Governor puts state first

By Ned Cantwell: CNJ columnist

Here we are just a couple of weeks into the new year and I am tired of it already. Oh, not the year; 2006 looks promising. As George Bush would say, bring it on!

No, what I am tired of is the Pasadena conspiracy that snubs its nose at the creativity of our state. New Mexico had flat out the prettiest float in the Rose Bowl Parade and captured not one award. It’s outrageous.

Biased opinion, you say? New Mexico columnist lashing out at imaginary discrimination by West Coast judges? No way. I do not walk this protest line alone. The lady who wrote the parade one-liners for NBC parade commentator Al Roker also thought New Mexico’s float was unjustly overlooked. OK, she’s from New Mexico, but still.

(Rose Bowl parade viewing tip: Years ago I was perched in the grandstand high above the parade, just a few feet away from the NBC commentator booth. The commentators don’t actually watch the parade. They sit with their backs to the street and watch TV monitors. On camera, they are lively and gay. Off camera, they look as if they would just as soon be in Baghdad.)

I’m tired, too, of just plain crummy luck. For more than 50 years the Rose Parade had gone off without a hitch, bathed in Southern California sunshine. The first time we enter, a deluge. Our horse, made of brown flax seeds, looked like he had been rode hard and put up wet even before the parade started.

Most of all I am tired of the picky, picky criticism of Bill Richardson baiters who insist this whole parade business was just another ploy by the governor to gain personal recognition. Balderdash! As the governor’s “czar in charge of reminding New Mexico Bill Is not running for president,” let me tell you the $165,000 cost of the float was a huge bargain in terms of tourism exposure for New Mexico.

Gov. Richardson, who was generous enough to use his day off to actually ride on the float, summed it up well: “I think we’re going to see a huge increase in tourism after this.” And apparently he is right. Within three days of the parade, an informant in Farmington told me he spied a Suburban with Colorado plates cruising down West Broadway. So, there!

A close observer of the New Mexico scene, who prefers to remain anonymous, reminds us that back in the early 1990s New Mexico paid something like $150,000 for a foot-long decal on Al Unser’s Indy race car that zoomed down the race track at 190 mph, a blur to spectators and TV audiences. Did anybody accuse Gov. Bruce King of running for president?

Allen Weh, New Mexico Republican Party chairman, said Bill Richardson gets a C plus as a governor but an A plus as a self-promoter. We don’t see it that way. We see the governor as a man who continually puts the state in the limelight, even if he has to reluctantly share the glory.

That may sound like I am trying to curry favor with Big Bill. No way. Even if he were elected president and maybe was looking for a two-bit columnist to keep him in touch with the common folks, do you think I would trade this job for a plush Washington position?
Well, do you?

Ned Cantwell is a New Mexico columnist who bought a heavy overcoat and gloves, just in case. Contact him at: