New Mexico Plans Improvements Along San Juan River, AG Demands Damages From Wells Fargo

Nov 29, 2017

New Mexico Plans Improvements Along San Juan River - The Associated Press

New Mexico wildlife managers say they will be making improvements along the San Juan River downstream of Navajo Lake State Park.

The state Game and Fish Department says the work will begin in mid-December and last until April. It will result in temporary closures of day-use areas along the river.

 The project will include a new boat takeout at Crusher Hole Day-Use Area. A temporary takeout will be constructed at the Munoz Day-Use Area that will provide access to upper portions of the river. Officials also say that to ensure safety, use of the San Juan River past Simon Point will be closed to boat traffic and wade fishing from Dec. 15 through March 1. Limited use of the river will be available from March 1 through April 15. 

New Mexico AG Demands Damages From Wells FargoThe Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is demanding damages from Wells Fargo after an investigation showed the financial institution created nearly 19,000 fake and unauthorized bank and credit card accounts in the state.

Balderas on Wednesday accused Wells Fargo of victimizing New Mexicans. If a resolution can't be reached, he said he'll pursue litigation.

Wells Fargo was rocked last year by a nationwide scandal over practices in which employees created millions of accounts without customers knowing about or authorizing them to meet ambitious sales goals.

A Wells Fargo's chief executive apologized most recently during an October congressional hearing. The company also has changed its sales practices and ousted executives.

Balderas says his investigation has focused on potential violations of the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act.

FAA Awards Albuquerque Film Company First Drone WaiverThe Associated Press

An Albuquerque cinema drone company says the Federal Aviation Administration has issued it a waiver that will allow it to fly drones over cast and crews on film locations.

Flytcam Motion Pictures Managing Partner Luke Davis says they are the first cinema drone company to get such a waiver from the FAA.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday the waiver will allow the company to get aerial shots they could not have gotten otherwise.

Davis says the company has been helping the FAA write regulations for drone flying for a few years.

According to Davis, CNN was previously unsuccessful in getting the waiver from the FAA.

US Adopts Recovery Plan For Mexican WolvesThe Associated Press

U.S. wildlife managers have finally adopted a plan that will guide recovery of a wolf that once roamed parts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico.

The plan unveiled Wednesday sets a goal of having an average of 320 Mexican gray wolves in the wild over several years before the predator can shed its status as an endangered species.

Officials say that could take another two decades and cost nearly $180 million.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered tens of thousands of public comments as it worked to meet a court-ordered deadline to craft the recovery plan. It was a long time coming as the original guidance for restoring the wolf was adopted in 1982.

The lack of a plan had spurred legal challenges and skirmishes over states' rights under the federal Endangered Species Act.

State School Funding Behind Pre-Recession LevelsThe Associated Press

A new national report says New Mexico's public school funding is still 11.7 percent less than the state spent before the 2008 recession.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Wednesday that the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 29 states, including New Mexico, are still spending less on public schools than they did before the recession.

The nonprofit's report is based on 2015 data from state budgets and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report cites declining oil and gas revenues among the number of reasons the 29 states decreased their public school funding.

The nonprofit's Director of State Fiscal Research Michael Leachman says in New Mexico's case, its schools are paying for pre-recession tax cuts.

Judge Orders Santa Fe To Implement Ranked-Choice VotingThe Associated Press

A judge has ordered Santa Fe to use ranked-choice voting system in its March elections.

Santa Fe District Court Judge David Thompson made the ruling Wednesday.

City voters in 2008 approved a charter amendment to elect their municipal officers with ranked-choice voting.

The amendment stated the voting system would be implemented as early as March 2010 if voting equipment became available at a reasonable price.

The equipment became available for free this year and the Secretary of State certified it for use in all New Mexico elections beginning in 2018.

But the Santa Fe City Council voted this summer not to implement ranked choice voting until 2020.

A group of Santa Fe citizens filed a petition in New Mexico district court to compel the city to comply with its charter.

New Mexico Moves To Rein In Predatory LendingAssociated Press

New Mexico is nearing a year-end deadline for storefront lenders to cap annual interest rates at 175 percent under a new law.

Consumer advocate Ona Porter of the nonprofit Prosperity Works estimated Tuesday that the interest cap will save New Mexico consumers some $500 million over the next two years.

Regulators are briefing lawmakers on Wednesday on progress toward implementing the law that reins in interest charges on automobile title loans and cash advances against paychecks and tax returns.

The storefront lending industry has defended triple-digit interest rates as a way to ensure borrowing options for low-income residents in New Mexico, where high poverty and unemployment rates are chronic.

Consumer advocates are promoting several new small-loan alternatives with moderate interest rates for people with little or no credit history.

Court Gives Congressman Steve Pearce Access To Campaign CashAssociated Press

A federal court is allowing Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce to access nearly $1 million in campaign funds that he collected while in Congress to use in his run for governor of New Mexico.

A U.S. district court judge on Tuesday blocked enforcement of limitations on campaign transfers from Pearce's federal campaign account to a state one. The preliminary injunction gives Pearce access to the stockpile of campaign cash while underlying issues are litigated.

The Secretary of State's Office has said that only $11,000 can be transferred by Pearce, based on a New Mexico law that limits campaign contributions to $5,500 in a primary election and again in the general election.

Pearce spokesman Greg Blair says the ruling affirms arguments that the transfer of funds complies with existing New Mexico law.

New Mexico Sheriff Details Shooting Deaths Of 2 SuspectsAssociated Press

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales says the deputy who fired several rounds at a driver who tried to flee in a stolen pickup truck feared for the safety of his colleagues as the suspect revved the engine after being cornered.

Gonzales released more details yesterday about the Nov. 17 shooting that resulted in the deaths of driver Isaac Padilla and passenger Martin Jim.

Two other men got out of the truck unharmed and were not charged following a night of reckless driving that spanned 20 miles.

It was the second deputy-involved shooting in the county in just a week. Overall, deputies in the state's largest metro area have been involved in nine shootings in a four-month period, spurring criticism from civil rights groups and activists.

Gonzales reiterated during Tuesday's news conference that each shooting is a separate event and investigations into such matters can take months. All such cases are forwarded to the district attorney's office as part of the procedure.

The sheriff dug in his heels regarding the use of body cameras, saying he has never said he's opposed to the technology but as yet no one has provided him with data showing the cameras make the community safer.

Santa Fe Starts Examination Of Its Monuments, EventsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The city of Santa Fe has compiled a list of its monuments and events supported with public funds in the hopes of spurring a conversation about the city's cultural history.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the city on Monday released the list that includes plaques, events, monuments and murals.

City officials say residents can contribute to the inventory until the end of next month when the officials will then compile a final report.

Mayor Javier Gonzales proposed an examination of the city's historical and cultural markers as discussions continue across the country over Confederate monuments.

An event listed on the inventory is the Entrada, the annual re-enactment during the Fiesta de Santa Fe that depicts the Spanish conquistadors' 1692 reoccupation of the city. The event has elicited staunch opposition.

Air Force: Lapse In Kelley Case Was Part Of Pattern - By Robert Burns, AP National Security Writer

The Air Force says its failure to report the criminal history of the former airman who killed 26 people at a Texas church in early November was part of a pattern of such lapses.

But it's not yet clear how widespread it was.

In a statement Tuesday, the Air Force blamed failures in "training and compliance measures" for the lapse involving Devin P. Kelley, who had been convicted of assaulting his wife and stepson in 2012. The fingerprint card and the report on the outcome of his court martial were not submitted to the FBI by Air Force personnel at Kelley's base in New Mexico. If reported, this information should have stopped him from buying weapons.

The Air Force said its review found that the reporting failure in the Kelley case was by Office of Special Investigation officials and Air Force security force personnel at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The Air Force says it has taken corrective actions to prevent such reporting lapses.

Los Alamos National Lab To Get New Director Jan. 1Associated Press

Los Alamos National Laboratory will have a new director at the start of the year.

Officials with Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the contractor that manages the northern New Mexico lab, announced Tuesday that Terry Wallace will take over as director and company president Jan. 1.

Wallace will replace Charles McMillan, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Wallace currently serves as the lab's principal associate director for global security.

Officials say Wallace's national security expertise makes him the right person for the job. He will oversee a $2.5 billion budget and thousands of employees.

Los Alamos National Security's multibillion-dollar contract to manage the lab expires in 2018 and federal officials have started the bidding process.

The lab also has come under increased scrutiny for a series of safety lapses that included the mishandling of nuclear material.

Albuquerque Mayor-Elect Names Interim Police Leadership TeamAssociated Press

Albuquerque Mayor-elect Tim Keller has named a team that will oversee the transition of law enforcement in New Mexico's largest city as he prepares to take office.

Police reforms and rising crime fueled the mayoral campaign, and Keller said during a news conference Tuesday that his interim team will be focused on turning around the beleaguered police department.

Heading the effort will be interim Police Chief Mike Geier, who stepped down earlier this year as the chief in neighboring Rio Rancho.

Keller said Geier has the respect of front-line officers and knows the Albuquerque Police Department well after serving with the force for about 20 years.

Keller said a national search is planned for a permanent police chief and that the long term goals will be to reduce crime, restore public trust and hire more officers.

New Mexico Plans Improvements Along San Juan RiverAssociated Press

New Mexico wildlife managers say they will be making improvements along the San Juan River downstream of Navajo Lake State Park.

The state Game and Fish Department says the work will begin in mid-December and last until April. It will result in temporary closures of day-use areas along the river.

The project will include a new boat takeout at Crusher Hole Day-Use Area.

A temporary takeout will be constructed at the Muñoz Day-Use Area that will provide access to upper portions of the river.

Officials also say that to ensure safety, use of the San Juan River past Simon Point will be closed to boat traffic and wade fishing from Dec. 15 through March 1. Limited use of the river will be available from March 1 through April 15.

Ex-Las Cruces Policeman Dies In Crash With Pursued VehicleAssociated Press

A retired Las Cruces police officer riding a motorcycle was killed in a collision with a carjacked vehicle and authorities say two suspects from Colorado are in custody.

New Mexico State Police say an SUV involved in the collision that killed J.R. Stewart allegedly was carjacked Monday by 34-year-old Daniel Allen Lowell and 32-year-old Trista Marie Schlaefli, both of Colorado Springs.

The two reportedly fled earlier from a Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 10 west of Las Cruces in a stolen pickup truck.

State Police say pursuing Border Patrol agents reported seeing the two suspects carjack the SUV from a family at gunpoint before the vehicle exited I-25 in Las Cruces.

Officers arrested Lowell and Schlaefli as they allegedly tried to carjack another vehicle after the fatal collision.