State Could Lose Millions In Federal Block Grants, UNM Regents Remain After Terms Expire

Mar 21, 2017

New Mexico Could Lose Millions In Block Grants – Albuquerque Journal

President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the federal Community Development Block Grant Program in his budget, which helps fund numerous projects each year around New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Journal reports about $16 million in block grant funds flow to the state annually for things like roads and water projects, as well as community centers in small towns and larger cities.

Among projects that have benefited from block grant funds in Albuquerque are parks,  the Road Runner Food Bank, which got a partial roof replacement, and St. Martin’s Homeless Shelter.

Small communities such as Las Vegas, Santa Rosa and Silver City have used block grant funds to for senior centers and water and street projects.

Congress must approve elimination of the program and many lawmakers are already raising issues with many parts of Trump’s budget proposal.

Man Charged With Killing Navajo Officer Was Drunk- Associated Press

A man charged with killing a Navajo Nation police officer who was responding to a domestic violence call had been drinking and was intoxicated the night of the shooting, according to a criminal complaint released today.

The complaint details the call that sent Officer Houston James Largo to a home on the nation's largest American Indian reservation and what followed when the 27-year-old decorated officer stopped a vehicle on a dark road near that home in rural New Mexico.

Kirby Cleveland, 32, is accused of shooting Largo with a .22-caliber rifle after the officer stopped a pickup truck that was taking him home.

Cleveland has been charged with murder and made his first appearance in federal court in Albuquerque today. He stood before the judge alone and acknowledged that he understood the allegations made in the criminal complaint.

The judge ordered an attorney to be appointed for him and scheduled another hearing for tomorrow.

UNM Regents To Remain After Nominees Don't Get Hearing-Associated Press

The University of New Mexico's two longest-serving regents will remain on the board, as Gov. Susana Martinez's nominees didn't get confirmation hearings.

Jack Fortner and Bradley Hosmer will remain on the school's governing council at least until next year's legislative session despite their expired terms.

Martinez nominated lobbyist and former Republican state lawmaker John Ryan, and Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce CEO Alex Romero to the Board of Regents, but neither received a confirmation hearing from the Senate Rules Committee during the recently concluded 60-day legislative session.

Martinez accused Senate Democrats who control the confirmation process of neglecting constitutional requirements.

Nominees for some low-profile positions, such as the State Land Trusts Advisory Board, received hearings from the Senate Rules Committee but many of the nearly 100 did not.

Albuquerque Zoo Welcomes New Tiger- Associated Press

The Albuquerque zoo has welcomed a new tiger after going nine months without one.

The ABQ BioPark zoo's last tiger, an 18-year-old Bengal tiger named Scout, was euthanized in June because it was suffering from liver cancer.

The zoo welcomed a new tiger, a Malayan tiger named Penari, on Feb. 24.

The nearly 4-year-old cat was previously kept at the Jacksonville Zoo.Zoo officials say Penari has been in quarantine and is adjusting to his new environment.The animal's public-viewing hours will increase as he becomes more comfortable with his surroundings.

Wild Jaguars Can Make US Comeback- Associated Press

Conservationists are making another push to get federal wildlife officials to devote more resources to the re-establishment of wild jaguars in the U.S.

Only three jaguars have been seen in recent years, but conservationists like Rob Peters, a senior representative for Defenders of Wildlife, believe they can call the United States home again with a series of conservation measures including translocation and establishing a larger habitat area by federal officials.

Wild jaguars lived in Arizona as far north as the Grand Canyon and in New Mexico for years before habitat loss and predator control programs aimed at protecting livestock eliminated them in the past 150 years. It's been over 50 years since a female jaguar was seen in Arizona.

CBS Pilot 'Mission Control' To Begin Albuquerque Production Associated Press

A new television pilot starring "Without a Trace" actress Poppy Montgomery is set to begin production in Albuquerque.

New Mexico Film Office Director Nick Maniatis announced Monday that CBS pilot "Mission Control" will begin principal photography. The production will be filmed at Albuquerque Studios.

"Mission Control" focuses on the next generation of NASA astronauts and scientists as they juggle their personal and professional lives during a critical mission.

The pilot also stars David Giuntoli and Peyton List.

New Mexico Cheerleader Moves Cyberbullying Suit To Fed Court - Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A former high school cheerleader is suing the Albuquerque school district in federal court over nude images of her posted by teammates on social media.

The lawsuit was moved to U.S. District Court in Albuquerque last week. It alleges teammates at West Mesa High School used a coach's smartphone to capture photos and video of the 15-year-old taking a shower during a 2015 cheer camp in Phoenix.

Court documents say the teammates then made fun of the girl's body and posted a video on Snapchat.

According to the lawsuit, the cheerleading coach told the girl to apologize for overreacting to a joke.

Albuquerque Public School spokeswoman Monica Armenta says the district couldn't comment on pending litigation but the coach is no longer employed at the school.

New Mexico Budget Standoff Has No Quick Fix Associated Press

A political standoff over how to fund New Mexico state government and public schools during the coming fiscal year is showing no sign of quick resolution.

Bills that would authorize $6.1 billion in state spending and companion revenue increases from taxes and fees had not yet reached the governor's desk on Monday because of clerical requirements. Gov. Susana Martinez is promising to veto tax increases approved by the Legislature and call lawmakers back to Santa Fe to renegotiate a balanced budget.

The second-term Republican governor says she has put forward options to raise $300 million to shore up state finances without outright tax increases. More than $100 million would come from pension contribution changes that are opposed by fellow Republicans and sweeps from retirement accounts that raise constitutional issues.

New Mexico Land Office Preps For Fire SeasonAssociated Press

The State Land Office is expecting an above-normal fire season and has a plan to treat overgrown sections of the wooded area along the Rio Grande just south of Albuquerque.

Officials say the work begins Tuesday and will include the removal nonnative Russian olive, salt cedar and elm trees. That will be followed by seeding the area with native grasses and forbs.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says the area is extremely vulnerable to wildfire so the project aims to create conditions that would prevent any flames from reaching tree tops and becoming unmanageable.

New Mexico forestry officials say nearly seven square miles have been charred across the state so far this year, and forecasters say a persistent pattern of warm, dry weather will only help to elevate fire danger.

Court Turns Down Challenges To EPA Plan For Coal-Fired PlantAssociated Press

A federal court has denied two legal challenges to federal clean-air regulators' plan for reducing haze by limiting emissions from the Navajo Generating station, a coal-fired plant in northern Arizona.

Rulings Monday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turn down challenges filed by the Hopi Tribe and by environmental and conservation groups.

One ruling said the Environmental Protection Agency acted reasonably in setting limits on nitrous oxide emissions. The second said the agency adequately consulted with the Hopi Tribe during the agency's rulemaking process and didn't have to consider certain technology matters.

The plant's owners announced in February they plan to close it in December 2019 when their lease with the Navajo Nation expires.

The owners have cited availability of less expensive power generating by burning natural gas.

Hundreds Pack New Mexico Congressman's Town Hall MeetingLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A Republican congressman's town hall meeting in southern New Mexico attracted a standing-room-only crowd of 500 people.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that hundreds of people packed a room at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces to participate in the Saturday discussion with Rep. Steve Pearce.

Pearce was asked to address a multitude of topics in the 2 1/2 hour meeting. He was often interrupted by people asking for explanations or disagreeing with his comments, and some crowd members shouted, jeered and chanted.

Security officers privately asked some attendees to restrain themselves and escorted several people from the room.

The in-person meeting comes after Pearce received backlash for holding a telephone meeting that excluded constituents. That decision was met with a demonstration outside of his Las Cruces office.

New Mexico Counties On List For Refusing ICE OrdersAlbuquerque Journal

A list by the Department of Homeland Security of counties that did not hold immigrants arrested for crimes for federal immigration officials includes Bernalillo and San Miguel.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials created the list to respond to President Donald Trump’s executive order that sought to find jurisdictions offering so-called sanctuary to people who entered the country illegally. Trump has called for blocking those counties and cities from receiving most federal funds.

Local officials have said they cannot hold suspects who qualify for bail or whom a judge has ruled may be released. Local jails also must pay for the costs of keeping those suspects locked up until federal officials take them into custody.

Bernalillo County officials said in 2014 they would not keep jail inmates suspected of being in the country illegally while locked up on other charges.

Winter Shelter In Albuquerque Closes After 4-Month SeasonAssociated Press

Albuquerque officials say an emergency winter shelter for the chronically homeless has closed after being open nightly for four months.

Mayor Richard Berry's office says the shelter had daily average attendance of 255 people, an increase of about 10 percent.

Berry said in a statement Monday the winter shelter is an important part of the city's plan to help homeless people, along with motel vouchers and connections to jobs.

Albuquerque Zoo Welcomes New TigerAssociated Press

The Albuquerque zoo has welcomed a new tiger after going nine months without one.

The ABQ BioPark zoo's last tiger, an 18-year-old Bengal tiger named Scout, was euthanized in June because it was suffering from liver cancer.

The zoo welcomed a new tiger, a Malayan tiger named Penari, on Feb. 24.

The nearly 4-year-old cat was previously kept at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Zoo officials say Penari has been in quarantine and is adjusting to his new environment.

The animal's public-viewing hours will increase as he becomes more comfortable with his surroundings.