Wednesday, December 14, 2011

UNM Prez Picks: Not Much Buzz, Plus: Those Pesky Driver's Licenses, And: More On Big Bill Probe 

The five finalists for the presidency of UNM aren't setting the campus on fire. That's for sure. Here's some representative opinion from one of our university readers:

As we observe the selection of a new UNM President, it may interest you to know that four of the five candidates have non-academic advanced degrees (i.e. business and the like) from second or third tier institutions and that one of them was fired from a high position. The faculty are already saying "here we go again." Don't expect much good to come of this. On the other hand, the Interim Provost and Dean of Arts and Sciences are vast improvements over their predecessors. There are a lot of positive changes in the works.

UNM's troubles have been legendary the past few years--from a faculty vote of no confidence in the current president to a bizarre athletic department. With that as a backdrop, you are not going to attract presidential candidates who sizzle.

But as soon as we posted the above, other university observers defended the finalists' academic credentials:

Thanks for the great laugh by including the quotes regarding the UNM President search. Your reader commented that 4 of the 5 finalists have "non-academic advanced degrees (i.e. business and the like) from second or third tier institutions." The five candidates possess PhDs in business, clinical psychology, cardiovascular pharmacology, economics & history (2 PhD degrees), and food science & technology. Which four of these are not academic? Their PhD degrees are from the University of Nebraska, UNM, University of Texas HSC San Antonio, Cal Tech, University of Pennsylvania, and Virginia Tech, which are all of UNM's stature or better. Your ivory tower reader appears out of touch with what modern universities are all about and what constitutes an 'academic advanced degree'. I feel this is a pretty good group of candidates, and we should all be thankful that New Mexico political hacks were not included in the list of finalists.

Insiders are also closely watching the fate of David Harris, the UNM executive vice-president who has been at the center of the action (and turmoil). Hard to believe he would stay on with the new Prexy, but stranger things have happened. If he does, look for the new administration to pick up where the old one left off--with plenty of controversy.


Even supporters of repealing the law that allows illegal immigrants to get a New Mexico driver's licenses must be dreading the upcoming 30 day legislative session. After all, it will be third time the Guv has asked the lawmakers to take up the matter and each time it leads to ugly and divisive debate and no repeal.

There is a way out--a compromise bill that would get the ball rolling toward total repeal. Not that Susana is going to take it. She and her political team seem obsessed with getting political mileage on the repeal issue. They continually refer to an ABQ Journal poll in which 72% iof the public supports repealing the licenses. But a September poll that just crossed our computer screen from the Dem firm Lake Research is interesting. It indicates a compromise is a safe path for the politicos:

...A recent statewide survey shows overwhelming support for legislation that would subject undocumented immigrants to additional requirements in order to attain a driver’s license... Nearly two-thirds of voters (64%) support a compromise proposal that would continue to license undocumented immigrants, but subject them to additional requirements before obtaining their licenses, including strengthened identity and residency requirements, re-verification of documents and more frequent renewals, a fingerprint database for law enforcement, and additional felonies for fraud....Support for this measure is rooted in intensity, as a 52% majority supports it strongly. Just 26% of voters oppose this proposal....

The poll was conducted for Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrant rights group.

Martinez thinks she has the Legislature on the defensive and she does. But if she goes a third time without winning, does she start to look ineffective? Of more consequence is the rhetoric surrounding the issue. If it continues to be heated and divisive, does it start to backfire on her?

The issue has been effective for Martinez because this is an angry electorate, upset about the economy and looking to assign blame. The licenses plays right into that mood. But the reality is that illegal immigration into the state has taken a nosedive since the onset of the recession.

Martinez might have won repeal of the licenses by first supporting the compromise measure and then coming back in future sessions for more. But the way her political team has gone after Dems who supported a compromise (e.g. Rep. Bill O'Neill) it's clear the Fourth Floor (and Fifth) is more interested in the political gain--not the legislative win.

This is the dichotomy between political consulting and governing. In the consulting world it is winner take all. In the governing word, it is winner take some. Until Martinez is willing to recognize the distinction, this is an administration that will remain stuck in the mud when it comes to enacting a legislative program that matters and will be remembered.

To that point, there is a sign or two that Susana may be getting it....


Those hoping for any kind of progress on the education front will join with the Las Cruces-Sun News and its praise for the Guv's second bite out of the apple on the bill to improve third grade reading scores.

We are pleased to see that Gov. Susana Martinez has pared down and refocused her school reform efforts designed to ensure that students master reading by the end of the third grade.
Unlike this year's legislation, the new bill would limit the number of third-graders who could be held back to 4,000 a year, and those students could only be held back one year. Perhaps most important, officials at the state's 89 school districts would all be consulted before the final details of the bill are written. There should be no surprised with what finally emerges from that process.

Maybe if she gets this through the Legislature in the January session the Governor will see the benefits of compromise? As we've said, getting major legislation approved has been a glaring weakness in her first year on the job.


A reader writes:

In your Tuesday blog , you posted the following:

"One of our reliable Alligators checking in wonders if we are on the cusp of something politically explosive: Did anyone get immunity or take a plea deal? If there were indeed plea bargains on the part of aides associated with Bill, it will send strong shock waves through the state Democratic Party.

The answer to that question seems to appear in the December 1 Wall Street Journal article on the Richardson probe, a link to which was included in your blog on December 2. That article states:

"Several of Mr. Richardson's close associates have been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony before the panel in Albuquerque, the people said."

Thanks for that reminder. The article did not talk about any plea bargains being struck by Richardson aides, but that also remains the subject of intense speculation.


A GOP heavy-hitter is headed into town:

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will keynote the 2012 campaign kickoff event for the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico (RTLNM). “An Evening with Governor Mike Huckabee” will be held at 6:00PM the evening of Thursday, January 12, 2012 at Sandia Resort.


The ABQ GOP congressional campaign of retired Army Seargent Gary Smith is bringing aboard some national experience:

The campaign has retained Tyler Harber of the Prosper Group for general consulting and strategic counsel. The Prosper Group is a top Republican consulting firm that has earned numerous awards for its work with campaigns all over the country, recently including Scott Brown (MA-Sen)...Paul Hatch of 101 Strategy Partners will serve as the campaign’s finance consultant, focusing on national major donor operations and campaign finance strategies.

Smith has seeded his campaign with $50,000 0f his own cash. He is competing for the nomination against ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis and former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. Their fund-raising has been anemic in part because of continued speculation that Jon Barela, the state economic development chief and 2010 GOP congress nominee, could get in the race.


Conan O'Brien: "During Saturday's debate, Michele Bachmann kept referring to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as Newt Romney. Experts say it's the closest she's come to endorsing gay marriage."

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