Gov. Bill Richardson signs autographs after speaking about this weekend’s New Mexico’s tax-free holiday Tuesday at North Plains Mall. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Gov. Richardson received a standing ovation from crowd of more than 70 who gathered Tuesday at the North Plains Mall to hear the Democrat promote Cannon Air Force Base and this weekend’s New Mexico’s tax-free holiday.
The holiday was designed to ease the financial burden of back-to-school shopping for parents, Richardson said, but all consumers can benefit from the weekend tax freeze, applicable to clothes, footwear, schools supplies and computers, depending on the price of the product and retailer participation.
The holiday “demonstrates the commitment of New Mexico’s legislators to put money back in the pockets of New Mexico’s families,” Richardson said. He said the tax freeze will encourage spenders to shop in New Mexico, rather than “cross the border” to Texas to get a tax break.
Droves of school-aged children were also outfitted with backpacks and school supplies, courtesy of mall merchants; many fidgeted with their new gadgets during the governor’s speech, comparing notebooks, coupons and writing utensils.
“I think it’s great that he (Richardson) put in the effort to come and talk to the people — so people can get an idea of who he is,” said Monika Ruffins, equipped with a camera to take photos of the governor and a notepad for his autograph.
“I also came to see what kinds of opportunities people will have” if Cannon closes, said the German-born grandmother.
The governor did say the save Cannon team is looking at other operation-scenarios for Cannon, “if the F-16’s left.” But he did not address those options in detail. He told those gathered that the congressional delegation has worked hard to keep Cannon.
“It’s crunch time,” Richardson said of the Base Closing and Realignment process. Three weeks, he said, remain in the fight for Cannon. The BRAC Commission must present its recommendations to President Bush by Sept. 8.
“I feel we’ve made a lot of progress with the BRAC commissioners,” said Richardson, who visited several commissioners at their homes in previous months.
Randy Harris, a member of the Committee of Fifty’s three-man subgroup, the Washington Committee, said the governor has played an integral part in getting the pro-Cannon message across.
“Our governor has been bringing real world, reality checks to this (BRAC) process,” said Harris, who scolded the Department of Defense and the Air Force for not releasing all the data used to rank Cannon lowly among the nation’s air bases.