Democrats nominated Eric Serna and the Green Party nominated Carol Miller.
Although the district was a Democratic stronghold, the baggage Serna brought with him, plus Miller's strength, combined to put Redmond in Congress.
The following year, Democrats nominated Tom Udall for the seat. Udall made peace with the Greens and defeated Redmond by 10 points in the 1998 general election.
Redmond now operates a real estate appraisal firm in Los Alamos. He says his phone now rings often with inquiries about what strategies might work to pull out a victory for Republican Ron East over Democratic nominee Ben Ray Lujan.
MON, 6-30-08

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


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

6-27 Some Questions About Energy

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- In the spirit of Sen. John McCain's offer to answer questions from Congress. I have some questions of my own. These aren't for Sen. McCain necessarily. They are for anyone.
The last time I did this, I received some very cogent answers, some of which I shared with readers in subsequent columns. I even have some answers of my own this time.
Most of America's big airlines, in addition to raising rates because of fuel costs, have started charging for luggage, food and soft drinks. Except they aren't charging extra on international flights. Why is that?
My guess is that the foreign competition isn't adding on charges. As American airlines have been talking about bankruptcy, foreign airlines continue to survive, usually with better service.
Nearly every foreign country has higher gas prices than we do. They have been paying four dollars a gallon for years and now are paying $8, $10 and even $12 dollars a gallon. Why does it appear to be hitting Americans so much harder? Or is it? Are we just spoiled?
How much higher will gasoline have to go before Congress and the president get serious about a comprehensive energy policy? They all talk about it, but nothing ever happens. Every proposal addresses only one part of the problem.
Is that because every proposal is the product on one specific lobby that is interested in helping only itself? Nearly all the proposals are beaten back because they are too costly and really won't make that much difference.
The answer to that is that any new energy development will cost more. But now that we are paying more than twice as much for a gallon of gas as we did a few years ago, new energy sources are more attractive.
It's just that we have to develop a plan that addresses enough new energy sources to make a difference. We must combine sensible drilling in sensitive areas with higher mileage standards for vehicles, stricter conservation measures, development of numerous alternative fuels and some personal sacrifice.
At this point, government support for alternative fuels is just about limited to ethanol, which is the poorest answer but it has the strongest lobby. Everyone needs to suffer a little for a comprehensive solution to work.
New Mexico has an opportunity to be a part of the solution. Gov. Bill Richardson is a former U.S. Energy Department secretary who is interested in alternative energy sources.
But the real solution is national. And for that we have Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the U.S. Senate's Energy Committee. Between Bingaman and Sen. Pete Domenici, New Mexico has had the chairman of that committee for quite a few years.
The energy bills the Energy Committee has sent through Congress haven't done much. It was all that would pass at the time, but now that the energy situation is reaching crisis proportions, it is time for something bold.
Can Bingaman do it? He should be able to get Democrats to put some money into alternative fuels and increase fuel efficiency standards. But they also have to give some on drilling in areas they consider sacred.
Oil and gas companies have been happy to take every advantage they can to drill as many wells as possible with as little cost to protecting the environment as they can get away with. Environmental standards must be increased to protect fragile and scenic areas but drilling shouldn't be shut out completely.
At this point, congressional Democrats seem focused solely on punishing oil companies with an excess profits tax. A better solution is to use those profits for the more expensive drilling that will have to be done to secure the additional oil we need.
Oil companies will be willing to do that if they can be assured of a stable energy policy that isn't going to turn around and bite them down the road.
FRI, 6-27-08

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


Thursday, June 19, 2008

6-25 McCain Wants To Face Congress

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Sen. John McCain wants to stand for questions from Congress. That is a bombshell, but amid rising gas prices, falling home prices and flooding in the Midwest, McCain's offer largely has been ignored.
In comparison with the current president who doesn't have press conferences and McCain's Democrat opponent who hasn't agreed to joint town hall appearances, the Republican presidential candidate's proposal is mind-boggling.
Never has an American president volunteered to appear before Congress. During Abraham Lincoln's presidency, Congress requested that he make regular visits to Capitol Hill to report on the progress of the war but Lincoln, the great debater, sternly refused.
Since then, individual members of Congress, all Democrats, have suggested that presidents should stand for questions. The only president who reportedly liked the idea was Bill Clinton, but his handlers put a quick stop to that.
American presidents just don't go to Congress to explain and defend their programs or to publicly address criticism. That's their executive privilege.
But McCain wants to do it. We know he's a battler. We know he's courageous. But the experience of prime ministers in the British commonwealth is fair warning that it is a grueling ordeal.
C-SPAN reports that Question Time in the British Parliament is one of its most popular shows. And why not? It is open warfare, where heckling and sarcasm abound.
The U.S. Congress is definitely more well-behaved than parliaments in England, Canada or Australia but we still see some testy exchanges in U.S. congressional committee hearings.
But if McCain wants to do it, the media should love him and maybe even start slanting its coverage in his favor. And we haven't even mentioned yet that McCain has promised weekly press conferences. That should make him a media darling.
When I started in this business 21 years ago, Gov. Garrey Carruthers held weekly press briefings at 1:30 every Monday afternoon. Cabinet meetings were held on Monday mornings, which enabled the governor to report that afternoon on decisions made.
For the Capitol press corps it eliminated much of the guesswork out of knowing what was going on and when we would find out. The Washington press corps should love McCain for giving them a regular schedule.
In the parliamentary system, department ministers also have a mini-question time. They are similar to our cabinet secretaries, who do appear before congressional committees. Our president is the only one who gets a pass -- or anyone else who wants to claim executive privilege.
Facing Parliament is a somewhat different situation for a prime minister because he, and all his department ministers, are members of Parliament.
Regardless, it is a brave move on McCain's part to help bring more accountability and transparency to government. He does well on talk shows with a demeanor that is both candid and witty. Maybe he can make it work.
McCain has made a few miscues while speaking extemporaneously, and they certainly have been exploited. But from watching Question Time on television, it is quite evident that members of Congress also can embarrass themselves in front of a nation of onlookers.
The most amazing feature of his offer is that he made it. As we said, some other presidents have been asked to appear before Congress. But only McCain has volunteered to do it, if elected.
Does he think it will get him a lot of votes? Is it desperation? Will it strengthen or harm the presidency? It will be interesting to hear what presidential historians have to say about this tremendous shift in policy, if it comes to pass.
Maybe that's why McCain's offer isn't getting much notice. No one thinks it will happen. Either McCain won't be elected or, if he does, he will change his mind. Watch this one.
WED, 6-25-08

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


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

6-23 Remembering the Great Depression

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- What do you remember about the Great Depression? If you are over 80, you have some vivid memories. If you are over 60, you likely heard many stories from your parents. If you are over 30, you may have heard stories from your grandparents.
At any age, you still are affected by New Deal programs created by the Franklin Roosevelt administration between 1933 and 1942. A new book, "The New Deal: A 75th Anniversary Celebration," by Kathryn Flynn, with Richard Polese, remembers those programs with poignant text and pictures.
Although I was born toward the end of the Depression, the book rekindled memories for me. I remember parents who always cautioned me never to buy anything on credit because I would lose it if I couldn't finish paying for it.
My parents and grandparents warned me never to put all my money in one place and to keep a stash safely hidden at home. And we seldom ate chicken because that was the only meat they had been able to afford during the Depression.
My mother's parents lost everything. Her father was a bank officer in El Paso. They packed up and moved back to Las Cruces where my mother and grandmother found jobs with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, one of the first New Deal programs -- and a very controversial one.
My father already was teaching at the beginning of the Depression. He landed a job in Lordsburg which almost totally was a railroad town. The railroads could still pay their property tax, which supported schools at that time, so he was paid in cash rather than scrip.
The Depression hit New Mexico hard, but fortunately our state benefited as much as any state from New Deal programs. We ranked fifth in the number of New Deal projects. These projects focused on farms, parks, the arts and the Hispanic and Indian cultures. It also helped that Gov. Clyde Tingley and President Roosevelt became great buddies.
Virtually all of New Mexico's communities were direct beneficiaries of the New Deal but most New Mexicans no longer are aware of that legacy. Flynn's book increases that awareness and helps New Mexicans discover or rediscover New Deal treasures in their communities.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was the flagship program of the New Deal. It employed five million jobless young men and World War I veterans to perform projects beneficial to America. Most of the unemployed came from the East but most of the projects were in the West. New Mexico had camps throughout the state.
The CCC was run by the War Department in cooperation with the Departments of Agriculture and Interior. The camps were run by the Army and differed little from Army life except that the training was vocational aimed at building roads, bridges, trails and buildings.
Eight years later, with the outbreak of World War II, these men, along with National Guard units, became the backbone of America's first line of defense in the South Pacific.
There were other programs too. The Federal Art Project created murals in many courthouses and school houses around that state that were built be the CCC and the Works Progress Administration.
The Federal Writers Project published a comprehensive New Mexico Guidebook which can still be purchased today. When the War came, these writers prepared pamphlets and booklets on military instruction, radio scripts, local defense emergency procedures and documents that explained national policies to local communities.
The Rural Electrification Administration was another major project in New Mexico, bringing power to rural communities throughout the state. New Mexico's 16 rural electric cooperatives, serving 80 percent of the state, are a result.
These, and many more programs, are a product of the New Deal in New Mexico and throughout the nation. Flynn's book is a superb way to remember them.
Flynn will be signing her book on July 5 at Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe.
MON, 6-23-08

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

I'll be out of the office 6/11-6/16. Cell: 505-699-9982. Not taking my computer this time.

6-20 No Time Off From Presidential Politics

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- New Mexicans get no time off from presidential politics this year. The 2008 presidential campaign has New Mexico targeted by both presidential campaigns for many reasons.
Since statehood, New Mexico has been a marginal state, going for the winner all but twice. Those were razor-thin victories by Jimmy Carter in 1976 and George W. Bush in 2000. Since Al Gore won the national popular vote in 2000, we still can claim that our vote reflected the national vote.
There are other reasons New Mexico is targeted. It is a Rocky Mountain state. The Rockies are viewed by both sides as likely to decide the 2008 election. In the last few elections, we have been by ourself out here. Now that we have company, the spotlight is shining brighter.
Fast growth and a rising Hispanic population are factors that signal a likelihood for political change in the region so we can expect to see much of the candidates, their families and top surrogates in our sparsely populated state. That's heady stuff for a state that represents less than one percent of the Electoral College.
We also get no relief from TV ads. Within days of the last primary election, general election ads were on New Mexico television. Since New Mexico is a small TV market, candidates can try out new ads here, in a state that matters, as inexpensively as they can anywhere.
Gov. Bill Richardson also brings us some attention as a potential vice presidential selection or cabinet appointment, although the list of possible picks by presumptive nominee Barack Obama has grown considerably since he clenched the nomination.
One possibility receiving frequent mention recently is Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, who grew up in Albuquerque. Arizona would be included in the Western states Democrats are targeting except that it is now home to Sen. John McCain.
Putting Napolitano on the Democratic ticket would set up some tremendously interesting dynamics and would put Arizona in play with a candidate on each ticket. McCain and Obama have pledged to run civil campaigns but this certainly would end that.
The campaign isn't likely to stay civil even if McCain and Obama remain nice. Outside groups are sure to make big TV buys to go after both sides. There already is evidence the "swiftboaters will be back.
Whatever happens, we can look forward to it being new and different. Barack Obama not only is an unconventional candidate, he runs an unconventional campaign.
In the last several presidential elections, each party put specific states in the bank and chose a small number of states, including New Mexico, as their battleground.
This time Democrats will use a 50 state strategy, not conceding any state. Obama did that in the primaries and picked up some surprise states. Hillary Clinton concentrated on big states and ignored most small states that chose to hold early caucuses. That's where Obama beat her.
The selection of Howard Dean as national Democratic chairman was a coup for Obama because Dean operates from the same unconventional philosophy. And that is why Obama already has announced Dean will stay on as national chairman. Clinton would have dumped him.
Obama's campaign will be very different in another way. He has developed a better political organization than either party has ever seen. Call it a machine, if you will. The only difference between his and anyone else's is that all of the cogs are unknown in the political world.
I have mentioned before that Obama is a product of the best community organizing instruction in the nation. In the 1950s, Saul Alinksky, a University of Chicago professor, wrote "Rules for Radicals, a textbook on community organizing.
He used it in the ghettos of South Chicago to organize the poor to better themselves. I'm quite sure Rev. Wright was a product of that training.
Obama adopted all those techniques to political organizing but changed the message to one of hope rather than despair. Add to that the savvy of an army of tekkies and you're hard to beat.
FRI, 6-20-08

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


Monday, June 09, 2008

6-18 2010 Census Will Be No More Accurate

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The 2010 U.S. Census badly undercounted New Mexico's population, according to a recent study released by New Mexico Voices for Children.
An undercount of almost 36,000 individuals shortchanged New Mexico by $110 million in funds for eight federal programs. Of those individuals, over 30 percent were children.
The study, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a professional consulting firm, noted that the undercount for Hispanics and Native Americans was higher than for the overall population.
New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics and the second-highest percentage of Native Americans in the nation. "This undercount must be corrected so that the 2010 census is accurate," said Lisa Adams Shafer, Kids Count program director.
But correcting the undercount does not appear at all likely according to the news so far this year. New Mexico appears to be in for an even greater undercount, similar to 1990, when it led the nation.
Since the beginning of the year, the Census Bureau news has been bad and getting worse. In January Charles Louis Kincannon, longtime director of the census, announced his retirement. That came on the heels of resignations by five top bureau employees during the previous two years.
Kincannon was succeeded by Preston Jay Waite, architect of the plan to use wireless handheld computers to collect information door-to-door from people who do not return census forms.
In March that program was scrapped because of problems. In April, Waite announced his surprise retirement. Later in April, the bureau announced that it had drastically scaled back its dress rehearsal for the national head count.
Congress is worried these problems will delay the census and make it even less accurate. By law, the Census Bureau is required to submit population numbers to Congress by December 31, 2010.
Members of the U.S. House are vitally interested in the numbers. They determine which states will gain representatives and which will lose. The census determines each state's allocation of the 435 representative seats in Congress. State legislatures then begin meeting in January to determine congressional district boundaries.
It is easy to understand that nothing is more important to members of the U.S. House than accurate, on time, census data.
Every decade the Census Bureau tries a new twist to make the data more accurate. In 1980, it hired thousands of additional temporary employees to scour street corners and alleys to count the homeless. People living in the country were given street numbers to make them easier to pinpoint.
That didn't help much, so in 1990, computers were brought to the rescue. Computer wizards somehow figured out a way to estimate how many people they miss. That formula then was applied to the actual count from census takers and resulted in something called the statistical estimate.
But lawsuits, brought by the losers, disadvantaged by the statistical count, argued that the constitution doesn't allow computerized corrections.
In 2000, the Census Bureau tried a national ad campaign, including a $2 million ad during the Super Bowl. Evidently the undercounted don't pay much attention to advertising.
It has been suggested that the undercounted are intimidated by the lengthy questionnaires. Maybe they don't trust the government or maybe they figure it's just as well if the government doesn't know that much about them.
Many Indians may feel they don't have much historical reason for trusting the government. And why would illegal aliens want to fill out one of those forms. They can get the free services anyway.
So this decade's solution was wireless handheld computers. If UPS could track packages that way, why couldn't the federal government? But technology glitches and a bungled government contract has us back to paper and pencils and a multitude of additional employees to use them.
At least this year we know ahead of time that the census won't be any more accurate.
WED, 6-18-08

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


6-13 Ethics Reformers Optimistic

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Proponents of governmental ethics reform feel they have reason to be optimistic after this month's primary elections.
During the past four years, lawmakers have talked about ethics reform and then done next to nothing. Gov. Bill Richardson appointed a high-powered ethics commission to develop proposals for presentation to the Legislature.
The governor backed many of those proposals and took them to the Legislature where almost all of them met their demise. Most commonly, the House would pass the measures and the Senate would kill them.
That doesn't necessarily mean House members were good guys and senators wore black hats. Senators have four year terms and so are more insulated from the wrath of their constituents. Consequently they seem more willing to be the bad guys, letting House members keep their hands clean.
But this year, all 112 legislators have to stand for reelection. Some of those not seeking reelection appear to have left their seats open for candidates who will be more open to ethics reform.
But one never knows for sure. The quickest way for a rookie lawmaker to get ahead is to go along to get along with the dinosaurs who control committees and appointments.
An even better sign was the primary election defeat of some of those dinosaurs. One overthrow especially savored by ethics reformers was that of Democratic Sen. Shannon Robinson of Albuquerque.
Robinson routinely voted against ethics reforms. He was former Senate leader Manny Aragon's strongest supporter. And he has been involved in ethically questionable capers of his own.
I must digress from the subject briefly to note there are valid arguments against any ethics reform and that Sen. Robinson is one of the most colorful legislators I have encountered in my 45 years at the Capitol.
He's a nice guy, who hires great staff, and has championed many good causes. I'm sure I will be devoting a full column to him soon.
Other incumbent defeats welcomed by the ethics reformers were Democrat Sen. James Taylor and Rep. Dan Silva , of Albuquerque and Rep. Dan Foley of Roswell, the Republican whip.
One ethics reformer who won't be back is Albuquerque Republican Sen. Joe Carraro who gave up his seat to unsuccessfully challenge Republican Sheriff Darren White for the 1st Congressional District seat.
During the campaign, Carraro ran into trouble of his own concerning consulting work he did for a company while sponsoring legislation that benefited them.
The subject of ethics takes on many forms. The word itself has a very broad meaning. It can mean stemming the influence of money in politics. It also can mean making the decision making process more transparent.
During the past four years many ethics reforms have been proposed by various public officials or groups. Most have found their way into legislation. Very few have succeeded. The following are some of those proposals, which might stand a better chance next year.
Creating a state ethics commission to develop a code of conduct and investigate allegations of wrongdoing.
Strengthening the Government Conduct Act and extending it to legislators and city and county officials.
Increasing the information on the secretary of state's Web site and making it easier to use
Limiting the size of campaign contributions. Extending public financing of campaigns to all offices.
Requiring lobbyists to reveal how much they are paid and requiring them to wear name badges that identify their clients.
Prohibiting gifts to public officials. Providing a legislative salary.
Televising legislative sessions. Publishing voting records.
Opening conference committees between the House and Senate.
Requiring former legislators to wait one year before lobbying.
Increasing protection of state employees who report corruption.
Increasing penalties for crimes involving corruption.
FRI, 6-13-08

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


Sunday, June 08, 2008

6-16 Independents Could Determine Some Races

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Might this be a year when independents determine the outcome of some of our top federal races? It could happen.
Whenever there are open federal seats, independent and third-party candidates come out of the woodwork. This year, in addition to having four congressional vacancies in New Mexico, there also is no incumbent president.
At the presidential level , expect to see more than two candidates on your ballot next November. Along with the usual selection of anonymous lightweights will be a couple of candidates approaching the middleweight class.
The Libertarian Party tried to get Texas Rep. Ron Paul as its presidential candidate, Paul, definitely a Libertarian by philosophy, said he preferred to stick with the Republican Party.
Paul raised so much money through the Internet that he saw the possibility of ending up as the last man standing. If he could make it happen, he knew he would be infinitely better off running as a Republican in the general election.
But that didn't happen. GOP leaders rushed to close all doors possible. And although Paul polled in the teens in most states, he won't even receive an invitation to speak at the national convention. Libertarians don't think war solves any problems and Rep. Paul would be sure to deliver that message.
So the national Libertarian Party nominated former Republican congressman Bob Barr from Georgia. Barr gained national prominence as a floor manager for the effort to impeach President Bill Clinton.
Barr lost his House seat through redistricting. A longtime champion of privacy rights, he broke with the Republican Party over the Patriot Act and became a Libertarian in 2006.
Also in the presidential race is Ralph Nader, for the sixth time. Although Nader has run as a Green at times in the past, he is running as an independent this time.
Nader will take votes from the Democratic presidential candidate, just as he has done in the past. Many Democrats blame him for taking votes from Al Gore in key states that caused him to lose the Electoral College in 2000.
Barr will take votes from the Republican candidate, although not nearly as many as Ross Perot did in the Clinton era. The Constitution Party is running Chuck Baldwin, an evangelical preacher who believes Republicans are too liberal.
At the state level, the 3rd Congressional District will see two independent candidates. Carol Miller is running for her third time. The first time was when Rep. Bill Richardson vacated the seat to become United Nations ambassador.
The Democratic state central committee nominated controversial politico Eric Serna. Republicans nominated Los Alamos preacher Bill Redmond. Miller took 17 percent of the vote and Redmond won. Four years later, Tom Udall beat Redmond badly and Miller received four percent of the vote.
Miller ran as a Green Party member those two times. This time she is an independent. It isn't easy for an independent to get on the ballot. Almost 6,000 nominating petition signatures are required. Miller turned in over 11,000 along with a jab at Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature for making life so difficult on independents.
Ron Simmons, a Santa Fe contractor, is a former Democrat who became upset with superdelegates and left the party. He turned in nearly 8,000 signatures to get on the ballot.
Both Miller and Simmons have put in impressive efforts that could lead to many votes. Some have suggested that the divisive Democratic primary might make winner Ben Ray Lujan vulnerable to being picked off as Serna was 11 years ago.
Santa Fe teacher Zack Boatman attempted to run for the U.S. Senate by collecting over 16,000 signatures required of statewide candidates. He set up several Web sites to collect signatures and money but the task was too big. Had he made it, Boatman may have been able to position himself between Reps. Steve Pearce and Tom Udall as a moderate choice for New Mexicans.
MON, 6-16-08

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


Saturday, June 07, 2008

6-11 Visitor Parking Added At State Capitol

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Good news for New Mexicans planning to visit our state Capitol Building . The chances of finding a parking place will improve within a year.
Ground has been broken for a block-long parking garage across the street west of the Capitol. The building is scheduled to be ready for the 2009 Legislature beginning in January. But we're talking Santa Fe, folks. Schedules are met only in fairy tales, or Alamogordo, or Hobbs, not in Santa Fe.
In fact, plan on parking being worse during the 2009 Legislature because the garage is displacing a state employee surface parking lot and those people have to park somewhere. I'll keep you posted.
The garage will be aesthetically pleasing, blending in with other buildings in the area. State government isn't required to comply with Santa Fe's tough architectural design code, but state officials are working with the city and neighborhood association to meet the spirit of the law.
The wisdom of working with the city and neighborhood was underscored by the Santa Fe county government recently when it designed a big box courthouse rising 56 feet from the sidewalk in downtown Santa Fe.
The district judges, learned in the law, knew the city couldn't impose its building codes on a separate unit of government. Cities and counties often don't get along very well so the county briefly enjoyed rubbing the city's nose in the county's autonomy.
But local reaction was such that the county wisely scaled back its plans and ended up with a very pleasing design.
Unfortunately the state may have scaled back too far on its parking garage. A previously planned third floor was removed in order to satisfy height restrictions. And a second floor below ground was scrapped because of cost.
That leaves 550 spaces. But the parking lot it displaces had 140 spaces. Add to that 250 temporary legislative employees during a session. That leaves only 160 spaces for the public. That's not many, but the thought of 160 more parking spaces around the Capitol during a legislative session still sounds like heaven.
If you come on the weekend during the session, most of those regular state employee spaces will be vacant. And if you come any other time of year, the 250 legislative employee spaces will be vacant.
One problem with a part time legislature is that facilities built to accommodate large numbers of people for one or two months a year are nearly deserted the remainder of the year.
There is other good news for tourists visiting Santa Fe. Two other public parking lots are being built in downtown Santa Fe. One is under the new convention/community center that Santa Fe has yet to name. And the other beneath the huge Railyard Project off Guadalupe Street.
The new Capitol parking garage will be oh-so-Santa Fe in so many ways. Not only will it be nice looking, it will be landscaped, use harvested water and its best parking spaces will be reserved for alternative fuel vehicles.
The Legislature actually owes the Capitol neighborhood a nice looking building. The Capitol itself is no beauty from the outside. Its round shape is unique but you only notice that from above.
When the building was finished in 1966, tall trees were planted all the way around the building to soften its look..
But step inside and you see the most beautiful state capitol in the nation. It is much like walking into one of Santa Fe's fine art galleries.
If you haven't visited your state capitol yet, plan on doing it next year when the parking is good. If you can do it during a legislative session, you will get a real treat.
Not only does New Mexico have the prettiest capitol interior, it also has some of the friendliest lawmakers. Our Legislature hasn't yet succumbed to the fear of terrorism so you have free run of the building and all its friendly people.
WED, 6-11-08

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


Thursday, June 05, 2008

6-9 NM Still In Presidential Discussions

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Now that we know the two parties' presidential nominees, the discussion has immediately turned to vice-presidential selections. And New Mexico is figuring in the discussions.
Even though Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in New Mexico, we are considered a swing state that it is possible for Obama to win. Colorado also is in that category of states that President Bush carried four years ago but that Obama may be able to take.
That means New Mexicans will be seeing plenty of the presidential candidates for the next five months. And it means Gov. Bill Richardson's chances of being tapped for a vice presidential spot on the ticket are improved.
At this point many backers of Sen. Hillary Clinton are threatening to vote for Sen. John McCain in November if Clinton is not on the ticket. But how serious are they?
Three months ago Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and other far right commentators were threatening to vote for Hillary Clinton for president if John McCain were to become the Republican nominee.
That was back when Clinton was still presumed to be the Democratic nominee. Since that time, I haven't heard much out of those folks, but I have a hunch we are hearing empty threats from both sides.
Sen. McCain held his first gathering with possible running mates two weeks ago at his ranch in Sedona. Friends and relatives in Arizona tell me McCain never called his Sedona place a ranch until now.
Presidential ranches seem to be getting popular these days, but none will compare in size with Lyndon Johnson's ranch, which now is a national historical park.
The Bush Ranch isn't difficult to get to. Traffic around Crawford, Texas isn't heavy. But can you imagine the traffic in Sedona, Arizona, with security details for important visitors plus media all over the place? For those of you who have not been to Sedona, a very popular tourist spot, think Taos and double it.
McCain and Obama have been warning each other and the media that their wives are off limits as far as prying and personal attacks are concerned. I can safely predict that is not going to happen.
Four years ago, we learned just about everything in the fascinating life of Teresa Heinz Kerry. Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama are equally interesting and somewhat controversial. We'll hear much about them.
Women have it tough in politics. When Hillary Clinton let her voice waver just the slightest during an interview in New Hampshire, her detractors had her crying crocodile tears. We don't want to see a future commander in chief with a soft side.
The women's cause suffered a setback recently when state Public Regulation Commissioner Carol Sloan explained a change in her vote as being a woman's prerogative. Not wise.
When term limits required Vladimir Putin to step down from Russia's presidency, he managed to slide into the prime minister's slot. Immediately there were questions about whether new President Dmitry Medvedev would retain the power Putin had as president or whether Putin still would be top dog.
Many New Mexicans were eager to answer that question for the Russian politicos. It wasn't too long ago when state Sen. Manny Aragon was deposed from his lofty position as Senate president pro tem.
At his first opportunity, Aragon took over the Senate majority leader post and from that position took back the running of the Senate. Putin has only been in his new position a month but already is finding ways to take over some of the president's former duties.
Now that congressional Republicans find themselves in the minority again, it will be interesting to see if they renew their push for term limits.
That was one of the cornerstones of the Contract With America on which they ran in 1994, the last time they were in the minority. But that part of the Contract seemed to have been written with disappearing ink.
MON, 6-09-08

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


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

6-6 Some Election Night Surprises

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The last of the nation's primary elections now are over. New Mexico, South Dakota and Montana brought up the rear
Unfortunately New Mexico didn't receive the national attention lavished on the other two states as they put Sen. Barack Obama over the top in delegate votes. That's because New Mexico Democrats chose to hold a presidential selection caucus four months ago.
In a normal year, that would have brought us more attention. But who knew that this year's Democratic presidential selection process would go down to the very last state?
As state Democrats bemoan missing out on their big chance, they also are considering the mess their volunteer effort made of the counting process last February and the quarter million dollars it took out of their kitty that could have been used to help Democratic legislative candidates in the November general election.
Party officials reportedly already are beginning to talk about maybe just letting the state run their presidential selection in June 2012.
Republicans stuck with the June primary this year and ended up with a meaningless election. So far, I haven't yet seen the GOP presidential results in any newspaper. For the record, Sen. John McCain received 86 percent of the New Mexico vote and Texas Rep. Ron Paul received 14 percent.
But that didn't mean New Mexico didn't have a wild primary election night. A few races were very close and one other appeared to be an upset until the Associated Press realized it had been putting figures in the wrong columns.
That race, between Ben Ray Lujan and Don Wiviott in the 3rd Congressional District, caused some head scratching and maybe a few heart palpitations, but nothing like a similar mistake 14 years ago.
Diane Denish and Patricia Madrid were battling it out for a Democratic lieutenant governor nomination. Statewide Democratic candidates were headquartered at the Albuquerque Holiday Inn Midtown that year.
When the news came that Denish suddenly had grabbed the lead from Madrid, a mad dash of well wishers and job seekers streamed down the halls and across the courtyard of the hotel to regale Denish with stories of how hard they had campaigned for her.
Madrid's formerly packed hospitality suite was deserted. But when news came a bit later that a mistake had been corrected in the count, several of the slow-footed barely escaped injury as the thundering herd returned to Madrid's suite to explain that they had just gone down the hall to the restroom.
Lujan hosted a big election night party at the Hotel Santa Fe on Tuesday night, but Wiviott held a private party at his house. That eliminated any opportunities for fickle well wishers.
Big money didn't always buy victories in New Mexico's congressional elections. Wiviott's $1.4 million of personal cash didn't do it. Neither did the $990,000 the National Association of Realtors dumped into Monty Newman's 2nd Congressional District race.
Endorsements from political heavyweights didn't help much either. Heather Wilson in the U.S. Senate race and Marco Gonzales in the 3rd Congressional District lost despite endorsements from Sen. Pete Domenici. Gov. Bill Richardson's backing of three longtime incumbent legislators didn't keep them from good sized defeats.
One of the biggest surprises in this election was the strong showing of Republican Greg Sowards in the 2nd Congressional District contest. Sowards finished just behind candidates Monty Newman and Aubrey Dunn, Jr. who both trailed winner Ed Tinsley.
Sowards' television advertising and billboards directed people to his cleverly done Web site. It may be another indication of the Internet's influence on American politics.
Another surprise was Michelle Lujan Grisham who provided the only excitement in a dull 1st Congressional District primary. A poll 10 days before the election had her with 10 percent of the vote and former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron at 23 percent.
On election day, Grisham picked up a big chunk of the undecided vote to finish only one percent behind Vigil-Giron.
FRI, 6-06-08

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


Monday, June 02, 2008

6-4 A NM Primary Like No Others

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Congratulations to yesterday's winners. You have a big job ahead of you. From experience, I can say that being an elected public official takes a bigger chunk out of your life than anyone ever tells you before you serve.
And to those who didn't win, don't be discouraged. A loss doesn't end a political career. Pete Domenici lost a race for governor before being elected six times to the U.S. Senate. Joe Skeen liked to talk about losing seven races before winning a few ant then taking his U.S. House seat 11 times.
Gov. Bill Richardson lost his first run for Congress before starting a long political career. Rep. Tom Udall lost his first bid for Congress also. And Lt. Gov. Diane Denish lost her first bid for that office.
You have the advantage on me today. You know who won yesterday and I wrote this column the day before yesterday. But herewith are some observations on the politics of the past six months.
New Mexico's three open seats in Congress attracted 23 candidates. Oddly, that isn't a record. In 1972, when Pete Domenici first was elected to the U.S. Senate, a court had just struck down filing fees and the Legislature had not yet had the opportunity to establish nominating petition requirements.
That was the infamous "Sparkle Plenty" year, when a table of lobbyists at the Bull Ring Restaurant, next to the Capitol, filed paperwork to put their barmaid on the ballot.
But this was a record for a year with petition requirements and a pre-primary nominating convention. Failure to achieve ballot status from the conventions wasn't much of a discouragement this year. Almost half the major party candidates on the ballot secured additional signatures to get there.
Lack of experience in elective office wasn't a deterrent to candidates either. Twelve of the 21 major party candidates were hoping to start at the top. Add to that the two independent candidates who plan to file in the 3rd Congressional District general election contest.
In that wild 2nd Congressional District GOP contest, two of the three top contenders had no previous experience in elective office and the third had to get extra nominating petition signatures because he didn't get the necessary 20 percent of the vote at the preprimary nominating convention.
With all three of New Mexico's U.S. House seats and one of two U.S. Senate seats having no incumbent this year, the political stakes were higher than they ever have been. In an almost evenly divided Congress, New Mexico's open seats are crucial in determining the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats.
For that reason, political parties and party leaders got much more involved in their primary elections. The GOP endorsed 1st Congressional District candidate Darren White and President George W. Bush came to help him raise money even though White had an opponent on the ballot.
Gov. Bill Richardson made endorsements in the 2nd and 3rd district congressional races. Richardson's endorsement of Ben Ray Lujan in the 3rd Congressional District wasn't a huge surprise since Lujan's father is speaker of the New Mexico House and Richardson's closest political ally.
But the endorsement of Harry Teague in the 2nd Congressional District was a surprise. Both Teague and his Democrat opponent Bill McCamley have experience serving on county commissions. McCamley is young and articulate. Teague has lots of money.
That may be the difference. The Republican candidate will be very well financed and maybe this evens that score. Teague also had the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Diane Denish who hails from Lea County, as does Teague.
Richardson and Denish have not been on the best of terms lately. Might part of the reason for this have been to extend an olive branch from the governor?
And there were Sen. Pete Domenici's endorsements for Darren White, Marco Gonzales and finally, Heather Wilson.
It was a primary such as New Mexicans had never seen before.

WED, 6-04-08

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