89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

MON: FEMA says Northern NM disaster victims can request no-cost repair estimates, + More

Wildfire scars are seen looking southeast into the Mora Valley and the plains beyond from Hwy 518 in Mora, New Mexico, on Saturday, April 15, 2023.
Giovanna Dell'Orto
Wildfire scars are seen looking southeast into the Mora Valley and the plains beyond from Hwy 518 in Mora, New Mexico, on Saturday, April 15, 2023.

Northern NM disaster victims can request repair estimates 'at no cost' from federal agency - By Megan Gleason, Source New Mexico

Many recovering from the enormous disasters that plagued northern New Mexico last year still haven’t received compensation for all of their losses.

Dead trees, debris and erosion from the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire still clutter people’s land in northern New Mexico. And concerns remain that these things could turn into greater threats as more floods come off the burn scar.

To help figure out how much it’ll cost to restore and repair natural resources on their property, the Federal Emergency Management Agency Claims Office teamed up with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service to offer repair estimates to Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire victims.

Certified planners will go to people’s property without charge to create conservation resource plans, according to FEMA. These surveys will focus on costs for things like natural resource restoration, debris removal, and fixing fencing and pipelines.

Then, the plans and cost estimates will be shared with FEMA Claims Office officials so the work can be factored into the compensation victims are supposed to get from the federal government.

“Under this partnership, NRCS plans will give claimants a pathway to restore, rather than enhance, their property in line with best practices specific to northern New Mexico,” an NRCS spokesperson said via email.

With these federal cost estimates, New Mexicans don’t have to pay private businesses or contractors for land assessments. FEMAsaid this route “will be developed faster and in more detail than what may be available in the private market.”

People who want a plan should first fill out a notice of loss with the FEMA Claims Office to prove that the fire or flood disasters caused the damage to their property.

Then, people can begin the process through FEMA or NRCS to request officials to get started on the conservation plan.

Victims have until November 2024 to submit notices of loss. This leaves nearly 18 months for the NRCS to get the environmental cost estimates done so it factors into the federal compensation for individuals.

The agency will help people on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to FEMA.

People can get help from the FEMA Claims Office by calling 505-995-7133, emailing ClaimsOffice@fema.dhs.gov or visiting in-person at offices located in Mora County, Santa Fe or Las Vegas, N.M.

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice highlights accountability as public faith in SCOTUS tanks By Alice Fordham, KUNM News

Public confidence in the Supreme Court of the United States and the judicial branch is at its lowest ever point. On Monday, New Mexico Supreme Court Justice David K. Thomson laid out the ethics of the state judiciary, in an effort to highlight transparency and accountability.

2023’s first meeting of the Courts, Corrections and Justice interim committee, at the Roundhouse, kicked off with a presentation by Justice Thomson entitled “Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Yachts? Ethics and the New Mexico Judiciary — The New Mexico Supreme Court and down”.

The name was a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who was alleged in a ProPublica report to have accepted many gifts of luxury trips from a Republican megadonor.

Committee Chair Democratic Senator Joseph Cervantes explained the presentation was prompted, “largely by what we’re seeing at the national level with the U.S. Supreme Court and the question of ethics, and what the role in a relationship is between the legislative body and the courts when it comes to the separation of powers and duties and responsibilities and accountability.”

Justice Thomson gave a presentation explaining how the New Mexico judiciary is selected and monitored.

“We all, are remarkably, very heavily regulated. And that’s a good thing,” he said.

Checks and balances include a judicial code of conduct, financial disclosures of any reimbursement not related to education or training and unlike the U. S. Supreme Court, the New Mexico Supreme Court judges are subject to retention elections every eight years.

Officials confirm New Mexico's 1st case of fungal disease of hibernating bats - Associated Press

White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease of hibernating bats, has been confirmed in New Mexico for the first time, authorities said Monday.

The state Department of Game and Fish said samples from two live bats and two deceased bats were collected in late April from caves managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management in Lincoln and De Baca counties.

Those two counties are far from Curry County, which is home to Carlsbad Caverns.

Game and Fish officials said the two dead bats were confirmed with white-nose syndrome — a fringed myotis in Lincoln County and a cave myotis in De Baca County.

They said white-nose syndrome is caused by an invasive fungal pathogen that was previously detected in New Mexico in 2021, but evidence of the bat disease wasn't confirmed in New Mexico until now.

Authorities said the disease has killed millions of bats in North America since 2006.

A powdery, white fungus grows on the skin of hibernating bats, often on the face, leading to irritation and dehydration.

That causes bats to stop hibernating early and exhaust fat stores they need to survive the winter, often leading to death.

BLM will continue to test and implement prevention measures such as restricted access to affected caves to minimize the spread of the disease in New Mexico.

Neither the fungus nor the disease affects humans.

Rights upheld, lawsuit revived against teacher accused of cutting Native American student's hair — Morgan Lee, Associated Press

An appeals court ruling has revived an anti-discrimination lawsuit accusing an Albuquerque teacher of cutting off one Native American girl's hair and asking another if she was dressed as a "bloody Indian" during class on Halloween.

Outrage over the girls' treatment propelled legislation in New Mexico and beyond that prohibits discrimination based upon hairstyle and religious head garments.

The American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit accused Albuquerque Public Schools and a teacher of discrimination and fostering a hostile learning environment. ACLU of New Mexico Deputy Director Leon Howard said the ruling affirms that public schools are subject to antidiscrimination protections in the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

The appellate ruling validates that all "students must feel safe at school and confident that their culture, history, and personal dignity are valued and respected by the public schools they attend," Howard said in a statement.

A lower court had determined that a public high school does not qualify as a "public accommodation" under the state's civil rights law. The appellate ruling returns the lawsuit to state district court for a hearing on its merits.

"If a public secondary school official in their official capacity were to refuse services to an individual based on the individual's race, religion, or sexual orientation, then the New Mexico Human Right Act would surely apply," Appeals Court Judge J. Miles Hanissee wrote.

Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the district is considering options to appeal.

The lawsuit alleges that English teacher Mary Jane Eastin dressed up as a voodoo witch on Halloween in 2018 and initiated a game in which she would ask students questions and reward those who answered correctly with marshmallows while giving dog food to those who didn't.

At some point, Eastin asked a Native American student whether she liked her braids and then cut off about three inches with scissors, sprinkling the hair on her desk, the suit alleges.

The suit says Eastin also asked another student, plaintiff McKenzie Johnson, 16, if she was dressed as a "bloody Indian." Johnson's mother later told reporters her daughter was dressed for Halloween as Little Red Riding Hood, with a red paw mark on her face. Johnson, who is Navajo, said she no longer felt welcome at school.

The school district's superintendent publicly apologized and told parents Eastin would not return to Cibola High School.

Johnson called the ruling a breakthrough for Indigenous students and others.

"We are surrounded by Native communities," she said in a statement. "School staff at all levels need to understand our culture and our history so that what happened in my classroom never happens again."

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation in 2021 that prohibits discrimination, discipline or disparate treatment of students based on hair style, religious headdress or culture.

The U.S. House endorsed an unsuccessful bill last year largely in response to bias Black people can face over their hairstyles in society, school and the workplace.

In 2021, the father of a 7-year-old Michigan girl whose hair was cut by a teacher without her parents' permission filed a $1 million lawsuit against the school district, a librarian and a teacher's assistant. The lawsuit alleged racial discrimination and rights violations against the biracial girl.

Johnson is represented by Parnall & Adams Law and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

ABQ’s Kirtland AFB may become Space Force training siteBy Nash Jones, KUNM News

The Space Force’s STARCOM potentially coming to Albuquerque may sound like it would be set up on a film set, but in fact it would be housed at Kirtland Air Force Base.

The U.S. Air Force has announced that the New Mexico base is the preferred site for one of three locations of the Space Training and Readiness Command for the newest military branch.

Air Force officials say the Kirtland command would be called Space Delta 11 and would focus on “all ranges and aggressors,” and would have test and training environments, including the ability to replicate combat in space.

The Air Force selected Kirtland as its top choice following a site survey to assess its infrastructure along with factors like community support and environmental factors, according to a press release.

The final decision will be made later this year.

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich called the announcement “a big deal for New Mexico,” adding that the training command post would create hundreds of jobs and “grow the space and defense ecosystem” that the state has long invested in.

New Mexico lawmaker Christine Trujillo to resign end of June — Associated Press

State Rep. Christine Trujillo says she plans to resign from the New Mexico House of Representatives at the end of June.

The Democrat, who represents Albuquerque, made the announcement Saturday.

The Bernalillo County Commission will appoint a new House member to carry out the remainder of Trujillo's current term and the District 25 seat will be up for election in November of 2024.

"It's been the honor of my lifetime to represent our community in the Roundhouse for the last decade," Trujillo said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to serve our community in my next chapter."

Trujillo, a retired educator, has been part of the state Legislature since 2013.

Albuquerque TV station KOB reports that Trujillo has advocated for better access to health care, supporting survivors of sexual assault, raising educators' pay and ensuring quality education for students of all ages in New Mexico.

In the most recent legislative session, Trujillo co-sponsored a Senate bill to school-based health centers in New Mexico, which would make it easier for students to access physical and mental health care.

Former Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan, who served from 1993 to 2015, dies at 83 — Associated Press

Retired Archbishop Michael Sheehan, who served the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for 22 years, has died. He was 83.

Sheehan died Saturday, but a cause of death wasn't disclosed, Leslie Radigan, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, said.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Saturday that Sheehan announced in 2018 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Sheehan was installed as the 11th Archbishop of Santa Fe in September 1993 before retiring in June 2015.

He was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1939 and studied at a seminary in San Antonio, Texas, before attending three universities in Italy, archdiocese officials said.

He was ordained in July 1964 in Rome and became a bishop in 1983 in Lubbock, Texas.

The archdiocese said Sheehan held 10 appointments between 1968 and when he retired in 2015. He also wrote more than a dozen publications and served on nearly two dozen committees.

As an archbishop emeritus, Sheehan was deeply committed to social justice and evangelization and worked to abolish the death penalty in New Mexico, the archdiocese said.

He also was credited with championing initiatives aimed at eradicating poverty and promoting equality.

Sheehan served as Administrator of Phoenix for six months in 2003 and was the secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from November 2003 to December 2006.