Inside the Capitol

Thursday, October 21, 2010

11-1 Campaign Wrap Up

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Today's date is all zeros and ones. Computer programmers must be celebrating this special day for the binary code. As they say in the business, it's digitalicious.
Speaking of computer folks, they have been having a ball figuring out how we're going to vote tomorrow. It has some Republicans betting on a landslide. Others are worried that expectations are being raised too high, which could make a narrow victory look like a loss.
Another worry is the number of people who have dropped their land lines in favor of cell phones. Those people mainly are young and maybe more likely to vote Democrat. Some polls don't call cell phone numbers. Could that be skewing these polls toward Republicans?
Cell phones or no, the important question is whether these youngsters will turn out to vote. Many of them sound pretty disaffected.
Whatever happens, we're likely to have some big changes. Very likely we'll have a Republican U.S. House and a Republican New Mexico governor.
Changes as big as we've seen the past two national elections, and probably this one also, have seldom ever been seen in our nation's history.
Our world is changing fast. Too fast for many. In the past six years both sides of the political spectrum have pleaded to "give us our country back."
Disasters such as 9/11, Katrina and the gulf oil spill have exposed weaknesses in government. An increasing percentage of Americans and New Mexicans are saying our country and state are headed in the wrong direction.
We have quickly gone from an industrial to a high tech to a global economy with sometimes disastrous effects on jobs. We are becoming a majority minority country. And we've been engaged for eight years in two seemingly endless wars.
New Mexico has been led the past eight years by a governor who promised bold initiatives. Now that we've seen those initiatives, we aren't so sure we like them.
Now we have candidates for governor and Congress promising to change all those recent changes. And most voters are likely to take them up on the deal.
Following the 2008 elections, pundits were proclaiming that the Republican Party was dead. Would it ever be able to come back as a viable party, they asked.
Soon the same questions will be asked about the Democratic Party. And the correct answer will be yes, it will come back. Democrats will have Republicans to blame for voter dissatisfactions.
It is a never-ending cycle. The difference now is that those cycles have been compressed to the point they are happening every two years. No wonder our heads are spinning.
One factor that probably won't change for New Mexicans this year is election of all Democrats to the down-ballot statewide races -- or close to it.
You've barely heard of the incumbents and you likely never have heard of their Republican challengers -- even if you are a Republican.
In such a situation, Democrats will almost always vote for the Democrats and Republicans for Republicans. Independents won't vote. And since half of New Mexico voters are Democrat and only a third are Republicans, the outcome is easy to forecast.
The secretary of state race has received enough media coverage that voters might be able to remember which is Mary Herrera and which is Dianna Duran.
The attorney general race includes incumbent Gary King, whose father was governor for most of our lives. His opponent, Matt Chandler, is running TV ads for something -- maybe a future race.
Ray Powell is running for state land commissioner. Ten years wasn't enough. Matt Rush has raised more money -- but not enough.
Auditor Hector Balderas is opposed by Errol Chavez.
And treasurer James Lewis, with the longest resume in state government, is opposed by Jim Schoonover. Who?
All these offices should be appointive, as they are at the federal level.
MON, 11-01-10

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

Jeanette and I will be visiting Maui until election day making arrangements for our 50th wedding anniversary celebration the first week in May. You're all invited. Won't have my computer but will have my cell: 505-699-9982.
I'll miss Nov. 3 column and that's it.
Aloha, Jay

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10-29 Happy Halloween

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- In this Halloween season it's a relief that every corner of New Mexico has enough scary ghost stories to help us forget all the creepy political ads we constantly are subjected to this time of year.
La Llorona turns up everywhere in the state as an eerie Hispanic warning to children not to play near ditches. But most of New Mexico's ghost stories are more localized, involving a death or some other tragic event that occurred in the area.
Today we'll focus on Santa Fe, our capital city, which has had 400 years to accumulate a body of strange tales that might help explain some of the laws and regulations that flow out of this city.
Santa Fe is one of the ghostliest towns in the nation, according to a national tourist publication, which notes that Santa Fe is one of the few places where ghost walks and tours are available any day of the year.
And many of those ghosts haunt buildings where state business is transacted or where lawmakers stay while in the Capital City doing their business.
One of the most popular spots on ghost tours is La Posada, where the spirit of Julia Staab has roamed the hallways for over 100 years. Tour groups are taken to room 256, where a knock on the door is said to sometimes bring an answer from Julia.
Mrs. Staab does not like her room to be disturbed. During renovations, workers find their tools and materials strewn about or missing and some even claim to have seen her.
Bar tenders say glasses mysteriously fall off shelves and waitresses tell of their trays sometimes mysteriously being knocked from their hands.
The story is that after the death of one of her babies, she became so despondent she confined herself to that room in what was then a palatial mansion where she fabulously entertained many guests for years.
"Unsolved Mysteries" and other TV shows have featured La Posada, along with stories from La Fonda, the St. Francis and Inn at Loretto -- all popular lawmaker hangouts.
Another popular stop on the ghost tours is the former ballroom in Sena Plaza on Palace Avenue, where the territorial Legislature met for several years after the state's second capitol building was torched in the late 18880s.
But the most famous Santa Fe ghost stories involve the state's two most recent capitol buildings. The first involves the ever-popular La Llorona.
According to the Santa Fe version of the legend, in the early days of the city, a beautiful woman grew tired of her children and threw them to their death in the Santa Fe River.
After an immediate change of heart, she chased along the riverbank trying to save them but tripped, hit her head on a rock and died also.
Because of her evil deed, the priest would not allow her to be buried in the church cemetery but ordered she be buried near the river where she died.
Unfortunately, the state of New Mexico later built its capitol on that spot. For many years custodians have reported sightings of La Llorona -- the crying woman -- as she leaves her resting place on the nightly search for her children.
Our newest capitol was built in 1967 and when the story is retold, somehow La Llorona has moved , along with the seat of government, to the new capitol.
When that capitol building was renovated in 1991, the governor and Legislature moved across the street to the Public Employees Retirement Association building. The massive structure, with two floors below ground, sits atop Santa Fe's first cemetery -- the one denied to La Llorona.
Ever since that state office building opened in the early 1960s, employees have reported elevators going up and down with no one in them, lights flicking on and off, doors opening and closing mysteriously, and drafts coming from nowhere in the windowless bottom floors.
Someday an enterprising state employee will ask for hazardous duty pay.
FRI, 10-29-10

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


Monday, October 18, 2010

10-27 GOP To Gain in Statehouse Elections

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Unlike Congress, the New Mexico Legislature is not teetering on the brink of a Republican coup this year. Democrats have firm control of both houses.
Democratic control of the Senate is assured for next year because no Senate terms expire this year. Senators like it that way. All the statewide offices are up for election this year. So senators can take a free shot at them without having to relinquish their Senate seats.
This year, Sen. Dianna Duran is the GOP nominee for secretary of state. Sens. Linda Lopez and Jerry Ortiz y Pino ran for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. And Sen. Linda Lovejoy is running for president of the Navajo Nation.
Rep. Janice Arnold Jones, on the other hand, had to give up her House seat in order to run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Democrats have a 45-25 edge in House seats going into the election. In order to gain a majority, Republicans would have to win 11 democratic seats and lose none.
Such a feat might be possible somewhere but it is unlikely in New Mexico. Our state is ranked 42 in electoral competitiveness. That ranking comes because our lawmakers have no term limits.
They get to design their own district boundaries so they design them for life. That means Democrats design safe Democratic districts and Republicans design safe Republican districts.
When outside, non-partisan bodies design legislative districts, the goal usually is to make all districts as competitive as possible. There are exceptions, such as creating districts in which minority candidates have a shot at winning.
There are other factors involved in redistricting, which we will talk about at length when that time draws near, probably late next year. For now, we'll just say the political makeup of the two legislative houses and the governor's office make this a very high stakes election.
Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority. In the House, that would mean a 47-23 vote, making it necessary for Democrats to pick up two additional seats in the House.
Democrats have a few seats targeted to pick up. But Republicans have even more seats targeted and have a much higher likelihood of succeeding.
Republicans lost three seats two years ago in the Democratic landslide. They will make an all-out effort to regain those plus pick up a few more. Some generous Republican oil money is being put into those races.
Republicans are putting up more challengers for House seats this year than they have in a decade. But they don't have a very large number of seats to work with. Of 70 House races, only 33 are contested in the general election. Three are open seats, with no incumbent. Seven are held by Republicans and the other 23 have Democratic incumbents.
Most of the political strategizing now seems to assume we will have a Republican governor. Voters have long shown a preference for checks and balances.
Since there now seems little chance for a Democratic governor and since there is little and no hope for a Republican House and Senate, independent voters, on whom most races depend, may be pretty happy already. This means legislative races may be decided more on local issues.
One other factor that must be considered in reapportioning decisions is the courts. Anyone or any group that can show a legitimate interest can challenge redistricting results in court. In New Mexico, courts often have made the final decision about where lines are drawn.
A decade ago the court decided the shape of our three congressional districts. The judicial choice changed as little as possible.
Former Gov. Bruce King happened to be in office during the 1971, 1981 and 1991 redistrictings. His advice to both sides always was to "keep it within the fence posts."
In other words, let's treat everybody right. And that's somewhat the way things turned out.
WED, 10-27-10

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


Sunday, October 17, 2010

10-25 All Politics Is Local?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- "All politics is local." It's a famous warning by former U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill. It is an admonition not to lose touch with local voters and not to forget that local issues mean the most to those voters.
But that maxim has taken a beating the past two elections and may suffer even more in 2010. U.S. Rep Newt Gingrich gave it a big kick in the head back in 1994 when he led the effort that took the House and Senate from Democrats halfway through President Bill Clinton's first term in office.
Rep. Gingrich nationalized politics that year by writing a Contract With America, which promised to reform Congress, Social Security, welfare and tort law, balance the budget and give tax breaks to small business.
The contract captured American's minds. I've told the story before of New Mexico's Rep. Steve Schiff tracking me down on a rural beach in Hawaii with no phone and no TV to excitedly tell me that Rep Gingrich had developed an ingenious plan to take back Congress for the first time in four decades.
It worked, as 367 Republican House candidates, incumbents and non-incumbents, stood on the steps of Congress and signed the contract. Historians tell us it was the first nationalized congressional election since 1918.
President Bill Clinton took the bait, responding to the Contract and Republicans swept to victory, taking advantage of Clinton's widespread unpopularity.
True to their Contract, Gingrich & Co. introduced 10 bills implementing the Contract during the first 100 days of Congress. All of them passed except the bill imposing term limits. Most of the bills either died in the Republican Senate or were vetoed by Clinton.
But then Clinton grabbed the advantage, introducing bills of his own implementing the Contract. Through a method he called triangulation, Clinton played Republicans and Democrats against each other.
He not only succeeded in getting most of the bills passed but took credit for them and won reelection in 1996.
Ten years later , Democrats managed to nationalize congressional elections, playing off the unpopularity of the two wars we were fighting, to take back Congress. Two years later, they widened their congressional margins with the help of Barack Obama's call for change.
Now 2010, and House Republicans are employing Gingrich's 1994 strategy with a Pledge to America.
The Pledge isn't as specific about what it will do or how it will do it if Republicans take back the House. Essentially it talks more about what it will undo, which is everything that has happened in the past two years.
But it did succeed in drawing immediate reaction from President Obama, a big step in nationalizing this election. Since then, talk of the Pledge has subsided but there are numerous indications it is working.
Democrats Martin Heinrich and Harry Teague began with campaign ads about all the good things they are doing within their congressional districts.
Now they have been drawn into defending votes in Washington and their support for the Wicked Witch of the West, Nancy Pelosi.
Xenophobic efforts to portray Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez as a Tejana, and not one of us, appear to be backfiring.
Out-of-state money is giving a big boost to Republican candidates since last spring when the U.S. Supreme court ruled corporations can spend all the money they want on political campaigns.
Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is giving a national flavor to campaigns, traveling around the country making endorsements.
Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell is said not to even have a campaign office. Her entire campaign evidently revolves around good and bad reviews she gets from national appearances on television and radio.
MON< 10-25-10

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


Saturday, October 16, 2010

10-22 Let's Help Our Military

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Here we go again. Doing it to ourselves and our country. This time it's complaints about Air Force planes flying overhead on training missions in northern New Mexico.
Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis is now flying C-130 transports and CV-22 Ospreys and needs to fly training missions over the northern part of our state because it is similar to the terrain in Afghanistan.
Now that our nation has become so civilized, it is necessary for the government to hold hearings before doing anything to help protect us. It is a good idea. The White Sands ranchers had no choice but to move when the government decided to create the Alamogordo Bombing Range during World War II.
That bombing range is now White Sands Missile Range and the ranchers still are not back on their land and they never will be. In the process, the ranchers were treated quite poorly.
But the situation is different now. When the government wants to do anything that will affect our lives, it has to work with those affected. In the present instance, it is conducting environmental assessment hearings in areas the planes will be flying over.
The Cannon Air Base representatives are getting quite an earful. Almost no one is turning out to say thanks for what you're doing to defend our country and we want to do our part.
Instead, nearly all the testimony is that the flights will endanger our health, safety, air quality, property values, cultural and historic resources, physical and biological sciences and, wind farms. Yes, wind farms. I thought those folks were against wind farms too.
It's unfortunate transports and ospreys don't bomb or strafe. They could wipe out wind turbines as part of their training. But transports and ospreys are pretty harmless. It's not as though they break any sound barriers to jolt us awake. They just drone by.
The Cannon group reports that with all of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado to use for training flights, they won't be flying over the same areas that often. They will avoid populated areas, airports, noise sensitive areas and wilderness areas.
Nevertheless, the Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Taos county commissions, along with the Taos Town Council and the Las Vegas City Council already have passed resolutions opposing the flights.
And a group from Harding County showed up at one hearing to say they are worried that with all these communities opposing the flyovers, they are going to be the only place left to fly over.
Another round of base closing hearings is expected to begin next year. Cannon already has been downgraded from flying jets. One of the items the Base Realignment and Closing Commission considers is public acceptance. Hostility toward the training flights won't help.
Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque likely will be hurt when the BRAC Commissions looks at the resolution introduced by the four Democrats on the city council to move all the nuclear weapons stored there to Texas. And we aren't even supposed to know about those nukes.
Twenty years ago, the government held hearings in cities along the proposed route from Los Alamos to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.
People turned out to tell how terrified they were of those trucks and to please let them know when one was coming through town so they could hide in their house or head for the hills.
Our house was about a block from the route until the bypass was finished. We survived quite nicely. It got me to thinking that ever since 1943, unmarked trucks had been coming through Santa Fe carrying nuclear material to and from Los Alamos. And we survived.
Imagine if we had to have a year or two of hearings on the Manhattan Project. Germany, Japan and the USSR would all have beaten us to the bomb. And where would we be now if that had happened?
FRI, 10-22-10WED, 12-6-00

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


Thursday, October 14, 2010

10-20 Is GOP Missing a Good Bet?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Are New Mexico Republicans taking a pass on winning the secretary of state race? With the troubles incumbent Mary Herrera is having, an all-out GOP effort could win it for the first time in 80 years.
It's not that Republican leaders are ignoring the race. GOP challenger Sen. Dianna Duran is leading Herrera in fundraising, banking over $110,000. Of that amount, the state GOP chipped in $25,000 and state Republican chairman Harvey Yates' oil company tossed in another $5,000.
But four years ago, Republicans targeted the secretary of state campaign with $500,000. Former Albuquerque city councilor Vickie Perea was the GOP candidate then. She was a highly respected former Democrat and former mayoral candidate.
Duran doesn't have quite those credentials but she is a former Otero County clerk and current state Senator. And she has been the GOP secretary of state nominee previously.
Herrera ran the Bernalillo County Clerk's office smoothly after the previous clerk often had unexpected difficulties. She moved into the secretary of state's job four years ago and settled down the chaos in that office.
But then, her problems started. She's had five election directors in four years. The fourth director accused her of cronyism and possible violations of law. She then fired two other top employees who had gone to the FBI with complaints of possible criminal behavior.
Six Democratic county clerks from around the state have turned against her, joining the Democrats for Duran organization. Herrera has asked the state police to check her office for electronic bugs and has used the state public-records law to obtain emails between her staff and hostile county clerks.
With all that ammunition, Duran's campaign could have been pounding Herrera for months with television ads to make the public aware of Herrera's missteps. But as of this writing, the ads still haven't started.
So what's up with the state GOP? Blogger Joe Monahan thinks they want to let sleeping Democrats lie. If they bring in heavy artillery to shake things up, they likely will awaken sleeping donkeys and increase Democratic turnout, which is expected to be very low.
Monahan's theory also explains the questions I posed in a recent column about the third congressional district being ignored by GOP leaders despite a strong performance by their candidate Tom Mullins. Northern Democrats are expected to have a very low turnout.
As the theory goes, Republicans at the state and national levels are putting all their eggs in the New Mexico gubernatorial basket. That's because their candidate, Susana Martinez, can stop a Democratic Legislature from having their way with congressional and legislative redistricting next year.
A depressed turnout among Democrats coupled with an expected good year for Republicans might allow the GOP to pick up some unexpected victories. But an all-out push in any of those races might rattle enough Democratic cages to turn out the troops.
Four years ago, when Gov. Bill Richardson was on his way to winning almost every county in the state, the situation was far different. Republicans didn't have to worry about keeping quiet in the down-ballot races because Democrats already were energized.
Republicans won one of those statewide races that year when Patrick Lyons took the land commissioner race. This year, it appears Republicans will be happy with just getting their gubernatorial candidate into office.
Not long after the primary elections last June, defeated Republican gubernatorial candidates Allen Weh and Doug Turner announced they would be helping Duran raise money for her secretary of state contest.
The announcement was considered significant. It meant Martinez hadn't attracted them to her side and it signaled some significant financial help for Duran.
But the help hasn't appeared to be that significant. Could they have been called off the effort by GOP leaders?
WED, 10-20-10

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


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10-18 Constitutional Amendments and Bond Issues

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- This year, New Mexicans have the opportunity to vote on five constitutional amendments and four bond issues in addition to all the state and local candidates on the ballot.
You may feel it a bother to read the small print on the reverse side of the ballot but this is the one part of state government in which citizens actually get a direct vote on issues facing the state.
The rest of the ballot is just voting on the people who will make all the decisions for us. Several states have a referendum process in which groups can collect petition signatures to get items on the ballot. Arizona and California are two of those states. Their ballots involve multiple pages of questions accompanied by instruction booklets.
Amendment #1 allows the state to create a scholarship program for veterans of conflicts since 1990. Such a program currently exists for Vietnam veterans. Why were veterans of conflicts between 1975 and 1990 left out? It's ripe for litigation.
Amendment #2 allows elected county officials 12 years in office instead of eight. It's an argument of whether experience or new ideas are better. Incumbents can be voted out but history tells us they have an advantage.
Amendment #3 is another attempt at updating archaic language in the 1912 Constitution. It should be done but unfortunately, an amendment including everything that should be updated is far too broad to avoid litigation. It is a topic for a constitutional convention.
Amendment #4 provides a tax exemption for property of veterans' organizations. If passed, it likely will encourage other social organizations to seek similar benefits.
Amendment #5 would allow the appointment of former legislators to high public offices during the term in which they were elected. The practice has been prohibited by our Constitution since statehood as a protection against corruption. Recent experience indicates the possibility still exists. This is not a good time to be considering such a change.
Every two years, at general elections, voters are asked to approve statewide bond issues for building construction and purchase of materials and equipment.
The Legislature has three sources of funds for capital projects. One is state budget surpluses. There was no such thing this year. Another is severance taxes on the minerals "severed" from our state lands and the third is from statewide bond issues approved by voters and paid for through property taxes.
Understandably, the most popular projects are the ones put to a vote. The ones financed by severance tax bonds are the "pork" projects we hear about every legislative session.
Typically, the projects the public gets to vote on are senior citizen centers, libraries, public schools and higher education. These bonds usually always pass because they have strong constituencies behind them. Bonds for other purposes usually fail.
Some counties seldom ever approve any bond issues, in good times or bad. Other counties, usually with higher education institutions, nearly always pass all the bonds.
Bond Issue A is for senior citizen facility improvements, construction and equipment acquisition projects. These bonds have never failed and probably won't. Seniors vote. Polling places often are at senior centers. Seniors rule. Annual additional cost: 50 cents per $100,000 valuation.
Bond Issue B is for higher education, public school, tribal and public library acquisitions. The state's libraries have an exceptional organization that promotes these bonds. They have passed for the 20 years they group has been keeping records. Annual additional cost: 45 cents per $100,000 valuation.
Bond Issue C. is for pre-kindergarten classrooms and for public school instructional materials. Annual additional cost: 33 cents per $100,000 valuation.
Bond Issue D is for capital expenditures at higher education institutions and special schools. Annual additional cost: $9.98 per $100,000 valuation.
MON, 10-18-10

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


Monday, October 11, 2010

10-15 An Overlooked Congressional Race?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Could there be a huge upset in the 3rd Congressional District this year? The little bit of polling that has been done makes the race appear to be one of the closest of the state's major contests.
The Albuquerque Journal has polled the races for governor and the 1st and 2nd congressional districts twice already this fall but has omitted polling the 3rd Congressional District, represented by Democrat Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.
Republican Tom Mullins of Farmington has received no financial help from the Republican National Committee, which didn't even bother congratulating him on his primary election victory when it congratulated the winners in the other two districts.
When House Republican leader John Boehner visited New Mexico to help raise funds for congressional candidates Jon Barela and Steve Pearce, he ignored Tom Mullins.
But a poll recently conducted by the Daily Kos, a popular left-leaning website, shows Lujan leading Mullins by a margin of only 49 percent to 43 percent.
That's closer than the seven point difference the Journal found for Rep. Martin Heinrich over Jon Barela or the lead of Susana Martinez over Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.
So why is no one paying attention to Tom Mullins? Well, the 3rd Congressional district is 55 percent Democrat and only 28 percent Republican. It is the district Gov. Bill Richardson first held and Sen. Tom Udall most recently held.
In between, Republican Bill Redmond was elected to complete Richardson's term when he became our United Nations ambassador. It was a low-turnout special election, with a Green Party candidate also in the race and a Democratic nominee with ethics issues. Eighteen months later Udall beat Redmond handily.
Two years ago, Rep. Lujan won election by a 57-43 margin. It was a comfortable victory but not as big as might be expected with almost a 2-1 voter registration margin.
What is holding Lujan back from going well over the magic 50 percent figure? It's that 17 percent that aren't Republicans or Democrats. They are breaking heavily for Mullins.
There also is some restlessness among Democrats in Lujan's home area. His father, state House Speaker Ben Lujan, won an extremely close primary election race against a fellow Democrat last June.
Rep. Lujan has not stirred up any controversy in his first term as a member of Congress. He and his staff have worked tirelessly handling constituent services and protecting the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis.
But still, Tom Mullins has done well on his own. Is there any chance a big effort on the part of the state and national GOP might put him over the top?
Reports indicate the Republican National Committee is having to borrow money to keep afloat. But some independent expenditure committees authorized by a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court are bringing in tons of money.
Former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove has a committee that is giving $50 million to Republican Senate challengers in key districts. With a little of that money, Mullins might get some bump. He says his internal polls show him only 3-5 percent behind.
Mullins has been active with the Tea Party. Maybe Sarah Palin could weigh in for him as she has done for governor candidate Susana Martinez and congressional candidate Steve Pearce.
But GOP leaders give no sign of thinking the race is winnable. And they're not likely to pass up any good deals in their effort to regain a majority in the U.S. House.
Since Lujan is so close to 50 percent, in the one poll we have seen, Mullins would have to take almost all the 8 percent undecided voters to pull it out.
But the Albuquerque Journal appears to be trying to cover that race a little better. A few days after release of the Daily Kos poll, the paper ran four lengthy articles on the race beginning at the top of the front page of its Sunday edition.
FRI, 10-15-10

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


Thursday, October 07, 2010

10-13 What's Up With Governor?

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- What is Gov. Bill Richardson up to? What will he be doing during his last two and a half months in office? We know he can't sit still so his final months are bound to be busy.
Will he stay in Santa Fe as he says he will or will he leave for something more exciting? Will he make bold moves that will deeply affect our state or will he concentrate on finding a job or polishing his legacy?
Gov. Richardson occasionally gives hints. What other governor, here or anywhere, holds a garage sale three months before going out of office? Why not wait until his term ends? Do the Richardson's want to make a quick getaway?
The garage sale was called an estate sale but that doesn't sound like Bill. It's too final. It's probably first lady Barbara's doings. She wouldn't mind putting an end to the Santa Fe phase of her life.
Some of the sale items were revealing. A large number of bolo ties and women's turquoise jewelry items were for sale, along with Nambe pieces. Maybe it wasn't the total Richardson collection but could it mean that the couple is contemplating moving somewhere where such New Mexico items aren't as popular?
Some of the sale items appeared to be gifts the governor received, some even autographed. How do you suppose those donors felt?
Proceeds from the popular sale in a building across the street from the Capitol were announced as going mostly to charity. Some wags suggested they could donate the proceeds to the state to help reduce the budget deficit the governor created. It's deductible.
Many stories have circulated about Gov. Richardson's interest in jobs in the Obama administration, with a national lobbying group or as head of a major organization in athletics or the film industry, maybe based in New York or Los Angeles.
But Richardson says he's been there, done that. He says he wants to settle in Santa Fe and maybe drive around the country visiting major league baseball parks.
Richardson gave a hint of his desire to stick around during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta recently when he said although this is his last year as governor, he plans to attend many more balloon fiestas.
So what will the governor be doing during his last 10 weeks in office? He's talked about staging a big trial to decide whether to pardon Billy the Kid. Not much seems to be happening on that. Maybe another trade mission to some exotic place? Or freeing some captives from a rogue country?
Gov. Richardson wanted to take a passenger rocket ride from New Mexico's Spaceport America before he left office but development of the space plane fell behind after a tragic accident during fuel testing.
Regardless of what you think about him, it has been a wild ride. Richardson began his tenure almost eight years ago by proposing a big tax cut. It sent him off to a great start.
Former Gov. Gary Johnson had proposed tax cuts during almost all of his eight years in office but Democrat-dominated legislatures had knocked them down.
Gov. Richardson sold the cuts as part of a massive economic development initiative. Even his huge billboard on Times Square supposedly was a part of the economic development program.
Richardson brought in big shots from the film industry and green business ventures, such as solar and wind power. The film industry is about the only venture that has taken off. But we still aren't sure whether the state is coming out ahead after its 25 percent rebates to film makers.
Richardson would easily be able to find a spot on a celebrity reality show. He could take off a few pounds in a South American jungle, kick up his heels dancing with a star or get fired by Donald Trump..
He'll come up with something.
WED, 10-13-10

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


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

10-11 Columbus Stirs Controversy

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- No national holiday is more controversial than Columbus Day. Martin Luther King Day isn't particularly popular everywhere but Columbus seems to spark outright animosity among many throughout the hemisphere.
The strongest feelings come from those who were here before Columbus "discovered" them. They detest the historical inaccuracy but their big complaint is the treatment of native people that followed.
For a New Mexico perspective, watch Surviving Columbus, a TV documentary by New Mexican Diane Reyna. It presents the Pueblo Indians' 450-year struggle to preserve their culture.
The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico celebrate Friendship Day instead of Columbus Day due to the controversy surrounding atrocities committed against peoples of the Caribbean.
Closer to home, Minnesota refuses to celebrate Columbus Day because that state's many descendents of the Vikings contend there now is ample proof that their ancestors were here 500 years earlier.
Many historians agree, arguing that Columbus' achievements are not worthy of a national holiday. Although he was the first to bring European culture to the Americas, he wasn't the first one here.
In truth, the legend of Columbus has been greatly embellished to the point of becoming myth. Early-American author Washington Irving penned an overly-dramatic "biography" of Columbus that was so popular it became accepted as fact.
Who were the first people to arrive in the New World? The Bering Land Bridge theory has prevailed for the past half-century. It establishes the first Americans at about 13,000 years old. Digs near Clovis and Folsom, New Mexico were key to developing that theory.
But scientists are now beginning to wonder if there might have been more than one migration. Evidence is slowly emerging of artifacts dating back as many as 55,000 years. Some of that evidence also is here in New Mexico.
In 1940, University of New Mexico professor Frank Hibben claimed to have found evidence of a 20,000 year-old Sandia Man. But technical problems and sloppy record keeping resulted in that find never being accepted by scholars.
Now, a recent excavation at Pendejo Cave, near Orogrande in southern New Mexico, has revealed radiocarbon datings over 55,000 years old. For the time being, archaeologists can't get at it because not only is it on Otero Mesa, it also is on the MacGregor Range of Fort Bliss. So far, I haven't found out how the cave got that crazy name.
For now, that leaves Columbus in the catbird seat. Even though he sailed for Spain and is responsible for most countries of the Western Hemisphere being of Spanish culture, Columbus was Italian and Italians have captured the holiday as a celebration of their heritage in America.
And Italians had much to do with starting Columbus Day observances, first in cities with large Italian populations, such as New York and San Francisco in the 1860s. Then, in 1905, the first state celebration was in Colorado.
In 1937, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal and service organization, prevailed on President Franklin Roosevelt to declare October 12 a national holiday.
There is an outside chance that Italians had more to do with the first voyage of Columbus than history suggests. An Italian journalist and author, Ruggero Marino is making a case for Vatican involvement in financing the voyage.
Then-Pope Innocent VIII was closely connected with Genoa, the birthplace of Columbus, and with the powerful and wealthy Medici family. He maintains the Pope wanted another shot at winning the Holy Lands away from the Muslims again. Columbus was to find them the riches to mount another crusade.
A week before Columbus sailed, the Pope died and was replaced by a Spanish pope, whom Marino's book claims covered up Italian involvement in the Columbus voyage. Through a series of uncertainties, reminding one of the Da Vinci Code, the cover-up vanished to the secret archives of the Vatican, never to be seen again.
MON, 10-11-10

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


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

10-8 Special Day and Odd Election Results

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- A special day is on its way. Sunday, Oct. 10 is another of those trinumeral days: 10-10-10. We've had 10 of them so far this century, beginning with Jan. 1, 2001.
And we'll have two more. Imagine the buzz around Nov. 11, 2011. Imagine the belief systems that will go crazy about 11-11-11.
For those interested in symbology and numerology, every number has a special meaning. July 7, 2007 was considered a very lucky day. It may be fortunate we won't have a 13-13-13.
All sorts of people and groups take advantage of trinumeral days. Special events are scheduled. This year, 10-10-10 is set as the target date for many fundraisers. Since 10 is a nice round number, it is handy for Top 10 lists of all sorts.
Trinumeral days are especially popular for marriages. County clerks' offices are busy on those days. This year, 10-10-10 falls on a Sunday, so offices likely won't be open. But I know of at least one that opened last year on a Saturday for couples who requested marriage licenses dated 09-09-09.
* * *
Strange things happen when economic times are tough. In Lincoln County, the state's most Republican county, voters approved a gross receipts tax increase.
While in Taos, the fourth most Democratic county in the state, the town council unanimously repealed a gross receipts tax increase ordinance it previously had passed.
Of course, the situations were somewhat different. The Taos ordinance was a general tax increase to support an ailing town budget. Also a school district bond issue recently had passed.
In Lincoln County, the tax increase was to help out the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack and Casino, which was experiencing hard times and threatening to move out of the area.
As one might imagine, that election campaign involved months of lively debate. The idea of residents helping bear the financial burdens of a private business seemed to be a very unusual concept.
But actually, it isn't really that different. Many people from the area had supported efforts to convince the state Legislature to lower the tax rate for the horse track and casino, owned by R.D. Hubbard. .
Had that happened, all New Mexico taxpayers would have borne the burden of the lost revenue. Local taxpayers also foot the bill when industries are recruited to a community and given tax breaks.
So the 2010 Legislature's solution of creating a tax to support retention of a business in a community isn't a bad idea. Isn't it better to help a business stay in a community than to give tax breaks to a business that may leave as soon as it gets a better deal elsewhere?
The Lincoln County vote was close. Some residents with no ties to the track and casino didn't particularly want to help a millionaire pay his taxes. In Hubbard's behalf, I doubt millionaires enjoy losing money any more than we poor folks do.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this election was that voters got to decide whether they like the idea of corporate welfare to attract or retain businesses. State and local governments spend a great deal of money on economic development without ever asking voters.
The Lincoln County vote involved some side issues too. What about the people the track attracts to the area every summer? Were they willing to pay the extra tax?
The issue came up when an anonymous flier was circulated telling people how they could transfer their voter registration to Lincoln County for the election and then transfer it back in time for the November general election.
Neither the supporters nor opponents claimed any connection with the effort but 269 people registered with the county clerk during the three months before the election, 63 of them from Texas.
Since it is necessary to document residence within the county, it is generally assumed many of the new registrants were people with second homes in Lincoln County who didn't want to see their property values dive as a result of the track and casino moving away.
FRI, 10-08-10

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


Sunday, October 03, 2010

10-6 Susana and Obama

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Susana and Obama. They almost rhyme. And they are alike in other ways. We don't know much about them and they are both minorities, which usually makes it more difficult to win.
But there is a certain magic about them. That magic propelled Barack Obama to a rather amazing election victory two years ago and it is giving Susana Martinez a big boost in this year's gubernatorial contest.
Don't ask me what that magic is. I watched from the sideline two years ago and had much warmer feelings for John McCain. I have watched Diane Denish for 40 years and admired her quiet competence. But I realize Susana has some of that Obama thing going for her too.
Maybe Pete Domenici had it also. I was a college fraternity brother of Pete so I have trouble being unbiased about him.
I never could figure out how Domenici did so well in the North. They seemed to see him as a minority also. Pete was Italian. Very Italian. His mother was an illegal immigrant for awhile. So that should qualify him.
There's another commonality between Susana and Pete. Voters who don't even know them call them by their first name. It seems to indicate a warmth toward the two from New Mexicans throughout the state.
Whatever the magic, Martinez has led every poll since her stunning primary election victory in June. Of course there are other reasons for her lead. Denish has been pulled down by the plummeting popularity of Gov. Bill Richardson.
She has been tied in Martinez television ads to corruption charges in the Richardson administration. Denish is the victim of a voter desire for change even though we don't know what that change will be.
Denish's campaign advisers have been criticized for being clueless out-of-staters who have neglected development of a campaign message in favor of a negative campaign.
Martinez's campaign staff has been criticized for making her a one-issue law-and-order candidate. The suspicion is that it is a stalling tactic until she is coached on other issues. The suspicion is heightened when Martinez is whisked away from public appearances without answering any questions.
But Martinez remains securely on top, largely unaffected by criticisms. Denish is a veteran of numerous successful campaigns. Political observers keep expecting her to find her footing and charge ahead.
With only four weeks left, there is no indication of whether she will continue to head to the right to capture independents or return back to the left to invigorate her base.
The watchword of both campaigns seems to be to not make mistakes. They appear to both shy away from debates or joint appearances in which the video of any misstep will appear on their opponent's TV ads until election day.
This leaves voters a bit in the dark. Remember back to the barnstorming tour in 1998, when Gov. Gary Johnson and Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez toured the state debating at every opportunity. It was also the cleanest campaign New Mexico has seen in ages.
But the lack of information on candidate positions doesn't seem to make much difference this year. Likely voters, as identified in the many polls being conducted, are saying they don't care about candidate positions on important issues. They just want a change.
Don't be concerned about both of the candidates being bad people. Their negative television ads are way over the top. We were in Arizona recently for a three-year-old grandson's birthday party and were surprised about the campaigning there.
With all the controversy in the state, the ads were rather civil. Maybe that is because Arizona has gone to public financing. It was adopted by citizen vote and among other features, requires debates. So they fight it out in person rather than in expensive TV ads.
What a concept.
WED, 10-06-10

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


Friday, October 01, 2010

Fw: columns that didn't get posted earlier this month

FRI, 9-17-10

SANTA FE - Today is Constitution Day. Or did you know that already? Probably not. It's a date that doesn't roll easily off the tongue even though the Constitution has been referred to as the greatest document ever created.
The U.S. Constitution has been copied by many other countries hoping to form a democracy as great as ours. Our founders didn't have anything from which to copy. Theirs was a great experiment by some freedom-loving radicals who hoped to make their grand scheme work.
Their handiwork has lasted well since its creation in 1787. It has changed little since its first 10 amendments were added four years later as the Bill of Rights. It is these rights that perhaps have been the most controversial.
At times we have wondered whether the rights should extend to people who think differently from the way most Americans think. Several years ago New Mexicans were asked in an August survey whether demonstrations at Los Alamos against the use of nuclear weapons should be allowed. The majority of the responses were negative. But the Constitution survived.
Since then, making flag burning unconstitutional has fallen by the wayside despite congressional efforts. Currently we are looking at citizenship rights for children born in the United States of illegal immigrants. This too, likely will pass.
In 1955, Congress decided to establish September 17 as Constitution Day. It decreed that any education institution receiving federal money recognize the day. In 2005 the U.S. Department of education notified all schools that they must include the Constitution their curriculum on that day.
Back when I taught fifth grade in the early 1960s, textbook companies included the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in the back of the American history book. They don't anymore.
As a result, many Lions clubs in this part of the country began providing free pocket-sized copies of those two documents to school children, especially at the fifth grade level, where American history usually is taught.
It has been a popular program. Private donations are collected for the printing of pocket-sized booklets containing the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. They are distributed free of charge in many districts throughout the state.
Sometimes teachers noticed the booklets being discarded so Lions began asking public officials to go to schools to speak on the day the booklets are distributed.
When Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley served during the administration of Gov. Gary Johnson, he led the effort as a member of the Clovis Lions. He noted that students had an additional reason to value the booklets. Walter even autographed some copies.
Last year, Attorney General Gary King took a lead on Constitution Day issuing press releases and speaking to fifth grade classes in Albuquerque.
The September 17 date has proved to be somewhat of a problem in many schools. It falls too soon after school has started, so is subject to many distractions
For that reason, Lions decided to change their date for recognizing the Constitution to March 16, the birthday of James Madison, often referred to as the father of the Constitution. March seems to be a time of fewer distractions and the point when textbooks get around to the American Revolution. The Lions named March 16 Liberty Day.
By the year 2000, Liberty Day grew to a nationwide effort and March 16 was recognized by Congress as Liberty Day. Lions didn't ask Congress to mandate study of the Constitution on March 16 but it's not a bad idea. Most Lions clubs are glad to provide materials to schools requesting them on either day.
Many school classes visit the Legislature while it is in session. Some teachers organize their classes to track down legislators from their part of the state and quiz them about the Constitution. It's a lot more fun than sitting in the gallery watching what are usually rather monotonous proceedings.
MON, 9-20-10

SANTA FE - It appears New Mexico is winning the space race. Some good things have been happening lately.
First, President Barack Obama announced a new mission for NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA will concentrate on deep space exploration while relying on the private sector to handle near-Earth missions.
That is exactly what New Mexico's Spaceport America wanted to hear. It will get help with programs to send rich folks to the edge of space. In addition, Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan have gotten a $75 million program to purchase some of these sub-orbital flights for scientific research purposes.
Rick Homans, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, compares the appropriation to the help given the fledgling airplane industry without which it couldn't have survived its early days.
Homans says the program, called CRuSR, will benefit many companies that use the spaceport or have expressed interest in doing so. These companies include, UPAerospace, Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace.
Another boost to Spaceport America, which reportedly is constructing launch facilities at Rockwall, TX, plans to launch three NASA-funded tests of its vertical takeoff and landing rocket technology.
Neil Milburn, a vice president of Armadillo, says Spaceport America was chosen because of its geographical advantages, dedicated staff, technical experience, flexibility and low cost. It sounds like the folks down at the spaceport are doing one heckuva job.
New Mexico appears to be cashing in on its space-related assets from our national labs, universities, White Sands Missile Range and NASA White Sands Test Facility. We offer the perfect venues for research, development and operation of new space technology.
And we're taking advantage of it. New Mexico State University in Las Cruces has been tapped by the Federal Aviation Administration to lead a newly former Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation.
NMSU will team with seven other universities to conduct research in several different areas, including space launch operations, traffic management and the laws, policies and regulations that may govern space commerce. Industry partners include SpaceX, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
In 2004, when Virgin Galactic teamed with Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites to fly to the edge of space, Congress passed legislation providing the framework for how the FAA can regulate commercial human space flights. The idea was to help the space industry flourish without too much government interference.
The FAA admits that if all the regulations currently imposed on the airline industry would have been imposed on the Wright brothers, they never would have gotten in the air. But it will be necessary to figure how airplanes and commercial rockets can co-exist in the same space as safely as possible.
The New Mexico Legislature already has taken initial steps in this direction to ensure that space tourists recognize the risks inherent in space flight and that they must undergo basic training. Already researchers are pushing the envelope looking for ways to get the elderly and people with chronic illnesses into space.
It may be that Gov. Bill Richardson's most lasting legacy will be his initiative to get New Mexico into the space race. We took some baby steps back in the early 1990s, under Gov. Bruce King and realized the interest is there.
But then a combination of the industry not moving as quickly as anticipated and the unwillingness of Gov. Gary Johnson to spend any money put space issues on a back burner. Gov. Richardson has brought the space race back to front and center at what appears to be the ideal time to be out in front of our competitors.
Our spaceport suffered a temporary setback when the former executive director suddenly had to resign. But current director Rick Homans was in that position when the Richardson administration got the program back off the ground and could step in without missing a beat.


From: Jay Miller
Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2010 1:26 PM
Subject: columns that didn't get posted earlier this month