Wednesday News Roundup: Struggling Navajo Head Start Program On Rebound

Jun 11, 2014

Struggling Navajo Head Start Program On Rebound - The Associated Press

The Navajo Nation's Head Start program has struggled for years to ensure children are safe, employees undergo background checks and it has qualified teachers. Now, it's on the rebound.

The federal government recently announced the tribe will receive a 5-year, non-competitive grant after fully passing reviews for the first time in decades.

Sharon Henderson-Singer, who oversees the program, says the tribe is required to meet some 2,800 standards.

The program has weathered a complete shutdown, decreased enrollment and cuts in funding from the federal Administration for Children and Families. A federal review this May found the tribe in full compliance.

Singer says the expected $125 million grant should serve 2,100 children each year at 116 Head Start centers.

The program has about 450 employees.

APD At Fault In Fatal Police ShootingAlbuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Journal reports a state district court judge says two Albuquerque Police Department detectives created the dangerous situation that led to the death of a mentally ill, 27-year-old man in his own backyard.  The officers tried to confront Christopher Torres with a warrant over a road rage incident in April 2011.

The newspaper reports State District Judge Shannon Bacon rejected claims by the officers that they were acting in self-defense when they shot Torres.  The judge awarded more than $6 million to Stephen Torres, Christopher’s father and personal representative.  The award exceeds the $4 million requested by attorneys for the Torres family.

However, the payout will be limited to $400,000, the maximum allowed under the state Tort Claims Act.

A separate civil rights lawsuit based is pending in U.S. District Court. That trial is set to begin on Sept. 15.  

According to the Journal, a city spokeswoman says Mayor Richard Berry is prohibited from commenting due to the ongoing federal lawsuit.

Demonstrators Picket APD Chief’s SpeechThe Associated Press

Demonstrators are picketing outside of a hotel where Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden is slated to address a business group.

Critics of Albuquerque police began an early morning protest Wednesday in front of Hotel Albuquerque in what will be the latest public demonstration over police shootings.

Eden is expected to give a speech to the Economic Forum of Albuquerque — a non-partisan group for business leaders in the city.

The speech comes as protesters continue to stage demonstrations around the city, sometimes stalling city business and forcing authorities to cancel events. The U.S. Justice Department also is negotiating with the city over pending police reforms following a scathing report over Albuquerque police's use of force.

Bernalillo County Open Space Tax To Go On Ballot - The Associated Press

Bernalillo County officials are putting a proposed property tax that would fund buying open space lands on the ballot.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Bernalillo County commissioners approved Tuesday evening putting an open space tax before voters.

It would mark the third attempt to put the tax up for a vote.

Supporters say the tax would raise $2.8 million annually for purchasing and maintaining open space lands.

Republican commissioners who opposed it say imposing another tax on residents is a bad idea.

The tax will go on the Nov. 4 ballot. If approved, it would mean adding $13 to the annual property tax on a $200,000 home or around $6.70 to a $100,000 home.

The tax would take effect for 15 years.

New Mexico Court To Consider Judicial Pay Dispute - The Associated Press

A group of judges and legislators wants New Mexico's highest court to order a judicial pay raise by overturning a veto by Gov. Susana Martinez.

The high court is to consider the dispute during a hearing today that will focus on the governor's power to veto spending items approved by the Legislature in the state budget.

The Legislature approved two provisions intended to provide judges an 8 percent pay increase starting in July.

Martinez vetoed one section that would have spelled out the higher salaries for judges. The governor left intact another budget provision that allocated part of the money needed for the raises.

Two Democratic legislators and a group representing judges contend the governor's partial veto was unconstitutional.

The governor's lawyer maintains Martinez properly rejected the 8 percent raise.

Albuquerque Weighs In On PNM's Power Plan - The Associated Press

The Albuquerque City Council is weighing in on a plan by the state's largest electric utility for providing power to customers once it closes part of an aging coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico.

The council passed a resolution on a 5-3 vote Monday that calls for state regulators to require PNM to include as much renewable energy as needed to meet environmental goals while remaining affordable.

The resolution also asks that regulators deny or reduce PNM's request to recover $205 million in undepreciated assets for the closure of two units at the San Juan Generating Station.

The stranded assets are essentially profits the utility would have realized had the entire plant remained open.

Environmentalists are critical of PNM's plan. They say it places the burden on ratepayers.

Albuquerque Police Recover Medals Stolen From Veteran - The Associated Press

Authorities say military medals stolen from an 89-year-old World War II veteran in New Mexico have been recovered.

Albuquerque police said Tuesday the nine medals have been returned to Roy Hopper.

They didn't say how the items were recovered and if anyone was arrested in the case.

The framed service medals were among items taken from Hopper's home during an April break-in. At the time, Hopper was in the hospital after falling and breaking his hip.

Hopper's name is inscribed on the back of the medals. One is a Bronze Star for bravery that he was awarded in 1991 for his heroic efforts during World War II.

Hopper participated in the Normandy Invasion before being captured by the Germans. He spent nine months in a camp for prisoners of war.

Alcohol Factor In Car Crash That Killed 3 Airmen - The Associated Press and Alamogordo Daily News

Alamogordo police say the driver in a single-vehicle rollover accident last January that killed three Holloman Air Force Base airmen had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit.

The Alamogordo Daily News reported Tuesday that an autopsy report indicates 26-year-old Ryan Nicholas Loehr had blood alcohol concentrations of .14 and .15 percent, more than twice New Mexico's 0.08 limit.

Investigators say speed also played a role in the accident.

Authorities say Loehr, 21-year-old Deshon Maurice Wartley and 19-year-old Lamont Keith Cullars were riding in a 2006 Honda Civic on Jan. 20. They say the Honda rolled over several times at a sharp curve.

All three died from blunt force injuries, according to medical investigators.

They were attached to a remotely piloted aircraft squadron at Holloman.

Woman Sought In Albuquerque Shooting - The Associated Press

Authorities are searching for a woman they say was involved in a shooting at a fast-food restaurant in Albuquerque.

Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department spokesman Aaron Williamson says deputies were sent to a Sonic restaurant in the southwest part of the city Tuesday night and heard shots fired shortly after.

Williamson says a vehicle then fled the scene and crashed just south of the eatery.

A man and woman fled the vehicle.

Deputies located the male suspect, who is being treated for a minor injury to his leg.

The female suspect, however, is still at large.

Deputies are still investigating who fired a weapon and how many rounds were fired.