By Tony Parra
Gov. Bill Richardson absorbed a barrage of questions from Portales residents on several topics, but made a stand on the importance of a cheese plant road, education and not allowing same sex marriages on Monday in the city hall chambers.
Alva Carter, Eastern New Mexico University Board of Regents member, said it would take a great effort and Roosevelt County would need $300,000 to $400,000 for a new paved road leading to the new cheese plant from the south.
“I’ll work with you to do that (money for new road),” Richardson said. “Anything for the new cheese plant. Everybody’s excited, it’s a great spin-off for Portales.”
Roosevelt County Commission Chairman Dennis Lopez informed the audience that city and county officials are looking to create a feasibility study for the paved road.
Richardson announced a $9.9 million capital outlay investment for Roosevelt County and in the announcement, Richardson secured $6.3 million for a science education building at ENMU. There is also $245,000 in the capital package to renovate the Portales High School Performing Arts Center and $58,000 for classrooms to house a full-day kindergarten program.
“New Mexico, for years, what we have missed is a vocational high school,” Richardson said. “Eastern and a community college can combine with a high school to build a vocational school. I want to do 15 around the state. We have funding for one at this time.”
An ENMU student asked Richardson about his feelings about the lottery scholarship and who it should go to.
“The lottery scholarship was one of the smartest pieces of legislation, five or six years ago,” Richardson said. “The legislation and lottery system is making money. It enables middle-class students to go to college.”
Richardson said he would like to see three things done to the lottery scholarship.
“Why give the lottery scholarship to those who only left high school within three months?” Richardson asked. “Is every New Mexico kid getting a chance to go? There needs to be some kind of need base. There are kids from large families from (the) middle class who don’t qualify. Third, kids who go to tribal colleges are not eligible. The tribal colleges operate out of Arizona. Every New Mexico kid should get a chance to go.”
An ENMU student said she lost her lottery scholarship because she went to Germany for her studies and and added that the same thing would happen if another student moved to Texas for a year and came back. Others weighed in on Richardson’s view of how the lottery scholarship should be used.
“I agree as long as it doesn’t lose its original intent,” ENMU President Steven Gamble said. “Its purpose is for New Mexico high school students. If there’s money beyond that, then I agree.”
Another person asked the governor about his stance on gay marriages and whether it should be left up to the state and local governments to decide whether to give marriage certificates to same-sex couples.
“I’m against gay marriages,” Richardson said. “It makes sense to allow state and local entities to decide. Everybody should have equal rights and no one should be subject to hate crimes.”
Roosevelt County Commissioners, during their county commission meeting Tuesday morning, also voiced their opposition for gay marriages. Roosevelt County Clerk Joyce Fraze and her replacement for next year, Janet Collins, said they are opposed to granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
New Mexico Association of County Clerks sent out a press release on Tuesday to news editors from across the state stating, “It has always been the consensus of this group (clerks) that a male applicant and a female applicant must sign the marriage application based on 40-1-18 of the New Mexico Statutes 1978 Annotated.”
Attorney General Patricia Madrid stated in an advisory letter in February that, “New Mexico statutes, as they currently exist, contemplate that marriage will be between a man and a woman.”