City council opposes pledge proposal

By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer

Without exception, members of the Portales City Council and those in the audience for a regular meeting Tuesday night stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

The councillors present, as well as Portales mayor Orlando Ortega, later made it clear in an agenda item that they hope the tradition is not infringed upon at the school level. The City Council, in a 5-0 vote, passed a resolution opposing proposed language by the New Mexico Public Education Department which would allow students not to participate in the custom.

The state education department has proposed adding language to the administrative code which states that “any person not wishing to participate in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance shall, without consequence or retaliation, be exempt from reciting it and need not participate.”

Ortega said that state officials told him that the language would be added to bring the code in line with a Supreme Court decision in 1942 allowing the right not to be part of the pledge ceremony. Ortega, though, said he worried about the added language leading to increasing “disrespect” for the custom.

“What happens next? Do they add language to just do away with it?” Ortega said.

Council members Mike Miller, Alfredo Bachicha, Dianne Parker, Antonio Salguero and Gary Watkins voted for the resolution. Robert De Los Santos, Ronald Jackson and Shawn Watson were not present for the meeting.

At City Hall, in other council business, the finalized version of the 2009-10 fiscal budget was also unanimously approved.

The total budget for the city includes an estimated $17.1 million in revenue and $18.7 million in expenditures, although the negative balance of those two items is to be made up through previous cash balances and investments.

Likewise, the city’s general fund allows for $7.6 million in expenditures for the ‘09-’10 budget while only $6.1 million is expected in revenues. Investments and transfers from other areas of the budget will make up the shortfall.

“At the end of the year, if everything goes according to plan, we’ll have $127,876 in our general fund,” Miller said. “That’s based on very conservative revenues and gross receipts (projections).”

Greg Fisher, executive director of the Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation (RCCDC) also gave an annual report to the city during the meeting.

Fisher said the RCCDC assisted nine firms creating 79 new jobs during the 2008-09 fiscal year and 346 new jobs in total were created in Roosevelt County. He also said 50 new businesses opened during the same time span while only three closed.

However, Fisher said declining milk prices have been a strain on the once-burgeoning dairy industry in the county.

“Dairy prices must recover to avoid a negative ripple effect on the economy,” he said.