A hope that the next secretary of education will embrace real change

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, is often quoted for saying “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” This has been used as motivation in all forms of contests to gain an edge on competitors. Most people do not realize, however, what Coach Lombardi actually meant. It was not about winning at all costs—ignoring the human spirit or looking at the scoreboard as the ultimate measure of success. In an interview late in life, Lombardi said about his winning quote that “I wished I’d never said the thing… I meant the effort.

Black community wants answers on ATF’s Albuquerque sting, says it was ‘punch in the face’

Black community leaders and citizens want to know who invited out-of-town federal agents and informants into Albuquerque and how the decision was made to focus an undercover sting operation on an impoverished, largely minority section of the city, netting a highly disproportionate number of black defendants. They plan to put those and other questions into a letter to the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We want to know exactly what happened and why,” said Patrick Barrett, a member of the two organizations drafting the letter — the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Sankofa Men’s Leadership Exchange, a grassroots organization of black men. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Barrett and others interviewed for this story were reacting to a NMID investigation of the sting published last month.

Public lands matter: BLM should protect Otero Mesa

Southern New Mexico is blessed with a rich heritage of public lands, and should have a strong voice in the discussion about how to protect and manage those public lands. Right now, we have an opportunity to guide land-use decisions so that they weigh and balance the needs of all stakeholders: a Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plan (RMP), which includes Otero Mesa. A draft RMP is expected this year, and by using our voices we can call on the BLM to use all of the tools at their disposal to create a balanced plan that adequately protects the Otero Mesa landscape. Bill Soules is a Democratic member of the Senate from Las Cruces representing District 37. Otero Mesa contains the largest and wildest Chihuahuan Desert grassland left in America.

No more cuts to our classrooms. Not one single cent.

Public education in New Mexico is surely at a crossroads today. For the past eight years our state economy has been stuck in permanent recession mode, and that resulted in constant trimming and cuts to classroom budgets. Now, a combination of proposed deep federal cuts and indifference from Gov. Susana Martinez raises real questions about the quality of future learning. Luckily, there are champions for education in the Legislature who drew the line on any more cuts to schools in the recent special session. It may be the best ray of hope for our children’s future.

Invest in New Mexico’s future

A prosperous new future for New Mexico starts with investing in education. In recent decades, our state has kept college tuition lower than our neighboring states, supported programs like the Lottery Scholarship, and made sure community colleges, branch campuses, and tribal universities can serve communities across our state. All of that is threatened, however, as the state budget process is politicized and funding for higher education is held hostage. When you look at examples of state disinvestment in higher education across the nation, you see that cutting budgets for higher education leads directly to tuition increases, which are essentially tax hikes on students and their families. At a time when we need to be investing in the next generation of New Mexico leaders and innovators, we cannot afford to make our state’s college students foot the bill for short-sighted decisions.

Immigrants in detention centers are often hundreds of miles from legal help

One morning in February, lawyer Marty Rosenbluth set off from his Hillsborough, North Carolina, home to represent two anxious clients in court. He drove about eight hours southwest, spent the night in a hotel and then got up around 6 a.m. to make the final 40-minute push to his destination: a federal immigration court and detention center in the tiny rural Georgia town of Lumpkin. During two brief hearings over two days, Rosenbluth said, he convinced an immigration judge to grant both of his new clients more time to assess their legal options to stay in the United States. Then he got in his car and drove the 513 miles back home. “Without an attorney, it’s almost impossible to win your case in the immigration courts.

Budget fix coming soon for colleges, universities; time to renew efforts to create jobs

Funding for New Mexico’s colleges and universities, which was vetoed by the governor following this year’s regular legislative session, will soon be restored, ending the confusion and consternation that has bedeviled students and faculty for months. The Legislature, which will either restore funding for higher education in the special session or win in court to overturn the governor’s veto of its funding, will return its attention to creating jobs and repairing New Mexico’s ailing economy. As a retired college president and, before that, a public school superintendent, I understand the problems our colleges and universities are facing with absolutely no funding as of July 1. Students are reconsidering plans to enroll; professors, instructors and support staff have no assurance that they will have jobs after July 1; and the reputation of New Mexico’s higher education system suffers across the country. The only good news is that the Legislature is committed to restoring funding for our colleges and universities — without any strings attached.

Colorblind New Mexico

Around the hood many believe that Bill Peifer, Bernalillo Democratic Party Chair colorblind comments made last week, while very offensive and demeaning, may actually be a clue as to why a Democratic-majority State Legislature failed to provide funding to the state’s African American Performing Art Center. Although they had no problem appropriating funding from the budget for both the Hispanic and the Native American Culture centers. And it is not the first time in a session the Legislature has totally dismissed projects and/or items specific to the black community.  The center bears the name of House Majority Leader Sheryl William Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, who happens to be black. Sorry, my bad, that’s right you’re colorblind.

Guv’s cuts to summer learning hurts vulnerable children, worsens achievement gap

Recently—and very quietly—the state Public Education Department (PED) appears to have cut $3 million or more from a popular summer learning program for young children ages 5 to 8 set to begin next month. As a result, 6,100 fewer children across New Mexico will receive classroom instruction that is proven to narrow the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers, increase skills, and improve student test scores. The state-funded K–3 Plus initiative is innovative – and it works. PED’s decision to slash funding for it is morally wrong and should be reversed. K–3 Plus extends the school year for children entering kindergarten through third grade by 25 instructional days beginning in the summer before school starts, in eligible schools.

ATF used traveling, well-paid informants in ABQ sting

One of the men who helped the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) search for potential targets in a sweeping undercover drug and gun sting operation in Albuquerque last year is paid an $80,000 annual salary, court filings show. The man appears to have been released early from a 10-year federal prison sentence and goes “around the country with his handlers creating crime for the government to prosecute” as a ‘“confidential informant,” the documents say. Related: Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’

Another informant ATF brought to Albuquerque for the operation is paid $1,400 a week plus occasional “bonuses,” he said under oath, according to a recording from a state court hearing obtained by New Mexico In Depth. He did not say what the bonuses were for. That informant considers working for the ATF his full-time job.