Governor pleads to save Cannon

Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

Shortly after the end of Thursday’s Base Closure and Realignment deliberations, with the empty chairs of nine BRAC commissioners as a backdrop, Gov. Bill Richardson called the fate of Cannon Air Force Base fluid.

The Commission moved a Cannon vote, scheduled initially for Thursday, to this morning. In an interview with the Clovis News Journal, the governor said he would use the opportunity to squeeze in more Cannon lobbying.

Richardson canceled several other scheduled appearances to attend the Virginia deliberations.

During breaks and in hallways, he said he pleaded with commissioners to spare Cannon, a base that, if shuttered, would cripple economy in eastern New Mexico by an estimated 30 percent, thereby dubbing it one of this year’s weightiest BRAC considerations.

In those unrecorded moments, Richardson said he told the commissioners he needed them.

“This is life and death for New Mexico,” Richardson said. “You don’t get time for arguments anymore, you just ask them (the commissioners) for their support. I tell them that this is the most important vote for New Mexico.”

The governor said he fleshed out three different alternative uses for Cannon with BRAC commissioners Thursday and would continue to do so Thursday night, but he refused to comment on specifics. He also declined to name the supposed Cannon-enthusiastic commissioner he said advised him to stay in Virginia to further build Cannon discussions.

The alternative-mission scenarios are a conglomeration of previously presented scenarios and entirely fresh options, Richardson said.

Five commissioners must fall in the save-Cannon camp to spare the base from closure. Commissioners James Bilbray of Nevada and James Hansen of Utah will recuse from a Cannon vote because Cannon F-16 planes are scheduled to go to bases in their home states under Air Force recommendations, Richardson said. That means Cannon backers must gain support from all but two of the remaining commissioners.

“I just want to say that our governor is doing an excellent job lobbying for Cannon,” said Clovis banker Randy Harris, a leader in the region’s fight to save Cannon. “He is committed to Clovis, Curry County, and Portales. We owe him a big debt of gratitude.”

Harris, however, said he was unable to divulge any information about the governor’s new scenarios, although the governor said he had been working closely with Harris and fellow Cannon supporter Chad Lydick of Clovis in scenario development.

By day’s end, Cannon supporters had only encouraging words.

“When the story is finally written,” said Hanson Scott, New Mexico’s director of military base planning and support, “I think Cannon will be in good shape.”

TV watch
• The independent base-closure commission will begin hearings at 6 a.m. (MDT) today. They’ll be televised on C-SPAN 2 (Channel 46 in Portales).
Officials said the Base Closure and Realignment Commission will vote on Cannon Air Force Base early, maybe within 30 minutes after the hearings begin. The Clovis-Carver Public Library’s north annex will open its doors at 6 a.m. so the public can watch the proceedings.
Local officials will conduct a press conference after Cannon’s fate is learned at the Clovis-Carver Library. That press conference, said Clovis Mayor David Lansford, is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. and will be aired on Channel 6 in Clovis.

On the Web
• You can also watch the BRAC hearings live on C-SPAN’s Web site. A link to the C-Span site is found on the Portales News-Tribune Web site:
www.pntonline.com
• The BRAC Web site is at:
www.brac.gov

Cannon Appreciation Day
No matter Cannon’s fate, supporters said they will host their annual Cannon Appreciation Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
Place: Unity Park at Cannon.
Featuring: A free picnic lunch, door prizes, and games.

What next:
BRAC commissioners are expected to make their final recommendations this week, but they have until Sept. 8 to present them to President Bush.

By Sept. 23, the president must either forward the report to Congress or return it to the Commission for further evaluation.

If the report is returned, the BRAC Commission has until Oct. 20 to resubmit its report to the president. If the report is returned to the Commission and then re-submitted to the president, the president must transmit his approval and certification of the resubmitted report to Congress by Nov. 7.

Congress has 45 days from the day it receives the report from the president to enact a joint resolution to reject the report in full, or the report becomes law.

Should the president fail to approve or transmit either the initial or revised Commission recommendations by the above dates, the BRAC process will be terminated.

The Commission will be terminated by law on April 15.