Wednesday, March 23, 2016

UNM Leadership Slammed On Multiple Fronts As New And Painful FutureTakes Hold, Plus: Berry's Buses Opposed By Fellow R Who Has Eye OnMayor's Job, And: Council Backing Of Bus Plan Leaves Sour Taste WithPublic 

The leadership of the University of New Mexico is looking especially flaccid of late, with developments on multiple fronts signaling that our "Harvard on the Rio Grande" is adrift and its future is a slow, painful and lengthy downsizing.

First, we have the movida by the Governor Martinez appointed UNM Regents to essentially take over the once quasi-independent UNM Health Sciences that includes the hospital and medical school.

That had Lt. Governor John Sanchez, who hopes to succeed Martinez in 2018, sensing disaster and bolting for cover as the political fallout grew over the coup. That fallout continues with this letter we obtained signed by some 200 faculty members that they fired off to the UNM Regents. They protested the "speed" and the "lack of transparency" in making the decision as well as the faculty being frozen out of the process.

Now come the Regents again, announcing what will be for many students an onerous 2.5% tuition hike. That's atop many other recent hikes. They also approved a boost in student fees that all together will mean a nearly $300 increase per year for full-time students (and often much more at the branch campuses). This happens even as the state lottery scholarship fund can't keep up with demand, putting even more pressure on those hoping to get a college education.

The tuition hike also comes as UNM is kicked around the Roundhouse like a loose football. Its budget was bludgeoned by lawmakers who were fighting off a crash in revenue caused mainly by the decline in oil prices. But where are the cuts to the administration at UNM to fix the $8 million hole? And where is the legendary UNM lobbying muscle in Santa Fe? Never mind. Just raise the tuition.

Then there is the chaos in the UNM Athletic Department, enduring a secular decline in the popularity of UNM basketball and football only to shoot themselves in the foot by firing the hard working women's basketball coach whose only sin appeared to be her inability to meet the outlandish expectations of the head-in-the-clouds athletic director and an equally delusional fan base. Both refuse to recognize the irrevocable economic, social and political change that has has engulfed this state and frozen its progress.

(Apologies to the able Mr. Lobo Geoff Grammar, but Geoff it ain't what it used to be--not even close.)

All of higher education is getting pounded here by depopulation and demographics. Administrators seem ill-prepared and stumble handling it. Those left behind to witness the debacle shoulder the financial burden and watch the slow motion degradation as they mutter, "Aah, what could have been. . ."


ABQ City Councilor Dan Lewis parted company with fellow R and ABQ Mayor Berry this week when he voted not to accept $70 million in federal funding to build Berry's controversial rapid bus plan for Central Avenue .  Lewis was one of two of the nine councilors to give the project a thumbs down (the other was Dem Klarissa Pena) but despite losing on a 7 to 2 vote,

Lewis may have done himself a favor if he runs for mayor next year, a move he's considering. Opposition to ART is especially strong among fiscal conservatives in the ABQ NE Heights so Lewis--the current council president and who represents the Westside--may be able to use that anti-ART vote to broaden his support there. 

The pell-mell rush by Berry and the council to implement this project, which is opposed by so many of their constituents and businesses that line its path, left a sour taste in the public's mouth and it was reflected in the often scathing  comments on social media.  This one was typical: 

  This is an utterly ridiculous money-wasting scheme, particularly since existing buses will continue to run up and down Central. It seems to be a "vanity" project for the Mayor, with various palms greased along the way (follow the money!) This is a perfect example of the backwardness of this State--with all the problems that should be addressed, this politically correct silliness prevails. Can't fix stupid, I guess. 

 Jean Bernstein, the owner of the Flying Star restaurant chain which has a longtime location on ABQ's Nob Hill where the bus project would have major impact, writes:

 I wanted to share our group’s website regarding the ART project. We are in neither for or against but we are worried sick over the serious design flaws that will potentially destroy what’s left of the historic sections of Central Ave. from Nob Hill to Downtown. We would hate to see this bus dominated design squeeze out what’s left of the charm and character of old Route 66.  Our website reveals our analysis of ART’s current plans and dares to dream about a Central Ave. filled with outdoor dining and pleasant places for people to walk and meet. 

As ART is designed, the sidewalks are not widened (except in a few sparsely populated areas), and there will be 3 lanes of buses running up and down most areas of Central. What happened to the Complete Streets ordinance which designates streets for people, businesses, bicyclists then buses? The ART design is upside down!


 Democratic Public Regulation Commission candidate Cynthia Hall is upset about the secretary of state's decision--reported here Tuesday--to cut the amount of public financing funds available for her campaign and others because of the tight state budget. She says the decision has no basis in statute and is demanding that instead of getting 68.5% of the funds--as the SOS has ordered--she and the other candidates be given the full 100%. Her letter to the SOS is here. Hall is challenging Dem PRC Karen Montoya. 

And Montoya has a campaign headache to deal with.. . . Her website is http://karen2016.nationbuilder.com which is fine. But someone has acquired the domain Karenlmontoya and set up a site that blisters Montoya's performance on the commission, 

Seems the June primary is out of the starting gate. . . 

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