Area hopeful letters help stop closure

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

Kenneth Realty Inc. agent Maureen Burns said she hunched over mounds of letters for three consecutive days last week. She wrote the names of the nine Base Realignment and Closure commissioners in blue ink over countless envelopes, addressing letters written by fellow community members to the Virginia-based Commission that will decide the fate of Cannon Air Force Base.
The base, which has been a vital cog in the area economy for more than five decades, is on the Pentagon’s list of bases recommended for closure.
“It’s been worth the cramping of my hand — the response was so great,” Burns said.
Clovis-Curry County Chamber of Commerce officials and community members believe Clovis’ letter-writing campaign is making an impact on the commission. A press release from the chamber said more letters have arrived on behalf of keeping Cannon than for any other base on the BRAC list.
“That’s what was told to us, that we were by far, above and away leading the pack in sending the letters,” said Terry Moberly, chair of the Committee of Fifty, a volunteer group that supports Cannon. “I think it is very important to the people of Clovis and Portales (to know) this letter-writing campaign is going to make a difference.”
According to the chamber’s press release, five BRAC commissioners have agreed to attend a June 24 regional hearing in Clovis where local, state and hired officials will try to convince commissioners to take Cannon off the closure list. At least two more commissioners are considering attending the hearing, according to the chamber.
It takes five of the nine BRAC commissioners to remove a base from the list. In previous rounds, 15 percent of the bases on the list were able to get off.
Fueled with a $10,000 lump sum, which includes a $5,000 Realtors Association of New Mexico donation and a matching Clovis Board of Realtors donation, local real estate agents have sent more than 4,000 letters to the BRAC Commission, using $1,700 in postage. Local stationary companies have donated up to 23,000 envelopes to the effort.
“We continually get letters,” said Kenneth Jones, owner and broker of Kenneth Realty, Inc., who is co-chair of the letter-writing campaign.
The effort is also going on in Portales.
Kim Huffman, CEO of the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, said he couldn’t possibly guess the number of letters that county residents have sent to the commission, but estimated that the Chamber of Commerce has helped send out more than 2,000 letters.
“There were bundles and bundles from the schools we sent,” Huffman said. “We’re telling everybody to mail their letters (individually), but if they have a stack of letters they can bring them to us, and we’ll stamp them and mail them.”
While elementary school students made their efforts, higher education also got involved in the campaign.
The BRAC announcement came on May 13, the last day of finals week for Eastern New Mexico University, but the college was still able to generate a letter-writing campaign that brought in about 1,200 letters.
“I think it’s been incredibly successful,” said Denise Hobbs, who works at ENMU’s enrollment office and was part of the letter-writing campaign. “There’s been huge support from Eastern employees, their spouses, pretty much anybody involved with Eastern.”
Huffman said he expects that another wave of support for Cannon will be coming in the next week, and the chamber is about to receive a great deal of promotional material, including bumper stickers and pins.
Jones is bracing for another intensive round of letter writing that will include efforts from Clovis Community College and the Chamber of Commerce.
“We are getting ready for the second wave,” Jones said. “Between now and July are really going to push Realtors to get more letters.”
Leslie Albacherli of Coldwell Banker Colonial Real Estate has letter-sending down to a science. A format letter, she said, can be picked up at most real estate offices in Clovis, where the agency will also provide envelopes and stamps.
“We’ve had to go to sponges because our tongues were ready to fall off,” Albacherli said.
The real estate business has a vested interest in the BRAC process, since property values tend to plummet following a base closing.
Letters are posted on the Internet at the E-library section of Attempts to reach the BRAC staff were unsuccessful.

PNT Managing Editor Kevin Wilson contributed to this report.