Dog Head Fire 61 Percent Contained, Medical Cannabis Backlog Worsens

Jun 22, 2016

Evacuees From Dog Head Fire Start Returning Home – KOB-TV

Authorities began allowing some people who fled a fire in the Manzano Mountains near Albuquerque to return home on Tuesday.

KOB-TV reports people living south of La Para in Torrance County and some Bernalillo County residents were allowed to go home. Others living near Chilili, however, have not been permitted to return.

PNM also began reconnecting power to more than 300 customers after it was cut to avoid sparks during the fire. Gov. Susana Martinez toured several burned properties Tuesday and directed officials to begin a recovery plan.

The fire was 61 percent contained as of Tuesday night and officials estimated it has reached about 18,000 acres in size. It burned 24 homes and 21 other structures.

More residents are set to return today. The Department of Health issued guidelines for people returning to their homes.

Backlog For New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program Worsens – Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Medical marijuana patients and advocates say extended delays for renewing program cards have forced some seriously ill New Mexicans to purchase cannabis on the black market.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the state Department of Health says the backlog was caused by a surge in demand from new applicants.

State law gives the department 30 days to approve or deny an application, but spokesman Kenny Vigil says that the current wait is about 40 to 50 days.

Vigil didn't respond to an interview request but said in a written statement that the department is working hard to get caught up.

Nicole Morales, CEO of patient advocacy group Empowering Medical Patients and Compassionate Treatment, says patients would prefer not to purchase marijuana from the black market.

Southwest Boosts Efforts To Keep Visitors Safe Amid Heatwave The Associated Press

Last year, a French couple died while trying to make sure their 9-year-old son had enough water on a broiling summertime outing at a New Mexico national park.

This past weekend, two Germans visiting Arizona for a conference died after taking a hike in perilous, record-breaking heat.

The U.S. Southwest has seen its share of heat-related visitor deaths.

Amid another staggering heatwave, local governments and businesses in the region are increasing their efforts to alert tourists when summer rolls in and safe outdoor conditions roll out.

They're improving brochures and signs by providing information in different languages. And they're educating hotel employees on what to tell tourists with outdoor travel plans.

But it's not just those from out of town at risk. Law enforcement officials say most people who end up in trouble when the temperature soars are locals who ignore warnings.

Tribes Hail Shield's Halted Sale; Collectors Ask What's Next By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

A decision to pull a tribal ceremonial shield off the auction block in Paris amid protests from the U.S. has been hailed by tribes and their advocates as they await final word on whether the item will be returned to the Pueblo of Acoma.

The shield was one of dozens of contested tribal items set for sale at the EVE auction house in Paris, but it was the only item pulled after Acoma Pueblo attorneys produced paperwork alleging the shield had been stolen in a break-in.

Now, as an investigation continues, collectors fear the ordeal will send a chill through the tribal artifacts market.

A former president of the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association says not knowing when or how the shield was acquired by a private collector before he sent it overseas is likely to cause trepidation in the market.

State Auditor Warns Health Department To Speed Up Cannabis ProcessSanta Fe New Mexican

Reports of delays in the state’s medical cannabis program prompted the State Auditor’s office to warn Department of Health Officials to speed up the process to comply with state law.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports State Auditor Tim Keller has notified DOH Secretary-designate Lynn Gallagher that he may refer the issue to law enforcement officials if the agency doesn’t process applications within 30 days.

State law gives the department 30 days to approve or deny an application, but DOH spokesman Kenny Vigil says that the current wait is about 40 to 50 days.

Enrollment in the program has spiked to 25,000, up from 14,000 last year. In his letter to DOH, Keller questioned why the department sent $126,249 back to the general fund in 2015 if there was a backlog.

A spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas said the office is also looking into the issue. Vigil said DOH has hired extra staff to deal with the backlog.

Abuse Survivors Approve Gallup Diocese SettlementAssociated Press

Victims of clergy sex abuse have approved of a plan for the Gallup Diocese to pay millions of dollars in compensation.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that an attorney for 57 abuse survivors told a federal judge Tuesday that they all had signed off on the plan. Under the agreement, each claimant will receive roughly $350,000.

The Gallup Diocese is establishing a fund of between $21 million and $25 million for professional fees and settlements.

The Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America, which insured the diocese during the years much of the abuse occurred, will contribute the largest share with $11.6 million. The diocese is expected to provide $3 million.

It may have to sell its chancery offices in Gallup, New Mexico, subject to the terms of a bank loan agreement.

Albuquerque’s Costs For DOJ Negotiations Inches Toward $1 MillionAlbuquerque Journal

The city of Albuquerque is nearing the $1 million mark for an attorney it hired to negotiate a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice after DOJ found a pattern in the police department of civil rights violations through use of force.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Mayor Richard Berry asked for another $250,000 from the City Council for Ohio-based attorney Scott Greenwood. That would bring the total value of his contract to $1 million.

City Attorney Jessica Hernandez defended the move based on Greenwood’s expertise. But the Journal reports Greenwood has not submitted invoices for about a year, according to the city auditor.

Hernandez says Greenwood plans to submit remaining invoices, which will total about $750,000.

Museums Ditch Most Free Sundays For New Mexico ResidentsSanta Fe New Mexican

In the face of budget cuts, museums operated by the Department of Cultural Affairs is cutting back a program of free admission for state residents on Sundays to just the first Sunday of each month.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the policy starts July 1 and is designed to deal with a $2 million deficit. It impacts museums in Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, although the New Mexico History Museum is still free daily for children younger than 17.

Cultural Affairs will also implement staff cuts, job freezes and some adjustments to hours of operations, which are not yet clear. Also unclear is how many people generally visit on free Sundays and how much money the department will save.

Spokeswoman Loie Fecteau referred questions to Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales, who was unavailable for comment.