Inside the Capitol

Monday, August 08, 2011

8-12 Some parallels and a big difference

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- One can find many parallels between the beginning of Gov. Susana Martinez's administration and that of her predecessor, Gov. Bill Richardson. And there is one huge difference.
Martinez is accused of still being in campaign mode. Her top adviser is her former campaign consultant Jay McCleskey, who has his own consulting firm. Martinez still has an active campaign account.
Richardson kept an active campaign office open, headed by Amanda Cooper, daughter of then-Rep. Tom Udall, .and a second employee.
Martinez is accused of tailoring administration initiatives to produce political advantage in an effort to be chosen as a vice-presidential running mate. So was Richardson -- in a big way.
Martinez is being questioned about trips out of state and who is paying for them. Ditto for Richardson. Let's face it. Richardson was and Martinez is very attractive as an Hispanic governor with much promise.
And now for the huge difference. Richardson did it all at the speed of light. Martinez is much more deliberate.
In Richardson's opening speech to the Legislature, less than three weeks after his inauguration, he outlined his bold plans and then added "We'll move so fast you can't see us."
True to his word, Richardson fired everyone from the past administration that he could -- and some that he couldn't. And he immediately replaced them with his own people.
Traditionally cabinet secretaries are allowed to appoint their own deputies and division directors. But Richardson appointed them all. And if there wasn't a position available, Richardson would tell the cabinet member to create one.
It was said of Richardson that he never saw a political position he didn't want to fill. He had a never-ending list of cronies.
Martinez didn't have a deep bench of cronies to whom she had promised jobs. She appointed some of her former staff members, some friends and some friends of friends.
But the list ended far short of Richardson's numbers. Many positions still have Richardson appointees in them and many others remain vacant.
Thom Cole of the Albuquerque Journal calculates there were 337 governor-appointed positions at the beginning of the Martinez administration and that she has filled only about 218 of them.
I inadvertently quoted these figures in an earlier column without attribution. I even had one of them wrong. In this case, two wrongs didn't make a right. Sorry Thom.
We still have much to learn about the boldness Martinez promised in her administration. One doesn't have to move at warp speed to be bold.
Bill Richardson had the advantage of having been a member of Congress for 14 years, plus a United Nations ambassador and a U.S. Energy Department secretary before running for governor. He stayed very close to New Mexico statewide politics all that time.
To say he hit the ground running would be an understatement. Eight month after taking office he convinced New Mexicans to pass two controversial constitutional amendments giving him greatly increased powers over the state's public schools.
Education was Richardson's biggest concern and it has been a major concern of Gov. Martinez. Richardson continually tried different methods of improving education performance but without much success. Martinez has her own ideas. Let's hope hers work better.
Until the secret formula is discovered to make all parents the driving force in a child's education, we aren't going to find many answers.
Martinez has hired the much publicized Hanna Skandera to make some changes that other states have found helpful. With education, it takes awhile to determine success or failure, even when Bill Richardson is pushing the bus.
Martinez still is learning many of the issues and the players but we chose her promise over the experience of Diane Denish. We owe Martinez some time to gain that experience.
FRI, 8-12-11

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



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