Feds Charge Man In Old Navy ABQ Fire, ABQ Mayor Gives State Of The City Address

Nov 29, 2016

Federal Authorities Charge Man In Old Navy FireAssociated Press

Federal authorities have charged a man with using an explosive device to damage an Old Navy store in Albuquerque, where a string of fires and vandalism over the holiday weekend damaged three Starbucks shops, a Barnes & Noble, and other establishments.

A federal complaint states that police arrested David Hickman early Saturday morning after he pulled away from the shopping center where an Albuquerque police officer who was on patrol said he had heard "small explosions."

Authorities did not link Hickman in court documents to other local fires under investigation.

Federal agents say they discovered an assault rifle, ammunition, and a box labeled "Tannerite" in his vehicle with jars containing a white substance. The complaint also says Hickman had a loaded handgun in a holster attached to his belt and emergency flare tucked into his waistband.

ABQ Mayor Talks Downtown Development, Crime – Albuquerque Journal

Economic development and crime were the main themes of a state of the city address by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry on Monday.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Berry said a $40 million project at First and Central is once more on track but offered few details. A decision by Bernalillo County Commissioners to shorten a tax break prompted the delay on the project, which is slated to have apartments, a brewery, bowling alley and concert space.

Berry said there is a total of $150 million in projects underway, planned or completed in downtown.

On crime issues, Berry said there will be a focus on repeat offenders. He introduced a program where citizen advocates will track these offenders’ arrests and speak out for tougher sentencing and higher bail levels.

He will also push state lawmakers for a change in pension rules to lure retired officers back to the force.

Government Revenues Falter In New MexicoThe Associated Press

New Mexico budget officials say state government finances continue to deteriorate as tax collections and other revenues declined sharply during a recent three-month period.

The state Legislative Finance Committee released figures Tuesday that show state general fund revenues fell by 9.4 percent to $1.3 billion for the three month period ending in September versus the previous year. Revenues for the month of September were down nearly 12 percent from a year ago.

New Mexico state lawmakers and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez are wrestling with how to close a stubborn budget deficit linked to a sustained downturn in the oil and natural gas sectors.

The state has slashed spending at most agencies about 8 percent this year to offset plunging revenues. New Mexico's credit rating has been downgraded slightly this year.

New Mexico Will Certify Election Results, Recount 3 Races – Associated Press

The New Mexico State Canvassing Board is certifying election results that return control of the state Legislature to Democrats, award electoral college votes to Hillary Clinton and provide Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson with his strongest showing in any state.

Board members including Republican Gov. Susana Martinez will meet Tuesday to confirm election results and initiate mandatory recounts in three state legislative races where the margin of victory was less than 1 percent.

If results remain unchanged, Democrats would outnumber Republicans 26-16 in the Senate and 38-32 in the House.

In one tight race, GOP Rep. David Adkins leads by a 10-vote margin in a west-Albuquerque House district.

Clinton soundly won New Mexico, while Johnson earned over 9 percent of the vote.

State Auditor Calls For Second Audit Of Insurance Taxes – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's state auditor is calling for a new audit into whether health-insurance companies have been underpaying the premium taxes they owe.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that State Auditor Tim Keller on Monday that a new independent accounting firm should be hired under the supervision of his office and that the superintendent of insurance should be removed from any potential settlement negotiations with the companies.

The call for a new audit comes after an initial special audit released in September found that New Mexico had failed to collect at least $193 million in premium taxes from health-insurance providers over the past five years.

Insurance Superintendent John Franchini disagreed with those audit findings and has called for the repayment of a much lower amount.

Franchini on Monday said he supports the idea of a new audit.

Most New Mexico School Districts' Grades Remain The Same – The Associated Press

New results show most grades for New Mexico school districts remained the same last year despite common core tests and a revamp teacher evaluation system.

The report released Tuesday also said more school districts saw improving grades than declining ones. But only six out of 89 school districts earned an "A'' grade.

District report cards largely are based on an average of a district's individual school grades. However, they are also other measurements like graduation rates, student achievement, school board member training, and parent surveys.

State results released in August showed that more New Mexico public schools earned "A'' or "B'' grades last school year, but over a third still received "D'' or "F'' grades.

Carjacking Suspect Is Shot And WoundedThe Associated Press

Authorities say a carjacking suspect in Albuquerque is hospitalized in critical condition after being shot by the driver of the targeted vehicle.

Albuquerque police say the driver acted in self-defense and isn't facing charges in Monday night's shooting.

Police say officers were called to the scene of the shooting outside an apartment complex around 6:30 p.m.

Three men reportedly tried to carjack a couple in a parking lot.

Police say the driver shot one of the carjackers, who was taken to a hospital for treatment. His name hasn't been released yet.

They say the other two unidentified suspects fled and remained at large Tuesday as authorities continue to search for them.

New Mexico DOT Plans Steps To Reduce Blowing Dust On US 180The Associated Pres

State transportation officials plan to take steps to reduce hazardous driving conditions created by blowing dust along a highway in southwestern New Mexico.

The Department of Transportation plans to use netting and reseeding to promote vegetation growth on a mile-long stretch of U.S. 180 about 15 miles northwest of Deming.

The area consists of a denuded pasture located on private and State Land Office property, and the department says blowing dust has caused road closures and accidents.

The department has scheduled a public involvement meeting at 6 p.m. Dec. 6 at the department's office in Deming.

WWII Vet To Receive Honorary Degree From New Mexico CollegeThe Associated Press 

A 96-year-old World War II veteran will be receiving an honorary degree from Western New Mexico University during this semester's commencement ceremony.

The university says Leonard Pritikin is a fixture at every Mustang home basketball and volleyball game. He's always in the front row, wearing a bright yellow jacket and a veteran's cap.

He'll be introduced to the entire graduating class when he receives the honorary degree Dec. 9.

Pritikin enlisted in the Marines when he was 19 and served from 1940 to 1945. His military career was cut short due to injuries, but not before traveling through the Pacific as a section leader of heavy machine guns.

After a successful career as a photo engraver and 62 years of marriage, he says his one regret was not getting a degree.

Albuquerque Barnes & Noble To Keep Employees After FireAssociated Press

An Albuquerque Barnes & Noble damaged by a suspicious fire over the weekend won't lay off employees while it cleans during the holiday season.

Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating told The Associated Press on Monday some booksellers are in the store helping with clean up while others are working shifts at another store in Albuquerque.

She said no one is losing pay.

Authorities say two suspicious fires damaged the Albuquerque Barnes & Noble and an Old Navy early Saturday morning. Officials say buildings suffered smoke and water damage.

The fires come after "suspicious devices" were left at three Albuquerque Starbucks coffee shops on Friday. A series of fires were lit at an anti-abortion ministry and a luxury condo complex was destroyed by a blaze last week.

Murder Charge Dismissed Against 1 Of 2 Albuquerque Officers - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

A special prosecutor has dismissed a second-degree murder charge against one of two former Albuquerque police officers who fatally shot a homeless man during an hours-long standoff.

Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn filed the notice to dismiss the charge against former Officer Dominique Perez on Monday, more than a month after a jury trial for Perez and another officer charged in the shooting ended with a judge declaring a mistrial because jurors said they could not come to an agreement on a verdict.

The notice to dismiss was filed "without prejudice," which leaves open the option for prosecutors to file charges later.

Perez was a SWAT officer at the time of the March 2014 shooting that killed camper James Boyd. Now-retired Detective Keith Sandy also opened fire.

McGinn did not dismiss the second-degree murder charge against Sandy.

Warm Autumn Delays Pecan Harvest In Southern New Mexico Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

The pecan harvest in one southern New Mexico county is being delayed by warm temperatures.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports equipment is sitting idle and farm workers are eagerly awaiting a deep freeze to prep trees and nuts in Doña Ana County.

Thanksgiving typically marks the start of the harvest, but this autumn has been the warmest on record.

Some farmers say depending on the weather, the start of the harvest could be a couple of weeks away. Even after a deep freeze or a series of lighter freezes, it can take days for leaves and tree matter to dry out enough for the harvesting equipment.

Last winter, New Mexico produced about 73 million pounds of in-shell pecans — the state's second-largest crop ever. This is expected to be a light production year.

Vegas-Bound Flight Forced To Land With Engine Trouble Associated Press

Officials say a Dallas-to-Las Vegas flight forced to land in New Mexico with engine problems has arrived in Nevada after an hours-long delay.

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said Monday the aircraft started having trouble after flight 1693 took off Sunday evening.

He says the plane landed safely in Albuquerque and no one was hurt.

After a six-hour delay, most of the nearly 180 passengers took off again after being moved to a new plane. Some decided to stay overnight and fly out in the morning.

The fight arrived at McCarran International Airport early Monday morning.

Crews are investigating the cause of the problem on the Airbus A321, but believe it may be a compressor surge, which can make an engine stall.

Supreme Court Asks US Government's View On Mine Spill Suit Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the Justice Department to weigh in on New Mexico's lawsuit against Colorado over a mine waste spill that polluted rivers in both states and in Utah.

The court on Monday asked the Office of the Solicitor General to submit the Obama administration's views on the lawsuit. The solicitor general represents the executive branch in Supreme Court cases.

The federal government has a stake in this case because the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally triggered the August 2015 spill at the Gold King Mine. The spill released 3 million gallons of water laden with arsenic, cadmium, copper and other heavy metals.

New Mexico sued Colorado in June, saying Colorado should be held responsible for the contamination as well as decades of toxic drainage from other mines.

New Mexico Electric Utility To Seek Another Rate Increase - Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric provider will be asking state regulators to consider another rate increase in December.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico has sent letters to a half-million customers, saying it needs to recoup the millions of dollars it's spending on pollution controls at coal-fired power plants and other improvements to the grid.

The utility says a major part of the request will ensure fulfillment of an agreement between PNM, the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to shut down two units at the San Juan Generating Station to meet federal haze pollution standards.

The partial closure is scheduled for the end of 2017. Utility officials say they need to have rates decided in time.

PNM plans to release more details of the request in the coming weeks.

Tribe Gets Federal Funds For Lumber Mill Feasibility StudyAssociated Press

A southern New Mexico tribe has been awarded federal funding to evaluate the potential of reopening one of its lumber mills.

The Mescalero Apache Tribe will use a $99,900 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a market feasibility study and a forest assessment for the mill once operated by Mescalero Forest Products.

Tribal officials have testified before Congress in recent years that the closure of the tribe's two sawmills eliminated jobs for nearly 300 workers. The mills were also a source of revenue for the tribe and a tool for forest management in the region.

USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner said Monday that the agency and tribe are taking the first steps needed to reopen the Mescalero Forest Products Mill, which experts have said could result in dozens of direct jobs.

Santa Fe Officers To Get Refresher Course On Marijuana LawsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The Santa Fe Police Department plans to give its officers a refresher course on a municipal law that makes possession of small amounts of marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority in the city.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the refresher is coming after City Councilor Joseph Maestas told police Chief Patrick Gallagher that officers should apply the ordinance over state law.

In turn, Gallagher promised to provide his officers more training on marijuana laws.

Enforcement of the ordinance has sparked controversy.

In 2014, the City Council approved an ordinance that decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, making it a civil infraction punishable by a $25 fine.

But police have continued to cite people under the state criminal statute on marijuana, which carries stiffer penalties.