Report Finds New Mexico At Risk For Census Undercount, Cool Wet Weather Helping To Douse Drought

Jun 4, 2019

Report Finds Blacks, Latinos At Risk Of Undercount In 2020 Census - By Mike Schneider, Associated Press

With the 2020 census count less than a year away, a new report says minority populations and small children are especially vulnerable to being undercounted.

The report released Tuesday by the Urban Institute says anywhere from 900,000 to 4 million people living in the U.S. could be undercounted, with blacks, Hispanics and children younger than 5 most likely to be overlooked.

States most at risk include Florida, California, Georgia, New York, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico.

Power and money are at stake because the 2020 census determines the allocation of more than $675 billion in federal spending. The once-in-a-decade count also will determine which states gain or lose U.S. congressional seats.

The prospect of a citizenship question could further chill people's willingness to be counted. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing its constitutionality.

New Mexico City Gets State Funding For Migrant AidAssociated Press

The city of Las Cruces has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the state to offset costs that the border city has incurred as it provides temporary shelter and food for migrants.

About 8,200 migrants have been brought to Las Cruces since mid-April as shelters in El Paso, Texas, have been overwhelmed by the surge of asylum seekers.

The funding awarded to Las Cruces is a one-time allotment provided through a grant from New Mexico's homeland security agency.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the grant program in May, saying it would help reimburse local government agencies that are providing humanitarian aid.

State lawmakers recently set aside $2.5 million for border security, but the governor's office did not specify how much money is available as part of the grant program.

Court Rejects Coal Company's Chemical Claim For Tax RefundAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The New Mexico Court of Appeals has rejected a tax protest from a coal company that sought a more than $6.4 million refund by claiming its coal was a chemical.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the court last week upheld the hearing officer's decision against Delaware-based Peabody Coalsales Co.

The company sought the refund in 2015 under a 1966 state tax deduction that allows companies to be reimbursed for receipts from selling chemicals.

The state Taxation and Revenue Department disputed the claim. An administrative hearing officer ruled that coal sales were not intended to be covered by this tax incentive.

Attorneys for Peabody did not respond to the newspaper's questions Monday.

The state Legislature this year approved a bill that tightens the tax deduction's language.

Experts Say New Mexico Is Enjoying Bounty Of Wet Winter Associated Press

Temperatures have been cooler than average and more precipitation over the last several months have combined to reverse New Mexico's fortunes when it comes to drought.

State climatologist Dave DuBois and New Mexico's top water manager, State Engineer John D'Antonio, testified Tuesday before lawmakers on the status of the drought and reservoir levels.

DuBois described it as "a total flip of the coin" from last year, when dismal snowpack resulted in low flows along the Rio Grande and deepening drought around the state.

Now, he said nearly all of the state's river basins are reporting precipitation levels well over 100% of average.

The extra moisture means New Mexico is again storing water in upstream reservoirs on the Rio Grande, but officials still have concerns about the ongoing legal battle with Texas over management of the river.

New Mexico Courts Push Online Tool For Resolving Debt By Mary Hudetz Associated Press

New Mexico's judicial system has begun rolling out an online tool aimed at making the process of settling credit card, medical or other debt more convenient.

The dispute resolution pilot was launched Monday in courts located across southern New Mexico — including in Silver City, Deming, Lordsburg, Bayard, Clovis and Portales.

It is being promoted by court officials as creating a process for people sued over unpaid debts to resolve their cases without having to go to court. Instead, the cases would be handled through a multi-step process online.

It will be available in Bernalillo County's district court next Monday and its Metropolitan Court the following week.

State Supreme Court Justice Judith Nakamura says the online program is being funded with $450,000 allocated by the Legislature.

New Mexico's Chief Medical Investigator Resigns - Associated Press

The state's chief medical investigator plans to resign from his post next month after five years in the position.

The Office of the Medical Investigator, or OMI, announced on Monday that Dr. Kurt Nolte is stepping down from his post. But he will remain a professor in the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine Department of Pathology.

OMI is part of the UNM Health Sciences Center, and investigates more than 7,000 deaths annually in New Mexico.

Nolte has worked for OMI for 29 years in all.

Dr. Paul Roth, UNM Health Sciences Center chancellor and chair of the OMI board, thanked Nolte for his service.

An interim chief medical investigator has not yet been named. The OMI board is planning a national search for his replacement.

Hearings Planned On New Mexico's Hemp Manufacturing Rule - Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture will be hosting two public hearings on a newly developed hemp manufacturing rule.

The first meeting will be June 27 in Albuquerque. There will be another meeting the following day at the agency's office in Las Cruces.

The proposed rule establishes regulations related to the licensing, fees, eligibility and inspection requirements for people involved in specific activities involving the testing of raw hemp for regulatory purposes.

The rule also will pertain to people involved in specific activities related to the breeding of hemp.

The comment period runs through June 28.

Legislation signed into law earlier this year grants the agriculture department and the state environment department regulatory authority over manufacturers, processors, labs, researchers and plant breeders.

US House Hopeful In New Mexico Calls For Trump Impeachment - Associated Press

Marco Serna, a northern New Mexico district attorney and Democratic candidate for an open U.S. House seat, is calling on President Donald Trump to be impeached.

Serna told The Associated Press on Monday he came to the conclusion after reading analyses of the Mueller Report. He vowed to pursue impeachment if he's elected to Congress and Trump wins a second term.

The Santa Fe-bred career prosecutor said he believes Trump participated or encouraged illegal activity in at least 10 instances related to an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Serna is part of a field of at least seven Democratic candidates. Third District Rep. Ben Ray Luján is running for U.S. Senate in 2020.

George R.R. Martin Joins Meow Wolf As 'Chief World Builder' - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

George R.R. Martin, author of the novels that fueled "Game of Thrones," is teaming up with Meow Wolf, a New Mexico-based art collective.

Martin's storytelling skills will be tapped to tie together the Meow Wolf multi-verse.

Inside the collective's permanent installation in Santa Fe, visitors explore a multidimensional mystery house with secret passages, portals to magical worlds, and an expansive narrative amid surreal and mesmerizing art exhibits.

Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek tells the Albuquerque Journal that he always wanted to collaborate more with Martin.

New projects are planned in Las Vegas; Washington D.C.; Phoenix and Denver — each with a different, immersive storytelling experience.

With Meow Wolf building its universe rapidly, Kadlubek says there's more in store, including a TV series and comic books.

Regents Approve Pay Hike For ENMU President - KENW-FM, Associated Press

The president of Eastern New Mexico University will be getting a raise.

KENW-FM Radio News reports the university's board of regents voted 4-1 over the weekend to increase Jeff Elwell's salary by 4%. Student Regent Joseph Gergel was the dissenting vote.

The increase will bump Elwell's annual salary from $245,000 to $254,800. The raise will take effect with the start of the fiscal year July 1.

Earlier this year, the regents voted to authorize 4% salary increases for all other university employees. Those raises also will take effect next month.

Elwell joined Eastern New Mexico University as the 10th president in 2017. He became chancellor of the three-campus system the following year.

Elwell previously served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Lawsuit Claims Oil Boom Imperils National Park In New Mexico - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Environmentalists say U.S. land managers violated environmental laws and their own regulations when issuing dozens of leases to drill in one of the nation's busiest oilfields.

WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court, claiming the oil boom in southeastern New Mexico is a threat to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the surrounding area's cave systems and desert slopes.

The group also is concerned about deteriorating air quality, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management failed to consider the cumulative effects of oil and gas development in the Permian Basin.

The agency is updating the area's development plan, but environmentalists contend more than 200 leases awarded in 2017 and 2018 compromise that effort.

The leases cover more than 106 square miles in New Mexico.

Officials Wants Key Southeastern New Mexico Airport Expanded - Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Officials for a southeastern airport in the heart of New Mexico's booming oil region want it expanded even more.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Assistant Lea County Manager Corey Needham wants county officials to double the passenger holding area at the Lea County Regional Airport. The $1.6 million project would come as the airport already is undergoing an expansion of its terminal.

But Needham says construction begun in January to expand the passenger holding area, but many more seats will be needed in the near future.

Without the expansion, Needham says the airport's future busy flight schedule could be hurt.

The Lea County Regional Airport is located in Hobbs — a key city in the booming Permian Basin.

New Mexico Jazz Teacher Fired For Making Fake Awards - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A New Mexico School for the Arts teacher has been fired for falsifying awards for a student.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the school confirmed Monday that jazz instructor Orlando Madrid was fired effective immediately.

School spokesman Sean Johnson said he could not speak further because it is a personnel matter.

The Albuquerque Journal reported last month that Madrid made up first-place certificates for a student who performed at the New York City Jazz Festival in April.

Despite the festival being non-competitive, Madrid told the newspaper he made the certificates based on judges' input. He thought the awards would help with fundraising.

Johnson says Madrid taught jazz for the past year.

Madrid did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.