By Leslie Radford: CNJ staff writer
“Keep Cannon” signs can be seen just about anywhere in eastern New Mexico, from front yards to business windows to billboards, as residents seek to publicly make known their opinion of the Department of Defense plans to close the Air Force base west of Clovis.
But not everyone is in support of efforts to have Cannon removed from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s list of targets.
Donna Labatt said she favors Cannon’s closing. She believes there are many resources the region could take advantage of if facilities at Cannon were to become property of private industry instead of the federal government.
“Everyone keeps saying how it will hurt Clovis’ economy,” said Labatt, who said she is a retired Air Force officer stationed at Cannon from 1993 to 1997. “But I think there are many positives to it shutting down. This could be very beneficial to the community.”
Labatt said she thinks an airport that supports larger aircraft than what the municipal airport can is a plausible use for Cannon’s campus, along with training facilities for truck and heavy machinery operations.
She said local law-enforcement officials could take advantage of the shooting range that’s available on the Cannon property. And she points out Cannon facilities include dormitories and other housing units and many more resources that could accommodate large business conferences or conventions.
These are just a few positive aspects she plans to note in a speech she’s scheduled to give for a Lovington Toastmasters club later this week focusing on the positive aspects of losing Cannon. She said she is a member of Clovis’ High Plains Toastmasters, part of an international leadership club focused on public speaking.
“I don’t think Clovis sees what is falling into their laps,” Labatt said. “I don’t think it would be as bad as people are thinking if the base did close. They just need to open their mind to the possibilities.”
While Labatt likes to focus on the potential positives if Cannon closes, others are just hoping it will close.
More than a dozen letters — most of them anonymous and claiming to be from military spouses frustrated by the region’s isolation and lack of entertainment options — appear on the BRAC Web site, encouraging commissioners to shutter the base.
A new Web site — www.closecannon.com — went up last week. The owner of the domain is registered anonymously and has not responded to e-mailed requests for an interview from Clovis News Journal reporters.
As of Monday evening, about 100 people had visited the site.
And Sgt. Jim Schoeffel of the Clovis Police Department said anti-Cannon graffiti appeared June 7 on the east side of North Plains Cinema.
“There was a derogatory four-letter word beginning with the letter ‘F’ followed by ‘Cannon,’” he said. “There are no suspects as of yet.”