State Revamps Teacher Performance Evaluations, Red-Flag Gun Law Appears Elusive

Oct 24, 2019

New Mexico Transforms Teacher Performance EvaluationsAssociated Press

Performance evaluations have been distributed to nearly 20,000 public school teachers across New Mexico as the state places a new emphasis on classroom observations by principals and leaves out student test scores.

Deputy Public Education Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment said the teacher evaluation system is evolving as a task force designs a permanent system that should be in place by the fall of 2020. She briefed lawmakers Thursday on those efforts.

Annual evaluations recently delivered to teachers for the 2018-2019 school year do away with a five-tier ratings system that ran the gamut from "exemplary" to "ineffective."

Warniment said brief "walk-through" classroom visits by administrators of as little as seven minutes are now being used to observe educators and provide specific ideas for improvement.

New Mexico City To Sell Former Government-Owned FacilityRoswell Daily Record, Associated Press

New Mexico city officials have announced plans to sell a $150,000 property the city acquired from the federal government.

Roswell Daily Record reported Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Interior built the industrial site in 1962 or 1963 and used it as a saline water testing plant before its 1984 closure.

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh says the city decided to sell because of maintenance issues and intentions to subject the land to property tax.

Officials say the site is leased by Wisconsin-based international manufacturer A.O. Smith for about $9,000 a year.

City Council approved a request to search for bidders Oct. 10.

Bids are due by Nov. 26.

Officials say a completed sale is expected by March if a bidder comes forward and city and state officials approve the contract.

New Mexico Suspends QB Sheriron Jones Amid Exposure Charges Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico has suspended senior quarterback Sheriron Jones indefinitely from the team amid allegations of indecent exposure.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Lobos coach Bob Davie confirmed Wednesday the suspension came after a criminal complaint.

According to the complaint, Jones exposed his genitalia to a woman on campus. He has not been arrested and no phone number was listed for him.

The suspension comes as New Mexico (2-5) seeks to try to snap a four-game skid in their homecoming game against Hawaii (4-3) on Saturday.

Jones, who started seven games last year when New Mexico went 3-9, lost the starting job in preseason camp to junior college transfer Brandt Hughes.

Jones played in the second half of the season opener after Hughes suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Lawmaker Says Compromise Elusive On Red-Flag Gun BillAssociated Press

A leading proponent of so-called red-flag legislation in New Mexico to restrict firearms for people perceived as threats says he has been unable to reach a comprise with sheriffs who criticize his initiative.

Democratic Rep. Daymon Ely of Corrales told a panel of legislators Wednesday that he cannot support suggested changes to his so-called red-flag bill after a meeting with sheriffs in the governor's office and additional correspondence.

Ely's proposal allows a court to order the seizure of guns based on a petition by law enforcement or relatives of a gun owner, with an automatic appeal hearing afterward. He rejected a suggestion to delay gun seizures for up to 15 days prior to a court hearing.

Red flag laws are now on the books in 17 states and Washington, D.C.

Newest Government Form Helps Determine Legislative AgendaAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has distributed survey forms to legislators in a break with tradition as she weighs what initiatives to allow in next year's rapid-fire 30-day legislative session.

Priorities ranging from gun control to marijuana legalization are vying for limited room on the agenda when lawmakers convene in January to craft an annual budget.

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki confirmed Wednesday that request forms have been distributed to lawmakers to ensure proposals are reviewed.

Democratic Senate President Mary Kay Papen says the forms are a new approach in her 19 years of legislative experience.

The 2020 agenda remained a mystery Wednesday at the Statehouse amid impassioned discussions of whether to allow courts to temporarily seize guns from people believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

80th Mount Cristo Rey Pilgrimage Expected To Bring ThousandsAssociated Press

Thousands are expected to participate in the 80th-anniversary pilgrimage and Mass on a New Mexico hill sacred to Catholics.

The El Paso Times reports the Diocese of Las Cruces and the Mount Cristo Rey Restoration Committee are scheduled Sunday to lead the 5-mile pilgrimage to the top of Mount Cristo Rey.

Diocese officials say the pilgrimage is always on the last Sunday of October to commemorate the building of the mountain monument. It also represents the Feast of Christ the King, which is celebrated in November.

Mount Cristo Rey is located just off the U.S.-Mexico border in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

Four Corners Airport May Get Commercial Flights Back In 2020Associated Press

Commercial flights may be returning to a crucial airport in the Four Corners.

The Farmington Daily Times reports officials said Tuesday commercial flights will likely return to the Four Corners Regional Airport by next summer.

The announcement comes after construction began at the airport in September to upgrade a runway. The upgrades will permit the airport to move from a BII classification to a CII classification, which allows for larger planes to land and depart.

Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes says the upgrades benefit communities around Farmington and Durango, Colorado.

The airport has not hosted commercial flights since Great Lakes Aviation left in fall 2017. Prior to Great Lakes Aviation leaving, the airline had flights from Farmington to Denver and Los Angeles.

Winter Storm Warning For Northern, Northeastern New MexicoAssociated Press

A winter storm warning has been issued for northern and northeastern New Mexico through Thursday evening with heavy snowfall expected.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque says the coldest air of the season will also filter in by Thursday afternoon and Friday morning with freezing temperatures possible as far south as southern New Mexico.

Up to a foot of snow could fall over Raton Pass and the Johnson and Bartlett Mesas by Thursday with up to 8 inches blanketing the highest elevations of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Along the Interstate 25 corridor from Las Vegas to Raton, 1 to 4 inches of snow may fall and create slick road conditions.

New Mexico Department of Transportation crews have been loading up salt and cinder trucks for the past two days.

Chinle Airport Runway To Stay Open; $900K In Repairs PlannedAssociated Press

The Navajo Division of Transportation has decided to keep the Chinle Community Airport runway open after all, with intermittent closure for repairs.

The division's Road Maintenance and Airports Management departments assessed the runway Oct. 14 and wanted to close it indefinitely until improvement plans could be determined.

The assessment showed the north and south ends of the 6,900-foot runway have significant asphalt problems with some large cracks.

On Tuesday, the transportation division met with the Indian Health Service, Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility, Eagle Air Med and Armstrong Consultants to further assess the runway.

Armstrong Consultants specializes in airport planning, engineering, design and construction administration.

Current repairs to the runway are estimated at $900,000 with major reconstruction of the entire runway scheduled for 2022 at a cost of $5 million.

Ex-Bernalillo County Firefighter Accused Of 2009 Sex AssaultAssociated Press

Authorities say a former Bernalillo County firefighter has been arrested in nearly a decade-old sexual assault case.

County sheriff's officials say 44-year-old Celso Montano is being held without bond on suspicion of kidnapping and criminal sexual penetration.

Authorities say Montano's DNA matched a May 2009 rape case on the backlog.

It was unclear Wednesday if Montano has a lawyer yet.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Montano was charged in 2012 with multiple counts of kidnapping, rape and assault in separate attacks on four women over a three-month stretch.

He pleaded no contest in 2014 to two misdemeanor counts each of patronizing prostitution and criminal sexual contact.

According to the Journal, Montano was sentenced to three years in jail and probation. He already had served 18 months behind bars before his sentencing.

 Official: Solving Wild Horse Problem Will Take $5B, 15 YearsAssociated Press

The acting head of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it will take $5 billion and 15 years to get an overpopulation of wild horses under control.

William Perry Pendley told reporters Wednesday several developments have made him more optimistic about his agency's ability to eventually shrink the size of the herds from 88,000 to the 27,000 he says the range can sustain ecologically.

Pendley says the agency adopted out more than 7,000 mustangs and burros captured last year — the most in 15 years. He says that helps clear space in government holding pens so they can accelerate roundups while scientists develop new fertility-control drugs.

He says a new coalition of animal welfare advocates and ranchers is helping promote new solutions and Congress appears willing to help.

Judge Eases Christmas Tree-Cutting Ban In Fight Over OwlAssociated Press

The cutting of Christmas trees across several national forests in the Southwest will be allowed under an order issued by a U.S. district judge in the fight over a threatened owl.

That includes a tree from the Carson National Forest that will be felled and displayed outside the U.S. Capitol.

The tree-cutting along with prescribed burns and other projects were put on hold following an earlier ruling in a case that alleged the U.S. Forest Service failed to consider the effects of thinning and logging on the Mexican spotted owl.

Forest officials said the initial ruling essentially prevented all timber management activities on five forests in New Mexico and one in Arizona. Environmentalists argued that interpretation was overly broad.

The sides agreed to changes and the judge signed off Tuesday.