Inside the Capitol

Thursday, July 31, 2008

8-4 August Anniversaries and Birthday

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- August hasn't always just been the dog days of summer. Granted, many Europeans take the month off and travel. Mostly, they're looking for someplace cooler.
But maybe they're also commemorating the travels of one of their own, Christopher Columbus, who set out to sail the ocean blue on August 3, 1492.
We know now that Chris wasn't the only person who figured the world had to be round. The only question was how far he'd have to travel to get to India and go into the tea trading business.
Many Europeans will follow Columbus' basic course this August and end up in America for some trading of their own -- their expensive Euros for our cheap goods. It's a blessing for our economy. Anyone who has been where tourists are the past six months, knows the percentage of foreigners is much higher than usual.
Speaking of foreigners, August also is the month when Congress passed its first bill restricting immigration. Congress squeezed that one in on August 3, 1882 before leaving on its recess to escape the August heat in Washington.
There had been periodic uproars about immigration since the 1820s. Some people worried that the Irish, Italians and Germans would overrun our country, refuse to learn our language, refuse to adopt our customs and take our jobs. And even worse, they were Catholic.
But burgeoning American industries kept them coming. They needed their manual labor. And somehow, we weren't losing our language, customs or jobs.
By the 1880s, however, Eastern Europeans started coming. And the ones who weren't Catholic, were Jews. I grew up in a community that was largely Eastern European.
The Southern Pacific Rail Road created the town of Deming and brought in Eastern European farmers to provide fresh food. Their descendents have remained. You'll never meet a finer group of people. They have kept their Kielbasa Festival. But they all speak English.
Also in August, New Mexico's own Smokey Bear became our nation's forest fire prevention symbol in 1944. Rescued from a forest fire near Capitan, Smokey quickly became a star back at a time when forest fire prevention was a major worry since most able-bodied men were working in our war effort.
To add to the anxiety, Japan had come up with the idea of attaching little bombs to gas balloons and launching them into winds they hoped would carry them to the United States. A few actually made it across and started forest fires in our coastal mountains.
Smokey caught on as no other national mascot ever has. Remember Woodsy Owl, the crash test dummies and McGruff, the crime dog in a trench coat? Maybe you don't. They aren't exactly rock stars.
But Smokey captured our imaginations. He has been officially recognized by an act of Congress. He's been put on a postage stamp and been in several movies. He got to retire to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. before returning to Capitan to rest in peace.
At a time when bears are being tranquilized and relocated throughout the West for dumpster-diving and pantry raids, Smokey remains the only honorable bear role model. Yes, Yogi Bear has fans but who would you rather take home with you?
Smokey is the strong, silent type, who nevertheless is a great communicator. In fact, he did his job so well our nation began to realize that complete fire suppression had its downside. Smokey took it all in stride, admitting now that forest fires sometimes serve as nature's housekeeper.
So let's give a cheer for our Smokey Bear. He's someone who has always made us proud. No one ever made negative ads about him. He never was called a show off, although he occasionally had bouts of being grumpy in his old age. But that happens to all of us.
Oh, and unlike so many other rock stars, he never had to trundle off to rehab.
So you might want to bake a little birthday cake to honor Smokey this month. But you might skip the 64 candles. He might not approve.
MON, 8-04-08

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


Monday, July 28, 2008

8-1 Secretary of State Not Following Law

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- A curious situation down in Lincoln County apparently has elected officials throughout the state on edge.
It all started when former Capitan mayor and deputy sheriff Steve Sederwall decided to run for sheriff as an independent. He checked with both the county clerk's office and the secretary of state's office to be sure he was doing everything an independent candidate needed to do to get on the ballot.
Both offices told him all that was required was pay a $50 filing fee. He asked if he needed petition signatures and was told he didn't. A few days later, he received a state election candidate guide from the county clerk's office
On page 31, it said in full caps, underlined, with a box around it: "A candidate for county office is not required to file a nominating petition." And it cited Section 1-8-21B of the New Mexico Statutes.
That seemed abundantly clear. Sederwall didn't bother finding a copy of the statutes and reading the citation. I doubt any other candidate has either. You'll see why in a moment.
On filing day, Sederwall went to the county clerk's office to file for sheriff and the clerk was ready for him. She handed him a copy of a different law (Section 1-8-51e) stating "Nominating petitions for an independent candidate for a…county office shall be signed by a number of voters equal to at least three percent of the total number of votes cast … in that county…"
That equaled 201 signatures. Sederwall had two-and-a-half hours before the deadline. He rushed around town and got 130 signatures. Not enough.
Having been a lawman for 30 years, he smelled something not quite right, so he began researching the law. The advice he had received when he called the county clerk's office and the secretary of state's office was based on a reading of the state's 2008 election Candidate Guide, which he had followed.
In the introduction to the candidate guide is the caution: "Please note, this guide is intended merely as a handy reference, not as the ultimate authority on the election process."
It goes on to say the statutes are the ultimate authority. But who reads those? Candidates for office are interested in many things other than reading statute books.
As proof that no one reads the statutes, let me return to a statement I made earlier that no candidate had ever checked Section 1-8-21B. If they had, they would have read that Democrats and Republicans also are required to file nominating petitions.
The Candidate Guide is absolutely wrong.
Further investigation by Sederwall revealed that the guide has been wrong ever since the law was changed in 1996 to require petition signatures of all elective offices. Candidates for statewide offices and Congress submit petitions. No one else does.
The Lincoln County clerk was correct in not allowing Mr. Sederwall to file for sheriff. But she was wrong in allowing all other candidates to file without petition signatures. And so were every other county clerk and the secretary of state's office.
So Sederwall has gone to court asking to be put on the ballot, not as a matter of legality, but as a matter of equal treatment. Why should he be the only non-statewide candidate in the last seven elections in New Mexico to be denied ballot access?
Sederwall tells me no one has challenged the practice before and there is an effort to drag out the court case past the November election so any decision is moot.
No one seems to have caught on to the fact that now that the news is out, any action by any elected official can be ruled invalid because they are all unlawfully elected.
That means any action by a county commission, any arrest by a sheriff, any decision by a district judge can be appealed. The state Supreme Court had better fix this fast. I'm not sure what it can do, but it better try.
By the way, this is the same Steve Sederwall I went after a few years ago for trying to dig up Billy the Kid and his mother. I think he's right this time.
FRI, 8-01-08

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


Saturday, July 26, 2008

7-30 Expect Decision on Last Racino in August

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The state Racing Commission has now completed its hearings on the location for New Mexico's sixth racino. The decision on where the last racino for the next 29 years will be located is expected to be made sometime in August.
Nothing has been heard from two other groups that had indicated interest in locating racinos in the far southwestern corner of the state. That leaves Raton, Tucumcari and Santa Fe as competitors for the big prize.
In case you haven't kept up with the latest in gambling lingo, racinos are combination racetrack/casinos. In New Mexico, racetrack mean horse track. In other states, it can mean dog tracks.
When Indian casinos were legalized, nearby racetracks found it difficult, if not impossible, to compete. So some states began allowing them to put in slot machines so they could offer big enough purses to attract good horses.
Sources on the Web are all over the place as to when and where this all started and how many states have legalized racinos. But the term is now in Webster's Dictionary and at least 10 states have racinos, with others considering them, including Texas, according to one report.
New Mexico racinos are aimed at out-of-state money, especially the Texas crowd. Horse tracks in Ruidoso, Hobbs and Sunland Park depend on Texans. The Farmington track draws from the Four Corners states. The Albuquerque track depends on its big population center.
Hobbs, Sunland Park and Farmington are far from the competition of Indian casinos. Ruidoso is not and finds itself in trouble. Santa Fe, facing six casinos within 50 miles, closed 12 years ago, just before racinos were legalized.
Racino applicants, Raton and Tucumcari will look for Texas money also. In addition, Raton can draw from Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas. Santa Fe would have to depend on its population, plus a large base of tourists. Some Albuquerqueans at the Santa Fe hearing that they would like to come up here for racing.
Raton and Tucumcari have been hit hard economically, and not just from the recent national crisis. Both communities feel it would be a blessing to be awarded a racino.
Both turned out huge crowds for their hearing and put on quite a show. Both are confident that even though they are far from population centers, they can attract a crowd. Both plan hotels near their tracks.
Santa Fe doesn't have any of those problems. Santa Fe Downs was called the best racing facility in the state when it closed. It has been kept up since then and used for various events, so would be ready to go, with the addition of space for slot machines.
And then there is the question about ownership groups. There was talk that the Hobbs racino and the move of the Albuquerque Downs were influenced by big campaign donors to Gov. Bill Richardson.
When it was revealed that Albuquerque auto dealer Don Chalmers is behind the Tucumcari application, tongues started wagging that this was another friend of Bill.
Chalmers may be a friend. He has been appointed by the governor to the Commission on Higher Education and then to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents.
But I can't find any record to indicate that Chalmers has ever donated to anyone but Republican candidates or Republican Party organizations.
Then there is the matter of the Pojoaque Pueblo owning Santa Fe Downs. It is an agreement with New Mexico's Indian gaming tribes that has put a limit on the number of racino licenses that can be awarded. Some ask why the state should give the remaining license to an Indian Pueblo?
Pojoaque says it has the necessary background, experience and finances to run a good operation. And it plans to use its casino mailing list to market the racino.
All three communities have been in the racing business before. Raton had a track from 1946 to 1992. And Tucumcari revealed at its hearing that it was the site of New Mexico's first horse track with pari-mutuel betting in 1938.
WED, 7-30-08

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


Thursday, July 24, 2008

7-28 Energy Independence Requires Us All

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- America has an energy crisis because nearly all of us are hypocrites. Most of us say we want energy independence. Somewhat fewer say we are worried about global warming, Fewer than that are concerned about greenhouse gasses.
And very few of us are motivated to do much about these matters as far as our personal lives are concerned.
It's certainly true in my personal life. We bought our first SUV last fall. It takes us o long road trips in January and February to southern New Mexico, Arizona and California where the weather is warm.
We have room for everything we want to take, plus all those things we have stored for our kids until they were in houses with adequate storage.
The tankety-tank, as my wife calls it, gets 27 miles a gallon on the road and is big enough to compete with the other behemoths we previously couldn't see around. We'll keep it.
We also switched a major portion of our investments to energy stocks when the current administration took over in 2000. I figured those guys were going to be very good to their friends and we might as well be friends. It has worked out nicely.
Others had different reasons for ignoring the energy crisis. Analysts tell us the American culture is built around freedom of movement, self -esteem and endless abundance that sustains our national optimism and nourishes our national character. And it will be very difficult to change.
But cheap gas won't happen again as it did following our first energy crisis 35 years ago. If we would have done more to solve it then, we wouldn't be sending $700 billion out of our economy every year to buy foreign oil now.
It was just that we couldn't bear the thought of being without tail fins, muscle cars and the freedom to drive anywhere, anytime in the biggest monster we could find.
So where is our personal sacrifice? What are we doing ourselves to be a part of making America energy independent?
Last month, I asked that question indirectly and received answers from readers about ways in which they conserve. The most compelling response was an e-mail from Alima Fairchild, a former Minnesotan who was encouraged by the first Earth Day celebration nearly 40 years ago to live a simpler life.
One of her solutions was to move to northern New Mexico, which she often visited, so she wouldn't have to make that long trip anymore. She's now in the Las Vegas area, living a simple life and working with others to revitalize sustainable agriculture. Alima says she wouldn't trade her present life for a condo at Angel Fire, an Escalade and a million bucks.
Charles Gandy, in a Santa Fe New Mexican opinion piece, pledges to walk and bike 10 percent more and drive 10 percent less in a smaller, slower car.
After study, Gandy has decided the governmental energy policies he will support and he will back those candidates who believe accordingly. Gandy suggests googling "National Energy Policy" and using Wikipedia for a good summary.
Americans currently are learning more about America's energy crisis courtesy of Texas energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens. He is spending $58 million on a multimedia campaign to sell his plan to use wind power for generating electricity and natural gas for powering cars.
Pickens says he's doing it for America. Anyone who has watched his hostile corporate takeovers through the years knows that Pickens isn't out to win any Mother Teresa awards. So it won't surprise you to know that he is heavily invested in both wind and natural gas.
But so what, if Pickens gets even richer? If he helps solve our energy troubles, let him have at it. He and partners are investing $12 billion to build the world's largest wind farm across the border near Pampa, Texas.
That's what I call a personal commitment.
MON, 7-28-08

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


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Out of Office

Back on July 22. I'll have a computer. Cell: 505-699-9982.

Friday, July 11, 2008

7-25 Increase Gasoline Tax?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Columns on addressing America's energy needs have brought much response.
Among the additions to my list of what is needed for a comprehensive energy policy are an increased gas tax, natural gas as a vehicle fuel and more emphasis on American's need to sacrifice a little of their good life.
We'll start with a higher gas tax. What? Raise taxes on gas? We're trying to make it cheaper so we can again enjoy using as much of it as we want to continue our present lifestyle.
That's the point, say proponents of a higher gas tax. Gas will never be cheap again. We need to be jolted into changing our lifestyle so we don't depend on it so much.
Other nations have imposed a high tax on gas for years in order to encourage conservation. Most nations don't have big oil reserves so they always have been dependent on foreign oil and have guarded against using too much by imposing high taxes.
Higher gas taxes also help keep roads and bridges in good repair. The Minneapolis bridge collapse a few years ago made us aware of how much our nation's bridges have fallen into disrepair.
Other nations have had $6 gas for years and now are going up to $8, $10 and even $12 a gallon. How do they live with that? Well, they drive smaller cars, to begin with.
That would be difficult in the United States. Cars are a status symbol here. A person's house may look like everyone else's on the block, but with a big SUV or pick up in the driveway, people know that is someone to be reckoned with.
Car makers say the reason they have opposed higher fuel efficiency standards is because that would favor foreign automakers who make smaller cars because their customers aren't into big trucks.
Fuel efficiency standards are a big part of cutting gas use. In 1975, the nation's first fuel economy standards were passed by Congress requiring an increase from 13.8 miles per gallon to 27.5 mpg by 1989..
In 1990, legislation was introduced in Congress to further raise fuel economy to 40 mpg. Furious opposition came from Detroit, from all lawmakers in auto making states and from conservative Republicans. They were successful in blocking the legislation.
Detroit says don't blame the auto industry. Blame the American consumer for wanting cars that are big and safe. Many in the auto industry suggest that raising taxes on gasoline is more effective than mileage standards because it is the easiest way to change buying habits.
Experience overseas has proven that although consumers don't like higher taxes on gasoline, they've adapted. A society can function and grow even with higher fuel prices. People get used to it.
After the 1990 failure of higher mileage standards, the first President Bush proposed a rather substantial gas tax increase, which was whittled back to 5 cents before it passed. And you know what happened to that President Bush when he ran for reelection in 1992.
Experience shows that increasing any taxes associated with people's cars is the most dangerous action in the political world. Gov. Bruce King proposed a modest state gas tax increase in the 1994 Legislature and lost reelection to his fourth term as governor.
There were other reasons too, but the gas tax was what most of the hollering was about. A bill to repeal of that increase was one of Gov. Gary Johnson's first actions after taking over from Gov. King.
President Bill Clinton's only defeat came at the end of his first two-year term as governor of Arkansas. He had signed an increase in motor vehicle license fees. He never made that mistake again.
Supporters of higher federal gas taxes and increased fuel standards missed an excellent opportunity after the Sept. 11 attacks to take action in the name of moving toward energy independence to protect national security.
But there was no call by this President Bush for sacrifice to help win the war on terror. In fact, he urged people to go shopping. I remember well because my wife hasn't yet forgotten.
FRI, 7-25-08

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


Thursday, July 10, 2008

7-23 What To Do With the State Fairgrounds?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Now that the State Fair is losing its race track, what should we do with the extra space?
It appears more certain every day that The Downs at Albuquerque soon will become The Downs at Moriarty. The state Racing Commission has approved the transfer of license. All that remains is acceptance by some pueblos.
That leaves the eastern third of the fairgrounds up for grabs. What should New Mexico do with that big chunk of urban property? The possibilities are endless and Gov. Bill Richardson is open to all suggestions.
Possible uses could involve just the former horse track and casino facilities. They could include the worn out Tingley Coliseum, which is surrounded by the track facility on three sides. Or it could encompass the entire state fairgrounds.
Moving the State Fair has been discussed at times. When it was built 70 years ago, it was east of town. Now it is in the middle of Albuquerque, an urban setting that isn't always comfortable for the fair or for surrounding neighborhoods.
Moriarty has been suggested as a new location. That's where the horse track is moving and there is plenty of room for the fairgrounds too. To boot, it's cowboy country.
The Mesa del Sol planned community being developed by the state and a private company, also has been discussed. It is just south of Albuquerque and closer to its restaurants, hotels and residents who would patronize it.
Some of the State Fair buildings are receiving major renovations, which provides a reason for the fair to stay put but the governor says it doesn't preclude a move.
Possible uses of the land that have been mentioned include a state of the art exhibit center, a world class arena, mixed residential-commercial, an Albuquerque state office complex, or a community green space.
Also on the table is exchanging all or part of the fairgrounds for land elsewhere.
Albuquerqueans would like to see a big arena, world class, of course, located where the track and Tingley Coliseum are now. Duke City voters turned down a ballot measure for a downtown arena they would have to finance. But having the state build one for them would be just great.
And then there are the neighbors of the fairgrounds. Since the fairgrounds were built out in the country in 1938, it is safe to assume that none of the neighbors lived there at the time.
But just as with people who buy near airports, they are incensed about the impact of the fairgrounds on their lives. So they are likely to favor having state taxpayers build them a nice park on the vacated land.
The idea of state funds to benefit Albuquerque is not new. The $400 million RailRunner commuter train has no local contribution, which Spaceport America in southern New Mexico does.
There already is a fair amount of competition for any arenas or exhibit halls the state would build. Rio Rancho built an arena while Albuquerque was talking about it and stole the hockey franchise away. Several casinos in the area also have built major convention facilities.
As would be expected, Gov. Richardson is looking to go big time with the fairgrounds redevelopment. He is seeking ideas and information from developers and other interested companies, consortiums, associations, firms and/or individuals.
The governor suggests that a public-private partnership is the arrangement he would like to see. Last year, he used a similar arrangement to build a terminal for the RailRunner at the state Transportation Department headquarters.
The successful bidder agreed to build a new department headquarters building in return for residential and business rights on the remainder of the property.
The governor ended up having to pull the plug on the arrangement after complaints about the bid going to a major donor and the revelation that people were involved with the Transportation Department on the project who had been indicted in the Bernalillo County Courthouse scandal.
WED, 7-23-08

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


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

7-21 Smelling Like a Statel French Fry?

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Powering our cars with used vegetable oil. What a good idea. If it's not too much extra work and you don't smell like a leftover French fry, it's worth considering. It's free fuel.
It does take some extra work and an initial investment. A car with a gasoline engine can be converted to run on both diesel and vegetable oil for around $3,000. At least one company, in Virginia, is making a conversion kit for a mechanic to install.
Then you need to make a deal with your favorite neighborhood restaurant to take their used vegetable oil off their hands. They have to pay to have it hauled away so it's a win-win situation. And you don't have to buy any more $4 gasoline.
Too good to be true? You're right. The federal government says it's strictly illegal. The Environmental Protection Agency says it must test all fuels before they can be used in vehicles and no one has registered vegetable oil as a fuel.
Now who's going to register vegetable oil as a fuel? The vegetable oil makers don't get anything out of it. I don't know the cost of registering a fuel but I can certainly guess that it is very expensive because that's the way government works.
Normally it would be the industry producing the fuel that would pay for all the tests EPA conducts. But this is a backyard workshop inventors type of deal. There's no one making any money off the fuel
The EPA's answer to this ridiculous situation should be to register the fuel and run the tests itself. Used vegetable oil is an alternative fuel. The government professes to like the idea of alternative fuels
Why would an administration that has its arms wrapped around big oil like alternative fuels? Because oil companies wisely are involved in developing alternative fuels. They prefer to be part of the solution.
This alternative fuel is one which should be enthusiastically encouraged because it is free. But then that may be why oil companies don't like it. They can't make any money from it.
So used vegetable oil is illegal. People who convert their cars face fines of up to $2,750. The garages or companies that convert them are subject to federal fines of $32,500 per violation.
Obviously used vegetable oil is not going to make much of a dent in lowering gas prices or achieving energy independence. But we have to broaden our options as much as possible.
Yes, the EPA needs to assure that what is coming out of the tailpipe is not going to harm the environment or at least not harm it as much as gasoline. Independent studies indicate vegetable oil isn't as harmful as petroleum fuels. And it solves the problem of dumping vegetable oil into landfills.
What does vegetable oil exhaust smell like? Proponents usually say it is a sweet smell. Those who drive the cars usually get teased about the smell. I can't tell. I've been around them but my smeller no longer is what it used to be.
Politicians who want to emphasize their environmental conscientiousness sometimes use vegetable oil in their campaign vehicles.
David Bacon, the Green Party's gubernatorial candidate in 2002 and Public Regulation Commission candidate in 2006, ran his car on vegetable oil.
Don Wiviott, a Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District Democratic nomination last spring, used it in his campaign bus, as I recall.
A problem also exists with state governments that don't want vehicles on our highways that aren't paying any fuel tax for their maintenance. But what about cars now under development that use electricity for fuel? Would taxes on one's electric bill take care of that?
Whatever the tax implications, used vegetable oil should receive government encouragement. Along with pure plant oil and biodiesel, they have been researched since automobiles first took to the roads.
We need every bit of help possible to solve this energy crisis.
MON, 7-21-08

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


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

7-18 State's Casinos and Racinos Have Banner Year

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- New Mexico's casinos and racinos had their best year in 2007, despite the nation's economic downturn and the increased cost of gasoline.
Indian casinos had a 7.5 percent increase in revenue, while horse track/casino operations showed a 2.7 percent increase. Nationally, racinos are the fastest-growing segment of the gambling industry and the word "racino" has been added to Webster's Dictionary.
Further evidence of the rosy outlook is the number of new and expanded casinos going up. The Navajo Nation will get into the gambling business with a casino east of Gallup, followed by another west of Farmington. Permission also has been give to To'hajiilee, just west of Albuquerque, to pursue its own casino plans.
In August Pojoaque Pueblo will open the largest resort hotel in the state, along with a new casino and a convention center expected to take a large share of business away from downtown Santa Fe's new community convention center which will open sometime. Pojoaque and Laguna pueblos both operate three casinos now.
Santa Ana Pueblo, just west of Bernalillo and north of rapidly expanding Rio Rancho, has multimillion dollar plans to expand its casino, restaurant and commercial activities following accolades from national magazines and the return of a top-level golf tournament.
Isleta Pueblo is currently running ads for its new hotel and casino just south of the Albuquerque Sunport. The Fort Sill, OK, Apaches; the Tigua Pueblo of Ysleta, TX, and Jemez Pueblo have been trying to locate off-reservation casinos in the Las Cruces and Deming areas.
The only bummer in casino news is the Mescalero Apache Tribe's problems with a mountain of debt incurred in the rebuilding of its Inn of the Mountain Gods luxury resort hotel and casino west of Ruidoso. The problem is not that business has slowed down, it's the principle and interest payments that are eating them up.
Santa Ana Pueblo experienced the same difficulty in 2002 following its major building program. Sandoval County stepped in to help with refinancing and the problem was solved. Relations between the Mescaleros and Lincoln County never have been as positive so the tribe is trying to solve its problems with a change in leadership of the operation.
The outlook for New Mexico's racinos appears almost as bright as for Indian casinos, despite having to pay 26 percent of their profits to the sate as opposed to the 8 percent paid by Indian casinos.
But the horse tracks are happy to have any additional revenue to offset losses they have been experiencing on the horses since Indian casinos were legalized. The racetrack/casinos are the only legal gambling in New Mexico outside Indian reservations.
The Indian gaming agreements between the state and tribes specify that only six racinos will operate in New Mexico for the next 30 years. That leaves room for one more racino and the New Mexico Racing Commission is reviewing as many as five proposals to be that sixth racino.
Hearings are being conducted this month in Raton on July 10, Pojoaque on July 22 and Tucumcari on July 23. Two more groups of investors may propose racinos in the Deming-Lordsburg area.
Two of the current five casinos have experienced some difficulties. The Downs at Albuquerque, which operates at the New Mexico State Fair, now called Expo New Mexico, has complained that its quarters are too small to even accommodate all of the 750 slot machines allowed racinos.
Recently the state Racing Commission approved a relocation to Moriarty, which plans a $65 million track, casino, hotel, restaurant, truck stop and entertainment space on King ranch property.
Now Ruidoso Downs owner R.D. Hubbard wants to move his track to Las Cruces because of too much competition from the Mescalero tribal casinos. County officials have said they want to do everything they can to keep the racino because the area would be devastated by the loss.
Maybe they should get in touch with the good folks in Sandoval County.

FRI, 7-18-08

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


Monday, July 07, 2008

7-16 Cockfighting Still With Us

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- So what's been happening in the world of chicken fighting in the 13 months since it became illegal?
Not much, judging from what has been in the news. Bernalillo County Sheriff and congressional candidate Darren White has been vocal about a raid his officers conducted last month. They issued two misdemeanor citations.
And last December, down in southern Dona Ana County, 150 officers raided a Christmas Cockfighting Derby, confiscated some chickens and issued four misdemeanor tickets.
News reports of these two raids made them look like major drug busts but instead of the offenders facing 20-year jail sentences, they paid a fine and that was it.
Law enforcement officials aren't especially happy about their orders to raid cockfights. Costs have ranged from $10,000 to $25,000 dollars for the busts, which included use of helicopters. All for a few petty misdemeanor charges.
Officers say they would prefer to use that money for a drug bust or a DWI checkpoint, in which they could have taken 20 dangerous drivers off the road. As one officer was reported saying, "I'd rather save lives than chickens."
Normally law enforcement agencies don't even investigate misdemeanors. But politicians, prodded by animal rights groups, are applying such pressure that resources are being diverted from more serious crimes.
In addition to a state law, New Mexico now has a full-time animal control investigator and a special cockfighting task force. In the 2009 Legislature next January, animal rights groups will ask for an additional $200,000 to finance more positions such as a full-time prosecutor for animal rights cases and for $1.1 million for three new animal custody facilities.
The two raids in Bernalillo and Dona Ana counties weren't the only ones conducted in New Mexico in the past year. The other raids didn't result in anything the authorities wanted to publish.
Cockfight promoters have relocated to clandestine sites on sprawling properties. Lookouts are stationed atop dusty mesas, and speakers, which in the past blared out mariachi music, now carry feeds from police scanners.
New Mexico promoters reportedly still are attracting cockfighters from four of our five neighboring states, where the sport is a felony. Reportedly there are 17 states where cockfighting still is just a misdemeanor. After decades of trying to ban cockfighting in New Mexico, chicken advocates got all they could hope for. But they're sure to be back.
Despite the continuation of cockfighting in New Mexico, enforcement efforts are having some effect. The New Mexico Gamefowl Association took the new law to court claiming tribal, religious and cultural sovereignty to win exemptions from the ban.
That suit lost in the state Supreme Court last December. The Gamefowl Association then filed suit in January claiming economic devastation. That suit was dismissed.
What once was reported to be an $80 million industry in the state is said to be down as much as 70 percent. Farmers who supplemented their income with cockfighting say they may lose their farms.
So the passage of the cockfighting law has had some effect. But it won't end the sport. Prohibition usually doesn't change much. It will cut it down some but it won't stop cockfighting any more than prohibition in the 1920s stopped liquor.
A boost for the cockfighting ban came from the conviction of football star Michael Vick in a dog fighting operation. There are few things closer to many people's hearts than dogs.
Witness billionaire Leona Helmsley, who left $12 million to her dog and the rest of her $6 billion fortune, give or take a billion or two, to dogs. That's 10 times the combined assets of the 7,381 animal-related nonprofit groups in the nation, according to the New York Times. Think of what that could have done for needy kids. Meanwhile, you may want to start a puppy farm and apply for some of that money.
WED, 7-16-08

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


Saturday, July 05, 2008

7-14 Pearce and Udall Sparring on Energy

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Why did Rep. Steve Pearce attack Rep. Tom Udall as well as Rep. Heather Wilson during the primary election campaign? The answer now seems clear.
Rep. Pearce hasn't had any commercials on the air since the June 3 primary election. While he's been busy raising money, he is hoping those commercials linking Udall and Wilson will stick in voters' minds.
Besides, Pearce has to raise money before he can put anything up on TV. He spent himself down to $250,000 to win that closely contested primary. A quarter million bucks won't buy much TV time.
During that period, Udall was sitting pretty, with no primary election opponent, running get-acquainted ads, primarily aimed at southern New Mexico voters and piling up a $2.8 million bank balance -- over 10 times that of Pearce.
Once the primary election was wrapped up, Udall didn't miss a beat. His ads continued without pause and are expected to continue straight through to November.
So are Pearce's ads linking Wilson and Udall as fellow liberals carrying him over the dead space of the past several weeks? They should have some positive effect.
Unlike most candidates, Pearce is not running to the middle now that he needs to attract independents and Democrat votes. So his message remains consistent, banking on New Mexico having enough committed conservatives to carry him through the general election.
Pearce will attract a significant number of conservative independent and Democrat votes and that could make the race close. But what about the moderate Republicans who supported Wilson?
Since Pearce linked Wilson with Udall during the primary, how easy will it be for Pearce to court Wilson's voters over to his side in the general election? Will Wilson's voters see Udall as being more like Wilson than Pearce would be?
Polls so far show Udall leading Pearce handily. Udall may be pouring on those television ads, hoping to dampen Pearce's current fundraising ability.
If polls stay in the 60-35 range where they are now, Pearce may not find himself in the top tier of the Republican National Committee's rankings. But then it could have the same effect on Udall's priority with national Democrats. Why give much help when he really doesn't need it?
Pearce is bravely testing whether a consistent conservative can win a statewide top-of-the-ballot race in New Mexico. Pete Domenici and all the Republican governors elected in my lifetime have run as moderates. That's something Heather Wilson stressed in her primary election campaign. She thought she could run a closer race with Udall.
Rep. Udall now has gone on the offensive with his latest ad. He attacks President George Bush rather than Pearce. He never mentions Pearce by name, thus not giving him any of the name recognition he needs to build. But Udall does tie his opponent to the unpopular Bush.
But it can't all be that bright for Udall. Republicans hold that Senate seat now and they will fight hard to keep it. Pearce will have the upper hand on the issue of oil drilling on land Udall wants to keep them off. Polls indicate New Mexicans think more drilling is part of the answer to high gas prices.
Pearce wants to debate Udall on energy issues. Udall says it isn't time for that yet. Several debates are in the works for this fall. Meanwhile the two already have a lively debate going in the press. Each is blaming the other for high gasoline prices.
Udall says a debate isn't necessary because people know his record and they know Pearce's record. Oddly, that is a dodge that 2nd Congressional District incumbents have used for years to completely avoid debates with challengers.
But now that Pearce appears to be the underdog, he wants to get on with the debating. The reason for Udall's reluctance to debate now could be that his positions are changing to accommodate some offshore drilling and increased refining capacity.
MON, 7-14-08

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


7-11 Gov. Richardson Stays in the News

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- June isn't normally a month for politics in New Mexico but during the month since our primary elections, much has been happening.
We'll begin with Gov. Bill Richardson who has been struggling to remain on the national, and even international, stage -- and doing a pretty good job at it.
Gov. Richardson still has his eye on becoming Sen. Barack Obama's vice-presidential selection. Reportedly he has done reasonably well in polls taken at state Democratic conventions around the nation. It is very possible many were looking at him as a vice-presidential candidate all along.
Recently, Richardson has been selected by Obama to give the Saturday Democratic radio address and to appear on CBS's Face the Nation in his behalf.
Otherwise the news hasn't been especially good for our governor. He doesn't appear on the lists of the know-it-all Washingtonians who follow such things.
At the height of the presidential nomination process, foreign policy was the major issue and Richardson was being eyed seriously for the second slot.
Now we're back to "It's the economy, stupid" and the spotlight is turning toward President Bill Clinton's financial advisers, who helped bring the economy back in the 1990s.
It also doesn't help that Obama's need to court Sen. Hillary Clinton's supporters doesn't fit well with Richardson's decision to endorse Obama and his subsequent placement at the top of the Clintons' purported enemies list.
Next on Richardson's list of dream jobs is secretary of state. But now, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has expressed interest in that job and there are sure to be other big names.
Richardson dropped a bomb recently when he spoke of an interest in possibly running for a third term as governor in 2014. That immediately raised the question of what happens if a Democrat wins the governor's office in 2010. Would Richardson take on that person?
Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has loudly announced her plans to run in 2010 and has raised big bucks for her campaign. Would Richardson really take her on? Does he think a Democrat won't win the governor's race two years from now?
Actually, Richardson could wait until 2018 to run for governor. He'll be 70 by then but indications point to him being an energetic 70. And as we know 70 isn't too old to run for major office.
Speaking of energetic, despite a travel schedule that continues to take him throughout the nation and world on a constant basis, Richardson insists he still plans to call a special session of the New Mexico Legislature in September to consider health care.
Never mind that all lawmakers will be in the home stretch of their own reelection campaigns and won't be anxious to return to Santa Fe. And never mind that Richardson never has fared well in special sessions he has called. He's going to do it anyway.
Even though Richardson has been governing in absentia for much of the past year, he still keeps an eye on New Mexico and he's still churning out ideas.
Most recently, the governor has been voicing ideas to reduce fuel costs for state employees. He has signed an executive order directing the state Personnel Office to develop guidelines for "teleworking" and alternative work hours by July 15. Agencies then will adopt policies in September.
The governor also says he wants to increase teleconferencing, videoconferencing, mass transit and investigate buying a pool of state-owned bicycles for employees to share.
Richardson's alternatives, at least at this time, do not include "telecommuting," in which employees work from home most of the time. His "teleworking" proposal would allow state employees to work at offices closer to home than their usual workplace.
Richardson says strict policies will govern who works where and when because he wants to put the public's access to state government first. He also wants to decrease the number of state cars used for commuting.
FRI, 7-11-08

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


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

7-9 Immigrants Aid Our Economy

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Recently I wrote about census undercounts being partially due to illegal immigrants who don't return forms because they can get free services anyway.
I didn't make it up. I had seen it in print. And I read and hear almost every day about the free government services immigrants scam off the American taxpayer.
I now can tell you there are people in our state who don't believe those claims. And they have figures to back up their arguments.
One set of those figures were released last week by the New Mexico Voices for Children. The report is entitled "Immigrants Contribute To, Not Drain New Mexico's Economy." It has been an eye-opener for me. . You can read it at

I learned that immigrants aren't eligible to receive federal monetary assistance, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, food stamps, child care subsidies, assistance to needy families or other welfare benefits. Even legal immigrants must wait five years to be eligible for these benefits
But the feds do mandate that all immigrant children receive a public education and emergency medical care. Those are primarily state and local expenses.
It's difficult to argue that educating every person in our country is a bad idea. An educated work force is important regardless of whether it is native or immigrant. And statistics show that immigrants use emergency rooms at a lower rate than native-born residents.
So how much do we shell out for these immigrants' education? The answer, according to the study cited above, is nothing. Immigrants who receive a paycheck have Social Security payments deducted for benefits they never will receive. Most of them rent their living quarters and landlords include property tax payments in the rent.
Those two payments equal more than the cost of public schools, according to the study. In addition, those who receive paychecks also have income tax deducted. They can file to get their money back, but few do.
Although it is alleged that many criminals sneak across our borders and are a threat to national security, the numbers don't bear that out. Illegal immigrants know what will happen to them if they are apprehended. Because technically they are criminals already for being in our country illegally.
The study also found that a higher percentage of immigrants are employed than native-born residents. In short, immigrants work hard for low wages. They work in the private sector or are self employed. Few have government jobs.
Although the focus is on immigrants across our southern border, many are from Europe, Asia and Africa. Forty percent of immigrants came through legal channels but overstayed their visas.
With America's current restrictive immigration policies, foreign students in our country on visas must return to their countries as soon as their studies are over even if they hold degrees in areas which would make them valuable to our country.
Microsoft's Bill Gates has testified to Congress that if our immigration policies were eased, he wouldn't have to outsource technical work to foreign countries.
The solution to our immigration problems must be comprehensive. Just as with energy policy, spot reforms to benefit narrow sectors, won't pass Congress. Everyone will have to give a little.
America needs a larger work force than it has now. That need will become much greater as baby boomers retire. Only immigration will save Social Security. Those workers have to come from somewhere.
America's history is dotted with periods of anti-immigration sentiment. There have been reactions to Germans, Irish, Italians and Chinese among others. There were worries about those who didn't speak English destroying our national language. So far, it never has approached becoming even a minor problem.
And it won't this time. Also, don't waste much time worrying about Mexican immigrants secretly being here to take back the U.S. Southwest, which Mexico lost 160 years ago. They are here to work.
WED, 7-9-08

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


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

7-7 column

The column I sent earlier this morning should have been dated 7-7. I'm working on 7-9 now. Figure you'd like to get a little ahead for big weekend.

7-9 What Really Happened on July 7, 1947?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- What do you suppose really happened on July 7, 1947 at the Roswell Army Air Force Base to cause Col. William "Butch" Blanchard to announce that a flying disk had been captured?
An announcement of that magnitude would have to be carefully considered and not issued without direction from the highest authorities in Washington, D.C.
The mystery of what happened at Roswell hinges on what took place behind closed doors that day. Official records indicate that absolutely nothing out of the ordinary occurred at the base during the entire week. Everyone who believes that, please raise your hand.
No mention is made of anything unusual being brought to the base. There is no mention of a flying disk press release, no mention of calls from throughout the world seeking further information, no mention of calls to Eighth Army Headquarters in Fort Worth or to top officials in Washington, D.C.
There are people who believe the Army's story. I put them in the same category as the crazies who talk about bodies being found. There had to be much activity. Numerous personal accounts tell of a flurry of officials and workers who flew in for some purpose.
Placitas, N.M., UFO researcher Karl Pflock considered the question of why Col. Blanchard issued the news release and concluded that Blanchard was a "loose cannon."
My guess is that Pflock felt he had exhausted all other explanations. Blanchard simply overreacted. That's possible except that it doesn't explain why such an embarrassment to the military didn't end Blanchard's career. That's what normally happens.
But Blanchard, who disappeared for awhile after issuing the news release, continued his rapid advance through the ranks in increasingly responsible positions. In 1965, he became vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force and promoted to a four-star general.
Blanchard was considered a sure bet to become chief of staff when he suddenly died on May 31, 1966 of a massive heart attack in his office at the Pentagon. That sounds more like someone who always played by the book and was part of the team.
It appears someone much higher in the chain of command may have badly misjudged the best response and likely paid for it with an early retirement.
The military's latest explanation is that it was covering up the discovery of a spy balloon it was developing to detect Soviet nuclear testing. Some of the material found fit that description. But those balloons were landing all over New Mexico at the time and shouldn't have triggered that big a reaction from the Army.
My inexpert guess is that something else fell out of the sky in the days before July 7. Besides spy balloons, research was being conducted in New Mexico on much more advanced aircraft using German scientists captured two years before.
The Soviets also had taken their share of scientists and a feverish race was on to see whose scientists would be first to perfect some of the advanced projects Hitler had his scientists developing.
One of those projects was revealed in a November 2000 Popular Mechanics article based on information released by the Air Force in 1997, fifty years after the Roswell crash.
In the late '40s, we were developing what was called a Lenticular Reentry Vehicle. It was a modified disk, flat across the back, and partially nuclear powered. The technology for takeoff had not been developed so it was designed to be taken by a heavy-lift balloon to 170,000 feet and released.
At the 1997 Roswell UFO Festival, a film company had a display depicting the '47 UFO crash. The spacecraft was shaped just like the pictures in the Popular Mechanics article.
A retired aircraft mechanic from Alamogordo, who was employed at White Sands Proving Grounds in 1947, had been telling me for a year that he had worked on spacecraft there and he was sure one of them was what crashed at Roswell.
He just happened to be at the exhibit the same time I was. He pulled me aside and said he worked on a craft just like that.
MON, 7-09-08

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