Wind Agreement Highlights NM Businesses, Santa Fe Seeks State Supreme Court Decision On Voting

Dec 14, 2017

Wind Farm Agreement Highlights New Mexico Businesses – The Associated Press

The state attorney general's office and advocacy groups have brokered an agreement with a utility that's planning to build a massive wind farm near the Texas-New Mexico border to ensure New Mexico businesses and vendors will have a shot at being hired once construction begins.

Xcel Energy and its subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Co. are seeking regulatory approval to build two new wind farms — one on the New Mexico side of the border in Roosevelt County and the other in Hale County, Texas.

The Sagamore Wind Project would be the largest wind farm in New Mexico, providing more than 520 megawatts of power once it comes online in 2020.

Under the agreement unveiled Thursday, 30 percent of plant costs would ideally involve subcontractors, vendors and labor from New Mexico.

Santa Fe Seeks State Supreme Court Decision On Voting SystemThe Associated Press

Santa Fe officials have asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to weigh in on ranked-choice voting, seeking to overturn a judge's recent order that the city must use the voting system for municipal elections in March.

The city filed an emergency appeal on Wednesday, claiming the system is unconstitutional under state law.

Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff, allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference on the ballot. The order of preferences whittles down the candidates until there's a clear winner.

Santa Fe voters approved a city charter amendment for ranked-choice voting in 2008. The city council voted in July to postpone the system due to concerns about implementation.

Residents then sued the city, and a lower court ruled in favor of the residents.

Final Member Of Taos County-Based Drug Ring Pleads GuiltyThe Associated Press

Authorities say the last member of a Taos County-based drug trafficking ring to plead guilty faces up to eight years and four months in prison when he is sentenced in federal court in Albuquerque.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says 43-year-old Jason Duran of Albuquerque pleaded guilty Wednesday to an information charging him conspiracy to possess heroin with intent to distribute.

According to the office, Duran acknowledged conspiring with others to distribute heroin in Taos County from 2012 through 2015.

Eight co-defendants have also pleaded guilty. Five of them have already been sentenced and three others await sentencing.

The investigation leading to the indictment was conducted by the multiple federal, state, county and local agencies.

Duran's sentencing hasn't been scheduled yet.

Transgender Woman Alleges  Discrimination At Rep. Lujan Grisham's Office The Santa Fe New Mexican

A UNM graduate and intern for Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she was fired from Grisham’s office for being transgendered.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Riley Del Rey is reporting the allegations now, nearly three years after the internship, due to the onslaught of sexual harassment claims.

A Lujan Grisham spokesman said that neither she nor her office discriminates.

Del Rey alleges the congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the nonprofit organization that hired her discussed her physical appearance with her at least twice.

In 2011, another student said the institute booted her from its internship program because she’s transgender, according to the Washington newspaper Roll Call.

Large Animal, Likely Opossum, Caused Massive Power OutageThe Associated Press

PNM officials say a large animal or an opossum was responsible for a power outage that left nearly 10,000 customers in Rio Rancho and Corrales without power.

A Rio Rancho Fire Rescue spokeswoman says the power went out after a transformer blew Wednesday night.

According to Fire Inspector Jessica Duron-Martinez, the transformer caught fire, but fire crews managed to contain it.

She says much of Rio Rancho's north end was left without electricity.

PNM was able to restore power to all affected customers around by early Thursday.

Officials believe an opossum caused the power outage.

New Mexico Oil And Gas Companies Sign On To Reduce EmissionsAssociated Press

Some of the biggest names in energy production in New Mexico have signed on to a national effort within the oil and gas industry to curb methane emissions as pressure mounts for states to enact more pollution laws.

The move comes as the U.S. Interior Department announced it would delay an Obama-era regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from production on federal lands.

Industry officials in New Mexico say BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy and others see the effort to reduce emissions as a priority and that work already underway has led to reductions in methane levels, such as using new technology to monitor for leaks.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, suggested this week that requiring regular inspections through new regulations would help.

Memorial Fund Helps Families In Wake Of Library ShootingAssociated Press

Officials say nearly $25,000 has been distributed from a memorial fund for victims of a shooting inside a public library in eastern New Mexico.

Two workers were killed Aug. 28 at the Clovis library after a gunman opened fire. Four others, including a 10-year-old boy, were seriously wounded.

The teen charged in the case has pleaded not guilty, and both prosecutors and the public defender have said any legal resolution will be a long time coming given the amount of evidence involved.

Clovis city officials say hundreds of people have donated to the memorial fund. It has helped with everything from utility bills to holiday spending for the victims and their families.

Officials also are working to finalize plans for memorializing the library workers — Kristina Carter and Wanda Walters.

Damaged School To Be Renovated In Honor Of Shooting VictimsAssociated Press

The areas of a New Mexico high school damaged during a shooting rampage will be renovated and dedicated to the memory of two classmates who were killed.

School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter announced the plans for Aztec High School on Wednesday. He says the classroom area will be turned into an open-learning common space with portable computer carts, charging stations and other teaching tools.

Officials plan to use some school funding, but supporters in the community also have set up an online fundraising page to help with construction costs.

The Dec. 7 shooting took the lives of Casey Jordan Marquez and Francisco "Paco" Fernandez. Authorities say evidence indicates the gunman, 21-year-old William Atchison, carefully planned the attack but did not specifically target Marquez or Fernandez.

Memorial services for the victims are scheduled later this week.

Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty To Assaulting Tribal Policeman Associated Press

An Albuquerque man has pleaded guilty to assaulting an officer with the Pueblo of Isleta tribal police.

Prosecutors say 20-year-old Daniel Mendoza entered his plea Wednesday and faces up to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced.

Mendoza remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

According to a criminal complaint, Mendoza intentionally backed his truck into the tribal police officer's vehicle while attempting to evade arrest in September 2016 on the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico's Bernalillo County.

The officer was commissioned as a Special Law Enforcement Officer by the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Justice Services.

Mendoza was subsequently indicted and charged with assault on a federal officer with a deadly and dangerous weapon.

University Of New Mexico Considers Using Santa Fe Art SchoolKOB-TV, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is considering taking over the soon-to-be closed Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

KOB-TV reports University of New Mexico Interim President Chaouki Abdallah said during the Board of Regents' Tuesday meeting that the university is looking at ways it could use the art college that are both financially viable and aligned with the university's mission.

Abdallah says the university is not interested in turning the Santa Fe school into a branch campus.

Instead, Abdallah says the university is open to offering strong academic degrees at the Santa Fe school.

Santa Fe University of Art and Design officials decided to close the institution in April after having financial problems and low student enrollment.

The art college will be closed in spring 2018.

University Of New Mexico Suspends Most Greek Life ActivitiesAssociated Press

The University of New Mexico is suspending most social events by its fraternity and sorority chapters for the next two months.

The suspension comes after three fraternities were placed on "emergency suspension" while they are being investigated for allegations of hazing and alcohol violations.

According to a Dec. 8 memo from Vice President of Student Affairs Eliseo Torres, the "social restriction" will continue through Feb. 19.

During this time Greek organizations will not be allowed to hold events on or off campus that are open to anyone besides their own members. They will still be allowed to work on community service projects, conduct operational business, recruit and participate in Greek Week in February provided that the events do not involve alcohol.

Rio Rancho Power Outage Blamed On Large OpossumAlbuquerque Journal

A transformer that exploded in Rio Rancho Wednesday night and knocked out power to nearly 10,000 customers was blamed on a large opossum.

The Albuquerque Journal and KRQE-TV reported much of the northern part of the city went dark as a result of the incident. Officials with PNM said they believe a large opossum crawled into the transformer and caused the explosion.

On its Twitter feed, PNM said all power was restored early Thursday morning.

Albuquerque High School Students Eyeing 'Civil Rights Tour'Associated Press

A group of Albuquerque high school students is trying to raise money to visit sites linked to the Civil Rights Movement in the American South.

Black Student Union director Joycelyn Jackson told The Associated Press that 40 students are working to raise around $28,000 to visit important landmarks in Atlanta, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Birmingham, Alabama next summer.

Jackson says the students want to see for themselves where civil rights leaders work to end racial segregation.

The Black Student Unions in Albuquerque Public Schools are made up of African American, Latino, white and Native American students studying the civil rights movement.

New Albuquerque Mayor Says City Has Revenue ShortfallAlbuquerque Journal

Newly elected Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Wednesday the city has a deficit because tax revenues have fallen short of what was predicted in the city’s budget.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Keller addressed a group of business and community leaders at the weekly Economic Forum meeting. He said the budget approved by the City Council earlier this year was based on a growth rate of 3 percent in gross receipts taxes, but that real rate has only been about 1.7 percent.

A spokeswoman for Keller said the city is facing a shortfall of about $10 million. Keller also praised the infrastructure projects of his predecessor, Richard J. Berry, but said there is some “unfinished business.”

Federal funding for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project is not yet in place, Keller said, and he plans to meet with federal transportation officials in January. Also a new fountain in Civic Plaza is leaking and must be repaired.

Keller also reiterated that the city must hire more police officers. He told attendees he would consider public-private partnerships to fund initiatives to recruit more officers.