Inside the Capitol

Thursday, November 29, 2012

12-3 Where are NM's New Deal art treasures?

120312 Art Deal

SANTA FE – What's the deal with New Mexico's New Deal art? We have a whole lot of it – and should have even more.
Back during the Big Depression, from 1933 to 1943, the U.S. government had some honking big jobs programs. You've probably heard of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. There also were programs to employ thousands of artists nationwide. Being a favorite spot for artists, New Mexico had a big share of those programs.
In New Mexico, a committee of well-known artists was chosen to travel the state interviewing artists and inspecting their art. The artists chosen produced murals, paintings, photographs, furniture, dishes, wrought iron fixtures, copper items, weavings and other decorative items.
The pieces were not purchased. The artists were paid a regular weekly salary, depending on their level of expertise, to produce more art. Since the artists worked for the government, their work belonged to the government. It was placed in public buildings throughout the state.
Almost every school building had at least one piece of art. In addition, art was placed in all manner of other public buildings, including court houses, libraries, post offices, county and municipal buildings and universities. The committee that chose artists also chose locations where the art would appear.
Some of the most impressive works are murals painted on the walls of court houses built during that period.
Evidently little time was spent documenting where the art was placed. Over the years, public officials and employees came and went and institutional memory concerning the art works was lost.
During the 1984-85 school year, Clayton home economics teacher Joanne Butt assigned her students to assemble all the New Deal art works in the school district. The treasure hunt located 38 paintings plus dozens of other objects. It is the largest number of paintings in any of the state's public school collections.
Possibly the Clayton hunt was better organized than any other in the state. It is hard to imagine that the Clayton schools would have been favored over other agencies in the state. The population of Clayton is only a fraction of one percent of the state's population. I'll leave you to do the math on how many items were distributed around the state during that 10-year period.
The Clayton Public Schools system has recently authorized transfer of its New Deal art collection to the Hertzstein Museum in Clayton. The move is intended to provide more public visibility and better storage and maintenance opportunities.
The Taos Public Schools' art collection was recently transferred to the Harwood Museum in Taos. High School librarian Lynn del Margo is the latest in a series of people who were responsible for the initial development and caring for the Taos collection.
Wouldn't it be great if all public agencies that were beneficiaries of these wonderful gifts could follow the lead of the Clayton and Taos schools?
For anyone interested in helping with a local treasure hunt, there are resources available. The National New Deal Preservation Association has its headquarters in New Mexico. Kathryn Flynn is its executive director.
Flynn has compiled many of the state's Blue Books and also has written a valuable reference book, "Treasury of New Mexico Trails: Discover New Deal Art and Architecture." It is available from Sunstone Press in Santa Fe. The book provides information on the New Deal artists and the locations of their work in New Mexico.
And maybe you know the location of some previously undiscovered New Deal art in New Mexico.
Flynn's organization is always interested in finding what it calls "mystery artwork." Over the past 12 years, the NNDPA has spent over $550,000 in New Mexico conserving many pieces of art that have been determined to be in need of immediate attention.
If you want to become involved, you can contact Flynn at 505-690-5845 or at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

11-30 GOP works to attract Hispanic vote

113012 GOP Hispanics

SANTA FE – OK, so here's the latest national plan to woo Hispanics into the GOP. Showcasing Latino top officials such as Govs. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio didn't help much in the 2012 elections.
So the latest plan is to create a super-PAC. Republicans are good at those. The idea isn't to buy Hispanic votes. Hispanics are too honorable for that. It's for buying congressional votes. That is usually pretty easy.
The biggest fear of moderate Republican members of Congress is getting "primaried" by the tea party and other right wing organizations. It happened in 2010 and 2012 and lists of Republicans who might stray from the fold already are being made for the 2014 GOP primary elections.
The new super-PAC, to be called Republicans for Immigration Reform, is intended to begin repairing the political damage left by years of anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric.
The organizers are former George W. Bush Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Washington lawyer Charlie Spies. Ironically, Spies was a co-founder of the pro-Mitt Romney super-PAC Restore our Future, which aired ads during this year's GOP presidential primaries accusing some of Romney's rivals of being too liberal on immigration.
Certainly not all Republican leaders have had such an epiphany. But the numbers can't be ignored. George W. Bush received 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. John McCain's Hispanic support was much less. And Romney's number will end up somewhere in the 20 percent range.
President Ronald Reagan passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. George W. Bush tried and almost succeeded. Chances of such a bill passing now seem very remote.
One group likely to see merit in encouraging Republicans in Congress to support measures for comprehensive immigration reform is corporate America, which traditionally has supported loosening immigration restrictions in order to increase the labor market.
Corporations can be expected to contribute to the immigration super-PAC but the possibility of raising $142 million as Spies did for Romney's PAC this year appear slim.
The intent of the super-PAC seemingly is to help smooth the way for wavering Republican lawmakers to vote next year for an immigration overhaul, according to the Washington Post.
Does that mean assuring wavering Republicans of financial support in the 2014 elections? Evidently it does because 2014 races reportedly already are being targeted.
With so much attention currently focused on the fiscal cliff being faced at the end of the year, immigration issues had fallen out of focus. But some Republican leaders have now are facing the reality that the Hispanic share of voters has risen from 4 percent to 10 percent in the past 20 years and that figure will continue to grow.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Third District Congressman Steve Pearce recently were interviewed by Michael Coleman of the Albuquerque Journal. They had ideas on the immigration issue too.
Gov. Martinez suggests that Presi9dent Obama sit down with congressional Republicans who are interested in the issue and work out an agreement. Despite the difficulties Democrats and Republicans have had in negotiating a resolution to the fiscal cliff, Martinez thinks that the president might be surprised by Republican willingness to negotiate in good faith.
Rep. Pearce has a different approach. As with most elected officials anywhere on the U.S.-Mexican border, Pearce is well-aware of the real problems. Even though he is a staunch conservative, he understands that answers are not as simple as "build the fence higher."
Pearce has long favored creating a guest worker program allowing immigrants to work here while still living in Mexico. He has managed to maintain about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote without compromising his principles.
His secret to attracting Hispanic votes is to work hard, show up at events and establish relationships. Pearce has told House Republican leaders that he would like to take the lead on immigration reform but has not heard back from them.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Black Friday

No column for Wed, 11/28. Still have two birthdays to celebrate in PHX before returning.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

11-26 NM Struggles with Disappointments

112612 Spaceport

SANTA FE – New Mexico's once-famed Spaceport America, the only purpose-built spaceport in the world, has lost its luster. No longer does it have two of the planet's best pitchmen, Sir Richardson Branson and Gov. Bill Richardson, promoting it.
Richardson is gone and Branson is entertaining offers from other states and nations. The United Arab Emirates has purchased a big chunk of Virgin Galactic and has an agreement to build a spaceport in that country.
Meanwhile New Mexico has a new governor who began her term saying private money should finance the remainder of the spaceport and now has warmed to the point she is saying she would like to take a space ride and she will sign any future appropriations the Legislature passes.
But Gov. Susana Martinez is not out promoting our spaceport to aerospace companies around the nation and world. The only proposal she really has put a hip into is an effort to deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Martinez has gone all out with that effort, including spending PAC money and getting involved in legislative races. She says it will make us safer but it certainly doesn't attract jobs or improve our lagging economy.
For the past two years, Sir Richard has been Spaceport America's chief proponent. His was a much admired and needed loyalty. But now that loyalty is beginning to wane. He says, "We're not getting what we signed up for." Branson says he was promised a bustling spaceport with many tenants. Virgin Galactic still is the only tenant as other companies get snagged by more aggressive competitors.
The fault is with both the governor and legislature. The governor is providing no personal assistance and the legislature has been an absolute roadblock with its failures on two occasions to pass informed consent legislation. The states and nations leading the pack passed such legislation long ago.
New Mexico trial lawyers are getting the blame for sabotaging the spaceport. Evidently they think they can make a buck representing a space ride passenger harmed by a product made by a supplier to an aerospace company.
The future passengers signed by Virgin Galactic are paying $200,000 apiece for the ride. Few, if any, New Mexicans likely are on that list of future passengers. Even fewer are likely to hire a New Mexico lawyer to represent them. But one can always hope, I guess.
As it stands now, New Mexico is on the verge of losing an investment of over $200 million and a great tourist and educational opportunity. If the New Mexico governor and Legislature eventually get their acts together, we may attract some companies that haven't already made a decision on location.
Otherwise, even with so many factors going for it, Spaceport America may become a good candidate for that $1 billion ghost town that some unlikely promoter is trying to get a New Mexico county to sponsor.

On the list of other recent disappointments for our state is the failure of Congress to pass the Manhattan Project National Historical Park legislation. It appeared headed for victory on the consent calendar in the U.S. House when noted liberal Dennis Kucinich, of Ohio, objected that it would glorify a terrible weapon that killed so many.
The vote was 237-180 but it required a two-thirds majority to pass in the expedited process that was used. Cost of the project was a concern to some but this park wouldn't have been expensive. Los Alamos, Hanford, Washington and Oak Ridge, Tennessee already recognized the significance of the bombs' creation and have preserved important areas.
Sponsors will try again in the upcoming lame duck session of Congress. But who expects anything of substance to come from that?

The film industry's recovery also has been a mild disappointment. We are told business is improving but haven't seen any figures. And there still aren't as many star sightings around Santa Fe yet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

11-23 Congress Continues Getting Meaner

112312 MEANER

SANTA FE – Washington, D.C. continues to get increasingly meaner with no end in sight. The recent national election changed nothing. The players are still the same and even if they had changed, little good would have resulted.
A major change in attitude must take place. Moderates currently get "primaried" by their own parties for not being radical enough right or left. This polarization was not always the case.
Fifty years ago our nation faced huge problems – communist fears, racial tensions and our first Catholic president. Many figured the Pope would move into the Lincoln bedroom and start running the government. But Washington remained basically civil. Moderate Democrats and Republicans managed to hammer out problems despite the crazies on the fringe.
Now extremists are causing enough problems that Congress and the president are afraid to move. The causes likely are many. One of my favorite solutions is that members of Congress should get to know each other.
Senators, except a few from neighboring states, still live in Washington. But House members usually don't anymore. The thought of congressmen living in their offices was downright weird. In fact, it wasn't allowed until recently.
But in the recent election campaign, Congressman Martin Heinrich paid for a commercial to brag about living in Albuquerque half the time. It does demonstrate he stays close to his constituents and family. He boasts about his chore list and "boys' Sundays." But don't we need him back in Washington representing us full time?
Over the years, New Mexico's congressmen all lived in Washington. That changed with the election of Rep. Heather Wilson who had children at home. She rented a small apartment near Capitol Hill and usually flew to Albuquerque on Thursday afternoons and back to Washington on Mondays.
The U.S. House meets from Tuesday morning to Thursday noon. That's two-and-a-half days a week. No wonder they can't get anything done. One weekend during her 10 years in Congress, Wilson remained in Washington to attend a retreat designed to bring members of the U.S. House together. It was big news but it didn't make much of a dent in the years of being apart four-and-a-half days a week.
New Mexico representatives such as Steve Pearce, Tom Udall, Bill Richardson and Manuel Lujan all moved up through the ranks of the U.S. House quicker than the average congressman. I often have wondered if living in Washington and interacting with other members of Congress on weekends didn't help their careers.
Maybe we should ask our future congressional candidates to commit to living in Washington and representing us full time. They could be criticized for developing a "beltway" mentality but so far it doesn't seem to have hurt any of our Washington full timers.

The U.S. Senate is talking about the nuclear option again. This time it doesn't refer to Iran or that sort of thing. "Nuclear option" is what Senate Republicans called their threat to limit the filibuster power of Democrats the last time Republicans had a Senate majority.
Republicans never did anything about it but then Democrats gained a majority and when the senatorial class of 2008 was elected New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall and most of the other freshman Democrat senators decided they wanted to take a crack at limiting Republican debate privileges.
Udall led the effort and thought he might be on his way to success when some of the longtime Democratic senators stepped in and noted that when Republicans regain a majority, sooner or later, they are sure to keep the same rules. So the effort died.
Now another class of new Democratic senators is ready to go to Washington with a burning ambition to stifle Republican debate. But this time something is different. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he has reached a sufficient frustration level that he is entertaining the notion of allowing the freshmen make their try. Watch for it on the first day of the new Congress.

Monday, November 19, 2012

11-21 Chinese and Vietnamese seem proud

112112 Communists

SANTA FE – To the casual tourist, communism in China and Vietnam seems to be working well enough to survive a long time. The teaming masses of young people in the cities seem happy with their lot.
They all have jobs and a well-organized life. Even the tour guides, receive a regular government paycheck even if they have nothing to do during low seasons. The normal routine is to save enough money to rent an apartment, buy a car, find a mate and have one child. The one-child rule now has an exception. If both husband and wife are only children, they are allowed to have two children.
Back in the days when nearly everyone was a farmer, couples wanted to have as many boys as possible to help with chores. Now customs require families to help a son buy an apartment and provide for the family. Parents of the bride have no such obligation. So daughters now are preferred.
Husbands and wives nearly always are from the same town. The government discourages moving around. The labor force is not especially mobile. There are plenty of people in each city to fulfill every job need. Rural highways are uncrowded. Cities are a mass of cars.
Since cars have replaced bicycles many seem a little new at driving. A driver education course is required for a license but the first rule of the road is that there are no rules. Honking horns fill the air constantly.
In Vietnam, bicycles mainly have been replaced by motor bikes. "No rules" is an understatement. Cars inhabit the middle two lanes of a road. Motor scooters have the two outside lanes in each direction. Crossing the street with two lanes of cars and four lanes of motorcycles coming in both directions is an act of faith.
The rule in Vietnam is not to dodge them. Let them dodge you. All six lanes of vehicles will gauge your speed. If you maintain a steady pace, they will miss you. If you suddenly slow down or speed up, you throw off their timing and the result is messy.
In both China and Vietnam, two of the four remaining countries that call themselves communist, people proudly talk about "when we all were poor." That was before they became communist. Now that their lives are structured, they seem quite happy. They know there are many rules, but there are in neighboring democracies also.
The Chinese and Vietnamese also know there are subjects they can't speak about. A Chinese guide told a bus full of us that he would answer any questions we had. But he cautioned us not to ask about student protests. "You know more about that than I do" he said. "The protests were not covered on our news casts."
The Vietnamese would prefer to sell us as many curios as possible rather than hassle us about the war, which they refer to as "the American War." They have a different interpretation of the war but then they won and it has long been said that the winners write history.
One of our stops in Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City, better known to us as Saigon. Since the capital of the combined nation is Hanoi, no one in Saigon complained about us continuing to call it Saigon.
We sensed only good will from our Chinese government tour guides. Back home we see commercials about how China now owns us. But the prevailing mood in China appears to be that China has invested in us and if America goes under, China is left with a worthless investment in our country's treasury notes. And treasury notes aren't like stock with voting rights.
China still has a long way to go. The vast rural sections of the country still have to be brought along. China has preferred to invest in our nation and others than with finishing the job quickly in its own country.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tending to spouse

Jeanette suffered a foot injury on our recent trip. There will be no columns for Fri. or Mon. and no billing for Nov.

Monday, November 12, 2012

2012 NM Blue Book is a Treasure

111412 blue book


     SANTA FE – How do you ever find time to research all your columns? It's the most frequently asked question I receive about my journalistic endeavor.

     If my wife is around, she usually jokes that I just make it up, but that's not true. I have plenty of readers who call me on any incorrect information. Over 40 years of working in various capacities at the Capitol, plus another 20 years of being aware of what was going on in Santa Fe give me a deep background from which to draw.

     But a guy can't remember everything. So when I need to check a fact, I have a handy little book within reach that tells me nearly everything I need to know about our state. It is called the New Mexico Blue Book, a treasury of information about state and local government, past and present.

     You can obtain your own copy of the New Mexico Blue Book by calling Secretary of State Dianna Duran's Office at 1-800-477-3632. The cost is $10.95 and well worth it.

     The 2012 Blue Book is a collector's item. It is the centennial edition of the Blue Book which is published by the Secretary of State's office every two years.

     This edition contains over 100 additional pages related to New Mexico's centennial year. Many of those pages come from the 1913 edition, which was the first New Mexico Blue Book published after statehood. It provides a "then and now" comparison of where we've been and where we are now, according to Kathryn Flynn, the book's editor.


     The Blue Book gives you a very good condensed history of our state, its fascinating geology and its economic statistics. Also included is voter information and tourist information.

    The book tells you about New Mexico's state symbols, such as the state's seal, flag, songs, flower, tree, grass, bird, fish, animal, vegetables, gem, fossil, insect, slogan, cookie, poem and question.

    The Blue Book covers the state's attractions and gives the addresses of local chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus to contact for information. It also gives addresses of media contacts throughout the state in case you want to give them information.

     In addition, the Blue Book provides the information that blue books have been designed to do ever since the first annual government report was published in 17th century England. It was printed on blue paper, thus its name, and it contained a registry of all public officials, information about government agencies and how to use them. There also is a state telephone directory in case you want to contact a state agency.

     New information is added every year at the request of people who use the book. If there is additional information you'd like to see about New Mexico, call the Secretary of State's Office at the number listed above.

     Secretary of State Duran says she hopes to inform, educate and even amuse readers as this publication tells the story of New Mexico and its people. 

     One of the amusing sections is at the end of this book which contains 15 pages of questions and answers about the state. The feature was added in the 2000 millennium edition of the Blue Book.

     Recently deceased newsman Charlie Cullen and I were asked to come up with the list of questions and answers. We also asked readers to provide their own ideas. And many of you did. Over the years, the section has grown into a fan favorite.

     This year the New Mexico Centennial Steering Committee has added many7 new items.

     In one of my favorite features, Dr. Dan Chavez, a professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico, provides the historical lineage of New Mexico's congressional seats and of state elected offices. Chavez goes far beyond simply listing previous office holders and the dates they served. He lets us in on deaths in office, how successors were named and oddities about elections and appointments.


Monday, November 05, 2012

11-9 New China leader knows U.S. well

110912 China

SHANGHAI – By the time you read this, the world's two most powerful countries will have decided whether they want a leadership change. I'm not going to speculate about the U.S. elections although modern technology allows our cruise ship to bring us major U.S. news channels.
But speculation over here is that China is about to have a major change in its leadership. China, of course, doesn't do it quite the way we do. There have been no endless national campaigns with daily polls. The suspense here is caused by the secrecy of Chinese internal politics.
And it appears the ruling politburo is ready to make a change just about the time you read this. Leadership changes don't happen often in China. Its party leaders like long range planning. It has served them well in moving from a Third World country to a major international power.
A few years ago, there were multiple possibilities for a new leader. One of them, Xi Jiping, toured the United States visiting locations he had frequented years ago as a foreign student. As I recall he even spent a night in an Iowa farmhouse with a family he had known as a student.
He said he was the likely choice as China's new leader but there were other likely candidates back home. Possibly he thought the U.S. tour might help his chances. But at this point it appears the other candidates eliminated themselves for various sorts of corruption.
One even was accused of murdering an English businessman with whom he had become too financially cozy. It appears his wife is going to take the fall for that one and is headed to a "luxury medical facility."
The major problem in Chinese politics isn't too different from corruption in democracies. Leaders are tempted to get rich as a result of their power. In our country, leaders often get away with it. But getting rich is particularly difficult to fit into the communist philosophy.
So it appears as though China is about to have a new leader who has some good relations with the United States. At this point, it is difficult for me to tell whether that has helped or hurt him.
It just doesn't seem to be a major factor. Surprisingly outsiders aren't able to discern which way he leans politically. To those who see all communists as being alike, scholars who study such things say there are conservative and progressive communists.
Reportedly the formal installation of a new leader isn't until next March. During the time in between, he gets introduced to the world.
Remember back during the Beijing Olympics when Russia used the cover of constant reporting on the athlete events to invade neighboring Georgia without much public notice?
Those Olympics occurred not long after the murder of the English businessman. China used the occasion to quickly handle the scandal without any notice from the world's media covering the Olympics.
Shanghai is China's featured city. It is the country's biggest city and reportedly the sixth largest in the world. It provides a contrast of old beyond comprehension with the most ultramodern features in the world.
We saw the world's fastest elevator up one of the tallest buildings in the world. It provides a read out of your speed. We didn't ride it. My wife said it would not just make her ears pop. It would make them explode.

They also have the fastest trains. The one to the airport moves at 430 kilometers per hour – without a sound. Subways run everywhere. Despite a tremendous amount of public transportation auto traffic is horrible.
Sidewalks are a sea of humanity. Hustlers are everywhere. The shore lecturer on the ship warned that a few people every trip return with stories about being taken in a clever scandal.
This is the city, of course, that gave us the term "shanghaied." Nevertheless it was a jaw dropping experience.