Elections Loom Over Democrats On Major Legislative Initiatives, Coach Rocky Long Returns To UNM

Jan 27, 2020

Rocky Long Returns To New Mexico To Lead Lobos' DefenseAssociated Press

Rocky Long is returning to the University of New Mexico as defensive coordinator after recently retiring from San Diego State, where he coached the Aztecs to nine straight bowl games.

New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales praised Long, saying he didn't think there is a better defensive coach in the country and that the Lobos are lucky to have him back.

Long is the winningest coach in the program's history. Gonzales and Long also have a long history, as Gonzales played his senior season at New Mexico under Long and later served as a defensive coordinator during Long's tenure at San Diego State.

Long was a quarterback at New Mexico from 1969-71, earning player of the year honors for the Western Athletic Conference in 1971. He then played professionally in both Canada and with the Detroit Wheels of the short-lived World Football League.

He worked as a graduate assistant coach at New Mexico from 1972-73 and the offensive back field coach and then defensive backs coach from 1978-80 before becoming defensive coordinator at Wyoming, Oregon State and later UCLA. He was named New Mexico's head coach in 1998 and went on to win a record 65 games over the next decade.

Under Long, the Lobos were bowl eligible for a school-record seven straight seasons. Long led New Mexico to a 23-0 win over Nevada in the 2007 New Mexico Bowl, ending a 46-year bowl victory drought for the school.

New Mexico May Extend Tax Credit To Non-CitizensAssociated Press

Activists for immigrant communities are pushing for legislation that allows New Mexico residents without Social Security numbers to qualify for state tax credits aimed at working families.

Immigrants and allied advocacy groups thronged the state Capitol building Monday to lobby for stronger enforcement of laws that ensure low-wage workers are fully paid and reforms that would shield state records from access by federal immigration authorities.

The group Somos Un Pueblo Unido says the initiatives are designed provide fair and equitable treatment of working families that are vital to the state economy. The group also supports greater state spending to encourage participation in the U.S. Census.

A bill sponsored state Democratic Rep. Javier Martinez of Albuquerque would ensure eligibility for the working family tax credit among residents who file taxes under an alternative tax-identification number provided by the IRS.

The Democrat-led Legislature has until Feb. 20 to approve legislation for consideration by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

GOP House Hopeful's Email Questions Early Trump Support - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A Republican congressional hopeful in a critical New Mexico race who has made her "100% support for Donald Trump" part of her campaign once sought backing for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

A March 2016 email from former New Mexico lawmaker Yvette Herrell asked fellow Republican state legislators if they were interested in supporting Cruz. Her GOP primary opponents say the emails counters the story Herrell told voters in the 2018 race and recently that she supported Trump from "day one."

Mike Berg, the campaign manager for Claire Chase, another Herrell opponent, said the 2016 email showed that Herrell is not being truthful about her previous support of Trump.

Herrell's campaign manager Dakotah Parshall dismissed the email and said Herrell was just being helpful to her fellow state legislators.

Democrat Xochitl Torres Small defeated Herrell in 2018 by fewer than 3,000 votes to flip a traditionally Republican-leaning district on the U.S. border.

Emu Back In Las Cruces Home After Being Gone 3 MonthsLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A former state lawmaker's emu that has been missing since Thanksgiving is safely back at its home near Las Cruces.

Former state Rep. Brad Cates learned his emu had resurfaced last week thanks to a barrage of images people shared on social media, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported Sunday.

Pictures of the emu around a subdivision near Cates' home prompted inquiries from a state livestock inspector and a game warden. Later that day, Cates with some help corralled the 150-pound emu named "Hey You!"

Cates was also the Republican nominee for Dona Ana County district attorney in 2016. He lost to Mark D'Antonio.

Two Shooting Deaths In Less Than 24 Hours In Albuquerque Associated Press

Police are investigating the shooting death of a man at an Albuquerque complex, the second homicide in the city in less than 24 hours.

Sgt. Tanner Tixier said a report of a shooting was made late Sunday night and responding officers found one man wounded.

The victim was transported to a hospital, where he later died. A second victim left the scene before police got there but was found at the hospital. He was treated for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and released.

Neither victim's identity has been released. Investigators have not identified a suspect.

Police are also investigating a shooting fatality in a downtown corridor. Officers heard gunfire in the area around 12:45 a.m. Upon their arrival, they found one man who had been shot.

The victim was taken to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. No suspects have been arrested.

Movement To Highlight Missing Native Women Expands To Males - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

A movement to draw attention to Native American women and girls who have been killed or reported missing is expanding in some areas to include males.

Margaret Bitsue's son is among them. The Navajo woman hasn't seen or heard from her youngest child in more than four years. She says a recent forum on the Navajo Nation that centered on males gives her hope that she's not alone in her search for answers.

Late last year, the Trump administration announced it would dedicate more resources to all missing and slain Native Americans and Alaska Natives. 

A presidential task force that will look at ways to solve new and cold cases is scheduled to meet for the first time Wednesday in Washington.

No one knows exactly how many Native Americans are missing because some cases go unreported, others aren't documented, and there isn't a specific government database tracking the cases, an Associated Press investigation in 2018 found.

The Justice Department also looked at a 2016 study funded by the National Institute of Justice that shows Native men are 1.3 times more likely to experience violence than non-Hispanic, white men.

It doesn't specifically address deaths and disappearances, but federal officials say it points to underlying causes such as stalking, and physical and sexual violence, and a lack of shelters and treatment centers on tribal land.

Elections Loom Over Democrats On Guns, Marijuana, Pensions - Morgan Lee Associated Press

Legislative elections and ideological divisions among Democrats are looming over major initiatives backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham — from new gun restrictions to recreational marijuana legalization and pension reform — during a second straight year of unified Democratic control over the Statehouse and governor's office.

Democrats reclaimed the governor's office from a Republican and picked up eight seats in the state House as a blue wave swept through New Mexico politics in 2018 elections. 

This year, the entire House and state Senate are up for election for the first time since President Donald Trump took office. Democrats including the House speaker and Senate president are confronting primary challenges within a restive party.

Western New Mexico County Developing DWI Drug Court - Associated Press

A western New Mexico county is developing a new court aimed at helping people convicted of drunken driving and drug offenses, officials announced.

McKinley County Magistrate Court is drafting plans for a DWI drug court to aid offenders in becoming sober and to reduce repeat criminal activity, the Gallup Independent reports.

Officials with the county's Administrative Office of the Courts said the details of the program have yet to be sorted out, but the program will be molded over the next month to suit the needs of McKinley County. Officials said the county hopes to accept clients in mid-to-late February.

Robert Mitchell, senior statewide program manager for Problem Solving Courts, said drug courts have been the most researched criminal justice intervention program for the past 20 years and the evidence shows they work. But they are not a complete solution to decreasing alcohol-related offenses.

According to statistics provided by Mitchell, drug courts are twice as effective in reducing recidivism than sending an offender to prison while being four times less expensive than prison.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation's Traffic Safety Division is funding the program for its first three years.

US Land Agency Seeks To ID Public Parcels That Lack Access - Associated Press, 

U.S. land managers say they will release by mid-March a priority list of federal lands that need but don't have public access.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials said they want people to nominate lands where the public could legally hunt, fish or pursue other recreational purposes, except the lands have limited or no access.

The agency manages 383,000 square miles of land, primarily in western states.

The public access initiative is mandated under a sweeping conservation bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last March. The law was named for Rep. John Dingell, the influential Michigan Democrat and longtime chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who died last year. 

A representative of the National Wildlife Federation says the public access initiative is laudable but must be considered in the context of Trump's broad rollbacks of environmental rules.

Judge Declines Early Prison Release Request By Ex-Sheriff - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling will not result in an early prison release for former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella, a judge said.

U.S. District Judge James Browning declined an early release request by Rodella based on a change in a federal firearms law in June, Santa Fe New Mexican reported Friday.

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on an unrelated robbery case out of Texas that struck down a firearms statute that added seven years to Rodella's prison sentence.

The part of the law that changed did not apply, Browning said.

Rodella has five years left of a 10-year sentence stemming from a road-rage incident where Rodella was convicted of unreasonable use of force, unlawful arrest and using a firearm during a crime of violence, authorities said.

Rodella appealed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction in November 2015 and the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal a year later.

Rodella filed a new motion in March 2019 asking a court to overturn his conviction.

His attorney Susan J. Clouthier made a request in November to include the Supreme Court decision in the ruling.

Rodella is serving time at a federal prison in Seagoville, Texas. He did not attend the hearing, but has an option to appeal.

New Mexico Airman To Face A Military Trial After Fatal Crash - KOB-TV, Associated Press

Officials at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico say an airman charged in a fatal car accident last year will face a military trial.

They say Airman 1st Class Calvin Cooper is charged with negligent homicide, manslaughter and drunken or reckless operation of a vehicle.

Cooper allegedly was driving above the speed limit and lost control of his vehicle last March and a 39-year-old woman was killed.

Base officials say Cooper remains on duty, but faces prison time if he's convicted.

Albuquerque TV station KOB reports an article 32 hearing was held for Cooper's case and Kirtland's commanding officer issued the order for a trial to be held, likely this summer.

Navajo Nation Purchases Land That Includes Gravel Pit - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has purchased 1250 acres of land that includes a gravel pit that the tribe plans to use to obtain sand and gravel for road work and other projects.

The  Gallup Independent reported that gravel pit's operator that leased its site from the previous land owners will now have a lease with the tribe and that the tribe's planned use of the material from the newly purchased site near Indians Wells, Arizona, should save money for the tribe.

Tribal officials said in an announcement of the purchase that the tribe's land acquisition fund provided the money to purchase the land. 

The announcement It didn't specify the purchase price but said it was under a $5 million limit under which the Division of Natural Resources director could approve land purchases.

Division of Transportation Director Garrett Silversmith said material from the gravel pit will be used for highways, dirt roads, bridges, airports, dams, drainage structures, parking lots and buildings.