Sunday, June 29, 2014

One Good Thing We Can Do

Each year Los Indigenes from Tortugas make a pilgrimage up Tortugas Mountain (aka “A” Mountain) in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They have a decades-old lease for that purpose, and will continue to have and use that lease for decades more.

The pilgrimage is sacred. It's also an important local cultural event. A recent New Mexico Magazine article reminds us that some of it can only be witnessed here and in Mexico City.

Meanwhile the area has become a much-used recreation site. It has an incredibly isolated and natural feel to it, despite being less than five minutes from NMSU and the Interstate. For thousands of Las Cruces residents, Tortugas Recreation Area is a place they can hike or bike in a natural and quiet environment – or have a sunset picnic.

Marred only by a couple of sand and gravel operations north of Dripping Springs Road, it's a peaceful, desert landscape into which LCPS dropped Centennial High School a few years ago because the land was cheap. (Never mind the cost to City and County to improve roads and provide other requirements.)

Doña Ana Sand & Gravel is one of those mining operations. Since the 1950's DASG has mined sand and gravel, mostly or entirely on the North side of Dripping Springs Rd. Through an ancient mining law (repealed or replaced about six months after they started operations), the operators were allowed to buy the land from the BLM in 2005 for $2.50 an acre to continue mining. They got 24 acres north of the road and 16 south of it. The southern portion is immediately below Tortugas Mountain.

DASG asked the Extraterritorial Zoning Authority (“ETA”) to rezone the northern portion to formally recognize the mining. (The ETA decides such issues, after receiving recommendations from the Extraterritorial Zoning Commission (“ETZ”). DASG asked to rezone the southern portion commercial.

For many reasons, commercial was a bad idea there. It would have been disharmonious with existing properties and leases, including the recreation area and the Pilgrimage. The road wouldn't support the additional traffic (with folks turning off the narrow road to get a hamburger) and the morass of conflicting right-of-way claims made it unlikely the City or County could widen the road as would be required. A commercial installation wouldn't be the best neighbor to NM Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, with its animals and with lots of kids and tourists coming to a museum that honors rural New Mexico. With obesity a national epidemic, fast-food joints adjacent to high schools aren't a great idea. Residents of Golf Estates, Talavera, and Las Alturas neighborhoods were also strongly opposed. The proposed customers of businesses on the site said “No!” in droves.

In 2013, staff initially recommended denying the commercial zoning request. The ETZ voted 5-1 to recommend approval. The ETA upheld rezoning the northern portion for mining, but rejected commercial zoning by 4-0. ETA urged staff to come up with something appropriate. 

More recently, staff presented the ETZ with a request for commercial zoning that differed slightly from the original request. Again there was vigorous and varied opposition. The ETZ reached a 3-3 tie vote, thus denying the request.

The three who favored the request each said, essentially, that they couldn't interfere with landowners' rights to do what they want with their land. If they mean that, they don't understand their jobs as commissioners. True, landowners' rights are one priority; but zoning decisions are precisely about when and how the public interest trumps them. Under what circumstances and to what extent should we (or can we, legally) restrict land uses?

Here, it's possible the commercial zoning could constitute illegal spot-zoning. (Staff says it wouldn't because it's technically “new zoning” not “rezoning.” Even if that argument proved technically valid, the policies against spot-zoning would still apply.)

Since one requirement for the commercial zoning sought was demonstrated need for a commercial zone, the passionate opposition of nearby residents and Recreation Area users tended to negate a required showing. 

The overwhelming community opposition, the inconsistency with surrounding land uses, and numerous other factors establish a community interest in keeping this area free of commercial activity.

Often such factors are subordinated to the interests of landowners who've invested heavily in the land and have legitimate expectations of profit.

Here, the landowners were essentially given the land because they were mining there. 

That doesn't mean they can never develop it and have no interest in making a huge profit; but it does mean there are not strong “equities” weighing against the clear community interest and possible illegality of the requested zoning. The ETA should zone the land for gravel-mining now, and let the landowners seek a rezoning at some later point. 

Of course, I hope the land south of Dripping Springs is not mined, and remains undeveloped, perhaps through a purchase by some public or conservation-minded entity.
[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, Sunday, 29 June.
[The next event in this saga will be an ETA meeting set for July 16th at 5:30 p.m. in the County Commission Chambers at 845 Motel Blvd.  I'd urge folks who feel strongly about this issue  to (a) write the ETA in care of Steve Meadows, [] by July 9, (b) come and say your piece on July 16th, or both.  (I suggested writing by July 9th.  On July 11, the Friday before the meeting, they put together the packets for the ETA members.  A letter or email received before then will be in the packet.  A later-received communication will also be in the file somewhere, I think; but better to beat the deadline, and help give staff an extra day or two to put things together.)  You should not, however, try to discuss the matter individually with city councilors or county commissioners you happen to know, as they're supposed not to discuss this "quasi-judicial" issue informally in private.]

Monday, June 23, 2014

County Staff Prepare "Findings" ETZ Commissioners Never Found

The Extra-Territorial Zoning Commission (“ETZ”) recently considered an effort to develop some land just below Tortugas Mountain. There were many good reasons to deny the request. Staff asked the ETZ to approve it. Many citizens wrote the ETZ or voiced their opposition at the meeting. The ETZ rejected a motion to approve staff's proposal. Three Commissioners spoke against it, and the motion failed on a 3-3 vote.

Staff appealed to the Extra-Territorial Authority (“ETA”). (The ETA is three county commissioners and three city councilors.)

Legally, staff can appeal, but some ETZ Commissioners wondered about the propriety of staff appealing the decision of a board appointed by the City and County.

Far more questionable was the written “Order” staff created.

Staff had argued, and other speakers rebutted, several points, including whether or not the zoning request met Comprehensive Plan objectives. Three commissioners rejected staff's arguments, yet certain of staff's arguments showed up as ETZ “findings” in the Order. Some “findings” contradicted what the prevailing side had said out loud at the hearing.

Some ETZ Commissioners aren't happy.

Because the ETZ doesn't meet often, staff often leaves just the signature page of an Order on a specific ETZ desk. “They took advantage of the fact that we often have to sign things on the fly. They routinely pressure people to sign things on the fly,” said ETZ Commissioner Douglas Hoffman. “It's never resulted in this kind of thing. As citizen-representatives, we rely on staff to faithfully carry out the Commission's findings.” Another commissioner described himself as “quite unhappy” and suggested there's a pattern of pushing things through without time for necessary input. He called staff's appeal “completely unique.”

It looks a bit dishonest to load an Order's “findings” with stuff the ETZ not only didn't find but didn't agree with.

Citizens argued (as did a petition signed by users of the Tortugas Recreation Area) that development would be inconsistent with surrounding land uses. So did the Tigua, who hold a lease to make an annual pilgrimage to the top of the mountain. So did the nearest residential neighbors. Every speaker, except the property owners’ paid engineer, opposed allowing a Planned Commercial Development at the base of Tortugas. Commissioner Hoffman specifically mentioned that development would interfere in some measure with the pilgrimages. Commissioner Sanders mentioned that the park was a transition area in which development to the extent that staff recommended would be inappropriate.
Nevertheless, staff wrote into the “findings” that “The proposed EC-3c zoning district would compliment [sic] this [neighboring] activity.” The ETZ found no such thing.

Should the commissioners have insisted on seeing the entire document, rather than relying on staff to faithfully record the proceedings? That's not the usual procedure. I'd think a commissioner could fairly expect at least that staff wouldn't quietly insert “findings” that contradicted the ETZ's position.
Suppose a staff member wrote into a businessperson's contract or a politician's speech material that the staff member wanted to say but knew the boss didn't agree with? How long would s/he have that job?

Many bosses trust staff to finalize documents. Many of us who've bought or sold a house have trusted a realtor on many details, and relied on that realtor's assurance that the document reflected our discussions. Is realtor or staff justified in taking advantage of a relationship of trust?

When I called County Community Development Director Daniel Hortert he said that the statements in the Order were not findings and not required by law. He later conceded they were findings, but reiterated that they're not required and said they're more trouble than they're worth.

The so-called findings he called “perfectly fine. It's not going to change.” He didn't challenge the view that the findings weren't the facts at least three of the Commissioners based their opinion on and that some even contradicted statements by the prevailing side.

He argued that the ETA would not pay attention to the findings but would hear testimony de novo then make up its own mind. That might be, but I suggested he include a note telling the ETA that the supposed “ETZ Findings” were never found by the ETZ.

County Commission candidate Beth Bardwell says the “findings” aren't so unimportant. “If I were on the ETA, that would be the first thing I'd look at, as a concise summary of the issues as the ETZ saw them.” She also pointed out that while the ETA would make up its own mind, if someone appealed to District Court a judge might be misled into viewing the findings as summarizing the ETZ's view.
Concerned citizens can hope the ETA Commissioners will read the Sun-News, although County Legal might object to that as an ex parte communication.

The ETA hears the case at 5:30, July 16th, in the County Commission chambers at 845 N. Motel Blvd. If you have an opinion, you're free to appear and voice it. Your voice could matter.

[I should have posted this yesterday, but was up in the wilderness, too delightfully far from cell-phones and Internet work.  The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News on Sunday, 22 June.]
[If time permits, I may write a second column on the substantive issues in the case discussed above; in addition, the incident raises the more general issue of whether things are done with appropriate planning or just done.  I do know that staff put a lot into the proposal rejected by the ETZ.  What I don't understand is why, after the ETA unanimously rejected a fairly similar proposal last year and the ETZ (which had recommended approval of the earlier version 5-1) defeated this in a 3-3 vote), staff is pushing so hard, instead of accepting the obvious alternative of zoning the South side of the road as the ETA did the North, for the gravel-mining the owners got the land for $2.50 per acre to do. ]

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pegasus Flies Again ? Well, maybe.

Like some unnatural Hollywood monster, the inaptly named Pegasus Project has arisen from the dead to beguile our City Councilors, County Commissioners, and Important People again.

It's an incredibly neat idea: a realistic fake town, unpopulated, to facilitate all sorts of studies and experiments.

The same folks started pushing this deal here in 2012.

Eventually the showmen settled on Hobbs. Around June 1 Pegasian executives were “on the ground in Hobbs to prepare for the June 29 groundbreaking” – but on July 13 they stole away in the middle of the night.

They lacked the guts or grace even to tell Hobbs civic leaders they were leaving. Kind of like golfer Rory McIlroy telling tennis champ Caroline Wozniacki their engagement was over – on a cell-phone call so short she hung up thinking he was joking. Except the Pegasians didn't even have that much gumption.

The Hobbs folks learned the facts from the evening news. The excuse given – like the excuses given for the ends of most affairs – didn't seem to hold up. They claimed vaguely “some very complicated and unforeseen issues with acquiring the land.” But they reportedly hadn't even talked to their friends and allies in Hobbs about trying to resolve the purported late-blooming problem.

My instinct when someone walks away with such a flimsy excuse after claiming to be weeks from ground-breaking is that the funding wasn't quite there. Maybe someone reneged on something. Maybe the “We're breaking ground this month!” story was a wild shot at getting the rest of the funding they needed. If you're serious about that June 29 groundbreaking, you make more of an effort to solve a last-minute problem; but if you were blowing smoke in hopes of pulling the financing together, the last-minute problem might be pretty convenient. (Folks in Hobbs read the tea leaves the same way.)

Unless there's a real good explanation – and these folks declined to explain it to me back then – no one over 12 should extend himself or herself very far to facilitate the game this time.

Probably these people are again nowhere near having the funds for this thing. They likely hope to use their activities here to help generate funding. That's fine, so long as they're thoroughly truthful with investors. But one danger in the modern world is that if things go South, disappointed investors will sue everyone in sight. If these promoters stray beyond the truth a little, and we're complicit or even seem to be, we could end up paying a settlement to some plaintiff or class of plaintiffs for helping make this show look ready-for-prime-time when it wasn't.

Is the whole thing a scam? I don't know. But if I were a local official I'd have a long, candid talk with my peers in Hobbs, and ask some tough questions of the promoters. (Actually, I was reassured to learn today that this conversation has happened.) I'd also stick strictly to doing my job, and not make the least public statement that could be taken out of context and painted as more than I meant it to be.

More generally, New Mexico politicians chase after companies the way Nepalese villagers scramble to steer a visitor to their brother-in-law's hotel; but few politicians attempt the harder tasks that might create an infrastructure and a quality of life and education that might make someone want to move a business here.

Many business want an educated work-force prepared to do challenging work; but improving education takes too much money and creativity.

Marriage equality is essential for most modern corporations, so they can bring or hire the best people, not just the best straight people; but many business interests scoffed when our local officials expressing support for marriage equality in New Mexico. Quality of life matters, yet the Chamber of Commerce opposed the Monument, which was a tangible step to improve the quality of life here.

I think the Pegasus “town” is a great idea, assuming it's no environmental problem. If it were here, drawing into town all sorts of interesting studies and programs, that'd be a fine development for Doña Ana County. But these guys acted like asses in Hobbs. They spoke confidently of breaking ground within weeks. They showed they lack manners and maybe veracity. Any public official should ask these folks a boatload of questions.

In fact, despite whatever the Pegasians released, they've apparently not contacted the City of Las Cruces yet. City Manager Robert Garza says that when he read the news story he asked city staff whether anyone had been contacted, and everyone answered in the negative.

Meanwhile Mayor Ken Miyagashima was quoted as hoping that just as the San Fernando Valley became “Silicon Valley” the Mesilla Valley could become “High-Tech Valley”; but his high-tech smart-phone could have told him Silicon Valley, surrounding Palo Alto, is eight hours' drive North of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley.
[The column above appeared this morning, Sunday, 15 June, in the Las Cruces Sun-News.  Interestingly, it exemplifies the fact that my views as a columnist don't necessarily represent the newspaper's views, since (coincidentally) the Sun-News had  editorialized concerning Pegasus  earlier this week.  
In fact, though, I agree with most of the editorial.  While the editorial is far more favorable and my column far more negative, we agree that (a) it's a very interesting idea, wherever you put it, and (b) it would probably be a good thing for the County if they put it here, including its likelihood of drawing in other interesting people and projects.    The newspaper made the point that so long as it isn't costing the City or County anything, let's root for it; and I agree.   
I'd just add the caveat, as discussed above, that the evidence tends to lead a reasonable observer to question whether the financing will be there, in this economy, for such an interesting idea, and whether or not the folks organizing it are folks I'd be in a big hurry to trust.  Both are questions, not answers; I hope both funding and trust develop.  (Again, I'm assuming for now that there wouldn't be significant environmental/ecological problems flowing from building the new "town.")
So I'll be interested to see what develops -- and open to hearing facts that might expand my view on the subject, if local officials or Pegasus reps ever choose to share 'em.]
[My further point was that our leaders tend to salivate at the most modest indication a business might move here, but don't spend enough time (a) helping local endeavors develop and (b) creating the conditions a business might like to see here, such as a strong educational system, quality of life, equality, etc.  That's more important, and deserves exposition by someone better prepared than I to opine on business development.]

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Vote! . . . . . . . . . . . Our Recent Primary

            If elections were graded, we’d fail.

            Most Doña Ana County voters would get suspended for non-attendance.  

            Some non-voter's say there's no one worth voting for; but that wasn't true here.  Merrie Lee Soules was an extraordinary candidate for the PRC, which matters to the average person far more than s/he imagines.   Alan Webber and Howie Morales both impressed me a good deal, and Lawrence Real seemed extraordinarily knowledgeable about how this state should be governed.   The race for county sheriff included at least three good candidates.

            And each vote does matter.  In the last general election, Joanne Ferrary lost to Terry McMillan by just eight votes, and this week Bill Gomez appears to have unseated long-time Representative Mary Helen Garcia by nine.   

            Equally fatuous is the excuse that the lines are long.   Where we voted, there were six or eight voting booths, all unoccupied.  (Admittedly, it wasn't lunch-time or after work.)

            If only this newspaper could eliminate from the “Sound Off” and “Letters to the Editor” communications from folks who don't vote!

            We did stumble into some correct decisions.   

            Norm Osborne consistently seemed a great candidate for Magistrate Judge; and when I saw him at the Democratic Party's forum, he stood out for his judicial bearing and his recognition that “Patience, patience, patience!” was the key to the job he sought.   Credit Rick Wellborn for campaigning hard to retain the seat Governor Martinez gave him.   This was another close race; and without any disrespect to Mr. Wellborn, I think we got it right.   

            I feel the same way about our retention of Beverly Singleman.   Next to Osborne, she seemed the most judge-like and patient among the candidates I saw at that forum.

            Writing this Wednesday, I don't know who'll face incumbent Ben Hall for a seat on the PRC.

            We may have allowed Sandy Jones to win the nomination through a flood of false and stupid advertising.  (He had plenty of money, of course, while Soules was limited by the public-financing option.  We don't yet know how much of Jones’s money came from industry folks who recall his deference to industry, and his lukewarm reaction to renewable energy, when he sat on the PRC.)
            In time-honored fashion, he found a uniquely tired-looking photo of Soules.  His charge that she was a poor candidate because GM recently recalled cars is like rejecting a candidate who served in the Viet Nam war because that war didn't go very well.  She had a responsible position in a huge organization, but she didn't make decisions about whether to put plants in Mexico, nor was she responsible for GM's overall production.   Yes, she worked for GM in Juarez for three years; but she didn't decide to put the plant there and at least during her tenure with GM, the plant observed the more stringent U.S. safety standards, regardless of local standards.   She never managed a GM plant in Mexico; she had nothing to do with the electronic ignition switches that caused the recent recall; and Jones’s ads showed a document she signed in 1996, as if it were relevant, that in fact concerned “Character Standard for Machine Vision Verification of Devices Used on Electrical Centers.”  (I'm guessing that Jones, like me, couldn't even tell you what that means.)
            On issues, qualifications, and record, Soules was a much stronger candidate, so credit Jones for using what he could to prevail.  If politics is a barroom brawl, he done good.  Unfortunately, his Republican opponent may argue that there were questions (fairly or unfairly) about Jones's ethics before the election, and that his misleading ads answer those questions eloquently.
            Jones might well be a better choice than Hall in the general election.  I haven't yet formed an opinion on that.  But Soules was what we all say we want, a new and honest voice, a non-politician with a high degree of competence and an open mind, an engineer and businesswoman.  If she wins, she'll be a far superior choice to Hall.
            Similarly King would probably be a better governor than Martinez has been.  (Unfortunately, so would our cat.)   He won not because of his accomplishments or brilliant ideas but because of his name – and that's the foundation for his claim that he'd be a stronger candidate than Webber in November.   That's practical politics, but damned sad.   
            I think any of 'em would be a long-shot.  Martinez will likely win, despite her poor record.  But Webber offered new ideas, and he hasn't spent his life in politics.  He seemed a refreshing choice for a state that’s seen too many Richardsons and Martinezes. He also came from nowhere politically, and ran a good race.   And I hope Morales takes another shot in four years.   
            Maybe the low turnout was just a result of there being (at least where I voted) no pretty stickers with which to announce one’s virtue.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, Sunday,  8 June, under a title that suggested that I objected to results of the election.  I guess I did disagree with a couple of results, but I meant mostly to criticize non-participation.  Nor did I intend to suggest -- as folks so often do -- that results I didn't like were caused by non-voting.  I get tired of hearing that the "real" [but evidently non-voting] County dislikes progressives, didn't want a Monument, etc.]
[I received a flurry of email discussing the possibility of writing in Ms. Soules's name in the general election between Ben Hall and Sandy Jones for PRC commissioner.  I've been advised, but haven't actually checked, that the politicos in all their wisdom did away with the requirement to count such votes, except in an organized write-in-campaign for which the candidate has set on.  I regret that for two reasons: first, obviously, in a general election between two old-style candidates, a strong refusal to vote for either would make a useful statement; and, as a young reporter long ago, I always liked reporting after each election that Daffy Duck and Mickey Mouse had gotten a few votes.]
[Looking ahead, I definitely do recommend voting for King rather than Martinez; and with regard to the PRC I guess I'll wait and see if Jones [or Hall, perhaps] articulates a really compelling reason to vote for him over his opponent.  If I don't hear one, I'll leave that line blank.  In an ideal election, while hundreds of thousands of voters turned out, and voted in other races, King would beat Martinez by about 12 votes to six, and the PRC race would be a 3-3 tie, with each candidate getting his own vote and two from family-members.]
[Meanwhile, we have a host of other important races with candidates well worth supporting -- and a few where a good candidate faces no opposition.]

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Organ Mountains - Desert Peaks National Monument

The clouds were kind to the celebration of our new national monument.

The celebration was at Oñate, outdoors, so the Organs could watch – and provide a stunning backdrop. Organizers set out chairs for 400 people, and were scurrying around adding more chairs when we arrived.

It paid to have a hat; but the clouds not only set off the Organs beautifully, making them more vivid than they'd normally be at 2 p.m., but also sent emissaries to shade us; and there was a pleasant breeze.

Two dozen protesters stood at the entrance. They complained, among other things, that the proclamation ignored public sentiment in Doña Ana County. Since repeated polls (and my own less scientific inquiries) had shown a huge majority of respondents favored the Monument, I wondered about that.

I stopped to ask a couple of protesters: “500 people in there, 25 out here – how can you say there's a big majority against this?” Someone answered, “It only takes one!”

That's a reasonable answer to some questions. In my youth, I was in far lonelier minorities advocating civil rights in the South and opposing the Viet Nam war in the North. I was probably in the minority thinking the Iraq War would turn out as it has.

But to a question about the Monument proposal's popularity, her answer didn't cut it. (The presence of other vehicles behind mine precluded a follow-up question.) I'm not sure what all the protesters' objections were, but: the Monument had the support of a large majority here; and I haven't heard of anything illegal about Obama using the Antiquities Act to get this done, as Presidents at least back to Hoover have done.

The ceremony was predictable, but enjoyable. Much passionate but repetitive thanking of everyone. Well-deserved praise for Obama, Bingaman, J. Paul Taylor, and many others. A few kids running around, oblivious to speeches. Most speakers kept it short. Several spoke well.

Less predictably, but to our great pleasure, Billy Garrett read a Keith Wilson poem, Bone Knowledge. Fine poem – and thematically appropriate, about New Mexico and change.

Like the protesters, I'd have preferred no government involvement. I wish we could keep the Organs pristine, and other parts of the Monument protected, without a bureaucracy. I'll be irritated if I go somewhere I used to go at will and find it closed.

But we aren't such good stewards. Not long ago, our elected representatives let Phillipou build houses higher up in the foothills than they should have. Developers seeking profit or four-wheelers seeking thrills don't always stop and think about protecting nature.

There's a wonderfully green spot just beneath New York State's Croton Dam, beside a powerful spillway, where I was taken to play as a child. Decades later, we took my dying mother there. As I noticed the signs and barriers preventing us from driving down the old road, a young woman advised me, loudly and snidely, “You can't drive down there! It's for pedestrians.” I'd have enjoyed driving the car over her, but those barriers served a purpose. With increased population, continuing to allow folks to drive in there would have trashed the place.

Highlights of the Monument celebration included Friar Vince capping it off by singing a few lines of a song in Spanish; a kid from Tortugas, in native dress, racing around near us; and getting to mill around afterward having talking with folks I don't get to see often, including one I hadn't seen for forty years.

As we drove home we could see rain to the West of us. Later it passed over, sprinkled just enough to create that rain-in-the-desert after-scent, and granting us a great lightning show accompanied by thunder that sent the cat into hiding but brought out a sand-colored toad. (This column will not claim the rain and thunder signified Divine approval of the Monument; but maybe it was Nature tipping her cap to the folks who'd worked so hard on this thing.)

That night we watched a soul-music concert televised from the White House. Enjoying it, and watching the Obamas enjoy it, I wondered if some folks were muttering to themselves about Barbarians taking over the White house.

The next morning we served as witnesses at a wedding. A shy young couple, both serving in the military, taking the plunge – as they could not legally have done in the state where they live.

I'm pessimistic about human greed, climate weirdness, dying oceans, shrinking glaciers, GMO's, and war; but I appreciate: an urbane, good-hearted, capable President; progress toward letting loving same-sex couples express their love in marriage; and some protection for our marvelous Organs.

As I told Friar Vince after the ceremony, I once climbed to the top of the Organs. I realized it was July 4th when we spotted fireworks over Las Cruces. Grand, I'm sure; but from where I stood, they were a reminder of how insignificant our accomplishments are in the greater scheme of things.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 1 June.  ]
[Wisely or unwisely, the Monument represents the will of a clear majority of Dona Ana county citizens.  Repeated polls showed large majorities.   Both the County Commission and the Las Cruces City Council passed resolutions asking for the monument, unanimously or nearly so; and since those folks were elected by citizens, the resolutions are certainly some further evidence of how people here feel.  The relative turnout at the event discussed above (500 to 25) is worth noting, as is the turnout at an earlier event when the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited.  Proponents and opponents urged their allies to be there, and to arrive early.  It was crowded.  Many on both sides, including us, were turned away.  Proponents vastly outnumbered opponents.  By a 4-1 or 5-1 margin, reportedly.  Opponents claimed people were "bussed in."  I did see a few buses, including one I asked the driver about and learned it was folks from El Paso, mostly UTEP, who'd wanted to come; but even assuming there were no opponents from beyond the county's borders, and even if you don't count the supporters who came from outside DAC, proponents significantly outnumbered opponents there too.] 

The Keith Wilson poem Billy read at the gathering was:

Bone Knowledge

There's a quality about New Mexico
a certain sadness, light gathering
about a mountain, the buzz of gnats
over a spot of wet sand in an arroyo.

For years there was nothing here to exploit,
we lived with the grace of poverty about us
in a kind of shining penitence, a forgive
me attitude we had not taken more.

nor given less, we were whole, complete
in the silence of our evenings, the sun
lit extravagance of early mornings, bird
calls that echoed the sun's rising.

The sadness I suppose comes from change,
Heraclitus's river not the same river,
not the same foot, as we became valuable
because of the very space that had protected us.

That hawk, circling the cap rock, though.
How will I explain to him, the changing air?

The poem is from the book Bosque Redondo: The Encircled Grove and is available in the collected edition of Keith's poems.