Feds Will Release Wolves Over State Objections, Effort For High Speed Access in NM Schools Underway

Oct 15, 2015

Feds Move Forward With Wolf Releases – Santa Fe New Mexican

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will release 10 Mexican gray wolves into southwestern New Mexico, overruling a decision by state officials.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the state Game and Fish Department had denied a permit for the release earlier this year, a decision that was appealed by the federal agency. The State Game Commissioned denied that appeal last month.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency issued a statement Wednesday that it has an obligation under the law to recover the species, which it says is at risk of extinction.

The release program has been unpopular with ranchers and some residents. But Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said releasing wolves into the wild is key to ensuring more diversity in the animal’s gene pool.

Push On To Bring High-Speed Internet To New Mexico SchoolsThe Associated Press

Nearly a third of New Mexico's public school districts don't have adequate access to high-speed Internet, and Gov. Susana Martinez wants to fix that.

Martinez visited a Bernalillo elementary school Thursday to outline plans for bolstering broadband access for schools statewide. Her announcement comes as districts face new online testing requirements and other changes in education.

Martinez says increasing access will be a game-changer for New Mexico.

The state is partnering on the project with the nonprofit Education Superhighway and will be leveraging $49 million in state funding over the next couple of years.

Martinez says the goal is to bring high-speed Internet to every classroom by the 2018 school year.

The project will include new fiber optic lines to enable faster connections, upgrading equipment and helping schools go wireless.

EPA: Tests Show Water Sent To Navajo Nation Met StandardsThe Associated Press

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says new tests on water sent to Navajo Nation farmers after a Colorado mine waste spill indicate it met federal and tribal standards for livestock and irrigation.

The EPA released the results Tuesday, two months after farmers and Navajo officials said the water delivered by a contractor contained oil. The agency says the results are consistent with earlier tests.

A spokesman said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye (bee-GAY') wasn't immediately available for comment Thursday.

The water was delivered after wastewater laced with heavy metals spilled from the inactive Gold King Mine on Aug. 5 and polluted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, including on the Southern Ute Reservation and the Navajo Reservation.

It was sent for Navajo farmers who use the rivers for irrigation.

Audit Finds Albuquerque School Employee Overpaid $12,000The Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

A state audit has found that Albuquerque Public Schools mistakenly overpaid an employee for five years, paying an extra $60,140.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that according to a summary of state audits released recently, the employee received about $12,000 extra per year. The district discovered the error in 2014.

A schools spokesman says he does not know the employee's identity, but that the employee is still working for APS.

APS came under fire in a 2012 state audit for problems with its payroll system. APS interim Chief Finance Officer Tami Coleman says they have decreased the number of audit findings over the years and is working to improve issues.

Santa Fe Drops Plans For 'Chile Drop'The Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Santa Fe still plans to hold its first-ever New Year's Eve celebration, but officials have abandoned a plan to have a "chile drop" signal the start of the new year.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that city staff say the drop -- a take-off on New York City's "ball drop" in Times Square -- isn't feasible this year.

Debra Garcia y Griego, director of the Santa Fe Arts Commission, says there isn't enough time to engineer and build such an object.

The mayor of Las Cruces has also objected to the chile drop, an idea his city used during its celebration last year. He says the chile is a better symbol for the southern New Mexican city.

The Santa Fe Arts Commission is providing funding for the event.

NM Mission Church in Acoma Pueblo Among Threatened SitesThe Associated Press

The World Monuments Fund has released its list of cultural heritage sites threatened by neglect, overdevelopment or social, political and economic change.

On the list is the San Esteban del Rey Mission in the Acoma pueblo located in New Mexico. 

According to historical records and local traditions, the church was built in the first half of the seventeenth century, by the forced labor of the Acoma people, under the direction of the Spanish colonizers, who had arrived in New Mexico.

The 2016 World Monuments Watch lists 50 sites in 36 countries. It was released today.

Also on the list is a notorious labor camp in Albania, a famous burial place in Chile and the world's oldest submerged city in Greece.

The New York-based preservation group began issuing the list in 1996 to call attention to important landmarks threatened around the world in an effort to promote awareness and action.

TV Series 'Graves' To Film In New MexicoThe Associated Press

A new political satire television series starring Nick Nolte will begin filming this week in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Film Office says "Graves" will be shot in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Bernalillo and Santa Fe. Crews will be working on the production through January.

The series, being produced by Lionsgate for the EPIX network, is expected to mean jobs for at least 200 New Mexico crew members and about 2,500 local background talent.

The series will tell the story of the character Richard Graves and his journey to reclaim his sense of authenticity two decades after serving as the president of the United States.

The series was created by Joshua Michael Stern, a director and writer who is also known for the movie "Swing Vote."

150-Car Train Delivers Sand To Oil And Gas Hub In New MexicoThe Associated Press & The Clovis News Journal

A 150-car freight train recently delivered 16,500 tons of sand for oil and gas fracking to a facility in southeastern New Mexico.

Rangeland Energy said the unit train powered by five locomotives started its journey in Ottawa, Illinois, arriving Oct. 2 in Loving. The train was operated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe and finished its journey on Southwestern Railroad.

Rangeland said the train's 150 cars were the most carried by a major U.S. railroad on a unit train carrying fracking sand. The previous longest was a 140-car Unimin Energy train hauled by Union Pacific in July.

The Clovis News Journal reports that Rangeland's facility in Loving is the center of rail transportation for outbound crude oil and condensate and inbound sand for use in hydraulic fracturing in the area.

Forfeiture Reform Aligns Conservative, Liberal Groups By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

An unlikely pair of allies wants more states to restrict civil asset forfeiture, a practice critics say represents an overused law enforcement tactic that can violate citizens' property rights.

The Charles Koch Institute, named for the wealthy conservative founder of the Washington, D.C.-area think tank, co-hosted a forum on the topic Wednesday evening in Albuquerque joined by the state director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

They say New Mexico offers a model for civil forfeiture reform with a law enacted in July that prevents police from seizing money or assets unless a person is convicted of a crime.

Before, law enforcement could seize items and auction them off if they suspected they were linked to a crime.

Law enforcement officers who support civil asset forfeiture say it's needed to weaken lucrative crime operations.

New Mexico Awards 7 Companies $637K In Job Training Funds Associated Press

Seven companies are sharing more than $637,000 in job training funds to create 140 jobs.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department announced the funds Wednesday. The money was awarded in September through the agency's Job Training Incentive Program.

Ready Roast Nut Co. in Portales will use nearly $215,000 to create 30 jobs. The company recently purchased shelling assets and property at the former home of Sunland Peanuts, which closed its doors in October 2013 after filing for bankruptcy.

A Las Cruces company that offers interpreting services to the health care industry, CyraCom International Inc., was awarded more than $150,000 in training funds for the creation of 78 jobs.

State officials say companies in Albuquerque and Alamogordo also received money through the incentive program.

PACs Bring In Big Money To Kick Off 2016 Election Season Associated Press

Some of New Mexico's top elected leaders and dozens of political action committees have collected more than $3 million in campaign donations in the last six months in preparation for a yearlong battle that will determine control of the state Legislature.

All 112 legislative seats are up for election in 2016, and Republicans are looking to maintain their majority in the House and win at least a few seats to give them control of the Senate.

In 2014, the GOP took control of the House for the first time in six decades.

Democrats are looking to take back the House, but the latest campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state's office this week show Republican groups have an early edge when it comes to financial support.

Lawsuit: Santa Fe Police Used Excessive Force Over Dog Poop Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

An American Indian artist has filed a lawsuit against the city of Santa Fe in connection with what he says was a dog pooping accident mistaken for a burglary.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports court documents filed last week say Santa Fe police used "excessive force" against Mateo Romero during the July 2014 encounter.

Romero says police pointed guns at him after he pulled into a stranger's driveway to clean up the inside of his SUV because his dog, Han Solo, had an accident. Authorities say police received a call about a burglary in progress.

Police said they searched Romero and released him after officers did not find any stolen property.

He is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

City Attorney Kelley Brennan says the city doesn't comment on pending litigation.

State High Court Decides Against Discipline For Judge Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's Supreme Court will not discipline a Bernalillo County judge despite a recommendation from the Judicial Standards Commission for a fine and two-year probation.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the disciplinary process started after an Albuquerque detective said 2nd Judicial District Judge Jacqueline Flores gave him a false name in 2013 when she refused to grant an arrest warrant in a domestic violence case.

The court ruled there was no clear, convincing evidence that Flores engaged in wrongdoing.

Ringtail At Carlsbad Caverns National Park Had RabiesAssociated Press

A ringtail whose unusual behavior prompted a temporary closure of one entrance to the cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park had rabies.

Park officials say that determination was made by the New Mexico Department of Health and Science in Albuquerque.

Ringtails are small wild mammals that related to raccoons and are largely nocturnal and normally skittish around humans. The one spotted last week at the Natural Entrance to the cave was in the open and approaching visitors on Wednesday.

The park closed the Natural Entrance for about four hours as a precaution, but visitors still could enter the cave by using an elevator.

Battle Looming Over Colorado Immigrant Driver's LicensesAssociated Press

Colorado immigrant advocates say there are long delays in a new program to give driver's licenses to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

A coalition of immigrant rights groups announced this week they would be pressuring lawmakers to open more offices to issue the specialized driver's licenses and identification cards. But they'll likely have a difficult time convincing Republicans, who dislike the program and have gained control over half of Colorado's Legislature.

Three offices in the state handle appointments for the licenses given to those in the U.S. illegally or with temporary legal status. Applicants are waiting months to get one.

Immigrants are charged more than legal residents, and the fees they pay fund the program.

Ten states, including New Mexico, and the District of Columbia have such programs.