Universities Warn Students And Faculty Against Travel, Taos Councilor Censured By Peers

Jan 31, 2017

Universities Warn International Students, Faculty Against Traveling – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Major universities around New Mexico issued warnings to some students and faculty against international travel in the wake of an executive order issued by President Donald Trump.

The Albuquerque Journal reports officials said if people from the seven Muslim-majority countries listed in the order leave the U.S. they may not be able to return.

More than 110 students and professors at the University of New Mexico could be affected by the travel ban. The majority are from Iran, with a few from other countries.

At New Mexico State University 65 students, faculty and staff could be affected. New Mexico Tech officials said about a dozen students as well as three faculty and staff members are from the countries on the banned list. Tech also warned students about traveling near the Mexican border.

Trump’s order forbids anyone from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. It halts entry of all refugees for 120 days. There is an indefinite ban on all refugees from Syria.

Taos Councilor Censured By Peers - The Santa Fe New Mexican

Taos Town Councilor Judi Cantu was censured by her peers yesterday for a host of issues that ranged from harassment of staff to burdening government resources with unnecessary record requests.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the four-page resolution is a public declaration of “disappointment” in Cantu’s performance as a town councilor.  Cantu told The Taos News that she was “frazzled and in shock.”

The resolution calls out Cantu’s reliance on records requests saying she made at least 285 of them, many that require the production of hundreds or even thousands of documents.  Plus, it said in many cases she already had the documents from information provided in meetings.  

Cantu defended her right to request documents.  She says the special council meeting and the censure were illegal because they did not conform to the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Trial For Man Accused Of Shooting Albuquerque Officer SetThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

A man suspected of fatally shooting an Albuquerque police officer in 2015 is scheduled to go to trial next year.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that Davon Lymon is set to go to trial in 2018 on charges that he fatally shot Officer Daniel Webster during a traffic stop in October 2015.

Lymon, who has a lengthy criminal history, was convicted last year in federal court of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Federal prosecutors called more than a dozen witnesses and presented the fallen officer's lapel video as evidence as they sought to prove Lymon possessed the pistol used in Webster's death.

Webster was a highly decorated officer and former Army Ranger. He died from his injuries eight days after the shooting.

Highlands Professor Helps To Create Latino Scholar PipelineAssociated Press

A Santa Fe-based nonprofit is working with an anthropology professor from New Mexico Highlands University to create a new Latino studies program at the School for Advanced Research.

Officials say the goal is to increase the pipeline for Latino scholars from throughout the nation.

Officials at the research school say they tapped Mario Gonzales' expertise in everything from immigration and border issues to indigenous people and Hispanics in the Southwest as they work to define the direction of the new program.

The president of the School for Advanced Research, Michael Brown, says the Latino scholar program will be fully implemented later this year and will include a series of public lectures and seminars.

Gun-Safety Group Highlights Dangers To New Mexico PoliceAssociated Press

The national group Everytown for Gun Safety is highlighting the toll of gun violence against police officers in New Mexico as the state Legislature considers new regulations to ensure background checks on nearly all private firearms purchases.

The advocacy group for universal background checks says it reviewed instances where police were shot and killed since 1987 in New Mexico and found that the majority of shooters were prohibited or likely prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms at the time.

The analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety was released on Tuesday as a Senate committee takes up discussion of a bill to close the so-called gun show loophole by requiring background checks against a federal database on private firearms transactions, with exceptions for transfers between relatives or while hunting.

Veto Deadline Nears On New Mexico Budget Fixes Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez has less than a day left to veto or allow passage of a budget solvency package approved last week by the Legislature.

The $216 million plan for plugging a budget deficit and rebuilding modest reserves goes into effect Tuesday afternoon if Republican Gov. Susana Martinez takes no action. She also has the authority to veto any and all provisions within the three budget-mending bills for the fiscal year ending June 30.

Spending across state agencies was slashed by 2.4 percent during a special legislative session in October, without fully addressing the deficit. The state's credit rating was downgraded last year.

The new budget changes target $46 million in local school district reserves to beef up the state general fund, along with transfers from dozens of accounts.

New Mexico Legislature Adjusts Its Budget, Court FundingAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers have approved funding for the current legislative session and to the Judiciary to pay for jury trials, after an earlier version of the bill was vetoed.

The Senate and House on Monday approved amendments that reduce funding for the current legislative session by $300,000 from a bill vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez last week. The Administrative Office of the Courts would receive an $800,000 infusion to ensure continued funding of jury trials and court interpreters for months to come. The governor's support was uncertain.

The ordinarily routine "feed" bill became a lightning rod for debate as Martinez accused the Democratic majority in the House and Senate of protecting their own budget, though year-round funding to the Legislative branch was cut by 3 percent in October.

Trump's Travel Ban 'Poorly Executed'Associated Press

New Mexico's lone Republican in its congressional delegation says President Donald Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries was "poorly executed."

Congressman Steve Pearce said Monday in a statement that Trump's executive order struck confusion throughout the Department of Homeland Security and with U.S. citizens at home and abroad.

However, Pearce says the nation's refugee policy needed a comprehensive assessment "after years of the Obama Administration failing to follow immigration laws." Pearce says he hoped the Trump Administration took immediate action to follow through on plans to revise the nation's security procedures.

Trump's order includes a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, and a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program. It sparked protests in airports across the country.

New Mexico Education Dept. Seeks Teacher Evaluation FixesAssociated Press

New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera is asking lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at reducing the percentage student test scores count on teacher evaluations.

Skandera said Monday she is recommending that student achievement be dropped from 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation to 40 percent. She also would like principal observations to be counted more.

In addition, Skandera says she'd like to see an increase in the number of days exempt in teacher attendance from 3 days to 5.

Skandera says she is recommending these changes after she went on a "listening tour" around the state and gathered feedback from teachers.

Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein says teachers feel the overall evaluation system is flawed and don't think a 10 percent reduction in student test scores cut it.

Winter Storms Help Relieve Drought Across StateAlbuquerque Journal

Recent snow and rain have brought much-needed respite from drought across New Mexico

The Albuquerque Journal reports snow packs in the mountains are at normal or above normal levels. Above-normal rainfall also helped make January was the wettest since 2005.

Meteorologist Kerry Jones with the National Weather Service said that means there could be a healthy spring runoff, although this week brings warmer and drier weather. Forecasters say the next three months will likely be dry as well.

As of Jan. 26 just about 12 percent was abnormally dry. That compares to more than half the state falling under that definition just three months ago.