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Friday, April 05, 2013

Councilor Cook Bust And What It Means For Council Control, Plus: The Week That Was: Lobomania And The Way Forward For UNM; A Reader Writes, And: At the Movies 

The news that GOP ABQ City Councilor Michael Cook will resign as a result of being busted for DWI highlights the upcoming battle over which party will control the ABQ city council after the October election.

Cook's NE Heights seat will very likely decide that control. That's because Dems expect to win the seat held by appointed GOP Councilor Roxanne Myers. That would make the council--currently 6 to 3 Republican--5 to 4 in favor of the R's. But if the Cook seat were also to go Dem, the Dems would likely control the council with a 5 to 4 majority,

Cook was saying he would seek a second term before his arrest, but now an interim councilor will be appointed by GOP Mayor Berry.

Actually, that might be a break for the GOP. Cook was one of the quietest councilors to ever represent the district. Dem Diane Gibson, who has announced for the Cook seat, was already scoring points by telling voters she would be a presence in the district. There have been complaints that Cook has been a no-show at neighborhood meetings and generally not engaged with his role as a councilor.

Berry's appointee will have no such baggage and perhaps hold down the district for the R's and thus the entire council at least until the 2015 election.

LOBOMANIA


It was one of those rare weeks when sports topped the news agenda as the turmoil of University of New Mexico basketball was tracked breathlessly by both media and fans. Coach Alford's departure and the installation of his assistant Craig Neal as the new head coach launched a fiery debate on just what the UNM program should aspire to.

The dream of the most possessed Lobo fans is to have the team make the "Sweet 16," in the NCAA tournament. But can a medium-sized state without the resources of big name schools realistically achieve that goal? The answer for forty years has been a resounding "no."

Reader Isaac Padilla probably doesn't mean to rain on the Lobo parade but says UNM and the city need to dial down Lobomania and get real about the future:

Getting into the Sweet 16 would be exciting for a year, but it would not be historic. Our state is suffering because our economic outlook is bleak. We all know an improved educational system is essential to turn our economy around. So why are we focused on basketball when UNM, NM State, the business community and the political class should be focused on improving academics at New Mexico's institutions of higher learning?

It would be historic if UNM were to recruit a Nobel Laureate or two to improve science, technology, engineering and math at UNM. This would keep New Mexico's best students in the state and new companies would start looking to locate in New Mexico. Two Nobel Laureates would cost about 1/3 of the salary for the coach.

The students who started Google did not go to Stanford because of the football program. The students who started Facebook did not choose Harvard because of the basketball program.

The University of Chicago was a founding member of the Big Ten and Maroons reached the sweet 16 in 1935. Does anyone remember that “historic” event? The University of Chicago withdrew from the Big Ten in 1946 to focus on academics. Obama was a professor at the University of Chicago. He left the University of Chicago when he was elected to the Senate, and he became the first African American to be elected president. Now that is historic.

UNM might not ever be on par with the University of Chicago, but New Mexico can compete with leading public institutions. PayScale’s College Salary Report ranks UNM 465 based on average starting salary and mid-career salary for graduates. NM State is ranked 396, and NM Tech is ranked 34. The one state school that does not focus on athletics is by far the best institution. The school (UNM) that spent $60 million to renovate its basketball facility came in a distant 3rd. 

If we duplicated Tech’s success at UNM and State, our economy can complete with Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and even Texas for the jobs of today and tomorrow. But basketball and football will not get us there.

AT THE MOVIES

Reader Eric Lucero monitors films that would be of interest to a politically oriented audience and comes with a couple of great escapes for this weekend:

“Olympus Has Fallen” is the 21st century’s “Die Hard” and has North Korean terrorists as the foe. It is topical and is set in a post-Obama, ‘right of center’ presidency. Actor/Producer/ Gerard Butler, Hero of “300,” takes American patriotic furor to new extremes. His character, secret service agent and former Army Ranger Mike Banning, is a man of action, resolve and dogged focus, who does not suffer fools and like McClain (Bruce Willis), is a one man wrecking machine. The director, Antoine Fuqua, offers realistic non-stop action and peppers the production with a top notch supporting cast. As an added bonus you get a ‘White House Tour’.

“GI Joe: Retaliation” is a decent follow-up sequel, also set in a post-Obama world, but takes a markedly left of center political turn, complete with eye-popping action and effects that introduces us to new villains as Hasbro struggles to develop the franchise. Bruce Willis (A Good Day to Die Hard) plays the role of the original G.I Joe ’64 Hasbro figure and leader. 

That's it for this week. Thanks for stopping by. Reporting this week from Albuquerque and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I'm Joe Monahan.

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 
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