Lawmakers To Tackle Growing Pension Liabilities, Micro-Loan Pioneer Will Attend Folk Art Market

Jul 11, 2018

New Mexico Lawmakers Take Stock Of Pension LiabilitiesAssociated Press

Members of a legislative committee are taking stock of mounting liabilities at New Mexico's two major public pension funds in the wake of a downgrade of the state's credit rating.

Democratic state Sen. George Muñoz of Gallup says new reforms are needed to shore up public pension plans for teachers, state workers and municipalities that are managed by the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board and the Public Employees Retirement Association. A pension oversight committee meets Wednesday.

Moody's Investors Service in June cited large pension liabilities in its decision to downgrade New Mexico's creditworthiness.

Muñoz says he and other lawmakers want to develop legislation to ensure the sustainability of public pensions as beneficiaries live longer. He says the effort may take more than a year because of actuarial complexities.

Longtime New Mexico Homeless Advocate Jeremy Reynalds Dies- Associated Press

Jeremy Reynalds, a longtime advocate for the homeless in New Mexico and who founded the state's largest emergency shelter, has died.

Joy Junction, the shelter Reynalds founded more than three decades ago, announced in a statement Wednesday that he died after a long illness. He was 60.

Born in Bournemouth, England, Reynalds came to the U.S. in 1978 after attending a Bible college. He volunteered at a Christian prison ministry in Florida and later ended up homeless.

Reynalds moved to New Mexico in the 1980s and started the privately funded Joy Junction with the goal of helping those struggling with homelessness.

In a 2011 interview with The Associated Press, Reynalds said the U.S. was failing to commit to fighting poverty and he vowed to continue the fight until his death.

Dancers From Three Pueblos Will Perform At Santa Fe Opera- Santa Fe New Mexican

Tribal members from San Ildefonso, Santa Clara & Tesuque pueblos will present Corn Dances at the Santa Fe Opera House this Saturday night. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the performance will be the first of its kind.  There are two dance ceremonies planned.  The first will take place before the start of the opera Doctor Atomic. The second dance will happen during the second part of the opera. 

The dances will be part of each performance of the opera.  Apparently, it will also mark the first time that dancers from these three particular pueblos have performed together.

Tensions have run high recently between Tesuque Pueblo and the Santa Fe Opera because of the construction of a casino complex by the pueblo.  

Correction: The new casino complex will not include an open air theatre as we originally said in our writeup of this article from the Santa Fe New Mexican. The error was KUNM's not the paper's. 

Las Cruces Bishop Oscar Cantú Leaving For California Post- Catholic News Agency, Associated Press

The Vatican has announced that Las Cruces Bishop Oscar Cantú is leaving for California.

The Catholic News Agency reports that Pope Francis appointed Cantú on Wednesday to be coadjutor bishop of San Jose, California. He will assist the 73-year-old Bishop Patrick J. McGrath with the administration of the Diocese of San Jose, and succeed McGrath upon his retirement or death.

The 51-year-old Cantú has served as bishop of Las Cruces since February 2013.

Born in Houston, Texas, to a large Mexican-American family, Cantú has been an outspoken advocate for immigrants and refugees.

In 2015, Cantú joined a group of bishops condemning racism in the U.S. in light of national tensions over police treatment of African-Americans.

Motorcyclist Killed In Fiery Crash On I-40 In Albuquerque- Associated Press

Albuquerque authorities say a man was killed in a fiery crash in which his motorcycle lodged under a tractor-trailer rig, causing gas tanks to rupture and explode on westbound Interstate 40 early Wednesday.

Police say their initial investigation indicates numerous vehicles struck the motorcyclist after he somehow became separated from his vehicle before the collision with the big rig, which caught fire under the Coors Boulevard bridge.

According to police, the truck's driver wasn't injured in the wreck, which occurred around 1:30 a.m.

Albuquerque Man Dies In Glider Crash Near Moriarty Airport- Associated Press

Authorities say an Albuquerque man is dead after his glider aircraft crashed east of the airport in Moriarty.

New Mexico State Police say 65-year-old Renard Rozzoni was flying his 2017 Ventus 3F glider aircraft near the Moriarty Airport when it crashed for unknown reasons.

They say Rozzoni was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday night.

The crash occurred about three miles east of the Moriarty Airport on private land near Stage Coach Lane.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the cause of the crash.

Micro-Loan Pioneer Seeks New Inspiration At Folk Art BazaarAssociated Press

Nobel laureate and financier to the poor Muhammad Yunus is taking his campaign to reimagine capitalism to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, where visiting artisans and cooperatives from dozens of countries are encouraged to think as entrepreneurs.

In its 15th year, the annual bazaar provides a combination of cultural exchange and economic lifeline between U.S. consumers and international artists— from Mexico to Laos — who work within folk art traditions. Tutorials and networking events were scheduled Wednesday to help visiting artists consummate sales in New Mexico and thrive in the future.

Yunus, a pioneer in the use of low-interest microcredit loans to the poor in his native Bangladesh, praises the creative power of self-employed artisans and says more businesses must be built upon selfless motives.

Surveys Show Lesser-Prairie Chicken Numbers Are UpAssociated Press

A grouse that has been the focus of an ongoing legal battle over whether it warrants federal protection has seen its numbers increase by nearly 30 percent over the past year.

Officials say aerial surveys for the lesser-prairie chicken in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas show an overall upward population trend over the last six years.

More favorable weather patterns this past year contributed to apparent increases in some areas where the birds are found.

Officials say there's concern that moderate to severe drought over portions of the lesser prairie-chicken range this year could lead to a down turn in the population next year.

As part of a range-wide voluntary conservation plan, economic incentives are offered to landowners and companies that set aside land to reduce impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

FBI's Albuquerque Field Office Gets New HeadAssociated Press

An FBI official most recently assigned to the agency's headquarters is the new head of the Albuquerque Field Office, an office where he first served after beginning his FBI career 22 years ago.

James Langenberg replaces Terry Wade, who left New Mexico to serve in Washington as the assistant director for the FBI's Inspections Division.

Langenberg most recently served as the chief of the External Audits and Compliance Section in the Inspection Division at FBI Headquarters.

During his previous stint in Albuquerque, Langenberg investigated white-collar crime, counterintelligence, and violent crime and major offender matters and was a member of the Albuquerque SWAT team.

Since then he has worked in Washington and Omaha, Nebraska.

Santa Fe Cardiologist Gets Prison Term For Health Care FraudAssociated Press

A Santa Fe cardiologist has been sentenced to more than four years in federal prison for health care fraud and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors say Roy Heilbron also was ordered Tuesday to pay nearly $624,000 in restitution to the victims of the health care fraud.

The 54-year-old Heilbron was sentenced to 24 months on the health care fraud charge and 27 months on an obstruction of justice charge.

He will serve the sentences consecutively.

A federal grand jury indicted Heilbron in June 2015.

He was accused of defrauding Medicare and other health care benefit programs between January 2010 and May 2011 by submitting false and fraudulent claims.

Heilbron pleaded guilty to the health care fraud charge in February 2017 and guilty to the obstruction of justice charge a year later.

New Mexico Gets New Payment Plan For Rail Runner SystemAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico has struck a deal to keep its commuter rail system on the right fiscal track.

The Albuquerque Journal reports officials say the state broke even last week on the refinancing of about $420 million in debt, smoothing out the annual payments New Mexico must make on construction of the New Mexico Rail Runner Express.

Without the refinancing, the state Department of Transportation's annual payments could have climbed from about $30 million now to near $110 million in 2025 and 2026.

Now the payments are expected to top out at $40 million. The state, in turn, has added three years to the term of the debt, meaning it will be paid off in 2030 rather than 2027.

The Rail Runner connects Belen, Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

New Mexico Lawmaker's DWI Trial Set For AugustAssociated Press

A New Mexico lawmaker charged with aggravated drunken driving will go to trial in August.

A state district court on Tuesday set August 29 as the trial date for GOP State Rep. Monica Youngblood.

Youngblood was arrested in May on suspicion of aggravated DWI at an Albuquerque checkpoint where she complied with a field sobriety test but refused a blood-alcohol test.

Video shows an officer telling her he can smell alcohol. The three-term Republican lawmaker responds saying she hadn't consumed any since the day before.

She also mentions she is a state lawmaker who advocates for police.

Youngblood has pleaded not guilty.

Youngblood said in a statement that she regretted the situation, particularly her decision not to take the blood-alcohol test.

Prosecutor Says Officer's Arrest May Prompt Dismissal Of CasesFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

A San Juan County prosecutor says numerous criminal cases probably will be dismissed because a New Mexico State Police officer is accused of federal drug charges alleging distribution of methamphetamine and distribution of marijuana.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said the District Attorney's Office is reviewing 68 pending cases in which 33-year-old Daniel Capehart of Bloomfield is listed as a witness.

O'Brien described Capehart's case as unusual and very rare.

Capehart is accused of trying to give methamphetamine to a woman and marijuana to a 16-year-old girl.

Defense attorney Amy Sirignano has said Capehart was trying to develop sources to fight drug trafficking.

Government Falls Short Of Deadline To Reunite Kids, ParentsAssociated Press

Some immigrant toddlers are back in the arms of their parents, but others remain in detention facilities as federal officials fell short of meeting a court-ordered deadline to reunite dozens of youngsters forcibly separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

A federal judge in San Diego set a 14-day deadline to reunite children under 5 with their parents.

In trying to meet the first deadline, the government began with a list of 102 children potentially eligible to be reunited and whittled that to 75 through screening that included DNA testing.

Government attorneys said it needed more time to track down parents of the remaining children.

The administration faces a July 26 deadline to reunite perhaps 2,000 or so older children.

Community College Keeps Accreditation, Placed On ProbationLas Vegas Optic, Associated Press

Luna Community College in New Mexico learned it will retain its national accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

The Las Vegas Optic reports the commission, in a letter received by the college Monday, announced it is ending the show-cause order it issued to Luna last November and is placing the college on accreditation probation.

Probation is a sanction meaning an accredited institution is no longer in compliance with one or more of the commission's criteria for accreditation. While on probation, the college remains accredited, though it must make consistent and steady progress to remedy the issues that led to the sanction.

The college is required to provide evidence that it has addressed the issues no later than March 1, 2019, in preparation for the commission's on-site evaluation, which will take place no later than May 2019.

Grand Jury Indicts 2 In Multi-State Textbook TheftsAssociated Press

A federal grand jury in Milwaukee has indicted two Texas residents in connection with textbook thefts at colleges around the country.

Federal prosecutors said in a news release the grand jury indicted Ryan Lewis and Genisis Abellar, both of Houston, on Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to transport stolen goods and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Prosecutors said the two stole textbooks from instructors' offices at several University of Wisconsin System schools and shipped the textbooks to a Texas business, which sold them to college students.

They said the two also carried out the same scheme at colleges in Minnesota, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico and Washington state.

Online court records didn't list the indictment or attorneys for either man as of Tuesday afternoon.