MON: New Mexico Sees Slowest Growth Of Western States, Archdiocese To Sell Properties, + More

Apr 26, 2021

Census Finds New Mexico Among Slowest Growing Western States - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico's population grew by 2.8% over the last decade, making it one of the slowest growing states in the West, according to the first numbers released Monday from the 2020 census.

The Census Bureau said that overall, the national growth rate of 7.4% between 2010 and 2020 was the second slowest in U.S. history.

In the West, only Wyoming had a slower growth rate than New Mexico, where the count put the resident population at just over 2.1 million. That included 58,343 more people than a decade ago but not enough to gain an additional congressional seat. Neighboring Texas and Colorado gained seats as a result of their population increases.

New Mexico is one of the most difficult populations to accurately count, according to a comprehensive examination from the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York. Census estimates also projected that roughly 43% of New Mexico's population — about 900,000 people — live in "hard-to-count" areas.

The state last spring launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to ensure an accurate count of its heavily Hispanic and Native American population. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday called it a success that resulted from the hard work of hundreds of community members, nonprofit groups, tribes and others.

"The results of this immense effort will ensure that New Mexico receives every federal dollar to which we are entitled," she said in a statement.

Lujan Grisham had signed an executive order that drew on members of her Cabinet and advocacy groups to encourage participation. The Legislature also set aside $3.5 million for counties to establish and staff complete count committees.

The governor's office has estimated the state receives about $7.8 billion annually from the federal government based on census counts to underwrite health care, educational programs, transportation, housing and more. The governor and others had warned that even a 1% undercount could translate into more than $700 million in lost federal revenues over a decade.

Warm, Windy Conditions Elevate Fire Danger In New MexicoAssociated Press

Weather forecasters and forest managers are warning that warm, windy and dry conditions are combining to boost fire danger around New Mexico.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque said critical fire weather was expected to shift Tuesday to the eastern part of the state, while much of central and southern New Mexico would see more unsettled weather by Wednesday and Thursday.

The city of Las Cruces issued a temporary ban on open burning in hopes of preventing any wildfires, and the first stage of fire restrictions will take effect Tuesday on the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico.

"We have seen an increase in abandoned campfires and feel it's critical to reduce the potential for any additional fire starts during this period of drought and high fire danger," said Adam Mendonca, the forest supervisor.

More than half of New Mexico is dealing with exceptional drought conditions, making for a much worse situation than just a year ago.

Bernalillo County Jail Health Care Provider Ends Contract – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The medical care provider for Bernalillo County's jail is walking away more than a year before its contract is up.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that Centurion Detention Health Services abruptly notified the county it will end its service in six months.

The health care provider has faced heavy criticism after nine people died over the course of a year while at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque. Six of those deaths involved inmates who were detoxing from drugs or alcohol or were in medical units, the newspaper first reported in March.

A corrections officers' union alleged Centurion staff sometimes put life-or-death medical situations on the officers.

Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca says the county initially asked Centurion to address concerns it had. But the company instead opted to end its contract, which it is legally allowed to do.

An attorney for Centurion did not respond to requests for comment.

Centurion began serving the jail in 2019. It was expected to give medical, dental, mental health and psychiatric services under a contract worth $13 million a year.

Archdiocese Of Santa Fe To Sell Properties For SettlementsAssociated Press

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is expected to sell off hundreds of properties by this summer in order to fund settlements of sex abuse lawsuits.

The archdiocese, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018, plans to part with more than 700 properties, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Sunday.

Nearly 400 claims of abuse, some of which allegedly occurred decades ago, have been filed.

According to court records, the archdiocese in the last several months has requested a bankruptcy judge grant a request to sell properties in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Raton, Sandia Park and Edgewood. Those sales alone reaped $7.5 million. Most of it stemmed from selling off a large part of the Carmelite Monastery Complex in Santa Fe.

The documents also indicate church officials have hired an auctioneer firm out of Florida to oversee the sale of 732 properties by July 21. A lot of the properties are vacant lots no bigger than a couple of acres. They are spread across the state including Valencia, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties.

Abuse survivors have accused the archdiocese of transferring ownership of properties to more than 90 parishes to keep them from going toward settlements.

In October, a U.S. bankruptcy judge ruled that lawyers for clergy sex abuse survivors can file lawsuits alleging the archdiocese fraudulently transferred millions of dollars in property and other assets to avoid bigger payouts to victims. The court has indicated that more than $150 million could be involved, and that was only for a portion of the assets victims potentially could receive.

That decision in the Chapter 11 reorganization case opened the door to what could be a multimillion-dollar boon to hundreds of alleged victims. It could also result in protracted, costly legal appeals that would tap funds that could have paid valid abuse claims.

The archdiocese filed for reorganization in late 2018 to deal with the surge of claims. An estimated $52 million has been paid in out-of-court settlements to victims in prior years.

Navajo Nation Reports 26 New COVID-19 Cases, 10 More DeathsAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation is reporting 26 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10 additional deaths.

Tribal health officials released figures combining new cases found on Saturday and Sunday.

This brings the total number of virus-related deaths on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to 1,273.

Officials did not immediately have a new toll for total COVID-19 cases but there have been more than 30,400 cases documented.

The Navajo Department of Health on Monday is expected to loosen some virus-driven restrictions and transition to "yellow status." Restaurants will be allowed to have in-door and outdoor dining at 25% capacity and 50% capacity, respectively. Parks will be permitted to open at 25% capacity but only for residents and employees. Navajo casinos will be able to open at 50% capacity but only for residents and staff as well.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says more than half of the reservation's adult population has been vaccinated. But people still need to stay home as much as possible, wear masks and avoid large gatherings.

One Gorilla Departs Albuquerque Zoo, Another ArrivesAssociated Press

Officials at Albuquerque's city zoo say they've said goodbye to one gorilla and welcomed another.

A 35-year-old gorilla named Marcus left the Albuquerque BioPark in March to go another accredited zoo and 19-year-old Kojo arrived this month from the Smithsonian National Zoo, BioPark officials said.

The zoo which accepted Marcus will announce his arrival once he's ready to be moved into a public habitat after a quarantine safety period, officials said.

According to the BioPark, Marcus' move was recommended by the species survival plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Zoo officials said Kojo "has a lot of personality" and is currently being introduced to females in the zoo's gorilla troop.

New Mexico Praised For $87m In Road Construction Funding - Associated Press

A coalition of energy companies has thanked government leaders after receiving millions of dollars of road improvements in southeast New Mexico. The Carlsbad Current-Argus reported that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the $7.4 billion state budget for next year, which included $300 million for roadway infrastructure and improvements. Permian Strategic Partnership CEO Tracee Bentley said lawmakers agreed to allocate $87 million for road projects across southeast New Mexico. The partnership said in a statement that the funding is in addition to critical transportation funding already given to local projects in recent years.

Bernalillo County Authorities Arrest Man In A Fatal Shooting - Associated Press

Authorities say they have arrested a man in connection with a fatal shooting in Albuquerque. Bernalillo County Sheriff's officials say 22-year-old Ruben Sanchez has been booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated battery with great bodily harm. It was unclear Sunday if Sanchez has a lawyer yet. Sheriff's deputies say they received reports of an unidentified man driving in the area when another driver fired several shots at him Friday evening. The victim crashed his vehicle into the yard of a home. Authorities say the man was taken to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead. The name and age of the victim hasn't been released yet.

Report: Slain Officer Wasn't Part Of Plan To Stop Suspect - Associated Press

Federal officials reportedly arranged with New Mexico State Police to make a traffic stop of a drug trafficker. But an officer not briefed on the plan was fatally shot when he pulled over the man instead of others who were waiting to make the stop. The Albuquerque Journal reports that State Police records into the killing of Officer Darian Jarrott indicated that the officer knew of a "be on the lookout notice" for the trafficker, Omar Cueva. He was killed in a shootout with law enforcement officers soon after Jarrott was killed Feb. 4. Homeland Security Investigations officials did not immediately respond Saturday to requests for comment.

Man Dies, Woman Arrested After Albuquerque Domestic Dispute - Associated Press

Police in Albuquerque say a man is dead and a woman has been arrested following a fatal domestic dispute. They say officers responded to the scene early Sunday morning for a domestic abuse call in which a woman had shot a man. They say the man died as a result of his injuries and the woman was taken into custody. Police didn't immediately release the names and ages of the man and woman or any other details about the fatal shooting.