COMMENTARY: We are living in angry times. Anger drives much of what we do. With the New Mexico Legislature in session there is more anger than normal. The political animals realize they only have a small amount of time to get what they want. So they spew anger to get their way.
It makes me think of what Aristotle observed: “Anybody can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way… that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
There are big things driving anger in this Legislature, like the impasse caused by driver’s licenses. Some want a driver’s license for those who are in our country legally and another license for those without legal status.
The anger has ratcheted up in the dialog so that thinking people want nothing to do with the debate since the flamers will scorch everyone who does not conform. That fight involves the political bases of both parties.
Another flash point for anger is the desire of political animals to have their way regardless of the rules and regardless of any promises made earlier. Example: When Spaceport America was first proposed, the idea was to get the construction paid in part by Doña Ana and Sierra County taxpayers. Those taxpayers stood to gain the most from an active and vibrant Spaceport.
And I supported the idea of a spaceport since, at the time many years ago, this was going to be the first one and the promises were rosy to say the least. Gov. Bill Richardson, who was putting together a presidential bid, was looking for high profile projects and this fit the bill, er, the Bill.
About the same time presidential candidate Bill Richardson unveiled the Richardson for President Rail Runner Express Transit system from Belen to Santa Fe, which proclaimed Richardson’s stature nationally that he understood mass transit.
The enabling legislation never mentioned a rail project; it was aimed at New Mexico highways. That seemed a good idea and then the political animals dashed in and sprung the Rail Runner on New Mexico taxpayers without the taxpayers having any way to avoid the financial consequences — which are huge.
What do the Rail Runner and Spaceport America have in common? Both started with a political push and both are now mired in controversy about their financing. The Rail Runner is a deep hole in the Earth into which New Mexico taxpayers must pour money.
I am not sure about the ultimate fate of Spaceport America. But the leaders of the project are doing things that anger New Mexico taxpayers, and that is not good. The Spaceport is clearly not going as we expected when it started, and putting lipstick on the project with cheerful press releases has not helped.
State Sen. Lee Cotter (District 36), who represents Doña Ana County has Senate Bill 157 to stop Spaceport America from paying salaries and other expenses with tax dollars intended to pay off the facility debt.
Cotter has sponsored this bill previously. The proponents of hijacking the dollars say they need the money. But they don’t want to come to the Legislature for those funds because they are afraid the Legislature will say no.
Senator Cotter said, “Doña Ana and Sierra County taxpayers are hurt when their taxes are diverted and do not go towards paying down the debt faster.” Exactly. He points out that it is all borrowed money. If New Mexico had the money to begin with that would be one thing, but both Rail Runner and spaceport are with borrowed money.
With the Rail Runner there is a day coming when many millions of dollars will be due. And it can only come from the taxpayers. We always need to do these projects with the five “rights:” the right people, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way.
Hey, since the Iowa Caucus is now done, can New Mexico lose the Ethanol mandate. Why give that money to the Iowa farmers and take it away from New Mexicans? Why indeed.
Michael Swickard is a former radio talk show host and has been a columnist for 30 years in a number of New Mexico newspapers.