ABQ Mayor Pushes Police Recruitment, NM Border Wall Work Set For April

Mar 30, 2018

Albuquerque Mayor Pushes Police Officer RecruitmentThe Associated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller wants to hire 100 new police officers in the coming fiscal year as New Mexico's largest city looks to curb crime.

Keller focused on public safety Friday as he unveiled his first budget proposal.

Nearly $13 million would be used over multiple years for the officer recruiting effort. The goal is to grow the force to 1,200 officers in four years.

The mayor contends new officers would address shortfalls across the city and would increase police presence on the streets as Albuquerque tries to stem vehicle thefts and other property crimes.

Another $2.3 million would go toward mandated police reforms.

To balance the budget, a new tax increase will start to be collected July 1 and the city is planning for an increase in gross receipts tax revenues.

Officials Set April Date For New Mexico Border Wall WorkThe Associated Press

Officials are hoping to break ground on a project replacing 20 miles of border wall in Santa Teresa, New Mexico in early April.

That's according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald D. Vitiello.

Vitiello briefed reporters Friday on how the administration plans to spend the $1.6 billion Congress authorized for border wall construction this year.

It's much less than the $25 billion President Trump wanted. But officials are eager to show they're nonetheless making progress.

Vitiello says the money will provide for about 100 miles of new and replacement wall, including replacing 14 miles of steel landing mat in densely populated San Diego with a bollard-style wall.

Barriers currently blanket 654 miles of the 1,954-mile southern Mexico border.

Researchers Test Transportation Safety Of Radioactive FuelThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Sandia National Laboratories officials say the preliminary data from the test shipment of mock spent nuclear fuel from Spain to Colorado shows promising signs.

The Albuquerque Journal reports researchers from the Albuquerque lab tested the safety of transporting highly radioactive fuel last year by sending a mock shipment by truck, barge, ship and train nearly 15,000 miles.

Three mock fuel assemblies, which would typically contain uranium pellets, were placed in a special cask outfitted with gauges to measure its movement. The cask was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Pueblo, Colorado, to simulate the movement to reach a storage facility.

Sandia transportation projects manager Sylvia Saltzstein says nothing was broken or damaged in the shipment. She says it will take several more months to fully analyze the data.

Some New Mexico Candidates Certified For Public FinancingThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Secretary of State's Office has certified some candidates to receive public financing during this election season.

The decision announced Friday by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver involved candidates for two seats on the Public Regulation Commission and four statewide judicial seats.

Under state law, candidates for the regulatory panel or any statewide judicial seat can apply for public financing.

Interested candidates must first file a declaration of intent and then collect $5 qualifying contributions from a number of voters equal to at least one-tenth of one percent of voters from their party in the state or district.

The period to collect qualifying contributions for this year's election cycle began in October 2 and ended March 20.

State Fires Head Of Indian Education DivisionAlbuquerque Journal, New Mexico In Depth

The Public Education Department has replaced the assistant secretary of the Indian Education Division.

New Mexico In Depth first reported that Latifah Phillips sent a letter to tribal elders this week saying she was asked to resign but was not given an explanation. Phillips chose to be fired in what she called a “small act of protest.”

PED declined to answer questions from the Albuquerque Journal about the termination. The department said DeAlva Calabaza from Santo Domingo Pueblo will serve as acting assistant secretary.

New Mexico In Depth reports the firing comes at a time when relations have been strained between PED and Native Americans. A lawsuit contends the department is failing to provide sufficient education for all children and it argues this is impacting outcomes for Native American children and English-language learners.

In December, Public Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski said during a speech that Manifest Destiny is a fundamental principle of this country. That angered Native American leaders and Phillips cited the comments in her letter.

New Mexico Governor Spends Social Fund Mainly On Food, DrinkBy Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez spent $58,268 last year from an unaudited fund for social obligations, mostly on food and drinks.

In response to a public records request, the state Department of Finance and Administration on Thursday provided a summary of spending for 2017 from the so-called contingency fund.

Martinez this month signed legislation to provide greater scrutiny of expenditures from the governor's fund — after she leaves office at the end of the year. The second-term Republican cannot run for another consecutive term.

Food and drinks accounted for $33,381 in spending, while miscellaneous spending on dignitary visits and gestures of gratitude or condolences accounted for $14,527.

Martinez has defended her handling of the fund, noting that her office publishes quarterly account summaries and spent less than Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson.

New Mexico Forest Manager Planning Prescribed Fire In AprilAssociated Press

Forest officials in northern New Mexico are planning a prescribed burn in April that will cover nearly 3,000 acres.

Fire managers on the El Rito Ranger District of the Carson National Forest say they are looking to take advantage of favorable conditions so the burn can be done over the next few weeks.

The areas to be treated are north of El Rito and east of the village of Vallecitos.

Officials say the goal is to improve wildlife habitat, reduce hazardous fuels, improve range conditions and protect the adjacent community of Vallecitos and nearby private ranches.

A community meeting about the burn is planned for April 6 in Vallecitos.

Drought Expands Across Southwestern US - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Drought is tightening its grip across a wide swath of the American Southwest as farmers, ranchers and water managers throughout the region brace for what's expected to be more warm and dry weather through the spring.

The federal drought map released Thursday shows dry conditions intensifying across northern New Mexico and into southwestern Arizona.

On the southern high plains, Oklahoma is ground zero right now for the worst drought conditions in the United States.

Federal agriculture officials say crop conditions in some areas are declining. In New Mexico, about three-quarters of the winter wheat crop is in poor to very poor condition as meaningful moisture has been scarce.

Along the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico, the irrigation allotment will be less than half of what farmers received last year.

Throngs Trek To Adobe Church In New Mexico On Good FridayAssociated Press

An annual pilgrimage is underway that attracts thousands of Catholics to an adobe church in the hills of northern New Mexico.

Throngs of participants set out Friday for El Santuario de Chimayo in an annual act of prayer, reflection and sacrifice.

The Easter-week tradition dates back more than two centuries. Many participants walk more than 30 miles (48 kilometers) along highways from Santa Fe or as far as Albuquerque.

At the shrine, the faithful file through an adjacent room that holds a small pit of dirt that some say has curative powers. Visitors often arrive with small container to take away pinches of dirt, and have left behind crutches as testimony that they've been helped.

The small, Spanish colonial-style church at Chimayo is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Consultant For New Mexico Politician Fired Amid Police ProbeAssociated Press

A campaign consultant for a GOP congressional candidate in a closely watched New Mexico race has been fired by his Nevada firm amid a domestic violence investigation.

Benjamin Sparks was fired Thursday following a police report about a domestic dispute.

Las Vegas-based RedRock Strategies president Ryan Erwin confirmed the dismissal. Sparks had been helping with the campaign of Yvette Herrell.

Las Vegas Police Officer Larry Hadfield said authorities arrived at the home of Sparks and his girlfriend early Thursday in response to a domestic violence call. Hadfield says no arrests were made but the case remains under investigation.

Sparks' voicemail was full and he didn't immediately respond to text messages.

Herrell didn't immediately return a phone message. The state representative faces three other GOP opponents in the open race for southern New Mexico's congressional seat.

Tribe Sues Over Death Of Navajo Woman Shot By Police OfficerAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation has sued the federal government and Winslow over the death of a scissors-wielding tribal member shot by a police officer for the northern Arizona city.

The tribe filed its lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court on behalf of Loreal Tsingine's daughter.

Authorities say the 27-year-old Tsingine had posed a threat to a now-former Winslow officer when she was shot five times on a sidewalk two years ago.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office cleared the officer in the shooting. The U.S. Department of Justice reviewed the case but said it couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt the officer willfully used excessive force.

The lawsuit alleges violations of civil and constitutional rights, and seeks unspecified damages.

The Justice Department and the city declined comment Wednesday.

Tribes Get Funding Boost For Crime VictimsAssociated Press

Roughly $133 million is expected to be made available to tribes to help Native American and Alaska Native crime victims who advocates say had been largely left out of a federal funding program for decades.

The appropriation for tribes is tucked into the $1.3 trillion federal spending measure that Congress passed last week. The omnibus bill overall has brought increases in funding for federal Native American programs and services this year, including many that not long ago faced the prospect of drastic funding cutbacks.

Juana Majel Dixon is the co-chair of a National Congress of American Indians taskforce on addressing violence against women. She says that for nearly two decades she and others have sought to have Congress set aside money for victim services in Indian Country under the Victims of Crime Act fund.

Ozzy Osbourne Joins New Mexico City's Chamber Of CommerceAssociated Press

The Prince of Darkness is joining the Chamber of Commerce of a southern New Mexico city.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports heavy metal rock icon Ozzy Osbourne recently signed up for the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce while visiting the White Sands National Monument.

Osbourne and his children, Jack and Kelly, made a stop in Alamogordo to film an episode of their A&E television show "Ozzy and Jack's World Detour." The show is in its third season.

The Osbournes also visited a ranch out in Laborcita Canyon in La Luz owned by Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce Executive Director G.B. Oliver.

After filming at the ranch, Oliver says Osbourne signed up to join the chamber.

A picture of Osbourne signing up was posted on the chamber's Facebook page.