Judge Hears Lawsuits Against Transit Project, Widow Says Treasure Hunter Chased 'Hoax'

Jul 28, 2016

Judge Hears Lawsuits Against Rapid Transit – KOB-TV, Albuquerque Journal

At a 10-hour hearing on Wednesday a federal judge heard arguments for and against a controversial transit plan to run electric buses down the middle of Central Avenue in Albuquerque.

KOB-TV reports business owners and residents testified the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will hurt local businesses and the city has not effectively researched the potential impacts.

Opponents seek a preliminary injunction to halt construction. They argue the Federal Transit Administration should have required the city to do an extensive environmental impact analysis.

Attorneys for the city of Albuquerque and the federal government say they complied with environmental requirements, reported the Albuquerque Journal. Advocates have argued the project will bring economic benefits to the corridor and the city.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Gonzales should make a decision on the preliminary injunction by the end of next week, according to KOB. The hearing continues on Thursday.

The $119 million project is primarily funded with federal Small Starts grant money.

Navajo Nation Leader Wants Action Against Sexual HarassmentThe Associated Press

The only female delegate to the Navajo Nation Council says she's been subject to sexist comments in that role and little is being done to change a culture of sexual harassment at the top level of tribal government.

Amber Kanazbah Crotty — one of 23 council delegates — also said during a recent council meeting that she was groped while working as a legislative district assistant several years ago.

The federal Department of Justice says women in Indian Country are sexually abused at more than twice the rate of other women in the U.S.

Crotty says council delegates should do something about the problem and get training on sexual harassment.

Jared Touchin, a spokesman for Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates, said Bates is putting together training on sexual harassment. Bates did not respond to requests for an interview.

Albuquerque Police Monitor Set To Provide Update On Reforms Associated Press

The court-appointed monitor tasked with tracking mandated reforms within the Albuquerque Police Department is expected to present his third report before a federal judge Thursday.

The report covers reform efforts within the department between December and March.

It was released earlier this month, with court monitor James Ginger's team saying some police supervisors didn't adequately investigate use-of-force cases. He blamed the department's review system for failing to hold officers accountable.

Jessica Hernandez, the Albuquerque city attorney, says that since March, all APD supervisors have been trained on a new policy for conducting use-of-force investigations, and the department is committed to reform.

Albuquerque police are under court order to enact changes after a U.S. Justice Department investigation found a culture of excessive force among police. The monthslong investigation ended in 2014.

"The House on Mango Street" Novel Turned Into Art ExhibitThe Associated Press

The National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque has turned the novel "The House on Mango Street" by acclaimed Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros into an art exhibit.

Cisneros, one of the nation's most celebrated Latina authors, this week visited the art inspired by her 1984 novel of a poor Latina living in Chicago.

"The House on Mango Street: Artists Interpret Community" features major themes of the book, including hope, personal dreams, hardship, disillusionment, and family.

The novel "The House on Mango Street" centers on Esperanza Cordero, a young Mexican-American girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. It has been read in thousands of high school and college classes across the country.

The exhibition is organized by the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.

Officials: UNM Improves Handling Of Sex Assault CasesThe Associated Press

Univeristy of New Mexico officials say they are making progress in improving a system on campus that once failed victims of sexual assault.

University President Robert Frank told a state lawmakers Thursday that the school has fixed policies and improved communication across departments for investigating sexual assaults.

The university came under scrutiny in a U.S. Justice Department investigation this year that concluded the school's system for investigating sexual assault and harassment had failed students and was not in compliance with Title IX. The federal law prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds.

Frank says that prior to the investigation, an internal review also found the school's policies and procedures for investigating sexual assault and harassment could leave victims feeling lost and unserved by campus officials.

APS Holds Forum On Transgender PolicyAlbuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Public Schools administrator who created a new transgender policy directive answered questions about the plan from community members Wednesday night.

The Albuquerque Journal reports about a dozen people for and against the policy spoke at a public forum with Janalee Barnard, director of APS’ Title IX program.

The new rules would allow students to change their names and to dress and use the gender pronoun they feel matches their identity. Opponents are concerned about a provision that would allow students to choose locker rooms and restrooms that match that identity as well.

Barnard said APS is following a federal law that requires public schools to accommodate transgender students. APS board member Peggy Muller-Aragon opposes the plan and said she worries students with sexual abuse histories could be re-traumatized by sharing restrooms with transgender students.

APS is training employees on the new rule this summer and will continue the training into the fall.

Ex-Wife Of Treasure Hunter Says Man Died Chasing 'Hoax' Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The ex-wife of a man who died while searching for a cache of gold and jewels says she believes he lost his life chasing a hoax.

Linda Bilyeu told the Albuquerque Journal she's disappointed that Randy Bilyeu, the father of her two daughters, died while searching for treasure Santa Fe author Forrest Fenn says he's hidden in the Rocky Mountain region.

Although 54-year-old Bilyeu was reported missing in January, his remains weren't found until July. Bilyeu was visiting Santa Fe from Broomfield, Colorado, to search for Fenn's antique treasure chest. It's said to contain more than $1 million worth of gold, jewels and artifacts.

Fenn called the death "very unfortunate" and said Tuesday that the treasure is not a hoax and is not hidden in a dangerous place.

IHS Awards $700K Contract Aimed At Improving Patient Care Associated Press

The Indian Health Service has awarded a one-year, $700,000 contract to an independent expert to help federal government-operated medical facilities improve patient care and safety.

The IHS says the contract with The Joint Commission for accreditation services will help test the readiness of IHS hospitals for compliance surveys conducted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Officials say the training and education will benefit IHS facilities in the Dakotas, Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

The IHS says it's also responding to requirements of agreements with CMS for the Rosebud and Pine Ridge hospitals in South Dakota. Recent issues at those hospitals have highlighted poor health care services at government-run facilities caring for Native Americans across the country.

State Police: Artesia Police Fatally Shoot Armed ManAssociated Press

Authorities say an armed man has been fatally shot by Artesia police as officers responded to a 911 call about shots being fired.

New Mexico State Police say at least one officer fired at 36-year-old Juan Reynaldo Duran, that he had two guns and that he was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday.

State police said all officers involved have been placed on standard administrative leave under their department's policy.

State police did not identify the officers or provide additional informational about the circumstances of the shooting.

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Secretary Of State CandidateAlbuquerque Journal

A Democratic Party official from Las Cruces has filed an ethics complaint against Republican Nora Espinoza, who is running for Secretary of State.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Robert Lara, treasurer of the state Democratic Party, contends Espinoza committed violations under the Campaign Reporting Act in reports she filed.

Espinoza said her campaign is reviewing the complaint but she does not know of any errors in her reports.

Espinoza is running against Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Bernalillo County Clerk, to complete the term of former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who resigned last year after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds.

New Mexico Congressman Plugs Fellow DemocratsAssociated Press

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is promoting Democratic candidates for Congress and criticizing Republican lawmakers who support Donald Trump in an appearance before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Lujan is chairman of the Democratic congressional campaign committee. On stage at the convention on Wednesday, he translated a Spanish-language proverb into English to emphasize Democrats' support for Hillary Clinton and criticize Republicans who associate with Trump.

Lujan highlighted his Hispanic heritage and community values handed down through a family of rural pioneers and union workers that first settled in New Mexico before statehood.

He has accused Republicans in Congress of putting "party over country" and being afraid to stand up to Trump.