Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Some PR Tips For APS As They Battle With Guv Over Education Cuts And Our Report On Damron Eyeing UNM Presidency Is Confirmed 

If the ABQ Public Schools want to prevail in its bitter political battle with the Martinez administration over school funding, it might want to head to the sacrificial altar. That's the takeaway after an extensive viewing of social media and conversations with political observers.

In the wake of the controversial decision by APS that all middle school sports will be eliminated in anticipation of state budget cuts that would take effect July 1, both sides have been pedaling fast to win the public opinion battle. APS points to Gov. Martinez and her fervor for budget cutting--and zero revenue enhancement--that is causing the funding crisis. The Governor and her education department take the populist route and decry high APS administrator salaries and the money spent on lobbying and PR.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy says administrators who are paid six figures have already taken a hit:

For starters, there was a furlough day for executive management in January, a hiring freeze for non-school personnel, and a close review of all administrative funding. 

But that doesn't seem to be enough to quiet the populist outcry and keep the attention squarely on Martinez and her budget cutting. Comments like these from Howard Glen Martinez on Facebook are widespread:

35 administrators make $100,000.00 or more a year which adds up to more than $4,000,000.00 a year. APS is very top heavy. The only person who should be making this kind of money is the APS Superintendent.

If Reedy wants to keep the focus on where it needs to be--the Governor and Legislature adequately funding public schools--she may want to consider these steps:

--A one year 10 percent salary cut for those making over six figures
--A similar cut in the lobbying and legal affairs budgets
--A pledge to reduce the number of administrators from 35
--A 10 percent cut in Reedy's own $240,000 salary and a challenge to the Governor and her staff to do the same.

The cuts would be symbolic, saving only several hundred thousand in a budget Reedy says could be as much as $29 million short when the Legislature finalizes the numbers at a soon-to-be called special session.

But the symbolic cuts would mean real pain for the highly paid administrators and could put APS on higher moral ground with a public outraged that their kids are being deprived of school sports and perhaps facing even more cuts that will spark even more emotion.

Most important, the austerity steps would take away the demagogic argument being used against APS by the administration and its public education department as it desperately labors to deflect the heat their years of budget cutting have generated.


Meanwhile, the Governor appears to be getting nervous over the intense criticism of her veto of the entire $750 million higher education budget. By her own admission it was a political move to get the Legislature to give her a budget with no tax increases and was not intended to actually take effect.

But tell that to those impacted and to a public that does not pay attention to process arguments. What they hear is that the universities and colleges could shut down--and there's a good chance that's going to send Martinez's approval rating below its already anemic 42 percent. More seriously, it makes New Mexico appear politically unstable and further pushes away talent and business. But you already knew that. . . .


Our exclusive report from a Senior Alligator back in December that NM Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron was going to be in the running to become the next president of UNM has been confirmed:

New Mexico Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron said she has submitted her curriculum vitae and cover letter to Isaacson, Miller, the search firm the University of New Mexico has hired to help find its 22nd president.

Damron's interest raises political questions: How beholden would she be to the Martinez administration if she were head of UNM? The administration's meddling in the UNM Health Sciences Center--with the help of the Board of Regents--has left a bad taste.

What about UNM executive vice-president David Harris, the Svengali-like presidential adviser who has exercised political power at UNM through several administrations by warming to whoever has the power in Santa Fe? Would Damron end the Harris reign? Or embrace it?

Damron follows Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera in moving to get out of the Martinez administration as it nears its end. A Senior Alligator broke the Skandera story which was later confirmed by Politico. However, her move was thwarted by conservative US Senators who reportedly blocked her from a high level position in the US Education Department. As a result Hanna is still here and mired in one of the most unpleasant and divisive fights over public education funding in state history.


NM political consultant Brian Miller has passed away at the age of 36. His friends send this:

Its been said that political operatives come to New Mexico to get their Ph.D. in the art of politics, and that was true for Brian. Brian headed to NM in 2004 to take charge of congressional candidate Richard Romero's field operations. He marshaled the resources he could in that nationally targeted CD1 race, but of course the challenge came up short. 

He went on to establish himself as a go-to operative in ABQ politics. From mayor to city council to state senate to Hector Balderas' re-election as State Auditor, Brian was there, running the numbers and bringing resources to bear. He'll be remembered by the many friends he made along the way as loyal, hilarious and possessing a keen and sharp mind Brian wanted to make the world a better place. For those who knew him, the world certainly is.

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