ABQ Mayor: ART Is A Lemon, State Lawmakers Propose Criminal Reforms

Jan 9, 2018

Albuquerque Mayor Says There Are Many Problems With ARTThe Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and his leadership won’t make a guess when the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will be operational.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Keller said Tuesday at a news conference that the problems with ART are much worse than he imagined.  He called the project a “lemon.”

They city was to receive 20 electric buses but only nine have arrived; plus they found issues with every single vehicle, from mechanical problems and difficulties charging them.

There are also construction flaws along the ART route, one at Washington and Central that would force a bus to take up all lanes of traffic to make a turn – a problem so serious that city officials are exploring the possibility of reconfiguring the intersection. 

Other problems include the 200 miles buses can travel on a single charge even though they were promised to go 250.  Axles on some the buses are leaking oil and they have not gone through a certification process for reimbursement by the federal government.  One bus was tested but failed. 

The project has a $135 million price tag and the city has been hoping for $75 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program but that funding agreement has not yet been signed.

2 State Lawmakers Propose Criminal Justice ReformsThe Associated Press

Two state lawmakers are putting forward a series of anti-crime proposals, including one they say would boost police retention by allowing for $15,000 bonuses for veteran officers.

Republican Rep. Nate Gentry and Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto said Tuesday that their proposals represent a sweeping, bi-partisan approach to addressing crime — from tackling policing and court rules to trying to ensure behavioral health treatment for inmates leaving prisons or jails.

Their proposal focused on inmate care would require jails and prisons to screen inmates held for at least 100 days for mental illness and addiction. The facilities also would have to enroll inmates identified as suffering from mental illness or substance abuse in Medicaid before their release.

They expect the measures will be debated during the 30-day legislative session that begins next week in Santa Fe.

New Mexico Supreme Court Overturns Domestic Violence RulingThe Associated Press

In the case of a man arrested numerous times on domestic violence charges, the New Mexico Supreme Court says a person's right to confront an accuser can be forfeited if that defendant is accused of wrongdoing through coercion or intimidation.

The court in an opinion issued Monday said such behavior can have the same result as making an overt threat to ensure a victim's silence.

The justices found that the district court should have allowed prosecutors to use some of the victim's statements in the case of Joshua Maestas.

Despite talking with police and testifying before a grand jury, the woman later decided not to cooperate with prosecutors, resulting in the case being dropped.

The state attorney general's office and victim advocates consider the court's opinion a positive step in the fight against domestic violence.

El Paso Developer Buys Land In New Mexico Border TownThe Associated Press

An El Paso businessman and developer is investing in a booming New Mexico industrial area along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The El Paso Times reports that Lane Gaddy has purchased 3.4 square miles (8.8 square kilometers) of vacant land in Santa Teresa's growing industrial area.

Gaddy says he believes momentum is in Southern New Mexico's favor no matter what happens with the NAFTA talks.

Gaddy says he plans to sell pieces of his Santa Teresa land portfolio, which does not include any existing buildings, and develop some of it for industrial uses.

He declined to reveal details of the upcoming industrial deals.

The industrial Santa Teresa has brought in millions of dollar in revenue for the state but doesn't have any residents.

City Officials Consider Plan For Public Toilet In Santa FeThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

City officials are considering installing a public toilet in downtown Santa Fe — an area that officials say lacks public restrooms, leaving local businesses to cater to tourists' going needs.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the city's Public Works Department formulated a preliminary plan that calls for a single toilet to be placed in what is now a curbside parking spot near Santa Fe Plaza.

Officials say the toilet would be inside a sort of kiosk and would come from a manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. A hand-washing station would be mounted on the outside.

Officials estimate the project would cost $130,000, and a funding source has not yet been determined.

Trump Appointee Who Quit After Probe Is Running For Congress Associated Press, Washington Post

A former Trump administration appointee who resigned after a harsh report into a tribal loan program he oversaw is running for Congress in New Mexico.

Gavin Clarkson filed documents with the Federal Election Commission to seek the Republican nomination for a seat that represents a district along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Clarkson said in a campaign statement that he believes running is the "best way to help President Trump stop the swamp" and protect New Mexico.

The Washington Post reported that Clarkson resigned from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in November following an inspector general report into the loan program he directed. That report alleged the bureau's division of capital investment didn't have adequate controls and managed the loan program with limited oversight.

Clarkson is a New Mexico State University business professor and an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Congressional Race In New Mexico Gets Libertarian CandidateAssociated Press

A Libertarian Party candidate is running for Congress in New Mexico's Albuquerque-based district.

Business consultant Lloyd Princeton announced Monday that he is seeking the Libertarian nomination for the 1st congressional district that is currently held by Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Lujan Grisham won't run for re-election to Congress as she seeks the nomination for governor against several Democratic rivals.

Princeton is touting his professional experience in devising growth strategies for small businesses. He wants to foster a state economy with less reliance on the federal government and to improve education and health care.

Libertarian candidates are expected to have ready access to the general election ballot in New Mexico in November because of a strong local showing in 2016 by presidential candidate Gary Johnson.

New Mexico AG Seeks More Info For Solar Panel CustomersAssociated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is hoping a new disclosure form will provide more information for customers considering rooftop solar.

Attorney General Hector Balderas released the new form last week, saying it was created in collaboration with the solar industry, consumer groups and regulators.

He said it's aimed at making more understandable the complex terms that are often associated with distributed electricity generation, which includes rooftop solar systems, and power purchase agreements or leases.

The attorney general's office said it is also interested in hearing from non-English-speaking consumers regarding their experience in buying or leasing solar power systems or entering into purchase power agreements.

Gov. Martinez Unveils Tough-On-Crime Proposals - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez is making a final push for lawmakers to pass a series of tough-on-crime bills in her last year in office, including measures to expand the state's three-strikes law for violent felons and restore the death penalty.

The governor unveiled the legislation Monday ahead of the 30-day session that begins next week in Santa Fe.

Her proposals include a bill to toughen penalties for people who commit crimes while on probation or parole, as well as the capital punishment and three-strikes measures — which have both been rejected by lawmakers in recent years.

The capital punishment legislation would restore the death penalty for people convicted of murdering children and law enforcement. The three-strikes proposal would require life sentences for repeat offenders convicted of a third violent felony.

US Hits Record For Costly Weather Disasters Of $306 BillionBy Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer

With hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, tornadoes and drought, America hit a record high bill last year for weather disasters: $306 billion.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday that the U.S. had 16 billion-dollar disasters last year. That ties 2011 for the number of billion-dollar disasters, but the total cost of damages blew past the previous record of $215 billion in 2005.

NOAA says Hurricane Harvey cost $125 billion, second only to 2005's Katrina, while Maria cost $90 billion, ranking third. Irma was $50 billion.

The weather agency also says that 2017 was the third hottest year in U.S. records with an annual temperature of 54.6 degrees. Only 2012 and 2016 were warmer. Records go back to 1895.

Five states — Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and New Mexico — had their warmest year ever.

West Ski Resorts Struggling With Snowless WinterSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A snowless winter has pushed much of New Mexico into drought conditions and has left many ski resort workers unemployed or underworked.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the lack of snow has raised concerns about the volume of water it will take to keep slopes covered throughout the season if storm systems don't arrive.

Outside of the man-made snow officials have been dumping on ski areas since November, most slopes in the West remain dry.

A manager at the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in Los Alamos says the workforce has been cut in half, with just two of six lifts running.

Snow conditions have been so bad in parts of Colorado, the Aspen Skiing Co. set up a soup kitchen last month to provide free meals to underworked employees.

Arizona County Eyes Using Ex-Inmates Amid Labor ShortageArizona Republic, Associated Press

An Arizona county on the U.S.-Mexico border is hoping former inmates can help with a labor shortage amid a federal immigration crackdown.

The Arizona Republic reports Cochise County developer Rick Coffman says developers have complained that the labor shortage is slowing down production and hurting home sales.

Under the program "Framing our Future," the Cochise County Sheriff's Office will make initial contact with potential workers and refer any interested individuals to the Southeastern Arizona Contractors Association.

The program in southeastern Arizona is not targeted toward current inmates, but rather those who have completed their sentences.

California and New Mexico farms also are facing a labor shortage thanks to stepped-up immigration enforcement and U.S. born workers not making up the difference.

New Mexico Man Who Freed Fox May Face ChargesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico man who freed a fox from a foot-hold trap near Placitas may face charges.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Placitas Animal Rescue owner Gary Miles was told recently the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish may arrest him for possession of the fox.

Miles says he refused to hand over the fox because the Game and Fish officer refused to tell him what the agency would do with the animal.

The Game and Fish Department says Miles violated state law when he refused to hand over the fox.

Miles says he found the fox in a tramp on Dec. 30 but it "officially" escaped his care last week.

It is illegal to possess live furbearers, such as foxes, in New Mexico.