ABQ Community Resists Proposed School Sports Cuts, ABQ City Councilor Seeks US House Seat

Apr 20, 2017

Albuquerque Community Resists Proposed School Sports CutsThe Associated Press

The Albuquerque community is making sure its school board knows people are not happy about proposed middle school sports cuts.

Teachers, coaches, parents and students gathered at the Albuquerque School Board meeting Wednesday to express how detrimental they feel losing sports would be.

The cuts are part of the district's plan for its projected $25 million budget reduction. Other cuts include reduced employee work days, bigger classes and a heavier high school schedule.

The district's teachers' federation says the district needs to make a better effort at finding creative solutions to the problem, including using its reserve money.

The district pulled from its reserves to cover part of its fiscal year 2017 reduction and says it would be reckless to cut it any further.

Albuquerque City Councilor Seeks US House Seat As DemocratThe Associated Press

Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis is running as a Democrat for U.S. Congress in New Mexico's central district.

Davis formally announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination on Thursday at a brief news conference. He is a former police officer who directs the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow New Mexico.

Democrats are hoping to maintain control of the Albuquerque-based congressional seat currently held by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Lujan Grisham will not run for re-election to Congress as she seeks the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 elections.

Democrats have represented New Mexico's first congressional district since Heather Wilson left the office in 2009. Wilson has been nominated to serve as Air Force secretary by President Donald Trump.

Man Pleads Not Guilty In Shooting Death Of Navajo OfficerThe Associated Press

The man accused of gunning down a tribal police officer in a remote corner of the nation's largest American Indian reservation has pleaded not guilty to several charges including murder.

Kirby Cleveland entered the pleas during his arraignment Thursday in federal court in Albuquerque. He'll remain in custody pending trial.

The murder and weapons charges against Cleveland stem from the killing of Navajo Nation Officer Houston James Largo, who was shot March 11 on a dark road in western New Mexico.

Cleveland also is accused of escaping from a halfway house in February.

At the time of the shooting, Cleveland was on probation for forcing his way into a home on the Navajo Nation in 2012 armed with a baseball bat and assaulting a woman. He served two years in prison in that case.

Navajo Nation President Calls For Housing Board To ResignThe Associated Press & The Gallup Independent

The Navajo Nation President has called for the resignation of the current Navajo Housing Authority commissioners.

The Gallup Independent reported Wednesday that President Russell Begaye signed a letter addressed to the commissioners complaining about "extravagant uses of discretionary funds."

Begaye says commissioners are using their influence to build houses for their relatives. He says their meeting and trips have become excessive in nature.

The housing authority's public relations coordinator says the commissioners are aware of the letter, but had not yet received a copy of it as of Tuesday.

Roman Catholic Church Backs Soda Tax In New MexicoAssociated Press

The Roman Catholic Church is endorsing a proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in New Mexico's state capital city.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe threw its support Wednesday behind a soda tax of 2 cents per fluid ounce that would go toward expanding prekindergarten programs. Santa Fe voters will decide on the local tax May 2.

In a news release the archdiocese says municipal governments are being left with little choice other than to fund their own early childhood education programs because of a lack of state funding.

Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester previously criticized state lawmakers this year for not approving a proposed constitutional amendment to fund early childhood education with money from a state sovereign wealth fund.

Audit: Federal Grant Funds Tapped For Medical MarijuanaAssociated Press

An audit by independent investigators with the U.S. Justice Department has determined a New Mexico program that helps crime victims allowed federal grant funds to be used to reimburse the purchase of medical marijuana.

The review by the agency's inspector general was released this week. It identified $7,630 in questioned costs.

Officials noted that while medical marijuana is legal in New Mexico, the substance is still banned under federal law and not an expense that can be covered by grant funding.

New Mexico's Crime Victims Reparation Commission has received more than $21 million in grants in recent years to help victims of crime by connecting them with counseling, therapy and other services.

Documents show the commission has changed its policies as a result of auditors' recommendations and if medical marijuana is prescribed, it will be covered with state funding.

Navajo Name Change Fails To Garner Enough SupportAssociated Press

A proposal that called for changing the name of the Navajo Nation to Dine Nation has failed to win enough support from the tribal council.

Legislation proposing the official name change went before the council Tuesday, with only nine delegates voting in favor. The measure was previously tabled in January in an effort to gather more perspective from elders and study the costs of making such a change.

Had it been approved, Council Delegate Jonathan Hale said the change would have only applied to tribal departments, divisions, agencies and other Navajo government enterprises.

Opponents argued that it would create confusion among Navajos and others.

Dine is the Navajo word meaning "the people" and is commonly how tribal members refer to themselves.

New Mexico Earns $4M In Latest Oil And Gas Lease SaleAssociated Press

The latest oil and gas lease sale has netted nearly $4 million for public schools and other beneficiaries.

The State Land Office said this month's sale attracted two dozen bidders from six states. Up for auction were 35 tracts covering nearly 9,000 acres in Eddy, Chaves and Lea counties in southeastern New Mexico.

With two months left in the fiscal year, revenues earned from monthly oil and gas lease sales have surpassed $61 million. Officials say earnings for the 2016 fiscal year totaled only $36 million.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says it's fortunate that interest in drilling in the Permian Basin remains strong. He says more than 90 percent of revenues earned from oil and gas activity go toward teacher salaries, books and education infrastructure.

Santa Fe Requests Local Proposals For Wells Fargo Deposits Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe is looking to spread its city accounts to community banks and credit unions now that its contract with Wells Fargo is set to expire in December.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Tuesday that the city wants to spread about $210 million in various accounts to community banks and credit unions.

The city has put out a request for proposals for banking services. City officials say community reinvestment practices, local employment and financial education will all come into play.

Wells Fargo has been under federal scrutiny for alleged fraudulent account practices.

The city's spokesman says community advocates have been concerned about those claims and Wells Fargo-backed projects threatening the environment.

A bank official, however, says the city's money might remain with Wells Fargo.

Attorneys General From 16 States, DC Fight Travel Ban Appeal Associated Press

The top attorneys from 16 states, including New Mexico, and the District of Columbia say President Donald Trump's revised travel ban would hurt their higher education and medical institutions and have a chilling effect on tourism.

The attorneys general urged the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a brief Wednesday to uphold a ruling that blocked the travel ban targeting six predominantly Muslim countries. The attorneys general say the executive order seeks "to fulfill the president's promise to ban Muslims from entering the country."

The full 4th Circuit will hear arguments in the case May 8.

The attorney generals who signed on to the brief are from Virginia, Maryland, California, Oregon, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, North Carolina, Illinois, Rhode Island, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, Washington, Massachusetts, New Mexico and the District of Columbia.

Governor Wants Plans For Unpaid Employee FurloughsAlbuquerque Journal

Plans to furlough state employees could be in place as early as next week.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Republican Gov. Susana Martinez directed cabinet secretaries to draw up furlough plans as a standoff continues between her administration and state lawmakers.

Leading Democratic lawmakers questioned the need for unpaid furloughs after a solvency package for the rest of this fiscal year was signed in January. 

Martinez showed her displeasure with proposed tax increases in the budget passed by lawmakers by vetoing all funding for higher education and legislative agencies. Lawmakers plan to sue over the vetoes.

The administration indicated if governor and legislators come to an agreement, unpaid furloughs could be avoided. Martinez has vowed to call a special session to resolve the standoff, but has said she wants a budget deal before it starts. The Journal reports there is no indication that is moving forward.

New Mexico Housing Market On Pace For Record YearAssociated Press

Real estate agents say 2017 could be a record-setting year for New Mexico's housing market.

The Realtors Association of New Mexico reports that 1,760 properties were sold in March, representing an increase of more than 6 percent over the same period last year.

The figures also show that 19 counties across the state reported an increase in sales for the first quarter over the first three months of 2016.

Association officials say inventory is still tight in many areas and homes that are priced right are going quickly and sometimes getting multiple offers. Median prices are also on the rise, up 4 percent statewide from last year at this time.

The group says property sales contributed over $1 billion to New Mexico's economy during the first quarter.

Sessions Expands Program To Combat Crime On Tribal Lands - By Bobby Caina Calvan, Associated Press

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced plans to allow more tribal nations to tap into national information systems to fight crime and bolster relationships with Native America.

His announcement on Tuesday is part of a broader program to support anti-crime efforts on reservations from the Puget Sound area of Washington state to the Adirondacks in New York.

Law enforcement officials on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana began training this week on accessing the federal data.

Fort Peck is among 10 tribal regions that will join nine other tribes that can already tap into the databases as part of the program launched by the Obama administration in 2015.

Fort Peck authorities hope the resources will help them deal with a meth problem and other crimes.

Colorado Man Arrested In New Mexico On 11th DWI ChargeAssociated Press

A Colorado man has been arrested for the 11th time on suspicion of driving drunk after authorities received numerous calls about an erratic driver near the northern New Mexico community of Pecos.

State police identified the driver as 56-year-old Terry Huff of Greeley. He was booked into the San Miguel County jail on charges of DWI, child abuse and reckless driving. It wasn't clear if he had an attorney.

Police say Huff's breath alcohol content was three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

When the officer pulled over Huff last Friday, he noticed a child standing on the seat looking out the vehicle's windows. The officer said Huff smelled of alcohol and was mumbling incoherently.

Officers made arrangements for the child to stay with family members.