James Kratzer of Portales shows his support for Cannon Air Force Base on Monday at the town hall meeting at the Clovis-Carver Library. Kratzer, 49, has been the civilian meteoroligist at Cannon for more than a year. (CNJ staff photo: John Eisel)
By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Rounds of applause rippled through the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library Monday as Gov. Bill Richardson encouraged residents to be vocal in their support of Cannon Air Force Base.
A Clovis-area staple for more than 50 years, Cannon is one of two Air Force bases in the nation recommended for closure by the Department of Defense.
“Fifteen percent of bases on the initial BRAC list are taken off — I would say our chance is stronger than that — but it will be an uphill battle, and we have to stay together. We are here to show you will do everything we can to make sure that this base will stay open,” Richardson said.
Richardson’s appearance in Clovis signified what officials say will be a unified effort to remove Cannon from the base realignment and closure list. The base generates millions in revenue and employs thousands, boosting the Curry and Roosevelt County economies by 20 percent, according to Pentagon estimates. In coming weeks, BRAC commissioners are scheduled to visit the area, officials said.
“Nine individuals,” said Richardson, referring to the BRAC commissioners who will review and, if necessary, revise the BRAC list, “now will decide the fate of Cannon.”
Five of nine commissioner votes are needed to remove a base from the list.
Hundreds of residents showcased support for Cannon, many vowing to write letters to the BRAC commission. The morning crowd exceeded capacity at the North Annex, spilling into the parking lot and hallways, some waving homemade signs and others stoically displaying printed Cannon slogans on sheets of paper and T-shirts.
Local leaders told the hundreds that had gathered, and hundreds more who listened to the speech via television and radio, that community vocality is essential in the removal of Cannon from the closure list.
“Unity is the answer today,” said Randy Harris, a member of the Committee of Fifty, a local Cannon support group made up of civic and business officials. “You need to be calling (officials), sending in e-mails — it is you folks who will help us all win.”
The Department of Defense’s proposed list would close 33 major bases and realign 29 more in what the department calls an attempt to cut spending and better face the threats of the 21st century. The list is composed with regard to a base’s military value. New Mexican congressional delegates, however, say the list is flawed.
The Department of Defense list is fair and impartial, according to Lt. Col. Kelly Ann Thompson, of the Air Force Public Affairs office.
To express an opinion about BRAC here is who to contact:
• Brac Commission, 2521 S. Clark St.. Arlington, VA 22202
Phone: (703) 699-2952
Web site: www.brac.gov
• Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., 328 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Wash., D.C. 20510; (202) 224-6621. In Roswell, Room 140, Federal Building 88201; (505) 623-6170.
• Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., 703 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Wash., D.C. 20510; (202) 224-5521.
• Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., 502 Cannon HOB, Wash., D.C., 20515; (202) 225-6190; in Clovis, P.O. Box 868, Clovis, N.M. 88102; 763-7616.
• Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., 2302 Rayburn HOB, Wash., D.C. 20515; (202) 225-2365; Las Cruces, 522-2219.
• Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M.; (202) 225-6316; Albuquerque, 346-6781.
— CNJ staff