Fall is simply the best time of year here in Payne's World. Complimenting the brisk nip in the air and autumnal color of the turning leaves is Thanksgiving—a guilt-free opportunity to fill the ol' flux capacitor to the brim with stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie and enchiladas (it is New Mexico, you know).
But before checking in on some of the loopier happenings in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, we want to offer best wishes to anyone whose holiday celebration might not be your stock Norman Rockwell variety. No, it's not Martha Stewart sadly shuffling along in the prison chow hall that we're thinking of (although one hopes the warden has her in the kitchen). It's the folks encamped under the Central and I-25 overpass or the bloke working the holiday shift we have in mind. Most of all, we're thinking about our men and women slogging it out in a hostile desert on the other side of the world. Let's hope that by next Thanksgiving they're back home in the states alive and well.
Actually, let's hope it's much sooner than that.
The corpse of the presidential campaign is barely cold but that isn't stopping the political positioning for Albuquerque's 2005 mayoral contest from taking place. Mayor Martin Chavez—widely expected to run for re-election—is talking about an $8 million dollar tax reduction for city residents. One of his potential challengers, City Councilor Eric Griego, says he is open to the plan, providing the savings comes out of the mayor's election year pet pork projects, such as the tax payer-funded ad campaigns prominently featuring Chavez promoting water conservation, litter cleanup and recycling.
Chavez floated the idea of the tax cut because, according to his administration, City Hall belt-tightening and an expanding economy allows for 1/16th reduction in the city sales tax without affecting city operations or services. Not a bad idea: If city government doesn't need the money, why should taxpayers send it?
Not so fast, says Griego who, along with fellow Councilor Martin Heinrich, passed an amendment that would return the money to the city's capital improvement program, which is where the mayor diverted it from three years ago in order to increase the general fund, which was running low at the time.
"It's a difference in philosophy," Griego said last week. "This mayor likes to build things. Many members of the Council feel like we should be putting money into what we already have."
A fine enough statement from Griego were it not for one item: Griego likes to build things himself. For example, last week he called for the condemnation of the blighted rail yards near Downtown, as well as his more recent plans for city participation in a new multi-million dollar Downtown hotel.
Speaking of capital improvement, the majority of funds coming from the recently passed $52 million road bond will go to the two Westside council districts, with Griego's Downtown-University area district along with the other six council districts, sharing the crumbs. And by the way, where did the bulk of Marty's votes come from three years ago when he was elected mayor with 30 percent of the votes in a six candidate field? Those two Westside districts.
Ideally, both politicians would patch things out face to face instead of in the newspapers, but with both pairs of eyes focused on the October 2005 election, don't count on it.
A U.S. Senate committee revealed the regime of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein lifted over $21 billion through kickbacks and smuggling from the United Nations' "oil for food" program—a now-defunct humanitarian assistance effort intended to help the Iraqi people. Additionally, the House International Relations Committee announced its discovery that money from the program also went to pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Kofi Annan—you got some ’splaining to do.
Still lamenting the outcome of the 2004 presidential election, pop star of yesteryear Linda Ronstadt noted of the country's political climate, "It's like Germany before Hitler took over. The economy was bad and people felt kicked around. They looked for a scapegoat. Now we've got a new bunch of Hitlers." Not just one Hitler. A whole bunch! Almost makes you want to go to Blue Bayou. ...
Garrisom Keillor of NPR and "Prairie Home Companion" fame announced on his radio program that he was "over" the elections but was embarking on a "little project" to take away the voting rights of born-again Christians because they viewed themselves as "citizens of heaven."
At least he doesn't sing.
Reuters reported that three Frenchmen were killed during the recent hostilities against the Iraqi insurgency. Had the three somehow joined up with the United States., France's purported ally and savior in WWI and WWII? No such luck. These Frenchies were fighting alongside the insurgents. Viva la Saddam ... er, France!