Albuquerque Approves Plastic Bag Ban, Santa Fe DA Exploring Congressional Run

Apr 16, 2019

Albuquerque Approves Plastic Bag BanAlbuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque City Council has approved a bill that prohibits businesses from offering single-use plastic shopping bags.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the council passed the Clean and Green Retail Ordinance late Monday after an amendment removed foam carryout containers and plastic straws from the bill.

Councilor Ken Sanchez introduced that amended version, which also exempts dry cleaners and restaurants from the ban on plastic bags.

A first offense will garner only a warning, but penalties can go as high as $250.

The ban will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The three Republicans on the council opposed the bill arguing the cost will be a burden on businesses. Among the nearly 40 speakers, the majority supported the bill as a way to protect birds and curtail litter.

Las Cruces Authorizes Spending On Asylum SeekersAssociated Press

The city of Las Cruces is spending $75,000 on humanitarian aid to cope with an influx of international asylum seekers.

City spokesman Udell Vigil said Tuesday that over 500 asylum seekers have been dropped off in the southern New Mexico community by U.S. Border Patrol since Friday. The city council authorized spending on food, water, transportation and personal hygiene items.

Las Cruces has converted its recreation center into sleeping quarters for immigrants as local shelters for the homeless reach capacity. Vigil says immigrants rarely stay more than one night before departing to reach relatives or other household sponsors throughout the continental U.S. to live with while asylum requests are processed.

New Mexico's Homeland Security Department says asylum seekers are likely to continue arriving at Las Cruces for several weeks.

Ex-Trump Official Says He Will Seek GOP Nod For US SenateAssociated Press

Gavin Clarkson, a former Trump Administration official and former candidate for Congress, has announced he will run for an open U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico.

Clarkson said Tuesday he will seek the Republican nomination in 2020 for Senate and will make immigration and "free speech on public campuses" his center issues.

He made his announcement in an interview with the conservative-leaning blog, NM Politics with John Block . Clarkson is the first Republican to say he will run for the state's open Senate spot.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján — the No. 4 ranked Democrat in Congress — said earlier this month he would seek the Democratic nomination. Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says she's also considering running.

Case Of Man Who Killed 5 As Teen Again Goes Before JudgeAssociated Press

A prosecutor has argued that a New Mexico man plotted a shooting rampage at his family's home when he was 15, as she delivered closing arguments in a case that has taken years to resolve in the state's court system.

The hearing Tuesday in Albuquerque is being held to determine whether 22-year-old Nehemiah Griego should be sentenced as a juvenile or an adult for the January 2013 shootings at his home.

It marks the second such hearing after the New Mexico Court of Appeals overturned an initial decision that Griego showed he was receptive to treatment while in state custody and could be sentenced as a juvenile.

Judge Alisa Hart took the case after the judge overseeing Griego's case and monitoring his treatment for years recused himself in December.

Albuquerque Boy Found Dead In Apartment FireAssociated Press

Authorities say the body of a young boy was found after a fire burned through an Albuquerque apartment.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue spokesman Tom Ruiz did not release any details about the boy and said two other children — ages 2 and 13 — remained in critical condition at a local hospital where they were being treated for smoke inhalation.

Several residents were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, and authorities say one woman sprained her ankle when she jumped from a second-story balcony.

All but one of the building's 31 residents were accounted for after the fire broke out early Tuesday. Fire crews had to stabilize the building before they could search for the missing child.

Ruiz said the boy's family was notified of his death.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Former New Mexico Judge Who Was Forced To Step Down Dies Associated Press

A former New Mexico judge known for his fairness on the bench but who was forced to retire early in the wake of allegations that rocked the state's judiciary has died.

Officials with New Mexico's 2nd Judicial District Court said Albert "Pat" Murdoch died Monday. He was 67.

The cause of his death was not immediately known, and court officials declined to release further details.

A 1978 graduate of the University of New Mexico law school, Murdoch went on to become the youngest person ever appointed as a state district judge.

As the 2nd district's chief criminal judge, he was respected by both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

His career was derailed in 2011 when a prostitute accused him of rape. While he agreed to step down, he maintained his innocence and prosecutors in 2014 decided not to press charges.

Santa Fe-Based DA Takes Step Toward Congressional Run - Associated Press

Democratic District Attorney Marco Serna of Santa Fe has taken a new step toward running for Congress in 2020 by forming an exploratory committee.

Serna told The Associated Press on Monday that he has formed a committee and created a fundraising account to test the waters for a potential campaign in the 3rd District.

The seat is opening up to competition as sixth-term Rep. Ben Ray Luján runs for U.S. Senate.

Serna said he wants to help bring greater economic opportunity to people in northern New Mexico and continue work to combat the region's opioid epidemic.

The 36-year-old prosecutor plans to make a decision by mid-May on whether to run. The son of former state insurance superintendent Eric Serna, Marco Serna won election as district attorney in 2016.

Indigenous Leaders Want Less Drilling Near Sacred Sites - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Leaders of the Navajo Nation and Pueblo tribes expressed frustration Monday with federal oversight of oil and gas leases on public holdings near ancient Native American cultural sites and endorsed legislation to restrict natural gas development around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Acoma Pueblo tribal Gov. Brian Vallo told members of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources at a hearing in New Mexico that not enough is being done to safeguard sacred sites scattered beyond the national park at Chaco Canyon.

Many of the sites involve more than just physical features that can be surveyed by archaeologists, he said, referring to the less tangible aspects of Chaco.

"Only we can identify these resources," he said.

Lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and New Mexico's Deb Haaland and Ben Ray Luján said they were profoundly moved by a visit Sunday to ancient Chaco dwellings and nearby industrial sites where they used infrared camera technology to view methane escaping into the atmosphere.

New Mexico Cheerleading Contest May End Over Sportsmanship - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A statewide high school cheerleading and dance competition in New Mexico may be terminated thanks to a rash of terrible sportsmanship.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the New Mexico Activities Association is considering canceling the 2020 State Spirit Competition following death threats and inflammatory social media posts.

Association Executive Director Sally Marquez says she will go before the group's commission next month to discuss options, which include cancellation.

The state competition, which encompasses women’s cheer, co-ed cheer and dance, is the third-largest money-making postseason event on the high school calendar, after basketball and football.

Earlier this year, the association warned Estancia High School over rowdy fans. Carlsbad High School imposed crowd restrictions after improper behavior from student fans.

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Tackles Visitors' Color Blindness - Associated Press

The vibrant colors and hues in Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings soon will be on full display for color-blind visitors.

The Santa Fe museum announced Monday it's teaming up with California-based EnChroma to expand the gallery experience through special glasses.

Starting May 3, visitors with red-green color blindness can borrow glasses to see O'Keeffe's work in the way that she intended.

One of the museum's curators, Katrina Stacy, says O'Keeffe in her later years developed visual impairment from macular degeneration and turned her attention to sculpture.

Stacy says the project with EnChroma has ties to that part of the artist's story.

EnChroma co-founder Andrew Schmeder says O'Keeffe juxtaposed colors from nature in ways that evoked emotion and seeing that relationship between colors has been challenging for people with color blindness.

Report: New Mexico Led Pecan Production In 2018 - Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

New Mexico was the national leader in pecan production last year due to Hurricane Michael striking down large swaths of Georgia's pecan crop.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers show New Mexico produced around 90 million pounds of pecans in 2018.

Georgia, traditionally the United States' largest pecan-producing state, saw its crop crippled by the storm, cutting production by almost half from 107 million pounds to 56 million.

Records show Texas was ranked third at 28 million pounds and Arizona was fourth at 25 million pounds.

New Mexico reported a growth of almost 50 million pounds in the last decade from 2008's production of 43 million pounds.

230 Migrants Detained Near New Mexico's Mount Cristo Rey - Associated Press

Federal border authorities say more migrants have been arrested after illegally crossing into the United States through New Mexico.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said 230 migrants were taken into custody late Friday at the base of Mount Cristo Rey in Sunland Park.

Officials say the majority of the migrants were from Central American countries.

Mount Cristo Rey is a Catholic shrine and is the site where a 29 foot-tall limestone statue of Jesus sits on a hill.

New Mexico's isolated regions along the U.S.-Mexico border has seen more migrants claim asylum after being detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents.