More NM Public Schools Earn A or B Grades But Many Still Failing, UT Abandons Facebook Center Bid

Aug 24, 2016

More New Mexico Public Schools Earn "A" Or "B" Grades But Many Still Failing – The Associated Press

More New Mexico public schools have been graded "A'' or "B'' but over a third still received "D'' or "F'' grades.

The Public Education Department released Wednesday new grades that showed a 7 percent jump in the number of schools getting an A or B. Meanwhile, records also show "D'' or "F'' schools dropped 2 percent.

Still, 315 of the state's 849 public schools received a "D'' or "F."

Albuquerque Public Schools, the state's largest school district, saw more than 40 percent of its schools drop at least one letter grade. Only 14 percent of Albuquerque schools went up.

School grades are based on student proficiency and growth on test scores.

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera says the grades show New Mexico schools "are rising."

Utah City Ends Facebook Race Against New Mexico – Associated Press

A Salt Lake City suburb vying against New Mexico to attract a Facebook data center is dropping out of the race after state education officials decided the $240 million deal was too rich.

The city of West Jordan said Tuesday they can't compete with tax-breaks offered by Los Lunas, so they're ending negotiations.

The Utah State School Board signed off on $100 million worth of tax breaks, but West Jordan says that it's not enough in the face of pushback from other local leaders.

The plan has been contentious in Utah. Critics argue the cost was too high for a facility that would create relatively few jobs. Supporters said the data center would carry a cache that could draw high-tech companies to the area.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the Los Lunas Village Council has approved a $30 billion industrial revenue bond to lure the data center.

Ohio Man Accused Of Killing Officer Indicted On US ChargesThe Associated Press

An Ohio man accused of killing a southern New Mexico police officer has been named in a five-count federal indictment.

Jesse Denver Hanes of Columbus pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Wednesday in federal court in Las Cruces.

The indictment issued Tuesday charges Hanes with federal firearms and

carjacking offenses stemming from an Aug. 12 traffic stop during which Hatch police Officer Jose Chavez was fatally shot.

Defense attorney Mario Esparza says his client was one of three people in the car stopped by Chavez and wants his day in court.

The 38-year-old Hanes also faces state charges that include first-degree murder.

Thousands gathered Sunday to pay respect to Chavez. The 33-year-old was the father of two daughters and had served on the Hatch police force for two years.

New Mexico Judge To Allow Testimony About Police TrainingThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

A New Mexico judge will allow testimony about police training during the trial of Albuquerque officers who fatally shot a man in the Sandia foothills.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Judge Alisa Hadfield denied a prosecutor's request to limit the testimony, saying officers have a wider scope of privilege than the general public when it comes to using deadly force.

Former officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez are charged with murder in the 2014 death of James Boyd.

Defense attorneys say the officers' training is important to understanding how police recognize and evaluate danger and decide whether to use deadly force. Prosecutors argued that the training is irrelevant to a homicide case.

The trial is set to begin in Albuquerque in September.

New Mexico Watches State Revenues Plunge Amid Oil Bust By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico officials are revising revenue expectations downward as state lawmakers confront state budget shortfalls reminiscent of the 2008 recession.

Members of the Legislative Finance Committee that drafts the state budget are meeting Wednesday in the town of Red River to examine tax receipts for the budget year that ended in June and projections into the near future.

Economists from the Legislature and three executive-branch agencies provide the mid-year snapshot of state finances. The estimates are likely to set the stage for a special session of the Legislature in September to address last year's budget shortfall and a projected deficit this year.

Gov. Susana Martinez says she plans to reconvene lawmakers and has recommended all state agencies reduce spending by 5 percent.

New Mexico is one of several states dealing with general fund revenue declines linked to a sustained slump in oil and natural gas prices.

Budget Crunch Being Felt By New Mexico JurorsAssociated Press

New Mexico jurors and court interpreters are the latest group to feel the pinch of a budget crunch that has all of state government tightening its belt.

A fund that pays jurors and interpreters has been struggling for several years and the shortfall is now approaching $1 million.

Legislative analysts say the gap could be lessened if the courts slash juror pay rates to $4.25 an hour.

State statute calls for minimum wage. The Legislature has authorized the state Supreme Court to adjust the payments to cope with underfunding.

Court officials have set the rate for the current fiscal year at $6.25 an hour. That's 50 cents lower than the rate during the past two years.

The judiciary plans to ask lawmakers during the next regular session for funding to cover the shortage.

Bernalillo County Commission Votes To Send ART To VotersAlbuquerque Journal

The Bernalillo County Commission voted Tuesday night to send the Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project to voters in the fall in a tight vote along party lines

The Albuquerque Journal reports the vote will not be binding, however, since the county does not have the power to stop the city project. Pre-construction work is underway and construction could begin by Sept. 3.

Democrats Debbie O’Malley, Maggie Hart Stebbins and Art De La Cruz supported the proposal but Republicans Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert voted against it.

The $119 million project would create dedicated bus lanes and stops along nine miles of Central Avenue. Opponents have sued to stop the project contending it will bring more congestion and hurt the historic nature of Route 66.

Supporters, including Mayor Richard Berry, say it will bring more economic development to the Central corridor.

New Mexico Supreme Court Narrows Scope Of Whistleblower Law Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has narrowed the scope of a 2010 law meant to protect whistleblowers with a ruling in cases involving former Secretary of State Mary Herrera and two former employees.

The court overturned an earlier ruling by the state appellate court, finding that the Whistleblower Protection Act doesn't allow for claims to be brought against state officers in their individual capacity.

The court says the act can only be used to bring suit against government agencies or officials serving in their public roles.

The court also raised concerns that holding individuals personally liable under the act could deter people from public service.

Miles Conway with the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees Council 18 tells the Santa Fe New Mexican that the opinion will affect other whistleblower cases around the state.

Governor Activates New Mexico Emergency Operations CenterAssociated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez has activated the New Mexico Emergency Operations Center in preparation for potential flooding statewide.

Rio Arriba, Sierra, Dona Ana and Eddy counties have been hit with heavy rain, which is expected to continue throughout the week.

Martinez has directed the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Department of Transportation and the New Mexico Department of Health to monitor and assist in response as needed.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park closed early Tuesday at 4 p.m. due to potential road flooding from a current storm moving over the area.

Laguna Pueblo Company Buying Louisiana Casino And Hotel Associated Press, Albuquerque Journal

Laguna Development Corp., a subsidiary of Laguna Pueblo, is buying The Isle of Capri Casinos in Louisiana for about $134.5 million.

If the deal is approved by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, Kicks Entertainment, an entity of Laguna Development, is planning some improvements to the site. LDC spokesman Skip Sayre says changes planned include new slot machines, new decor and more food and beverage options.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Laguna Development manages Route 66 Casino Hotel, Dancing Eagle Casino and Casino Express, as well as two travel centers and gas stations.

Isle of Capri Chief Executive Officer Eric Hausler says the sale is expected to close in late fiscal 2017 to early fiscal 2018. He says the company intends to use the cash proceeds to reduce debt and other corporate purposes.

Gov. Martinez Visits California For Business, Politics Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez is traveling in the San Francisco Bay area to help recruit businesses to New Mexico and to attend political meetings.

A spokesman for the Republican governor said Martinez left Monday and returns Friday and is accompanied by New Mexico Economic Development Sec. Jon Barela. Representatives from Albuquerque Economic Development and the City of Rio Rancho are also on the trip.

Spokesman Mike Lonergan says travel expenses for the governor and Chief of Staff Keith Gardner are being paid for by a marketing arm of the state called New Mexico Partnership. The governor's lodging on Monday was paid for by her political action committee.

A similar trip to Southern California helped New Mexico officials use incentives to recruit technology company PCM to set up sales offices in Rio Rancho.

Suspect In 'Breaking Bad' Restaurant Robbery Arrested KOAT-TV, Associated Press

A man suspected of robbing a New Mexico hot dog restaurant made famous in the AMC-TV series "Breaking Bad" has been arrested.

KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports that police arrested Isaac Dodge on Sunday after being identified in surveillance video captured from the robbery of the Dog House Drive-In on the historic Route 66.

Albuquerque police say the 40-year-old Dodge used a sawed-off shotgun to rob the hot dog restaurant in June. Authorities say he's also connected to four other armed robberies.

Dog House owner Jimmie Hartley says Dodge got away with around $1,000.

Dodge is charged with five counts of robbery with a deadly weapon.

It was not known if he had an attorney.

"Breaking Bad" was filmed in New Mexico and ended in 2013 amid a massive following.