Life's Rich Pageant
From Burque to the White House, winners and losers stand out among us
By Greg Payne
Florida faced the double whammy of dual hurricanes; New Jersey's governor announced “I'm gay and I quit;” the mayor of Las Vegas, Nev., confessed to putting tourism interests ahead of terrorist threats and national celebrities Bill Richardson and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who, in their spare time, serve as the governors of New Mexico and California respectively) hung out together in the City Different talking about "the Border." But before it all fades away in the review mirror of our collective consciousness, the following are some random thoughts on the "winners" and "losers" of the week that was.
Mayor Martin Chavez. Life will always throw you a few curve balls and the Mayor has had a couple come his way in recent weeks. First was the divorce from his wife Margaret then, more recently, the passing of his father Lorenzo. To his credit, the Mayor has kept his chin up and handled some fairly difficult life transitions with grace and aplomb—and has stayed focused on his agenda and job as mayor.
President George W. Bush. The country has a $400 billion budget deficit this year, trillions have been added to the national debt, the federal government has mushroomed in size, the stock market is plummeting, the economy is touch and go, oil prices are heading through the roof, the nation's military (and many of our reservists) are still in Iraq with no real end to our involvement in sight, his vice-president is "f"-bombing U.S. Senators and ... the president still has a pretty good shot at re-election! Is this a great country, or what?
Moderate Republicans. Once considered more endangered than the Spotted Owl or Silvery Minnow, moderate R's have staged a quiet comeback that will culminate in their front and center prominence at the Republican National Convention later this month. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. John McCain and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be afforded key, primetime speaking roles during the GOP festivities in an attempt by elephants to woo middle of the road voters.
The Kerry Campaign. The race may be nip and tuck overall, but young voters are flocking to the John F. Kerry bandwagon by a two to one margin. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 18- to 29-year-olds favor the Kerry/Edwards ticket over Bush/Cheney 51 to 32 percent. Making the news more grim for the incumbents, they went 50-50 with this demographic against Al Gore in 2000.
"QuirkyBurque.com." Andy Warhol said everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. The Payne Corollary is that, eventually, everyone will have their own "Blog" to go along with it. In the meantime, QuirkyBurque is one of the better local sites going. The politics are your garden variety "people's republic" type but, as our French allies might say, vive la différence!
City Council. It takes a certain dogged determination to be as utterly lax in their oversight responsibilities as the councilors manning the Finance and Government Operations committee appear to be.
The committee (Brad Winter, Martin Heinrich, Eric Griego, Sally Mayer and Craig Loy) recently voted to amend a Tina Cummins proposal that would have guaranteed the $4 million a year "no bid" contract the City has with the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) to market the Convention Center. The compromise proposed by stand-up comedian Eric Griego asks that the city conduct a "Request for Information" to see if there are other entities willing to bid on the $4 million marketing contract. The problem? The Council already passed legislation in 2003 requiring the exact same "Request for Information" by January 2004. It just wasn't done—only no one on the Council noticed.
Hey, who needs an Inspector General around when you've got a crack crew of fiscal watchdogs like this on the job?
Dept. of Homeland Security's "Color Coded Terror Warning System." Did anyone really understand this foolishness in the first place? Who hasn't developed an immunity to it? Has anybody run for the hills, because we were at threat level orange? A possible solution: Insist that Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge wear a colored suit that matches the nation's current terror level. Now that's something people would pay attention to.
Albuquerque Public Schools. As school kids around the city head back to classrooms—many of which are overcrowded and/or in portable buildings that are decades old—they may be able to take some comfort in knowing that APS higher-ups have moved into new posh digs at the Uptown City Centre. According to a recent write-up, APS Superintendent Beth Everitt and other APS bigwigs have breathtaking views of the Sandias and Manzanos from their sixth floor offices in the $12 million building.
Ostensibly, the move will save the beleaguered school district money—but that's based on estimates, and we all know how those things usually work out. The Westside jail was supposed to save tons of taxpayer dough and now we're raising taxes to pay for mismanagement and cost over runs. When school bonds were before voters, APS said, "Expect great things!" Yeah, as long as you're not a teacher, parent or student.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. Payne, a former city councilor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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