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Editorial: State Fair panel should show some signs of life

At least one governor-appointed board is barely doing its jobs. That should change.

The New Mexico State Fair Commission has met just twice in the past two years. Its January meeting – the last one held – was the annual meeting required by law.

Essentially the board members appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez are leaving the Expo New Mexico operation to rock along with little oversight.

The state-owned fairgrounds in Albuquerque is home to the annual State Fair, which is scheduled to open Sept. 11. It also hosts a variety of events throughout the year from concerts to trade shows. It is the location of the Downs at Albuquerque race track, which is putting up about $5 million in purse money this season, and its brand new $30 million casino.

Commissioners are volunteers. Their responsibility is to set policy for what goes on at Expo under managers also appointed by the governor.

During the Bill Richardson and Gary Johnson administrations, the commission met often in sessions open to the public. Depending on the controversy du jour, some were well attended and loud.

This group, too, has faced heat, including the controversy generated by its award of a 25-year racino deal to the Downs.

The recent death of a 14-year-old Santa Fe girl who had been attending a techno music concert at Expo brought attention to an apparent lack of attention by fair managers when booking events and setting age limits and a lack of oversight of the management by the commission.

Which begs the question: How can a public body oversee a state enterprise operation when it rarely meets?

Expo’s mission is to benefit the public with year-round activities and to put on a great State Fair every year. It is too large and important an operation to be allowed to run on auto-pilot.

Volunteers or not, the State Fair Commission should take more than a minimal interest in the state enterprise operation for which it bears responsibility.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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