Richardson touts fuel, films

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

Renewable fuel and film. Gov. Bill Richardson is optimistic that New Mexico can be a key state for both, and he highlighted Tucumcari’s role in both during a Monday town hall meeting.

Richardson spoke with a packed crowd at the Tucumcari Convention Center’s meeting room, where the governor heard concerns on Quay County and gave suggestions on what the future will require from county residents.

Many in the audience asked what the state could do to help Mesalands Community College create a wind research training center, which MCC President Phillip Barry said would help New Mexico State University collect wind data as well as train MCC students to work with renewable energy.

“We have the curriculum built,” Barry said. “The (power) companies (we’ve dealt with across the country) have already approved the curriculum.”

What, Richardson asked, was needed to get the project started?

“Twelve million dollars, sir,” Barry answered.

The wind research training center was represented in a pair of capital outlay requests during the legislative session. The two requests, totaling $12.5 million, were pared down into a $50,000 appropriation, which was later vetoed because the amount wouldn’t have been a significant help to the college.

Richardson said Barry’s price tag was steep, but that he’d look at what he could do to help MCC start such an endeavor.

“We want to be the center of renewable energy in this country, and we’re moving that way,” Richardson said. “You’re perfect for wind energy (in Quay County).”

Richardson suggested Barry add another curriculum to the college — film. Richardson has been actively courting the film industry, and he said 14 films are currently being shot in New Mexico.

The problem is the state only has four film crews, so jobs from 10 film crews go to people staying on a temporary basis instead of New Mexico residents. With more students graduating from film programs at in-state colleges, that money stays in New Mexico.

Richardson felt Tucumcari could definitely come into play on films, since it has the advantage of Route 66.

“Some very famous movies were filmed here,” Richardson said, “and I’d like to see that happen again.”

Audience members asked Richardson what he felt should be done regarding illegal immigrants, and whether he believed in criminalizing illegal aliens.

Richardson said dealing with illegal immigrants was a four-pronged measure — tighter border security, penalties to companies that hire illegal immigrants, making sure Mexico is part of the solution and a process of earned legalization based on a person’s criminal background and whether or not they pay back taxes and current taxes.

Richardson is concerned that Congress is going to wait until the mid-term elections are over before making any decisions, which he thinks would be a mistake.

“Am I for criminalizing immigrants? No,” Richardson said. “Do I want to deport 11 million people? I don’t know how you’re going to do it.”