THURS: Santa Fe city manager won’t be suspended, + More
Santa Fe city manager won’t be suspended - Santa Fe Reporter, KUNM News
Santa Fe’s City Council and mayor have voted down a resolution to suspend the city manager for alleged ethics violations.
According to the Santa Fe Reporter, Councilors Chris Rivera and Lee Garcia proposed the unpaid suspension for City Manager John Blair after he chose not to share a letter from the state with the council. The letter, from the Department of Finance Administration to Mayor Alan Webber, was informing the city that it wouldn’t receive capital outlay funds until past-due audits are turned in.
Garcia told the Reporter that Blair kept the council "in the dark,” about the letter that would have answered questions it had about the issue. Blair has since apologized for withholding the information.
In an executive session Thursday, several people defended Blair’s character, including his second grade teacher from Chaparral Elementary. Mayor Webber also defended him, telling the Reporter “there was no news” in the letter and that Blair “has been about as transparent a city manager we’ve ever had.”
The resolution to suspend Blair was defeated on a 3-6 vote.
New Mexicans call on the state to dump millions invested in weapons manufacturer - By Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico
Protestors say the Boeing Company is a key contributor to Israel’s War on Gaza.
They want state lawmakers to divest more than $6.8 million of state taxpayer dollars that goes to a job training program monitored by the New Mexico Economic Development Department.
Public records show Boeing has for at least four years used public funds from the state of New Mexico to cover the costs of training workers at its facility near Balloon Fiesta Park.
Boeing is an American multinational corporation that makes planes, helicopters, rockets, satellites, telecommunications equipment and missiles. In 2022, it was the third largest war contractor for the U.S. government, according to ExecutiveGov. It is also a contractor for the Israeli government, according to Haaretz.
An hour before the facility was set to close on Nov. 27, protesters gathered at the visitor entrance and placed white shrouds visually representing the Palestinians killed by Israel. A Palestinian flag lay next to a large paper puppet depicting a missile system produced by Boeing.
“Where’s all of our money going, Boeing?” asked organizer and Albuquerque resident Tionnie Sanchez, her voice amplified by a loudspeaker. “It’s coming here. It’s not coming to our streets. It’s not coming to us, the people.”
A Boeing security guard asked the protesters to leave. When they refused, she called the Albuquerque Police Department, who arrived and watched the peaceful rally and march.
Boeing did not respond to a written request for comment.
MILLIONS AWARDED TO BOEING UNUSED
The New Mexico Economic Development Department’s Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) is one of two programs it uses to attract businesses to the state. Companies use the money to train New Mexicans in job skills “they can use not only with the company they are currently working with, but future companies as they move through their career path,” said Bruce Krasnow, an agency spokesperson.
Since 2019, the economic development department has awarded Boeing nearly $6.8 million to pay for a total of 220 trainees, according to data on its website.
While the program has existed for half a century, the NM economic development department only has data on the project dating back to 2019, Krasnow said.
Boeing has used less than half of the money the state granted them, according to the department. Since 2019, the state’s economic development department reimbursed Boeing $2.8 million from funds for 111 JTIP trainees, Krasnow said.
Many businesses apply for JTIP money expecting to hire a certain number of and type of workers, Krasnow said. Businesses often have been unable to fill all their positions so some of the money goes unclaimed, he said.
New Mexico’s Economic Development Department has a focus on “economic base industries that grow the economy,” meaning those that bring money into New Mexico from outside the state, according to Krasnow.
“That is the only way to increase (Gross Domestic Product) and create jobs,” Krasnow said. “Whereas providing assistance to help someone start a coffee shop doesn’t do that, it merely moves the dollars around.”
Protesters on Monday said state officials should pull the money from Boeing and use it instead for investigating missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives, affordable housing subsidies, providing access to mental health and addiction treatment services, education, public parks, senior services, public transit or community centers.
Even if the money had created hundreds of thousands of jobs, “we reject jobs that create weapons to kill people domestically and abroad,” said Malaya Peixinho, a massage therapist in Albuquerque and a survivor of a shooting in September in Española.
“We refuse to use our state’s talents and our money to make weapons of war,” she said.
Monday’s protest was part of a yearslong nonviolent struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and self-determination which formally began on July 9, 2005 when the majority of Palestinian civil society groups issued the Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.
“We need public divestment from New Mexico’s giant military industrial complex, including Boeing,” she said. “We cannot let our politicians be influenced by war money. Why is money involved in politics? Why can they be bought? They are supposed to represent us, the people.”
Krasnow said the state is not going to comment on divestment.
“That is up to the Legislature,” Krasnow said. “We can’t favor or exclude companies based on whether they agree or disagree with administration policies. That usually doesn’t work out so well.”
Krasnow said he was not able to find any evidence showing whether the state’s economic development department provides any other public funds to Boeing other than through the jobs training program.
“Our New Mexico Legislature is subsidizing Boeing all for the sake of sending weapons to Gaza — to other places where war is ruining lives,” said Libby Schrobe, an organizer in Albuquerque.
Krasnow said the jobs training money comes from the state’s General Fund, but appears in budget documents as a special appropriation. The General Fund is the biggest pot of money used by the state government, and pays for agencies’ regular annual budgets. A “special appropriation” is an expense outside an agency’s regular budget for what should be a one-time expense.
Krasnow said his department and the Legislative Finance Committee, the agency that independently analyzes bills and advises lawmakers and state officials on the state government’s budget, “are working to move the program to the recurring budget, so we don’t have to go in and justify it every year.”
COMPLICITY IN SETTLER COLONIALISM
In October, Boeing sped up delivery to Israel of as many as 1,800 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) kits that turn bombs into “smart” GPS-equipped guided bombs, according to Bloomberg.
“Boeing makes weapons to kill people more efficiently,” Peixinho said. “As New Mexicans, we condemn you, Boeing, and we demand that you stop selling weapons to fuel Israeli genocide.”
Myrriah Gómez, an author from the Pojoaque Valley and assistant professor in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico, said Indigenous homelands in the state have been colonized during multiple periods of settler colonialism, and now the state government is complicit in the settler colonialism in Palestinians’ Indigenous homelands.
Gómez said national laboratories and Boeing are the common denominators between nuclear colonialism and the war crimes being committed by Israel as they relate to New Mexico.
“New Mexico is complicit in settler colonialism and genocide in Gaza,” she said. “How can our representatives stand up for Indigenous people here in New Mexico and speak against settler colonialism, and participate in the settler colonialism and genocide in Gaza?”
Gómez said Boeing helps maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal through its Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, and has for years partnered with Los Alamos National Laboratory in Northern New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.
For example, a Cold War-era nuclear missile called the B6112 has a tail kit assembly built by Boeing, Gómez said. The 12th generation of the missile has been built at Sandia, she said.
Boeing’s Apache helicopters have been used by the Israeli Air Force since 1990, according to the independent Who Profits Research Center. The company has also sold to Israel F-15 fighter jets, Hellfire missiles, MK-84 2000-pound bombs, MK-82 500-pound bombs.
Though Israel and Hamas had reached a four-day pause on Nov. 24, protesters on Monday reiterated calls for an immediate, permanent ceasefire. That would be a small step toward ending Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, Peixinho said.
“New Mexico needs to divest from Boeing,” Gómez said. “Stop using our tax dollars for the genocide of Palestinians. Get out of New Mexico. Stop making nuclear weapons. Support this ceasefire. Support the end of this war, and let’s shame Boeing for doing all of this.”
Work resumes on $10B renewable energy transmission project despite tribal objections - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press
It's back to work for construction crews that are clearing land and building access roads for a $10 billion project that the Biden administration describes as an important part of the nation's transition to renewable energy. Federal land managers briefly halted work on the SunZia transmission line in southwestern Arizona earlier this month after Native American tribes raised concerns about the destruction of culturally sensitive sites. The Bureau of Land Management questioned the timing of the information provided by tribes in recent weeks, opting to allow the developer to move forward. Tribal leaders maintain that their concerns are being dismissed.
The tractors are back at work clearing land and building access roads for a $10 billion transmission line that the Biden administration describes as an important part of the nation's transition to renewable energy. But Native American leaders have vowed to keep pushing the federal government to heed their concerns about the project cutting through a culturally significant valley in southern Arizona.
Billed by California-based developer Pattern Energy as an infrastructure undertaking bigger than the Hoover Dam, the SunZia transmission line will stretch about 550 miles (885 kilometers). It will funnel electricity from massive wind farms in central New Mexico to more populated areas as far away as California.
Executives and federal officials gathered in New Mexico in September to break ground on the project, touting negotiations that spanned years and resulted in the necessary approvals from the Bureau of Land Management.
In Arizona, federal land managers briefly halted work this month along a 50-mile (80-kilometer) stretch of the line through the San Pedro Valley after the Tohono O'odham Nation, other tribes and archaeologists raised concerns that the BLM had not formally consulted them before work began.
The Bureau of Land Management lifted the temporary suspension and work resumed Wednesday. The agency scheduled a Dec. 11 meeting with tribal leaders.
Federal land managers in a letter sent Monday to the developer said the timing of the information provided by the tribes relative to the many years that have gone into planning and permitting did not support pausing work. The agency noted that the right of way through the valley was issued in 2015.
"The SunZia transmission line project is an important part of transitioning our nation to a clean energy economy by creating jobs, lowering energy costs and boosting local economies, and the BLM is committed to implementing it with as little impact as possible," agency spokesman Brian Hires said in a statement.
The BLM said it had met with tribal representatives during the pause and that it would work with tribes to evaluate whether the valley could be classified as a traditional cultural property while mitigating effects from the transmission line on cultural and archaeological sites. The agency said it has not received information on any additional cultural sites beyond those previously identified.
Tohono O'odham Chairman Verlon M. Jose said he was disappointed but not surprised that the federal government opted to move ahead before meeting its obligation to consult with the tribes.
"It's more than a slap in the face. It's a punch to the gut," he said during an interview Wednesday. "They reversed course and allowed construction to continue before the meeting could actually take place. You know, it is difficult to describe this decision as anything other than acting in bad faith."
Jose said bulldozers have been clearing roads and pads for the massive towers that will support the high-voltage lines so damage already has been done to land that contains what he described as a high concentration of sacred sites. He said tribal members are frustrated.
"This means a lot to us," he said of the rolling hills and mountains that make up the region. "There has not been true, meaningful consultation on this — all these years. And if we had worked together to address these issues, I'm sure we could have mitigated the concerns here."
He added that the Tohono O'odham people have cultural and traditional responsibilities that call for them to care for the land and for people. As part of that, he said the tribe supports efforts to address climate change but insisted that development needs to be done in such a way that cultural and historic sites are given appropriate consideration under federal laws and regulations.
Like Jose, other tribal leaders have complained that the federal government often treats the consultation process as a check-the-box practice despite promises by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland that tribes would have a seat at the table. From Nevada and New Mexico to Alaska, permitting decisions over mining projects and oil and development for example have highlighted what some tribal leaders say are shortcomings in the process.
Developers of the SunZia project argue that they have worked with tribes over the years and surveys were done to identify cultural resources in the San Pedro Valley.
Natalie McCue, Pattern Energy's assistant vice president for environmental and permitting activities, said the company will continue to support the consultation process between the federal government and tribes and will adopt mitigation measures that might result from the talks.
More than a decade in the making, SunZia's line would be capable of transporting more than 3,500 megawatts of new wind power to 3 million people in the West. It's expected to begin commercial service in 2026.
In New Mexico, the route was modified after the U.S. Defense Department raised concerns about the effects of the high-voltage lines on radar systems and military training operations. Environmentalists also were worried about impacts on wildlife habitat and migratory bird flight patterns in the Rio Grande Valley.
There are similar ecological concerns in the San Pedro Valley. The transmission line is at the heart of a legal challenge pending before the Arizona Court of Appeals over whether state regulatory officials there properly considered the benefits and consequences of the project.
Student food pantry facing empty shelves as holidays approach — KUNM News, The Daily Lobo
The Lobo Food Pantry is seeing nearly double the amount of students walking through its doors in need of a meal compared to last year, and it’s having trouble keeping its shelves stocked.
In response, the University of New Mexico is running a food drive through December 15th, the Daily Lobo reports, with several drop box locations on campus, and an amazon wishlist available for those who can’t make a physical donation.
Earlier this year, an official with the food pantry told the Lobo they averaged 65-70 students a day at their peak in the fall 2022 semester, but now they are averaging 120 daily visitors.
The pantry needs food, such as bulk items, canned foods, pasta, and even perishable foods both fresh and frozen, and hygiene products like soap, shampoo and conditioner, tampons and pads, etc.
WHAT THE PANTRY ACCEPTS: (find a full list here)
Personal hygiene products (soap, shampoo, conditioner, tampons, pads, etc.)
Food (bulk items, canned food, pasta, perishable food either fresh or frozen)
Grocery Store gift cards
ITEMS NOT ACCEPTED:
Unlabeled food (label has been removed)
WAYS TO DONATE REMOTELY
Unused student meal swipes and dining dollars at the end of each semester (via UNM Food)
Texas judge rips into Biden administration's handling of border in dispute over razor wire barrier - By Valerie Gonzalez Associated Press
Border Patrol agents for now can cut razor wire that Texas installed on the U.S.-Mexico border under a judge's ruling that also took President Joe Biden's administration to task for its handling of immigration enforcement.
The ruling is at least a temporary defeat for Texas officials who say Border Patrol agents have repeatedly cut, damaged and moved some of the roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) of concertina wire the state installed near the border city of Eagle Pass, where large numbers of migrant have crossed in recent months.
U.S. District Judge Alia Moses, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, initially issued an emergency order in October that prevented agents from cutting razor wire in Eagle Pass, except in emergencies. On Wednesday, however, she ruled that the state hadn't met the requirements to issue a wider preliminary injunction.
At the same time, she said razor wire has proved to be effective at deterring migrants elsewhere along Texas' 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) southern border.
"The law may be on the side of the Defendants and compel a resolution in their favor today, but it does not excuse their culpable and duplicitous conduct," Moses wrote. "The evidence presented amply demonstrates the utter failure of the Defendants to deter, prevent, and halt unlawful entry into the United States."
On Thursday, Texas filed an appeal with the conservative-leaning 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"I am disappointed that the federal government's blatant and disturbing efforts to subvert law and order at our State's border with Mexico will be allowed to continue," Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.
Border Patrol agents are allowed to cut the wire in emergencies, such as when a migrant on the other side needs medical assistance. But Texas officials have argued that federal agents also were cutting it to help groups crossing illegally through the river before taking them in for processing. Moses said Texas failed to prove the wire cutting was a formal policy.
Spokespersons for U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately return an email seeking comment Thursday.
Texas also has installed razor wire around El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley, where migrants have also crossed in high numbers. But the barrier has drawn the sharpest criticism in Eagle Pass, where some state troopers have raised concerns over the multiple injuries caused by razor wire.
According to Moses' 34-page ruling, the Biden administration produced documents that reflected how the wire "inhibits Border Patrol's ability to patrol the border." The documents went on to state that while Texas troopers and federal agents have coordinated in the past when it comes to the concertina wire, the "relationship has deteriorated over time."
Eagle Pass is a hub of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's massive border mission known as Operation Lone Star. He has also authorized installing floating barriers in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass and allowed troopers to arrest and jail thousands of migrants on trespassing charges.
Unbeaten Liberty seeking second victory of the season against New Mexico State in CUSA title game - By Hank Kurz Jr. AP Sports Writer
Liberty's first year in Conference USA could not have gone better, but the No. 20 Flames' perfect season will be on the line again in the conference championship.
The 12-0 Flames will host New Mexico State (10-3) for the second time this season with the title on the line. The Aggies, like Liberty, are first-year members of CUSA, and they will arrive a much different team than in September, when they lost 33-17.
"Obviously, we know each other. The thing that is different with this game is it has been 10 or 11 weeks since the first meeting, so they are a very different ball club to what they were then, but we are too," Flames coach Jamey Chadwell said. "There are not going to be any surprises. I think it's a unique experience to decide a true champion."
The Aggies have won eight straight games since starting 2-3, including a 31-10 victory at Auburn in which they dominated throughout. followed by a 20-17 victory against Jacksonville State secured by a field goal as the clock struck 0:00.
"I think we wanted to go into the championship game playing with a good rhythm. Jacksonville State had a situation in the conference, and it meant a lot to us that we needed to win that game to deserve to be here in the conference championship game," Aggies coach Jerry Kill said.
A key to any game, New Mexico State committed three in its first meeting with the Flames and Liberty had just one. Two of Liberty's nation-best 20 interceptions came against the Aggies' Diego Pavia, who threw just six others this season.
"We just have to go up there and keep doing what we've been doing. But we can't turn the ball over that many times and expect to win the game," Kill said.
The Flames rank No. 1 nationally in rushing offense (295.4 yards per game), and the Aggies hold foes to 126.4 rushing yards per game. RB Quinton Cooley leads the way with 1,251 yards, ranking No. 11 in the nation. QB Kaidon Salter is 101 yards away from joining Cooley as Liberty's first pair of 1,000-yard rushers in the same season.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE
The Flames lead CUSA in scoring, averaging 40.08 points, while the Aggies lead CUSA in scoring defense, allowing an average of 19.69. ... Liberty also leads the league in rushing defense, allowing 106.17 yards per game, while New Mexico State averages 204.69 rushing yards and has had at least 170 in 16 straight games.
The Aggies' victory at Auburn as a 25 1/2-point underdog was not the first time they proved oddsmakers wrong. Last season, they faced the Flames as a 24-point underdog at Williams Stadium and won 49-14. Both victories came against teams coached by Hugh Freeze, who left Liberty for Auburn after last season.
New Mexico State lost in front of 20,123 at Liberty's Williams Stadium on Sept. 9, but they won in front of 88,043 at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"The noise at Auburn was a good experience for our guys.," Kill said.
Outdoor recreation in New Mexico grew in 2022 — Nicole Maxwell, New Mexico Political Report
New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy grew 1.9 percent in 2022 from the previous year according to a new analysis from the U.S. Commerce Department.
TheCommerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released data for 2022 showing upward trends in outdoor recreation across the country, including growth by 1.8 percent over 2021 in New Mexico.
Outdoor recreation accounted for 1.9 percent of New Mexico’s gross domestic product and created $2.4 billion in added value for New Mexico and created almost 28,000 jobs.
“As the state continues to exceed previous years’ measurements of the outdoor recreation industry, it reinforces Gov. (Michelle) Lujan Grisham’s decision to identify the industry as a key sector for our state economy,” Acting New Mexico Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Jon Clark said in a news release. “Every corner of our state benefits from the overall efforts to bolster access to the outdoors for all New Mexicans. The outdoor recreation industry is a consistent economic and jobs driver, even in times of economic uncertainty.”
Lujan Grisham created the Outdoor Recreation Division in 2019 which has invested $10 million in trails and infrastructure projects and awarded grants to 181 organizations, a press release states.
“The BEA data validates the ongoing efforts of New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Division to create jobs through the Trails+ grant program, support economic growth, and offer equitable access to the outdoors through the first-of-its-kind Outdoor Equity Fund,” ORD Director Karina Armijo said in the press release. “Based on the data, we can affirm these outdoor recreation-focused programs benefit all New Mexicans and outdoor recreation businesses throughout the state.”
This is the sixth consecutive year the Bureau has released data about outdoor recreation.
NM governor and environment secretary attend climate conference in Dubai - By Nash Jones, KUNM News
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham traveled to Dubai today for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, according to her office. State Environment Secretary James Kenney and the governor’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer Caroline Buerkle are also attending.
The announcement said the group will participate in panels and meet with climate leaders.
Lujan Grisham is scheduled to sit on a Saturday panel on U.S. climate innovations. She’s also set to give the opening remarks at a Sunday panel that includes Sec. Kenney highlighting state-led initiatives to attain net-zero emissions, according to the press release.
Other state and local government representatives from across the U.S. will also be in attendance, including mayors from Louisiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio and Mississippi.
Metropolitan Detention Center warden placed on leave - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News
The warden of the state’s largest jail has been placed on administrative leave, according to Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca.
The Albuquerque Journal reports Warden Jason Jones’ leave from his post at the Metropolitan Detention Center began Monday. Around 1,400 people are incarcerated at the facility.
It’s unclear why Jones, who became warden just over a year ago, was put on leave or when it’ll end. Morgas Baca told the Journal the county has not yet determined whether an investigation is needed.
Deputy Warden Rosanne Otero Gonzales is serving as interim warden.