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BLM to Hold Lease Sale in Chaco Area, Lawsuit Faults Bureau Of Indian Education Schools

National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons
Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon

Land Managers to Hold Online Lease Sale in New Mexico – The Associated Press

Federal land managers in New Mexico are planning their first online oil and natural gas lease sale later this month.

The Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday announced the sale will start at 9 a.m. on January 25. The parcels include more than 842 acres in Sandoval and Rio Arriba counties.

Environmental groups, Navajo tribal members and others are planning to protest the sale, saying the parcels are near Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The Farmington Daily Times reports the leases already have been challenged and delayed three times.

Federal officials say the land is beyond a 10-mile buffer around the park. For example, one parcel is more than 15 miles from the Pueblo Pintada area while the main park boundary is about 19 miles from the nearest parcel.

The environmental assessment for the parcels up for lease is available on the BLM's website

Under the new system, each parcel will have its own unique open bidding period and the entire bidding process is expected to last three hours.

Lawsuit Faults Bureau Of Indian Education SchoolsThe Associated Press

A new federal lawsuit says U.S. Bureau of Indian Education schools are chronically understaffed, lack systems to provide special education and have a deficient curriculum.

Advocacy groups said Thursday the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Havasupai students at an Arizona school within the Grand Canyon. Lawyers say the lawsuit potentially could impact other BIE schools.

The 95-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix faults the federal government for physically excluding Havasupai students with special needs and only teaching math and writing to students.

Alexis DeLaCruz, an attorney for the Native American Disability Law Center, says similar problems exist at many Bureau of Indian Education schools.


The U.S. Department of Interior did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press.

Whooping Cough Cases In Infants Increase In New MexicoThe Associated Press

New Mexico health officials say the number of cases of whooping cough in infants has increased.

The Health Department is investigating four infant cases reported in December. The cases are from Eddy, Curry, Rio Arriba and San Juan counties.

The agency says this is the largest cluster of whooping cough cases investigated by the state since August 2013.

Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher says the best way for parents to protect against the illness is to get their children vaccinated. She also encourages women to get vaccinated during pregnancy.

Symptoms of infection may include coughing fits. In infants, another possible symptom is apnea, where there is a pause in the child's breathing pattern.

About half of babies younger than one year of age who get the disease are hospitalized.

LANL Contractor Earns DOE Bonus For Environmental ManagementThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican 

Los Alamos National Security has received a $9.1 million bonus for reaching environmental goals in its operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The New Mexican reports that the U.S. Energy Department says the contractor excelled in a number of projects to remediate areas of environmental concern during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The company earned 90 percent of the maximum $10.1 million award.

Decades of improper waste disposal have caused toxic and radiological contamination at the lab and are expected to cost nearly $4 billion to clean up over the next 25 years. The Department of Energy says in a report that the lab has made progress addressing an underground chemical plume that is creeping toward a major aquifer and in cleanup at Technical Area 21.

New Mexico Panel Recommends More Cuts to Balance Budget The Associated Press

A legislative panel that drafts the New Mexico state budget recommended new cuts Wednesday to avoid a budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year.

The Legislative Finance Committee called for a $26 million reduction in the $6 billion spending plan.

Under the proposal, funding for public schools would decrease by $22.5 million, or less than 1 percent. An increase in per-pupil funding to school districts was recommended, along with cuts to performance-based initiatives backed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

A decrease also was recommended for spending on Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled. The programs account for about $1 billion in general fund spending and provide insurance to more than one-third of state residents.

Martinez opposes tax increases. Her budget plan, announced Monday, would reduce take-home pay to state workers through pension provisions, cut funding to the Legislature, state universities and colleges, and sweep school district reserves into state coffers — among other solvency measures.

A spokesman for the governor criticized the panel's proposed cuts to classroom initiatives, along with limits on economic development incentives for job training and a closing fund designed to attract new businesses.

The recommendations would increase spending through the Children, Youth and Families Department for home visits and a pre-kindergarten program. The committee is calling for a small funding increase to the Corrections Department, and a slight decrease at the Public Safety Department.

The committee says lawmakers still need to plug an $85 million shortfall for the current budget year.

Outgoing DA Criticizes Albuquerque Police in Scathing Letter – The Associated Press

The former longtime New Mexico prosecutor whose territory encompassed Albuquerque compared the city's police department to a criminal enterprise in one of her final acts in office.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg wrote in a farewell letter to the U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez that the police department is affected by widespread corruption and is unwilling to change.

The letter was sent late last month and made public Tuesday.

APD Chief Gorden Eden in a statement Tuesday said his officers work tirelessly for the community and that Brandenburg's allegations are baseless.

He says he looks forward to developing a productive relationship with new Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez, who took office Jan. 1.

Albuquerque police are involved in a years-long reform effort brought on by a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, which found a pattern of excessive force.

Lawyer: District Attorney Probe Into Traffic Stop 'Political Grandstanding'  - The Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General agents have raided the office of a southwestern New Mexico district attorney in connection with a suspected DWI traffic stop in June.

Francesca Martinez-Estevez, the district attorney for Sixth Judicial District, is facing calls to resign after a video showed her swerving across several lanes of traffic and stumbling during her conversation with officers.

Two Silver City officers did not conduct field sobriety tests and let her go without charges.

Jim Foy, a lawyer for Martinez-Estevez, called the investigation by Attorney General Hector Balderas " unprecedented" and said he had never heard of the attorney general's office prosecuting allegations of speedy and reckless driving. He called the investigation "purely political grandstanding."

Foy previously said Martinez-Estevez's car problems were caused by a flat tire and that she doesn't drink alcohol.

State Auditor Joins Race To Become Albuquerque's Next Mayor – The Associated Press 

State Auditor Tim Keller has entered the race to become Albuquerque's next mayor.

The Democrat made his announcement Wednesday, saying he will seek public financing for his campaign.

An Albuquerque native, Keller said the city is a special place but is facing immense challenges, including some of the highest crime rates in decades. He listed police reforms and economic development as top priorities.

Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis and retired police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes, an independent, announced their candidacies earlier this week.  They joined Deanna Archuleta, a former Bernalillo County commissioner, retiree Stella Padilla, and entrepreneur and radio host Eddy Aragon.

Mayor Richard Berry has said repeatedly he won't seek re-election to a third term. This year's race is the first mayoral campaign in 20 years without an incumbent on the ballot.

Fire at Farmington Apartment Complex Displaces Dozens The Associated Press, The Farmington Daily Times

A fire at a Farmington apartment complex displaced approximately 30 people Tuesday night but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

The Daily Times reports that the fire destroyed six units and that residents were evacuated from several others.

Police Lt. Casey Malone said a motel owner provided rooms for the night for displaced residents, and the American Red Cross says it sent volunteers to assist displaced residents.

Red Cross spokesman Steven Solomon says the assistance includes help with immediate needs, such as kits with personal hygiene items and referrals to agencies for additional help.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Alaska Airlines to Start Albuquerque to Portland Service The Associated Press

Albuquerque officials have announced that Alaska Airlines will begin a daily nonstop flight from Albuquerque to Portland, Oregon.

Mayor Richard Berry said Wednesday that the daily flight will begin August 18 and comes two years after Alaska Airlines came to Albuquerque.

Horizon Air will operate flights between Portland and Albuquerque.

The route will be served with the 76-seat E175 jet. It features 12 seats in first class, 12 seats in premium class and 52 seats in the main cabin.