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Monday, December 19, 2016

Speculation Starts On Who Will Be New UNM Prez; A Woman This Time? Skandera DC Job Hunt Confirmed, And A Complaint About the Most Powerful Legislative Committee 

Barbara Damron
Who will replace Bob Frank as president of the University of New Mexico now that the mess over his departure has been resolved, much to the embarrassment of our Harvard on the Rio Grande? One prominent name circulating is that of Dr. Barbara Damron, currently the Secretary of Higher Education in the Martinez administration.

The cabinet is known for having few stand-outs but her advocates say Damron is one. She has a Ph.D in educational psychology and once worked as an associate professor of nursing at UNM. She has received kudos for promising a reform report in September of next year to resolve the dysfunction of higher education in the state which has too many institutions, too many governing boards and a shortage of money to fund them.

Damron would be the first woman president at UNM, but there will be plenty of competition.  One problem for Damron: People are weary of the politicization of the school with its regents beholden to the Martinez administration and how it has become a dumping ground for the administrations of both Martinez and her predecessor Bill Richardson. The regents will choose the next president so that complaint may fall on deaf ears. The current board is a fully owned and operated subsidiary of the Fourth and Fifth Floors.

UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah has been named interim president. He says he expects the new permanent president to be named in about six months. Frank is through Dec. 31.

HANNA'S HIGHTAILING 

Another prominent figure in the Martinez administration, Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, is back in the blog headlines. On of our Senior Alligators (who have a 99% accuracy rate) reported here back on Nov. 28 that it was expected that Skandera would be leaving the administration and perhaps heading to Washington. Well, Politico now confirms that Skandera is under consideration for several high ranking positions in the U.S. Department of Education. That's not quite out the door but very close. Skandera, 43, has got to be exhausted from six years of infighting over education reform and looking forward to getting out. Of course, her many critics are cheering her on.

NOT ENOUGH MONEY

With the state economy stagnating for years, impatience is growing as people move out of here and those that stay behind have plenty of targets to blame for the mess. Here's the self-appointed "Crocagator" joining the blame game:

Joe, Since Senator John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith took over as chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee the financial status of New Mexico has spiraled downwards. I am not a follower of Governor Martinez nor an apologist for her but since the death of Senator Ben Altimirano nothing positive has come out this committee to help our state grow. Now is when we need leadership. The rank and file of NM residents cannot understand why some of the $15 billion sitting in the Land Grant Permanent Fund cannot now be used as a rainy-day fund to come to our rescue. Rather than to make the working class pay more tax we should be using this fund to get our economy growing. The Crockagator.

At the time of his death in December of 2007, Altimriano was the longest serving state senator in history. He served as the chair of the powerful finance committee for 17 years before becoming Senate President Pro Tem for three years. His death came less than a year before the national financial crash that helped take the state economy down and from which it has yet to recover.

By the way, the longest serving state senator in history is now Democrat John Pinto who celebrated his 92nd birthday Thursday. He has been in the senate since 1977.

NO MORE MONEY

In case you missed it, the move to increase the amount of money ABQ mayoral candidates get when they publicly finance their campaigns will not be put on the Feb. 7 ABQ school board election ballot, an administrator at APS tells us.

Mayoral candidates who get public funds currently receive  a dollar for every registered city voter or around $362,000. The new proposal would have raised that to $630,000. However, we're told most school board members are against it as were members of the Bernalillo County Commission who rejected the idea of placing it on the November  election ballot.

Not all the mayoral candidates will publicly finance, but those that do may now look to outside political action committees even more to bolster their presence.

SHINING LIGHT

One of the state's more intrepid journalists and one with a reputation for making government officials feel the pain when they hide public records will be the new executive director of the NM Foundation for Open Government (FOG). Peter St. Cyr, working of late as a freelance reporter, has been breaking major stories on the state's medical marijuana program and many more. He says he is particularly proud of his record of forcing public officials to comply with the state's public record acts (IPRA). In his new role he won't be looking for secrets but instead passing his on to fellow journalists hungry for a look inside the state's bureaucracy.

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