NM Students Gather As Others Walk Out Over Violence, Progressive Candidate Ends Gubernatorial Run

Mar 14, 2018

New Mexico Students Gather As Others Walk Out Over ViolenceThe Associated Press

Hundreds of students at a New Mexico high school where two classmates were gunned down by an armed intruder in December gathered around a flag pole Wednesday for a "walk-up" as a way to unify their rural campus while students elsewhere in the country joined walkouts against gun violence.

The student council at Aztec High School had asked administrators for time in their schedule so they could honor the 21 students who have been killed in school shootings in recent months — including their two classmates — and to talk about 21 pledges they can take to get involved in making their campus safer.

The message on one poster read: Walk up to the kid who sits alone and ask that him to be part of the group, walk up to teachers and thank them, and walk up to someone and just be nice.

Almost the entire student body showed up for the gathering at the campus in a rural community in northwest New Mexico near the Arizona and Colorado borders. One student held a banner that read "Time for Change," while others had donned the school colors.

Aztec High School Principal Warman Hall said his students wanted to feel empowered but didn't want a contentious political debate or demonstration.

Family life in Aztec often includes hunting and shooting sports. The rural community's response has been different from other parts of the nation. Some Aztec residents have called for willing teachers to be trained and allowed to carry concealed weapons.

Progressive Democrat Ends New Mexico Gubernatorial CandidacyThe Associated Press

Progressive gubernatorial candidate Peter DeBenedittis of Santa Fe is ending his campaign for governor in the June Democratic primary and endorsing one of three remaining candidates.

DeBenedittis announced Wednesday that he was fully throwing his support behind former media executive Jeff Apodaca.

DeBenedittis, an alcohol prevention counselor from Santa Fe, says he and Apodaca see eye-to-eye on efforts to provide universal health care, legalize recreational marijuana and seek a statewide $15 minimum wage.

Apodaca is leveling accusations about underhanded favoritism toward Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham in the primary-election process.

Limited support from Democratic county delegates has forced Democratic state Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces to collect more registration signatures to stay in the primary race.

Santa Fe Cancels Parking Tickets After Meters MalfunctionThe Associated Press

Santa Fe officials have cancelled dozens of parking tickets after the city discovered battery malfunctions in 280 parking meters.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports city staff has replaced the faulty solar-charged batteries in meters and has canceled nearly 80 parking tickets.

City spokesman Matt Ross says the city was alerted to the issue after receiving a growing number of calls from residents over the last several months.

Ross says that for tickets thought to be issued for a malfunctioning meter, staff checked the ticket numbers and issue time with the city's meter monitoring system. The tickets issued when meters were down were invalidated.

The city operates about 1,300 parking meters. It upgraded more than 1,100 coin-operated meters to accept other forms of payment in 2016.

Albuquerque School Board Resolution Opposes Arming Teachers The Associated Press

An Albuquerque school board has passed a resolution in opposition to the idea of arming teachers.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that the resolution by the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education comes after a February shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead.

President Donald Trump is promoting the idea of arming gun-adept educators and trusted staff.

The resolution passed by the board states that teachers are not trained law enforcement officers and should not be asked or incentivized to bring weapons into the classroom.

The board's resolution says research does not show that arming teachers or adding guns to school settings would prevent acts of violence.

Less Of New Mexico's Famed Chile Crop Produced In 2017The Associated Press

New Mexico farmers produced fewer of the state's famed hot peppers in 2017, and data released by federal and state agriculture officials show the value of the chile crop has declined.

The tallies for the last growing season show planted chile acreage decreased 12 percent to 8,100 acres (3,278 hectares) last year. About 94 percent of that was harvested.

Production totaled 62,700 tons (56,880 metric tons) compared to 69,600 tons (63,140 metric tons) the previous year. Production has remained close to 60,000 tons (54,430 metric tons) or more over the last decade with the exception of 2007, when the number dropped below 50,000.

Officials say nearly 80 percent of the 2017 crop was sold for processing, with the remainder going to the fresh market.

The value of the crop dropped to an estimated $44.6 million.

Opioid Epidemic's Full Impact On Tribes May Be UnknownThe Associated Press

Federal officials say the scope of the opioid epidemic's impact on Native American communities is immense and straining tribal resources.

But the toll it has taken also may be greater than what federal figures show.

Citing federal statistics, the Indian Health Services' chief medical officer told the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday that Native Americans and Alaska Natives saw a five-fold percentage increase in overdose deaths between 1999 and 2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures indicate the increase in that period was higher for Native Americans than any other group.

Indian Health Services' Dr. Michael Toedt also added that there may be an undercount of overdose deaths among Native Americans and Alaska Natives by as much as 35 percent because death certificates often list them as belonging to another race.

Some New Mexico Students Expected To Join National WalkoutsAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

Some New Mexico high school students are expected to join a national call to walk out of class to protest gun violence.

Students in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho are scheduled Wednesday to participate in a walkout for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people killed during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Meanwhile, students at Aztec High School asked administrators if they could gather around the flagpole Wednesday to honor those killed in Florida and two Aztec classmates killed by a school shooting in December.

Aztec High School also will be kicking off a campaign to engage students and bolster school safety in a rural community where some are pushing to train and arm willing teachers.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that the board of Albuquerque Public Schools passed a resolution last week against arming teachers. That’s despite a call by President Donald Trump for schools to arm teachers after the Florida shooting.

Less Of New Mexico's Famed Chile Crop Produced In 2017Associated Press

New Mexico farmers produced fewer of the state's famed hot peppers in 2017, and data released by federal and state agriculture officials show the value of the chile crop has declined.

The tallies for the last growing season show planted chile acreage decreased 12 percent to 8,100 acres last year. About 94 percent of that was harvested.

Production totaled 62,700 tons compared to 69,600 tons the previous year. Production has remained close to 60,000 tons or more over the last decade with the exception of 2007, when the number dropped below 50,000.

Officials say nearly 80 percent of the 2017 crop was sold for processing, with the remainder going to the fresh market.

The value of the crop dropped to an estimated $44.6 million.

New Mexico Official Promises Straight-Ticket Vote OptionAssociated Press

Democratic New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says she still wants to restore straight-ticket voting in which a slate of major-party candidates can be chosen all at one time.

Toulouse Oliver on Tuesday said she hopes to allow straight-ticket voting in fall elections. The change would fulfill a campaign pledge.

Also known as straight-party voting, the option was removed beginning in 2012 elections by then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says the number of states with straight-ticket voting dwindled to nine last year.

Democratic State Senate majority leader Peter Wirth says straight-ticket voting can greatly increase participation in down-ballot races. Many Republicans regard the practice as unfair to individual candidates in New Mexico, where registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans.

Cop Who Adopted Addicted Baby Says Biological Parents RecoveringAssociated Press

An Albuquerque police officer who convinced a pregnant woman he found using heroin to later let him adopt her baby says the infant's biological parents are finishing rehab.

Officer Ryan Holets recently posted on his Facebook page that Crystal Champ and Tom Key are approaching 90 days of sobriety and are preparing for their next challenge.

Holets says Key has graduated this month from his live-in rehabilitation center program and Champ is getting ready to graduate, too. The officer has raised nearly $25,000 online for the couple's housing after their rehabilitation stints.

Holets and his wife were honored by President Donald Trump in January at the State of the Union for adopting the addicted-baby girl the couple named Hope.

The couple has four other children.

NTSB To Reschedule Meeting On Fatal New Mexico Rail WreckAssociated Press

Federal safety officials canceled but plans to reschedule a meeting to determine the probable cause of a fatal 2015 collision involving two freight trains in New Mexico and issue safety recommendations aimed at preventing similar wrecks.

The National Transportation Safety Board canceled the meeting scheduled Tuesday in Washington because of a fatal helicopter crash Monday in New York City's East River.

A Southwestern Railroad engineer was killed and a second crew member was seriously was injured when their train struck a train parked on a siding 10 miles southeast of Roswell on April 28, 2015.

A preliminary report said the moving train went through a misaligned switch and that the parked train's crew went off duty about 20 minutes before the wreck and weren't present when it happened.

Former Lawmaker Abandons Bid Amid AccusationsAssociated Press

A former Democratic state lawmaker who has denied recent accusations of sexual misconduct during his time in the Legislature says he has abandoned immediate plans to run for office again.

Former Democratic Rep. Thomas Garcia of Las Vegas, N.M., said Tuesday that he had collected petition signatures to run for election to the House of Representatives but decided not to run because of business and family obligations.

In December, registered lobbyist Vanessa Alarid publicly accused Garcia of offering to vote for a bill in 2009 if she would have sex with him — allegations he denies.

Garcia says he is not done with politics even though he won't run for office this year. He left the Legislature in 2012.

Embattled New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman ResignsAssociated Press

The embattled chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico has resigned.

Richard Ellenberg announced his resignation in a letter Tuesday following a state party convention where he was accused of questioning the credibility of sexual misconduct allegations against a union leader.

Ellenberg also had faced criticism for his response to a Democratic Party of New Mexico vice chair's claim that she was a target of unwanted sexual advances by a party official.

Ellenberg says he regretted the way he managed complaints of women who have come forward about sexual harassment.

Others say Ellenberg oversaw a "slanted" process over delegates that favored certain candidates this weekend.

The resignation comes before midterm elections where New Mexico Democrats are hopeful about winning back the governor's seat and capturing more Legislative seats.

New Santa Fe Mayor Continues City's Sanctuary GoalAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The new mayor of Santa Fe says the New Mexico city will remain a welcoming sanctuary under his leadership.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Mayor Alan Webber called for working toward an inclusive and fair future for Santa Fe during his inauguration speech Monday, sharing similar goals of his predecessor.

Webber takes over from former Mayor Javier Gonzales, who has advocated for so-called sanctuary cities.

Webber says the future of Santa Fe is one of "compassion and respect and sanctuary for every member of our community."

Santa Fe voters elected the publishing entrepreneur last week in the state's first election decided by ranked-choice voting. Webber prevailed as a newcomer to political office in a five-way race against a local school board member and three men on the city council.

UNM To Implement New On-Campus Living Requirement Next FallAssociated Press

The University of New Mexico says it'll implement its new requirement that incoming freshmen live on campus starting in the fall.

Discussions of the idea began nearly two years ago and the university had planned to implement the requirement last fall but then postponed implementation due to concerns that included increased costs to students and availability of campus services.

The university says the requirement is motivated by benefits that include academic success in grades, retention and graduation rates.

There are multiple exceptions to the requirement. They include students who live with a family member within 30 miles of campus and those who are at least 20 years old at the beginning of the academic year.

Administrators estimate the new requirement will result in 300 additional students living on campus.

New Mexico State Auditor Looking Into Pro-Los Alamos AgencyAssociated Press

The state auditor's office says it will look into the spending habits of an agency of New Mexico municipalities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory.

New Mexico State Auditor Wayne Johnson said Monday he has designated the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities for a special audit following reports that its executive director spent public money on baseball tickets and fancy dinners in Washington.

Johnson says there are enough concerns to warrant a close look to make sure all state laws were followed.

Executive director Andrea Romero is facing criticism for the recent spending that included expensive gatherings where alcohol was purchased. She has apologized.

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities is an agency made of nine northern New Mexico cities, counties and pueblos surrounding the Department of Energy's Los Alamos Lab.