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Friday, August 28, 2015

The Summer of '15: The Reading Was Not On The Lighter Side 

The APS School Board met for over four and half hours Thursday morning but announced it still has not decided the fate of APS Superintendent Luis Valentino. The board will meet for a third time on the matter at 7 a.m. Monday. And that brings us to our latest column for the ABQ Free Press. . . .

The reading material for the Summer of '15 was definitely not on the lighter side for New Mexicans. Try as they might to beat the heat and escape into the plot of a mindless novel or seek relief in the magazine pages of pop culture, there was really no way out. The wreckage of this summer will be long-lived and long-remembered.

We start with that mine waste spill into the Animas River in the Four Corners. It alarmed local residents who depend on its waters as well as armchair environmentalists nationwide who eyed the eerie, orange tainted river via their TV screens. The EPA, which caused the spill that originated at Silverton, Colorado, will be mired in the mess for years. Investigations and reparations are de rigueur with such disasters but what about accountability?

Then there was the summer unraveling of new Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Luis Valentino. The deputy superintendent he brought to town may be his own undoing. And it should be. Jason Martinez was not subjected to a criminal background check before he started punching the clock. Then the shocker hit the headlines. Valentino had put in command a man who faces trial in Colorado on charges of sexually assaulting children. No, that's not summer fiction but the brutal reality of failed leadership.

Prior to the sex scandal Martinez and Valentino were busted for playing politics over a contract with a Colorado firm that had questionable ethical ties. Valentino suspended APS chief financial officer Don Moya who opposed their hanky-panky. The sex scandal was like instant karma for Moya but yet another nightmare for Albuquerque whose luck picking superintendents over the years is summed up by the saying: "If I didn't have bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

The summer news dump doesn't stop there. Two Albuquerque police officers were bound over for trial on second degree murder charges for the notorious fatal shooting of homeless camper James Boyd. Sure, you could see it coming but the preliminary hearing at which a judge found probable cause to have the officers stand trial was an undeniable low point in the history of the APD and the city. The saving grace may be that hitting that low point is the only way we can start clawing our way back to higher ground.

The sorry summer kept delivering even more fodder for the glass is only half-full crowd.
Google, one of the most important companies on the planet, announced that it was moving to California the aerospace company it had acquired in Moriarty only a year ago.  Gov. Martinez was on hand to celebrate Google's entry into the state but nowhere to be found when the firm packed up and headed down I-40. It was the latest in a very long line of economic disappointments that have haunted the state in what historians will no doubt look back on as an epic bad news era. And that doesn't include the drumbeat of horrific crimes that plagued Albuquerque this summer.  This list is depressing enough without bringing that to the table.

A chief characteristic of this peculiar era in New Mexico has been the lack of accountability, but now the misdeeds are so egregious that they can no longer be ignored by the body politic (or at least the judiciary) or enabled by a public that has grown apathetic, acquiescent and exhausted by the nonstop negativity.

Who is ultimately responsible for that Animas spill and will heads roll? Who will be held accountable for the hiring of the new APS superintendent whose incompetence could have endangered school children? The superintendent himself? The school board that hired him? Who in the upper reaches of APD will ever lose their job over the scandals that have plagued the department all these years under Mayor Berry? So far, no one. Who will be held accountable for the loss of not only Google but the multi-year failure to address the economic problems of this state? The Governor? The Mayor? No one? Will accountability finally surface from the wreckage that was the Summer of '15?

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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