Inside the Capitol

Saturday, August 27, 2011

8-31 Skandera Closes Albuquerque PED Office

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera is closing the department's Albuquerque office and transferring the 18 employees to Santa Fe.. This follows her cut a few months ago of 33 jobs in Santa Fe
How can she do all this when Gov. Susana Martinez has frequently said she will protect public schools from budget cuts? Well, she later amended that position by stating she wouldn't touch classrooms.
At the same time Gov. Martinez said she wants major cuts in bloated school administration. In that category, she includes the Public Education Department, despite charging it with reforming education.
Skandera's position is that she doesn't need a lot of employees to bring about the education changes she wants. Plus, her department was hit with more than a 20 percent funding cut by the Legislature.
Some departments require more than one office because the staffing has grown to the point that one building won't hold them. But with the hiring freeze of the past three years, it now should be possible for many departments and agencies to consolidate into one building.
During the years of staff expansion to second and third locations, Albuquerque was a very popular place. A primary reason for this was that many cabinet secretaries already lived in Albuquerque and it was far easier to frequently work in an Albuquerque office than face the daily commute.
And there always were plenty of state employees living in Albuquerque who were more than willing to staff an Albuquerque office.
A few years ago when telecommuting became popular, many state employees living in Albuquerque opted for it. But the rule was that they had to report to an Albuquerque office.
That arrangement does nothing to help save on office space but the worry was that they would just goof off at home. Reports I received revealed that when the person in charge of the office had to be away, nearby coffee shops were full of state employees.
Working from home or from an unsupervised office is successful only when a specific amount of work is assigned and monitored. And that didn't appear to be very successful under the previous administration.
Another popular move in state government during the previous administration was to move Santa Fe offices as far south of town as possible so they would be closer to Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.
A massive office building complex was rejected by the Legislature at the end of the previous administration because of state budget problems. Otherwise we may have seen a further move away from the state Capitol complex.
The intent of the framers of our state's constitution a century ago seemed to be to consolidate state government in one place.
The constitution says, "The officers of the executive department, except the lieutenant governor, shall during the terms of their office, reside and keep the public records, books, papers and seals of office at the seat of government."
Lieutenant governors were excepted because they have no records, books, papers or seals of office. They didn't have an option of a job in Santa Fe until 1971.
When Albuquerque surpassed Santa Fe in size after the railroad arrived in the 1880s, the Duke City began trying to move the capital 60 miles south.
Those hopes were somewhat dashed with the construction of a new colossal capitol building in 1886. In 1892, the capitol burned to the ground. Many Santa Feans blamed Albuquerque for torching it but the cause of the fire never was determined.
It must be said that many Santa Feans didn't like the capitol either because of its audacity and high cost.
Will Secretary Skandera's decision to close the education department's Albuquerque office lead to similar closures by other departments?
It would seem to be consistent with the cost cutting efforts of Gov. Susana Martinez's administration.
MON, 8-29-11

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



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