State needs to put down phones

Dear Gov. Susana Martinez,

May I call you Susana? Or maybe even “Suzy?” I know we have not formally met. By “met,” I mean we have not been in the same town at the same time, ever.

No problem. That’s the way I started out with your predecessor. By the end I was stalking him at public appearances, clapping him on the back, and saying clever stuff like, “Big Bill, how sails our Ship of State?” The governor would chuckle in that engaging way of his and say, “Oh, it’s you again!” And then he would call security.

There are those who criticized me harshly during those years for throwing myself at the governor’s feet, kowtowing, groveling, if you will, in a pathetic attempt to get a job as a state spokesman. They said this column was as commercial as an animated Valentine’s card singing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

How unfair. My intent, then and now, is simply to put my talent to work serving my fellow citizen. It’s not the money. What is going to strengthen our relationship, governor, is we may not agree on a whole lot of stuff. That’s a good thing! I can tell you are a strong leader who welcomes differing opinions, one who doesn’t surround herself with puppets.

One other thing. I supported your election opponent, Diane Denish. If my association with Diane in any way stands between me and a job with your administration, please just say the word. I can disavow Denish quicker than Peter denied Jesus.

So let’s get started. I think I would have to give you a C on your State of the State address. I can hear you saying, “who is this guy daring to give me a grade until he’s walked a mile in my shoes?” That’s what a lot of teachers around the state are saying.

You may be thinking, “Actually, Mr. Cantwell” — whoa, Suzy, call me “Ned”! — “OK, Ned, you sound like a flake so why would I hire you as a spokesman?” Actually, I don’t want to be a “spokesman” anymore. They have to be good looking and talk pretty. I look more like Woody Allen and talk like LSU coach Les Miles trying to explain why he sent the guy off tackle. No, I have decided to become your “policy analyst” because I suspect the pay is better. Not that money matters.

Shall we begin? You are all wrapped up in routine political battles that will be forgotten days after you leave office. Taxes, immigration, jobs, corruption — yackety yack. Yes, all important stuff. But here’s what you need, governor. You need to champion a signature issue, one Democrats and Republicans can endorse, one that can catapult you to the pinnacle of national recognition.

Your new policy analyst has it for you. Two words. Cell phones. I know someone will drop a bill in the hopper restricting cell phone use while driving. I know you have a little promo ditty about texting. Fine, but what I am talking about is your getting real, real serious about banning cell phone use by drivers.

These things are killing us. Cell phone use is bad enough, but texting? REALLY? Actually typing a message while you are driving? Look, governor, you’re a tough prosecutor. Show your stuff. Tell them, “Text in a car and we’ll fix it so your steering wheel melts.”

I know you can’t be so flippant but, look, you need to get behind, on top, all over this thing. Make cell phone car safety the linchpin of your administration. Bully this issue, ramrod it. Use you administrative and legislative tools, tough police enforcement. Make New Mexico the model state in the nation for cell phone sanity.

Do that, and get ready to make the round of TV talk shows. Yes, I know, you’re thinking, “This guy is my ticket to the presidency.” You’re probably going to want to talk salary. Suzy … umm, I mean Gov. Martinez, I am thinking modest six figures. But it’s not the money.