Inside the Capitol

Monday, January 10, 2011


MON, 1-17-11

SANTA FE - Our former governor may be through with his Billy the Kid pardon deliberations but the world isn't through with Billy. We will still be hearing of him often.
And that's not bad. Billy the Kid's legend, whether accurate or not, will long be an important commodity to New Mexico. The tourism industries in many communities are helped anywhere from partially to almost completely by stories of The Kid's exploits thereabouts.
Gov. Bill Richardson spent some time on the subject of Billy the Kid but it wasn't totally wasted as some of his detractors maintained. Helping local communities increase tourism isn't wasted time.
In fact, that's my idea of economic development. I'd much rather see our state helping businesses that already are here rather than spending millions of taxpayer and state permanent fund money going after the big boys who talk a good game but who don't have an ounce of loyalty to New Mexico.
So I'm happy to see Billy keep on riding and churning up business for this state. And that he'll do. A letter from J.P. Garrett to his family, and to selected news people, urges them not to give up the fight to assure former Sheriff Pat Garrett's good name is preserved.
My biggest problem with Gov. Richardson's involvement with Billy the Kid the past eight years was that he was playing with fire. By wanting to dig up Billy and his mother to check their DNA against pretenders, the governor and his friends said they wanted to prove Garrett did shoot Billy and that The Kid is buried in Fort Sumner.
However all the side issues that emerged created doubt about what really happened. All but one community fought having any digging in their cemeteries. The only place that didn't fight was the Arizona Pioneers Home.
It was a state-owned facility in Prescott. Gov. Janet Napolitano evidently figured Arizona had nothing to lose. If John Miller didn't turn out to be Billy, few would care and if he did turn out to match Catherine Antrim's DNA, it would be a huge win for Arizona.
Some lawmen from Lincoln County found a bench they said The Kid's body was laid on. They sent a DNA sample from that bench to a Texas lab for comparison with DNA from one of two bodies dug up from the Arizona cemetery.
That was over two years ago and nothing more has been heard. Several of us tried to obtain the information in order to eliminate public confusion but our requests were denied, either because it was part of a criminal investigation of who Garrett shot or that it is private information not subject to public disclosure.
So author/historian Dr. Gale Cooper and Fort Sumner newspaper publisher Scot Stinnett went to court to obtain the information. The judge ruled the information must be released but a year has passed with no compliance.
A daylong hearing will be held on Friday, Jan. 21, in the Sandoval County District Court in Bernalillo, to determine what action should be taken for failure to follow a court order.
It is obvious why the Garrett family is interested in this information being released. It surely will show that there is no relationship between the blood on the carpenter's bench and the DNA from John Miller, and therefore Garrett didn't allow Billy to get away after being shot.
So interest in Billy the Kid will continue. During the part eight years that Gov. Richardson made The Kid an issue, dozens of books about Billy have been written, along with two television documentaries, numerous newspaper and magazine articles and countless Web sites and blogs.
It will all be to New Mexico's good as long as it doesn't confuse potential tourists that some of the pseudo-history about Garrett shooting someone else and/or letting Billy get away might be true.
FRI, 1-14-11

SANTA FE - New Mexico once included at least three times the territory it now does. Perhaps you have seen maps of New Mexico from the early 1800s showing us covering an area that includes all of Arizona and the southern portions of Colorado, Utah and Nevada. How did we lose so much territory?
I recently became aware of a book published in 2008 that answers most of the questions. "How the States Got Their Shapes," was researched and written by Mark Stein and published by Smithsonian Books.
It also has been produced for television. I saw it late one night on the History Channel, as I recall. The show tried to cover all 50 states in about 90 minutes. Naturally, I thought New Mexico was shortchanged so I looked for the book.
I soon realized that every researcher has to start somewhere. The acquisition of new territory by the United States was his starting point. The map I had remembered was produced when we were still a territory of Mexico.
When New Mexico became a U.S. territory, things changed. Texas already had been a state for a few years and before that had been its own independent republic for nine years.
Soon after our Revolutionary War victory, Congress appointed a committee headed by Thomas Jefferson to decide how to divide newly acquired territory into states. As you might expect, Jefferson believed that all states should be created equal. That is why so many states, except for the original colonies are much the same size and have so many square corners.
Except Texas and California. They were special. This was the time of manifest destiny when most Americans figured the Almighty meant for the United States to own all of North America. Or from sea to shining sea, at least.
Texas and California were vital to achieving that goal. So Congress told both of them they could claim any land they liked. Texas immediately claimed all of New Mexico to the Rio Grande.
That made Santa Fe, the capital of New Spain for 250 years, just another west Texas town. Congress knew better. It also knew Texas was flat broke so it bought New Mexico back from Texas. And it suggested that Texas divide into five states Texas said it liked being big.
California was different. Gold had just been discovered at Sutter's Mill. The United States needed California more than California needed the United States so it got to stay big too.
Poor New Mexico had nothing to bargain with. It was poor, spoke a different language and had a different religion. So the rules were followed and New Mexico became about the same size as its neighbors - except Texas.
It was too bad. Southern Coloradoans are the same culture as Northern New Mexicans. Many feel left out by their government in Denver. They watch New Mexico TV stations and when a New Mexican says, "I'm from southern Colorado," we know it means, "I'm really one of you."
But Colorado had discovered gold too. So even though its neighbors on all sides claimed their land, Colorado got to be its own equal-sized state.
It was Arizona that came out the worst. It and New Mexico knew they would be divided. For a brief period in 1862, when the confederate army was marching up the Rio Grande, Confederates created a state of Arizona out of the southern half of each state.
But after Confederates were turned back at Glorieta, east of Santa Fe, Congress drew a north-south line separating the states east and west. Soon after, Congress dinged Arizona by taking away the southern part of Nevada that once was part of the New Mexico territory. The land was awarded to Nevada.
That area now contains Boulder Dam and Las Vegas, Nevada. Reasons were not given but the suspicion is that it was punishment for the brief creation of that Confederate state.
WED, 1-12-10

SANTA FE - Think you know just about everything regarding the father of our country? You know he was our first president - and probably our greatest. You know he was a great general and that we likely wouldn't have won our independence without him.
You've also undoubtedly read that little George chopped down a cherry tree as a child and then 'fessed up to his little crime. The obvious message is that George already was mature as a child and that all children should strive to be that way.
But that's not the way it happened. Little George started out as a baby and had a childhood not unlike the rest of us. He grew into adolescence with all the irritating traits of that stage of life.
If you would like to read a story of how our greatest American got through adolescence to become the superhero he was, do I have a book for you. It was written by Roswell historian David Clary and published by Simon & Schuster.
Clary tells a story that few have ever told. It chronicles Washington's struggle through the long adjustment from boyhood to manhood. It is a story that helps a reader appreciate Washington more than ever because he wasn't born a great man. He endured a painful struggle to become one.
Washington did not have a military education as most great generals have. But his strong ambition to become a leader and a keen ability to learn from his mistakes managed to get him there.
The young Washington did get an early start by doing a great job selling himself to his elders. It was during the French and Indian War of 1754 to 1763 that the young man got to start learning the lessons of war, starting as a colonel at age 22.
He was a young glory seeker thrust into circumstances he was not prepared to handle by elders who should have known better than to listen to Washington's entreaties for command.
Leading young amateur soldiers in the Virginia militia against French professionals, he was on his own, with no superior officers and no battle hardened veterans to keep him out of trouble.
The brash young man made many mistakes. He survived his five-year ordeal unlike any other founding father. He was becoming a great military thinker by the process of trial and error - mostly error in the beginning. But he usually managed to explain his way out of bad decisions, sometimes by shading the truth.
His insubordination to civil and military leaders was, at times, shocking. But he got away with it , struggled through it and eventually emerged as the steady, mature supreme leader our revolution had to have.
Clary has the talent of reveling in the backstories of American history. In "Adopted Son," he tells of the father-son relationship that developed between Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette that saved the American Revolution.
In "Eagles and Empire," he tells the story of the Mexican-American War from both sides, , revealing the horrible decisions by American and Mexican leaders that led to a war that never should have happened the way it did.
Once again, in "Washington's First War," Clary reveals amazing facts about the foibles of a precocious young man who had to learn everything the hard way. Some may feel Clary shouldn't even reveal some of young Washington's mistakes, missteps and even insubordination.
Others may feel like Clary's wife Bea, who said some of Washington's actions made her want to send him to his room. But they were all actions that molded perhaps our greatest American, a man without whom our revolution may not have succeeded.
As of yesterday, Clary's book is now available in bookstores and online. It's a great read - by a fellow New Mexican.
MON. 1-10-11

SANTA FE - During the recent gubernatorial campaign, I was chided for comparing Susana Martinez with Barack Obama. I talked about their ability to excite people who never had voted before. Many of those new voters were independents but others were registered in the opposing party.
Well get over it, because here I come with more comparisons. The day after President Obama was inaugurated, the wolves were at his heels. Radio talker Rush Limbaugh came flat out and said he hoped Obama would fail as our president.
Several Republican leaders scolded him for wanting our president to fail but after a day or so nearly all had fallen in line pledging to do their part to make Obama a one-term president. Those are the people casting the unanimous no votes in Congress.
With Susana, the attacks started even earlier. On December 29, three days before she became governor, state Democratic Chair Javier Gonzales penned an OP-ED piece attacking Martinez for breaking campaign promises even before taking office.
The very next day, GOP state Chairman Monty Newman, of Hobbs, fired back a reply. In case you hadn't noticed, the campaign battles appear to have moved into all out war already. There don't appear to be any statesmanlike efforts to cooperatively move New Mexico forward.
As the Legislature convenes in a little over a week, let's hope party leaders will give peace a chance and make some efforts to move New Mexico forward. Those of you with decent memories will recall that Bill Richardson had a reasonably long honeymoon with both the Legislature and with voters who approved two major education amendments in a special election nine months into his term.
What is the difference now? What is making us less civil? Is it the poor economy? Did Obama, and maybe Susana, raise expectations too high with their messages of hope? Let's give Susana a little more time. She's barely gotten started.
Admittedly, Gov. Martinez has been off to a slower start than most governors have. As their terms ended on Dec. 31, some cabinet secretaries were unsure who to leave their keys with because only about half of the old cabinet had been replaced.
It is a bit of a problem when reorganization is being seriously considered, to appoint a cabinet secretary for a department you want to abolish. That's why we're seeing some temporary and interim appointments. Heads of boards and commissions have been told their agencies won't be evaluated for awhile so they will be around maybe until after the Legislature's completion in March.
Not only did Gov. Martinez get off to a slow start, it also was a cold start. There may be something about governors from Las Cruces that causes them to figure that Jan. 1 is a fine day for an outdoor ceremony. Gov. Jerry Apodaca tried it too. The temperature in 1975 was about 16. On my back porch this year it was around 6 degrees at 10 a.m., when the inaugural ceremonies began on the Santa Fe plaza.
Gov. Gary Carruthers also was from Las Cruces and knew better. Do you suppose it was his Ph.D.? Apodaca and Martinez both give the appearance of toughness. Maybe that explains the outdoor ceremonies.
Santa Fe old-timers can tell you that our worst weather is almost always right around the first of the year. In 2006, we had 27 inches of snow on New Year's Day. Even Las Cruces was cold this year. El Paso's Sun Bowl was played in freezing temperatures.
Many of us in the news business were surprised at how little coverage the inauguration activities received. I could swear I heard television stations advertise that they were going to give full coverage to the activities but there was no live coverage and little on the news.
Maybe they didn't want to be out in the cold either. Can't blame them. I stayed inside myself.



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