The Sheryl Williams Stapleton Magical Disappearing Reserved State Fair Parking Space
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Why does State Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton have a reserved parking space on the grounds of the State Fair? Simply asking the question made it disappear. Poof!
It’s a simple question. But Rep. Stapleton won’t provide an answer. And now the State Fair tells us a special parking space reserved for the legislator can’t be found.
Like Geoffrey Rush’s wonderful line from Shakespeare In Love: “‘Tis a mystery!”
We happened upon Representative Stapleton’s reserved parking space in August. There it was, just steps from the door of the Sheryl M. Williams Stapleton African American Performing Arts Center and Exhibit Hall. “UNAUTHORIZED VEHICLES WILL BE TOWED AT OWNER’S EXPENSE,” the official sign warns anyone even considering pulling between the white lines that set apart several square yards of tarmac for its Rightful Occupant.
The Sheryl Williams Stapleton Memorial Reserved Parking Space was still there a month later when we passed by on our annual pilgrimage during the New Mexico State Fair for a chicharone and bean burrito in The Spanish Village.
This building is one of New Mexico’s “Monuments to Me,” edifices and public spaces dedicated to currently serving politicians. Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report/New Mexico Watchdog started a series about these architectural tributes back in 2010. He covered this building, dedicated by former Governor Bill Richardson to Representative Stapleton, in his first report in the series.
This is the only instance we know where a “Monument to Me” comes with an dedicated parking space.
Representative Stapleton does not work at this building nor anywhere else on the State Fairgrounds. She works for Albuquerque Public Schools. Other spaces in the lot are reserved for the Center’s staff, which does not include Rep. Stapleton.
This is state property, part of the State Fairgrounds managed by EXPO New Mexico. State legislators don’t get special treatment by having a parking space reserved for their exclusive use. Or do they?
Like we said, this should be a simple question.
But Representative Stapleton would not return our telephone call or e-mail seeking an explanation.
We finally got through to someone at the Sheryl M. Williams Stapleton African American Performing Arts Center and Exhibit Hall. Administrative Assistant Annette Caine told us that the sign reserving the space for Rep. Stapleton really doesn’t mean anything.
“Anybody can park there,” she said. “It’s for anybody coming to the building.” Heck, she added, if the lot is full, she’ll park in The Space.
That’s not really any kind of answer as to why an official sign reserving a parking space for Rep. Stapleton and threatening violators with having their cars towed was erected in the first place.
After several requests for comment made by telephone and e-mail, we heard from Michael Henningsen, the spokesman for EXPO New Mexico. He walked over from his office and inspected the parking lot. He conducted a fairly precise reconnaissance of the premises and reported back to us in considerable detail.
What did he find?
You probably saw it coming (we tipped you off, remember): The Sheryl Williams Stapleton Memorial Reserved Parking Space has magically disappeared.
‘Tis a mystery, indeed.
UPDATE: A phone message from Rep. Stapleton came through on our voice mail after this story was posted. She denies any knowledge of the parking space reserved in her name. She acknowledges attending events at the building, but says she never parked in the space reserved for her. She offered no explanation for the sign reserving a space in her name except to speculate that an organization no longer using offices in the Center may have requested some signs for parking spaces when they were there.
In case you missed it, here’s Rob Nikolewski’s series, “Monuments to Me, The New Mexico Edition”:
Statement of Michael Henningsen, spokesman for EXPO New Mexico:
Well, I just walked over there and saw a total of eight temporarily reserved spaces (signs stuck in buckets of concrete). None, however, had anyone’s name on it. Four were reserved for the Morrissey Foundation, the other four for AAPAC staff and clients. Temporarily reserved parking spaces are used routinely during the Fair each year for staff and volunteers, then the buckets are removed and stored in the warehouse. My guess is that operations either hasn’t gotten around to the task of removing these signs, or that they are reserved year-round for Morrissey and AAPAC staff, clients and the like. If there was one with Rep. Stapleton’s name on it, it’s gone now. You’d have to ask her.
[This report was updated to include verbatim Mr. Henningsen's statement and the links to Nikolewski's series of reports]