Small Amounts Of Pot No Longer A Crime In ABQ, Pro Gun Rally Planned Outside NM Statehouse

Apr 12, 2018

In ABQ Small Amounts of Pot No Longer A CrimeThe ABQ Journal

New Mexico’s largest city will be the next municipality where possession of small amounts of marijuana is no longer a crime.

The Albuquerque Journal reports new legislation was passed by city councilors last week – it replaces the criminal penalty of fines and jail time for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana with a $25 civil fine.

Legislation cosponsors Councilors Pat Davis and Ike Benton, announced Thursday that Mayor Keller has signed the legislation repealing the Albuquerque’s criminal marijuana ordinance.

They re-introduced the legislation earlier this year with support from the Drug Policy Alliance after previous legislation was vetoed by former Mayor Richard Barry in 2015.

The signed legislation was delivered to the City Clerk today and will take effect next week.

Albuquerque will join at least 48 other cities, including Santa Fe, that have passed legislation to decriminalize marijuana.

Pot possession still remains a criminal offense under state and federal law.

Pro-gun Rally Planned Outside New Mexico StatehouseThe Associated Press

Supporters of gun rights in New Mexico say they will rally outside the state Capitol building this weekend in coordination with demonstrations across the country.

Robert Overton of Sons of Liberty Riders said he and other organizers hope to attract several hundred people at midday Saturday to hear speeches in defense of the constitutional right to bear arms. He says the rally will reflect that individuals who carry firearms are responsible, everyday people.

A group called the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans has been spreading word of the gatherings at state capitals across the country.

The rallies come less than three weeks after hundreds of thousands marched in Washington and other U.S. cities to demand tougher gun laws after the February school shooting that killed 17 in Parkland, Florida.

Panel Tackles Lack Of Broadband In Tribal CommunitiesThe Associated Press

Two western senators are proposing to expand access to federal funds that have enabled public schools and libraries throughout the U.S. to obtain high-speed internet at affordable rates in hopes of closing the digital divide in American Indian communities.

Librarians and other experts gathered Thursday in Washington, D.C., for a panel discussion on the legislation and the needs of tribal communities.

Cynthia Aguilar, a librarian with Santo Domingo Pueblo, described bringing broadband to her tribe as an innovation as large as establishing the railroad more than a century ago in what was then the territory of New Mexico.

While 90 percent of public libraries in the U.S. have received funds through the federal E-rate program that supports improved internet access, officials estimate only 15 percent of tribal libraries have received any of this funding.

Drought Continues To Expands Across American SouthwestThe Associated Press

Drought is stiffening its hold across the American Southwest as extreme conditions spread from Oklahoma to Utah.

The federal drought map released Thursday shows dry conditions intensifying across northern New Mexico and expanded in Arizona.

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, nearly half of New Mexico and Arizona are facing extreme drought or worst conditions while around 60 percent of Utah is under severe drought.

On the southern high plains, Oklahoma remains ground zero right now for the worst drought conditions in the United States. About 20 percent of the state is facing exceptional drought conditions — the worst possible classification.

Most of Colorado also is under severe drought and almost all of the Texas Panhandle is seeing extreme drought or worse conditions.

Espanola Rehires Its Former Manager Who Is Suing The CityThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Espanola has rehired its former city manager who is suing the city after being fired by a previous mayor.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the city council voted 6-2 Tuesday to rehire Kelly Duran following the recommendation by recently elected Mayor Javier Sanchez.

Duran was hired by former Mayor Alice Lucero in 2014 and terminated two years later.

Duran and former city planning director Patrick Nicholson, who was also fired, sued Espanola, claiming Lucero ousted them for refusing to go along with her political cronyism. The lawsuit is ongoing.

The newspaper's attempts to reach Duran were unsuccessful.

City Councilor John Ramon Vigil voted against the hiring, saying he believed the Duran's litigation is a conflict of interest.

Navajo Nation Latest To Sue Over Opioid Epidemic In USAssociated Press

One of the country's largest American Indian tribes is the latest to sue pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors, alleging their conduct caused the opioid crisis.

The Navajo Nation's lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees.

The tribe says American Indians have suffered disproportionately from opioid dependency or abuse, leading to death, family dysfunction, poverty and social despair.

The tribe says it has helped cover costs of treatment for opioid abuse, and for law enforcement and social services to respond to the epidemic.

One of the defendants denied the allegations. Others say they are working to help combat the opioid epidemic and have reported suspicious orders to the federal government.

Others declined to comment or did not reply to requests for comment.

Advocates Pushing UNM To OK Chicano Studies Grad DegreesAssociated Press

Advocates are pressuring the University of New Mexico to give final approval on a plan to issue Chicano Studies graduate degrees.

Activists recently gathered signatures for petitions to convince the school's Provost's Office to forward the proposal to the Faculty Senate by April 18. That way the university can launch its graduate program next year.

Pamela Cheek, Interim Associate Provost for Curriculum and Assessment, says the office is evaluating the proposals.

Chicana and Chicano Studies became an official department at the school two years ago amid pressure from New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to get state colleges to cut the number of hours needed to earn a degree.

The University of New Mexico's program is part of a nationwide movement to expand ethnic studies at colleges and in high schools.

Freedom Caucus Fund Endorses New Mexico CandidateAssociated Press

A political committee financed by hard-right conservatives in Congress' House Freedom Caucus has endorsed New Mexico state Rep. Yvette Herrell in the race for the state's southern congressional district.

The House Freedom Fund on Wednesday listed its endorsement of Herrell, an Alamogordo resident in the real estate business.

Herrell is competing against former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman for the Republican nomination for the state's second congressional district. The seat is currently held by Steve Pearce, who is running for governor.

The House Freedom Fund emphasizes its support for conservative candidates dedicated to limited government. Pearce has been a Freedom Caucus member and a regular contributor to the fund.

In a statement, Herrell called the endorsement an affirmation of her values.

Mine Company Says EPA Is Worsening Colorado Water PollutionAssociated Press

A mining company is accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of letting a huge volume of polluted water reach a southwestern Colorado river by operating a wastewater treatment plant below full capacity.

The allegation came Wednesday from Sunnyside Gold Corp., which is fighting the EPA over who should pay for a water study as part of a Superfund cleanup.

The cleanup includes the Gold King Mine, source of a 2015 spill that polluted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Sunnyside owns a different mine there. The company says it isn't liable for the area's water pollution.

Sunnyside says the EPA is making things worse by not operating the treatment plant at full capacity. The plant treats wastewater from the Gold King.

The EPA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

New Mexico State And Local Tax Revenues RiseAssociated Press

New Mexico tax authorities are collecting more local and state government tax dollars, amid an oil industry rebound and some signs of an economic expansion.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday said state and local revenues for the first seven months of the fiscal year have increased by $672 million from the previous year, or 13 percent. Those revenues include some money from local tax increases.

A rebound in the oil and natural gas sectors is providing a windfall after two years of austere budgeting.

Martinez and the Legislature, which is led by Democrats, recently approved a $260 million increase in general fund spending for the coming fiscal year, with pay increases for teachers, State Police and prosecutors.

Martinez is highlighting her 2017 veto of a proposed tax increases.

Sessions Takes Fight On Border Enforcement To New Mexico - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

As thousands of National Guard troops deploy to the Mexico border, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions brought his tough stance on immigration enforcement to New Mexico on Wednesday.

Sessions told border sheriffs that cracking down on illegal crossings and drug smuggling is necessary to build a lawful immigration system. He ticked off stories about smugglers being caught with opioids and cocaine at the U.S.-Mexico border and legal loopholes that have encouraged more immigrants to make the journey.

Outside the meeting, dozens of immigrant rights activists protested, once again rejecting Sessions' previous characterization of the border region as "ground zero" in the Trump administration's fight against cartels and human traffickers.

They chanted in Spanish, saying the region is not a "war zone," and hoisted signs that protested the proposed border wall and the deployment of National Guard troops to the region.

Sessions was speaking in Las Cruces at the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition annual spring meeting with the Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition, which includes 31 sheriff's departments from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

US Homeland Security Chief Postpones Border TripAssociated Press

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is postponing her trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.

She had planned to get a firsthand look Thursday at the work being done to replace existing vehicle barriers with what is being billed as part of President Donald Trump's border wall.

Nielsen was scheduled to get a briefing on construction near the Santa Teresa border crossing but her office said in a statement that the trip has been postponed.

Instead, she's expected to remain in Washington, D.C., for meetings.

It was not immediately clear when her trip would be rescheduled.

The $73 million project in southern New Mexico involves replacing vehicle barriers along a 20-mile stretch with taller, more robust fencing. Authorities have said the new barrier would help curb illegal crossings and drug trafficking in one of the busiest sectors along the border.

Minority Residents File Civil Rights Complaint Over ZoningAssociated Press

Some residents say zoning laws in New Mexico's largest city are discriminatory and leading to the erosion of one of Albuquerque's oldest and most historic neighborhoods, and they're asking federal housing authorities to investigate.

The Historic Neighborhood Alliance and the Martineztown Working Group filed a civil rights complaint Wednesday, saying Martineztown lacks the zoning protections that the city has instituted for more affluent and less diverse neighborhoods.

Martineztown was settled around the time the United States acquired the land from Mexico in the Mexican-American War in 1846. Minorities make up more than 70 percent of its population.

Diana Dorn-Jones with the Historic Neighborhood Alliance says the city is allowing the neighborhood to be destroyed by industrial encroachment.

Mayor Tim Keller's office says it's also concerned about historical equity issues and encouraged all sides to work together to resolve the concerns.

State To Close New Mexico's Largest Online Charter SchoolSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico's top education official has decided to not renew the charter for an online school, citing its failure to live up to its touted potential.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Public Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski last week announced the decision that follows the recommendation set by the Public Education Commission on the New Mexico Connections Academy's renewal application.

The commission in December rejected the application, citing the school's low student proficiency rates in math and its consecutive F's in the state's school grading system.

The state Public Education Department says the school is scheduled to close at the end of June. The school served nearly 2,000 students.

The school's attorney declined to comment. The newspaper was unable to reach school leader Ramoncita Arguello for comment.

University Of New Mexico Considers Eliminating SportsAssociated Press

The University of New Mexico has authorized its athletic director to eliminate programs in the cash-strapped department.

University President Garnett S. Stokes addressed the regents Finance and Facilities Committee on Tuesday, saying athletic director Eddie Nuñez has been instructed to propose sport eliminations by this summer.

Stokes says student athletes should be given notice a year before their sport is eliminated.

Nuñez says no decision has been made yet on which sports will be cut. The university sponsors 22 varsity sports programs.

The action comes as the athletics department entered this year with $4.7 million in accumulated deficits. The department is expecting to overspend this fiscal year's budget by a $2.1 million and is projecting another $2.3 million deficit for the next year.