Judge Finds Albuquerque Vehicle Seizure Unconstitutional, Gallup Sees Tourism Surge

Jul 31, 2018

Judge Says Albuquerque vehicle seizure program unconstitutional Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A federal judge has found the vehicle seizure program operated in Albuquerque to be unconstitutional.

A lawsuit was filed against the city over the program.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that U.S. District Court Judge James Browning found the program unconstitutional in part because it required vehicle owners to prove their innocence after their car was taken.

Mayor Tim Keller's administration previously said that it would give vehicle owners who weren't driving when their car was seized more protections.

The city for years has operated a seizure program that allowed police to take cars from anyone arrested on suspicion of a second or subsequent drunken driving case, or someone arrested for driving on a revoked license.

The police would take the vehicles regardless of whether the driver owned the vehicle.

Panel Finds 'Evidence' New Mexico Lawmaker Harassed LobbyistSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Investigators say there is "credible evidence" a New Mexico state lawmaker, who recently lost in the Democratic primary, sexually harassed a lobbyist on two separate occasions.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a new 43-page report by a special counsel backed up two allegations by Animal Protection Voters staffer Laura Bonar that state Rep. Carl Trujillo made inappropriate advances toward her.

A bipartisan subcommittee was elected late last week to press ahead with a case against Trujillo and hold an open hearing on the matter before a larger panel of legislators.

Trujillo has adamantly denied any wrongdoing and a lawyer representing him said Saturday that the lawmaker will continue to fight the allegations.

Trujillo lost a primary election in June to upstart candidate Andrea Romero.

New Mexico City Near Navajo Nation Sees Tourism JumpGallup Independent, Associated Press

A western New Mexico city surrounded by Navajo culture and Native arts and crafts is experiencing a tourism boom not seen since the 1970s.

The Gallup Independent reports officials in Gallup say the city has seen an increase of around 7 to 10 percent in visitors thanks to foreign tourists.

Officials believe a favorable exchange rate and increased interest by the media in anything to do with Native culture and crafts led to millions of foreigners vacationing in the United States each summer.

Gallup-McKinley County Chamber of Commerce director Bill Lee says the area is seeing visitors from Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and Belgium.

Gallup is located on the edge of the Navajo Nation and sits along the historic Route 66.

Lea County, Hobbs Continue Subsidies For Houston FlightHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

A southeastern New Mexico county and city are guaranteeing United Airlines a subsidy of $2.3 million for the airline to maintain commercial flight service to Houston.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Lea County approved last week a memo of understanding to provide regular jet service between the Lea County Regional Airport and Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

United Airlines flies twice-daily nonstop flights between Hobbs and Houston.

The agreement requires subsidy payments from the city and county to maintain the commercial airline service, with the city and county each agreeing to provide a subsidy of up to $1.15 million.

The amount of subsidy is based on the percentage of seats filled.

Libertarian Senate Hopeful Quits As Gary Johnson Eyes RunAssociated Press

Aubrey Dunn, the Libertarian Party U.S senatorial candidate in New Mexico, has announced he is quitting the race, opening the door for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson to jump in.

Dunn said in a statement Monday that he wanted to focus on his current job as New Mexico land commissioner and that a water crisis in southeastern New Mexico demanded his "full attention."

Dunn called upon former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson to take his place as the Libertarian candidate for the New Mexico seat.

Dunn says Johnson is willing to replace him if the Libertarian Party State Central Committee nominates Johnson as his replacement.

Johnson consultant Ron Nielson told The Associated Press on Friday the former governor is "strongly considering" running if Dunn quits the race.

Governor Candidates Push Dueling New Mexico Economic PlansAssociated Press

The contenders for New Mexico governor are pushing dueling plans aimed at tackling poverty in one of the nation's poorest states and transforming a struggling economy tied to the boom-and-bust oil and gas industry.

Republican Rep. Steve Pearce told business leaders Monday that he would seek to expand the state's greenhouses, look to new mining ventures and push growth in artificial intelligence businesses.

He also vowed to do more to take advantage of Spaceport America and make Roswell a destination for painting large aircraft.

Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, released her "seven-point plan" last week aimed at addressing poverty by raising wages and adding more regulation against payday lenders.

The Albuquerque Democrat's plan includes raising the minimum wage from $7.50 to $10 per hour statewide, expanding child savings accounts and dedicating more resources to fighting hunger.

Lujan Grisham also is an outspoken advocate for expanding preschool programs — something liberal Democrats in the Legislature have been pushing to address poverty.

Santa Fe Weighs Unruly Parent Policy At School Sports EventsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The Santa Fe School Board is weighing a policy that could result in student athletes being cut from a team if their parents continuously act out at sporting events.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports parents who act inappropriately three times at games and other events during a single school year could see their children pulled from teams if Santa Fe Board of Education President Steven Carrillo's proposal is approved.

The school board plans to discuss the proposal at a meeting Tuesday evening.

The proposal follows the approval of a new statewide policy that calls for public schools to bear the responsibility for player, coaching staff and fan conduct. The New Mexico Athletics Association has the authority to penalize schools under the new policy.

Storm Brings Hail To Parts Of AlbuquerqueAlbuquerque Journal, KOB-TV

A fast-moving thunderstorm blew through Albuquerque Monday night and brought hail up to    1.25 inches in diameter.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the areas around the University of New Mexico and Nob Hill were hit the hardest. Areas around Indian School and San Mateo as well as in Rio Rancho also got hail.

KOB-TV reports the storm’s high winds may have been the reason behind fallen power lines around 4th Street and Montaño Road. Fire crews responded to a house fire near that area.

HHS Officials Warned Against Family Separations – Associated Press

A Department of Health and Human Services official says his agency warned the Trump administration that separating migrant families at the border would be dangerous for children.

Commander Jonathan D. White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a branch of HHS, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "There's no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child."

But some of the government's top immigration officials used the hearing Tuesday to defend how the policy has been implemented, with one comparing family detention centers to "a summer camp."

Matthew Albence, an executive associate director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says the facilities undergo rigorous inspections and offer recreation, food and water around the clock and medical and dental care.

Conquistador reenactment leaders apologize to Pueblo Indians –Associated Press

Organizers of the annual reenactment of a 17th-century Spanish conquistador reclaiming Santa Fe from Native Americans have issued an apology to Pueblo Indians.

Santa Fe Fiesta, Inc. in a statement Tuesday said organizers "regret the suffering, trauma and pain the Pueblo people endured" during the years of the reenactment.

Organizers of the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe recently agreed to discontinue the reenactment after months of closed-door discussions about how to resolve the growing discord over "the Entrada."

The event, which was performed each autumn on the Santa Fe Plaza during the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe, had become a symbol of colonialism for some Native Americans, as well as a painful reminder of New Mexico's bloody past.

The pageant depicted the re-entry of conquistador Don Diego de Vargas into Santa Fe after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

New Mexico City Bordering Navajo Nation Sees Tourism Jump – Associated Press

A western New Mexico city that bills itself as the gateway to Native American culture is experiencing a tourism boom.

Officials in Gallup, New Mexico, say the city has seen a 7 to 10 percent increase in visitation over last year, mostly thanks to foreign tourists, the Gallup Independent reports .

Helping drive the interest is a favorable exchange rate that makes it economical for foreign tourists to visit in the summer, and promotions that tout outdoor recreation, and Native American arts and crafts, tourism officials say.

Bill Lee, director of the Gallup-McKinley County Chamber of Commerce, said the area is seeing visitors from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and Belgium.

"I'm getting really excited about the numbers we are seeing," Lee said. "We are seeing increases from Asian countries as well."

Lee also credits the tourism bump to a partnership among the chamber, the city of Gallup and tourism marketing manager Jennifer Lazarz.

For the past two years, the city has been promoting the region with the "Gallup. Real. True" campaign that includes images of climbing among red rocks, hiking and biking, nightly Native American dances, jewelry and museums.

Area officials also have been attending large trade fairs on tourism and pushing for more travel tours in the Gallup region. The city that sits along historic Route 66 borders the Navajo Nation. Zuni Pueblo lies to the south.

Overall, New Mexico has seen tourism increases statewide. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez recently announced that 35.4 million trips were taken in New Mexico in 2017 — breaking the record set in 2016 of 34.4 million.

It was the sixth-straight year the state saw record-breaking tourism numbers, based on survey data from New Mexico visitors collected by the research firm, Longwoods International.

Martinez launched the "New Mexico True" campaign to draw out-of-state visitors in 2011.


Panel Cites Evidence Of Harassment By New Mexico Lawmaker – Associated Press

Investigators say there is credible evidence a New Mexico state lawmaker who recently lost in the Democratic primary sexually harassed a lobbyist on two separate occasions.

A new report by a special counsel released last week backed up two allegations by Animal Protection Voters staffer Laura Bonar that state Rep. Carl Trujillo made inappropriate advances toward her in 2013 and 2014.

A bipartisan subcommittee was elected late last week to press ahead with a case against Trujillo and hold an open hearing on the matter before a larger panel of legislators.

The ethics subcommittee, composed of two Democrats and two Republicans, adopted its findings and recommendations Friday.

That decision is not a conclusion, just the next step in what is a rare process. And it remains unclear when such a hearing might convene.

That committee, after holding its hearings, could then recommend disciplinary action against Trujillo to the full Legislative Ethics Committee. But it would be up to the full 70-member House to ultimately vote on reprimand, censure or expulsion from the body.

Trujillo, a business owner and scientist from Nambe, has adamantly denied any wrongdoing and a lawyer representing him said Saturday that the lawmaker will continue to fight the allegations.

"Representative Trujillo has a long and distinguished record of service to our community, and he will continue to vigorously defend his honor and reputation from these false and slanderous accusations," lawyer Travis Jackson said in an email. "He did not sexually harass lobbyist Laura Bonar in any way at any time."

Trujillo lost a primary election in June to upstart candidate Andrea Romero.

Bonar's allegations in a letter earlier this year calling for his resignation cast a spotlight on the culture of the Legislature.

Bonar's accusations spurred some Democrats in the House to join in calling for Trujillo's resignation.

And Animal Protection Voters, which has touted Trujillo as a champion for its causes, rallied behind Bonar.

Trujillo, however, dismissed the allegations as a politically motivated effort to aid his primary election opponent.

Several lobbyists and lawmakers wrote letters to the subcommittee in support of Trujillo, including Reps. Sarah Maestas Barnes and Monica Youngblood, both Republicans from Albuquerque, and former Rep. Dona Irwin, D-Deming.

Backers have argued elsewhere that the allegations would be out of character for the Los Alamos National Laboratory employee and father.

Top-ranking lawmakers adopted a revised anti-harassment policy this year, just ahead of the 30-day session. It came after allegations of sexual harassment shook up capitols across the country, including the Roundhouse in New Mexico, amid the #MeToo movement.

Trujillo is the first lawmaker to face a formal investigation under the new policy.