Water Shortages Expected, Jail Officer Arrested And Accused Of Perjury

Mar 31, 2017

Drought Planning: Water Shortages Expected In New MexicoThe Associated Press

Water managers in nearly every corner of New Mexico are projecting shortages in future drinking and irrigation supplies given expected demand over the next few decades.

Managers in the 16 districts that make up the arid state spent the last three years crunching numbers and analyzing historic data to help create a collection of water plans specific to each region.

The final two plans were recently adopted by the Interstate Stream Commission, setting the stage for a much needed overhaul of the statewide roadmap for navigating the uncertainties of drought.

State Engineer Tom Blaine says revolutionary ideas are needed.

Like elsewhere in the West, New Mexico is recuperating from an unprecedented drought that peaked just a few years ago. Dry conditions are still hampering the eastern plains and other parts following little rain and record-setting temperatures in March.

Bernalillo County Jail Officer Arrested, Accused Of PerjuryThe Associated Press

Bernalillo County Sheriff's officials say a jail corrections officer has been arrested on suspicion of perjury and tampering with public records.

They say Nicole Baca was taken into custody Friday afternoon.

She's been employed by the Metropolitan Detention Center since September 2003.

Sheriff's officials say the arrest stems from a February incident involving inmate Andrew Griego, who became upset and broke a window to his cell with a push broom.

Griego says he was reacting to information Baca allegedly disclosed about him to other inmates that was untruthful and malicious.

He told authorities that Baca is his first cousin.

Baca denied any relation to Griego in written statements to jail staff.

Sheriff's detectives determined the statements which would be considered public records were tampered with and Baca turned herself in.

School Officials Support Letting Kids Skip Class For Rally - The Associated Press

Santa Fe Public Schools officials are standing behind the superintendent's decision to dismiss schools early for a public rally calling for Gov. Susana Martinez and legislators to stop slashing school budgets.

The district sent New Mexico Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera a letter yesterday defending Superintendent Veronica Garcia's decision to close schools early on March 16. The letter was in response to a letter from Skandera's office last week claiming Garcia's actions broke the law.

The district wrote that all of its actions are protected under the U.S. Constitution and that letting teachers and students attend the rally was akin to when Skandera has used public schools during the school day to make public announcements.

Bill Against Racial Bias At Agencies Vetoed In New MexicoThe Associated Press

A bill designed to combat racial bias in hiring and promotional decisions at New Mexico state agencies has been vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Bill sponsor and Democratic Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque said today in a statement that the veto means some state residents would continue to feel unwelcome and overlooked in the offices of New Mexico government.

In her veto message, Martinez said the bill would have been costly and unreliable under a personnel system that currently cannot require disclosure of an employee's racial background.

The bill would have required state agencies and state-funded groups to develop policies to decrease institutionalized racism in personnel decisions that intentionally or unintentionally put certain racial or ethnic groups at a disadvantage. 

Navajo Leaders Look For Way To Keep Mine, Power Plant Open –  Arizona Republic, Associated Press

Navajo Nation political leaders are planning to ask the federal government for subsidies to keep a mine and generating station in northern Arizona open.

The Arizona Republic reports that the current owners of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station say it is not currently profitable and voted recently to run it until the end of 2019 and then give up ownership.

Closing the power plant would lead to the closure of the Kayenta Mine. Losing both operations would hurt the economies of the Navajo and Hopi tribes, whose members depend on the facilities for jobs, government revenues and free coal to heat homes.

Navajo leaders are considering a plan to have the federal government subsidize the price of coal sold from the mine to the power plant so the plant can be as cost-effective as natural gas.

University Of New Mexico Looking To Tighten Its Budget Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press 

Acting University President Chaouki Abdallah says it's time to tighten the University of New Mexico's purse strings.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Abdallah spoke at a campus town hall meeting last week and told the audience that less state funding and enrollment declines have caused the university to exercise money-saving measures.

With the university expecting state funding to drop again this year, Abdallah is looking into everything from employee furloughs to consolidating UNM's class schedule into four days. The university has already implemented a hiring freeze.

New Mexico state government is facing its own budget crunch. Lawmakers said earlier this month that without new revenue streams, additional funding cuts to public school and state agencies are inevitable.

Democrats Criticize Trump's Air Force Pick Over Past Work - Richard Lardner, Associated Press

President Donald Trump's nominee to be Air Force secretary is facing criticism from Senate Democrats over her work as a defense industry consultant and her contact a decade ago with a federal prosecutor during a corruption probe.

Heather Wilson, a former member of Congress from New Mexico, testified Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the panel's top Democrat, called Wilson's refusal to disclose a key detail about her 2006 call to a U.S. attorney in New Mexico "unsettling."

Reed and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, pressed Wilson about nearly half a million dollars in questionable payments from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories she collected after leaving Congress in 2009.

Wilson defended her performance. She says she complied with the terms of the contracts.

Supreme Court Clarifies Criminal Trespass In Portales CaseAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has found that the general public doesn't automatically have permission to enter a property if there are no signs posted to prevent trespassing.

The court issued a ruling Thursday in a 2011 case in which Trevor Merhege was convicted of criminal trespass after running through the front yard of a Portales home and trying to jump a fence.

The Court of Appeals had reversed Merhege's conviction after he argued that the property wasn't posted as private and that the state had insufficient evidence to prove the trespass charge.

The Supreme Court reinstated the conviction, pointing to the wall surrounding the property and the fact that Merhege was running from police in the pre-dawn hours as enough circumstantial evidence for jurors to convict him.

Carlsbad Council Votes To Pay To Help Fix Underground Cavern Current-Argus, Associated Press

Carlsbad may pay $125,000 toward a fund to fix a man-made underground cavern that is in danger of collapse.

The Current-Argus reports that the City Council has approved a budget adjustment that includes the $125,000 the state has requested Carlsbad contribute to fixing the cavern.

Experts and city officials have worried for years that the I&W brine well could collapse, costing up to $1 billion in damaged infrastructure.

City and Eddy County officials lobbied the state to create an authority to study the well and to appropriate $500,000 for the efforts. The state requested the city and county contribute $125,000 each.

Carlsbad officials will set a date for a special council meeting to discuss the contribution and funding.

Eddy County officials have not indicated if they intend to match the contribution.

Students Hospitalized After Receiving Xanax From ClassmateAlamogordo Daily News, Associated Press 

Alamogordo police are conducting a criminal investigation after an estimated 16 Chaparral Middle School students were transported to a hospital after a classmate gave them prescription medication.

Alamogordo Public Schools officials say an eighth grade student brought a bottle of Xanax to school Thursday morning and distributed the medication.

Xanax is a sedative used to treat anxiety or a panic disorder.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports that students who ingested the medication were taken to the hospital by either ambulance or a parent.

School officials say the hospitalized students are doing OK.

They say disciplinary action will be brought against the student who brought Xanax to school and they will evaluate the students who took the medication.

Public Defender Funding Woes Head To Supreme CourtSanta Fe New Mexican

The state agency representing public defenders is petitioning the New Mexico Supreme Court in an effort to resolve ongoing funding issues with providing representation to poor defendants.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Law Office of the Public Defender wants the court to order private attorneys to represent defendants who cannot afford lawyers or require court clerks to limit the number of cases they accept for low-level crimes.

Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur said he wants the court to appoint a special master to solve the ongoing budget problems in the office, which is required to provide attorneys for people across the state who cannot afford legal counsel.

Funding issues are longstanding in the office with officials warning that growing caseloads means more resources are necessary to provide an adequate defense for clients as required by the state and U.S. constitutions.

Last year the Hobbs Public Defender’s Office said it would stop taking cases for 90 days and Baur was charged with contempt of court. His office office tried to withdraw from hundreds of cases but judges thwarted those efforts.