Final '18 High School Grad Rates Show Record Jump, New Mexico Construction Job Growth Remains Mixed

Mar 20, 2019

New Mexico Final '18 High School Grad Rates Show Record Jump - Associated Press

Final numbers show the rate of New Mexico high school students who earned diplomas last year was the highest it has ever been.

The New Mexico Public Education Department announced Tuesday the 2018 class marked the highest graduation rate in the state's history at 73.9 percent. That's nearly a percentage point higher than the numbers announced in December under outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

While that's still below the national average, the numbers mark a 10 percent increase since 2011 from when Martinez took office.

Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo told reporters Tuesday that graduation gains were made because of, and in spite of, policies under Martinez. She credited students and educators for the graduation jumps.

Trujillo was appointed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

New Mexico's Construction Job Growth Remains Mixed - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico's growth in construction jobs remains mixed and ranks near the bottom nationwide.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Associated General Contractors of America says the state's construction job sector in January grew just 1.5 percent to 47,900 jobs. That ranks No. 38 in the U.S.

Group statistics show that among metro areas Albuquerque was flat with a 0.4 percent gain and ranked No. 273. Santa Fe came in nearly at the bottom at No. 351 with a loss of 200 construction jobs from January to January.

However, Las Cruces ranked No. 61 among 358 with a 9 percent increase in construction jobs, largely stoked by the industrial boom at Santa Teresa's four industrial parks.

Gov. Lujan Grisham Vows To Fight Any 'Consent Decree' On Ed - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she wants to avoid long-term court oversight of the state's public education stemming from a landmark lawsuit.

Lujan Grisham told reporters on Monday that her administration will mount a vigorous legal defense and is against any consent decree involving the state's education system.

A judge ruled last year that New Mexico's public education system violates the state Constitution when it comes providing for at-risk students.

The newly elected Democrat took office pledging she would not appeal the decision. Monday was the deadline to file an appeal in the case.

The state faces another deadline April 15 to prove that it is doing enough to comply with the decision.

Carlsbad Considers Resolution Against New Mexico Gun Control - Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

Officials in a southeastern New Mexico city will consider a resolution that declares they won't enforce gun laws that they believe violate gun owners' constitutional rights.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the Carlsbad City Council has scheduled a special meeting Thursday to consider declaring the city a sanctuary for the Second Amendment.

Several New Mexico counties and cities have made similar declarations in response to a series of gun control measures that have gone before state lawmakers.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill earlier this month that expands mandatory background checks on firearm sales.

The Legislature has also passed a bill that ensures people under protective orders for domestic violence relinquish their guns.

Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway says the resolution seeks to clarify the city's opposition.

Wet Winter Bodes Well For Water Supplies Along Rio Grande - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Some ski areas touted an "endless winter" as forecasters on Tuesday called the snow that has been falling along the New Mexico-Colorado border a good sign for cities and farmers who depend on one of North America's longest rivers.

Climatologists and hydrologists with the National Weather Service provided a favorable water supply outlook for the basin that feeds the Rio Grande, saying snowpack in the mountains where the headwaters form is about 135 percent above median levels.

That marks one of the best seasons in years and is a drastic turnaround from the previous winter, which resulted in record low flows in 2018. That's when officials had to intervene to keep the river flowing through New Mexico's most populous area during the summer months.

Extreme drought had blanketed much of the region for the previous 18 months, putting pressure on water managers along the Rio Grande and the Colorado River to ensure adequate drinking water supplies for millions of people in the West.

US Official Declares Colorado River Plan Done - Associated Press

The U.S. government says seven Western states that rely on the Colorado River have completed their work on a plan to protect the waterway amid a prolonged drought.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman made the declaration in a call with reporters Tuesday.

She commended Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming for reaching a consensus.

Tuesday marked another deadline she had set for states to wrap up years of work on the plan. She previously asked for governors to weigh in after California and Arizona missed an earlier deadline but says she'll cancel that request.

The states now are pushing for federal legislation to implement the drought plan.

The river serves more than 40 million people and 7,812 square miles of farmland in the West.

Navajo Technical University To Honor New Mexico Sen. Pinto - Gallup Independent, Associated Press

New Mexico Sen. John Pinto, one of the longest-serving Native American legislators in U.S. history, is set to be recognized with an honorary degree.

The Gallup Independent reports Navajo Technical University is scheduled to celebrate the 94-year-old Pinto with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Service at the university's May 17 commencement.

The Lupton, Arizona-born Pinto has served in the New Mexico Senate since 1977.

Navajo Technical University president Elmer Guy says the Democrat has been a strong advocate for the Navajo Nation and the university.

Pinto served in World War II as a Navajo Code Talker.

New Mexico's Public Education Department Starts Logo Contest - Associated Press

New Mexico's Public Education Department is inviting students to create the department's new logo.

Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo said earlier this month the department is hosting an art contest for the logo and all public school students from pre-kindergarten to high school seniors can participate.

Each school will nominate one piece of student artwork for consideration by the department.

The new logo will be featured on the department website and all agency materials.

Schools have until April 5 to submit a piece of student artwork.

Plant-eating Reptile Fossil To Return To Southern New Mexico - Alamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

A 300 million-year-old plant-eating reptile fossil is returning home to southern New Mexico.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports "Gordodon" is slated to come home to Alamogordo this week after spending the last few years in Albuquerque.

Gordodon's fossilized skeleton is incomplete but the remains showed it to be a sail-backed reptile that ate a specialized plant diet.

Such specialized plant diets were not known in reptiles older than 200 million years.

In 2013, a University of Oklahoma student on a geology class trip discovered the fossil of a Permian age plant-eating reptile fossil near Alamogordo. The fossil was taken to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.

Tom Hanks Surprises Woman By Singing 'Happy Birthday' - Associated Press

Tom Hanks surprised a New Mexico woman celebrating her birthday at an Albuquerque restaurant when he treated her to a special performance of "Happy Birthday."

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque reports the Oscar winner surprised Samantha Aragon over the weekend while she was feasting with friends at a steakhouse.

Aragon says it was probably the best 12 seconds of her life.

She says she noticed people taking sneaky selfies with Hanks and kept dropping hints that she would like the actor to sing to her. Hanks eventually walked over to her table and fulfilled her wish.

Hanks is in Albuquerque filming a sci-fi drama titled "Bios." He's been tweeting photos of New Mexico.

Agent: Guard, Friend Accused In Hispanic Culture Center FireAssociated Press

State officials say a fire causing hundreds of dollars in damage at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque was sparked by "simulated doobies" that one agent described as weeds rolled in paper.

Mark Torres, the special agent in charge of the Office of Superintendent of Insurance said Wednesday that 26-year-old Mathew Luxon, a security guard supervisor at the center, and his friend 29-year-old Lyle Thompson have been charged with negligent arson and conspiracy in the March 9 fire. Online court records did not immediately list attorneys for them.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the men are accused of firing an on-duty weapon off a balcony, and setting the fire in a mechanical room after time drinking downtown. The blaze resulted in indoor sprinklers running for hours.

There were no reported injuries.

Man Kills Himself Following 5-Hour Standoff In New MexicoAssociated Press

Authorities say a five-hour standoff between a man barricaded inside a northwest New Mexico home and federal and local law enforcement officers ended when the man killed himself.

The Farmington Daily Times reports U.S. Marshals Service personnel and San Juan County deputies tried to arrest 50-year-old David Valenzuela at a Farmington residence Monday.

Valenzuela was wanted on aggravated assault and domestic violence charges from Ignacio, Colorado.

Authorities say Valenzuela fired at officers after they breached the house and announced their presence. One woman exited the home, but another woman and Valenzuela stayed inside.

Authorities later fired gas cans into the home to try to force them out. The second woman exited, but Valenzuela did not.

Authorities deployed a robot after hearing a possible gunshot and found Valenzuela dead.

University Of New Mexico Moves To Dismiss Union FormationAssociated Press

University of New Mexico officials have moved to dismiss an effort to form a faculty union, arguing its scope and inclusion present significant issues.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the university filed its first response Monday on the faculty effort to the university's Labor Management Relations Board.

Chief Legal Counsel Loretta Martinez writes in the filing that the union proposal has conflicts of interest and includes some positions excluded from bargaining units under state laws.

The proposed United Academics of the University of New Mexico seeks to represent more than 1,600 faculty members at the university's campuses across the state.

The faculty union's attorney, Shane Youtz, says the makeup of the proposed union is similar to other university unions across the country.

The newspaper could not reach university officials Tuesday.

Taos County Replaces Resolution Against Gun-Control MeasuresAssociated Press

A New Mexico county has revoked a resolution protesting state gun-control reforms and replaced it with one saying officials have a responsibility to protect citizens' constitutional rights while also protecting them from gun violence.

The change in Taos County's stance came during a commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Its previous resolution on firearms had expressed support for the sheriffs in their decision not to enforce gun laws they determine to be unconstitutional. More than two dozen New Mexico counties have passed similar "Second Amendment Sanctuary County" resolutions in protest of gun-control legislation this year.

The first of the state bills signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will expand requirements for mandatory background checks on firearms sales to include private person-to-person sales.