Less Than A Third Of NM Students Proficient In Reading, Beetle's Spread Across West Prompts Concern

Jul 26, 2019

Less Than A Third Of New Mexico Students Test ProficientAssociated Press

New results show less than a third of all New Mexico students are proficient in reading and only about 1/5th are proficient in math.

New Mexico education officials Friday afternoon released results from a revamp test in 2019 that show a small jump in reading from the year before but a drop in math.

The results come days after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham fired Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo, sparking questions from lawmakers and confusion among educators.

According to the results, only 32.7% of all New Mexico students tested proficient in reading. Meanwhile, just 20.3% tested proficient in math.

The results are from the test called the "New Mexico Standards-Based Transition Assessment of Math and English Language Arts" which state officials are calling a "transition test."

New Mexico Candidate For Senate Will Release Tax ReturnsAssociated Press

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is pledging to release her tax returns as she competes for the Democratic nomination to an open U.S. Senate seat in 2020.

In response to a request from The Associated Press, campaign spokeswoman Heather Brewer said Friday that Toulouse Oliver would release her tax returns.

Toulouse Oliver is juggling student-loan and credit card debt on a state salary of $85,000 as the single mother of two children that include a college student.

She and Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján have submitted financial disclosure forms that are required of Senate candidates.

Lone Republican candidate Gavin Clarkson has requested an extension to file his disclosures.

Lawsuit Accuses Former Española Mayor Of Sexual AbuseAssociated Press

A former longtime mayor of a northern New Mexico city has been accused of sexually abusing the son of a former employee in the 1980s.

The lawsuit filed against Richard Lucero alleges he began abusing the boy in the mid-1980s when the child worked for him at his farm supply store in Española. The lawsuit says the victim's mother had worked for Lucero in city government.

Lucero served a total of 22 years between 1968 and 2006 as mayor of Española, where a community center that includes the local library and athletic center is named after him.

He did not immediately respond to a message left at his store Friday in Española seeking comment in response to the lawsuit.

The victim is now in his 40s.

Beetle That Feeds On Invasive Tree Is Spreading In US West – Associated Press

Tiny beetles brought to the U.S. to devour invasive tamarisk trees are now in a central Arizona riverbank.

Their arrival this summer at the Verde River is no surprise.

But it's further proof the tamarisk leaf beetles are spreading faster than once anticipated and eventually could be throughout the entire Southwest United States.

Scientists say tamarisk beetles in the thousands can kill entire trees, also known as salt cedars. That raises the risk of wildfire and allows less time to replace the invasive trees with native cottonwoods and willows where an endangered songbird makes its nest.

Their numbers are low at the Verde River. The bigger concern is the beetles reaching other rivers in Arizona where more Southwestern willow flycatchers live.

As the beetles munch through tamarisk leaves, the songbird loses cover from predators.

Rivers Edge West, formerly the Tamarisk Coalition, has been tracking the beetles' movement for years. The group has mapped the beetles along the Green River in Utah, the Rio Grande and Pecos River in New Mexico and Texas, the Arkansas River in Colorado, and the Colorado River.

Police Search For Suspect In Hobbs ShootingAssociated Press

Police are searching for a 30-year-old man accused in a fatal shooting in Hobbs.

Police say Steven Salazar shot 26-year-old Arnulfo Barrientos-Ibarra on Thursday before leaving the crime scene.

Police say a warrant has been issued for Salazar and that he faces a second-degree murder charge.

A previous booking photo of Salazar shows him with tattoos covering his entire face, head and neck.

Police say that when officers responded to the shooting, they found Barrientos-Ibarra suffering from a gunshot wound.

Police and court records did not provide the name of a defense attorney in the case.

New Mexico City Reduces Penalties For Marijuana PossessionAlamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

A New Mexico city has reduced the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, bringing the city measure in line with a new state law.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports Alamogordo commissioners voted this week to update its ordinance on marijuana, making possession of up to 0.5 ounces punishable by a $50 fine.

The city law makes it a petty misdemeanor if a person is caught with up to 1 ounce of marijuana. The first offense is punishable by a fine of up to $100 and up to 15 days in jail.

The fines and jail time increase for subsequent offenses.

A state law that reduced penalties for marijuana possession went into effect this month.

Mexican Americans Saw Own Racial Terror Before 'Red Summer'Associated Press

Historians and Latino activists say it's time to acknowledge the terror experienced by Mexican Americans years before white mobs attacked and murdered African Americans in dozens of cities across the country in 1919.

As the U.S. prepares to remember the 100th anniversary of "Red Summer," historians say the U.S. also must come to terms with the violence experienced by Mexican Americans in the American Southwest.

Historians say from 1910 to 1920, an estimated 5,000 people of Mexican descent were killed or vanished without a trace in the U.S.

Brown University American Studies professor Monica Muñoz Martinez says the violence was so barbaric it attracted the attention of newspapers abroad and the fledgling NAACP.

Supreme Court Will Hear Challenge On Staggered Elections - Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has agreed to hear objections to a new law that would more evenly stagger election dates for local prosecutors, judges and county officials.

The court on Thursday announced an August deadline for written briefings and scheduled oral arguments for Sept. 12 in complaints brought by district attorneys, judges and county officials.

The election-date changes recently approved by the governor and legislators initially would cut short or lengthen some terms by two years.

District attorneys say their elections should remain on the presidential cycle unless a constitutional amendment is approved by the Legislature and a statewide vote.

Dozens Of Albuquerque Administrators Received Double RaisesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Dozens of administrators for the city of Albuquerque received double raises this year that officials say was needed to attract and keep skilled leaders.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that nearly 50 employees including department chiefs and directors got raises in March and then were included in the 2% pay increase given to thousands of city workers earlier this month.

The March raises for the high-ranking employees averaged 6.2%, bumping the group's average annual salary to nearly $119,000.

Mayor Tim Keller's administration says the salaries of top administrators are still below other regional markets and comparable state government jobs.

City Councilor Trudy Jones says the raises are "disgraceful," citing the growing disparity between those in the top jobs and those at the lower end of the city pay scale.

New Mexico Nurse Faces Charges In Opioid Deaths, OverdosesAssociated Press

A New Mexico nurse practitioner is accused of involuntary manslaughter and other charges for allegedly causing the deaths of three patients and two overdoses by overprescribing opioids.

The state attorney general's office announced the felony charges against Andrei Marchenko on Thursday. They include counts of Medicaid fraud.

It wasn't immediately clear if the 59-year-old Marchenko had an attorney.

According to a criminal complaint, investigators with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration first contacted state prosecutors in 2017 after receiving information from several sources that indicated Marchenko allegedly was prescribing large doses of controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose.

In one case, prosecutors say he continued to write prescriptions and file claims under the name of a patient who died.

Records show Marchenko voluntarily surrendered his prescription privileges in April 2017.

Governor Confers On Outdoor Recreation, Vehicle Emissions

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is sharing strategies for reducing vehicle air-pollution and promoting outdoor recreation at a gathering a state governors in Salt Lake City.

In a trip paid for by taxpayers, the first-year Democratic governor is in Utah for a meeting of the National Governors Association.

A spokeswoman says Lujan Grisham will join a forum about vehicle emissions and opposition led by California to a proposed rollback of standards enacted in 2012.

New Mexico has joined an alliance of 24 states that oppose the new federal standards.

The nonpartisan governors association is creating a learning network to help state governments promote outdoor recreation.

Taking clues from states such as Utah and Colorado, New Mexico hopes to get a larger foothold in the lucrative industry.

Fatal Wrecks In Southeastern New Mexico Prompt Crackdown Associated Press

Authorities in southeastern New Mexico's oil country are responding to multiple deadly wrecks with a crackdown on reckless and inattentive drivers.

The New Mexico State Police said Thursday that reckless speed and driver inattention were the main factors in seven fatal wrecks in Lea County that so far this year claimed 13 lives.

The State Police said the crackdown includes joint patrols with the county Sheriff's Office, a focus on companies that operate unsafe commercial vehicles and "zero tolerance" for traffic law violators.

Three Texans were killed Wednesday when their pickup collided with a commercial truck near Hobbs.

Those killed were identified as 47-year-old Brady Steele of Dublin, 25-year-old Dakota Lujan of Fritch and 21-year-old Nygel Key of Fritch.

Five Texans were killed in a July 11 collision near Jal.

Man Who Abducted Girl, Shot Her Parents Moved To New Mexico Press-Gazette Media, Associated Press

The man who kidnapped Jayme Closs and killed her parents in northern Wisconsin has been moved to a prison in New Mexico.

Press-Gazette Media reports the New Mexico Corrections Department has confirmed Jake Patterson has been transferred to one of its prisons from Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun.

Wisconsin corrections officials recommended Patterson be sent to an out-of-state facility due to security concerns because of his case's notoriety. Patterson was moved July 15 but Wisconsin Department of Corrections officials refused to say where he was moved and removed him from its online inmate locator.

A judge sentenced Patterson to life in May for shooting James and Denise Closs in their Barron home and holding 13-year-old Jayme captive for 88 days.

Patterson doesn't appear on the Wisconsin sex offender registry even though the judge ordered him added. Wisconsin officials said Thursday they're working on posting his name. Patterson is listed on the national registry.