By Art Trujillo
As a student at Immaculate Conception School in the late ‘40s, I recall social studies units on The Great Depression, the Stock Market Crash of ‘29, and the concomitant suffering that ensued.
Well in those days, we were a lot closer to the tumultuous times of the early 20th century, and the biggest lesson I took home — and into my adulthood — was the fact that many people lost their fortunes. “Many millions of people lost everything they had,” intoned Sister Macarena, our fifth-grade teacher.
“But if so many people lost their life’s savings, didn’t some people get rich at the same time?” I once asked Sister. Barring things like crop failures, famine, pestilence and other terms we pluck out of the Bible, how does it happen that suddenly everyone’s poor?” We can’t blame it all on Bernie Madoff, who made off with billions, can we?
Accordingly, each day’s headlines refer to budget cuts, and it seems our elected officials are doing what they can to stop the financial bleeding, provided it doesn’t affect their turf.
A couple of facilities that obviously have little or no money to continue operation are the dual rest areas 30 miles north of Las Vegas. When built, the facilities looked passable for the times, but today, well, don’t go there.
Armed with a digital camera, I first entered the restroom for northbound traffic. The odor of the place should have been the best deterrent, but I persevered. I noticed two urinals that don’t flush, an electric hand dryer whose button hangs out a foot supported by a spring.
The sink has only cold water, and the water fountain shoots out a few drops a minute. Really!
The southbound rest area is virtually identical, but this one has the gall to feature a couple of buttons that users can press, sort of a thumbs up-thumbs indicator asking: “Do you like this rest area?”
But you can’t vote; the buttons are missing. As you open the door to either facility, you’ll see some strange hardware hastily attached, presumably to lock up the joint. Each rest area has all variety of make-shift screws to hold the latch in place, as if someone simply reached into the junk drawer and got potluck.
Is this what past governors had in mind when these rest areas were erected some decades ago? Has the state’s budget plummeted so much that even a daily mopping is out of the question?
Yes, we realize times are hard, but a few basic repairs would help a lot. The graffitied mirrors could be replaced; a basic exhaust system would help to air out the restrooms; and properly functioning equipment would make travelers’ visits more pleasant.
Surely, New Mexico ought to try to make a better impression on people passing through our state.
• • •
Capital Report New Mexico, an online newsletter, just recently highlighted efforts by State Sen. Mark Boitano to get rid of “Monuments to Me.”
Let me explain:
The Bernalillo County legislator plans to introduce a bill that would outlaw naming public buildings after sitting politicians.
Before examining the proposed bill, let’s point out the number of instances in which erstwhile Gov. Bill Richardson happily agreed to have his name placed on public buildings, the Spaceport near T-or- C, an interchange and even his pet project, the Rail Runner.
Look how often the name Pete Domenici adorns public buildings. And even the lesser-known operators, members of certain commissions, such as Johnny Cope, get their names on the Belen-to-Santa Fe train.
It’s almost a game of “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.”
Boitano says his proposal is in response to constituents’ concerns over “an increasing number of public buildings, structures and other objects named for so-called public servants.”
He adds, emphatically, “It’s free advertising, 24/7 ... and it’s not right.” There are guidelines for the naming of public facilities, but they have been ignored in recent years, the online newsletter says. Having a public facility named after a sitting politician buys that person a chunk of perpetuity for simply doing the job he or she was elected to do.
Do you remember the days when public facilities bore the names of only those who had died?
There remain a few more weeks before the end of the 60-day legislative session. Let’s hope Boitano can rake in a few converts to support his “Monuments to Me” bill.
• • •
Sometimes in haste, politicians play the name game with too much celerity. Such happened with the establishing of the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. One of the prime movers for the NHCC was Manny Aragon, long-time senate leader who later became the Highlands University president, for a short time.
The board earlier had voted to name a torreon (tower) in Aragon’s honor, but after he pleaded guilty to three felony counts of conspiracy and mail fraud and was sent to prison, it became decision time for the NHCC board.
After much debate, the board voted 7-2 to yank Aragon’s name from the torreon.
• • •
When I was a kid, Las Vegas had a half dozen places where one could buy a new car: Werley Auto for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury; Quality Motors for Chevrolet and Cadillac; Hilton Motors for Oldsmobile and Buick; T.J. Maloof’s for Pontiac. There was even a Studebaker dealer on Grand and National and a Chrysler dealership on Independence.
The closing of Scheid’s Enchantment last month brings local new-car-buying possibilities to exactly zero. Hmm.
The last three new cars our family bought came from Highlands Ford/Enchantment Ford/Scheid Enchantment Auto.
And my mommy always told me to shop at home. Wish I could.
Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.