New Land Commissioner Makes First Appointments, Snow Blankets Much Of New Mexico

Jan 2, 2019

New Mexico Land Boss Makes First AppointmentsAssociated Press

Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard has made her first appointments as she takes over one of New Mexico's most powerful agencies.

The Democrat on Wednesday named some deputies and assistant commissioners.

The list includes Sunalei Stewart, who will oversee operations. He previously worked with Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller as his chief of staff and also served as chief of staff when Keller was the state auditor.

Howard Gross will be in charge of surface resources. He has worked in recent years for advocacy groups that include the Western Conservation Foundation and the Forest Stewards Guild.

The Land Office oversees oil and gas drilling, renewable energy projects and other development on millions of acres of state trust land. Revenues from monthly oil and gas lease sales and other activities on trust land help fund public schools and other beneficiaries.

Frigid Temperatures Chill Southern Arizona, Much Of West Associated Press

Snow is falling on cacti in southern Arizona, while Anchorage is seeing balmy weather — at least by Alaska standards.

The weather appears to be flipped throughout much of the West.

The Southwest is seeing unusually cold weather, including suburban Tucson, which saw as much as six inches of snow Wednesday.

In Phoenix, the overnight low was 30 degrees for the first time in five years.

In Albuquerque, heavy snowfall and icy roads caused many government agencies and schools to close for the day.

The National Weather Service said more frigid weather is expected Thursday in the region.

Meanwhile, a change in the jet stream pumped warmer air from the south into Alaska, taking temperature to 44 degrees in Anchorage on New Year's Day.

New Mexico Forecasters Report 'Hefty' Snowfall Associated Press

A series of storms that began last week has dropped more than 3 feet of snow in some parts of New Mexico.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque summed up the results of the winter weather Wednesday and warned that another storm is expected to cross the state Sunday into Monday.

Forecasters also warned that temperatures will "drop like a rock" into the single digits and even lower before a warming trend kicks in later this week. The northern New Mexico community of Angel Fire could see an overnight low of -23 degrees.

The recent storms didn't break any snowfall records, but forecasters say nearly 40 inches were reported in the mountains east of Albuquerque since Dec. 26. Tijeras and Los Alamos also reported over 3 feet of snow.

Albuquerque Police Say They'll Target Gun Violence In 2019Associated Press

Albuquerque police plan to tackle gun violence in 2019, following a year in which the city's police chief said firearms were linked to a significant number of crimes and shootings by officers were preceded by reports of suspects with a gun.

There were 10 shootings by Albuquerque police in 2018, seven of them fatal. Out of those 10, a police spokesman says that nine of the people shot had possessed a firearm, while one person who was shot in January 2018 had been armed with a knife and metal pipe.

The number of officer-involved shootings is higher than in 2014 — the year Albuquerque police entered into a court settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to reform when and how officers use force.

Human Skull, Other Remains Found In Desert Near Sunland ParkAssociated Press

Authorities say what appears to be a human skull and other human remains have been found in the desert near the southern New Mexico community of Sunland Park near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department says a man reported spotting the remains while walking with his family Tuesday.

Detectives said it's too soon to tell how long the remains have been there and whether they are male or female.

Sunland Park is 6 miles northwest of El Paso, Texas.

New Mexico Inaugural Group Promise Financial TransparencyAssociated Press

A committee that organized the inauguration of Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says it will publish details about its contributions and spending by mid-January.

Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Kier Strader-Monaghan said Tuesday that financial records for the inaugural and related galas will be released on a website for the events. She says contributions were limited to $11,000 per donor.

Professional fundraisers for the 2011 inauguration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez later raised concerns publicly about some untraceable spending from inaugural accounts. Martinez's inaugural committee raised nearly $1 million. Federal prosecutors are probing whether foreign interests made illegal contributions to Donald Trump's inauguration.

Lujan Grisham's free-admission inauguration was preceded by a brunch for donors and musical entertainment for all. Tickets for inaugural ballroom celebrations ranged from $100 to $11,000.

Inaugural In New Mexico Brings Hope For Change - Associated Press

Political supporters attended the inauguration of incoming Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham with expectations for change in the state's approach to public education, gun safety, cannabis regulation and more.

Spectators from across the state filed into Santa Fe's downtown convention center on Tuesday to the sound of mariachis and northern New Mexico folk music to hear Lujan Grisham's first public address as governor. Lujan Grisham succeeds termed-out Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Deann Garcia of Santa Fe arrived early with her husband and two children to catch a glimpse of a governor she hopes will help legalize recreational cannabis to ensure full access for medical patients. The 30-year-old childcare worker also wants to see increases in teacher pay to improve public education.

A campaign volunteer for the new governor named Lorna Samraj wants to see action on issues of climate change and gun control.

The schedule for the inaugural included comments from two "dreamers" who immigrated to the U.S. as children. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall's wife Jill Cooper Udall introduced Lujan Grisham.

Democrat Lujan Grisham Takes Oath As New Mexico Governor - Associated Press

Newly inaugurated New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging greater state spending on education, higher pay for low-income workers and a shift toward renewable energy production in here first public speech as governor.

In her inaugural address on Tuesday, the Democratic governor urged New Mexico residents to reimagine the state's future and tap into multibillion-dollar state savings to expand early childhood education.

The top concerns outlined by Lujan Grisham include global warming. That marks a sharp departure from departing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Lujan Grisham says she wants New Mexico to provide a "national example of what a clean-energy revolution looks like."

She also has announced a goal to double film and television production within the state.

New Mexico State Police Chief Retires - Associated Press

The chief of the New Mexico State Police Department has retired after five years on the job and a total of 26 years with the agency.

The department announced late Monday that Chief Pete Kassetas retired.

Kassetas began working for the state police in 1992 in Grants. He worked as a patrolman, in criminal investigations and as an officer and supervisor.

Kassetas was appointed chief in August 2013.

The former chief says he is proud to have served New Mexicans and to have added two new Harley Davidson motorcycles to the department's motor unit.

Department spokesman Lt. Mark Soriano said he didn't know when a replacement or an interim chief will be named.

Commission Adopts Master Plan For Rio Grande Trail - Associated Press

A master plan that charts out the next steps for developing a 500-mile trail along the Rio Grande from one end of New Mexico to the other has been adopted.

State officials announced Monday that the Rio Grande Trail Commission signed off on the plan.

Aside from identifying partnerships to make the trail a reality, the document summarizes existing and proposed trail alignments.

The plan has been in the works for the past two years and is the result of community meetings and comments from state agencies, municipalities that stand to benefit from increased visitation and outdoor advocacy groups.

With its diverse scenery, supporters say the Rio Grande Trail has the potential to make the list of the country's more famous long-distance routes, such as the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.

US Fires Tear Gas Across Mexico Border To Stop Migrants - Associated Press

U.S. authorities fired tear gas into Mexico during the first hours of the new year to repel about 150 migrants who were trying to breach the border fence in Tijuana.

An Associated Press photographer witnessed at least three volleys of gas launched onto the Mexican side of the border near Tijuana's beach early Tuesday. It affected the migrants, including women and children, as well as members of the press.

Migrants who spoke with AP said they arrived last month with the caravan from Honduras.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says in a statement that the gas was aimed at rock throwers on the Mexican side who prevented agents from helping children who were being passed over the concertina wire.

The agency says 25 migrants were detained.

Trump Blames Democrats, Not His Team, For Border DeathsAssociated Press

President Donald Trump claims that two Guatemalan children who died in U.S. custody were already ill, yet both young migrants passed initial health screenings by border officials.

As Democrats criticized Trump for also tweeting Saturday that Democratic immigration policies were responsible for the deaths, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited medical officials and Border Patrol agents at the Arizona and Texas southern borders. The visit came amid promises of additional wellness screenings for migrant children.

In Guatemala, the mother of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, who died Christmas Eve, told The Associated Press that her son was healthy when he left with his father on their journey hoping to migrate to the U.S.