Monday, May 01, 2006

The Primary's A Snooze, But The Issues Are Not; May Day 2006 Has Something For Everyone; A Boycott, A Song And A Letter 

The New Mexico primary campaign may be a snore, but hot-button issues are bursting forth like spring pollen, giving voters plenty to mull over when the campaigns finally do fully blossom later this year. Today is a something for everyone May Day 2006 with New Mexicans engrossed in the immigration debate, the national anthem singing controversy, gas price angst and state political corruption.

Our state has been pretty much live and let live when it comes to undocumented workers. An estimated 50,000 of them toil away quietly at restaurants, construction sites and in the big agribusiness fields of the south, or attend school. But their national boycott today to encourage a comprehensive immigration bill has the issue front and center in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. The politically powerful Roman Catholic church is also waving the flag.

None of the NM congressional delegation favors deporting those who are already here illegally, instead focusing on border enforcement. Unlike the rest of the nation, the issue here has not been extremely divisive.


As for the national anthem brouhaha and whether it should be sung in Spanish, ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez hit the proverbial nail on the head when he pointed out that bilingualism is enshrined in the state Constitution and that singing the anthem in espanol is no big deal.

In fact, New Mexico has an official bilingual state song. Sure does. It was adopted by the Legislature In 95'. And if you want to sing it in English be our guest.

Here's the money quote on the Spanish language in New Mexico's founding document. "The right of any citizen of the state to vote, hold office or sit upon juries, shall never be restricted abridged or impaired on account of religion, race, language or color, or inability to speak, read or write the English or Spanish languages..."

Hispanic politicians I covered in the 70's and who grew up in the state's early years would tell of being disciplined to the point of physical punishment if they dared speak Spanish in the school room. Jerry Apodaca of Las Cruces was one of them. He was elected Governor in 74', one of five Hispanic Guvs in state history.

Governor Big Bill partedwith Mayor Marty on the singing of the anthem, saying he agrees with the Prez that the patriotic tune should be belted out in English. That's probably how most people around the nation feel, but in New Mexico the speaking of Spanish has special standing. As for Spanish NM singing, it's a tradition very much alive and well. Check out KANW 89.1 FM in ABQ where "ranchera" music rocks the airwaves around-the-clock.


Other news from down Mexico way makes the blog today. New Mexicans didn't listen when ex-GOP Guv Gary Johnson, ex-Dem Guv Toney Anaya, then-state GOP Chair John Dendahl and Republican lobbyist Mickey Barnett launched a full-fledged effort in the late 90's to legalize drugs here. But in Mexico City, that message has taken hold. The Mexican Congress has approved a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and even Ecstasy. Mexico says it hopes the measure will help police focus on large drug trafficking, rather than minor drug busts.

The NM pro-drug message died a quiet death when Johnson & Company exited. No wonder. New Mexico's Rio Arriba county has the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths in America. (17 in 2004) If Mexico is going to concentrate on the big dealers they could start with the gangs that continue to flood Rio Arriba with deadly dope. Our own state and federal governments also need to do more.


When it comes to those sky-high gas prices it doesn't matter what language you use, they hurt. The only thing funny about them is the way they make the politicians jump up and down in fear and sometimes frustration. Look at what happened to GOP U.S. Senator Pete Domenici on the senate floor the other day. His temper got the better of him as another senator filibustered the energy issue. It's high-stress time for Pete who is chair of Energy Committee which is being challenged to produce legislation that would solve the gas panic.

Pete's pal in the U.S. House, ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson, is also concerned about voter backlash from the pump prices. She, like Pete, is touting better auto fuel efficiency standards as she tries to stay ahead of the political curve on what could be a make or break issue come November. Her foe, Dem Patricia Madrid, was first out of the gate.

While Heather is on the defense on soaring pump prices, she is clearly on the offense when it comes to the state corruption issue. She was gifted another thirty second TV spot at the federal corruption trial of ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil when state taxation secretary Jan Goodwin testified that back in 02' she sent a letter to Attorney General Madrid asking for an investigation of the troubled Treasurer's office. At the time, Goodwin was on the State Board of Finance. Patsy says the letter never made it to her office. Unfortunately, for her, the political fallout will.

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