Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"That money's safe."

My story in Tuesday's New Mexican is an example of how a news story can change with every person you interview.

The story is about Santa Fe area capital outlay projects that might be in danger of losing funding due to the budget crunch.

Early in the afternoon I got the "Capital Changes for Solvency" list of all such projects in the state from Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, who recently became the chairman of the House Capital Outlay Committee. I went back to my office and went about the tedious task of separating the Santa Fe projects and typing them up.

As I wrote in my story most of the projects are those that somehow never got off the ground as well as a smattering of long-completed projects that have cash balances remaining.

I got down about the same time the Senate adjourned in the late afternoon. I went downstairs to see if I could find any of the local delegation to fill me in on some of the projects on the list. I spotted Peter Wirth, who told me he was concerned about the Santa Fe Youth Shelter and Family Services on Airport Road. Wirth said he was going to try to get that project's $450,000 appropriation off the list.

I called Karen Rowell, the executive director of the shelter to ask her what was going on with the project. She was shocked. This was the first she'd heard of the project in jeopardy. The shelter's new building, she told me, was about a third of the way done.

Wow, I thought. This could be a story. I was fairly confident that the Legislature wouldn't really de-fund a project already under construction. And Rowell said besides Wirth, Trujillo has been a big supporter of the shelter -- as have Governor Bill Richardson and First Lady Barbara Richardson.

But weirder things have happened.

So after I started writing the story with a "Shelter-in-trouble" type of lead, Trujillo returned an earlier call. I initially had called him about a minor detail about a different project on the list. But now I had something important to ask.

Trujillo was already familiar with the youth shelter situation. "That money's safe," he said. "It was just a mistake."

So I had to rewrite a few paragraphs of the story, which now wasn't as big as I'd thought. But I'm happy the shelter and the homeless kids it serves won't have to worry about this headache.