Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Are They Getting It? UNM & APS Leaders Show Signs Of Bowing To Public Pressure, Plus: Martinez TV Analyzed, And: An Artesia Princess 

Schmidly & Brooks
Maybe they're starting to get it? The battering ram of public opinion is often slow to break the door down, but it finally seems to be having its effect on the insular bureaucracies that run the public education establishment in New Mexico. University of New Mexico President David Schmidly has thrown a bone to the recession-ravaged crowds and decided not to fill an impending vacancy among the 19 UNM vice-presidents, collectively pulling down $4.5 million a year. And over at the ABQ public schools, APS Superintendent Winston Brooks is now beginning to bend to public pressure to cut the nonclasroom budget. He's also targeting 153 APS "double-dippers."

Schmidly's resistance to the populist wave has been unwavering. That is until he called recently for cutting back on cleaning classrooms and thus balancing the UNM budget on the backs of the janitors. That PR and policy gaffe seemed like a defining moment of this Great Bear Market, where the key element has been the scorching of the working classes while the upper echelons go unscathed. Before it's over, Schmidly will likely be seen rafting the Rio Grande and throwing more VP's overboard. That is if he's still steering the raft.

Brooks is showing a somewhat unsteady hand at the helm, giving mixed messages on just how he plans to solve the budget crisis and who will be among the nearly 700 employees who may lose their jobs.. Like Schmidly, Brooks has resisted mightily the widely accepted view that education administration has grown like spring weeds. But now that the Alligators are circling, Brooks is swimming fast. The double dippers who draw a paycheck and a retirement check have a target on heir backs. Not that all are in administration, but surely some. And then there's the Super's apparent big reversal on overall administrative spending. From the press:

Brooks made a point that his administration is listening, holding up binders full of public comment that have been sifted through and taken into account. He said many of the comments urged him to make cuts to the administration instead of classrooms, and that he has tried to do so as much as he can.

"We've heard you loud and clear," he said to an audience that filled the boardroom, adding that nonschool budgets have already taken heavy cuts in the past two years and that they make up less than 1 percent of the $655 million APS budget.

That's a start, even if Brooks continues to insist that only 1 percent of the budget is composed of administrative costs. Actually, Mr. Superintendent, that's probably the percentage of the public that agrees with your assertion about such spending.


She was controversial when she worked as a cabinet secretary for Republican Governor Gary Johnson, and it's easy to predict that Robin Dozier Otten is going to be equally controversial as ABQ Mayor Berry's director of family and community services. Her first pass at the headlines brings news of a tussle with a city union over layoffs at a drug rehab program. Dozier Otten is good friends with Berry Lightning Rod #1--Public Safety Director Darren White.


The first TV spot from Susana Martinez would be a sure-fire hit if she were running for attorney general, but in the hotly competitive GOP race for Governor, her thirty second spot falls into the merely average category. That's far from the "game changer" her most ardent Las Cruces supporters and potential press secretaries have labeled her candidacy.

The ad does get the job done when it comes to pumping up the name ID of the relatively unknown Dona Ana County district attorney. The announcer mentions it three times in the ad, the Web site--susanamartinez.com--is posted for the full thirty seconds and one shot includes a collage of Martinez campaign posters.

But the spot endeavors to stretch Martinez's narrow background--she has been DA for 13 years--to justify her guv run. It only partially succeeds. Compared to a Bill Richardson, Diane Denish or even an Allen Weh, it comes across as, well, an ad for attorney general.

She emphasizes her record of fighting Dona Ana County corruption, citing conviction of a municipal judge and a county clerk. In another example, the ad declares she has "taken on members of the most violent Mexican drug cartels." That left us a little queasy. Aren't the drug cartels still running riot through the streets of Mexico leaving thousands dead in their wake?

We also note for another reason the candidate's emphasis on border security as the campaign heats up. Her primary appeal is in the south where she hails from. She will go for a big score there to overcome her inability to break through in the ABQ metro.

Martinez, 50, does come across as an outsider which seems to be the mood du jour this cycle, and the ad is nicely paced and well-produced. And maybe the tough on crime angle mollifies male GOP voters who might otherwise shy away from her. Of course,
the downside is the opposition research that will focus on any cases where Martinez might not have been so tough.

And we see many sides of Martinez in this ad, perhaps too many. In one close-up she plays tough, in another she plays friendly and in yet another she appears smug.

Because she lacks an extraordinary moment in her long tenure as DA, Martinez will need a series of ads to break through, including something about the woman, not just the lawyer. And she will need plenty of money to do it. That remains a problem. The campaign says her buy is "significant" and is on ABQ broadcast and cable, but it's unlikely she will match the output of the self-financed Allen Weh. This spot will have to move numbers for her if she is to raise the necessary cash.

Martinez had a blockbuster performance among party activists at the March pre-primary convention where she dominated the field. She fights hard in her TV ad to keep the momentum going but scores a single. As we said, it's far from a game-changer, but the game is on.

Rep. Park
We're well aware that ABQ Dem State Rep. Al Park does not appear to age. He's been looking 25 years old for ten years, and we know because he has guested on our KANW-FM Election Night specials for a number of years. But memo to Diane Denish--Al is no longer young!

We're sure he's elated to be listed on your invitation as one of the hosts for your April 16 "Young Professionals Mixer," but the brutal truth is that Al turned 40 earlier this year. He's now seriously looking at bottled prune juice when he shops. Not only that, we used to call him a liberal, but this year he said he supports major spending cuts to balance the budget. If that isn't a sign that the gray hair is starting to creep across the temples, what is?

While we're at it, what is Santa Fe lawyer and onetime attorney general candidate Geno Zamora doing on Di's "youth list?" Geno is even older than Al and these days spends his time studying PERA retirement charts.

Di does have some genuine youth on her mixer list. ABQ Dem State Senator Tim Keller and ABQ attorney Katy Duhigg are the real articles, well under the Big 4-0. But go ahead, Geno and Al, attend the mixer and have a good time. But please don't talk at the party about those aches and pains you get in the morning. Remember, youth must be served.


Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich has crossed the million dollar mark when it comes to cash on hand for his first-relection campaign to the ABQ House seat. His full quarterly report will be out soon. Heinrich's GOP challenger, attorney Jon Barela, reported $215,000 in cash at the end of December. Heinrich had about $835,000 in cash at the end of December. Barela can be outspent and still be a credible threat, but he needs to start closing that four to one cash gap.


Appointed Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins joins the free ride list for the June 1 Democratic primary. She had an opponent but says he has withdrawn. And get ready for the name of this political unknown. It's Wellington Marcelinaoant Guzman. Too bad he's going away. We'd like to see him try to fit that name on a yard sign.

Hart Stebbins has a GOP opponent for November, but this SE Heights district hasn't gone R in many a moon, so if she keeps herself out of trouble a full four year term should be hers.

She was appointed to the seat by Big Bill last year when Commissioner Deanna Archuleta resigned to take a job in DC with the Obama administration. The commission has five members, three Dems and two R's.


Artesia native Chelsea Anne Stallings is ready for a spring ritual. She's been named the 2010 Cherry Blossom Princess by the NM State Society in DC and represents the state at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. A national queen will be selected from one of the fifty states and crowned Friday night.

Chelsea, 21, served as an intern to Senator Tom Udall and now does the same for ABQ Rep. Martin Heinrich. She is studying English and Political Science at UNM and plans to graduate in 2011.

And fellas, before you email--yes, she is single.

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