The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

'Ripped in half?' Maybe not

Most commissioners say they support proposed racino, or take no position


November 4, 2018

CLOVIS — Is the city of Clovis “ripped in half,” over the prospect of a racino, as a state legislator said last month? Are its elected leaders evenly divided on the matter?

While there is surely some dispute on the issue, at least half of Clovis’ city commissioners are publicly in support of the city hosting the state’s sixth and final horse-racetrack and slot gaming casino, while only one has specifically opposed it.

The remaining three of eight commissioners declined to take an explicit public position on the matter when speaking last week with The News, though Juan Garza said he supports it if studies show that it brings economic development to the city.

Meanwhile among five Curry County commissioners, only one expressed opposition while the rest also declined to take an official stance.

That’s at least a little different from what Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, told a representative of the state’s Gaming Control Board in a meeting Oct. 24 of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee. Crowder said at the time that the issue had “just literally ripped the city of Clovis in half,” and that the corresponding city and county commissioners were about evenly divided on the matter.

However, the only public comment period in Clovis showed citizens speaking in favor of a racino outnumbering those in opposition by a figure of 27-16, with four commissioners then coming out in favor and only one against.

Representatives of Vision 2020, a group organizing in support of a racino, told The News last week they thought Crowder’s assessment of how the city was divided was off.

“We believe that the vast majority of our community is in support of the racino,” said Gayla Brumfield. “There never has been a public vote with the commission, county or city, so I don’t know how you can speak for someone as a representative without knowing where they really stand.”

Tom Martin agreed there were some dissenting voices, but not at equal numbers to those in favor.

“I just think Representative Crowder has a different view of fractions than do I,” Martin said.

On Oct. 5, City Commissioner Gary Elliott joined Clovis Mayor David Lansford (and Crowder) in speaking against the racino before state racing commissioners during their visit to hear from three investor groups vying for the license. Elliott maintained his position, “very adamantly,” in an interview with The News last week.

Meanwhile, the four commissioners who last month indicated their support maintained as much last week. Sandra Taylor-Sawyer called it “a no-brainer,” and Helen Casaus said the same, adding she “will work (her) hardest to get it.”

Chris Bryant joined with them, noting he “supports economic development, job creations and quality of life,” and that he “hope(s) that’s what (a racino) will bring to the community.”

Fidel Madrid said he supports the racino as a “great opportunity for Clovis to boom” and that furthermore it wasn’t a representative’s job to stop a business coming to town.

“It’s our job to manage what comes into town when it comes in, and to welcome businesses,” he said.

Juan Garza said the matter of his support or opposition was “not a simple question, not a simple answer,” but that he would “support the efforts of the (Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce) and CIDC (Clovis Industrial Development Corporation)” as to their determination of a racino’s anticipated local economic impact.

“If they deem this is something that would help the community then I would support it,” he continued. “A majority of people that have contacted me are pushing for it.”

Of the remaining two commissioners, Rube Render said he has a position, but “decline(s) to answer the question,” while Ladona Clayton said she has “remained neutral” but would make her position known if the Racing Commission awards the license to Clovis.

Crowder said on Saturday that he believed he had an accurate picture of where people stood when he spoke last month.

“Based on the information I had at the legislative finance committee meeting, what I said was true from the bottom of my heart,” he told The News. “If some of the commissioners have changed their position, I get that. But based on what I knew two weeks ago I made an honest statement.”

Racing commissioners are scheduled to meet Nov. 15. One item on their agenda is whether to proceed with the racino application process, according to the Hidalgo County Herald.

Assuming commissioners will award a license, the winning city is expected to be announced Dec. 6. Three groups for Clovis and one each for Lordsburg and Tucumcari are in the running.

Among Clovis city commissioners, the issue is relevant inasmuch as they would need to vote on annexing a racino site from Curry County into the city in order for alcohol sales to be permitted there.

Curry County commissioners variously indicated they held personal positions on the issue, but a majority said they would remain neutral, for the time-being, as elected representatives.

“Taking sides on something I have no control of, I didn’t see any reason,” Seth Martin told The News. “You have a whole different commission that makes that decision.”

Ben McDaniel said that while “personally, I’m fine with it,” as chairman of the commission he “(doesn’t) think politicians should be telling what private industries should or shouldn’t do.”

Angelina Baca said she had spoken at length with people in support of and opposition to a racino, but would not take a public stance.

“These people I have spoken to, they know how I feel, but as a county commissioner I would abstain from giving an opinion,” she said.

Robert Thornton repeated his stance from last month, stating simply “I don’t think (a racino) is a good idea,” while Chet Spear said as a commissioner he was “not in a position of trying to tell people how they can or cannot spend their money or who can bring businesses into town.”


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