Inside the Capitol

Friday, June 29, 2012

7-6 July Happening Month in NM History

70612 July events

SANTA FE – July is a big month in New Mexico history. So as part of our continuing statehood centennial coverage, let's talk about some of our July happenings.
Historian Marc Simmons says New Mexico saw a July 4 celebration in Taos as early as 1825, only four years after opening of the Santa Fe Trail. Simmons says the early traders didn't have an American flag so they used a flag with the American eagle on it. The Spanish likely recognized it as the Mexican eagle and cheered along, thinking the Americanos were adapting to the new culture amazingly fast.
In the July 8, 1947 Roswell Daily Record, the banner headline blared that the Roswell Army Air Force Base had captured a flying saucer. That may be all that happened. Various people reported seeing falling objects, crashes or debris fields but none of it survived. Evidently the Army meticulously picked up everything.
The following day, Army headquarters declared it was a weather balloon and nothing more was said. But the news release, issued by the base commander, went viral as they say now. Never before or since has a governmental agency announced the capture of a UFO. It was denied by "higher headquarters" the following day but there had to be some reason for the news release.
So even though other places in the world have better UFO stories, Roswell always has remained king, drawing many visitors and events. Other New Mexico locations now have their own stories, which draw tourists for a UFO tour of New Mexico to visit Socorro, Aztec, Magdalena and Archuleta Mesa too.
Billy the Kid was shot by Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881, in Fort Sumner, NM. That was before statehood but Billy continues to roam the state causing trouble. In the past few years, the Kid has almost been dug up and almost pardoned for killing Sheriff Brady.
The latest news about the Kid is that on June 16, someone broke into both Fort Sumner Billy the Kid museums. They were ransacked and weapons were stolen. They also broke into the cage that protects The Kid's grave. They toppled the large "Billy and Pals" marker, then proceeded to the other graves in the cemetery and toppled, defaced or destroyed them.
A $1,000 reward has been offered through Crimestoppers. Several individuals and groups are said to be planning to add to that amount. According to Tim Sweet at the museum, the cemetery is being put back together. The big marker is back up but there has been some permanent damage to the old sandstone markers, which cannot be fixed.
The Trinity explosion occurred on July 16, 1945 on what then was the Alamogordo Bombing Range. It was the first atomic bomb ever detonated. The blast was in the northeast corner of the range near U.S. 380.
Scientists had made estimates of how dangerous they thought the blast would be. But no one knew for sure. They took care of their people and special guests. But ranchers in the area were not warned or evacuated.
Some from the area showed immediate effects. Others developed cancer in future years. Some reported that government agents checking on them said their reactions were caused by being Hispanic.
Congress has passed laws compensating downwinders in Nevada and Utah from the Nevada atomic tests in the 1950s. But nothing has been done for downwinders of the Trinity test.
An organization has been formed called the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium to seek compensation through our congressional delegation. Bills were introduced in both houses of Congress last year.
On July 14 this year, The Tularosa downwinders are holding their third annual luminaria lighting and prayer vigil from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Tularosa Little League Field in cooperation with the Village of Tularosa. A Native American medicine man and other faith healers will participate. Legislators and other dignitaries have been invited.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

7-4 Paying Homage to Our Patriots

70412 July 4

SANTA FE – This is a very special day. We have many reasons to celebrate. Considering current events, there is very good

reason to be extra patriotic.
We should pay homage to those patriots who pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Then they

signed a document that made them all revolutionaries, guilty of treason, if captured.
Upon winning that revolution, we became the first revolutionary power and now we are the oldest revolutionary government in the

world. We also are holder of the oldest written constitution.
It was all very infectious. Lafayette returned home after our war and, under George Washington's influence, made it the pet cause

of liberals in France and Europe during the 1790s, introducing democracy in many countries throughout the continent.
Lafayette's friendship with Washington is the subject of Adopted Son, a book by Dave Clary, of Roswell, detailing the relationship

between the two and the wide-ranging influence it had on themselves and their countries. It's a good July 4th read.
At this point in our history, when we're not feeling very good about some of our European allies, it may be helpful to remember

the contributions of Lafayette, von Steuben, de Kalb and others, who helped us win our freedom.
Lafayette's contributions were especially crucial. He's the one who trapped Cornwallis at Yorktown and held him, though grossly

outnumbered, until the rest of the American and French forces arrived. And he's the one who won the military and financial support of

France for our cause.
When the United States entered World War I, much of the motivation was gratitude to France for its help so many years earlier.

That assistance is now mostly forgotten but at the time, it was poignantly remembered by Gen. George Pershing's aide, Col. Charles

Stanton, soon after we entered the war, when he visited Lafayette's tomb on July 4, 1917 to announce, "Lafayette, we are here."
As we celebrate the document that officially declared the colonies to be in revolution, it is appropriate to remember that it is

the only Revolutionary War date that we do celebrate, except for Patriot's Day commemorating the beginning of the War, on April 19,

1775. It still is celebrated in New England, with one of the big events being the Boston Marathon.
This would be a good day to reread the Declaration of Independence. It is an absolutely brilliant and inspired argument for

overthrowing tyranny, and not just in the colonies' circumstance. It was a universal justification applicable to all people and all

Historian Samuel Morrison once said that had the American Revolution produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it

would have been worthwhile.
Our founders fully understood that in order to espouse these universal, never-ending truths, they had to make it possible for

revolution to occur again, even in their own country.
Thus came the Bill of Rights. Many of its 10 amendments are under attack today, with questionable searches and seizures, trials

that aren't speedy, gun control and public sentiment against the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
The willingness by many to surrender some of our cherished freedoms in return for perceived security is deeply troubling, but of

most concern to someone in my business is the indication that many Americans have second thoughts about the First Amendment.
Polls over the last few years suggest that although Americans still support the ideals of the First Amendment, they have

reservations about its reality. A majority think the press has too much freedom, that public demonstrations should not be allowed and

that freedom of religion is not meant to apply to fringe groups.
And although 90 percent of Americans believe in freedom of speech, support falls to less than 50 percent when asked about

specifics that are constitutionally protected. We are becoming reluctant to offend, willing to silence unpopular opinions and

provocative ideas at the cost of freedom.
Where will we go from here?
MON, 70411

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

7-2 Gov. will overcome email-gate

70212 emails

SANTA FE – Our new governor has been accident prone recently. At least that is the way members of her administration have explained it. There were oversights, a typo, and a foggy memory.
A big uproar was created over the governor's chief advisor, Jay McCleskey, obtaining a list of non-union teachers from the Public Education Department. That act created a number of controversies. First was preferential treatment. How did McCleskey get a request filled without putting it in writing?
Second, how did he get a list compiled by department staff when the rest of us are told if a document does not exist, they don't have to go to the trouble of compiling one.
Third, why were some of the email communications on private accounts and the rest on Gov. Martinez's political account? They should all have been on state government accounts.
Fourth, is it allowable to release names of teachers' union membership status, along with their school email addresses?
It didn't take long for lawmakers to start calling for investigations of state business being conducted through private email.
Then came the revelation that legislators often use private email for state business to avoid public scrutiny. After that someone noticed that Sen. Tim Jennings used state email to announce his bid for reelection. (Using public email for private business.)
At that point, Gov. Martinez decided to accept an invitation from the Foundation for Open Government to discuss the matter of when emails should be on state accounts and therefore open to public scrutiny.
The law says that preliminary discussions of state business can be conducted by private email. But FOG encouraged the governor to conduct all state business by state email to produce maximum transparency, which is what the governor promised during her campaign.
Gov. Martinez accepted the advice and issued a directive that only state email accounts should be used for any state business. My guess is that action will eliminate any further hassle from the Legislature, which has not reciprocated with any rule to stop legislators from using private email to avoid transparency.
While Gov. Martinez has gained the upper hand on transparency, we in the news business will continue to remind state agencies that we should be as special as Jay McCleskey when it comes to compiling reports in the format we need. I don't think any of us have any problem with putting requests in writing instead of doing it verbally, as McCleskey did, because there is less chance of misinterpretation.
The governor has come out of this dustup on transparency quite well, at least for now. She still has problems with her political activity and her ties to McCleskey. Having McCleskey's favored state employees on the SusanaPAC's email account is difficult to comprehend.
It lends credence to the Democrats' charge that state government still is in campaign mode. By looking at the state employees who use the SusanaPAC email account, it tells us who the McCleskey people are in state government.
And then there is the problem of getting involved in Democratic primary campaigns. Reform New Mexico Now, another of Gov. Martinez's political action committees, made donations to several Democratic incumbent legislators whom Gov. Martinez thought were more favorable toward her programs than their challengers would be.
At the same time, that same PAC was running campaign ads against the Republican opponent of her endorsed candidate in Clovis charging him with making donations to Democrats. Many in Clovis charge the governor with hypocrisy.
Last week, Republican state Senate candidate Aubrey Dunn, Jr. denounced Gov. Martinez and asked that she return $5,250 in campaign contributions he had made to her. His problem is that her PAC supported Dunn's Democratic opponent in the June primary.
The final straw came when the governor wrote Dunn seeking money for Susana PAC so it could support Republican candidates in the general election. Dunn called Martinez's letter disingenuous at best.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

6-29 21st century firefighting needed

62912 fires

SANTA FE – If we don't improve our firefighting, the Rockies will burn down. Those were the words of retired Los Alamos scientist Chick Keller when interviewed by Capitol Reports.
Keller has a point. We are not utilizing all the resources our nation has to fight wildfires. Almost every year fires in Western states are setting records for most land burned and that will continue until we get smarter.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce criticized the Forest Service for its handling of the Ruidoso fire that burned over 200 homes. There appeared to be opportunities to stop the fire in its early stages if the right actions had been taken at the right time.
Pearce's comments came at the height of the fire. Gov. Susana Martinez commended the bravery of the firefighters and said the time for critiques would come later. And several days later she pled on national TV for 21st century methods of firefighting.
Keller has some suggestions. He says the Air Force can solve many of the problems. It can deploy bigger planes that can fly at night to help map strategy for ground crews to follow early the next morning while the fires still are laid down.
Drones also could play a part. The Ai8r Force would not need anything new, according to Keller. Everything needed could come right off the shelf.
The problem is that fighting forest fires is not part of the Air Force's mission. That probably takes an act of Congress – and funding or redeployment. Rep. Pearce would be the logical person to get that started.
Firefighting methods have changed over the years. When I was a high schooler in Silver City in the '50s, we didn't have tankers to drop slurry. We had smoke jumpers to drop on fires. These were usually athletic college guys from throughout the Rockies. During their free time they stole our girlfriends from us. We needed to replace them with those slurry bombers back then but the planes were busy in Korea.
Gov. Martinez also talks about the mismanagement of forests. She is referring to the floor of forests being littered with shrubs, dead trees and several inches of pine needles. She would like to see all that cleaned up and the trees thinned out.
Martinez commends the Mescalero Apaches to the west of Ruidoso who get to manage their own forest. It is clean and much less susceptible to fires. According to Keller, it is extremely fortunate for Ruidoso because if a fire ever gets started west of Ruidoso or any other populated area, the result would be catastrophic because the prevailing winds would blow it into town.
What Gov. Martinez refers to as mismanagement actually is management by a different philosophy. There is a strong lobby for leaving forests in their natural state because that is healthier for all the little critters that live on the forest floor.
Something bad evidently happens when the place is cleaned up. Arizona appears to be resisting that lobby because forests near previously burned areas now look pristine.
The Forest Service probably shouldn't be blamed for mismanagement. It is doing everything it is allowed to do. It just needs more tools and a different management philosophy.
The fireworks season is now upon us. Gov. Martinez is most concerned. Last summer there was a cry from many quarters for gubernatorial power to ban fireworks. She pursued that quest in the redistricting session and was told there was time to wait until the regular session in January.
She had the ban introduced in January and ran into the fireworks lobby, which convinced lawmakers that the ban would cost jobs and put them out of business.
Martinez will try again next January but the result is likely to be the same. Seven fires were started by fireworks in state forests last year. Another seven were started in Albuquerque. And no telling how many more were started in other communities.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

FW: 6-27 Congress should look at lizard agreement process

62712 lizard

SANTA FE – Amazing history was made last week down in the southeastern corner of New Mexico as totally divergent groups of interests got together on an agreement that saved the dunes sagebrush lizard and 20 percent of American oil output all in one fell swoop.
Parties to this groundbreaking endeavor were landowners in the habitat of this evidently valuable but tiny reptile, environmentalists, members of Congress from New Mexico and Texas and officials from the federal Department of the Interior.
The landowners included oil and gas companies, ranchers and private citizens in a small corner of New Mexico and West Texas. Environmentalists included those groups willing to sit down and talk rather than insisting that all landowners just get out. Members of Congress included New Mexico Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce. Texas had its counterparts to our delegation.
Government officials included representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal Bureau of Land Management and various state and local agencies.
Evidently this agreement is the first of its kind and should serve as a model for how these kinds of issues are dealt with, according to Sen. Tom Udall. Actually, Tom, this agreement should serve as a model for how Congress deals with all issues. We haven't seen cooperation like this in Congress for quite some time.
Not everything is sweetness and light concerning this agreement. Environmental groups that didn't participate in the talks insist that the Interior Department sold out to the politicos and the oil and gas industry and that the agreements will never work. Big oil has been most gracious about the agreements, which will cause it to dismantle quite a bit of infrastructure. They probably figure it is the best deal they are going to get in an environment so sensitive to preserving little creatures.
One oil industry representative did suggest that the federal government made its decision based on the political implications of causing the oil industry headaches just before the presidential election. Maybe so, but President Obama isn't likely to pull many votes from the oil and gas people regardless of his decision. But environmental organizations usually are big Democratic supporters and some of them aren't a bit happy right now.
As usual in such high stakes negotiations both sides came in overstating their cases. The oil industry talked in terms of the entire Permian Basin being shut down instead of the small area where this little lizard exists. Some environmental groups said it was less than one percent of the basin.
The WildEarth Guardians declared "There is no species more deserving of federal protection than the dunes sagebrush lizard." The group further said that even these agreements may be too weak to keep the species from becoming extinct.
I suppose if the lizard does become extinct, terrible things will happen to this earth. I understand our world is not supposed to survive past December 21 of this year anyway so maybe it doesn't matter. All I know is that since the beginning of life on earth, huge numbers of species have gone extinct. Maybe if they had all survived, we would have a perfect world – with dinosaurs.
Let's hope all these agreements with each of the landowners work out because the lesser prairie chicken is following close behind. It seems like a never-ending stream of critters, evidently vital to our existence, that keep impeding businesses that carry the promise of producing more jobs.
According to news reports, voluntary conservation agreements were sought between the federal government and each landowner in the lizard habitat. Landowners in about 88 percent of dunes sagebrush lizard land enrolled in the program.
The cost to landowners in the program isn't small. The fee to enroll in the program is $2 an acre. Each activity within the habitat is then charged a fee. In the case of drilling an oil well, the fee could run as high as $20,000.
> From:
> To:;
> Subject: 6-27 Congress should look at lizard agreement process
> Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2012 17:54:33 -0600

Sunday, June 17, 2012

6-25 NM getting closer to Manhattan Project Park

62512 Manhattan

SANTA FE – Legislation finally has been introduced in Congress to create a Manhattan Project Historical Park. New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman is the prime sponsor.
The Senate bill is the culmination of a nine-year effort by Bingaman to recognize the founding scientific community of Los Alamos which forever changed the world. Some will say the change was for the worse yet it was a historically significant part of our nation's history.
Bingaman's bill isn't about honoring the Manhattan Project or about the bomb. It is about the incredible effort our country put forth to remain free and the scientific advances made by unlocking the secrets of atomic energy.
Our scientists and policymakers were well aware that they were unleashing a dreadful power. But if we didn't, others would. Germany, Japan and Russia all were working on a bomb in 1945. If any of them would have been first, the history of our nation would have been very different.
It is amazing that for over 60 years there has been no official recognition or interpretation of such a historic effort. The story is one of frustration, turf battles, obsession with secrecy and political maneuvering.
Very soon after the explosion of the first atomic bomb at Trinity Site in 1945, the National Park Service began talking with the Army about making the site, in a corner of what is now White Sands Missile Range, a part of the park system.
The Army would have nothing to do with it. It had taken the land from area ranchers and wasn't going to share it with anyone even though the request was for a miniscule portion of the 3,200 square mile range, the biggest military installation in the nation. The site is near the highway between Carrizozo and San Antonio, NM.
Without the most popular and logical site to recognize the birth of the Atomic Age, the Park Service put further plans on hold for over 15 years. In the 1960s it asked the Atomic Energy Commission to suggest sites significant to the birth of the Atomic Age. The AEC bowed to political pressure and suggested numerous sites, most with little significance.
The latest effort to establish a park site began in 2003 when Sen. Bingaman passed legislation asking the National Park Service to study the feasibility of including Manhattan Project sites in the park system. Six years later he got an answer recommending a site in Los Alamos.
Other sites had made their cases but the NPS concluded they were not feasible. Last year, however, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recommended a Manhattan Project National Historical Park with units in Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Hanford, Washington.
Understandably Bingaman has picked up co-sponsors from Tennessee and Washington State. New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall also is a co-sponsor and may take the leadership role when Bingaman retires at the end of the year.
For now, the bill is on a fast track with hearings scheduled in the House and Senate this month. But that won't be the end. Members of Congress who can come up with anything atomic that has happened in their states will scramble to be included in the bill.
There will be delays, plus a shrinking federal budget may kill it for now. And you can bet there will be groups, including some from our own area who will oppose it.
Meanwhile Los Alamos already has two fine museums recounting the laboratory's early efforts. The Bradbury Museum, 1350 Central Ave. is run by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Los Alamos Historical Society has a museum at 1050 Bathtub Row that depicts the fascinating life that employees led from December 1942 to September 1945.
In case you are wondering, Bathtub Row was where the top managers lived, including Robert Oppenheimer. Their houses have been preserved. All employees lived a very Spartan existence, with rationing of everything imaginable, from toilet paper to bathtubs.

6-22 Santa Fe officials overdo it, as usual

62212 Historic Santa Fe

SANTA FE – Most New Mexicans outside of Santa Fe know that some pretty weird things happen in our capital city. And most of what you've heard is true. Here's another one to add to your list.
The city of Santa Fe has a number of committees and boards designed to protect our 400-year heritage. It's a good idea. No other communities in the nation have buildings that truly are 400 years old. But Santa Fe gets carried away protecting every other building in town.
Last week, the Historic Districts Review Board declared four Depression-Era houses across the street west of the capitol as too precious to be torn down to make way for a state executive office building.
One can certainly ask why the state needs another executive office building, especially in a time of austerity when the governor is said to be trimming staff.
But that wasn't the board's decision to make. Its task was to decide whether the four houses were essential to the historic district that includes the main capitol complex. The decision, predictably, was that the houses should remain.
They were the last remaining examples of home construction during the 1930-33 era, said one committee member. Another member countered that they are not unique and, in fact, are vestigial.
It may be that the other committee members did not know what that meant because they ignored him and voted 5-2 to not allow the demolition.
I happen to have a long history with those houses, For 30 years, beginning in the mid-1960s, I worked in a private office building just beyond those houses west of the capitol. The houses were only a little over 30 years old at that time – and they were dumps then.
Everyone looked forward to the state buying the cheaply constructed houses and tearing them down. Nearly 50 years later they aren't in any better shape.
In the early 1960s the Capitol Buildings Improvement Commission, under Gov. Jack Campbell, had drawn a capitol complex master plan that called for those houses to be purchased and torn down to make room for an executive office building.
A cafeteria would occupy the basement and be connected to the legislative chambers by a tunnel under Don Gaspar Street.
The best opportunity to do that came in the late 1960s, when Rep. Bill O'Donnell, of Las Cruces, vice-chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee introduced legislation to purchase the houses. O'Donnell was highly respected by lawmakers but he couldn't allay suspicions about who would benefit from the purchase.
Republicans worried that the New Mexico Education Association, which O'Donnell had once headed, would benefit. Democrats said the houses were owned by the Prince estate and would benefit House Republican Whip, Brad Prince. So a bipartisan contingent soundly trounced the bill.
The capitol building itself displaced many residential houses and had the City Council's support. But fast-forward to today and preservationists reign.
The Legislature helped this along a year ago by passing legislation directing that the state work with local authorities on zoning decisions.
The legislation was prompted by neighborhood complaints about the massiveness of a large parking garage on the opposite corner of the same large lot containing the four houses. The Legislature was sensitive to those complaints and scaled back the structure.
Such was not the case back in the early 1980s, when state Land Commissioner Alex Armijo installed an oil field pump jack in front of the Land Office Building near downtown Santa Fe.
Many locals complained loudly that the pump jack did not fit in with Santa Fe décor. Armijo countered that the pump jack was a tribute to the positive impact of the oil industry on our state's economy.
And besides, Armijo replied, the city can't tell the state what to do with its property. That has now changed.
To top off last week, the Santa Fe City Council voted to forbid conflict with Iran.

Friday, June 15, 2012

6-20 government can be efficient at times

62012 gov emails

SANTA FE – What a great example of governmental efficiency and transparency. With a mere telephone request, Gov. Susana Martinez's chief political advisor was able to get a list of all nonunion teachers in the state along with their school email addresses.
It required considerable work by at least two divisions of the Public Education Department. It was done so fast and efficiently that the PED information officer proudly attached an email message that went to his boss, the governor, her chief of staff and, of course, her chief political advisor.
Not only did everyone in that loop have reason for pride, all we ink-stained wretches now have reason for hope that our requests for public records can be acted upon as quickly. It is not what we are accustomed to – from any administration that I can recall.
First, we are reminded that requests cannot be made verbally. They must be in writing. In the early days of email, that medium was not acceptable. Sometimes a prompt reply is received but usually an extension of time is requested, often by an attorney.
Much of the time the answer is that the record does not exist. Often that means that the data exists to answer the question but it has never been compiled in the form requested and the agency is not required to do that work for you.
In this case we see that significant information was quickly and proudly done. There is a rather good possibility that a significant increase of public records inspection requests will now begin occurring.
Some records requests become real nightmares. A request for information about DNA testing in a case involving Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office has drug out some eight years. Word is that the plaintiff's costs for that are nearing $1 million. The county and state must pay those legal expenses if a judge decides the records must be turned over.
Over 20 years ago, I made a Freedom of Information Act request of the U.S. Treasury Department for records concerning approximately 100 tons of gold allegedly removed by the Treasury Department from Victorio Peak on White Sands Missile Range. I received a reply that no such records existed.
A few years ago, I received a phone call from a Treasury official about to retire. He was going through old records when he found my letter – in a file marked "Victorio Peak." He said evidently someone did know the file existed when I was sent a reply saying the Treasury Department had nothing.
He sent me the file, with no charges for copying. It contained, among other items, a big map of the Victorio Peak area indicating tunnels connecting the peak with nearby hills. Nothing else was of much interest so I have remained suspicious that I wasn't sent everything. But that's the way these fishing expeditions go.
But now we have new hope. Gov. Martinez ran for office promising she wouldn't be like Bill Richardson. She would be a transparent governor.
Martinez may be a little too transparent, however. She let emails get into someone's hands that indicate state resources were used illegally for political purposes and that she was very much in the loop. Another surprising occurrence was that the state officials involved mostly had SusanaPAC email addresses.
But then maybe everyone is barking up the wrong tree. The governor could have just asked for the records herself. She's the boss. Those employees work for her. She then could have given them to her political advisor, who also works for her privately. The actions still would have been questionable because she would have been using state resources for political purposes.
Another questionable action involved the records request being handled only by political appointees. Records requests are supposed to be made to the department's records custodian who is a professional educator, not the appointed public relations spokesman.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

6-18 Cannon Air Base revises flight plans

MON, 6-18-12

SANTA FE -- Here's the latest news on the training flights out of Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis. You will recall that Cannon's mission was changed a few years ago from piloting the latest in jet fighters to to flying all different sorts of support vehicles.
Back in the fall of 2010, the base conducted environmental impact hearings in communities over which it wanted to fly training missions for C-130 transports and CV-22 Ospreys.The public response was overwhemly negative, however the Air Force found there was no significant impact on the environment.
But now the Air Force needs to change the plan to include more types of aircraft and revised training requirements based on lessons learned in Afghanistan. A spokesperson for Cannon says the base hopes to come back in early 2013 to announce how the base will be moving forward.
Almost certainly, more hearings will be required in those communities where flyovers will be conducted. And almost certainly, no one will be 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 will be 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 its area is 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 soon. 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 four Democrats on the previous city council to move all the nuclear weapons stored there to Texas. And we aren't even supposed to know about those nukes in the hills.
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?
There must be some sort of accomodation that can be made.Air traffic over Santa Fe is getting heavier, especially during forest fire season, but it doesn't seem bothersome. I don't hear dogs barking when it happens so it must not bother them. Wildlife have all manner of disturbances to bother them. If the Clovis dairy people can show their cows give less milk, that would be something to hang a hat on. But they aren't the ones I hear complaining.
It would be a staggering blow to Clovis to lose its base because the people of New Mexico don't support it. Perhaps we should be a little more tolerant.

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

6-15 Will political money flow to NM again?

61512 King's X

SANTA FE – It used to be that the summer months were King's X in New Mexico political campaigns. From primary election day to Labor Day, candidates recovered from intra-party battles and readied for the general election.
But then the national pundits noticed that New Mexico's presidential election results were amazingly similar to the way the nation went. So our state became targeted for political ads beginning the day after the primaries.
This year New Mexico didn't make it onto the early lists of swing states because it gave Barack Obama a whopping 15 percent victory in 2008. But this year's polling shows that lead considerably reduced so we are starting to see some action, especially in the U.S. Senate race between Rep. Martin Heinrich and former Rep. Heather Wilson.
So far the ads in the U.S. Senate race haven't been painful to watch because they haven't been negative. But that will change as money from the national parties, interest groups and super PACs begins to roll in.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has announced it is committing $3 million to Wilson's campaign ads. Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC is in the middle of a $265,000 ad buy for Wilson. Its affiliate, Crossroads GPS also is expected to join the fray.
Other Republican groups expected to put big money into New Mexico races are the Restore our Future super PAC, the American Future Fund and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Democrat groups that have made the scene or are expected to dump big money into the state are Priorities USA Action, Natural Resources Defense Council, Verde Voters and several other environmental organizations.
New Mexico television station owners were getting worried about a considerable drop in ad revenue below the mark set in 2008. But with the advent of super PACs since the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision three years ago, the money may come in even greater amounts.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is expected to have an impact in the state. He will be running on the Libertarian ticket. That impact, however, will not manifest itself in TV advertising revenue. Libertarians don't attract special interest money because it is only partially attractive to each party.
Republicans like the Libertarian views on limited government. In fact, Libertarians are a little too conservative for most Republicans. They are more in line with what has become the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.
Liberal Democrats like Libertarian views on limited government involvement in social issues such as gay marriage and the war on drugs. They also don't think we should be fighting wars to make the rest of the world think like we do.
So Libertarians don't have much of anywhere to go for money. There is plenty in their platform to upset just about everyone. The general feeling is that Johnson will take more votes from the Republican candidate but I'm guessing that it will be just about equal.
That means Johnson's impact will be minimal. He'll get some help from the throw-the-bums-out crowd. But those who feel strongly about either party or candidate will not want to waste their votes on someone with no chance of winning.
Johnson is expected to have less money to spend on this election than he did on his two races for governor. The national party can't help him much and Johnson's personal resources aren't as extensive as they were 20 years ago.
The 1st Congressional District race in the Albuquerque area is always fought hard and brings in considerable ad money. Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham brought in money from national women's groups in the primary and is expected to repeat in the general election.
But her Republican opponent, Janice Arnold-Jones raised very little in the primary. She was fortunate that all her opposition dropped out of the race. But we haven't heard reports yet of national money for her in the general.
Republicans held that seat for almost 40 years. Are they writing it off this time?

6-15 Will political ad money pour into NM again?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

6-13 Will Fort Sill Apaches move to New Mexico?

61312 Akela

SANTA FE – New Mexico is home to the nation's newest Indian reservation. Ever since Gary Johnson first became governor in 1995, the Fort Sill Apaches have been trying to establish a presence in New Mexico.
In the first month of Gov. Johnson's administration, he signed gaming agreements with those tribes and pueblos seeking them. That same year, he also welcomed Fort Sill's repatriation back to New Mexico.
In 1968 the U.S. Court of Claims determined that the land in Southern New Mexico west of the Rio Grande was the tribe's legally defined homeland. In 2002, the last year of Gov. Johnson's administration, the tribe purchased land at Akela, NM, on Interstate 10, between Las Cruces and Deming which is within its legally defined homeland.
According to the tribe's website, the federal government approved the purchase as Indian trust land. Tribes can purchase land anywhere they want. It is done often and sometimes in areas that would be very attractive for a casino. But getting it approved for that purpose is another matter.
The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs is careful to obtain agreement from the governor of a state where the bureau is considering taking an action. Presumably the Bureau obtained Gov. Johnson's approval to declare the purchase as Indian trust land.
In 2003, Bill Richardson became governor and relations with Indian tribes and pueblos, including Fort Sill became considerably less cozy. Richardson was more interested in helping the failing racing industry by allowing horse tracks to add slot machine gambling.
The Fort Sill tribe has released a statement saying that the tribe had an unnecessarily confrontational and litigious relationship with the Richardson administration. In 2008, the tribe added some minimal gambling to its restaurant and smoke shop at Akela. It was met with a State Police blockade.
In 2011, the first year of Gov. Susana Martinez's administration, the tribe received a ruling from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the tribe is eligible to establish a gambling operation on the 30 acres it purchased at Akela.
Apparently Gov. Martinez did not give her approval to that ruling because in mid-April she announced in Deming that she does not support the casino because the tribe had agreed not to open gaming at the site. Perhaps the governor's approval is not necessary to declare the trust land eligible for gaming but it is necessary before the tribe can begin gaming operations.
Whether the tribe agreed to not open gaming operations at the site is unclear. The trust-land decision was made by the BIA during Gov. Johnson's administration. It doesn't seem likely that Johnson would have required such a promise from the tribe.
Was the tribe's promise made during the Richardson administration? It seems consistent that Richardson would have sought such a promise but what would Richardson have given in return for such a major concession? It doesn't seem as though the tribe gained anything during Richardson's terms.
And how firm is the requirement that governors approve decisions made under the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, especially if decisions vary from one governor to the next?
The Fort Sill Tribe says it can clarify the matter if it can sit down and talk with Gov. Martinez. Maybe so, but this governor hasn't been good about sitting down and talking about any big issues. Film industry executives have been unsuccessful in getting a meeting since Martinez took office.
The Fort Sill Tribe says this is all about returning to the land of their ancestors. They say they need the gambling activity to finance that major move. And the economic development would benefit the nearby city of Deming which has a 15 percent unemployment rate.
It sounds good but how many of the tribe would return to their homeland? They already have a major gaming operation in Lawton, Oklahoma. The tribe isn't going to walk away. And will they bring Geronimo with them? The tribe has been fighting that request.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

6-11 Some big moments in a dull election

61112 election results

SANTA FE – About the only exciting results of New Mexico's primary elections were the 1st Congressional District Democratic race and a GOP state Senate race in the northeastern part of the state. None of the statewide races were nail biters.
Of course there weren't many statewide races. New Mexico saves those for non-presidential years. The lack of much excitement kept voter participation down in the low 20-percent range.
Albuquerque provided a classic congressional thriller for Democrats. State Sen. Eric Griego was the early leader and appeared to have the nomination locked up with many union and environmental endorsements and donations.
But County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham came with a host of women's endorsements and money. Lujan Grisham has held state cabinet positions and has run for Congress before. During those runs she had strong support from the elderly as a result of serving as their state advocate in various positions. That may have helped her squeeze out a victory.
Former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez also was in the race. It is entirely possible he took more votes from Lujan Grisham than from Griego, who was far to the left of his opponents.
Republicans couldn't get an exciting race going for either the U.S. Senate or House. In both, it was a game of attrition, with Lt. Gov. John Sanchez dropping out of the senatorial race, basically leaving it to former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson. On the U.S. House side, former state Rep. Janice Arnold Jones witnessed two candidates leave the race, one of whom was thought to be the favorite.
The other exciting primary race was centered in Clovis but had statewide implications because of the participation of Gov. Susana Martinez with Super PAC money and personal appearances for candidate Angela Spears.
News of Gov. Martinez's speaking schedule may have stayed relatively quiet except for a belly landing in rough weather at the Santa Fe airport returning from a campaign stop for Spears in Tucumcari.
The governor was said to have been unfazed by her brush with danger but she may have wished the incident would have occurred at a better time. Clovis District Attorney Matt Chandler also was aboard. That would not have been legal if it had been a state airplane but it was a private plane piloted by a private pilot, not a commercial pilot.
Spears was defeated by rancher Pat Woods, who was not happy with the governor taking sides. A third candidate in the race dropped out to help Woods' effort.
This wasn't the only instance of Gov. Martinez being openly involved in legislative races. A Super PAC closely associated with the governor sent out mailings directed at the opponents of Sen. John Arthur Smith, of Deming, and Sen. Phil Griego of San Jose.
She also sent out negative material directed at Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, who had been endorsed by former House Speaker Ben Lujan. She was successful in all those efforts.
Martinez's chief political advisor Jay McCleskey says overall these elections will be helpful to the governor's legislative initiatives. Even Pat Woods says he will be with Martinez on all the issues. The only question that remains is why did Gov. Martinez pick a favorite in a race she couldn't lose?
Five states had presidential primaries last Tuesday also. With California and New Jersey in that mix, a very large number of electoral votes were decided. The only problem was that Mitt Romney didn't need any of them. It is amazing that 21 percent of the GOP electorate turned out for the election. There were a few hot local Republican primaries and that was it.
Early presidential primaries do not fit well with other races on the ballot. But most states have a separate event to choose presidential delegates. Democrats did it for Bill Richardson when he was running for president. It is, at least, a good temporary job creator.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

6-8 Fewer traffic tie-ups please

60812 traffic
SANTA FE – Do you ever get irritated about traffic stoppages on our highways? I do. I often vow to write about them but then another topic always seems to win out when I sit down at my computer. This time, after experiencing three tie-ups in three days, the irritation has continued until I sit here now.
After many talks with state police officers, it is obvious they are often asked why it is necessary to tie up traffic for hours. And it is obvious they have many answers. The most frequently heard is that the case in point was a special circumstance. You know what that means. Every case is a special circumstance.
Trial lawyers also are a frequent excuse. We are told unless they thoroughly inspect every brake pad, every this and every that, trial lawyers will get them in court. But couldn't many of those inspections be done at the side of the road?
In big cities, you'll see wrecks pushed over to the side of the road. Evidently those police departments have learned that they will have many fender benders to investigate as a result of long backups so the goal is to keep traffic moving. Many of us have been through harrowing experiences when topping a hill and being confronted by a wall of cars a few feet away.
A good idea would be for police or a highway crew to place warning signs near the tops of every hill. You'll see warning signs at the side of the road advising of delays but it is long after traffic has started slowly moving again.
Police who aren't involved in an accident investigation often do show up at the scene. But the only activity in which I see them engaged is giving tickets to drivers who cross the median to go back the other direction.
They could be much more useful to the hundreds of people sitting in line if they would do something to help get traffic moving. In my younger years, I remember traffic being diverted through bar ditches, shoulders medians or frontage roads. No longer does any thought seem to be given to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of drivers being affected.
Another response from police representatives is that we wouldn't mind the wait if it were a loved one involved in an accident. A recent stoppage mentioned in the news said traffic was stopped for nine hours.
Think of the thousands of lives being affected by a stoppage of even one hour. After some bad experiences, we no longer allow for an hour's drive from Santa Fe to the Albuquerque airport. We allow three hours and have a leisurely meal after going through security if we aren't delayed along the way. Much of that time is sometimes used standing in line for TSA security screenings.
That is another beef. Screenings are becoming more and more invasive. And to what purpose? All they stop is maneuvers that have succeeded in the past. No security screening has ever stopped a terrorist. If one ever does, we will hear about it forever. Meanwhile, we leave our suitcases unlocked and let screeners in back rooms take what they want.
Police officer safety is another reason sometimes heard for stopping traffic. Maybe we should have highway crews investigate wrecks. They work only a few feet from speeding vehicles every day without stopping traffic.
This rant isn't meant to criticize front-line police officers. They do their job as they are told to do it. But somewhere up the line decisions are made that greatly inconvenience the public. Maybe those decisions are made by lawyers too.
If there are good reasons for stopping traffic for hours, an explanation to the public through all media sources would be very helpful.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

6-6 correction

Let's change "unhibited": to "uninhabited" in the previous headline.
Sorry, Hobbs.

6-6 Hobbs' uninhibited city attracts attention

60612 Pegasus

SANTA FE – During our recent stay in Maui, I routinely bought the little newspaper printed on the island. It carried local news and a few Associated Press stories from the mainland.
One of those few AP stories that made it into the Maui News was about Hobbs, New Mexico winning a competition for the development of a nearby $400 million city with no people.
I remembered reading about this deal before. Someone was trying to talk a city up north, maybe Santa Fe, into entering the competition for a $200 million research city to test next-generation technology.
The thought occurred that this sounded like a Bill Richardson State Investment Council venture. But then I saw in the Maui News that New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was hailing the effort as one of the most unique and innovative economic development projects the state has ever seen.
Upon returning to Santa Fe, I learned that the venture had grown to $1 billion and that former Gov. Richardson's Economic Development Department had declined to partner with Pegasus International Holdings because of its nebulous business plan.
Ironically, Gov. Martinez has been criticized for disinterest in any of Bill Richardson's big projects. Could the corollary to that be that anyone who was turned down by Richardson might want to try again with Martinez?
The answer likely is no. Pegasus was looking for some public investment when it went to Richardson. Now the pitch is that nothing is requested other than guidance.
Ken Miyagishima, mayor of runner-up Las Cruces, said had the Dona Ana site have been chosen, it would have had to build $40 million of infrastructure for power generation.
Since the Hobbs/Lea County site is called The EnergyPlex, perhaps most of the necessary infrastructure already is available.
Wren Abbott of the Santa Fe Reporter has checked out Pegasus' Dun & Bradstreet business profile and discovered that this $1 billion venture is a big leap for this company. Its biggest credit purchase since its 2004 inception was for $15,000 and the company has just one employee, Robert Brumley, its CEO.
Abbott also reports that the "global" part of the company is a mail drop in London and a previous high-tech ambitious adventure, Terre Star, went bankrupt.
But reviews of Pegasus on the Internet are mostly positive. The company also touts a second ambitious project to build the first international space launch facility – evidently to compete with Spaceport America.
It probably won't get much state help from New Mexico on that venture, although White Sands Missile Range does confirm it has a research agreement to explore the possibility.
Hobbs is a happening place. The current venture with Pegasus is only one of many economic development projects in the area. If any community can make it work, it is Hobbs.
Last August, Pegasus and the New Mexico Economic Development Department signed an agreement to promote and facilitate the design, development and location of The Center for Innovation Testing and Evaluation, or CITE
A board of advisers is being drawn from the federal laboratories, major universities and private sector from within the state in order to offer advice and guidance to Pegasus.
The design will include an urban footprint, with high-rise buildings and urban canyons; a suburban neighborhood, with mixed styles and neighborhood designs; rural/outlying residences, farms and ranches; open areas for expansion and isolated testing areas with unique designs.
It also will have an interstate, urban and rural road system; a ubiquitous wireless and fixed-line communications structure and it all will be fully integrated and in daily use.
This full-scale model community will provide a test venue that is essential for the United States to regain manufacturing superiority.
The Economic Development Corporation of Lea County says, "It is our open-for-business attitude and support of innovative industries that is garnering the attention of a wide variety of projects, such as CITE."
Here's wishing them the best of success.