New UNM Freshmen Will Have To Live On Campus, Gov Martinez Details Fight For Facebook Center

Sep 15, 2016

UNM To Move Forward With On-Campus Residency Requirement – The Associated Press & The ABQ Journal 

The University of New Mexico is moving forward with a plan to require incoming freshmen to live on campus.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that student leaders have criticized the policy, calling it an overstep and saying housing choice is one of the university's selling points.

But the Board of Regents approved the measure with a 5-to-2 vote. Supporters say students who spend their early years on campus are likely to do better academically.

The living requirement is set to take effect in 2018 and would allow several exceptions. Students would be allowed to live with family members within 30 miles of the university, and they could get out of dorm living if it would pose an "undue hardship" -- financial or otherwise.

New Mexico Governor Details Fight For Facebook Data CenterThe  Associated Press

It won't be long until the bulldozers start clearing a lonely patch of rangeland in central New Mexico to make way for the newest of six data centers located around the globe that keep Facebook humming.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and other officials gathered in Los Lunas, just south of Albuquerque, on Thursday to celebrate the announcement that the social media giant would be building a quarter-billion-dollar facility on the edge of the community.

Facebook plans to break ground in October.

Martinez says had it not been for her meeting with Facebook executives more than a year ago, New Mexico wouldn't have been a contender.

The governor acknowledged that New Mexico had to fight its way to the top of a list that once included Utah and more than 20 other states.

Dona Ana County Commission Did Not Break Open Meeting LawsThe Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun-News

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office has ruled that the Dona Ana County Board of Commissioners did not violate open meeting laws as was alleged by the county sheriff in part of his ongoing dispute with commissioners.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Sheriff Enrique "Kiki" Vigil had alleged that commissioners violated the Open Meetings Act in April 2015 when discussing matters related to collective bargaining negotiations.

Assistant Attorney General Joseph M. Dworak wrote in a letter dated Tuesday that there is no evidence such a violation occurred.

Vigil did not immediately return requests for comments.

Previously the sheriff had accused county commissioners of trying to curtail his right to free speech when he criticized the commission over staffing and pay levels. Those claims were also ruled unfounded.

Utah Critic Says Facebook Deal Not Good For StateAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

A Utah critic of a now-defunct plan to lure a Facebook data center with hundreds of millions in tax breaks says the project wouldn't have been a good deal for the state.

Following news Wednesday that the company chose Los Lunas for the center, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said he welcomes economic development, but the relatively few jobs on the table weren't worth the public subsidies.

Estimates for the Facebook project ranged from about 50 to 100 permanent positions.

Los Lunas agreed to give up all property taxes for 30 years in exchange for annual payments starting at $50,000 and topping out at under $500,000. The Albuquerque Journal reports the company will also get $10 million from a state closing fund for infrastructure improvements.

Gov. Susana Martinez hailed the decision by Facebook and told the Journal it validates corporate tax cuts passed in the last few years designed to boost New Mexico’s economy.

But Paul Gessing with the libertarian-oriented Rio Grande Foundation expressed concern about the size of the subsidies.

Supporters are hopeful the project will help create a hub here for other data and technology firms.

Assault Charge Tossed In Albuquerque Police Shooting CaseAssociated Press

Prosecutors have agreed to drop an aggravated assault charge against a former Albuquerque police officer who is scheduled to stand trial next week in the on-duty shooting death of a homeless man.

Former Officer Dominique Perez and now retired Detective Keith Sandy were both charged with second-degree murder and other counts in the death of the 38-year-old James Boyd, who was shot after an hours-long standoff in the Albuquerque foothills.

A court filing Tuesday shows Perez's defense attorney and special prosecutor Randi McGinn agreed to have an aggravated assault charge against him dropped.

A motion to have an aggravated battery charge against Sandy dismissed will be argued at a hearing this week.

Opening statements in the former officers' trial are expected to start Monday.

Moody’s Could Downgrade New Mexico’s Bond RatingAlbuquerque Journal

New Mexico could see a downgrade in its triple A bond rating from Moody’s Investor Service because of its large budget shortfall.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Moody’s said it would review the rating based on concerns that revenue estimates show a “structural imbalance” for the current fiscal year.

Bond ratings impact how much governments pay to borrow money. The review did not come as a surprise to officials in Gov. Susana Martinez’s Administration. Finance and Administration Secretary Duffy Rodriguez said plummeting oil and gas prices have hit the state hard.

Moody’s said it will focus on steps the state takes to address the budget shortfall, especially during a planned special session which has yet to be scheduled.

Supreme Court Clears The Way For Amendments To Take Effect Associated Press

Two constitutional amendments approved by voters in recent years will finally take effect thanks to a ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The justices ruled the ballot measures needed only a simple majority to be approved rather than 75 percent of the vote.

At issue is an amendment allowing school elections to be held in conjunction with other nonpartisan elections and one that would remove language from the constitution that excludes "idiots" and "insane persons" from voting.

The measures never took effect because of a provision requiring approval by a super majority of voters — or three-fourths — if changes might restrict the rights of voters.

The League of Women Voters of New Mexico and others had argued that the amendments didn't need to meet the super majority threshold since they did not restrict voter rights.

Woman Testifies In Ex-Boyfriend's Murder Trial In New Mexico Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The ex-girlfriend of a man accused of fatally shooting a Rio Rancho police officer says he never wanted to be arrested again or go back to prison.

Andrew Romero is charged with first-degree murder in the May 2015 death of Officer Gregg Benner.

The jury trial for the 29-year-old Romero started last week in Valencia County District Courthouse.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Tabitha Littles testified Wednesday as part of a plea deal in which authorities dropped multiple charges against her.

The day Benner was killed, Littles told the court Romero robbed an Albuquerque fast-food restaurant and the couple then purchased drugs.

After driving around all day getting high, she says they went to Rio Rancho to find another place to rob before being stopped for a questionable license plate.

Report: Exports From New Mexico Jump Nearly 3 Percent - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

New numbers show exports from New Mexico have jumped nearly 3 percent in the first half of 2016.

The state Economic Development Department said this week exports to Mexico have risen 17.5 percent compared to the first six months last year, and exports to China are up around 500 percent.

State numbers show New Mexico saw around $1.96 billion in exports from January to June this year. That's an increase from $1.9 billion during the same period last year.

Economic Development Department Secretary Jon Barela says the growth is part of a plan that began six years ago to increase New Mexico exports.

Jerry Pacheco, head of the Border Industrial Association, says a bulk of the growth has been from the booming border town of Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

State Public Defender Warns It May Have To Reject CasesKOAT-TV

The New Mexico Public Defender’s Office told state lawmakers the continued squeeze on its funding means it may have to turn down criminal cases.

KOAT-TV reports officials from the office said they are grappling with a shortage of staff and indigent clients may not be receiving effective legal assistance.

Some clients do not have attorneys representing them at first appearances or even during grand jury proceedings.

The office has a $49 million budget and is seeking $5 million in emergency funds for the next fiscal year to hire more attorneys and staff. But the state is facing massive budget shortfall.

If the Public Defender’s Office declines to take a case, that case could be dismissed under state law.

Albuquerque Takes Over Empty 'No Country For Old Men' Motel Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The city of Albuquerque temporarily has taken over an abandoned Albuquerque Route 66 motel and apartment complex made famous in the 2007 movie "No Country for Old Men."

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque reports the city's "Safe City Strike Force" recently took control of the Desert Sands Motel following a third fire since May.

Officials say firefighters were called Saturday evening to the Desert Sands Motel and found a fire in a unit believed to have been started by a homeless person.

The City of Albuquerque Planning Department says the motel owner has until October 1 to repair the structure or demolish it.

The hotel was the scene of a final shootout in the movie "No Country for Old Men" starring Oscar-winner Javier Bardem.