Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

7-11 How is Gov. Martinez doing?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE – So what can we say about Gov. Susana Martinez after her first six months in office? For one, it was much quieter than former Gov. Bill Richardson's first six months.
By this time, Richardson has several of his bold initiatives going full steam. In retrospect, none of them look very bold anymore. The Rail Runner is in big trouble. GRIP, his bonding program, has saddled us with debt.
Dipping into the Permanent Fund to increase money for education hasn't produced results. And the spaceport, which might produce big results, could falter because of Martinez's indifference toward it.
Martinez promised bold action also. But hers has been quieter. Most of her productive action has come in the area of removing regulations affecting businesses. That has been done quietly.
Her major effort to take drivers' licenses from illegal aliens was rebuffed by the state Senate. She won a few battles in the area of law enforcement. Her efforts to increase executive power through questionable vetoes were turned back by the state Supreme Court.
Martinez's effort to improve education has involved bringing in a new cabinet secretary who has had some successes in other states. Hanna Skandera has replaced most of the top management levels in the Public Education Department. Any improvements will not be seen for some time.
Gov. Martinez has made some good hires and apparently some bad ones. From all indications so far, the appointment of Christine Anderson as spaceport director has been a very good one.
It isn't possible to find anyone with proven experience running a commercial spaceport because New Mexico will have the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world. So Martinez went with Anderson who knows the military space industry well.
First impressions of Anderson have been favorable. Maybe she also can work on getting Martinez excited about the possibilities of being the leader in space commercialization.
It doesn't appear Martinez is comfortable in any area with which she is not already familiar. She confidently worked on law enforcement issues during the 2011 Legislature. She even testified on at least one measure before the Legislature -- something few governors have done.
But in areas outside law enforcement, she seems to be a reluctant participant -- or a non-participant.
Lawmakers, even legislative leaders, had little success, or none at all, getting to talk with her about their issues. Most governors have had a policy that any time a legislator wants to talk, that overrides anything else on the schedule.
Lobbyists have the same complaint. Some bring top representatives of their companies or associations across the country to personally present their case to the governor but never get beyond her chief of staff.
Martinez also is becoming known for breaking appointments or commitments to appear at events or speak to audiences. It may be that she is unsure about social situations where she fears she may be put on the spot. Or maybe her handlers steer her away from such situations.
One place Martinez has appeared comfortable is her appearances at wild fires around the state. She is seen often on television giving assurances and instructions.
Martinez often begins her remarks at the site of a fire by giving statistics about how many fires we have burning in the state and how many acres have been consumed.
Those remarks drive people in the tourism industry crazy. They already are hard hit by cancellations and don't want the governor scaring people even more.
Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson has been asked by the industry to develop a program to assure potential tourists that New Mexico still is open for business.
That was a favorite phrase used by Gov. Martinez in notifying businesses that New Mexico is reducing regulations. But so far no help has been received from the Tourism Department.
To date, Sen. Tom Udall is the only public official appearing at news conferences to use the "still open for business" phrase.
MON, 7-11-11

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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