Legislators Call Out Regents On Sports Cuts, Results Show Grades For NM Schools Remain Flat

Aug 17, 2018

Legislators Call Out Regents On Sports Cuts- Associated Press

The leader of an influential legislative committee is asking regents at the University of New Mexico to slow down and work with state lawmakers to address financial problems and Title IX compliance before moving to cut men's soccer and other sports.

Legislative Finance Committee Chairwoman Patty Lundstrom was the first to address the University of New Mexico regents during a special meeting Friday in Albuquerque.

She said she and others have provided university officials with other options to avoid cutting sports and meeting federal requirements for balanced participation among men and women. But Lundstrom says there has been no response from the university.

She also took issue with the transparency of the process.

Other lawmakers also spoke, mentioning the opportunities sports can provide and raising questions about past spending by the university on costly contract buyouts.

UNM Regents To Vote Again On Contested Athletic Cuts - Associated Press

Regents at New Mexico's flagship university are scheduled to consider for a second time a proposal to shore up the finances of its troubled athletics department by eliminating some sports.

Their first vote in July to cut men's soccer and other teams at the University of New Mexico sparked public outcry and came under fire after the state attorney general and others accused the board of violating open meeting laws.

Regents will gather on campus Friday for a special meeting. Time has been set aside for public comment and the teams' supporters are expected to fill the meeting.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller was among those rallying Thursday in hopes that regents reconsider their decision to cut men’s soccer along with men's and women's skiing and beach volleyball. The school's plan also called for significant roster reductions within other programs.

NMSU Create New Positions As Its Budget Is 'In The Red'- Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

New Mexico State University's new chancellor and president have unveiled a new administrative structure for the institution, including new positions.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Chancellor Dan Arvizu announced Wednesday that his chief of staff Lenny Martinez will lead the new Office of Strategic Initiatives, which includes a new position for a chief marketing officer.

Other new administrative positions include a strategic financial officer who will manage the university's real estate and financial assets and an associate provost focused on issues of diversity and inclusion pertaining to students, faculty and all other staff.

The new positions come as the university's budget is in the red.

When asked how the new positions would be funded, President John Floros said there is no money available, but he hopes to secure the pay from improved revenue.

Authorities Say Remains At New Mexico Compound Are Missing Boy - Associated Press

Authorities say human remains found at a New Mexico desert compound have been identified as those of a missing Georgia boy with severe disabilities.

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said Thursday that the remains were those of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj. He was found Aug. 6 after going missing in December in Jonesboro, Georgia.

Authorities say the boy's father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, had told his wife he wanted to perform a ritual on the child, and later said he was taking the boy to a park and didn't return.

An arrest warrant was issued for the father. The search for the boy led authorities to the compound this month.

A prosecutor says no new charges are imminent because of the identification of the boy.

District Attorney Donald Gallegos said Thursday in an interview that authorities "need something else, actual cause of death, manner of death." Authorities have said they believe the child died in February, when he was three.

Charges of child neglect were filed against the father and four other adults after a raid at the compound turned up 11 children living in filth with the adults.

His father is being held on a warrant from Georgia that accuses him of abducting his son.

Results Show Grades For New Mexico Schools Remain Flat- Associated Press

The number of New Mexico public schools receiving top grades remained flat while some schools face closure for constantly getting a failing grade, according to statewide results released Friday.

The New Mexico Public Education Department's annual report card showed that 12.9 percent of public schools earned an A for the 2017-2018 academic year. That's a drop from 14.5 from the previous year.

The percentage of B grades ticked up slightly to 25.9 percent — an increase of 2 percent.

However, 14.6 percent of schools earned an F, a small decrease from 15.7 percent from the previous year.

Although grades remain flat, Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski said statewide student standards have gotten more rigorous and it's harder for schools to earn high grades.

West Texas Police Fatally Shoot Man Who Was Homicide Suspect- Associated Press

A New Mexico man who was a suspect in the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend has been killed in a confrontation with police in West Texas.

Midland police say officers encountered 41-year-old Oscar Gurrola on Thursday just outside the city. Authorities say he brandished a firearm when officers tried to arrest him on a murder warrant, leading the officers to fire on him.

Gurrola, who was believed to be a resident of Carlsbad, died at the scene.

A news release issued by police indicates more than one officer fired on Gurrola but it's not clear just how many.

Police had been searching for Gurrola after finding his ex-girlfriend with gunshot wounds hours earlier at a Midland residence.

The 36-year-old woman, Katrina Luna, died after being taken to a hospital.

Contractor Makes Progress On New Border Wall In New MexicoAssociated Press

Construction workers have completed more than half of a new barrier along a desolate stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in southern New Mexico as part of President Donald Trump's fight against drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials confirmed this week that more than 8,100 panels spanning more than 11 miles had been constructed as of Aug. 8.

Work on the $73 million project west of Santa Teresa, near New Mexico's state line with Texas, began in April.

Officials have touted the new wall as harder to get over, under and through. When finished, it will cover 20 miles, replacing old post and rail barriers that were meant to stop vehicles but have been useless against people trying to cross on foot.

Environmentalists are suing over the project.

State Funding To Spur Development Of Bioscience StartupsAssociated Press

A state economic development fund is providing up to $3 million to help spur growth of New Mexico bioscience startups.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced Thursday the Catalyst Fund will provide the funding to BlueStone Venture Partners which in turn will match the state funding and invest in technology companies in early stages of development.

Martinez's announcement says BlueStone Venture Partners is a new venture capital firm with a focus on life science technology investments.

The Catalyst Fund is comprised of $10 million in public money allocated by the New Mexico State Investment Council, $5 million from the U.S. Treasury's State Small Business Credit Initiative, and $5 million in commitments from private institutional investors.

New Mexico Sues Wells Fargo Over Unauthorized Accounts - Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico is suing Wells Fargo over a scandal in which the financial institution opened thousands of unauthorized accounts in the name of residents throughout the state.

Attorney General Hector Balderas announced the legal action Thursday, saying Wells Fargo violated state laws by opening the accounts without permission, enrolling consumers in unauthorized products and lying to consumers about the status of their relationship with the bank.

Balderas says it's estimated that more than 20,000 New Mexico accounts may have been opened fraudulently.

Nationally, the sales practice scandal involved employees opening as many as 3.5 million bank and credit card accounts without getting permission.

That torpedoed Wells Fargo's reputation as the nation's best-run bank being. Major fines and penalties were levied by federal regulators.

New Mexico is seeking penalties, restitution and attorney fees.

Commissioner Recuses Herself From Solar Farm CaseAssociated Press

A New Mexico public regulation commissioner has recused herself from a case involving a solar company that was a major campaign contributor to her re-election campaign.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy filed a notice last week that she will not take part in deciding whether El Paso Electric receives approval to purchase a solar farm to be built by Affordable Solar Installation of Albuquerque.

But Public Regulation Commission Chairman Sandy Jones on Tuesday rejected a request that he also step aside from El Paso Electric's case, saying the political donations from Affordable Solar won't color his decision.

Campaign finance reports indicate Jones received at least $13,000 in contributions and Lovejoy at least $4,500 from Affordable Solar and related companies and individuals in their respective re-election bids.