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Monday, April 01, 2013

Benedict Alford And ABQ: He's Not The Only One Bailing; Our Stagnating City, Plus: More On The UNM Story Including Its Sandia Labs Play 

Steve Alford
The Easter weekend news that UNM Lobo coach Steve Alford was joining what sometimes seems like an exodus out of ABQ hit the town like the crash of an unexpected comet. Alford has been the star on the state leadership stage. He and his winning Lobos have provided relief from the never-ending funereal news backdrop that today frames the city. Unfortunately, his departure fits right in with the Albuquerque and New Mexico zeitgeist of 2013.

Just grazing the headlines reveals about the only thing looking up around here is the Duke City crime rate. Traffic has plunged at the fabled ABQ Sunport, the ABQ metro is the worst in the west in creating jobs and the Mayor's proposed city budget shows negative growth when inflation is factored in.

And it seems many of our best and brightest would rather take flight than stay and fight--Alford among them. He and his family will be part of the statistics that put NM among the top five states that folks are fleeing and seeking greener pastures.

And in this case the grass is greener on the other side not only for Alford. Look at Colorado:

Colorado added 10,800 payroll jobs in February, and the state's unemployment rate edged down to 7.2 percent, the lowest level in four years, the Colorado Department of Labor and Industry reported. It's the state's lowest unemployment rate since February 2009, and the eighth consecutive monthly decline in Colorado's unemployment rate. Unemployment stood at 7.3 percent in January.

All around us the economic garden is starting to bloom, but ours is still in a freeze.

A former New Mexican turned holiday visitor comments,

The town is dead--stagnated. Driving around on the week nights, nothing seems to be opened and I don't see many young people out and about. And it looks and seems a rougher replace than I remember...

Well, four years of recession will do that. Here's more:

Average weekly wages in Bernalillo County fell by 3 percent between 2011 and 2012, and by 2.3 percent in New Mexico, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said. In addition, the number of jobs in Bernalillo County dropped by 0.3 percent...The average weekly wage in Bernalillo County was $809, putting it in 276th place among the 329 largest U.S. counties. The average weekly wage was $761 in New Mexico.

The city has lost much of its spirit, along with its economic fortunes. For a brief, shining moment, Steve Alford and the Lobos took our collective mind away from that, but only for a moment...

THE UNM STORY

Paul Krebs
Alford's sudden departure for UCLA had die-hard Lobo fans scowling and damning Alford for being a turncoat, even though he has been here six years and three times delivered the Lobos to the NCAA tournament. But it has never been enough for the die-hards for 40 years. So why change now?

Actually the Alford departure was another in a long series of blows to the management of the UNM Athletic Department and its director Paul Krebs. Just before UNM met Harvard in the first round of the NCAA Krebs announced with bravado that Alford was signing a new 10 year contract with UNM. And then this...

UNM President Bob Frank has a chance to dial down expectations with Alford's departure. For a variety of reasons UNM is not and probably never will be a national basketball power that regularly goes to the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA. Maybe he needs some new faces at the athletic department that match those expectations?

Even as Alford was calling the moving vans, Krebs was insisting that New Mexico is a "Top 25" team. Well, maybe some years, but not all of them and therein lies the rub. Unless this university administration wants to spend money it can't afford to take it "to the next level," it's staying where it's at.

SANDIA AND UNM

The embarrassment over how Alford's departure came about reinforced the views of the Alligators that UNM appears to be overreaching in its bid to have a major management role at Sandia National Labs. Their first line of concern is that we could see politics enter into the hiring at the labs. not an unfounded concern given UNM's history. A Senior Gator with experience at the school comes with this:

In the past, it It was correctly decided not to pursue broader control at Sandia but to continue with the many cooperative agreements the University already has with the Labs. The thinking then and that I believe holds true today is that  UNM has enough difficulties managing itself, much less also assuming the huge responsibilities of taking on the management of Sandia Labs.

Hallelujah to that, but kudos to President Frank for trying. He seems to understand more than most how wobbly the state's current economic model is.

ALFORD REACT

You've heard plenty of reaction about Alford bolting from UNM, but our Alligators have the takes you won't get elsewhere:

The folks that we need to stay in ABQ--like Alford--can't get out of here fast enough. And the ones who need to go--like APD Chief Schultz--have to be dragged away kicking and screaming.

And another:

I have a suggestion for UNM: Instead of wasting the one million from the buyout of Alford's contract on UNM athletics, apply it to providing a decent pay increase to UNM employees who have received nothing in five years.

It's unclear whether UNM will get $150,000 or $1 million in buyout money as a result of Alford's departure.

MAYOR'S RACE

From the mayoral campaign of Dem Pete Dinelli:

Today Pete Dinelli, the only candidate for Mayor seeking public financing, will submit all remaining contributions received to the City Clerk. In total, Dinelli will submit over 4,800 $5 contributions from voters in every corner of the city and from all across the political spectrum, including over 18% from registered Republicans. The campaign will also submit nearly 5,000 petition signatures.

It takes about 3,600 individual $5 dollar contributions from registered voters to win $362,000 in public financing. It appears Dinelli has them. It also takes 3,000 petition signatures to make the ballot and he appears to have them as well.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013 
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

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