Morales a shoe in for Altamirano’s seat?

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I’ve been far too consumed by the New Hampshire results (seriously, wow) that I never had time to get a blog written about the state Senate seat opened by the untimely death of Ben Altamirano. Anyhoo, it looks like, after getting the nod from both Sierra and Grant counties, Howie Morales might be the newest member of the New Mexico Legislature.

As I alluded earlier, this is interesting: while home, virtually nobody mentioned Howie’s name. I kept hearing that Tony Trujillo ((see this previous Silver City Sun News article)) would be the replacement.

Trujillo has been a mover and shaker in Santa Fe the past five years: as a lobbyist for Phelps Dodge, regent president for Western New Mexico University, and for a period as president of the Association of Commerce and Industry (the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce). In fact, many people thought Altamirano was showing Trujillo the ropes, grooming him as a replacement.

Suddenly, Trujillo doesn’t even appear to be in the running.

Howie is a good candidate: he’s been incredibly active in the community, was easily elected to his position as Grant County Clerk, and is well respected. If there are any skeletons in the closet I haven’t heard of them.

With two of three counties putting forth Howie’s name, I find it hard to see Gov. Bill Richardson siding with the right-leaning Catron County commission if they name somebody other than Morales.

Again, more on this later, but two quick questions:

  1. Does anybody know who Richardson is meeting in New Mexico tomorrow? According to Heath Haussamen, it’s a candidate to replace Benny.
  2. Can Richardson name whomever he wants to the seat? Or is he required to name somebody nominated by one of the county commissions?

Also, for full disclosure: Tony Trujillo has been a family friend for many years — I attended grade school with his son. In addition, I went to high school with Howie’s brother. Yeah, Silver City is a small world.

UPDATE: 1/9/08 — According to this Sun News article, Morales is the candidate meeting with Richardson.

Ben Altamirano passed away

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I received word via e-mail this morning that. Sen. Ben Altamirano passed away following what’s believed to be a “massive heart attack.” KRQE is reporting he died here in Silver City, while the messages I’ve received indicate he was in Santa Fe.

What this means for his district is entirely up in the air right now. Following what I can only describe as the fiasco that took place when filling Manny Herrera’s seat, finding somebody to represent the area for the remainder of Benny’s term should be an interesting affair indeed.

The Silver City Daily Press ran an article yesterday quoting the long-time senator; I’ll see if I can track down when the interview occurred.

More later.

Manny Herrera

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The news that Rep. Manuel Herrera passed away this weekend came as a shock. I knew he had fought with cancer, but the last time I saw him he appeared to be in good health. Granted, I’ve been gone for a few months, but I thought I would have heard something if that was no longer the case.

I met Rep. Herrera in early 2004, when I was just starting my career as a journalist. I had traveled to Santa Fe to cover the Legislature for The Mustang, ((wow, that article dates my writing and my photography)) and was introduced by friends from student government. Herrera dropped legislation on behalf of the students, who were seeking capital improvement funds for Western New Mexico University.

Rep. Herrera welcomed us into his office, showed us around the Roundhouse, and invited my fellow students to testify for the committee considering his bills. In short, he treated us as he did his other constituents, and not like kids.

Over the next four years, I reported on Herrera’s efforts to bring accountability to the University, and to give employees there a voice through the collective bargaining process. He always displayed a dedication to the residents of his district and, even when slowed by cancer, he was a tireless champion for Democratic causes.

Herrera’s personality belied his knowledge of the issues important to his constituents, and a person who underestimated Herrera didn’t make that mistake twice. His death is a huge blow to the residents of Grant and Hidalgo counties.

For more information, see the Silver City Daily Press.

Afternoon Newspapers

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On the news that the Albuquerque Tribune is on the chopping block up for sale, Jim Baca noted:

“It is the trend for PM Newspapers across the country for years now. The last nail in the coffin was the Internet. All those people that used to wait for the afternoon delivery just switched over to blogs and Internet news services.

Silver City is in almost exactly the same situation: it has an afternoon newspaper and a morning paper as well. One of the two flipsides to the Albuquerque situation is circulation: right now, the Silver City Daily Press (the PM paper) has the Silver City Sun-News beat as far as subscribers go. In addition, the Daily Press circulation numbers have been going up (or, at least that’s what my employer told us before I left the newspaper).

Still, the Daily Press can’t become complacent.  More and more residents of Grant and Catron counties will get access to the Internet (and more of those users will have access to broadband) and the Daily Press is going to find itself competing with more and more competitors.

It’s going to be interesting to watch what happens with the Daily Press. I’d love to see a more active Web site for the paper. Their online edition is a unique approach, but I think they’ll eventually find they need more interactivity (i.e. comments sections for articles), a better archive system and more free content.

I’d also pitch making the Daily Press Web site the Internet resource for residents, and for those planning to visit and/or move to the area. The Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce fills part of that role, but I think the Daily Press could find a niche if it invested the time and energy into making it intuitive and useful.

Still, the newspaper business in Silver City should make for exciting speculation and viewing in the coming years, as more and more people get their news and information from non-traditional sources, like blogs, Digg, and podcasts.

Friday Flickr Dump: Rainy Day Edition

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Drain PipeWell, as I alluded yesterday, I had an article about the upcoming fire season in the Daily Press last night ((Of course, being the banner story and all, it’s not included on our Web site)). The article (June Fire Update — PDF) talked about the fuel and weather conditions in the Southwest, and about some of the recent fire activity we’ve had in the area.

One of the things that stuck out while writing the story was the realization of the dependent relationships that make fire season what it is, particularly here in southwest New Mexico and especially after a wet winter or spring.

As the grass and brush that sprouted as a result of those wet months dries out in the early summer heat, the threat of wildfire jumps because there’s more fuel on the ground. The heat, however, plays another role in increasing the danger. The high temperatures mean less moisture is required for convection, so thunderstorms build up and move into the area. However, there’s not quite enough moisture to result in rain.

Thunderstorms – rain = dry lightning. Voila: wildfire!

Of course, the story appeared the same afternoon that we had our first good rain of the summer, and all our newspapers were wrapped up in plastic bags to protect them. Such is the life of a reporter.

Anyhoo, the weather did provide an awesome opportunity for photography (gotta love the overcast light). Below, a few of the images from yesterday, including this shot of a pigeon that let me get within a foot with my macro lens and never flew away:

Bird's Eye View

Green Bug Pink Daisy

Look At Me