Friday, January 29, 2010

Governor Bill Richardson: Iran and the U.S. Census

Photo of Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico wearing a U.S. Census "Be Counted" baseball cap shaking hands with Cove (right).

Governor Bill Richardson is brilliant, engaging and powerful, but sometimes he has the attention span of a six year old. When things are not immediately on the plate in front of him, he is impatient and distant. Writing this blog that centers around New Mexico's Governor Richardson and my life in Santa Fe has been a joy. As his term ends, I reflect upon the bell curve of life. The ups and downs of it all.

As I entered his office, I thought how he didn't know me from a hole in the wall. We had talked a few times and interacted a few other times but it was presumptuous of me (not to mention insulting) to imply by the name of this blog, Fat Bill and Me, that I actually had some kind of relationship with the guy.

I sat for a while in the waiting room, thinking how during this legislative session the Governor must be inundated with favor-seekers looking for help with bills before the legislature ... most with their hands out-stretched looking for dough. At least I wasn't asking for money.

Governor Richardson's office in the Round House Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A woman assistant to Governor Richardson walked by and spoke to the jacket-less gentleman sitting next to me. "Are you first?" she asked.
"I guess so. One of my bills is in trouble," he said, without looking up from the stapled pile of papers he was holding.

I thought he might be a House member or something. I thought about asking 'Who are you?' but I struck up a conversation about the Governor instead. "The last time I got to speak to the Governor I was amazed how open he was," I said. The mysterious, obviously important guy looked up and mumbled something affirmative. I continued, "I had come to talk to him about torture and what happened at Abu Ghraib and he was kind enough to speak to me."

The subject seemed to interest my fellow waiting room friend. He began to open up about when Governor Richardson was running for President and a group of military people came to him to say that Richardson was the only candidate that "got it." The man with the papers characterized the group by saying, "They certainly weren't a bunch of left wing liberals."

I mentioned I had a blog about Richardson and that I had written about my meeting with him and how it had turned me from a foul-mouth critic to a fan. Then I asked if the guy was a legislator. "No", he said, "I work for the Governor," handing me his card. "Are you still blogging?" he asked.
"Yeah, but I'm picking on Ben Ray Lujan and Rahm Emanuel now."
A little smile came to the face of, as his card read, Jim Farrell: Policy Advisor - Office of the Governor. "What's the name of your blog?" Now a little smile came to my face ... pause, "Ah, Fat Bill and Me," I sheepishly said. And at that very moment the lady assistant to Governor Richardson came over and told Jim Farrell, "He'll see you now."

One thing I know for sure about Governor Bill Richardson ... do not underestimate his memory or his appetite

As I sat on one side of his enormous inner conference room waiting for him to arrive, I was in earshot of a group of people also waiting to talk to him. When the Governor did arrive, I was the only person to respectfully stand up when he entered the room with two secretaries and a well dressed plain clothes State Police officer.

The group of people before me were there to talk about some funding issue dealing with a rural water project. The Governor knew one of the men as a former Mayor of a small New Mexico town. The Mayor pitched Richardson a plea for more money and 'Big Bill' Richardson tossed him back some figures about how his administration had increased funding for water projects in their area. I like using baseball analogies when I talk about the former baseball player and current hardball player, Bill Richardson. Richardson then threw a change-up by remembering the sandwiches the former Mayor had given him when Richardson visited his town many years ago. Later on, the Governor ended the inning by saying, "I'll see what I can do, if I can get some more of those sandwiches." The nice Jewish lady sitting next to me, who also overheard the conversation, turned to me and said with an implied 'Oy Vey' ..."Again with the sandwich?"

Now it was my turn.
I was asked to sit next to him. On the practically baseball diamond size table, I laid down some examples of marbling that I had brought to show Richardson. Of course, he didn't remember the last time I had spoken to him about the ancient bookbinding craft, and that he had given me permission to use his name in establishing a non-profit foundation to support the art form. I reminded him of the importance of marbling to New Mexico and the importance of New Mexico to the worldwide resurgence of the art.

I tried to explain how marbling was done by floating colors on top of water, and that the Museum of New Mexico had had several shows at the Governor's Gallery just outside his office door. One international show of these decorative papers had been just a few months ago.

Alexis America and Cove marbling.

As I was explaining how I wanted to go to Iran, perhaps the birthplace of marbling as an art form, to contact Iranian artists and arrange a cultural exchange, the Governor interrupted, anticipating my request by saying, "So you want me to write to the Iranians."

The Governor got a little gruff after asking an assistant twice to see the woman in charge of the Governor's Gallery. He turned to me and said of the example of marbling that I had brought, "Let me see your stuff." I said I would follow up with a written request.
The Governor studied the antique book cover with a marbled end page that was in front of him. Then with a sudden shift of gears, the incredibly gifted diplomat Richardson said, "What else do you have for me?" Meaning of course ... next subject.

"Well Governor, I have to tell you about the hard-working people of the Census. You know, the Santa Fe Office has 16 counties to cover, with some of the hardest to count areas in the country. I think you should recognize the very difficult but important work being done, especially by the women working for the Census."

I went on to tell Governor Richardson about some of my friends, like Alexandra, who has 140,000 square miles of northern New Mexico to cover and is responsible for finding and counting the homeless. Or Bertha, who has to make sure 1,500 Census workers get paid. I went on about the many women of New Mexico who deserve some acknowledgment for what I consider this vital and difficult task of making sure we get our rightful representation in Congress and our fair share of Federal funds.

Richardson listened intently as did his two women assistants. I gave the Governor the card of the government liaison for what they call the Census Partnership Program and I gave him a red Census "Be Counted" hat. I asked if I could take his picture with the hat on his head. But he surprised me by calling out to his staff saying, "Someone take a picture of my friend Coviello and me."

After the photo was taken, I said to Governor Bill Richardson, "I had a bet, Governor, that I could get you to put that hat on, because I'm such a good suck-up and you were such a great baseball player."

Everyone in the room laughed, and
the Governor grinned ear to ear.


At 7:14 AM, Blogger New Mexican said...

Good post Cove.

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At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see Fat Bill exit the capital. you should go with him.


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