LIANE HANSEN, host:
With so much of official Washington away visiting family and friends, we put in holiday calls to three friends and colleagues around the country. Kate Nelson is managing editor of The Albuquerque Tribune in New Mexico.
Welcome back to the program, Kate.
Ms. KATE NELSON (Managing Editor, The Albuquerque Tribune): Thank you.
HANSEN: Candace Page is senior reporter at The Burlington Free Press in Burlington, Vermont.
Candace, it's nice to talk with you again.
Ms. CANDACE PAGE (Senior Reporter, The Burlington Free Press): Good to talk to you, Liane.
HANSEN: And Bob Kittle is editorial page editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune in San Diego, California.
Mr. BOB KITTLE (Editorial Page Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune): Good morning, Liane.
HANSEN: Let's start with you on this new year. Do people on the West Coast in your area have the same view of 2005 as the president?
Mr. KITTLE: I think--because this is such a large military community here with a lot of military families with loved ones serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, I think the president's view of progress being made in both of those situations is one that's generally shared by a lot of San Diegans. I think there's a tendency more to see the glass half-full than half-empty and to note in particular the elections in Iraq, you know, the adoption of a constitution and moving toward electing a permanent government as, you know, genuine progress on the ground there.
HANSEN: Candace, what's the view from Vermont?
Ms. PAGE: I would say, Liane, it's much more skeptical. Certainly people here, as everywhere in the United States, were happy that the recent election in Iraq went off as well as it did. But Vermont has been one of the places where people have expressed early concerns about the war. You know, at town meetings, 47 Vermont communities voted in favor of resolutions to bring the troops home as quickly as possible. So while support for the troops here couldn't possibly be stronger, I think people here remain deeply troubled by the war.
HANSEN: Kate, what are people's feelings in New Mexico about 2005?
Ms. NELSON: I think there's a mixed bag. Bush narrowly won this state in the last election, and among the base that supported him, I think they're still behind him on the war issue. But there's growing cynicism on the other side, and what's been most notable to me lately is objections to the budget among the Republican base. Even some of the conservative talk show hosts here on the radio have been very vocal in criticizing the president on budget issues.
HANSEN: Candace, talk a little bit about Vermont and the Democrats. They don't need to worry too much, do they?
Ms. PAGE: No, they don't. This is a place where George Bush struggled to get 40 percent of the vote in 2004. So I would say generally that the Democratic message does resonate here. Vermonters have been very concerned about the federal government's willingness to spend more money on, for example, home heating fuel assistance for low-income people and in areas like health care as well.
HANSEN: Kate, we have to talk about New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson. He's always had ambitions beyond the state's borders, but now he wants to build a space port.
Ms. NELSON: Now he wants to go into outer space. He's worked out a deal with Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines to build a space port here that will be the launchpad for Branson's spaceships. And if you happen to have $200,000 that you've got nothing better to do with, you can go up in space. It's about an hour-and-a-half ride. You'll spend all of six minutes in outer space and in weightlessness. And actually, weighing nothing does appeal to me, but there's an enormous price tag with it. The state has to put up $100 million. They're going to ask the feds for $90 million. And there's a lot of dispute among citizens here that we've got big problems that need that kind of money. Supporters of it, though, say it'll bring tourism and celebrities and jobs in and could help boost the economy in a part of the state that's pretty depressed.
HANSEN: So bring us back to Earth, Kate. What are some of the other statewide or regional issues that are getting some attention in New Mexico?
Ms. NELSON: Drunken driving always remains an issue, and especially on this weekend. Health care is a huge issue here in the state and I don't know; the Legislature will be convening in January for a short 30-day session. I haven't heard any proposals that'll make dramatic differences in the lack of health-care coverage.
HANSEN: Bob Kittle, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been having some problems...
Mr. KITTLE: Right.
HANSEN: ...around the state. Is he still popular in San Diego?
Mr. KITTLE: In San Diego, he is, relatively so, compared to the rest of the state. He had four ballot measures on a special election in November. All four went down to defeat statewide. His latest dust-up was, of course, with his hometown in Austria, which wanted to take his name off of the stadium there because he did not commute the death sentence of "Tookie" Williams. That kind of confrontation actually, I think, has made him a little more popular in Southern California. So perhaps he has bottomed out at least.
HANSEN: Candace Page, what are some of the issues that are commanding the attention of the folks who live in Vermont?
Ms. PAGE: Our Legislature is coming back on Tuesday, Liane, and health care is the big issue. You know, in the Howard Dean era, Vermont prided itself on its gains in getting the uninsured some health insurance. Those gains have now been eroded. We have a Legislature that's controlled by the Democrats and we have a Republican governor. And they have very different ideas about how to approach this problem. Democrats very much want to find a way to provide universal access, and, in fact, last year, they passed a bill that through a payroll tax and an income tax would have done that. It was vetoed by the Republican governor, who has much more modest ideas about how to make incremental improvements. So I think that is what we're going to be talking about, at least in the next couple months.
HANSEN: Candace Page is senior reporter at The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. Kate Nelson is managing editor of The Albuquerque Tribune in New Mexico. And Bob Kittle is editorial page editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune in San Diego, California.
Thank you all and happy new year.
Ms. PAGE: Thank you. You, too.
Mr. KITTLE: Thank you, Liane.
Ms. NELSON: Thank you.
HANSEN: It's 18 minutes past the hour.
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