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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Thursday, September 6, 2001

Bush eyes early appointment of Bonilla to Senate

From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, Thurs., Sept. 6, 2001 -- Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla of San Antonio has not  yet decided if he will seek the Senate post being vacated by Senator Phil  Gramm. However, a report today indicates that President Bush and Texas Gov.  Rick Perry would like to see Bonilla take over Gramm's seat before the  2002 election.

"We have no comment on the president's decision to name Congressman Bonilla to the post," said Taryn Fritz, Bonilla's press secretary, who added that, "At this point he is strongly considering" entering the Senate race.

According to a report in today's Houston Chronicle, President Bush has reportedly met with Gov. Rick Perry on a possible deal to set up a Texas Republican as successor to Sen. Phil Gramm, who says he won't seek a fourth term.

Four sources close to Bush and Perry told the Chronicle that the private discussion included possible inducements to get Gramm to resign now so Perry could appoint U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla in an effort to avoid a bloody Republican nominating contest for Gramm's seat.

"We saw that AP Story, but at this time we cannot comment on it," said Fritz. "It's really too soon to talk about it until he has made a decision," she said.

"We're taking everything into consideration, when and if I reach a decision we'll start talking about how it will impact West Texas," said Bonilla.

The five-term Republican could face opposition within his own party in next March's Republican primary election, and several Democrats also have talked about entering their March primary race for the 2002 Senate election.

Bonilla issued a statement on Wednesday about Gramm's departure from the Senate after serving three six-year terms in Washington.

"Senator Gramm is a living legend and a person I greatly admire.

With today's decision, our state loses one of its greatest advocates and strongest defenders. Senator Gramm's devotion to Texas is endless. His legacy will forever be a piece of Texas history," said Bonilla.

"Senator Gramm's decision leaves big shoes to fill. I am flattered that my accomplishments have produced widespread support for a potential candidacy," said Bonilla. "Serving the state of Texas is an awesome opportunity. I am giving a Senate run very strong consideration at this time."

Bonilla, who became the first Mexican-American Republican elected to Congress when he defeated Albert Bustamante in 1992, represents District 23 in the House of Representative, which includes the city of Pecos and all of Reeves County. Bonilla's district is the largest in the state, stretching from San Antonio and Laredo west along the Texas-Mexico border to the eastern sections of El Paso County.

Appointing Bonilla now to replace Gramm is expected to help Texas Republicans with Hispanic voters in the 2002 election. Laredo businessman Tony Sanchez is the early favorite to win the Democratic nomination for governor and face Perry in the November 2002 election, while former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales, former San Antonio mayor and U.S. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros and El Paso Congressman Silvestre Reyes are among those talking about running for Gramm's seat in the Senate in next year's Democratic primary.

Bush also released a statement about Gramm's retirement, saying, "The Senate is losing a principled leader with the decision of Phil Gramm to retire after over two decades of distinguished service to the people of Texas and America. Senator Gramm is a man of common sense and uncommon courage who bases decisions on principals and always fights for what he believes is right."

"Senator Gramm has been a consistent and committed advocate of tax relief for working Americans, beginning with his work on President Reagan's tax cut in 1981 as a member of the House of Representatives and continuing with his tireless efforts to pass this year's monumental tax relief package," said Bush.

As Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Gramm has been responsible for major reforms including the landmark Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act, according to Bush.

"Senator Gramm is a close friend and valued advisor and I look forward to working closely with him during the remainder of his term," said Bush. "Laura and I extend our thanks to Phil, Wendy and their children, Marshall and Jeff, for their family's commitment to public service and wish them all the best in the future."

State and national Democratic leaders had a different view of Gramm's work in Congress and his reasons for retirement.

State Party Chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm said that Gramm's withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race is a sign that Republicans are worried about a disastrous election year for the GOP in 2002.

"Phil Gramm could see the handwriting on the wall. So he decided to retire himself rather than be retired by Democrats," said Malcolm. "Phil Gramm decided it would be easier to throw in the towel rather than put up a losing fight."

"Gramm has consistently voted against what's best for Texas working families. Any Republicans trying to replace Phil Gramm would have to try to distance themselves from Gramm's voting record," said Malcolm. "Considering the Republicans' own records here in Texas - that's going to be very difficult if not impossible to do."

Malcolm predicted that Democrats would recapture the Governor's Mansion and would win the U.S. Senate seat and other races next year.

"Phil Gramm and the Republicans know that 2002 is going to be a Democratic year in Texas," said Malcolm. "Texas Democrats have the momentum and a great pool of talent for the campaigns next year."

"The Texas Senate race, until Tuesday morning, considered to be a seat safely in Republican hands, has now become a battleground state," said Senator Patty Murray.

"We have a strong field of candidates looking at this open seat and I am confident that one of these Democrats will win a competitive and spirited race," said Murray (D-Washington St.).

"More broadly, I am pleased to report that at the same time three strong Republican incumbents have announced their retirement plans, each and every one of our Democratic incumbents continue to work diligently towards reelection. In short the Republican caucus is on the defensive," she said.

"I hope that Senator Gramm will enjoy new challenges and thank him for his 18 years of service in the Senate," said Murray.

Aside from Bonilla, who was a TV news producer in New York City and San Antonio before being elected to Congress, other Republicans discussing a run for Senate are Attorney General John Cornyn, Land Commissioner David Dewhurst and Texas Railroad Commissioner Tony Garza.

Along with Morales, Cisneros and Reyes, other Democrats who may run for the position include Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, while lawyer Ed Cunningham has already his candidacy.

WIPP truck loop still in TxDOT budget

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Sept. 6, 2001 -- Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is  hopeful that Pecos would be able to move up the loop project around Pecos for  the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) trucks carrying nuclear waste  material after the Texas Transportation Commission meets late next month.

TxDOT officials said this summer that a shortage of funds may force them to put off some projects but Odessa District press spokesman Glen Larum said that TxDOT has not removed the proposed project from the long-range plan.

"As far as I know we still got it on our long range plan," he said.

Larum said that TxDOT has submitted the project into a pool of projects being considered statewide by the three-member commission. The loop around the east side of town is tentatively due to be built in 2005.

Larum said that he believes that people in his division that are involved in statewide planning in Austin will recommend to the commission that the project be moved up and "taken out of long range status."

However, Larum said that this project is just one of the many competing projects statewide but hopes that because of the material involved that it would be approved.

"We're quite hopeful for the reason we advocated, the truck bypass, that it will be approved," he said.

Larum said that local elected officials would have the opportunity to lobby for the project in Austin before the meeting.

Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo said that he believes that the loop around Pecos is secondary in importance to dividing U.S. 285 into four lanes between Pecos and the Texas-New Mexico state line.

"From my perspective, the highest priority is a divided highway between Pecos and Carlsbad," he said.

Galindo said that many head on collisions that have resulted in injury and sometimes death has occurred on the stretch of highway between the two cities.

He then said that adding trucks transporting nuclear waste to the WIPP site makes it more dangerous. The stretch between Pecos and Loving, N.M, is the only two-lane highway the trucks are required to travel on between their East Coast starting points and WIPP.

Galindo believes that from the public safety perspective the expansion of the highway from two lanes to four should come before building a truck route around Pecos.

Larum said that building a loop around Pecos is very important to the community.

"It's an important project for the Pecos area, especially with the WIPP plant be so close," he said.

Larum said that if the commission approves the project at the end of October the project would be moved into the fast track, which he said takes a few years.

If approved, construction on the loop could be started in 2005, according to Larum.

As for now, TxDOT is continuing the bridge expansion project on both US 285, south of Pecos and on Business I-20 toward Barstow.

WTO planning to provide  free van rides next week

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Sept. 6, 2001 -- Anyone who might need a ride around town next week can get  one for free in celebration of Tri Transit Week.

West Texas Opportunities, a non-profit organization that has been providing community members rides since 1994, will be offering the rides for local residents. The Lamesa-based agency operates public transportation vehicles in Stanton, Big Spring, Andrews, McCammy, Crane, Monahans, Kermit and Midland and Odessa.

West Texas Opportunities dispatcher and driver Rosie Leija said that the normal charge for a local ride is 50 cents per person per stop but in celebration of the Tri Transit Week, which is marked throughout the nation, all local trips will be free from September 10-14.

"We'd like the public to help celebrate Tri Transit Week," she said.

The organization also provides trips to Odessa and Midland for a fee of $25 round trip, which will not be free during the weeklong celebration.

Leija said that WTO has four vans including two handicapped accessible vans and provides rides for anyone, including people with Medicaid.

However, Leija said that people with Medicaid need to call 1-877-633-8747 (toll free) to get a conformation number before calling for a ride.

"We have quite a bit that are not on Medicaid and we have quite a bit that do have Medicaid," she said.

Leija also said that they would appreciate if people needing a ride would call 24 hours in advance so they can schedule that person in.

"We go by a schedule," she said. "It helps when they call us a day in advance."

Leija said that she and the other employees including Martha De La Garza, Carmen Mendoza and Ester Alvarez are happy to help out the community by providing rides for anyone who needs one.

"The employees are very proud to be serving the community," she said.

West Texas Opportunities is open from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The office is located at 700 Daggett Street and community members may call 447-2277 to schedule a ride.

Amelia Earhart flight re-creation to stop in Pecos

PECOS, Thurs., Sept. 6, 2001 -- Dr. Carlene Mendieta is recreating Amelia Earhart's 1928 flight across America. In 1928 Earhart flew from New York to California and back in three weeks.

Mendieta is retracing Earhart's journey that included a stop here in Pecos. Mendieta was scheduled to take off today from New York and should arrive in Pecos next Tuesday, Sept. 11.

Police conducting Tuesday seminar on gun lock usage

PECOS, Thurs., Sept. 6, 2001 -- The Pecos Police Department will hold a safety seminar on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the police station to demonstrate the correct use of free firearm locks.

The locks are being distributed under the Office of Governor's Project ChildSafe. The Department has 500 locks and can get more if requested. Participants should not bring their firearms to the seminar.

For more information call Officer Helen Vernon at 445-4911.


PECOS, Thurs., Sept. 6, 2001 -- High Wed. 93. Low this morning 53. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Lows in  the mid 60s. South winds 10 to 20 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny and  breezy. Highs in the mid 90s. SW winds 15 to 25 mph.  Fri. night: Mostly clear and cooler. Lows around 60.  Sat.: Partly cloudy. Highs around 80. Sun.: Partly cloudy. Lows 55 to 60. Highs 80 to 85.

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