Letters to the editor (02/27/13)

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Athletic programs are getting too many funds
Editor:
On several occasions, I have been critical of the emphasis placed on athletics in public schools and in post secondary institutions and, the tremendous amount of tax dollars spent for the benefit of a few.
Please do not misunderstand what I’m saying. I like sports, provided they are funded appropriately when public money is involved and when more important activities are first funded at the proper level.
Today I write to point out my personal displeasure with what I see happening with athletics at UNM, particularly the men’s basketball program.
I congratulate UNM and Coach Alford.  However, I extend even stronger congratulations to the players, many who are looking at possible NBA play. They are the ones who make the winning teams by playing their hearts out hoping to grab that gold ring and, the ones I feel for because, realistically, most will not grab the gold ring as good as they may be.
Face it, when all is said and done, it is the coach, the UNM athletic department and the local businesses and booster organizations who are the big winners.
I am totally appalled, first, by the million-plus-dollar salary Coach Alford receives and the millions that were spent on renovating the Pit while the biology building remains unfinished. Incidentally, efforts are now under way to do something similar with the football program.
And, to further add insult to my injury, Alford was recently awarded a $650,000 plus bonus on top of the salary and other perks he receives while the players got zilch and, continue to work their butts off still aiming for that elusive gold ring.
And, now, in addition to everything else, we hear that Coach Alford’s two sons are up and coming star basketball players who will likely play for their father at UNM, likely, at total taxpayer expense.
I do not begrudge the Alford boys.  I am happy for them ― happy that they possess innate skills their father and, likely other paid mentors, are honing to a fine edge.
It’s the pervasive sports mentality in New Mexico’s publicly funded education systems and elsewhere with which I’m unhappy given poor education outcomes in K-12 as well as at post secondary institutions.
When will we as members of this great country demand that expenditure of our tax dollars be truly prioritized  and spent more prudently such that expenditures are more  inclusive and advance the sustainability and viability of society as a whole?
Although I support Pre-K efforts, how can politicos even think of tapping the permanent fund to increase funding for public education when such a senseless allocation of public funds is currently in place clean up the waste and, then, look at other sources, including the permanent fund.
Bottom line: it is the lobbyist, private and public including educational institutions, with deep pockets who can contribute substantial amounts to political war chests; the one who can pay for junkets, meals, booze, golf rounds, donations under the table that gets 99 percent of a quart of oil while the rest of us get what is left at the bottom of the container “las babas!”
The time has come for us to seriously review our priorities and to ditch the “squeaky wheel gets the oil” (“El que mas llora, mas mama!”) mentality.  It has been proven time and again that the squeaky wheel is not always the one that needs the oil.
Accept it politicians, state and national, and act accordingly!  Academic concerns need to rise to the top of the list, not basketball, football, baseball or any other sport!
John Lopez
Bosque Farms

Awarding contracts is an important process
Editor:
The Los Lunas school board is convening with one new member. Some actions of the county commission serve as a cautionary tale for the school board.
Sometimes elected officials forget why they are in office. Instead of awarding contracts based on the best deal for taxpayers, sometimes county commissioners have demonstrated that they believe it is more important to steer business to local companies, even if the lowest bidder and/or most qualified vendor is another firm.
Some members of the county commission rarely discuss what is best for taxpayers. On the other hand, I have heard frequent comments about supporting local business.
Case in point: a couple years ago, the county commission considered awarding a contract for the design of a new administration building. Four companies had bid, and a non-political evaluation committee that did not include any county commissioners recommended an architectural firm in Albuquerque.
However, the county commission awarded the contract to the lowest ranked firm (one in Valencia County) even after being warned by one of the county’s attorneys against doing so.  The top rated firm challenged that questionable decision and, due to the lowest ranked firm dropping out, received the contract.
Efforts to reduce widespread dumping in the county was stymied for years because a majority of county commissioners were more interested in protecting local interests than in solving this gigantic problem.
A couple years ago, the former county manager noted in a commission meeting that Valencia County was probably the only county in all of New Mexico without a solid waste program.
It is an accident of geography that the county is close to Albuquerque, which has an abundance of firms that can competitively bid on contracts. Sometimes one of those companies turns out to be the best qualified or lowest cost bidder.
The job of elected officials is to award contracts that benefit the public, not businesses that are close to those elected officials.
Because Los Lunas Schools awards many contracts, it would be unfortunate if the unethical behavior of the county commission were to infect the Los Lunas school system.
The state’s Public Education Department, the New Mexico Attorney General, and/or the 13th Judicial District attorney, as appropriate, will be contacted if there are illegal shenanigans that bypass the state’s procurement code in the awarding of contracts.

James Rickey
Los Lunas