Congressional Delegation Wants Probe On Food Aid, NM Fire Nearly Contained

Jun 24, 2016

New Mexico's Handling Of Food Aid Spurs Calls For Probe – Associated Press

The U.S. congressional delegation for New Mexico is recommending a federal investigation into the handling of emergency food assistance benefits by a state agency.

The five-member delegation on Thursday said it wrote to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to recommend it investigate allegations that the New Mexico Human Services Department falsified asset information on emergency food assistance claims.

Human Services administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and its federally funded benefits.

A U.S. district court already is weighing whether to appoint an outside authority to oversee the agency's income assistance division. Several state employees who processed emergency food benefit applications have testified that managers changed or pressured them into changing application information to make it look as if federal deadlines were being met.

NM Fire Nearly ContainedThe Associated Press

A wildfire that has burned 28 square miles in central New Mexico is nearly contained.

The blaze in the Manzano Mountains south of Albuquerque has destroyed two dozen homes. It was more than 80 percent contained as of Friday morning.

Fire officials say crews benefited from nearly 3 inches of rain falling on areas of the fire Thursday. They say the chance of hot spots igniting has decreased drastically.

Meanwhile, firefighters further north are battling a wildfire within the municipal watershed for Santa Fe. The blaze, which started Thursday afternoon, has grown to 15 acres and isn't at all contained.

State Police ID Man Shot, Killed At Grant County HomeThe Associated Press 

Authorities say a man shot by a state police officer in a small New Mexico town has died.

New Mexico State Police said early Friday that 29-year-old Josh Herrera was killed in the shooting Thursday afternoon in Hanover, a town east of Silver City in Grant County.

Herrera was from nearby Vanadium.

Authorities say no officers were injured in the confrontation with Herrera.

Authorities say Grant County Sheriff's deputies were called to a home in response to reports of a gunman, with state police officers assisting deputies with the call.

Herrera died at the scene.

Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo says the New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau is investigating the officer-involved shooting.

New Mexico AG Reviewing Fetal Tissue Transfers To UNM The Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is reviewing whether a clinic's transfer of aborted fetuses to the University of New Mexico violated state law.

The request for the investigation comes from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the U.S. House Select Panel on Infant Lives. She sent a letter to Attorney General Hector Balderas on Thursday.

Southwestern Women's Options, which is a provider of early and late-term abortions, has been providing fetal tissue to UNM for medical research.

Blackburn says UNM Health Sciences Center and Southwestern Women's Options appear to have violated the Spradling Act.

Attorneys working for the panel say the 2007 law only allows for the donation or transfer of stillbirth fetuses or fetuses resulting from miscarriages.

The Health Sciences Center is disputing Blackburn's claims.

Solar Panel Again Stolen From New Mexico Boy's Grave SiteThe Associated Press & KRQE

A solar panel placed at a grave site of a 5-year-old boy who was scared of the dark has been stolen for a second time.

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque reports that thieves recently took the solar panel from the resting place of Nico Chavez at the San Acacia Cemetery near Socorro. The solar panel powered lights around the grave.

Chavez died in 2008 after collapsing at the doctor's office. He had been fighting the flu and strep throat.

The family installed it because Nico was afraid of the dark.

The family said this isn't the first time something has been stolen from Nico's grave. A few years ago, someone stole his piggy bank.

Man Gets 20 Years In Aztec For Deadly 2012 ShootingThe Associated Press & The Farmington Daily Times

A suspect in a deadly 2012 shooting at a St. Patrick's Day party in San Juan County has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that 30-year-old Raul Avalos received the sentence in exchange for pleading no contest to second-degree murder and other charges. But he will get credit for four years spent in jail awaiting trial.

According to court records, Avalos is accused of shooting 20-year-old Demetrius Garrett twice in the chest at a part.

The victim's sister was also wounded, suffering a gunshot wound in her knee.

Garrett was hospitalized but died nine months later while waiting for a heart transplant.

Avalos expressed condolences to the victim's family but also said he acted in self-defense and never pointed a gun at Garrett.

Regulators To Take More Testimony On PNM Rate Case By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico regulators are preparing to take more testimony on a request by the state's largest electric provider to raise customer rates.

The Public Regulation Commission called for another hearing after questions were raised about costs incurred by Public Service Co. of New Mexico when the utility purchased rights to more electricity produced by a nuclear power plant in Arizona.

The power from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is intended to help fill the void in 2017 when PNM closes part of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico under an agreement with state and federal officials.

Some environmentalists have protested the additional nuclear power.

PNM first filed its rate request in December 2014. If approved, customers would see an average increase of more than 14 percent.

Las Cruces Public Schools Appoints Interim Superintendent Associated Press

Las Cruces Public Schools has appointed a retired district administrator as interim superintendent.

The district's school board voted this week to name Los Lunas teacher Steven Sanchez as a temporary superintendent while board members look for a permanent school chief.

Las Cruces Public School spokeswoman Jo Galvan says Sanchez will make a $145,000 a year, but could be paid only half of that depending on how many months he serves.

Sanchez served as deputy superintendent for learning, teaching and research at the district for eight years and retired from the district in 2015.

The district is still waiting for the New Mexico Public Education Department to approve former Superintendent Stan Rounds' resignation and $140,000 severance package.

Gov. Martinez Calls Obama Immigration Move 'Reckless'Associated Press

The nation's only Latina governor says President Barack Obama never had the authority to issue an executive order to protect immigrants living in the country illegally.

The office for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said the executive order, which the Supreme Court blocked on Thursday, was a reckless decision and underscored the lack of leadership in Washington.

Martinez spokesman Mike Lonergan says the president did nothing for years and then tried waving around a magic pen to give de facto citizenship to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

Martinez did not directly mention the Supreme Court ruling blocking Obama's immigration plan that sought to shield millions living in the U.S. illegally from deportation.

She has urged Congress to pass immigration reform.

New Mexico To Receive More Than $37.7M Through PILT ProgramAssociated Press

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich say counties across New Mexico will receive more than $37.7 million through the 2016 Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.

The total is a $3.2 million increase from the total payments the state received last year.

PILT provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes because of nontaxable federal land within their jurisdictions including national parks and forests, wildlife refuges, Bureau of Land Management land and military bases.

Local governments use PILT funding to provide police, fire protection, emergency response, road maintenance and other crucial services to residents.

The PILT program is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Colorado Disappointed With New Mexico LawsuitAssociated Press

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's office says it is disappointed New Mexico has chosen "costly and time-consuming litigation" in response to the Gold King Mine spill.

New Mexico has filed a complaint against Colorado with the U.S. Supreme Court, saying Colorado should be held responsible for decisions that led up the August 2015 spill.

The governor's office says the litigation doesn't affect Colorado's commitment to addressing challenges posed by historic drainage from mines into the Animas River and other watersheds in the state.

Colorado officials vow to continue work to protect natural resources and public health.

The spill sent millions of gallons of mine wastewater containing arsenic, lead and other heavy metals into the Animas River. The plume coursed downstream into the San Juan River and eventually Lake Powell.

GOP Nominee For Bernalillo County DA Says He's Dropping OutAssociated Press

The Republican nominee for district attorney in New Mexico's largest county says he is dropping out of the race, just two weeks after the state's primary election.

Albuquerque attorney Simon Kubiak released a brief statement Thursday saying he was withdrawing from the Bernalillo County district attorney's race because he lacks the funding to face-off against Democrat Raul Torrez, a former federal prosecutor.

Kubiak ran unopposed in the GOP primary for DA, while Torrez bested fellow Democrat and police officer Ed Perea for his party's nomination.

Kubiak announced his bid for DA in January. His platform included a push for dropping prosecutions of "victimless crimes," including some recreational marijuana violations, and ramping up prosecutions against repeat offenders.

The Republican Party of Bernalillo County has not yet decided whether to field a replacement candidate for Kubiak.

WNMU To Continue Recruiting DACA Students Despite RulingAssociated Press

A college in western New Mexico says it will continue to recruit immigrant students living in the country illegally despite Thursday's Supreme Court ruling.

Western New Mexico University spokesman Abe Villarreal says the school will remain "an open, accepting university" to all students who want to attend the college.

The school in Silver City has drawn national attention for openly recruiting immigrant students living in the country illegally known as DREAMers. The university touts on its website that such students are welcome to attend and has targeted students living in Arizona and Texas.

Villarreal says the ruling doesn't affect the school's efforts.

A tie vote by the Supreme Court is blocking President Barack Obama's immigration plan that sought to shield millions living in the U.S. illegally from deportation.

Park Service Project Shares Stories Of Women Along Route 66Associated Press

It was a man's world nearly a century ago when one of America's most famous highways got its start, opening up vast expanses of the West as it created an automobile artery that stretched roughly 2,400 miles from Chicago to the West Coast.

But it wasn't only men behind the wheel or working in the service stations and cafes along historic Route 66.

The National Park Service and the nonprofit Cinefemme have partnered to create an online historical record of the experiences of women and girls along the Mother Road.

Writer and project director Katrina Parks says she was surprised by the diverse ways in which women's lives intersected with the road, from the pioneering female architects who designed buildings along Route 66 to the waitresses, shop keepers, postmasters and others who kept daily life humming.