Congressman hears local concerns

Kevin Wilson

In the span of an hour, U.S. Rep. Tom Udall covered everything from Dora mail routes to the global economy.
Udall was in the area Monday evening at City Hall for a one-hour session with Roosevelt County residents, one of 10 such meetings scheduled for this month.
Earlier Monday morning, Udall and Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega were in Clovis to talk about the upcoming Glanbia southwest cheese plant. Udall said that about 200 jobs would be created by the plant, which will be located near the Roosevelt-Curry county line (Ortega estimated that 60-75 of those jobs would go to Roosevelt County residents).
“It’s what I call value-added agriculture,” Udall said. “It’s the best thing we can do with the community.”
Udall explained that “value-added” means that a local product (i.e. raw milk) can become more valuable by turning it into more expensive products (cheese, whey products). By introducing cheese production to the area, Udall said local products have more value and the dairy industry is rewarded.
“This is an industry that doesn’t use a lot of water,” Udall said. “I think that through recycling, it’s putting water back into the industry.”
The cheese plant was just one of many issues discussed by residents, including rural mail routes, prescription drugs, Social Security and the United States’ ability to compete in a global economy.
“There are always a couple of issues at town hall meetings that I need to hear about and I try to help out,” Udall said.
The village of Dora had a concern with its service from the post office. A letter presented by Elmer Reed was signed by 13 Dora residents and stated that the Portales Post Office is not showing sufficient leniency with its stringent policies.
Reed said the under a new Post Office policy, effective Sept. 6, incorrectly addressed letters would not be delivered — a situation Reed claims discriminates against rural residents. Udall said that what Reed described didn’t sound like the “extra effort” he’d expect from a government-subsidized program and that he often receives letters at his office in Washington despite incorrect addressing.
“It’s not quite as direct as taxpayer money,” said Udall, “but if something’s not working, we can change it.”
Udall, a Democrat, criticized the Bush administration for failing to create new jobs and giving tax breaks to a higher-income bracket that is less likely to spend the money needed to reinvigorate the economy.
“Since George Bush got his job, three million Americans have lost theirs,” Udall said. “It’s a pretty devastating situation for people within the United States.”
Udall also was concerned about the country’s place in a global market. Udall said that several trade agreements have given other countries opportunities to win bids for government contracts in the United States, but those same opportunities have not been reciprocated towards the U.S.
Citizens also had questions regarding the upcoming special election to create a cabinet secretary and withdraw money from the state’s permanent fund to institute educational reform. Udall encouraged those residents to remember those questions for Aug. 20. Gov. Bill Richardson is scheduled to appear at Portales High School from 3:30-4:30 p.m. that day to promote the election.