New Mexico Electors Back Clinton, Broadcast Community Mourns Portales Station Owner

Dec 19, 2016

New Mexico Firmly Backs Hillary Clinton As Electors VoteAssociated Press

All five of New Mexico's electors have cast their votes for Hillary Clinton while expressing disappointment about the outcome of the presidential election.

The state's Democratic electors on Monday signed a certificate that will be delivered to Congress for the final certification of election results in January.

Clinton supporter and first-time elector Noyola Archibeque says she is very proud that New Mexico "stayed blue" and believes the rules of the Electoral College need to be revised to better reflect the popular vote. Clinton defeated Donald Trump by about 8 percentage points in the statewide vote.

New Mexico state law makes it a felony for a presidential elector to cast their ballot for anyone but the candidate of the party that nominated them as an elector.

Lawmakers Push EPA to Repay All Costs of Gold King Mine Spill Response – The Associated Press

Two members of Colorado's congressional delegation are pressing the Environmental Protection agency to fully reimburse state, local and tribal agencies for the cost of responding to a toxic mine waste spill triggered by the EPA.

Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton said Monday a law passed this month removed some of the obstacles the EPA cited in turning down $20.4 million in requests.

The EPA says it paid $4.5 million in claims but rejected the others, in some cases because the costs came after a cutoff date set by the agency. The EPA said it was following federal law.

An EPA-led crew inadvertently triggered the spill at the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado while doing preliminary cleanup work in August 2015.

Rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah were polluted.

Four Companies Chosen to Pursue Nuclear Waste Burial Test – The Associated Press

Federal energy officials have named the four companies that will pursue the possibility of conducting a test to determine whether nuclear waste can be buried far underground.

The U.S. Department of Energy on Monday said the companies will explore potential sites for the test in South Dakota, Texas and New Mexico. Only one company will eventually carry out the field test.

Andy Griffith with the department's office of nuclear energy stressed during the announcement that the test won't involve nuclear waste. The agency also won't use any selected site for future actual storage or waste disposal.

Prospective sites in the Dakotas were abandoned after local opposition. Griffith says the agency is trying to overcome resistance by engaging with communities and emphasizing that nuclear waste won't be used in the project.

New Mexico Broadcasters Mourn Death of Station Co-ownerThe Associated Press

The broadcast community in New Mexico on Monday was mourning the death of a radio personality and a station co-owner who was known for his community advocacy and his work to improve the state's emergency alert system.

Steve Rooney, 45, was killed Sunday when his vehicle hit a patch of ice and slid off the road near his home south of Portales, authorities said. A preliminary investigation shows the vehicle collided with a tree.

Rooney leaves behind a wife and four children.

A self-described radio junkie and a native of Ireland, Rooney started in the business more than two decades ago in California. He eventually found his way to the plains of eastern New Mexico after he and radio partner and best friend Duffy Moon took out a map and started the search for a community where they could own their own station and lead a small market.

Rooney and Moon own two stations in Clovis and two in Portales, and they were known for years for their morning program on KSMX-FM. More recently, Rooney headlined an afternoon show on KRMQ.

Rooney is a past president of the New Mexico Broadcasters Association and was tapped by a national broadcasters group to serve on a committee focused on small radio stations.

Paula Maes, president and chief executive of the New Mexico Broadcasters Association, described Rooney as a wonderful man who loved his family and was the consummate broadcaster — one who cared about what was going on in his community.

"He was really part of the fabric of broadcasting in New Mexico," Maes said, adding that his reach extended beyond the state and she was receiving calls from fellow broadcasters from Wisconsin to Alabama.

As president of the New Mexico association, Rooney set out to improve the way radio stations relayed word of an Amber Alert, a flood or fire or any other emergency to citizens around the state. Instead of waiting for messages to pass from station to station, he worked with broadcasting engineers and the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to ensure each station could access the alert immediately.

"Now we have a very operational system," Maes said. "He has lots of legacies. But that was one of his goals, to have a system that really worked."

Maes said the association's board was devastated about Rooney's death, as were others in eastern New Mexico, where radio listeners expressed shock and friends shared memories in social media posts.

With a heavy heart, Moon in one post asked for the community to pray for Rooney's family and to remember his friend with a smile.

Funeral services were pending.

Maes said there are no plans for a moment of silence at the association's next convention. Rooney, who loved being on the radio, wouldn't have something like that.

"We're going to have a moment of hugging and cheering. We're going to make noise," she said.

Albuquerque City Councilor Wants Changes On Rape Kit Rules – KOB-TV, Albuquerque Journal

City Councilor Pat Davis is proposing changes on how Albuquerque police process evidence kits from sexual assaults.

KOB-TV reports the rules would create a timeline under which rape kits must be tested. A recent report by the state auditor’s office found New Mexico has the worst backlog of unprocessed kits in the country.

Only about one-fifth of law enforcement departments in New Mexico have a written policy on what detectives should do with sexual assault evidence. A recent series on KUNM found this often leaves decisions about evidence up to individual officers and that can be problematic.

Davis’ draft law would require the Albuquerque Police Department to submit evidence within 10 business days to a forensic laboratory and evidence would have to be analyzed within three months.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Councilor Dan Lewis wants the city to help address the rape kit backlog by creating a scholarship program to encourage more students to enter the forensic technology field.

Officials: Dreamcatchers Used in Meth Smuggling BidThe Associated Press

A Mexican woman tried to smuggle liquid methamphetamine into the U.S. by hiding it inside Native American-style dreamcatchers when she crossed the border into New Mexico over the weekend, federal officials said Monday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the woman was detained Sunday in Columbus, New Mexico when she crossed from Puerto Palomas, Mexico, and a drug-sniffing dog alerted customs officers.

The officers found six dreamcatchers in the woman's car with rings made of rubber tubing filled with a liquid that tested positive for methamphetamine, the officials said.

Dreamcatchers, hoops of willow and feathers typically made by American Indians in the Great Plains, are intended to protect sleepers from bad dreams.

The woman, from Nuevo Casas Grandes in Mexico's Chihuahua state, was handed over to Department of Homeland Security agents. Her name was not released.

Officials said she was traveling with her eight-year-old and one-year-old daughters. The children were handed over by agents to a relative of the woman.

Robert Reza, director of the Columbus Port of Entry, said smugglers frequently conceal drugs in soft drink cans, framed artwork and other seemingly innocent items

"This is one of the most unusual smuggling episodes we have ever encountered," Reza said.

U.S. border customs officials in Arizona last June arrested a 19-year-old man after agents he allegedly tried to cross the border with drugs disguised as tamales.

The purported tamales contained about $3,000 worth of methamphetamine, officials said.

Roberts Denies Plea to Force Senate Action on GarlandThe Associated Press

Chief Justice John Roberts has denied a lawyer's bid to get the Supreme Court to force the Senate to consider the high court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.

Roberts on Monday did not comment in rejecting an emergency appeal by lawyer Steven Michel of New Mexico. Michel argued that Senate Republicans' obstruction of President Barack Obama's nomination of Garland violates Michel's rights as a voter under the provision of the Constitution that provides for popular election of senators.

Lower courts had previously dismissed Michel's case. He filed his suit in the summer, well before the election of Donald Trump seemingly doomed Garland's nomination.

Meanwhile, Garland soon will resume hearing cases on the federal appeals court in Washington, where he serves as chief judge.

Garland is set to hear arguments in cases before the appeals court on Jan. 18, according to a calendar posted by the court online.

He has not taken part in cases since Obama nominated him in March.

U.S. Environmental Groups Critical of Jaguar Plan – The Associated Press

Environmentalists say a proposed recovery plan for the endangered jaguar falls short when it comes to offering a strategy for restoring a breeding population of the elusive cats in the United States.

A binational team of wildlife officials from the U.S. and Mexico released the draft plan Monday. It focuses on efforts to eliminate poaching, sustain habitat in northern Mexico and the American Southwest, and bolster social acceptance of the species.

Some environmentalists say the plan puts too much focus on recovery efforts in Mexico rather than considering translocation and other efforts to boost numbers in the U.S.

The proposal is the result of a legal fight against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that was won in 2009 by the Center of Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife.

Weather Causes Series Of Freeway Crashes In New MexicoAssociated Press

Authorities say at least one person is dead and several others injured after a series of crashes involving about 40 vehicles on a snow- and ice-covered interstate highway in northeastern New Mexico.

New Mexico State Police officials say there were multiple crashes around 11 a.m. Saturday on westbound Interstate 40 between Santa Rosa and Tucumcari in a concentrated area but not one large pile-up.

A section of the freeway was closed for about 12 hours and traffic on a 38-mile stretch of the highway was diverted onto the frontage road.

State Police say there were 29 non-injury crashes, six injury crashes and one fatal crash.

They say the exact number of injured still wasn't clear as of Sunday.

Albuquerque Trends Democratic, Surrounding Areas Lean GOP Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Voting results from the presidential election show Albuquerque continues to trend Democratic while surrounding areas lean Republican.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Torrance and Valencia counties and Rio Rancho voted Republican.

Democrat Hillary Clinton won Sandoval County by 3 percentage points despite Rio Rancho's strong red turnout.

Overall, Clinton won Bernalillo County by 18 percentage points.

While Clinton overwhelmed Trump in the city, the opposite was true in Rio Rancho.

Only two precincts of Democratic support emerged in Rio Rancho. Trump won the city by 8 percentage points.

Yet Clinton won Sandoval County by 3 percentage points.

Valencia County aligned with Rio Rancho. Trump won the county by 8 percentage points.

He won Torrance County by 30 percentage points.

Artesia Police Investigate Explosion That Left Man Injured Artesia Daily Press, Associated Press

Investigators are working to determine the cause of an explosion outside an Artesia convenience store that left a man injured and forced a bomb squad to evacuate the area.

The Artesia Daily Press reports that police had responded after the explosion Sunday night. Authorities say a pickup truck was heavily damaged and the vehicle's owner sustained minor injuries.

The New Mexico State Police bomb squad was called to the scene and evacuated a 750-foot radius around the vehicle before determining there was no further threat.

Golfer Talks Native Health In New Mexico Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A Native American golfer on the PGA tour and his nonprofit foundation are working to improve Native American health.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Notah Begay spoke to a crowd in December at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and said health care costs will rise if childhood obesity isn't seriously addressed.

Begay's NB3 Foundation seeks to reverse Type 2 diabetes and reduce obesity among Native American children.

Over 10,000 young people participated in the first national NB3Fit Day.

The event was intended to raise awareness and get native communities active.

A partnership between the organization and the Johns Hopkins Center for Indian Health is intended to boost nutrition and get young Native Americans into sports and fitness.

The commentator on NBC's Golf Channel graduated from Albuquerque Academy and Stanford University.

National Hispanic Cultural Center Gets $150K Grant Associated Press

The National Hispanic Cultural Center and Foundation has been awarded a $150,000 planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to bring the community together through discussions and artwork.

The Albuquerque-based center says the money will be used to work through what it described as deep historical and contemporary issues that falsely divide people by race and gender.

The center is planning story-sharing and community discussions in 2018. Commissioned artwork based on the stories will be presented in 2019.

Center Executive Director Rebecca Avitia says the work can be a foundation for community healing. She plans to invite many community organizations and individuals to participate in the planning and the community discussions.

Lawmakers Eye Online Sales Tax To Boost RevenueSanta Fe New Mexican

As New Mexico grapples with anemic revenue and budget gaps, there is growing support for taxing online shopping.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Democrats and Republicans are supporting a legislative proposal that would require online retailers to pay gross receipts tax on purchases by state residents.

The move could be part of other tax reforms, including reinstating a tax on food.

Attempts to tax online shopping have been growing around the country. Opponents often point to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bans states from collecting tax if retailers are not located in the state.

But Richard Anklam with the New Mexico Tax Research Institute told lawmakers last week the state could argue the Supreme Court case does not apply here because of the state’s gross receipts tax structure, where the tax is paid by sellers, not buyers, to the state.

Versatile F-4 Phantoms Making 'Final Flight' for U.S. MilitaryThe Associated Press

The last of thousands of F-4 Phantom jets that have been a workhorse for the U.S. military over five decades are being put to pasture at Holloman Air Force Base to serve as ground targets for strikes by newer aircraft.

But the Air Force will first hold a "final flight" retirement ceremony Wednesday at the base in southern New Mexico where the last F-4s are still flying for the U.S. military.

The ceremony will celebrate the airplane's rich military history as the jet was a mainstay during the Vietnam War and used for decades for reconnaissance missions and anti-missile electronic jamming.

The last F-4s still flying for the U.S. military took on a different role, serving as aerial targets and test aircraft.

Albuquerque School Board OKs Extension For Superintendent Associated Press

The Albuquerque public school system's superintendent is getting a contract extension.

A 5-2 vote Friday by the district Board of Education will extend Superintendent Raquel Reedy's contract by a year to June 2019.

Board President David Peercy says Reedy provides stability and can be counted on to provide plans for student success in the face of declining funding from the state.

Reedy took over as acting superintendent in August 2015 and was named superintendent in April. Her contract includes an annual salary of $240,000.