By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
TUCUMCARI — Renewable fuel and film.
Gov. Bill Richardson is optimistic New Mexico can be a key state for both, and he highlighted Tucumcari’s role during a Monday town hall meeting.
Richardson spoke to a packed crowd at the Tucumcari Convention Center’s meeting room, where the governor heard concerns on Quay County.
Many in the audience asked what the state could do to help Mesalands Community College create a wind research training center, which college president Phillip Barry said would help New Mexico State University collect wind data as well as train 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 admitted Barry’s price tag was steep, but that he’d look at what he could do to help the college 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.
“Some very famous movies were filmed here,” Richardson said, “and I’d like to see that happen again.”
At the request of audience members, Richardson addressed immigration.
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 midterm elections are over to address the problem, 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.”