Inside the Capitol

Friday, December 31, 2010

1-5 The Kind of Public Servant We All Like To See

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- New Mexico has lost one of its greatest public servants. Ray Powell, Sr. died at age 90 in late December. Powell was the kind of public servant we all like to see.
For more than 50 years He worked tirelessly in Albuquerque and at the state level for just about every cause one could imagine. And he did it all free. He never cost us a penny of taxpayer money.
Powell came to New Mexico in 1943 as a mechanical engineer to work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. At the end of World War II, Powell moved to Albuquerque to help establish the Sandia National Laboratories.
He worked at Sandia for almost 40 years, much of it as executive vice president. During that period, he was active in myriad civic activities. Soon those activities expanded to the state level where he served on numerous boards and commissions.
Eventually Powell became a top advisor and friend to Govs. Jack Campbell and Bruce King. In 1963 Campbell assigned Powell to develop a state personnel system, sell it to the Legislature and see that it was implemented correctly as the first chairman of the state Personnel Board.
Up to that time, all state government workers were political appointees of the governor.
Powell was primarily identified as a leader in the Albuquerque business community, lobbying for its issues at the capitol. But he also was a strong Democrat.
In the spring of 1988, Powell took over as state chairman of a fractured Democratic Party that was torn between northern liberals, southern conservatives who joined with Republicans to rule both houses of the Legislature at times, and opportunistic Democrats, willing to join whichever faction would give them the most goodies.
By November of 1988, under Powell's leadership, Democrats had won solid majorities in both houses and the days of coalitions had ended. In 1990, Democrats regained the governor's office.
Four years earlier Powell had been the only Democrat willing to carry the party banner in the gubernatorial race. The political atmosphere was much like today's. Republican President Ronald Reagan was at the height of his popularity and Democratic Gov. Toney Anaya's popularity was in the cellar.
Powell was beaten by a little known Republican from Las Cruces, Garrey Carruthers. But when his party really needed him, Powell answered its call, much like Republican John Dendahl did in 1994 after being beaten in his party's primary by Gary Johnson..
I met Powell in the early 1970s when we served on a task force to study and recommend judicial salary levels. We became close friends during the many years he lobbied for Albuquerque business issues and I lobbied for school employees.
Powell was tough. Even though the night hours got late while waiting for legislative committees to hear our bills, he never showed a hint of being tired.
In fact, Ray had open heart surgery during the time he was state party chairman and only told people he was taking a little time off. When I learned the truth, I asked him many questions about his experience, especially about how he recognized he had a problem.
I'm not sure why I asked him so many questions or why he answered all of them when he previously had been so reluctant. I'm just glad it happened that way because 10 years later, while out for a walk, I experienced the same symptoms and knew what to do. It still required a bypass but avoided a heart attack.
Ray's son Ray Powell, Jr. was elected state land commissioner this past November. He also held the job from 1993 to 2002. He sought to follow his father's footsteps with a 2002 run for governor. But that was the year of the Bill Richardson steamroller when he wiped out all opposition on his way to his first term as governor.
WED, 1-05-11

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


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

1-3 What's the Answer for NM Schools?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Education may be the biggest item of discussion in the 2011 Legislature. That is as it should be. New Mexico's constitution identifies public schools as the state's most important service. And it's almost half the budget.
But every year, state lawmakers get embroiled in discussing social issues. The media add to the distraction by pushing open government legislation that will help us tell you what is going on up here.
And education becomes an afterthought. Actually Gov. Bill Richardson talked a great deal about public schools. Discussions of Richardson's legacy seldom mention the subject but he may have spent more time dealing with education than any other topic.
Richardson took office in 2003 with soaring popularity ratings. His first move was a big tax cut that former Gov. Gary Johnson never had been able to get passed. Next came a railroad and a spaceport.
Everyone remembers those "bold initiatives." But many have forgotten the boldest initiative of all. Richardson convinced the Legislature to call a special election for the following September for voters to consider amending our constitution to dedicate a larger share of the state permanent fund to public schools.
Never had the Legislature been willing to do such a thing. And never had voters been willing to approve. Richardson spent a good deal of political capital traveling the state speaking to public meetings about the necessity of moving New Mexico schools from one of the lowest expenditures per child to a higher ranking.
Richardson also requested another constitutional amendment to move public school oversight from an elected state board of education to a department under the governor.
New Mexicans are not fond of abolishing elected offices but they passed both constitutional amendments. Public schools now have more money and the governor has more power over them.
Schools soon were doing more testing, teacher qualifications and pay were raised, dropout programs were enacted and so were programs to get parents more involved and to identify the special needs of Hispanic students. And it didn't do much, if any, good.
New Mexico, despite its efforts, hasn't been putting its money into changes in the education system that make a difference in student achievement.
So, Gov. Susana Martinez plans to try some different changes. She has recruited Hanna Skandera, a nationally recognized authority on school improvement. Skandera has been a top state education official in Florida and California, plus the U.S. Department of Education and the Hoover Institute.
Some grumbling in the education community is being heard but it is hard to argue with success. In the past decade, reading scores in Florida have improved by 20 points while New Mexico scores remain unchanged.
Despite the popular Republican refrain that throwing money at a problem doesn't help solve it, Republicans typically are not stingy when it comes to schools.
It is my belief that given equal amounts of money for a state budget, Republicans will spend more money on schools than Democrats will. The reason is that Democrats have a number of other social programs they also want to fund.
Skandera's advocacy of school vouchers and merit pay will cause some grousing. Martinez found it necessary to reverse her support of vouchers during the general election campaign.
Oldtimers don't especially care to follow Florida's lead. In February 1968, Florida teachers went out on strike. A month later New Mexico teachers did the same.
In the 1970s, Florida adopted a distribution formula for funding schools that New Mexico followed. That formula is now being declared inequitable.
But at least people are talking about education and what causes New Mexico to trail the nation, when the nation badly trails many other countries throughout the world.
One factor that exists in the countries that lead us in student achievement is the amount of government involvement in encouraging high achievement expectations. That will be scary to many.
MON, 1-03-11

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


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

12-31 Unpredictable Year Expected

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Get ready for another unpredictable year in the world of politics. Gov. Susana Martinez comes almost completely unknown,
Her inauguration ceremony will be outdoors for the first time since 1975 and away from the current capitol building for the first time in memory. She will host the first children's inaugural ball ever and that evening will be her "bold" inaugural ball.
It is the first time anyone around here can remember an inaugural ball with an adjective attached to it, or with an invitation required or with a steep price. Entry fees at previous balls have ranged from free to $10. Never $100 apiece.
The message so far is that Susana will be different. We knew what to expect from a Bruce King administration. We even had a good idea of what a Bill Richardson administration would look like. He represented northern New Mexico for 14 years and often acted as though he represented the entire state.
Gov. Gary Johnson was at least as unpredictable as Susana. His libertarian views were unfamiliar to just about every New Mexican. He even astounded the leaders of his own party, which caused considerable havoc.
But Susana is not expected to have Johnson's independent streak. She has listened faithfully to her party advisers and is expected to do the same during her administration.
Bill Richardson will not retire to the quiet life of a gentleman rancher as he has suggested. Our soon-to-be-former governor has been the restless type ever since he was a kid. He may not want to be tied down by a job but he will always be on the go and cooking up something. Expect fireworks his last day in office.
New Mexico will have only one statewide race in 2012. U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman will have to decide in 2011 whether he wants to go after another six-year term.
At this point in each of Bingaman's previous terms there has been speculation he would retire. In his late 60s, Bingaman can retire with no financial worries and a respected career to look back upon.
But that isn't the Jeff Bingaman I have known since he was in grade school. Back in the 1970s, Jeff and Ann traveled to Mexico with another couple to enjoy a week of kicking back and enjoying life.
An hour after arrival, they were lounging by the pool and Jeff disappeared for awhile. When he returned he announced he had run over to the local college and signed up for a week's course in Spanish.
I seriously doubt Jeff has changed. He stays in great shape and always wants to be doing something constructive. Unless there is something of a personal nature I don't know about, I pick Jeff to announce for another term in mid-2011.
New Mexico's junior senator, Tom Udall, will stay busy in 2011. He belongs to a group of Democratic senators who were elected in 2006 and 2008. The young mavericks want to change the Senate's way of doing business.
Udall is taking the lead on the cloture rule which requires 60 votes of the 100-member body to consider legislation. It's a good idea but it won't go anywhere. Even senior Democrats object because they remember when they were in the minority.
Major issues before state lawmakers in 2011 will be the budget, ethics, reorganization of government and redistricting. Don't expect much.
On the budget, they'll kick the can just far enough down the road to get through another year. They'll pass a token ethics law or two to make it appear they support open government. They'll realize reorganizing government isn't going to save much money or be worth the hassle. And redistricting will be minimal because of the new governor's veto.
The 10th anniversary of 9-11 looms. Early September will be tense. And Billy the Kid will still be causing trouble -- in more places than one.
FRI, 12-31-10

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


Sunday, December 26, 2010

12-29 2010 Bad Year for Political Predictions

WED, 12-29-10

SANTA FE - After closely watching the New Mexico political scene for over 50 years, it had become fun and easy to predict events of the next year. Regardless of what was said by our politicos, actual events fell into a predictable pattern.
Until two years ago, that is. At almost exactly this same time in 2008, Gov. Bill Richardson announced he would not be leaving New Mexico midway through his second term to join the cabinet of the incoming Barack Obama presidency.
Lt. Gov. Diane Denish's transition team had about finished its work. Bill Richardson was just an afterthought. And then came the bombshell. Gov. Richardson wasn't leaving.
His 500 political appointees, who had been busily assuring Denish of their loyalty, were running over each other in the Roundhouse hallways to reassure Richardson they were still solidly in his corner. And my predictions of what would be happening during a Denish administration could be thrown in the waste can.
Despite losing her chance to take over early as governor, Denish built up a $2 million campaign war chest and scared out all possible Democratic challengers. And both Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson considered Denish's two toughest possible opponents had decided this wasn't the time to run for governor.
Denish looked unbeatable. It was at that point that I boldly predicted Denish would best Allen Weh for governor. But Susana Martinez came from statewide obscurity to a place on the national stage in less than a year.
This coming year will be equally difficult to call. Who knows how Martinez's first year in the saddle will go? She still is a relatively unknown quantity. I have been chided for putting her on the national stage before even serving a day in office.
But let me remind you that 10 years ago, when Bill Richardson was still working for the Clinton administration and Gary Johnson had just begun his campaign to legalize drugs, I predicted both would be running for president before the decade was over.
Everyone but Bill Richardson told me I was crazy. I may not be crazy about Susana Martinez's possibilities either. There is ample evidence Martinez still is receiving national assistance to assure a successful tenure in office.
Gov.-elect Martinez made public schools and Medicaid priorities during her campaign. Her choices for cabinet secretaries of the Public education Department and the Human Services Department were both people of national stature - probably not an accident.
A year ago, I picked Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan to win their congressional seats again. I demurred on the Teague-Pearce race. I picked libertarian-leaning Adam Kokesh to win the 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.
I based that on Kokesh's fund raising ability and his aggressive full-time campaign. I should have heeded an anonymous tip from a GOP leader that beating Kokesh was a Republican Party priority because the guy was scary.
I predicted New Mexico's economy would remain bad throughout this year despite legislative predictions of a six percent increase. That was an easy one. So was my prediction that ethics reform would continue to receive much lip service but little action.
We heard much about ethics and corruption during the recent political campaigns but it isn't likely to result in any stricter laws.
My prediction that former Gov. Gary Johnson would become more visible nationally but wouldn't get invited to any Republican functions because of his libertarian views on drug legalization and foreign entanglements turned out to be only half right. He has been invited to Republican functions in states with early presidential primaries.
And my final prediction, which proved accurate, was that Billy the Kid would remain in the news in a big way this year. That was an easy one too because Gov. Richardson was sure to take one last shot at linking his name with the world's most famous New Mexican.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fw: 12-27 Billy the Kid May Still Get His Pardon

MON, 12-27-10

SANTA FE - So now it's a petition that has Gov. Bill Richardson considering a pardon for Billy the Kid. Originally, last March, Richardson wanted to stage a trial, using Billy the Kid historians and a professional film crew.
Responses from those familiar with the Kid's story were positive for the first month or so, as long as the trial was conducted in a scholarly and dignified manner. But the tide soon turned against a pardon as others heard of the plan.
Some felt a pardon would be a bad message to the young. Others called it a publicity stunt. And some alleged it was a payoff to a big political contributor. Then descendants of Gov. Lew Wallace and Sheriff Pat Garrett weighed in against a pardon.
That evidently slowed down preparations for a pardon hearing. The loss of gubernatorial staff may also have been a factor as employees scrambled to find other jobs. But it didn't lessen the governor's enthusiasm for a pardon. Most governor watchers figured he'd find a way even if it were a last-day announcement.
And a pardon petition by a prominent attorney was evidently the plan. Randi McGinn, an Albuquerque plaintiffs attorney and wife of Supreme Court Chief Justice Charlie Daniels, volunteered to review the situation and petition for a pardon.
This occurred six month ago. That's about a month after public opinion began turning south for the governor's trial. McGinn is from Alamogordo so she knows descendants from both sides of the Lincoln County War and has talked to them. McGinn says she also read every book she could find on Billy the Kid. That's quite a few. lists 1,326 books. The closest she could get to Gov. Wallace promising a pardon to the Kid was a statement that he had the authority to exempt him from prosecution.
To anyone but a plaintiffs attorney, Wallace's statement is a long way from saying, "I will pardon you." Sure, Wallace led Billy to believe they had a deal if Billy testified in a murder trial in which Wallace was interested.
And Billy did get a raw deal from New Mexico's justice system, which was controlled by the corrupt Santa Fe Ring. But granting a pardon based on Wallace's statement that he had the power to grant one is a stretch. Wallace decided not to exercise that authority.
McGinn's pardon petition focuses on the Kid's indictment for the killing of Sheriff William Brady since that was the context in which the pardon question was considered. It does not consider the Kid's killing of the two deputies after he had been convicted and sentenced to hang.
Gov. Richardson and McGinn say they are interested in hearing what New Mexicans feel about McGinn's pardon petition. Richardson wants all replies to be in writing and confined to the content of McGinn's petition. So replies will not be considered if they address Gov. Richardson's motives or the effect of the pardon on the younger generation.
The deadline for replies was yesterday, December 26. That gives the governor and McGinn a week to read the replies and make a decision before Richardson's term ends December 31.
The possibility seems small that Gov. Richardson won't grant the pardon requested by McGinn's petition. By the time you read this, descendants of Garrett and Wallace may have issued public statements about the pardon, which they oppose.
And there is always the possibility that descendants of Sheriff Brady may weigh in. That is a big family, many of whom are still in New Mexico and wouldn't be expected to support a pardon.
Regardless of Richardson's interest in Billy the Kid, McGinn insists a pardon isn't a foregone conclusion. "There is no deal or any fix in," she told Dan Boyd of the Albuquerque Journal.
If you are interested in reading McGinn's pardon petition, go to



Thursday, December 16, 2010

12-22 How Many Political Appointees Will Keep Jobs?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- It is surprising how many of Gov. Bill Richardson's political appointees think they will be able to stick around for Gov. Susana Martinez's administration.
Martinez vowed often during her primary and general election campaigns to fire them all. And there was fairly general agreement that Lt. Gov. Diane Denish would have done the same to separate herself from the Richardson administration.
All of Richardson's 375 remaining political appointees were invited to a meeting two weeks ago at the State Personnel Office to receive information on how to wind up their government employment. There were nowhere near 375 employees present.
What is happening to cause this optimism? So far, I haven't heard of any transition team members giving such assurances. Are the exempt employees judging from past experience?
I haven't kept track of political appointees remaining in new administrations in the past. It hasn't been a campaign issue in the past.
It was just assumed that political appointees would be gone at the end of each administration,, especially when the party in control of the governor's office changed. Logically, those who kept their jobs didn't go out and shout about it.
Blogger Joe Monahan is guessing that only 100 of the 375 remaining Richardson appointees will be dumped. He reasons that Gov. Martinez will need the rest as her eyes and ears in the bureaucracy.
Maybe so. Most of them will need the job badly enough that they will be loyal to any boss. But not every one of them will be. The woman who talked Monica Lewinsky into going public about her affair with the president was a political appointee from the George H.W. Bush administration who was retained.
Maybe the answer is that there are not 375 Republicans in Santa Fe who need a job badly enough to go to work for the government. And not enough Republicans are willing to make the commute to Santa Fe.
I'm probably wrong on those guesses, but I'll bet your farm there are less than 100 Richardson appointees who stay. And the rest of the story is that we'll never know because such information never has been released in the past
* * *
The state tourism industry is getting serious about how it is being treated by the state Legislature. It received the biggest percentage budget cuts .of any department from the last Legislature with more cuts expected this year. In addition, the Legislature is considering moving it under the Economic Development Department .
This column often has talked about how we treat our golden eggs, most notably the federal government, oil and gas and tourism. Those are the big three and we take them for granted.
Most New Mexicans love to complain about the federal government. If regional offices and military bases pulled out of the state, we can fold up our tent. They are our biggest employer and have the biggest payroll.
Oil and gas brings in the most for our economy from the private sector and tourism is next and is the biggest private employer. But we tell the military we don't want their planes. We over-regulate oil and gas and we ignore tourism.
In 1994, Santa Fe Mayor Sam Pick was such a supporter of tourism that our city finished first in the Conde Nast international tourism poll. And we weren't even on the ballot.
A year later new Mayor Debbie Jaramillo let tourists know she didn't think much of them. We fell drastically in the Conde Nast poll even though we have been on the ballot since. We've never captured the first spot again.
This year, eight different tourist organizations have formed a coalition and put up a Web site and a social media effort to emphasize the impact of tourism on our state.
The tourism industry brings in more than $6 billion annually into our economy and generates more than $760 million in taxes.
WED, 12-22-10

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


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12-24 A Visit From St. Nick

FRI, 12-24-10

"Twas the night before Christmas at the governor's abode
Boxes were strewn from room to room, ready to load.

"I wish I weren't leaving," the governor said.
"It gives the appearance I'm politically dead."

Things aren't as rosy as they were in the past
I was the man of bold vision with my foot on the gas

I gave them a spaceport, a railroad and tax cuts,
But despite all that, I'm down on my luck.

I handed out stimulus money like Santa
But now it doesn't seem to matta.

I brought films and movie stars from Hollywood,
But, at the end of the line, it has done me no good.

Four years ago, I carried every county but one.
But that was yesterday. It looks like I'm done.

Then out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Bill sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.

And there on the crest of the new fallen snow
Was jolly St. Nicolas with a big ho, ho, ho.

"I hope you'll loan me your sleigh this year
I have many good-byes to say far and near."

"Sorry", said Santa. "I've promised it to Susana
To travel to appearances from Maine to Montana.

"She's selling your jet, so will need transportation
To see all her fans around this great nation

"But I've brought you goodies, to soften the blow.
I've heard you want to be a gentleman rancher, you know.

"Here's a deed to a big spread with horses and sheep
Along with a rifle and a pole you can keep.

"Sorry I couldn't bring the top of the line
I've promised them to the first gentleman this time.

"You see, Chuck Franco is now the top of the heap
He likes fishing and hunting so he also gets a jeep."

Then off flew Santa down the Rio Grande
To visit Susana and give her a hand.

But Bill heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight,
"Don't fret about leaving. Retirement's all right."

I'm sending this early and out of sequence in case the timing might be better for weeklies that might want to use it.

12-20 Easier Route to National Office for Susana

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Gov.-elect Susana Martinez appears poised to follow in Gov. Bill Richardson's footsteps as the second governor in a row to be considered for the U.S. vice presidency during her second year in office.
But her path will be very different. Richardson had to work for his consideration all the way. Like Martinez, Richardson's goal was not to be just vice president. He wanted to be president.
And while working toward that goal, he was busy building the best resume of any possible presidential candidate.
Richardson began his career by getting a masters degree in international relations from the prestigious Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Next, he joined the staff of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Then he moved to New Mexico as executive director of the state Democratic Party.
Losing that job to a change in administrations, Richardson briefly became an international trade consultant. From there, he ran for Congress until he won and served in the U.S. House for 14 years, becoming a deputy Democratic whip and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
During his congressional career, Richardson went on numerous foreign policy missions for President Bill Clinton. He left Congress to become Clinton's United Nation's ambassador.
After two years in that job, Clinton moved him over to become secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. While in that position, Vice President Al Gore considered him as a vice-presidential running mate in 2000. Security problems at the Energy Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory plus the rising price of gasoline derailed that possibility.
But soon Richardson was on the trail of running for governor of New Mexico. If successful, he could add that to his two years experience at the Department of Energy to give him more administrative experience, in addition to his legislative experience, than any other expected presidential candidate.
As governor, Richardson didn't slow down on the national scene either. He became president of the Democratic Governors Association and chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
During his first year as governor, Richardson was a whirlwind of action with numerous "bold initiatives." Included were a commuter train, a spaceport, many environmental initiatives and a big tax cut directed mainly at higher incomes to attract new businesses.
Richardson was mentioned frequently as a vice-presidential candidate again in 2004, two years into his gubernatorial term. He frequently denied it and eventually released a letter to Democratic nominee John Kerry asking not to be considered.
Three years later, we saw Richardson begin a grueling effort for the presidential nomination. It was uphill all the way. He had little support from national figures. And he had to raise a huge amount of money.
He led the bottom tier of candidates but despite a tremendous amount of effort, his candidacy never really got off the ground. And with an Anglo name, he had trouble identifying himself to other Hispanics as one of them.
In contrast, Susana Martinez is obviously Hispanic and obviously female -- two demographics national Republicans are trying hard to attract. She is the first and only governor to fit those qualifications, making her a very hot commodity.
The only Hispanic Republican woman in Congress is Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen, of Florida. She is Cuban and has been in the House for 20 years
Martinez had no trouble raising money for her primary or general elections or her inaugural events. She appears to have strong support from national GOP leaders.
Her road to national office appears far easier than Richardson's if she doesn't trip along the way. And it should allow her to remain in our state much more than Gov. Richardson has.
If her first year in office is successful, expect to see Martinez seriously considered as a vice-presidential running mate for anyone but Sarah Palin in the spring of 2012
MON, 12-20-10

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


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12-17 NM is Birthplace of Modern Rocketry

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilber Wright got their plane into the air long enough to constitute a recognized flight.
The feat was of such significance that the site is a national memorial, maintained by the National Park Service.
North Carolina's Outer Banks had been chosen instead of the fields outside Akron because of their steady high winds, a soft, flat landing area and the lack of prying eyes of competitors and the press.
Overall, it was a good choice, but its isolation meant great difficulties getting there. It also meant not having a place to fix or replace a broken part. All the backup had to be brought with them.
They also were far from their bicycle repair shop that was financing this madness about flying. But conditions were good and no one would consider making the trip out to spy on them. It was just too much of a hardship.
The young Wright Brothers were true American entrepreneurs. Neither had quite finished high school. They loved to tinker and figure out how to make things work. So they shunned school in order to devote their talents to starting businesses and making money.
Bicycles were the new craze at the time. They got those figured out and wanted to move on the flying machines. Some people already were experimenting in the United States and in Europe. The problem of lift had been solved and motors had been put on biplanes to provide speed.
But control was a mystery. Various theories developed. One was that with enough speed, stability would be the result. Many died trying to prove that one.
The Wright Brothers' secret was to watch birds fly. Their wingtips bent. So airplane wingtips should bend too. Thus a warped wing was designed. After numerous tries, it worked. First they used it with kites, then with gliders, taking a long run down Kill Devil Hill at Kitty Hawk.
Then power was added and they tried unmanned flights. Finally in mid-December, it was time for Wilbur to climb aboard, lying in the middle of the bottom wing. The first flight was 120 feet, lasting 12 seconds. By the fourth flight, the plane covered 852 feet in just under a minute. They had done it.
The first sustained and controlled, heavier-than-air powered flight. The aerodynamic principles used by the Wright Brothers still apply to all airplanes ever since.
The Wrights never accepted any funding from the government or private individuals. They were businessmen and wanted all the fruits of their research and development.
Continued testing was conducted in Dayton, but when the press could come around the planes developed flying problems. Once the Wrights felt they had a plane that was salable, they took it to some flying shows and then began advertising.
But they wouldn't demonstrate a plane to prospective buyers until they had a signed contract to purchase the plane. For two years, they made no sales, while other builders improved their products.
Finally, they signed contracts with the U.S. Army and with a French company. The demonstrations went beautifully and convinced all doubters that the Wrights truly knew what they were doing. Their dream of making it big had come true.
Both Dayton, Ohio and Kitty Hawk, N.C. have museums dedicated to the Wright Brothers and claim to be the birthplace of flight. We've been to both. They both have legitimate claims.
Our choice, however, is the Kittyhawk site. You can view the imposing Kill Devil Hill from which they conducted their glider tests and the logs stretch of sand (now covered by grass) over which they made their flights, with each of their four first flights marked.
The next great leap into the air was with rocketry. Most of that happened here in New Mexico, beginning with Dr. Robert Goddard, in 1930, at Roswell.
Goddard is known as the father of rocketry but our state hasn't gotten that word out. The Roswell Museum and Art Center has an outstanding display on Goddard and many other locations in New Mexico have rocketry in their history.
When Spaceport America opens, a major effort should be made to promote New Mexico as the birthplace of modern rocketry.

FRI, 12-17-10

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


Monday, December 13, 2010

12-15 Even Santa Isn't Safe

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Isn't it wonderful to have a brief season of good will that even extends into the political world this year? With a new administration headed into Santa Fe, a period of high hopes reigns at least for a few weeks.
Our major state newspaper feels hearts are so light that it can feature a front page article on our governor-elect's pajamas. The inference is that readers have little reason to consider anything more important than Susana Martinez's "sleepy pants" at this time of year.
At least New Mexicans can be content with the knowledge that our incoming governor is willing to abide inane questions and still be pleasant. There are many things we don't know about our new governor but her sleeping attire is not one of them.
The latest state revenue projections indicate we may not be in for as big a shortfall as previously predicted, so Gov. Martinez may be able to keep her promise about balancing the budget without touching public schools, Medicaid or tax increases. Life isn't so bad.
Of course on the federal level, it isn't quite so rosy. A lame duck session sandwiched between a change in congressional power isn't the recipe for much good will.
That might be the reason for an email Christmas card I received recently from one of the nation's dirtiest political campaign consultants. I met him at a "hurricane party" as we waited for a tropical storm to hit an island off the West Coast of Florida several years ago.
All the sane folks had departed the day before, leaving behind those of us who like to be where the action is. I probably learned as much that day as I ever have. Sharing a common bond brings people closer.
Negative television ads were a newer phenomenon in those days. I was fascinated with how attack ads could be so effective when everyone was saying they hate them.
The consultant's answer was that most people say they dislike violence and yet the more mayhem in a movie or on the six o'clock news, the higher the ratings.
He said he didn't particularly care why it worked. He wanted to take maximum advantage of the fact it does work.
At first glance, the Christmas email he sent me made me think the guy may have turned over a new leaf. It began with a smiling picture of Old St. Nick, with the caption "Best Wishes for a Happy Holiday Season and a Positive New Year."
Then I clicked on the arrow and saw it was a 30-second television spot, produced by the consultant.
A picture of Santa appeared on the screen and an ominous voice-over said, "Before you open your home to this man, look behind the myth and study the facts.
He is an illegal alien, who uses numerous aliases such as Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, and Father Christmas."
The picture switches to the familiar scene of Santa in his sleigh, with a long whip strung out over the heads of his reindeer. And the voice says, "He exploits and abuses his own employees."
Next we see Santa with a toy machine gun. The voice says, "He incites greed and violence among our children."
Next, the clincher. "And who pays for this yearly give-away? You and your family. This Christmas, it's time for Scrooge -- for a kinder, gentler America."
Even Santa isn't safe from negative campaigning. If people saw that ad enough times, some of them would start believing at least parts of it and vote against Santa, even though the alternative is even worse.
That's the thing about negative campaigning. When you hear it enough times, you begin thinking negatively and end up voting against candidates instead of for other candidates.
As author James Thurber paraphrased Abe Lincoln, "You can fool too many people too much of the time."
WED, 12-15-10

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


Thursday, December 09, 2010

12-13 National Treasure Endangered


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE -- Is one of the few documents involving the world's best-known New Mexican in serious danger?

      Yes, we're talking about Billy the Kid. Had Bill Richardson become president, or if Susana Martinez does, perhaps that changes. But until then, The Kid is still on top.

   No one may ever have as many books written about him or movies made about him as Billy. From the rankings I have seen, Smokey Bear comes in second.

   What's unfortunate about Billy the Kid's life is that there are precious few vestiges of what he was really like. Despite all the books and movies, almost nothing tangible has survived. Billy traveled light, might we say. He didn't have a place to keep his stuff.

   By far the best evidence we have about the real Kid is the letters he wrote Gov. Lew Wallace. Wallace carefully saved all those letters and they remained in his collection, at the Indiana Historical Society, in Indianapolis.

   In the 1980s, great-grandson William N. Wallace provided two of Billy's 9 known letters to the Lincoln County Heritage Trust. Subsequently, the holdings of that trust became the property of the Hubbard Museum of the American West.

   Later, that museum was taken over by the state. At that time, the letters were in a safe in Ruidoso. Concerned about conservation of the letters, author/historian Dr. Gale Cooper and others urged they be transferred to the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library in Santa Fe.

   The transfer was accomplished in August 2009 and the letters, in good condition, went on display then safe archiving amid front-page articles calling them an absolute treasure.

   And they are just that. Up to that time, historians seemed to be the only people who did not regard the Kid as just an illiterate thug. The letters cast an entirely new light on Billy. He obviously articulate, intelligent, polite and well-schooled in penmanship.

   The most famous of the letters, written in 1879, was Billy's first correspondence to Gov. Wallace. In it, he sets up the deal in which he would testify in a murder case involving the Lincoln County War aftermath in return for the state dropping charges against him for  murder indictments from that war.

   But trouble struck that famous letter. While researching her next book on Billy's writings, Cooper learned it had been put on "indefinite display" since this March. And now, Cooper claims it is seriously deteriorating after light exposure for months longer than federal guidelines for paper documents allow. She says it should be taken off display. Museum staff are taking their time.

   Cooper says professionals can make exact copies of the letters to put on display, while the originals are preserved in temperature and humidity-controlled darkness.. She has offered to pay for the foremost paper conservator in the United States to perform repairs on the original.

   She says the museum has refused her offer. She is now getting the Library of Congress and the National Archives involved in the dispute.

   The March 1979 letter, Cooper says is the most important of Billy's letters to Wallace, and arguably a national treasure. And it is now in danger of being lost to future generations of aficionados.

   And as we know from her eight years of fighting the Billy the Kid Case hoax, she does not give up.

   *  *     *

   In other New Mexico history news, the Alamogordo Daily News reports Alamogordo historian Dr. Dave Townsend as saying incoming Secretary of State Dianna Duran of Alamogordo is only the second statewide official ever to be elected from Otero County.

   Murray Morgan served as commissioner of public lands from 1957-1960. He was elected to two two-year terms.

   Former Gov. Ed Mechem was born in Alamogordo and was a playmate of my father's about the time New Mexico became a state. But both moved on to Las Cruces, from where they launched their careers.









MON, 12-13-10


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

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


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

12-10 Gov. Will Be a Gentleman Rancher

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- "I want to remain in New Mexico and become a gentleman rancher." That is Gov. Bill Richardson's latest life-after-governor pronouncement.
It occurred last Saturday as part of remarks the governor made thanking the Governor's Mansion Foundation for its efforts in furnishing the public areas of our governor's mansion.
First Lady Barbara Richardson also expressed thanks and ended her remarks saying the couple plans to remain our neighbors, perhaps within a few blocks of the mansion.
There go all my uneducated guesses about both of them having New Mexico in their rear view mirror. Of course, this may not be the final word but it came less than a month from their moving out date.
We heard Gov. Richardson say for years that he had no interest in running for president or vice president. But maybe he is closer to the truth this time.
Richardson loves to ride and hunt. He can do that while serving on corporate boards and accepting speaking engagements, which bring in a nice income. He recently re-expressed his lack of interest in heading the Motion Picture Association.
If Richardson decides to remain in Santa Fe, he will join former Govs. Jerry Apodaca and Toney Anaya as Santa Fe residents. Bruce King always went back to the ranch in Stanley. Gary Johnson never cared for Santa Fe. He now bases out of the Taos Ski Valley. Garrey Carruthers moved back to Las Cruces and Dave Cargo lives in Albuquerque.
The Mansion Foundation is an interesting political phenomenon. I've mentioned it before but here's a little more background. The condition of the governor's residence isn't exactly a high priority of the Legislature.
Neither is the governor's suite of offices on the top floor of the state Capitol Building. Many governors and their staff have complained about the poor service they get from the landlord, the Legislative Council Service.
In the early 1980s, after Gov. Toney Anaya vetoed the Legislature's appropriation for it's own expenses. Lawmakers responded by evicting the governor's office from the Capitol Building. Guess that shows who's boss.
The same tension exists between the Legislature and the first family. Why does the governor's house need a grand piano? What do you mean, it needs tuning? Why do they need all that silver, china and crystal?
Governors always have furnished their private quarters but none have ever had sufficient furniture for the public areas of the house. And when they did use their own furniture and paintings, they often weren't a New Mexican décor.
So First Lady Kathy Carruthers came up with the idea for a private foundation that would raise the funds and work with the first family on the décor and upkeep of the public areas of the mansion.
The incoming first family is likely to especially appreciate the help of the foundation in keeping up the residence. This will be the first time New Mexico has had a first gentleman and unless Chuck Franco has some special talents he has yet to reveal, he may appreciate the help.
* * *
New Mexico pony, Mine That Bird, is about to become a movie star. Mine That Bird astounded the world of racing with its stretch drive to win the Kentucky Derby last year.
His story, up through the Derby win, was a rags to riches tear jerker that Hollywood loves. Evidently Mine That Bird put everything he had into that victory because he never won again. He finished second in the Preakness and Third in the Belmont and continued fading in the big races.
We got to watch him, with Roswell's Mike Smith aboard, in the Breeder's Cup a few weeks ago in which he finished 10th out of 13. After the race, his owners said he will be retired.
That should give him plenty of time to play himself in the movie, much of which will be filmed in New Mexico.
FRI, 12-10-10

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


Monday, December 06, 2010

12-8 Same Song: Second Verse

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Are New Mexicans about to get the same story: second verse? During Susana Martinez's year-long quest for the governor's office, no one talked publicly about the possibility of her being the GOP vice-presidential nominee two years hence.
Late in the primary campaign, it became very obvious that state and national GOP leaders had pegged her as their favorite.
Those of us not in the party structure were very surprised to see her crush four other candidates badly at the Republican pre-primary nominating convention in March.
In late May, we were even more surprised to see huge out-of-state cash donations rolling into the Martinez campaign and a reprimand of her closest competitor by the state party brass.
.Martinez produced another lopsided victory margin in the June primary. But with a campaign account severely depleted by a bruising primary, the general feeling was that she would be swamped by Lt. Gov. Diane Denish's $2 million war chest with which she was starting her campaign.
But Susana didn't miss a step. Her money kept rolling in, much of it from outside the state. It was obvious the national folks really liked her and felt she could win and guarantee Republicans some cover in next year's legislative and congressional redistricting.
The day after the November 2 general election, it finally dawned on us folks out in the stacks that GOP leaders had bigger plans for Susana.
National blogs, and soon newspapers, were alive with speculation about Martinez as the perfect GOP vice presidential candidate in 2012.
After watching George W. Bush capture 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, Republicans realized an Hispanic on the ticket might carry some real weight. This year, they also found themselves doing better with women than usual.
Wow. What if we could find an Hispanic woman of sufficient stature? That would make us difficult to beat. Hey, I hear the New Mexico Republicans have an Hispanic woman in their gubernatorial primary. Let's take a look at her.
So now Susana is on everyone's short list for vice president in 2012. She's being invited all over the country to appear on panels about new faces in the Republican Party. Could we be in for another partly or mostly absent governor in our future?
You know the rest. She'll deny her interest and tell us she only cares about New Mexico. But she'll keep going to meetings out of state. And maybe she might do some things in New Mexico that will look good on the national stage.
Richardson immediately started setting himself apart with "bold initiatives." He became a tax-cutting Democrat. The RailRunner commuter train and other environmental initiatives made him "The Greenest Governor." And he took a leadership role on immigration.
Watch for the same types of action from Martinez. She has even dubbed her inaugural ball The 'Bold Inaugural Ball." What does that mean? I'm guessing some bold themes plus some bold invitees to the first-ever invitation-only inaugural ball.
Martinez's searing-in ceremony will not be held at the Capitol as usual. It will be held on the Santa Fe plaza. Why do that? It's a bold change. It's outside on traditionally the coldest day of the year. Only the toughest of governors would ever do that. Gov. Jerry Apodaca's was the last outdoor inaugural..
Some have worried that Susana la Tejana isn't interested in New Mexico history, tradition and culture. Where better could she be sworn in than on a 400-year-old plaza, with a backdrop of the Palace of the Governors, which now is the Museum of New Mexico?
There will be a Children's Ball held at the Children's Museum. What better way to symbolize the new governor's commitment to children and education?
The only problem with grooming Gov. Martinez for a vice-presidential role is that she has reportedly said throughout her life that she wants to be president.
She could have had the GOP nomination for state attorney general in any recent election but she had her goal set higher.
WED, 12-08-10

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


Thursday, December 02, 2010

12-6 Were We Bamboozled?


Syndicated Columnist

                SANTA FE -- What a coincidence. On Nov. 2, New Mexico voters overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would allow a governor to appoint a legislator to civil office.

On Nov, 24, Gov.-Elect Susana Martinez appointed Rep. Keith Gardner, the House Republican whip, as her chief of staff.

I wasn't being sardonic when I called it a coincidence. New Mexico court decisions for years have given a very narrow interpretation to what constitutes a civil office.

It is highly likely that voters had a very different interpretation than the courts do about what constitutes a civil office. After all the uproar the past few years over Gov. Bill Richardson's 500 political appointees, many of us assumed these were the people the amendment was talking about.

But the courts have defined civil office much more narrowly, to the point it only seems to include cabinet secretaries, judges and appointments to fill vacancies in  elected state wide offices.

It doesn't include the governor's chief of staff, who arguably is the second most powerful person in the state. Remember all the times I've told you lieutenant governors have just about no power -- even when governors are out of state. In reality, it's the chief of staff who takes over.

I also have said we should repeal the fulltime lieutenant governor option. Now I'll add to that a repeal of the words "civil office" from the constitution.

Civil office surely had a definite meaning when our constitution was written 100 year ago. But take a look at your dictionary sometime for the word "civil" There likely is an entire column of different meanings of the word.

Among the scores of meanings of "civil" is the definition: "created by law." That's likely what the courts were thinking about. Chiefs of staff probably aren't mentioned in the law.

Courts reportedly have ruled that the Legislature must invest sovereign power in a position for it to be considered a civil office. I cannot ever envision a legislature ever giving anyone sovereign power. They call cabinet secretaries before committees to rake them over the coals and let them know who is boss.

The only offices I can think of that are supreme are that of the governor and the supreme court. And those positions are not created by the Legislature but by the constitution.

An interpretation by one news organization was that civil office means what civil service does in the federal government. In New Mexico we call it the state personnel act.

The governor definitely is prohibited from appointing anyone to positions covered by the state personnel act. Those people have to fill out applications, take tests and all that rigmarole to prove they are qualified for their job.

The employees appointed by the governor are exempt from the personnel act's regulations and protections. Until 1962, when the state personnel act was passed, all state employees were appointed by the governor.

So that original prohibition in our constitution may have referred to all state employees.  Voter sentiment at this point likely would favor the prohibition be extended to all gubernatorial appointees.

The joint resolution calling for the constitutional amendment passed the Legislature earlier this year with only 12 of the 112 legislators voting against it. The public vote on that amendment last month was 77-23 in opposition.

The defeat of that amendment may keep some very talented legislators from serving as cabinet secretaries. But this isn't a good time for lawmakers to be asking voters to trust them.

And in another bit of unfortunate timing, Gov.-Elect Susana Martinez, whose campaign was centered around eliminating corruption in government, was almost immediately faced with the reality of appearing to skirt a message voters had sent loudly and clearly about corruption.

I feel confident Keith Gardner can overcome this twist of fate.