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

THURS: Correa Hemphill to step down from Legislature, + More

Democratic New Mexico state Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill of Silver City, N.M.
Morgan Lee
Democratic New Mexico state Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill of Silver City, N.M., discusses legislative accomplishments on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.

Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature - By Susan Dunlap, New Mexico Political Report

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat from Silver City, won’t seek reelection in the general election in November, leaving SD 28, a swing district, an open race.

Correa Hemphill has represented SD 28, which includes Catron, Grant and Socorro counties, since 2021. She defeated former state Sen. Gabe Ramos, then a Democrat and also of Silver City, in the 2020 primary. Ramos was one of the seven Democrats who sided with Republicans to kill the bill in 2019 that would have repealed the New Mexico 1969 abortion ban on the senate floor. Almost all of those seven Democrats lost in primary elections in 2020. Correa Hemphill was a part of a progressive shift in the legislature that led to the 1969 abortion ban repeal that the state enacted in 2021.

The abortion rights group, Emily’s List, endorsed Correa Hemphill for the upcoming race earlier this spring. Correa Hemphill’s Republican opponent in 2020 lost by 386 votes. Ramos is running to take back the seat in 2024 as a Republican.

Correa Hemphill told NM Political Report that she has not stepped down yet, but that she will do so after the primary election on June 4. Her name will still appear on the primary ballot. She does not face an opponent in the primary race.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico will decide who will replace her to run in the general election in what will then be an open race.

Daniel Garcia, spokesperson for the New Mexico Democratic Party said that a volunteer committee of Democratic Party members within the district will decide who will be the best person to represent the district as a Democrat in the November race.

Correa Hemphill, who was a part of the group of female legislators advocating to professionalize the legislature, said that she is resigning from office because she needs to return to the workforce. She said her husband’s income and benefits are her family’s sole means of support and, currently, their economic future is uncertain.

Correa Hemphill said she is disappointed that she had to make this decision.

“We don’t have the resources in our legislature to really support legislators, which is a problem. It prevents us from having a diverse legislature that can represent a full spectrum of issues,” she said.

Correa Hemphill, who was frequently vocal on reproductive rights issues during her time in the legislature, became a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Committees’ Committee. The Senate Finance Committee oversees legislative appropriations and the state budget. The Senate Committees’ Committee decides which committee to send bills for hearings during the legislative sessions.

Correa Hemphill also served, either as a member or advisor, on several interim committees, including as vice chair to the Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee.

Correa Hemphill said the lack of pay for legislators is not the only problem. The lack of a staff is, as well. She said having a staff to help with constituent services would also make a difference, especially for legislators representing rural districts where there is a lack of infrastructure.

“Having a staff to help with constituent services would have been really helpful in allowing me to feel like I could serve my constituents in an equitable way,” she said.

She said that the time legislators spend representing their districts is not made up of only the 30 or 60 days the legislature meets every year. There are also interim committee hearings throughout the year, funding requests in addition to constituent services, and the travel time required to drive to Santa Fe.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for the community, for the state and certainly for our family to be put in a position where I have to withdraw due to financial concerns,” she said.

Correa Hemphill, who is a school psychologist, said that her signature issue was disability rights because one of her sons was born with a rare genetic disorder and is disabled.

“I’ve always been a strong supporter for the disability community, advocating for resources for those most vulnerable within our state,” she said.


International District has become an urban ‘pharmacy desert’ - By Damon Scott, City Desk ABQ

Not that long ago there were three large commercial pharmacies located within the boundaries of Albuquerque’s International District — Walmart, CVS and Walgreens — including a small independent one, Phil’s Pills. Today, only Phil’s Pills remains. The effect for residents seeking to fill prescriptions has become a problem with potentially dire consequences.

“For some folks, it’s actually life-threatening if you can’t get your insulin or your blood pressure meds,” said Janus Herrera, a health promotion specialist at Albuquerque’s Health Equity Council who has studied the issue.

The low-income International District is now considered an urban “pharmacy desert,” with more than 25,000 residents unable to access a pharmacy within a reasonable walking distance.

While the term “food desert” has been in the public consciousness for decades — areas where it is difficult or impossible to buy quality fresh food — the pharmacy desert is a newer phenomenon. Analysts say it emerged between 2009 and 2015 when one in eight U.S. pharmacies closed — mostly independent pharmacies in low-income areas with underserved populations like the International District.

The recent closures of Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens have left some residents scrambling. While the reasons for the closures were never fully disclosed by company officials, there’s speculation that profit loss from shoplifting and a perceived lack of police presence were contributors.

“We now have this massive pharmacy desert,” Herrera said.

The city defines the International District as bounded by the boulevards of Lomas to the north, Gibson to the south, Wyoming to the east and San Mateo to the west.

Herrera said her analysis shows that older adults are the most affected, along with those with disabilities, or those who are precariously housed or experiencing homelessness. She said some residents don’t own vehicles (or aren’t able to drive) and can’t afford ride-sharing services. In addition, home delivery is often not an option for those without a stable mailing address.

“The International District has the largest concentration of transit-dependent residents in the state,” Herrera said, including high densities of residents in a low socioeconomic status, particularly east of Louisiana Boulevard. “It’s the largest and most vulnerable population.”

Herrera gave public comment on the International District’s lack of pharmacies at the May 6 Albuquerque City Council meeting and handed out a one-sheet policy paper on the issue to city councilors.

The Health Equity Council issues quarterly policy recommendations to city and Bernalillo County leaders. It is funded by the county and is a partner with the city of Albuquerque’s Health, Housing & Homelessness Department.


Herrera stressed that the effects of living in a pharmacy desert can be severe.

Limited access to prescriptions means people end up skipping doses or taking a lower dose, and that can cause long-lasting health issues, increased hospitalization rates and death. Additionally, treatment costs become higher on average.

Herrera said she’s talked to older adults who are impacted because they are no longer able to drive.

“They said they used to walk to Walmart because that was their pharmacy,” she said. “Then they had to walk a couple more blocks to Walgreens, but it closed. I’ve talked to individuals who have delayed getting prescriptions because they keep getting shuffled from place to place.”

Walmart closed in March 2023 followed by Walgreens just months later. CVS announced that it was closing its International District location in 2019.


Former NM House Speaker Egolf’s juice company case avoids court - Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM News 

A state judge ordered today/yesterday [THURS] that a civil suit against former New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf and his wife, Kelley, regarding her juice business will be resolved through arbitration rather than going to court.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the judge approved a motion by Egolf’s lawyer in a case between the couple and several investors in the now-defunct juice business, New Mexico Fresh Foods.

The plaintiff’s, including partners in the venture, argue the Egolfs planned to sell the business’s assets to a company as part of a foreclosure in order to defraud them out of over $3 million in investments. Brian Egolf owns majority shares of the company, Invictus.

The investors call the foreclosure sale a “sham.” Attorneys for the Egolfs argue the couple sold assets from the defunct company to Invictus to save Kelly Egolf’s juice brand as the company went under.

The move to arbitration halts any subpoenas for evidence filed by the plaintiffs.


Council moves Westside mixed-use development forward - Rodd Cayton, City Desk ABQ

Albuquerque city councilors rejected an appeal from neighborhood groups opposed to a Westside development, paving the way for the mixed-use project to move forward.

Tierra West LLC is planning townhouses, office space, a cannabis retailer and a restaurant at Coors Boulevard and 7 Bar Loop Road.

Representatives of the Bosque del Acres Neighborhood Association have opposed the project, citing concerns about cannabis being sold in the area and the proximity of a protected archaeological site.


Last May, Tierra West officials met with city planning and transportation staff before submitting the application for the project. The developer agreed to meet with Bosque del Acres representatives. At the recommendation of staff, Tierra West also reached out to the West Side Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, according to city records.

Bosque del Acres resident Sharon Decatur told KRQE earlier that the development would disrupt the area’s rural lifestyle.

Deborah Haycraft, who also lives in Bosque del Acres, told the station she was concerned about her privacy, with only an irrigation ditch separating some two-story townhouses from her backyard.

City records state an officer and multiple members of the Bosque del Acres Association and at least one coalition officer attended the city-facilitated meeting.


The Environmental Planning Commission heard Tierra West’s case in December. It was heard in two parts — zoning changes along with new land uses in one and dimensional variances, which relate to space between elements and the property in the other.

The commission then voted to approve the package, triggering the Bosque del Acres Neighborhood Association to file an appeal challenging the variances and the permit for the cannabis site.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, there was no public comment on the matter and councilors spoke little of it, with Louie Sanchez asking about the elevation difference between the development site and surrounding homes.

City staff told Sanchez that the project would leave residents with ample views of the Sandia Mountains.

The council’s decision means the project can now move forward.



Top water official in New Mexico to retire as state awaits decision in Rio Grande case - Associated Press

New Mexico's top water official will be stepping down next month, wrapping up a four-decade career that has included work on water projects from New Mexico and Colorado to Texas.

Mike Hamman has served as the state engineer for the past two years and previously led an irrigation district that spans thousands of acres (hectares) in New Mexico's most populated area. He also worked with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, managing federal water projects from the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado to Fort Quitman in Texas.

Hamman most recently was among those involved in negotiations that led to a three-state consent decree aimed at settling a long-running dispute with Texas over management of the Rio Grande. That case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hamman said in a statement issued Wednesday that he will continue to support efforts to improve New Mexico's water security while giving more attention to his family's small farm in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

"Collaboration with all our communities have been the key in finding lasting solutions as we prepared for a more arid future," he said, speaking of the work he has done throughout his career.

Hamman's last day will be June 30. It will be up to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to choose his successor. It wasn't immediately clear if she planned to conduct a national search or choose a candidate from the many water experts in New Mexico.

The state engineer is charged with administering New Mexico's water resources and has authority over the measurement and distribution of all surface and groundwater — a task that has become increasingly challenging as the arid state grapples with ongoing drought and the effects of climate change.

New Mexico earlier this year rolled out its latest water plan, which expanded on recommendations developed by a water policy task force that Hamman chaired in 2022. The water plan noted that some systems in New Mexico are losing anywhere from 40% to 70% of all treated drinking water because of breaks and leaks in old infrastructure.

Undercover operation nets arrests as New Mexico's top prosecutor blames Meta for online predators - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico's top prosecutor announced charges Wednesday against three men who are accused of using Meta's social media platforms to target and solicit sex with underage children.

The arrests are the result of a monthslong undercover operation in which the suspects connected with decoy accounts that were set up by the state Department of Justice. The investigation began in December around the time the state filed a civil lawsuit against the social media giant, claiming Meta was failing to take basic precautionary measures to ensure children were safe on its platforms.

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez said during a news conference Wednesday that the suspects communicated and exchanged explicit sexual content through Facebook's messenger app and were clear in expressing a sexual interest in children.

"It's extraordinarily concerning to us just how easily these individuals found the undercover personas that were created," Torrez said. "And it is, frankly, I think a wakeup call for all of us to understand just how serious these kinds of threats are."

He placed blame on Meta executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and suggested that the company was putting profits above the interests of parents and children.

"For those of us who are engaged in this work, we are simply tired of the rhetoric," he said. "We are tired of the assurances that have been given to members of our communities, to members of Congress, to policymakers that all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that this type of behavior doesn't occur."

Meta disputed the allegations and reiterated Wednesday that it uses technology to prevent suspicious adults from finding or interacting with children and teens on its apps and that it works with law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting offenders.

The company also said it has hired child safety experts, reports content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and shares information and tools with others to help root out predators.

"This is an ongoing fight, where determined criminals evolve their tactics across platforms to try and evade protections," Meta said in an emailed statement.

While the state attorney general's office will continue working to identify predators who are targeting children, Torrez said it's too early to say whether that work will have a bearing on the civil litigation.

As part of that lawsuit, New Mexico prosecutors say they have uncovered internal documents in which Meta employees estimate about 100,000 children every day are subjected to sexual harassment on the company's platforms.

The three defendants in the criminal case were identified as Fernando Clyde, Marlon Kellywood and Christopher Reynolds. Prosecutors are seeking to detain them pending trial on charges that include child solicitation by an electronic communication device.

Hearings have yet to be scheduled, and court records did not list attorneys who could speak on behalf of Clyde and Kellywood. A message was left with the public defender's office, which is representing Reynolds.

NM GOP leader urges party to disavow candidate for ‘antisemitic’ social media posts - Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM News

As early voting for New Mexico’s June primary sparks up, a prominent GOP lawmaker is now calling on his colleagues to disavow a candidate for an open Senate seat, callingold social media posts of hers as “antisemitic.”

As the Santa Fe New Mexican reports, Senate Republican Whip Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho is worried that posts made by Senate District 9 candidate Audrey Trujillo could jeopardize a GOP seat in a Democrat dominated state legislature.

In one post, Trujillo allegedly transformed a Zia symbol into a swastika while referencing New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Another featured a newspaper photo depicting alarge Star of David placed above the heads of several pharmaceutical companies with the caption “Pick your poison.”

Trujillo was heavily criticized for these posts during the 2022 election cycle when she ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver for secretary of state.

Brandt is a staunch advocate for Trujillo’s opponent in the June primary – Republican Frida Susana Vasquez. Vasquez, who is not originally from New Mexico, owns a holistic pet food store in Rio Rancho.

TheCommittee to Elect Craig Brandt is credited withfunding Vasquez’ website.

Westside shelter is losing its operatorDamon Scott CityDesk ABQ

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ

The embattled Westside Emergency Housing Center (WEHC) took another hit this month after the city was unable to find an operator to run it starting July 1. Two organizations applied for a $4.1 million annual contract, but officials said their proposals were “unsatisfactory, incomplete and ineligible.”

Operator Albuquerque Heading Home, whose current three-year contract expires at the end of next month, said it will no longer run the facility and didn’t participate in the latest proposal process.

“We’re really trying to reorganize and focus. Running an operation like [the WEHC] was never our mission,” Chief Executive Officer Connie Chavez said this week. “We’re pulling back and committing to our original mission, which is to serve folks well. [WEHC’s] not the perfect place; it’s hard and the funding is strenuous.”

Chavez, who took the helm about a year ago, said the city has asked the homeless services provider to extend its contract on an emergency basis until a new operator is identified.

The city has now come up with a new approach in the hope of attracting a bigger pool of candidates to oversee the shelter — one that’s open 24/7 and provides beds and services to hundreds of people experiencing homelessness. The 18-and-older population includes older adults, the medically vulnerable, people living with mental illness or substance use disorders and those who are chronically homeless or newly so.

However, the new approach offers less funding than was in the most recent contract.

Health, Housing & Homelessness (HHH) spokesperson Katie Simon said the city will soon release two requests for proposals (RFPs) — one in early June for an operator at $3.1 million a year, and the second one this month at $750,000 a year for the administration of wraparound services like intensive case management with a goal to place clients into stable housing.

“This revised structure will be more flexible for our agencies and bring in more services,” Simon said. “We are in communication with Heading Home to ensure operations continue while the city is procuring another operator. We do not anticipate there to be any break in services at the WEHC.”


The aesthetics of being located in a former Bernalillo County jail, its deteriorating condition, and the remote location of the WEHC has provoked plenty of criticism by homelessness advocates and some of its residents.

But while city officials acknowledge some of the same issues, they say the idea of closing the shelter down is not an option because the need is immense, and closer alternatives to the city center like the Gateway Center at Gibson Health Hub are not yet sufficient.

“The WEHC is deplorable, but even in that condition, there are at any one time 400 to 600 people out there. We can’t just close it,” said Daymon Ely, an adviser to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller on homelessness.

Ely said the WEHC in the short term needs to be made “livable and safe” with more frequent transportation to and from the city center for clients seeking services like health care.

He also said the shelter should not be privately run, a point he laid out in his policy proposal to Keller. Ely’s preference is that a government entity — like the city or Bernalillo County — consider operating the facility. He said it would be less expensive and provide more transparency and accountability through public oversight.

The city agrees that the WEHC will be part of its system of care for those experiencing homelessness for “the foreseeable future,” and has embarked on interior and exterior improvements.

Simon said renovations to its 12 dorms will include paint, floors, LED lights, bathroom fixtures and partitions, and beds with lockable storage. She said the first dorm renovation, at $180,000, is scheduled to be completed next week. The total cost of interior renovations will total around $4.2 million and exterior improvements that include shade structures, pet areas, outdoor furniture and paving will cost about $1.7 million, she said.

New funds approved by the Albuquerque City Council this week should help with the high price tag. On May 6, the council voted unanimously to authorize the sale of $22.5 million in gross receipt tax improvement revenue bonds for projects throughout the city, with $4.5 million designated to the WEHC.

“The additional bond funding allows us to do more,” Simon said.

Lujan Grisham and other Western governors call on Congress to expand compensation for downwinders Utah News Dispatch via Source New Mexico 

A letter signed by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is garnering more support from several other Western governors calling on Congress to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or RECA, which would widen eligibility for people poisoned by radiation from Cold War era nuclear weapons testing and manufacturing, known as downwinders.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Tuesday joined the call penned by the Western Governor’s Association to leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 1. Lujan Grisham is the vice chair of the association.

Cox’s support comes as lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are considering two RECA bills.

One proposal would extend the deadline for compensation, which is set to expire this June, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee in the Senate and Rep. Celeste Maloy in the House, both Republicans from Utah.

The other, sponsored by Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, would increase compensation, expand eligibility for certain uranium workers, and widen the current definition of an “affected area” to include all of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Guam.

It would also include parts of Hawley’s district near St. Louis,where creek water was contaminated by radiation during nuclear weapons development.

As of Tuesday evening, Congress has 14 days to pass an expansion or extension before compensation expires on June 10.

Cox told Utah News Dispatch in a statement that he wants to see the program expanded.

“We support efforts to expand compensation for those affected by the nuclear testing that occurred throughout the West,” Cox said in the statement. “It’s the right thing to do.”

The statement comes on the heels of a similar push from Western governors urging members of Congress to support Hawley’s bill. On May 1, Republican Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, chair of the Western Governors Association, and Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, vice chair of the organization, sent letters to several lawmakers asking them to schedule a vote.

“The bill acknowledges that nuclear weapons production and testing has had much broader effects than currently recognized by statute, and Western Governors encourage you to expeditiously schedule the legislation for consideration by the full House,” reads a letter sent to House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat.

RECA was enacted in 1990 — to be eligible for compensation under the act, Utahns had to prove they contracted certain types of cancer and lived in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sevier, Washington or Wayne counties for two consecutive years from 1951 to 1958, or during the summer of 1962.

People who worked in uranium mines, mills or transporting ore in Utah from 1942 to 1971 were also eligible.

Downwinders could receive $50,000, with uranium workers getting $100,000.

Lee and Maloy’s bill would extend the same program that’s been in place since 1990. But activists have long claimed the program was too narrow, pointing toample evidence that all of Utah and other states in the West were downwind from nuclear weapons testing.

RECA also excludes people who had kidney cancer, certain kinds of leukemia, autoimmune disorders or other diseases that are linked to radiation. And Utahns who worked but didn’t reside in eligible counties or lived just across an eligible county line cannot receive compensation.

Hawley’s bill, which passed the Senate in March after a bipartisan 69-30 vote, would increase some payouts up to $150,000 while covering people who worked in uranium mines and mills up until 1990, extending the current timeframe by nearly 20 years. Uranium core drillers and remediation workers would also be eligible.

Hawley has said he hopes the expansion will be added to a bill expanding child tax credits.

Council approves RFP for new recycling provider; other bidders feel left on the curb KUNM News, The Albuquerque Journal

Glass recycling pick-up directly from homes might be coming to Albuquerque after the city council approved a bid on Monday in an 8 to 1 vote.

As the Albuquerque Journal reports Texas based WM, formerly Waste Management, answered the city’s request for proposals for a new recycling facility.

The bid does include glass processing, but a spokesperson for WM says it’s “still too early to tell” if that would also include curbside pickup.

Though, the details surrounding curbside glass pick-up will have to be determined by the city, according to the council.

Both the final location and the final amount of the contract are yet to be determined as part of final negotiations, but the WM spokesperson said the proposed facility would be able to expand as the city does, and would include “cutting edge technology.”